Gousto (Part Two)

Chipotle burger, with stewed onion, in a toasted brioche bun, served with oven-baked fries and a little gem lettuce side salad. Ok, not a mind-blowingly difficult dish to prepare – in fact we always make our own burgers and Marc is frequently lecturing me on how easy it is to make your own chips. But the chipotle mayo was a twist I would never have considered for our picky children and, what do you know? Barney asked for more!

burger 2

Gousto brags that its beef is 100 per cent British, but this isn’t actually difficult to achieve if you shop in a regular supermarket. It’s one of the few meats which is difficult to farm intensively and our farmers produce it rather well. What does make a difference to the quality of the mince is the fat content: Too much fat and you have a greasy mess; too little fat and there’s no taste to your dish. Interestingly, Gousto don’t reveal the fat content of their well-packaged beef, and anyway, we were one 300g pack short. (They’d already refunded the cost of the dish with an apology for not including it in the delivery.) We used our own 500g of supermarket mince instead.

Barney loved helping with this dish. There’s something satisfying about squeezing beef into patties with your (clean) hands. I’ve just got to un-do all the good work I did when they were toddlers, warning them how hot the hob is, because now they are scared senseless and wouldn’t stir the onions as they stewed!


Although I had looked disparagingly at the ingredients before we started cooking, claiming that it was certainly not enough for all of us, I was wrong. Two burgers each and one brioche was plenty, and there was nothing left at the end (poor Pete the Dog skulked off to his bed).

The children wolfed it down, I left some and Marc didn’t complain, so everyone’s a winner! Next up, Tandoori fish – which could be a miserable fail according to the children…


Gousto with Gusto

So, I fell for it. I subscribed to Gousto – you know, one of those middle class recipe and ingredient schemes. A rather lovely girl knocked on our door and before you know it, I was set up for four of my half-term meals.

The way this system works is thus: You pay for however many dinner times you want (we plumped for the “four for four” option – four portions of four meals) and Gousto sends you the unprepared ingredients and recipe cards. There’s lots to choose from: vegetarian, child-friendly, Chinese, curry… If you’re like me, and find yourself returning to the same old meals like Groundhog Day, then this is a winner from the start.

A few days after signing up (you have to give a minimum of three days’ notice) a rather smiley delivery chap from Yodel handed me a huge cardboard box, packed with all the raw materials needed for my four culinary challenges.

As I unpacked the goodies, two things happened: Firstly, I was struck by how much packaging there was. Rice was neatly weighed out in 75g plastic packets. Sauces came in lovely little plastic pots. Anything likely to leak was wrapped in plastic bags. Perfect amounts for two meals, so for a family of four, double the amounts of everything. Despite Gousto’s boast that 93 per cent is recyclable or biodegradable, surely it’s better not to produce it in the first place?

My second problem was that I was one ingredient short of a chipotle burger (or two). A man at the end of the phone explained he couldn’t send out the extra beef – which was integral to the meal – but he would refund the cost of the meal and add the credit to our next order. I suppose that will have to do, but not a good start to my first order!

Barney (the nine-year-old-boy) was eager to cook, and after a small tantrum about chipotle burgers, he decided to try out the Cowboy Bean Bowl and Crispy Tortillas. With my help, he chopped, grated, stirred, dissolved and strained the range of healthy ingredient. And as he sliced, he bravely nibbled a red pepper for the first time ever, and then we nearly ran out, because he loved them so much.

The recipe was easy to follow and reasonably quick, IMG_0954and I served the spicy beans with the included Greek yogurt, chopped spring onions, grated Cheddar and aforementioned tortillas.

Barney scoffed his bowlful like he’d just spent the afternoon herding cattle on the range. The girl (Grace, 11) moaned. We knew she was unlikely to like this meal, but give her her dues: She tried a spoonful and – after retching dramatically – it was decided that she would only eat the tortilla, cheese and spring onions, which was a first for her, so still a result.IMG_0951

All-in-all, a delicious meal. I’ll blog about the others when we’ve cooked them, but so far, so good on the food front. My only reservation is the packaging, and it’s a big enough problem to prevent me from ordering again, so the other meals need to be more than delightful…

Gastro Gateway to Gluten-Free Gluttony

I RECEIVED a warning from a colleague before setting off to try the gluten-free menu at the Cotswold Gateway in Burford.

