Ditch the instant noodles and beans on toast at university this year.
When to comes to cooking, students are often tarred with the same brush, but contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get through the university years without surviving on a diet of beans on toast and instant noodles. All it takes is the mastery of a few basic cooking skills and knowing how to shop economically and it’s easy to eat well on a limited budget. From making one main ingredient stretch across multiple meals to recreating takeaway dishes, from mastering the perfect mince to learning how to entertain on a budget, it’s easy to eat well during the university years.
LEARN THE BASICS…
Christine McFadden, aka, The Dorset Foodie, give us her top tips for students who are cooking for themselves for the first time.
- PERFECT MINCE.
When cooking mince, fry small quantities at a time in a wide pan over a medium-high heat WITHOUT stirring. This allows the surface to brown and gives the mince a richer flavour. The usual way is to dump te whole lot inot a saucepan and stir over a medium heat, but by doing this, the juices leak out and the meat turns into grey, greasy pellets.
- PERFECT PASTA.
Don’t even think about buying supermarket fresh pasta. It is often rubbery and tasteless. Dried pasta is a better bet and can be stored indefinitely. Always cook the sauce before the pasta. The sauce can usually be kept waiting, but if you leave cooked pasta hanging around it can become sticky. Use a BIG pot – one that the pasta can easily move around in and remember that you need 1 litre of water for every 100g of pasta.
- PERFECT RICE.
There’s no mystery to cooking perfect fluffy rice, so say goodbye to expensive packs of boil in the bag or easy cook rice. You need about 50-75g per serving depending on appetite. Rinse the rice well and put in a pan with just enough water to cover by the depth of your thumbnail. Once cooked, you can leave the rice in the pan for up to 30 minutes, off the heat, useful if you’re short on hob space. Cover it with a wad of kitchen paper or a CLEAN tea towel. Put the lid back on and leave until ready to serve.
Chef Peter Gorton shares his top tips for students learning to fend for themselves…
It’s trendy to entertain casually and whip up a little feast. There is no need for matching cutlery or fancy place settings: cooking is a social occasion and getting your friends involved is great fun. It’s important to learn how to cook for lots of different reasons, not least because so much depends on the food we eat: our health, energy and ability to concentrate. If you learn to cook, you can always gather a few ingredients together and conjure up a little meal for yourself and friends, wherever you are in the world.
Getting to grips with cooking for yourself can be a real learning curve for students, especially if it’s your first time away from home. This guide should help students to master basic cooking skills that are needed – after all, eating junk food, skipping meals altogether or surviving on beans on toast will have a serious effect on your health…
MASTERING THE BASIC COOKING SKILLS
- Start with a positive attitude and set your goals. Being optimistic is the most important attitude that you need to help towards both your cooking success and your studies.
- Learn how to chop an onion, then take time to understant cooking terms and learn basic techniques like slicing, dicing and chopping. Be sure to practise: try making simple recipes that ensure that you use a lot of techniques. Oriental salads, for example, are great for improving your knife skills.
- Select the freshest ingredients possible
- Invest in cooking tools and simple kitchen equipment to make your cooking a lot easier. Don’t forget to use a sharp knife and remember that charity shops are good places to buy pans and other kitchen items.
- Don’t be afraid to get messy, but be sure to tidy up afterwards
- Buy a cheap timer to ensure that your efforts aren’t burnt
- Plan ahead of time, or as chefs would say, mise en place (everything in its place)
- Taste, taste and taste again. It is good to taste your creations at the beginning, middle and end. When cooking, imagine yourself eating the dish and that will help you to get the proportions right. Always season with yoru fingers and never a spoon because you are more likely to get the quantities right.
- Practise, practise and practise again, but have fun and include your friends: this way you will always improve and not find it a chore.
- Remember, cooking should be fun!