By Maya Glantz, Third Year History of Art
The Croft Magazine // I don’t think I could accurately classify myself as a ‘lazy cook’. I find that, generally, the joy of cooking lies within the process. No time did I feel this more strongly than in the months preceding my first year of university; the first lockdown, in which testing various labour-intensive recipes allowed for some sense of purpose in the otherwise monotonous day-to-day of those months.
However, I knew that upon my arrival at university my approach to cooking was bound to change. The quest for the perfect homemade pitta was not exactly compatible with the 22-man shared kitchen in which I was now making every meal. But that Hiatt Baker kitchen went on to be a kind of culinary education in itself. In no other situation are you as exposed to the intimacy of so many peoples eating habits. The classic university student diet, and lifestyle generally, often revolve around some sense of efficiency. While for some, the experience of cooking is one that can bring about a sense of calmness, for others food exists purely to fulfil the physiological need, and the faster and easier that need is met - the better. As someone who has lost countless hours to overly complicated recipes and left hungry friends wondering why we had to eat a meal that wouldn’t be ready until then, I had a lot to learn in the art of efficiency in the kitchen. There is something to be said of the typical student cook, laziness does not necessarily equate to less delicious food (although the large vats of mushy pasta mixed with tuna never particularly appealed to me), and I learnt to never underestimate the power of a George Forman.
In honour of the ‘lazy cook’ that is the university student, I decided to reflect on one student, and in fact one meal, in particular that stood out to me as the most successful utilization of laziness.
When I consider the perfect lazy chef, one girl, and her dedication to efficiency, immediately springs to mind. The most iconic student meals: toasties, instant noodles, oven pizzas etc. while undeniably tasty, cannot exactly be commended for their nutritional value. Nor is this a high priority for the average lazy chef, cooking a nutritionally balanced meal sounds like a lot more effort, and exertion of effort is generally at odds with the goals of a lazy cook. However, this is what makes Ellie so unique in her approach to cooking. Minimal cleanup and cooking time were definite priorities, but so was creating a meal that felt healthy and somewhat balanced.
Although this is the attitude, she approaches most mealtimes with, there is one dish, in particular, that is ingrained in my mind as the platonic ideal of the lazy cook’s creation. Perhaps this is due to seeing her eat this exact same meal for weeks at a time. And what a meal it is. Three ingredients. One pan. Maximum five minutes. Lazy perfection! The meal begins with what may be the single greatest secret weapon ingredient for a lazy cook - couscous. The fact that this grain can be cooked by simply pouring hot water over and covering it, meaning no pan, no hob, just a kettle and a bowl… a game changer. Couscous acts as a perfect base for customization, you can add any variation of ingredients and create an exciting new dish or, alternatively, you could, as Ellie chose to add the exact same ingredients every time because, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it! After the couscous has been prepared, we move on to the most strenuous step of the cooking process. Into a pan goes a healthy portion of Quorn pieces (straight from the freezer), a few handfuls of spinach, and seasoning of your choice, though cajun and paprika were the chef’s go-to.
This is cooked over medium heat until the Quorn pieces are defrosted and the handfuls of spinach have wilted down to what looks like about three leaves. The spinach and Quorn mixture is then transferred into the couscous bowl, and the perfect lazy dish is complete! I think this couscous concoction is the perfect example of truly successful utilization of student laziness. The dish was conceived of within the aforementioned hall's kitchen, in which cooking became a sort of assault course, carefully dodging the various mouldy food items and praying no one was marinating raw chicken in your favourite bowl, so to have developed a 5-minute mess-free meal was a true accomplishment, and the fact it was delicious, nutritious and vegan was a real feat.
You may think I am being dramatic in regard to this couscous meal but to offer some context, when I asked another student what his go-to lazy meal was, I was met with the answer - ‘defrosted Yorkshire puddings and a mug of Bisto’. This meal also goes against the commonly held belief that vegan meals have to be overly complicated and time-consuming or contain some obscure ingredient. But this five-minute nutritional yeast-free masterpiece serves as a perfect example of how to combine the ideologies of veganism and laziness, two beliefs championed by Bristol’s student population.
Featured Image: By Saiba Haque
What are your favourite 'lazy' recipes? Let us know!