CrateChef February 2021 Review + Coupon: Featuring Nik Sharma
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.
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: $49.00 per box + $8.00 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 February 2021 Review, featuring Nik Sharma
This is my first month receiving CrateChef, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve followed Lacey’s reviews of this box for quite some time, and I’ve long considered pulling the trigger on a personal subscription, so when my first box arrived I was pretty much waiting on the front porch with open arms.
This month’s box features Nik Sharma, a recipe blogger, food columnist, and cookbook author. Sharma is originally from Bombay, India, and his recipes are often inspired by his Indian roots. I LOVE Indian food, spices, and flavor profiles, so I did a little happy dance when I opened up this box. I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better curator for my first CrateChef experience!
Inside, I found a card outlining the contents of the box. There’s a description for each item that outlines why it was selected for inclusion, and at the bottom of each section, CrateChef calls out recipes where each item can be used. (Such a thoughtful touch!)
My bookshelf is stuffed to the brim with cookbooks, and I am always happy to add more to my collection. As I’d mentioned previously, I’m a big fan of Indian food, so right off the bat, I was excited to learn more about this month’s hero item, a signed copy of Nik Sharma’s latest cookbook, The Flavor Equation. Interestingly, this book approaches food from a scientific perspective, which is ALSO right up my alley. For those who don’t know this about me, I’m a self-trained, professional baker, and part of what got me into baking was a curiosity about how and why baking works. Funnily enough, while I’m pretty knowledgeable in that regard, I don’t know a ton about the science of cooking. To say this cookbook is a match made in heaven for me is probably an understatement.
I haven’t had a chance to cook my way through it yet, but my first impression is a great one. The photos are beautiful, the writing is clear to understand and fun to read, and so many of the recipes sound delicous. In addition to delving into things like “how savoriness works” and “emotion and taste,” Sharma shares recipes like Crab Tikka Masala Dip, Fried Eggs with Masala Hash Browns + Seared Tomato Green Peppercorn Chutney, and Gingerbread Cake with Date Syrup Bourbon Sauce.
This book has made its way onto numerous “best of” lists, including those published by The New York Times, Eater, Epicurious, Food & Wine, Forbes, Saveur, and Serious Eats. It currently has a solid five stars on Amazon, and is ranked #1 in the category of “Indian Cooking, Food & Wine.”
Let’s see what else we have to help cook through this book:
Spice Grinder– Estimated Value $9.99 (Similar product found on Amazon.)
I have a spice grinder in my kitchen I use for nutmeg, and I am thrilled to receive another one. I’m a big believer that freshly ground spices are fresher, brighter, and more flavorful, and it seems so delightfully indulgent to have different grinders, each with its own designated spice. I use the nutmeg grinder for topping coffees, baking, and stews. (I also recently added some freshly ground nutmeg into cheese fondue, and it was a total game-changer.) But what spice to use in this new grinder? I wonder…
Green Cardamom Pods, 1-oz – Estimated Value $3.02
Cardamom pods! This is a CrateChef branded item, but I appreciate that they’ve shared that it’s sourced from The American Spice Company, a distributor that sells bulk spices online. Pricing for this blend varies depending on the quantity purchased; you can buy 3-oz for $13.49, a pound for $48.32, or 50lbs for $1,879.86. (I split the difference and used the one-pound pricing for estimating the value of this item.)
In my very humble opinion, cardamom is extremely underutilized in most American kitchens. I absolutely love it. The flavor is lemony and warm, and it can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. (I love adding a pinch of cardamom to my holiday baking spice blend, as it pairs exceptionally well with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove.) Chef Sharma points out that “vanilla in European desserts performed the role that cardamom did in many Indian desserts.” I’ve already added a fistful of pods into my spice grinder, and there are a number of cardamom-friendly recipes in The Flavor Equation calling my name.
Diaspora Co. Single Origin Pragati Turmeric, 2.47-oz – $12.00
Ohhh this is some fancy turmeric. I don’t think I’ve ever seen single-origin turmeric, but it’s cool that this product was all sourced from a family-run farm. Here’s a bit more about it:
Grown by our beloved Kasaraneni family amidst marigolds, bananas, and black rice on their 3rd generation farm. Whilst Mr. Prabhu Kasaraneni’s family has been farming for three generations, he is a self taught organic farmer who began growing heirloom Pragati turmeric in 2015, with assistance from the Indian Institute of Spice Research.
This turmeric is outstanding. I did a side-by-side sniff test with the store-brand turmeric currently in my pantry, and this won hands down. The aroma is richer and brighter, and there’s a gorgeous floral quality that simply doesn’t exist in the other one. I use turmeric pretty frequently in my cooking, but I often think of it as subtle and mild. Well, not this one. (Or at least not so much.)
