LIVING away from home means that your parents will no longer be providing you with tasty meals every night so you will need to cook for yourself.
Students have long had a reputation for living on just Pot Noodles and beans on toast, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No, we don’t mean ordering in takeaways or eating out at restaurants, we mean learning to cook healthy meals which will work out cheaper and better for you in the long run. This is something you can do while you’re still living at home so you’re ready to fend for yourself.
When you get to university, make sure to stock up on basics such as pasta, rice, chopped tomatoes, tuna, flour and sugar. Knowing you have these in the cupboard will make rustling something up each evening much easier and make a takeaway less tempting. Don’t be afraid to go for value brands as these can be just as good and all they might need is extra seasoning. It’s worth working out which sorts of spices and herbs you actually like as well, as you can add these to bring more flavour to your dish.
To start with, get the hang of a few basic meals and leave the complicated stuff until you’ve gained more confidence. There are many websites and cookery books out there specifically aimed at students learning to cook for the first time. Even top chefs like Jamie Oliver have tailor-made recipes for school-leavers. Ask your parents for the recipes to some of your favourite family meals – you can even have a go at making these before you leave home. They will also be happy to teach you some basic skills, from how to boil an egg and cook rice, to how to make an omelette.
Learn how to make a basic tomato sauce which you can then turn into a number of different dishes such as chilli con carne and chicken stew. You can simply add whatever meat and vegetables you fancy to the sauce and serve it up with pasta, rice, potatoes or couscous depending on what you’re in the mood for. One-pot meals are also good because they tend to be cheaper, can be frozen and don’t involve a lot of washing up. You can cook together meat and your favourite vegetables, or just the veggies and make a great-tasting dish.
Cooking with friends and flatmates is a really good way to improve your skills in the kitchen. You can share your own family recipes or adapt them depending on each other’s different tastes. When planning meals, make sure you check sell-by dates and don’t buy more than you can use when it comes to foods with a limited shelf life. And remember, the more you cook, the better you’ll be at it.
Sausage & Sweet Potato Frittata (serves 4)
Method: Fry sausages until cooked and cut into slices. Stir fry sweet potato and red onion for 10-12 minutes and then stir in the spinach for a few seconds. Return sausages to pan and preheat the grill. Beat eggs, season and pour into pan. Cook for five minutes, then place pan under grill until the top is lightly browned.
Honey Roasted Vegetable Risotto (serves 4)
Method: Preheat oven to 220ºC. Cut carrots and parsnips and toss with 1 tblsp of olive oil and honey. Roast for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the onion in a large deep frying pan until soft. Add rice and stir well to coat in the onion mixture. Make up one litre of stock and gradually ladle into the rice.
Allow the rice to absorb each ladle, stirring continuously over a medium heat. When all the stock has been added, fold the cooked vegetables into the risotto with rosemary and Parmesan cheese.