Food, Glorious Food

first_imgby Hannah Pennington Cooking beans in your kettle is one of those opportunities to revel in your student status. When you’re not at home and your mum can’t throw a wobbler, you can eat whatever you choose. You can exult mischievously in eating your favourite concoction of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, stage a covert rebellion by eating breakfast at four in the afternoon and devour late night greasy kebabs without that guilty aftertaste of your mum’s raised eyebrows. But there is a reason why when you’re in Oxford you always crave a classic, homely Sunday lunch with crisp roast potatoes and lashings of gravy. Student cooking on a budget only remains a novelty for a few weeks, a month at most. So if you’re far from delighted by the prospect of sharing a grotty fridge, tackling the mountains of washing up and doing constant battle with mental arithmetic as you traipse up and down the supermarket aisles then read on for inspired tips, shopping tactics and some common sense solutions.A student spends on average about £29 a week on food but the odd lunch out with friends in the covered market, grabbing a coffee in between lectures, indulging in a curry for your crew date and buying a bottle of vodka or a few cans with your weekly shop will leave you with little change. In student vernacular keeping it cheap and cheerful is often synonymous with a poor diet. Pre-term intentions of cooking from scratch and experimenting with fresh ingredients fade rapidly in the face of essay crises and the tempting ease of microwave ready meals. According to recent surveys the average student puts on 11 pounds in their first year and many students would readily admit that it is attributable to tucking into late night chips and grabbing quick on-the-go solutions when the hunger pangs strike. So how do you avoid eating endless portions of tomato pasta, special offer ready meals and, well, beans on toast? All too often you end up trying to budget-buy on the wrong things. It is easy to become unwittingly sucked in by the supermarket’s calculatingly placed three-for-two offers and suddenly you find a shelf full of tins and tins of tuna but no mayo for a sandwich, no cheese left to make a bubbling pasta bake and no time to cook a jacket potato. Co-ordinating a kitchen cupboard is like co-ordinating a wardrobe: make sure that the items in your basket go well together. If your student diet is based on toast and cereal and you find yourself googling Delia to ask if it’s possible to make an omelette without eggs then start by evaluating the contents of your cupboard. According to Jamie Oliver a student’s store cupboard should always contain salt, olive oil, fresh lemons and fresh garlic along with a home grown herb box on your windowsill filled with a range of aromatic herbs including thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, mint and oregano. Fat chance, when it’s far easier to keep a couple of cans of soup on standby to cover all eventualities. When I asked one student how he dealt with buying ingredients and conjuring up meals on a budget, he gave me this key philosophy, ‘Cooking at university is all about stretching the realms of accepted flavours and bunging in whatever you can find in the cupboard, why shouldn’t Jiff lemon juice and baked beans go in a curry?’ Students are renowned for creating bizarre eating habits: one student recommends tuna, cold baked beans and crisps whilst another claims to have eaten a diet consisting solely of cornflakes, halloumi cheese and diet coke.Make yourself some rules to lug round the supermarket with your basket. Firstly always buy versatile ingredients, rather than buying a whole jar of spices you will never finish before it sails past its sell by date, buy a jar of curry paste; mix it with yoghurt to make a fresh tasting curry; add it to fried potatoes to make a Bombay version; fry a bit of leftover chicken in it for your sandwiches or add it to your rice to give every grain kick and colour. If you need to prove to your mother you can cook when she comes up for a visit, have a cheesecake ready in the fridge by creating a base of crushed biscuits, mixing some soft cheese with the zest and juice of a lemon and a mound of sliced strawberries on top for decoration.Once you have sussed a shopping routine enlist your housemates to share the cooking and washing up. If each of you cooks once a week you are well on the way to a varied, stress-free diet. Minimize the washing up pile by always opting for one pot dishes; for example, try out the oven baked Thai chicken rice and adapt it according to your taste (and your store cupboard). Do multiple variations of the same dish, turn omelettes into Spanish potato tortillas, Chinese egg fried rice or vegetable fritters. Cooking requires a blend of experience and bravery, but if you are short of one of these two vital ingredients then just supplement one with the other. ‘Practice makes perfect’ really is the maxim of learning to cook so step away from the student stereotype and head to Cowley road to find cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables, buy yourself a book of ‘one-pot’ recipes to save on the washing up, learn timesaving tactics by freezing leftovers and outwit your housemates by labelling every dish as ‘fusion cooking.’ If all else fails. the baked beans wont go off in a hurry.last_img