Black Salt (Kala Namak), 2-oz – Estimated Value: $1.56
This is another CrateChef-branded spice, and this one is from Spice Jungle. As with the green cardamom pods, the cost of this black salt depends on the quantity purchased. 1-oz costs $5.49, 1-pound retails for $12.51, and 25-pounds goes for $69.69. (I used the 1-pound pricing for estimating the cost of this item, but keep in mind that it would cost more to purchase only 2-oz.)
I’ve never had Kala Namak before, so I was excited to see it in this box. First, let’s talk about what it is and where it comes from:
Sourced from Northern India this salt has a long history as a medicinal remedy for indigestion, hysteria, and dental health; but also as a popular spice for chaats and breads (we adore it on oven fries). To make kala namak, salt is melted down with aromatic spice and other various minerals. When it cools and re-crystallizes, the salt picks up various aromas and mineral flavors, though the most notable is an eggy, sulfury smell. The flavor is epic with starchy dishes such as sweet potatoes or with egg dishes such as deviled eggs of egg salad.
My first impression? This tastes a lot like garlic salt! But the flavor is a little bit more complex, and I picked up on the eggy, sulfury taste right away. I like the suggestion of using this on deviled eggs, and I’m inspired to try and create an Indian-inspired recipe that incorporates some of the flavors featured in this month’s cookbook. Maybe curried deviled eggs? Or deviled eggs flavored with garam masala?
Just Pomegranate Molasses – Retail: $14.00
I typically associate pomegranate molasses with Middle Eastern cooking, so I’m a bit surprised to see it in this box. (But I have to remind myself that just because a chef is from India and inspired by Indian flavors doesn’t mean he shouldn’t incorporate ingredients from elsewhere.) CrateChef recommends playing around with this ingredient as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings, and Chef Sharma uses Pomegranate Molasses in a number of the recipes in his cookbook. His Pomegranate + Poppy Seed Wings sound especially delicious.
Kava Acid Reduced Instant Coffee, 4-oz – Retail: $8.99
Instant coffee is a great way to add coffee flavor to recipes, and Kava’s Acid Reduced formula allows you to do so without upping bitterness. Instant coffee might not be the most exciting item to find in a box like this, but I do think it’s useful. I’ve worked at several bakeries where “coffee extract” was simply super-concentrated instant coffee, so I usually keep a jar in my cabinet for baking. This will definitely get used.
Before putting this review to bed, I wanted to test out at least one of the recipes in The Flavor Equation, and I settled on Spiced Coffee Kulfi, as it utilizes a couple different items in this box (instant coffee and cardamom pods). Kulfi is a frozen, ice cream-like dessert that’s popular in India. It’s not churned like ice cream, so it has a denser and icier texture, but it’s rich and creamy. I’ve never made it at home before, so I was excited to give it a try! Chef Sharma’s recipe is very simple. I combined heavy cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, instant coffee, cinnamon, cardamom pods, and star anise into a saucepan. I brought the mixture to a simmer, let it steep for an hour, strained it, transferred it into ramekins, and froze the kulfi overnight.
I tried it first thing the next morning, and if ever there was a dessert made for breakfast time, I swear this is it. This kulfi is very creamy and super-rich, with a spiced coffee flavor that’s really quite lovely. Despite the recipe only calling for two cardamom pods, the flavor of the cardamom comes through nicely. (Which is a sign these pods are fresh and high-quality, I think.) Seriously. This is big-time yummy, and the coffee flavor is perfect.
Verdict: I had so much fun with my first CrateChef box. Chef Sharma’s modern take on Indian cuisine is refreshing and exciting, and I think the curation of this box is a great reflection of his style of cooking. From the top-rated cookbook to the practical tools and ingredients, this box ticks all the boxes for me. I will happily use every single item, and I look forward to really getting to know these recipes. I have a feeling there will be a lot of Indian-inspired dishes coming out of my kitchen in the coming weeks!
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes! If you sign up today, you can choose to receive this box as your first one or wait until April for your first shipment.
COUPON: Use code ADDICTION10 to save 10% off your first order!
Value Breakdown: Food boxes are often more about curation than sheer retail value, and I thoroughly enjoyed my first CrateChef experience. The curation was on point, but getting a good value is always a welcome bonus. This box’s items totaled up to an estimated retail value of $74.17, which is really good! (Especially since I think it would cost more to purchase the exact quantity of spices that I received in this box. I always think it’s challenging to accurately value bulk spices.) I will use every single item in this box, and I’m excited to really get to know this cookbook. CrateChef bi-monthly subscriptions cost $57.00 per box ($49.00 + $8.00 US shipping).
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What do you think of the latest CrateChef? What are you most excited to cook from this box?