The Secret To Great (but Easy) Student Cooking
There is perhaps no quicker, harsher or more educational cooking course than suddenly finding yourself in student halls with whatever cooking equipment your parents weren’t going to miss from their kitchen and all the ingredients you can buy with that term’s student loans.
Yes, there are some who seem subsist entirely on Indian takeaway and delivery pizza, although you’ve no idea where they get the money from for that (Hint: It’s Mum and Dad), but for most of you, university will mean having to learn to cook, and learn quickly.
So here’s the good news: Student cooking is easy. There’s a number of dishes that area easy to prepare with the cheapest ingredients but will still make your friends think you’re amazing.
Add Herbs to Everything
Sometimes you don’t have the cash for decent ingredients, so as soon as you get to university buy yourself a bunch of herbs and spices. In a pinch I’ve been saved many times by rice with sweetcorn and bits of sandwich ham in, spruced up with as many spices as I can lay my hands on.
Start A Rota
Left to your own devices an oven-ready pizza or microwavable chicken burger is always going to seem more appealing than actually cooking a meal. So, to save yourself from culinary boredom, find two or three mates and take it in turns to cook.
The competitive edge means that you’re going to be trying to make more adventurous and better food each night, and at least two out of three nights you’ll get someone else cooking for you. It’s win-win!
But what to cook? Well, here’s a secret from my own student days:
Confession time. This is a really easy dish to do. However, it’s also really easy to get wrong. I was cooking this one throughout my first year and the result was usually something like pasta mixed into scrambled egg.
Don’t do that. Here’s a quick and cheap recipe that does work though.
- Cut off the fat from three or four rashers of bacon and chop it into tiny squares. Grate about 50g of parmesan cheese, and beat three large eggs in a bowl, seasoning with a little black pepper.
- Boil some water in a kettle and pour it into a pan, adding a teaspoon of salt. Then add the pasta- two handfuls per person is usually enough, with one for luck, so 9 handfuls will do the trick here. Put the boiling water on the heat for 15 minutes (you can boil it for less time if you want it ldquo;al denterdquo;, but if you’re just starting out that tends to come across as not cooked properly.
- While that’s boiling, squash a clove of garlic with the flat side of a knifeblade (garlic crushers, incidentally, are pants) then peel off the skin, chop it up and chuck it in a pan with the chopped bacon and 50g of freshly melted butter. Let it cook for five minutes, stirring constantly, until the bacon is crispy.
- Turn the heat under the bacon down to low, then when the pasta is done drain it with a colander and add it to the pan with the bacon. Meanwhile, mix the cheese and the eggs, holding some cheese back to sprinkle over the top later.
- Pour the eggy cheese mixture into the pasta, making sure everything is coated. Adding a little cream to the mixture can help keep it saucy.
- Serve up for you and your flatmates, and become a local hero.
The great thing about this recipe is it’s also extremely adaptable. Don’t want bacon? You can use mushrooms, chicken or turkey.
Sam Wright is a freelance writer who taught himself to cook at university. His flatmate lived entirely on Pot Noodles, and that’s not a life for anyone