Uni Cooking

Sorry for the late post this week at the weekend I was bust helping my boyfriend pack to go back to university for the next term. Helping my boyfriend got me thinking about when we both left home for the first time a few years back as freshers and how daunting cooking was to me then. So I thought that I would do a post on how to survive the cooking for yourself at university. This is not strictly a book review nor is it a recipe but I thought that it may come in handy for all the new students staring university at the moment.

My first piece of advice about cooking at university would be to buy some good quality cooking equipment. I thought that you needed lots of things and bought a lot of it cheaply and found that some of the pans weren’t actually very good to use a lot. However, my boyfriend bought some slightly more expensive equipment and when I stayed with him and cooked it made such a big difference. Essentially you actually only need a few items to make most meals at university. The list below are the things I found to be most useful:

  • Scales- It is impossible to bake with out these.
  • Chopping board.
  • A knife- A more expensive heavy duty one is worth investing rather than three or four cheap knives.
  • A breadknife.
  • 1 saucepan.
  • 1 large frying pan- Ideally buy a pan with high sides so that you can prepare stir-fry and pasta sauces in it.
  • 1 vegetable peeler.
  • Tin opener.
  • A roasting tin- If you get a large one it can also double up as a baking tray.
  • 2 wooden spoons.
  • Oven gloves- A tea-towel does not save you from getting burnt, I learnt this the hard way!!!!
  • Large bowl- If you get a pyrex one it can be microwaved and double as a mixing bowl.
  • Casserole dish- great if you want to make pasta bakes.
  • Tupperware pots- Freeze any left overs in these and you will save a fortune!
  • A whisk- you’ll need this to make cheese sauce or whip cream up.
  • Greaseproof paper, cling film and tin foil will all come in handy too.

Secondly, it is really important that you have the right foodstuffs in your cupboard so that you make the food you want to. I found that having cupboards full of basic items and the start of term and then buying fresh ingredients every week or so not only saved me money but meant when I came to making new dishes on the whole I already had the ingredients I needed. Each week create a meal plan and then work out what fresh ingredients you will need to buy. Don’t forget that frozen vegetables are just as good and are cheaper and last longer than fresh! Here is my suggestion of which foods you should always have in the cupboard or fridge:

  • Salt.
  • Pepper.
  • Dried herbs.
  • Chilli powder.
  • Pasta.
  • Rice.
  • Bread.
  • Flour (plain and self-raising).
  • Caster Sugar.
  • Tinned tomatoes.
  • Tinned beans.
  • Pesto.
  • Tomato puree.
  • Garlic.
  • Onion.
  • Eggs.
  • Cheese- I was shocked by how expensive cheese can be but it really is a staple item and you can usually find an offer on it in the supermarket.
  • Potatoes.
  • Butter or Vegetable spread.
  • Spreads for toast such as marmite, jam and peanut butter.
  • Olive oil.
  • Stock cubes.
  • Biscuits.
  • Crisps.
  • Milk.

My third piece of advice would be to invest in a couple of student cookery books. Both of the books I have chosen are vegetarian since I don’t eat meat however, my sister and my boyfriend have the meat versions of these student cook books and swear by them too. I’ve given a brief review of the two I used below:

  •  Vegetarian Nosh for Students by Joy May 

This is a fairly basic cookery book and is ideal for first timers in the kitchen. The recipes use easy to find ingredients and are on the whole very cheap to make as well as being easy. May provides you with recipes to make most of the meals your mum would make you such as chilli con carne, pasta bake, curry, soup and so forth. My only criticisms of the book would be that one sometimes the fact that no measurements are used can be a pain. May measures everything out using a mug and there is an actual size image of the mug at the front so you can follow the recipes, personally I prefer to use scales because sometimes it is actually difficult to tell if you are using the right amount of ingredients when the instructions say a quarter of the mug and small quantities. Secondly, some of the recipes are a bit basic and may not inspire you to spend ages in the kitchen. Thirdly, I personally do not like the white sauce recipe at the front of the book as the method of making the roux is actually far harder than it needs to be. However, these are minor criticisms. On the whole this book has been invaluable and has helped me make many basic dishes I could not make before university.

  • The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cook Book by Charlotte Pike

This cookery book is slightly more adventurous than the first. The baking section at the back is great and I have impressed many people with the desserts I have made from these recipes. The recipes are really varied and provide you with lots of great ideas to liven up meals which can be pretty dull at university when you have limited money and time. Again like with May’s book the recipes are easy to follow. This book does not have pictures on every page though and so unlike May’s book you aren’t exactly sure what your food would look like. As I have become a more experienced cook this is definitely my favourite of the two books but the Vegetarian Nosh was certainly used more by myself at first. The only recipe which is easier to make in this book is the white sauce. However, this are by no means difficult meals to make. The only criticism of this book I have is that some of the ingredients are not what you buy in the supermarket as an average student and are little pricey.

My fourth and final piece of advice would be if in doubt ring your mum. Your mum will be glad to know that you are cooking instead of ordering takeaways all the time and will be happy to help you out if you are having trouble in the kitchen. My mum helped me rescue some meals on several occasions.

I hope that you found this useful and good luck at university!

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