The more I think about it, the more I realise that food parcels are a jewel in any lone gourmet's crown. One of the downsides of living alone is not having others to cook for, unless you invite friends round to dine. And while as a solo foodie you can run riot buying unusual new ingredients to try, secure in the knowledge there are no housemates to object to your culinary or financial profligacy, if you don't like them they lurk in the back of the cupboard gathering dust and making you feel guilty each time you open the door.
Subscribing to a taster box scheme is a cheap way to try new foods, as they come in small quantities. My third Larder Box arrived earlier this month, containing coffee, a curry kit, a glut of chocolate, salt and a condiment.
The Goan curry kit was fabulous - two packs of spices plus fresh garlic and ginger and some nifty instructions. I'm not confident making curry - I tend to rely on using bought pastes - but I knocked up a tasty prawn curry with it and it was good enough that I could see me buying more of these kits either for myself or as a gift. The smoked sea salt is a welcome addition to my spice cupboard. The real revelation was the spicy banana ketchup. It sounds wrong and it doesn't look appetising - a thick, brown sludge of slurry in a bottle. But it tastes divine. It was perfect with some breaded chicken goujons and brought a new dimension to a breakfast bacon sarnie - less harsh than brown sauce, less sweet than a chutney, just a great balance of fruit and spice.
Then this arrived:
Foodie Penpals, a great idea for food lovers to send and receive a parcel every month, then blog about it. The box can contain homemade treats or bought goodies, up to the modest value of £10. The twist is that the box you receive comes from someone else than the person you send yours too. This beautifully wrapped box came from @Mellymeepmeep, who has a quirky blog about cakes and frocks.
What put an extra smile on my face was the very thoughtful inclusion of a vintage cookbook full of recipes for one person as I regularly pick up old recipe books from charity shops. I've only dipped into Goode for One, an early 1980s BBC title, so far and not cooked anything from it yet, but I've already spotted a couple of ideas that are ripe for testing, updating and tweaking 30 years on. Thanks, Mel!
I wonder what June will bring?