Cooking easy, simple meals is a must-have skill at university, and one that’s taken me a while to get the knack of. Being in self-catered Lafrowda last year, and now having the entertaining challenge of sharing a pretty small kitchen with 6 people, I’ve had quite a bit of practice of the student staples. There are all kinds of handy tips you pick up over time, like the wonder that is the Schwartz packs of chilli con carne spices, and how it’s much cheaper to buy a curry paste and cocount milk than a jar of curry sauce, so I thought I’d start sharing some of my culinary wisdom (if you can call it that) on here.
Ultimate Tomato Pasta Sauce
- 1 x onion
- 2 x garlic cloves
- Suitable amount of veg – mushrooms, courgette, peppers (fried bacon or cooked sasuage works too)
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- Tomato additions: puree, ketchup
- Salt and peppar to season (or other mixed herbs if there are any in the cupboard)
- You’ll probably want to put the pasta on before you start cooking the sauce unless you want to be waiting around.
- Dice the onion and slice up the garlic as thinly as you can (no one has time for garlic crushers and they’re a pain to clean!)
- Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil, and add your chopped veg to fry too. Chopped mushrooms, courgette, a pepper that’s going a little soft in the bottom of your fridge- whatever you fancy.
- Add your can of tomatoes and turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Add your tomato flavour additions – a teaspoon of puree or a tablespoon of ketchup to sweeten.
- Salt and peppar to season! (No one really knows how to season but throw some in so it looks like you know what you’re doing.)
- In general, the longer you leave it (within reason) the better because then the flavours can ~infuse~
This will probably make about 3 or 4 meals worth, so unless you’re entertaining friends bag the leftovers into poritions and put them in the freezer for an easy defrost dinner another day! Cheaper and definitely more tasty than buying a jar of sauce 🙂
Roasted Veg and Cous Cous
My current absolute favourite lunch – a warm salad is so lovely as it gets closer to winter and this definitely fills me up for the afternoon.
- A basic bag of cous cous
- Vegetables to roast: this can be anything, I tend to have at least a garlic clove, a pepper and a big tomato, but some sliced courgette, red onion or aubergine is fab too.
- Balsamic vinegar
- Feta cheese (or the supermarket ‘Greek Salad Style Cheese’ alternative) or you can use halloumi if you’re feeling exotic
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Slice up the vegetables and put them in a roasting tray. Drizzle them with a little bit of oil, and sprinkle with sugar if you like (it really brings out the sweetness in the tomato and peppers) and then put the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile cook your cous cous. It’s super easy, just measure out enough to cover the bowl a few cenitmetres deep, and then pour over enough boiling water so that it completely covers the cous cous with a centimetre to space. Stir well and leave for a few minutes (with some foil over the top of the bowl to speed it up). Fluff up with a fork so all the grains are separate; if you make too much save some for another day!
- If you’re having halloumi, slice up thinly and fry with a little oil in a small frying pan. It cooks very satsifyingly, squeaking as it fries and browning well. Should take no longer than 10 minutes or so.
- Take out the veg and pour over your cous cous. Add your halloumi or crumble some feta cheese over the top.
- Finally, drizzle with some balsamic vinegar. This makes it for me!
If you want to save for another day, keep the cous cous and veg separately to stop it going soggy, but it makes a great cold lunch too.
Eggy Bread (aka Easy Pancakes)
Ideal way to get rid of bread that’s going a little stale and my absolute fave late night snack or late morning breakfast. So warm, so more-ish, and so much more satsifying and easier than pancakes.
- A couple of slices of bread
- An egg
- A splash of milk
- A knob of butter or some oil
- Toppings: jam and golden syrup are best. It’s up to you really; my brother is a Nutella-holic so he’d have that, and my housemate has ketchup with hers but that’s blasphemy in my eyes! If you really want to go all out, you could fry up some bacon to have with it too.
- Whisk your eggs and milk together as if you’re making scrambled eggs in a low sided bowl.
- In a frying pan, melt the butter or warm the oil.
- Soak your bread in the eggy mix, turning over the bread so you soak both sides.
- Slop the soaked bread into the pan, turning over when it’s browned nicely.
- Repeat until you’ve used up your eggy mix and the bread!
In terms of cooking resources, we all start university with such good intentions (and so many cookbooks kindly gifted from well-meaning relatives) but in reality, most of them never make it off the shelf more than once or twice. My favourite cookbook however is ‘From Pasta to Pancakes: The Ultimate Student Cookbook’ by Tiffany Goodall. It has all the basics and photos for every recipe offering a step by step guide. Plus, the recipes are so good my mum ended up buying one for herself when I took the family copy to university!
There’s also Uni Grub, an online student cooking resource set up by an ex-Exeter student that offers tasty, cheap and simple recipes with photo guides too! It’s only just been set up but it’s really easy to navigate, and their Nutella brownies are amazing.