You may have heard of the SortedFood crew. If you’re reading this review I would certainly expect you have, but I’ll give you a brief summary if not. The SortedFood are a collection of ‘mates’ (friends, if you’re not familiar with the British vernacular) who live in London and cook together on YouTube. They do relays, challenges, create recipes, test products and a plethora of other things. They’ve also become my mother and mine’s latest addiction to watch, whilst there’s been a lull in cooking programs on TV. Their gimmick is often pitting trained chefs (Ben and James, both of which wear chef-whites on the channel to prove they’re professionals) against their ‘normal’ home-cook counterparts (Barry, Jamie and Mike—apron wearers). It’s a fun watch and a great way to find out some of the latest trends in London.
But this review isn’t about their YouTube videos. This review is about another project they use to, I can only assume, help fund their videos: their apps. For £4.99 a month you can download and use both their Meal Packs app and their Cookbooks app. We wanted to see if their recipes met the expectations from their videos—and if the way they were written was developed enough to work for every person, every time. So, without further tangents, let’s get into it.
Meal Packs App
IS IT USER FRIENDLY?
The first app I want to talk about is their main one: the main one they consistently try to sell on their channel, that is. The Meal Packs App allows you to choose one pack of meal recipes a week, with one credit received each Friday with your subscription. The app itself is fairly simple to use. You simply click on the packs collections, flick through and click ‘Get’ if you want it. The issue comes up after you get the pack.
The pack comes with a choice of 2 People or 4 People and you can switch to one or the other as soon as you open the pack, but for some reason everyday I went on it kept switching me back to 2 people. It was only a small gripe however and as soon as I realised what was happening I learned to check to make sure the 4 person recipe was on.
When you go onto one of the recipes themselves it shows you the ingredients you’re going to need. Very helpful and made creating shopping lists very simple. It does offer to create a shopping list for you but, as it only plans for three/four days and I tend to use other recipes during a week as well, I made my own in my notes app on my phone. I do like that it offers to make the list for you though and I think a lot of people who use their recipes more consistently would find it a time-saver.
After the ingredients you go straight into the recipes, which I personally wish it wouldn’t do. I learned a long time ago, on my first disaster in the kitchen involving burned-something and uncooked lamb, that you should always read a recipe through first. On the Meal Packs app a voice starts telling you the steps before you manage to mute it and click on the full-recipe. However, I do appreciate that they give you the option to look at the full recipe, which is a positive.
I personally would just wish to see the full-thing first and then go into the individual steps. It helps me to plan around my own kitchen where things are not always to hand and I may need to go find something in another area. Not so much in my latest kitchen, but certainly in previous ones where I kept kitchen tools in different rooms of the house (due to lack of space) I would need to be fully prepared before starting.
The steps are read out to you by one of the cast or crew, a different one for each recipe. This was a great choice as it allows for hands-free cooking (easier to keep your hands clean—your phone will be the germiest thing in your kitchen, I assure you). If they could somehow make it voice-activated to go onto the next step, that would be another step in a positive direction as I had to wash my hands consistently after pressing a button to the next step (or—I got my Mum, who wasn’t cooking, to do it for me). The best thing about the experience with the app was that the screen never went dark after no use for a while. You may think this is a very strange positive but I have other recipe apps on my phone that consistently do this all the time. It was amazing not to have to stop every few minutes to turn my phone screen back on.
I had my Dad test one of the recipes to see whether non-cooks/non-technology lovers could use it just as easily. He really enjoyed the experience and was excited to do it again. He even offered to do the recipe again the following week, so thank you for that, Sorted Crew.
Overall my experience with the app has been positive. With a few tweaks I think it could be even better but I have faith that they’ll consider this as they seem to be open to users’ feedback.
And now we move onto, arguably, the most important part of any food-based product: the actual food or recipe. I tested a few different packs over a couple of weeks: vegetarian food, family food, cost-savers etc. and I had some… mixed feelings. Instead of trying to remember them all loosely I thought I’d look at one pack in detail and give my review of the individual dishes within it.
1st PACK I COMPLETED: Hone Your Skills
Lemon Baked Salmon with Watercress and Potato Salad
- Okay, I’m not going to lie, this was not difficult. I can say with complete surety that this is one of the easiest dishes you can make, and the reason for that is I already made it regularly. Salmon in tinfoil has been a staple in my household throughout my entire childhood. 100%, if you want an easy recipe you can use over and over again and requires little skill, do this one.
- I don’t like potato skin or potato salad, but for anybody who does it was a fairly simple process. Their may-be slightly too much mayonnaise for some people (like my mother) but on your second time cooking this dish, it’s easily adjusted. My only suggestion would be to put some fresh herbs and perhaps some caper juices to loosen the mayonnaise before putting on the potatoes. It was just missing a bit of freshness, but otherwise it was very well seasoned with a nice texture.
- The timers that were included in the recipe, for this one and all of the others, were a great addition. The reminders to wash hands were also helpful for home-cooks/normals as until you train to be a chef it can be a difficult thing to remember.
- The cider vinegar added to the package with the salmon was a great addition and provided an amazing dressing for the mache we used in place of watercress. However being accurate about the size of tray to initially use would have been helpful for a new cook like my Dad.
OVERALL RATING FOR RECIPE: 9/10. I’d certainly suggest it for a beginner but would say it’s a little too simple for an experienced home-cook.
CHICKEN MOZZARELLA BAKE WITH WATERCRESS
- This recipe, unfortunately, I had a lot of issues with.
- We were given a 15 minute timer for cooking the chicken, which is great, but it came out overcooked and chewy. I have issues with my jaw so it was near on impossible for me to eat.
