And tonight’s supper is … whatever next door is cooking

Sara lists her home-delivered food on the Cookisto website (Francesco Guidicini)

Sara lists her home-delivered food on the Cookisto website (Francesco Guidicini)

Can’t face the kitchen? Then try a new website where you can buy dishes from local amateurs — if you trust them to wash their hands, writes Oliver Thring

Sara turns up a little after 7pm carrying a warm cardboard box. She grew up in Parma, where salted pig’s legs sway in sheds and cheeses age in cellars, but she came to Britain a few years ago. She’s a vegan — there wasn’t much to do back home.

She has brought spaghetti in a pesto of avocado and basil and homemade beetroot gnocchi flavoured with orange and sage. The dumplings are pale pink, yielding and sticky, a muddle of slippery skins and pappy innards. It’s comforting, home-cooked food. If you’re a vegan it’s probably what you want to eat. And if you’re not it’s better than Domino’s.

The website Cookisto will be launched in Britain this week. It seeks to do for cooks and eaters what Gumtree did for people flogging old televisions, eBay for car-boot fillers and Craigslist for odd-job men and drug dealers.

The idea is so simple, it’s odd that nobody thought of it before. Local cooks — hobbyists, professionals, stay-at-home parents — set up a profile listing the dishes they cook and the prices they charge. Visitors to the site put in an order. The two parties arrange the delivery or collection between themselves, Cookisto takes a 15% cut from the bill and that’s that.

Already 310 cooks in Britain have submitted profiles to the site. Most are in London, but people are joining in Manchester, Brighton, Cambridge, and seemingly across the country.

Cookisto launched in Greece last September and now has about 15,000 users, almost all in Athens. The founder, 26-year-old Michalis Gkontas, returned home to Athens after graduating from an American business school. He says the site’s sudden popularity among Greeks was down to the “economic situation. The crisis was a positive factor.” Most Greeks are broke. If you’re cooking for a family of five, making an extra couple of portions and flogging them to a neighbour is sound economic sense.

Things aren’t quite the same here. Dimple Paratey, originally from India, is offering about 40 dishes on her profile; some have appeared on her YouTube cooking channel. A portion of lamb biryani with rice, lime and “an apple to complete the meal” is £6.50 — “about the same price as the ingredients”, she says. “I want to build a strong customer base. I might charge more later. But it’s not what I’m planning at the moment.”

Continue reading at The Sunday Times (£)

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