In the 2001 action-adventure classic Spy Kids, director Robert Rodriguez set out a bold vision for what the future of preparing and consuming food could look like. In one scene, Carmen Cortez (Alexa PenaVega) summons a fully cooked meal into existence, with McDonalds packaging and all, by placing a small, colour-coded packet into a microwave.
Whilst, two decades later, we are still waiting for this instant meal technology, we do have the next best thing: Huel. The concept of Huel is simple, it is a nutritionally complete meal in powderised form. Simply add water, shake, and hey presto, you are good to go.
Since founding in 2015, Huel has seen an astronomical rise. In 2021, it sold 150 million meals making it the seventh fastest growing private company in the UK. Moving from the techbro to the mainstream, Huel is on the precipice of breaking into the casual dining sector. I was lucky to attend what could well be the UK's first ever Huel dinner party in Peckham Grove, London.
As guests arrived, they were greeted with a White Russian cocktail, served with a Huel-crusted rim. Whilst cocktails tend to just wet your whistle, these drinks whet your appetite too as they were absolutely brimming with the nutritional goodness of Huel.
If you fancy whipping up one of these drinks for yourself, it's pretty simple. Vodka, oat milk, ice, and several scoops of Huel is all that is required. You can even imagine you are Tom Cruise in Cocktail (1988) by manically shaking these drinks in one of the free shakers Huel sends you with your first order.
For the starter, we followed Huel's own original recipe: Huel Protein Pancake Recipe. For this recipe we used the salted caramel powder, which made it a little too sweet for a starter. To counter-balance this, we added some plant-based crème fraîche, lemon juice, and some dried rosemary. Did this improve the first course? No, it did not.
Whilst undeniably the weakest dish of the evening, the mood amongst the party was still high. Did I mention Huel contains all 26 essential vitamins and minerals?
For the main, our illustrious host Gaz served up mac & cheese made from Huel's Hot & Savoury range. If you are confused at this point, I wouldn't blame you. Whilst Huel has reverse engineered food into a powder, they are also innovated the other way; reverse-reverse engineering powder back into a solid food. It works much the way an instant noodle would, just add boiling water.
We finished this dish off with some locally sourced wild garlic from outside a nearby Sainsbury's superstore. NB: I strongly recommend adding some herbs or even baking this as its quite tasteless. That being said, I've genuinely been served worse from restaurants.
Considering that Huel flavours tend to be sweet, you'd imagine that making a nice dessert would be the easiest, and most important, part of the dinner party. The pressure was on.
For this dish, I opted to make a rich, dark chocolate and orange Huel mousse. I started by whipping up some aquafaba - chickpea water for the uninitiated - into a sturdy foam. I then melted dark chocolate over a water bath, folding in chocolate Huel powder, fresh orange juice and zest, and some coconut milk. So far, so good. The pressure of the job at hand overcame me, however, and I added the chocolate sauce to the foam before it was properly cooled. The Alpine stiff peaks quickly disintegrated in a matter of seconds, leaving what can only be described as a chocolate soup. I served it anyway.
Despite the runny texture, the dessert was hailed a success.
Whilst the quality of the food was at points questionable, and at some points distressing, none of the guests left feeling unsatisfied. Guests also reported feeling 'light' and 'energised' the following day, with one guest even claiming improved nighttime vision.
Taste aside, the experimental and unusual nature of the dinner party produced a giddy, fever-dream atmosphere, helping to break the ice amongst new friends and create a memorable evening. In a nutshell, it's not the food itself which makes a great dinner party, but the act of eating, drinking, and trying something new together.
Will Huel dinner parties kick-off and become a mainstay in post-pandemic social landscape? Probably not, but you can't rule them out.
With thanks to Gareth Bentley for hosting and Zoe Avison for photos. This post is not sponsored by Huel, but if you are reading this Huel, I would very much like a tour of your HQ in Tring.