Student cooking overview

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Lizzie Fedorowycz gives her tips on student cooking…

When it comes to cooking at university many students have not gotten the hang of how to rustle something up on their own. There are varying degrees of those who are fairly competent in the kitchen, to the experimental ones, and leaving the rest of us who have no clue whatsoever.

Moderately experienced– this person regularly cooks for himself or herself; stores wine in their fridge for fancy sauces, and can successfully use each and every utensil in the kitchen.

Some excellent ideas to make meals go far is to buy a large joint of meat such as gammon or just invest in a whole chicken, and use it in every way possible. If you simmer the meat for a few hours with some vegetables and herbs, you’ve immediately gotten yourself some lovely and tender meat complete with a broth. Any bones can then be removed, and you can either use the meat in sandwiches, rice/pasta dishes, and salads or just freeze and save it for next time.

Another good tip is to buy big packs of bacon and individually wrap and freeze one or two strips at a time, for a quick flavour boost to any dish!

Intermediate– this student knows the difference between the oven and the hob, and is a ready meal connoisseur. Willing to try their hand in the kitchen, often with a few experimental mishaps. I must say, although I can get by in the kitchen, I really fall under the category of the investigational chef. I’m not afraid to throw together some risky ingredients for the purpose of ‘culinary research’, and as I like almost every food on the planet, I can normally stomach a botched meal or two.

The main rules for all students are:
  • Buy in bulk– you can then split up into portions and freeze for a rainy day when you don’t want to cook or are stretched for time.
  • Plan your meals– this saves you having to run out to the shops for last minute ingredients/impulse buys, ultimately saving money in the long run.
  • Make it from scratch– you’ll quickly learn how to cook and modify your favourite meals and it is so much cheaper/healthier than buying ready meals!

Complete and utter beginner– there were no spaces left in a catered hall, he/she didn’t even know there was a kitchen and has been happily living off take-outs…until now.

  • Just stick to the meals that you know and love, for the beginning anyway.
  • Prepare all ingredients before you start cooking. This way, things aren’t left unattended and you tend to avoid having to evacuate the whole building because you’ve triggered the fire alarm. This one is no exaggeration; I have encountered one too many smoky kitchens in my short time a university, naming no names…
  • Read through each process before you start to get an idea of what you’re dealing with. It’s easy to get your hands on a cheap cookbook- just nip into a charity shop and pick up a few in order to try some recipes out!
  • If you can’t resist the temptation of a take out, why not make your own? You can try mini pizzas, sweet and sour chicken and stir fry’s.

Lean Mean Lentil Machine– this category includes all your organic, free range, non processed and cruelty free foods- encompassing the hipster veggies but also those who are trying to watch their weight while juggling everything else at university.

  • Veggie bakes are great because you can use any mixture of vegetable, so just pop in your favourite and enjoy!
  • Nut/seed roast- these can vary from just a snack (splash a bit of honey and cinnamon on before popping it in the oven) or they can be bulked up with some vegetables for a filling meal.
  • Lentil dhal- this curried lentil mix is nice as a quick and light meal and is freeze-able.
  • Cauliflower and broccoli cheese is amazing- enough said.
  • Salads- refreshing, healthy and super easy to vary so you’re never bored!

The Alcoholic– this student spends a little more money on booze than they do on food, and is the one who always ends up buying post night out Papa Si’s instead of cooking.

The key word here is preparation. If you buy in a range of snacks- from healthier ones that you can nibble on during the day to something more filling for the drunken nights when you have the midnight munchies- then you’ll save a huge amount of money (and calories) from avoiding your impulse buying brain at four in the morning.

Some tips to incorporate a heavy night:
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach- line it with foods with natural fats, like salmon and avocados (something that stays in your stomach for a longer time and slows down alcohol absorption)
  • If you have the option of eating a little snack during your night out, this can help in the long run. Things like nuts and olives are great, and if they’re provided in a pub then it’s super easy to get your hands on!
  • If you can’t resist buying food once your night is over, a chicken kebab is one of the least detrimental options- if you give away the pitta, you’ve basically gotten a glorified chicken salad- but if you can help it, just hold off until breakfast.
15 simple meals include:
  1. Jacket potatoes- mix up the fillings from cheese and beans to tuna and sweet corn…
  2. Sandwiches- these can have sweet fillings like peanut butter and jam or can include some of last night’s chicken dinner; the world is your oyster!
  3. Stuff on toast- this is an all rounder meal, I like tomatoes and mushroom on toast any time of the day, but you can make French toast, have bog-standard beans, or just melt a little cheese on or whack on some spread for a quick and very easy meal.
  4. Eggs- there are countless ways to bulk up/transform a meal, plus these are affordable and are a brilliant source of protein
  5. Pasta dishes- bakes/Bolognese/noodles/pesto/meatballs/salad/lasagne
  6. Fajitas/wraps
  7. Chicken and rice/risotto
  8. Soups- homemade or shop bought are always a winner
  9. Salads- chicken/pasta/tuna/potato/salsa
  10. Stew/hotpot/casserole
  11. Hash- this is one of the simplest recipes and it takes no time at all- you can vary it with meat/fish, types of potatoes, and different veg!
  12. Homemade curry  (veggie option is great too)/chilli con carne
  13. Shepherds/cottage/fish pie
  14. Potato wedges and dips- a great snack or side to a meal
  15. Fruit salads/vegetable based dishes- this is quite a refreshing thing once you’ve spent a few weeks at university eating nothing but
GENERAL TIPS:
  • Try to keep clean– this one will not only keep the peace with your flat mates, but will also make everything so much easier if you can actually touch the countertop! In regards to washing up, if you don’t have time to do it immediately, just leave it to soak for a while and when you get back to it, cleaning won’t be a problem at all.
  • Always have some tins in your cupboard as a back up, as these can make meals go further.
  • Have a late night shopping trip- if you work out the times of day when the supermarkets sell discounted foods you can find some amazing bargains.
  • Make friends with a butcher– his/her advice is absolute gold dust and they’ll guide you through the best way to survive in style on a tight budget.
  • Go to the market– a lot of fruit and veg can be found very cheaply here, especially if you go at the right times (when everyone is packing up, buy as much as you can, prepare and then FREEZE)
  • Grow your own! If you can manage it, a couple of herb pots go a long way- and if you chip in and share it with your housemates your palate will never be dull. This goes the same for general sauces and spices- if you can all share the things that are regularly used you’ll save a heap of money- it also avoids the problem of trying to store ten different jars of paprika in the cupboards.

Lizzie Fedorowycz 

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