TIPS FOR LEARNING TO COOK AT UNIVERSITY

11 Sep 2020 | Student Advice

Starting University can be a daunting prospect for Freshers who are new to a budget and living away from home. Indulging in several takeaways in the first few weeks can be a fun way to use your student loans, but in reality, this will draw you closer to your overdraft. Having made all of the mistakes during my time as a student, here are some tips for cooking cheap but super tasty meals.

Tip 1: Stock up on cupboard essentials

All good homemade food comes from the food in the back of cupboards that you only thought would sit there for the sake of having a full cupboard of food. Tins and cans will be your new best friend. I highly recommend buying these essentials:

  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Baked beans
  • Tinned soup
  • Salt and pepper (obviously)
  • Flour
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Mixed herbs
  • Lentils
  • Bread

 Keeping these items stocked up will guarantee you some form of food, whether it’s baked beans on toast or a tasty chilli con carne (provided you buy the meat/veggie option). All are incredibly versatile and must-haves for your new designated kitchen cupboard!

Tip 2: Batch cook or cook with friends

It is common knowledge that food brings people together, and what better way to befriend your flatmates than by cooking a big meal? Everyone can chip in with ingredients or a couple of pounds and you’ll have a blast making the food together. In my first year, one of my flatmates made us a gorgeous vegan lasagne, and I made a huge spaghetti Bolognese.

Bolognese recipe:

  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Several chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 red pepper (or leftovers of other peppers)
  • 500g minced beef/veggie meat (or vegetable leftovers)
  • 1 or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes (or just 1 and a jar of pasta sauce, branded is nice but own-brand is just as fine)
  • Tomato ketchup/purée
  • If you have it, stock cubes and Worcester sauce for flavor
  • Mixed herbs and especially basil
  • Spaghetti
  • Garlic bread (optional)

You can’t really go wrong with a spag bol.  Cheap and super easy to make, it really is a matter of throwing it all in and leaving it to simmer for an hour or so. Top tip: leaving it on the hob to cool for a couple of hours is great for flavour!

Likewise, bulk cooking is beneficial for solo cookers/eaters as you can freeze leftovers for another day.

Tip 3: Try out these tasty budget friendly meals

Curries will be the become the best backup for a meal. They are super easy and cheap, and you can cater to any dietary needs.

Kidney bean curry (make use of those tinned goods!):

  •  1 chopped onion
  • Several chopped garlic cloves
  • Thumb-sized piece of chopped ginger for flavor
  • Cumin (1tsp) , paprika (1tsp) and masala (2tsp)
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 400g kidney beans
  • Basmati rice (as much as necessary)

Again, another throw-it-all-in-and-see-what-happens meal. If you fancy it, fresh coriander works beautifully on top, and naan bread is lovely on the side. I’ve tried this one several times and have always been full and satisfied!

Homemade pizza

Of course, supermarkets offer some great oven pizzas for a low price but if you fancy getting creative, pizzas are super easy and fun to make.

  • 200g plain flour
  • 7g dried yeast
  • Sugar (1tsp) + salt (1/4 tsp)
  • 125ml warm water
  • 80ml passata
  • Olive oil (for the tray)
  • Mozzarella (100g), parmesan (2tbsp) or vegan alternatives

For extras:

  • Chicken, quorn, basil, peppers etc.

The key to a good homemade pizza is the dough, and it’s not too tricky. Mix the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl and stir in the water. Knead the mixture until it’s smooth, and then add your toppings! If you don’t have the ingredients for the dough but happen to have pita bread or something similar, the toppings work really well on that too.

Cooking for yourself is all about being willing to make mistakes and having fun with it. Nobody is expecting you to be a Michelin star chef a month into university, so just concentrate on keeping your stomach full and having fun with what you cook. BBC Good Food is my go-to for simple and quick recipes, and charities always sell cookbooks.

By Imogen Kilner

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