“Watch out,” he warned. “My wife’s coeliac and she has these gluten-free pizzas – you’d be better off eating the cardboard they come in!”

And so it’s presumably because of preconceptions like this that the Gateway has been championing its extensive gluten-free menu, which even extends to the beer, with its bottles of Wadworth’s 6X Gold suitable for coeliacs.

I say ‘extensive’ because the gluten-free menu is only a tad shorter than the ‘normal’ one. And it was full of pub classics and hearty fayre, the stuff that makes you really want to tuck in.

I started with the char-grilled asparagus with micro cress and – something I had been hoping to try for quite a while – a crispy duck egg (£7.75). gateway eggThe green spears were a seasonal treat, and the char-grilling gave them an extra dimension. Drizzles of hollandaise were the perfect accompaniment.

The crispy coating for the egg was a bit dense, but the egg yolk still has a softness to it – enough to encourage the dunking of a tip or two.



My wife opted for the river mussels from the specials board (£7.50), and was rewarded with tasty, plump shellfish in a lovely creamy broth, that just begged to be mopped up with the slices of gluten-free bread.

gateway mussels

Fancying a bit of fish, I plumped for sea bass for my mains. It came on a warm salad of chickpeas, sun-blushed tomatoes, potatoes, green beans and olives (£15.95) and was a fine combination of flavours.

The bass was advertised as baked, but the skin arrived beautifully crispy and golden, and the fillets were moist and full of the delicate bass flavour. gateway sea bass

It was obvious that the kitchen knows its way around a piece of fish.

The Mediterranean-style accompaniments worked really well with the dish, especially the tomatoes which were like little sweet and sour explosions for the mouth. My only criticism would be the lack of a sauce or dressing to hold it together, although a dollop of mayonnaise did the trick.

Sauce was certainly not lacking from my wife’s thick-cut entrecôte steak with chunky chips, grilled tomato, dressed salad and creamy blue cheese sauce (£22.95).

A fine cut of sirloin, perfectly cooked – charred on the outside, pink inside, as ordered – the tangy blue cheese took it to the next level. The plentiful chips were beautifully cooked too.

If the gluten-free ambitions were likely to fall short, I figured, it would probably be in the desserts. I went for one of my favourites, sticky toffee pudding, served this time with the almost ubiquitous salted caramel ice cream (£6.95).

Taste-wise, it hit all the spots – it was sticky, sweet, and the creamy ice cream perfectly complemented it. The texture was what let it down ever-so slightly – I prefer mine with a bit more substance and this one could have been a touch firmer.

There were no complaints about the Baileys and espresso brulee however, with it’s very grown-up custard, hidden under a crisp layer of melted sugar. Surprisingly light, it was a lovely dessert.

We washed it all down with the aforementioned 6X Gold (£3.95). I confess to being more of a lager and stout drinker, but this beer was light, and certainly didn’t overpower any of the food we had.

The atmosphere was extremely friendly, and the waiting staff were a delight. It’s a pub, not a restaurant, and that gives it a warm, relaxed feel, without an ounce of stuffiness.

The menu is not going to win any prizes for innovation, but it’s not setting out to. It’s producing rib-sticking, bold food with more than a nod to classic, local combinations – starters also included smoked mackerel, ham hock terrine, plus mozzarella, peas and broad beans, while the mains offered a wonderful sounding honey glazed ham on bubble and squeak with poached eggs. I hesitate to use the phrase ‘home-cooking’, because it’s several notches above that, but I hope you know what I mean. And while the prices are not particularly cheap, it would be hard to argue that they’re not good value when it comes to quality and portion sizes. Well, we were in Burford.

The Cotswold Gateway, 216 The Hill, Burford OX18 4HX 01993 822695