Food Doctor

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Fresher’s week! And there you are; fellow student, hungry and impatient munching the cafeteria ‘plat du jour’ which you are not so certain that you like. You’d love to try something new or maybe you’d like to try cooking for a change. Well, fear not! I’ve been there and I’m here to give you some very helpful tips on how to engage in the art of student cooking in order to help you save a penny, eat healthily and give you nice alternatives that you can try out if you are sick of the same old sandwiches and takeaways. Over the course of weeks, I am going to be giving you different cooking tips from easy recipes to food to impress.

I’m going to start with your kitchen cupboards; if you want to start cooking, then you definitely need to be well-stocked. This is my essential list of the things you need to have in your cupboard and your fridge that can provide simple and quick dishes in times of distress and extreme hunger:

1. Pasta. The ultimate student staple. Nothing original about that but maybe you can try some nice alternatives to the ready-made pasta sauces which are usually full of salt and unnecessary preservatives. Try buying all kinds of different shapes and use spaghetti when you are eating in; fussili, penne and the rest are better for packed lunches.

2. Tomato sauce or tomatoes in tomato juice. The tomato sauce is the simplest thing to make; it’s healthy and can serve as a base for many improvisations. You can add bacon and mushrooms for an appetizing dish or aubergines and feta cheese and go gourmet. You’ll find the recipe for a simple tomato sauce at the end of this list.

3. Tuna. Here is the simplest recipe for a tuna salad which is delicious both hot and cold: boil some pasta, put in a can of tuna and a can of corn, and then make a mustard dressing; mustard and mayonnaise plus some olive oil to make it more runny, and if you want to be really healthy substitute the mayonnaise with some Greek style yoghurt. You’ll be eating in about 10 minutes and you can pack the rest away to carry with you to uni the next day.

4. Sliced bread and/or pitas. Try a new combination. Why not ham and coleslaw? Or hummus and feta? And when you are bored of the same old bread; just trade it for some pitas which are inexpensive and very verstile. One of my flatmates used to stuff them with chicken and coleslaw or sun blushed tomatoes and I would enjoy them with hummus, feta and roasted peppers.

5. Olive oil. Olive oil contains all the good fats you want to be getting and you can use it instead of butter in many cases. Pour it over your boiled vegetables or make a nice warm potato salad with eggs and mix it with vinegar and some mustard and you’ve got a nice meal which is cheap and filling.

6. Soup in a cup or canned soup. This is a product that could be full of salt so do check the labels and go for the diet or healthy options.

7. Salt/Pepper/Spices. Even the blandest meal will gain in taste with some pepper or some spices. If you like your dishes hot and spicy you can add some crushed chillies, chilli powder or paprika. Oregano is a must too; it can be sprinkled on so many sauces and roasts.

8. Cheese. Cheddar can last for a long time in the fridge if you buy a whole piece and not slices, plus it’s cheaper in the long run. Buy some feta every once in a while and use it in the pitas like I mentioned or accompany any kind of meal with a red sauce.

9. Eggs. Hard boiled, scrambled, fried and of course omelettes, eggs provide so many options for breakfast and lunch. Put a fried egg on a slice of toast with some cheese and some bacon or ham and you’ve got a nice lunch which is going to keep you going for quite a few hours.

10. Potatoes. The spud must be one of the most loved staples of the student cuisine. My favourite is the potato salad but you can go for the good old beans and some cheese. You can also jacket it and add cheddar or some olive oil and feta.

Things I might have missed out: can of corn, can of beans, ham or bacon, onions and garlic. If you start with the first 10 and add these ones you’ve got the basics for so many dishes. Then drop into the supermarket or the butcher’s every now and then: buy some chicken and roast it with some potatoes, fry it and add tomato sauce and some pasta or put in your pitas. Or buy a steak, fry it and accompany it with some spuds or some corn. Once you’ve got the essentials you can get cooking and trying new things. Enjoy your new kitchen!


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