A Student’s Survival Guide to Cooking
It’s that time of year when students are heading off to college or university and it may the first time you’ve ever had to cook for yourself. I know my son has been practising a few dishes but after a straw poll of his friends I think adding boiling water to a pack of flavoured noodles was as far as they’d ventured! So I decided to write this Student’s Survival Guide to Cooking to help my son and any other students out there who may find themselves with more questions than answers when faced with a kitchen for the first time. Once fresher’s week is over it’s time to study and get to grips with cooking if you’ve opted for self catering! So l’ll start this Student’s Survival Guide to Cooking with some helpful hints and tips and then move onto some recipe suggestions!
- A portion of rice or pasta is 75g (dry weight).
- My tip for fail safe rice is to only use Basmati, (do not pre-rinse) boil it in plenty of salted boiling water and then rinse it in a sieve with freshly boiled water from the kettle.
- When boiling vegetables etc always use a kettle to boil the water first as it’s more energy efficient and it’s also quicker.
- Use rapeseed oil for frying, it has a high smoking point so less likely to burn.
- Boiled eggs are nutritious and versatile so add them to curries, salads or mix with mayo for a jacket potato topping or sandwich filling. Check out how to boil eggs here.
- A jacket potato takes the best part of an hour to cook in an oven but you can cheat by microwaving (and finishing off in the oven for a crispy finish if you prefer). A potato takes about 5 minutes on full power depending on size and wattage of microwave; when you can insert a knife easily you know it’s cooked.
- Don’t forget your 5-a-day – eat a rainbow! Scurvy isn’t common these days (caused by a lack of Vitamin C) but I’ve heard many stories of students getting it over the years. There is sense in the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – keep your diet varied with plenty of greens, plus nuts and seeds. (A good breakfast cereal and bread can help here)!
- If you’re not vegetarian aim for 2 portions of fish a week with one of these being oily fish eg mackeral, tuna, salmon etc (tinned is fine).
- Don’t be afraid to cook more than you need as cold food and leftovers make a great meal for the following day. Eg cooked chicken can be sliced up for a salad or a curry can be reheated!
- Avoid re-heating rice as there is a nasty bug (bacillus cereus) which you don’t want to encounter, so only cook what you need.
- Don’t use a high heat or metal implements on non-stick pans and use a non-stick friendly sponge to wash up, not a washing up brush. This will preserve the condition of your new pans!
- Never heat a non-stick pan without any oil in it.
- Take it in turns to cook for your room mates and get them to wash up and vice versa!
- Soak pans as soon as you’ve finished using them, makes washing up far easier.
- Never throw hot fat or oil down the sink, wait for them to cool and then dispose of in a food bin. (Drain clearing specialists are very expensive)!
- Bread is great kept in the freezer as you can just take out what you need as it thaws really quickly or you can toast it from frozen.
- Invest in a digital food thermometer as you don’t want to lose days of study to food poisoning.
- If you have a supermarket nearby find out when they have their last reductions and buy things like mushrooms, cherry tomatoes etc that will be good for a few more days.
- Acquaint yourself with the World Food Aisle as things like tins of tomatoes, beans and spices will often be cheaper there.
- Buy supermarket basics of things like flour and pasta as there is no noticeable difference in flavour or quality to the non-basic supermarket ranges.
- Always keep a good supply of tinned food because you don’t want to get ill and have nothing to eat. Things like soup, baked beans and tuna are great staples.
- If you’re going to be shopping from mainly one supermarket get their loyalty card if they have one, every little helps as they say!
- Planning your meals will save you money as one ingredient can be used over a few meals quite often.
- For tips on stocking a fresher’s cupboard head over to Mint Custard.
- Also check out my 10 Money Saving Shopping Tips post.
My son asked me for a reminder of which of my dishes would be suitable for him to cook at uni so I’ve put together a list of some of my recipes and some from fellow bloggers which take into consideration a basic budget and minimal equipment.
- Perfect Poached Eggs
- Quick Poached Egg & Garlic Spinach Bagel
- Brunch Quesadillas
- Cheat’s Croque Madame (if you don’t have a sandwich toaster just fry in a frying pan with a little oil)
- Pizzetta Toast
- Cheesy Courgette Omelette
- Avocado Stuffed French Toast with Poached Egg
- Masala Scrambled Eggs
- Chorizo Tortilla
- Chilli, Bacon & Chickpea Pasta
- Turkey Chilli with Baked Beans
- Simple Pork Fried Rice
- 10 Minute Mushroom Pasta
- Quick Leftover Pork Pesto Pasta
- Minced Beef & Onions
- Ham, Cheese & Sweetcorn Turnovers
- Spicy Bacon & Baked Bean Casserole
- Curried Egg Mayonnaise with Ham & Sweetcorn Jacket Potato
- Prawn & Egg Salad
- Garlic Bread & Tomato Bake
- Quick Butternut Squash & Chicken Risotto
- Vegan Spaghetti Bologese
- 10 Minute Spicy Vegan Bean Burgers
- Green Split Pea Curry
- Quick & Easy Spaghetti for 2
- Kavey’s “That’s not proper Indian is it” Sausage Curry
- Easy One Tray Roast Chicken
- Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables (a side or main)
- Crispy Coated Roast Potatoes
- Spicy Parmesan New Potatoes
- Fat Free Greek Yogurt Fruit Brulee I had this at a student party back in the day!
- Instant Orange Cheesecakes
- Banana & Chocolate Quesadilla
- 3 Ingredient Banana Nutella Pancakes
- Banana S’mores
Remember, as Nigel Slater often says, “a recipe is just a starting place” so always improvise if you don’t have the exact ingredients required for a recipe or tweak it to your own taste!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Student’s Survival Guide to Cooking and if you have any tips or recipe suggestions then please leave them in the comments below!
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