CrateChef Review + Coupon: Chef Hawa Hassan of “In Bibi’s Kitchen”
CrateChef is a bi-monthly food & cooking subscription box, curated by a different chef, food-related celebrity, or author every other month. Each box includes artisanal foods sourced from around the globe, kitchen gadgets, plus a cookbook or recipe cards from the featured chef to help you put your ingredients to good use. I always learn something new from these boxes and enjoy trying the different techniques and flavors that they introduce me to.
This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription Box: CrateChef
The Cost: $49 per box + $8 shipping. Save with longer subscriptions.
COUPON: Use code ADDICTION10 to save 10% off your first order!
The Products: Artisanal foods, recipes, and kitchen tools curated by a different chef each month.
Ships to: The U.S.
Good to know: CrateChef recently added a “build-your-own” box option, where you can curate your first box from a selection of products featured in past boxes!
CrateChef October 2020 Review, featuring Hawa Hassan
I always look forward to CrateChef, and I was greeted by a pretty weighty box this month. (I’m also always startled by how quickly time passes between each bi-monthly box, but that’s neither here nor there.) Let’s dig in!
This month’s box features Hawa Hassan of the book In Bibi’s Kitchen, just released in October. I’m not familiar with this cookbook yet, but have been aware of coauthor Julia Turshen in the past couple of years; she’s contributed to a lot of popular cookbooks and has worked with some big-name chefs. While the book itself was not included in this month’s box, CrateChef did include a scratch-off giveaway card that had 25 winners (spoiler alert: I didn’t win).
Just reading through the intro cards, I’m definitely curious to explore more. I have approximately zero experience with Somali cuisine or African cuisine of any kind, and this seems like a really great push to get outside of my kitchen comfort zone!
I always expect learning about new food cultures to be complicated and time-consuming, but the recipes included in this box actually seem quite simple, with most coming together in around 30 minutes. I’m personally most intrigued by the Shahan Ful (mashed lima beans with onions, tomatoes, and chiles), which sounds like an incredibly comforting starchy and saucy vegetarian meal. One of my go-to comfort meals in college was a simple chickpea and tomato curry made with coconut milk, and reading this recipe reminded me of how satisfying and tasty those quick healthy meals can be.
Also included are a simple rice pilaf, a stewed chicken recipe, torn flatbreads with spiced butter and yogurt, and a banana fritters recipe.
Oh! CrateChef also put together their own advent calendar this year, which looks like it’s already sold out. Be sure to check out all of the advent calendars that we’ve written about if you’re interested in more good countdown gifts!
Multi-Function Manual Juicer – Similar product available here for $12.99
CrateChef does typically include 1-2 gadgets as well as ingredients and snacks, and this juicer was the first item I pulled out. It is plastic, but has a nice weight to it, and feels a lot sturdier than you might think from the packaging. The insert says that Hassan uses citrus daily and in many of her recipes, although the Shahan Ful is the only recipe included in the box that actually uses citrus.
I do like how this gadget includes a grater on the top, as I frequently use both zest and juice in recipes calling for lemon or orange. I’ll admit we’re a little citrus obsessed here and regularly go through a bag of lemons and oranges in a typical week, and the fresh juice really is SO much better.
Essie Spice Tamarind Oh!, 10.5 oz – Retail Value $10
I typically associate tamarind with Indian cuisine, not African, but Essie Spice specializes in African and world fusion flavors and so puts their own special twist on things. And I gotta say, this sauce is pretty delicious! I sampled it on toast with butter and really loved it. It’s tangier and less sweet than your typical jam, but also way more complex. The main ingredients are guava, tamarind, ginger, and vanilla.
CrateChef suggests using it in place of barbecue sauce, and agree that it would be a home run with some pork ribs. I’m also thinking it would be a delicious swirl in some homemade coffee cake, or a big spoonful used to cool off a spicy curry. This is the kind of really unusual ingredient that I love getting in these boxes because it gets me to try something new and always gets me thinking of a million new ways to use it!
