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Starting at uni is exciting in lots of ways, but many freshers find the prospect of always cooking for themselves very daunting. A lot of people flit between takeaways and craving home food, but eating properly if you're in self-catered accommodation is very important to keep your mood up and avoid the dreaded Freshers' Flu. The recipes below aren't designed to be super healthy, but to make and share with friends, because cooking together is one of the best ways to get to know your flatmates.
Cooking on a budget doesn't have to be boring - so I've included a price per portion based on the cheapest product available at Tesco. If you shop carefully then good cooking doesn't cost as much as you might expect!
1. Spaghetti Carbonara
I'd made this recipe for years at home, but getting to uni and living on a tighter budget, I substituted cheddar for parmesan and milk for cream in my carbonara. I made this for some friends during Freshers week and for some reason it really impressed them! Or maybe they were just being nice. Either way, carbonara is a really easy recipe and great to power you up before a night out.
A handful of grated cheddar/red Leicester
A dash of milk
3 rashers bacon
Approx. price per portion: £1.11 per portion.
Boil some water in a pan and add the pasta - follow the cooking time on the packet. Put the bacon in a frying pan and cook - bacon has a lot of fat so there's no need to cook it in oil. Grate the cheese, crack the egg and mix them together with a fork in a mug, then add the milk. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and put it back in the pan. Add the bacon and egg mixture and cook on the lowest heat for about 30 seconds to a minute. Stir constantly otherwise you'll end up with pasta and scrambled egg. Serve straight away.
2. Breakfast smoothie
This is great any time of the day, but especially good in the morning before heading to lectures. The beauty of it is that you can substitute lots of ingredients in based on preference or just what you have in the cupboard. Banana is especially good for energy, but citrus fruit doesn't work well with the milk so steer clear. It's really good for using up fruit which is past its peak as well. You'll need a hand blender for this recipe, but they start at £7 on eBay and are really worth the investment if you like smoothies and soups.
90g yoghurt (fruit flavoured is a good call)
A handful of frozen forest fruits
150 ml milk
Approx. price per portion: 64p
Put all the ingredients in a measuring jug, or something else with high sides.
Switch on your blender and push it right down to the bottom of the jug to cause minimum mess.
3. Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy
This is perfect food in the winter, especially if like me you struggle to get used to the colder weather in the North. Although it takes a little longer to cook than the average dish, it's great to make with your flatmates and enjoy together, as there are a lot of different things to do simultaneously. Alternatively if you're feeling lazy, most supermarkets do a good microwaveable mash, so you can chill out and focus on getting the sausages just right.
3 sausages 21p
1 baking potato 45p
1 onion 25p
380ml boiling water
1 tsp marmite 5p
50g butter 20p
50ml milk 4p
1 tablespoon plain flour
Approx. price per portion: £1.20
Boil water and dice your potato (so it cooks more quickly).
Preheat the oven and follow the instructions on the packet to cook the sausages until brown.
Usually, putting the potato in the pan and the sausages in the oven at the same time means they will finish about the same time.
Check the sausages every ten minutes and turn them to help them cook on all sides.
Use a small amount of oil to fry the onion until it's soft.
Fill a jug with the boiling water, put in the marmite and mix together.
Pour it into the pan with the onions and mix together, then add the flour.
Let it cook for a while, then turn the heat down to a minimum so the gravy simmers.
Check whether your potatoes are cooked by piercing them with a knife: if the potato slides off the knife easily then it's ready.
Drain and return the potatoes to the pot.
Add the butter and milk and mash them together.
Then serve along with the sausages and gravy.
4. BBQ Chicken wrapped in Bacon and stuffed with cheese
Meat can be a tricky buy at uni. A lot of people prefer using whole chicken to the more expensive chicken breast, but if you can, it's worth buying it in bulk and freezing the ones you don't need right away. This is a recipe my friend and I moderately adapted from a Mexican restaurant in York, so it feels like a luxury to eat. As it's difficult to do on a budget, it's best to have this one only as a special treat.
1 chicken breast £1.26
80g peas 8p
80g curly fries 11p
75g grated cheddar 41p
2 rashers of bacon 41p
A dollop of barbecue sauce
£2.27 per portion
Preheat the oven to 1800C.
Put your chicken breast on a baking dish and make a big cut down the middle.
Grate the cheese and stuff inside, then wrap the bacon around tightly so that the cheese doesn't melt out of the chicken.
Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Start cooking your curly fries on another baking tray.
Take the chicken out and use a dinner knife to spread the sauce over the top of the chicken.
Put it back in the oven for another fifteen minutes and cook your peas. After this time, they should be cooked.
Put everything on a plate and enjoy!
5. No-bake cookies
I found this recipe online and it was in American cup measurements which I'd never used before - but it seems to work without doing very exact measurements. Not the best cookies in the world but great when you have a sugar craving but you're feeling really lazy. Baking is great at uni because it's a great way to spend quality time with friends. This recipe makes 8 - 12 cookies.
113g peanut butter
300g quick cook oats
4tsp cocoa powder
Put the butter, sugar, milk and cocoa powder in a pan and bring them to the boil.
Let them boil for one minute, then stir in the peanut butter and oats.
Spoon them onto foil and place in the fridge.