- The sauce had too much sugar in it. It may be a difference in the canned tomatoes that were used but, if something like a can of tomatoes may change the outcome, I would somehow give the person a fair warning. It tasted similar to a tomato toffee sauce and didn’t balance with the rest of the dish.
- The breadcrumbs toasted separately to top the salad were a great textural and tasty addition, however the breadcrumbs on the chicken became soggy underneath the sauce and slid straight off when eating. The mozzarella had no flavour (it was good quality mozzarella, tasty to eat outside of this dish) as there was nothing to balance with it and make it shine.
- It was easy to cook, which is a great thing, but it took a substantial amount of time for my mother (an experienced ‘normal’ with all the ingredients prepared) to make this ‘easy’ dish. Again there was a lack of tray size and I would argue that, in order to help with pane, you should recommend the use of plates for the breadcrumbs and flour (it’s far easier with a wider surface area).
- I understood where they were going with this recipe as there is a popular dish very similar to this one but I felt the balance was slightly off. With a richer, deeper tomato sauce served separately to the baked chicken, and some more flavour injected into the chicken it would have been a lot better. I would suggest as well that the breaded chicken should be fried completely, or poached then baked to keep its moistness.
OVERALL RATING FOR RECIPE: 4/10—With a lot of tweaks it may be accomplished dish, but in this guise it’s lacking balance and texture. Even though it’s simple to make it takes a lot longer than it would suggest which, for the people cooking after they get home from work, may be an annoying wait.
POACHED EGGS WITH ROAST POTATO SALAD
- Okay, where to begin with this one? How not to be insensitive about this recipe? Genuinely—and honestly—it was inedible.
- Where the chicken dish was overly sweet this was ridiculously sour. If you had no tastebuds you would still say it was too strong. My mother only put in 3tbsp of the recommended 4tbsp of mustard and even that became like a cough syrup. It certainly cleared my sinuses. Granted, again, our mustard may have been stronger than theirs, but how was a hypothetical amateur cook meant to know this? It really should recommend to taste your ingredients and decide for yourself when it comes to flavouring like this. Even still, with a weaker mustard, I would still think it was too much mustard. Perhaps they meant tsps.?
- The potatoes didn’t take 20-35 minutes to cook. They took 45 minutes. Other recipes I’ve done from both their apps have also had issues with timings. The entire dish took longer than expected, despite how easy it was to make.
- The vegetables included in the dish were all bitter and the green pepper should have been roasted (it also would have been better if it had been red or yellow pepper). The peas didn’t add enough sweetness to the dish. The main problem was a lack of balance. It was all hitting the acidic receptor on our tongues and missing the rest of them.
- My mother followed my own easier method for poached eggs but their method does work, as it’s another method I’ve used plenty of times. If you were to follow their recipe I’ve no doubt that it would work.
- I assume the sauce was meant to be an alternative to a hollandaise, but an easier alternative for a beginner cook. I would suggest to any beginners that you follow the Sorted Recipe for hollandaise instead as it’s a new skill to learn and it’ll taste 1000 times better. They have a hollandaise recipe in one of their other Meal Packs, which my Dad managed to follow and make, despite not even knowing how to separate an egg at first.
OVERALL RATING FOR RECIPE: 1/10. The poached egg method was explained well but everything underneath the sauce became inedible, unless washed.
This was simply one pack and we’ve done more since then. There are certainly issues with many of them, usually circulating around lack of balance or wrong timings but, for a beginner cook, I would recommend using them to gain the skills and encourage you to cook. It gives you the feeling that you’re not alone in the kitchen which, especially for people who live by themselves would be a bonus. An option to cook for one person would be a good step for the app as it certainly is a perfect design for them (and also, from experience, cooking for one is harder than cooking for 2 or 4).
The aubergine curry was a bit more balance away from being perfect (it was a bit sweet again), and a bit more flavour in the flatbreads would go towards an amazing dish (similar to their flatbreads in their Can’t Be Arsed 2 Cook Cookbook which utilised spices to make the flavour go up a notch). In fact, all the recipes in their Fail-Safe pack seemed to be of a good standard. Unfortunately I haven’t made the cheese souffle yet as we decided to try something different than the eggs we’d already had the day before.
The Sorted Crew often try the ‘Economy Gastronomy’ method (it’s an amazing cookbook and old show from the UK; one of the first cookbooks I ever used), in that they try to repeat ingredients and use them differently the next day. This works sometimes and certainly cuts down on waste but often, not dissimilar to the book above, the people following aren’t likely to do it. To have watercress as a side two days in a row isn’t too bad, as it’s a side and inconsequential, but to have chicken two days in a row is less likely to make you happy. Also, leftovers from good chicken aren’t likely to be around for the next day and you could buy a smaller packet of chicken easily so you didn’t have to repeat.
The App itself is easy to use and with some minor tweaks would be perfect for a home cook but, unfortunately, I think all the recipes need some more development. More choice would also be amazing as they all fall into a similar vane of cooking, although I do appreciate the high amount of vegetable-focused recipes as it promotes healthy eating and shows how much flavour you can get from your veg. For experienced home-cooks like my mother the choice is perhaps not as exciting as she’d hoped. For the first week she was excited to try the meal packs but, having been subscribed now for a couple of months, she’s finding it harder to choose what she would actually like to do each week. The Cookbooks have definitely been utilised more in our kitchen.
Which reminds me, as this has become a very long post, I’ll move the review of the CookBooks App to another post which will be released next week. Thank you for reading and, if you download the app, happy cooking. I hope you enjoy yourselves, as I know I did. If you’ve used the app yourself, what did you think? Did the recipes work out for you?