Marley Spoon and Olia Hercules

If you take the time to have a quick look at the short video above, you will hopefully notice two things. 

First of all, you will see that I have conjured up a rather gorgeous looking plate of food there. The lamb is pink, the cucumbers and radishes are vibrant and crisp; and the potatoes, they look like they have been griddled and dressed in some sort of green...salsa? Yes? Wow, they look very good don't they.  

You will also appreciate that it's a bit all over the shop, a tad too shaky and unstable, coming in and out of focus. Perhaps you'll soon realise that I didn't mean to shoot a video of my food at all. Listen carefully and towards the end, you will hear a sudden gormless realisation of 'shit, I've got this on the wrong setting' mumble. Thus revealing a certain ineptitude when it comes to food photography. I pride myself on taking a good snap but what you don't know, is that it takes roughly a hundred snaps, before I get the right snap. And that's before I suddenly realise that I am videoing my food and not actually taking photos altogether. Oh dear.

One day, I will treat myself to a course at the local sixth form college and get down with da kids. Or maybe a one-to-one with a professional photographer, who can show me what I can do with all the fanciful knobs and buttons on my very expensive SLR, complete with a 50ml lens. I am not ashamed to admit this by the way. I have seen way too many bloggers of the same ilk, turning up to restaurants and events, with massive camera, telescopic doodah, tripod and snazzy bag to carry all the gumpf. You'd think they'd know what they were doing wouldn't you? And yet time and time again, I've seen people stand up with plates and walk over to a window, all for that magical 'daylight' and all because they don't know how to adjust the ISO snarplex cylinder. Or something. No, simply understanding what I can do with my camera would be a boon. To save time, if anything else. 

Segueing nicely then, and I do like a good ol' segueing, when it comes to time saving, having recently tried out a recipe box from Marley Spoon, they definitely do make things swift and efficient in the cooking department. The concept of Marley Spoon, if you wasn't aware, is that they come up with subscribed weekly recipes and pre-measured bundles of fresh ingredients; wrapped in environmentally friendly yet slight smelly insulating sheep's wool; boxed and delivered; for busy, upwardly mobile, sexy young go-getters; who can't be arsed to shop and who don't like to get creative in the kitchen; or chop onions.

Which, I am sure you will agree is a slightly negative and cynical point of view and this was roughly my opinion prior to agreeing to try one. The saving grace for Ms Marley and Dr Spoon is that actually, after going for it, I have to say that I was mightily impressed. I made up Ms Marley and Dr Spoon by the way. It's a curious name isn't it. I wonder how they came up with it?

Anyway, the recipe box sent to me was part of a month long collaboration with Olia Hercules, Observer's Rising Star of 2015 and author of celebrated cookbook, Mamushka and having heard lots about her Georgian influences, I was intrigued to see how it would all pan out.

Like I said, the recipes were amazing. I mean really good and I am not jumping on the bandwagon here. I tried Olia's meat offering first. Simple yet different, her lamb with mint ajika grilled potato went down very well. Ajika is really just like any piquant green sauce you might find, but the addition of a green chilli was a new one on me, to add just a touch of heat. The garlic kick I got from it was also surprising, especially as only one clove was used (and I very nearly added another). As was the suggestion, I am ashamed to admit, that wrapping the lamb in foil would guarantee soft, tender perfection. Taking only 20 minutes to prepare and cook, this was a lovely and understated introduction to Olia's brand of cuisine.

The second recipe, a salad from the Marley Spoon collection was no less impressive. Combining earthy, nutty, al dente grains (including quinoa, oh my God, why have I been slagging that stuff off so much?) with the rich, oily flesh of mackerel and cutting through with a sharp, citrus dressing was a revelatory combination. Plus adding the roasted fennel, which now has to be my all-time favourite vegetable; well, my eyebrows sat squarely atop my shiny bald head after finishing the plate. And it was oh so pretty too. Brilliant.

As such, if I thought I could get away with it, I would now continually shop with them, rustling up the dishes with the ingredients and recipe cards they send and pass them off as my own for the blog. It would make life a lot easier. But eventually pride and possibly a lawsuit for plagiarism would soon get in the way. I am sure that some eagle eyed readers would soon be commenting that my style has morphed somewhat and has become very similar to Olia's. Yelping that I've just spent a weekend in Tbilsi wouldn't be enough. She definitely has a new fan though.

High praise indeed then for Sparley Moon but in the interests of impartiality and not to make this review too floral and sucky, I would like give them some feedback. First of all, laminate your recipe cards so that customers can keep them for posterity. Not everyone is as fastidious or clean when cooking (ahem). And secondly, I would argue that I could shop personally for slightly less than the subscription fee; even when applying principles of provenance, quality, husbandry, organic, blah, blah, blah. But I think I would happily sign up, especially if the offerings are as good as this and may well do.

Coming back to the physical pleasure of shopping though, I have to say that I do prefer to do these things myself. Aside from ordering meat and beer online that is. However, if I happened upon their recipe boxes in a supermarket (which I am sure would have to be designed and marketed in a more flashier way, unfortunately) I am sure I would snap one up with glee. If pinched for time, Marley Spoon is a far better proposition than a ready meal or one those £10 deals, with the moody bottle of wine thrown in. Not just because the end result is so tasty, it actually gets you to cook. Imagine that eh? Actually cooking.

And whilst I was in the supermarket I would probably pick up a copy of Digital Photo Mastery for Dickheads, if such a publication exists. Then I really would start saving those precious minutes.

Marley Spoon and their collaboration with Olia Hercules continues until June 24th.


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