Farmtrue Ghee, 4 oz – MSRP $8
Once again, I usually associate ghee more with Indian cuisine, but a little Googling taught me that it is also found in East Africa. I first noticed ghee (or clarified butter) becoming available in stores after Whole30 became popular, as it doesn’t contain lactose and is a recommended substitute for butter as part of that program. The Farmtrue brand promotes the Ayurvedic aspects of ghee; although I always like to see organic and grass-fed products, the rest of the wellness-speak is a bit much for me personally. I like ghee because I love butter, but it has a much higher smoke point, making it useful for high-heat cooking where butter would otherwise start to burn.
This ingredient is used in a couple of the included recipes, although you can really use ghee anywhere that you’d typically use oil. Here’s my pro tip for you: The first and only time I cooked a whole turkey on my own, I discovered a bit late that I was out of butter, and ended up rubbing the whole bird with ghee and seasoning both under and on top of the skin. It might have been a stroke of luck, but that turkey was amazing and beautifully brown and crisp, and I’m afraid I’ll never be able to top it.
Spicewalla Berbere Spice, 1.5 oz – MSRP $4.50
How cute is this vintage-style spice tin? I never say no to a new seasoning, and this one is really aromatic! I cannot stop opening it up to smell it! I love paprika, and I love cardamom and cinnamon and coriander – but I really never would have suspected that combining those things with cumin, cayenne, allspice, clove, and more would result in something so absolutely delicious. The pleasantly warm aroma alone is making my stomach growl!
This is a classic Ethiopian spice that is both hot and sweet, according to the CrateChef info card, and is used in both the mashed lima bean recipe and stewed chicken legs recipe. Other recommendations include using as a dry rub for shrimp or chicken before grilling or using in lentils for a vegetarian option. I ended up using it for some turkey tacos this week in place of chili powder, because I wasn’t able to run out and grab ingredients for one of the included recipes:
I made my tacos with ground turkey, onion, sweet potato, chickpeas, cilantro, and what I thought was a generous amount of the berbere spice. I think they actually could have used a bit more, but they were still very flavorful and I thought these flavors were very fitting for a sort of fall-themed fusion taco. Next time, I’ll also add cayenne for a bit of heat.
Bob’s Red Mill Cassava Flour, 20 oz – MSRP $9.69
I’m not very familiar with the world of gluten-free flour substitutes, so I’ve never cooked with cassava flour before. Made from cassava or yuca root, it’s both gluten-free and grain-free, and a common East African ingredient. This is used for the included banana fritters recipe, and Bob’s Red Mill also included a recipe for a cassava flatbread.
Have you tried cassava flour? Any other suggestions for me? Bob’s Red Mill also suggests on the bag it can be used as a substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs and veggie burgers (two things I do cook often), so I’m happy to see this product will go to good use no matter what in my pantry.
Olivewood Kitchen Spoon – Estimated Value $10
Finally, our last kitchen gadget: a humble wooden spoon. This one is made from olivewood, which feels nice and dense (and apparently resists absorbing food odors). I personally love that beautiful wood grain on the spoon end! This is also a bit sleeker and more comfortable to hold than my current kitchen spoon (a 12-year-old department store spoon from my wedding registry), so I think this little upgrade will suit me just fine.
Verdict: This CrateChef box was a good mix of some smaller artisanal brands and genuinely useful gadgets and ingredients, and I really appreciate that they’re getting a bit more diverse and featuring some African cuisine! I loved the tamarind sauce, and am having to hold myself back from licking the berbere spice right out of the tin (seriously this stuff smells so good, have I mentioned that yet?). I also really appreciate that the unusual ingredients featured in the recipes (berbere, ghee, cassava) were all included, so you could easily get the other things you need and cook these up in most cases. I grocery shop most weeks at Aldi and so have not been able to make a special trip to get lima beans (of all things!) and try the Shahan Ful recipe just yet, but I am really looking forward to that warm comfort on a cool fall night coming soon.
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes, this box is shipping now!
COUPON: Use code ADDICTION10 to save 10% off your first order!
Value Breakdown: Food boxes, in general, don’t have sky-high retail values like beauty boxes can sometimes have; these boxes are more about curation in my experience. This box’s items totaled up to an estimated retail value of $58, while CrateChef bi-monthly subscriptions cost $57 per box ($49 + $8 US shipping). This specific box is on the lower end of retail values that I’ve seen for CrateChef in the past, and they’ve generally been higher value this year… which makes me suspect that the December box is going to be a real winner, perhaps?
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What do you think of the latest CrateChef? Which recipes and ingredients are your favorites?