Whenever I go home for the summer or at half term, and I talk about to people about cooking at university I get the same questions every time. ‘Is it beans on toast every night?’ or ‘I bet you hate pot noodles right now?’ Well, to be honest I hated both anyway, but when I explain that I love to cook, can produce pretty good food on a budget, and show them pictures, they seemed shocked. It’s a stereotype that students either can’t cook, won’t cook or can’t afford to cook. Hopefully, this post will show that it’s very easy to eat well at university, and honestly, it’s not as expensive as you might think!
My personal food budget for 1-2 weeks is around £25-£45. This really isn’t much when you consider that could be one night out in town, plus you’ll save money by making your own stuff for lunch, and you’ll avoid the queues in the campus shop (that HAS to be a winner, right?!) You could always club together with your housemates if you all tend to eat/cook together. So, what can you get for this enormous sum of your student loan?
On my shopping list I would have chicken breasts, minced beef/lamb, salmon fillets, fruit & veg, salad stuff and all my food for lunches, snacking and breakfast. I buy things like rice and pasta in bulk and stay away from brand leaders, because it saves a fortune. I’m serious! Morrison’s long grain rice comes in at 40p a kilo…if you usually buy Uncle Ben’s, you’re spending £3.51 more than you need to! Same with pasta – Morrison’s own is 98p a kilo whereas a kilo of Napolina sets you back £2.24.
The easiest way to improve your own cooking is through the use of fresh ingredients and herbs and spices, all of which can easily be picked up from the local supermarket. And fresh stuff isn’t too expensive – I go to Aldi, which is great for fruit and veg, or there’s a market in Canterbury every Wednesday and Friday in St George’s Street. Supermarkets also drop their prices on certain items towards the end of the day, so it’s worth doing your shopping a bit later. A good collection of herbs and spices will help improve a simple dish into a flavour explosion. My ‘go to’ herbs and spices are oregano for tomato based dishes, ground cumin which will add some heat to your meal (goes well especially with sweet potato mash) and chives which have a delicate onion flavour which go great on fried eggs and they’re really not expensive –good old Morrison’s do dried mixed herbs for 25p!
Here’s a really easy, quick and tasty recipe to get you started. I promise it will impress, and won’t bust your budget:
Chicken Curry (Serves 2):
- 2 good-sized chicken breasts (cut into good chunks)
- 1 onion (diced)
- Handful of mushrooms (sliced)
- 1 green chilli (cut up into small pieces)
- 2 cloves of garlic (cut into small pieces)
- Tin of chopped tomatoes
- One mug of rice (I use basmati)
- Splash of oil
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
And you can either make the sauce yourself, or buy a readymade one (but that’s cheating!!)
- ½ tablespoon of cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon of ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper (optional to spice it up a bit more!)
- 2 tablespoons of ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons of turmeric (to give it that lovely colour and smell)
- Coriander to finish
- Place the oil in the pan, heat it up until it’s nice and hot, then add the chopped onions, garlic and chilli. Add the salt and pepper for seasoning (this is to taste, it’s up to you) Fry the onions until they become a bit more transparent then add the chopped chicken.
- I like to add a little bit of each spice at this point so it cooks into the chicken – makes it far tastier.
- Cook the chicken through, then add the chopped tomatoes and reduce the heat down to about half.
- Add the mushrooms and give it a big stir so that everything cooks evenly.
- Add the spices and taste; continue to add until it reaches the required level of spiciness! (be warned – don’t add too much cinnamon as it will completely overpower the dish). Roughly chop up some fresh coriander (or you can use dried)
- Place the curry on a low heat then add the basmati rice to a pan of boiling hot water and continue to stir. The rice should be done in about 10-15 minutes so just take a small amount and try it.
- Grab a sieve, drain your rice and serve. If you want to be a bit fancy, create a small well in the middle of the rice, and put the curry in there. I like to add coriander leaves on top to make it look pretty, but that’s up to you!
- Serve with some naan bread and some mango chutney, and you’ve got yourself a satisfying curry which will taste all the better because you made it yourself!
Finally, my top tip – a good sharp kitchen knife that’s not going to lose its edge can make all the difference. You can pick up a great one on Amazon for under a fiver, and that’s including delivery.
Hope my post gets you on your way to becoming the next celebrity chef!