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Survival guide: cooking in halls

The Croft Magazine // Whilst frozen pizzas and takeaways undoubtedly hold a special place in every student’s heart, I’m a firm believer in cooking from scratch for the majority of your meals.

By Honor Westlake, Second Year, Chemistry

The Croft Magazine // Whilst frozen pizzas and takeaways undoubtedly hold a special place in every student’s heart, I’m a firm believer in cooking from scratch for the majority of your meals. It will not only help you to keep within budget, but cooking in the evenings is often a sociable time and can allow you to get to know your flatmates better.

By learning to prepare meals 4 portions at a time, there will always be something ready in the freezer for when you don’t have time/can’t be bothered to cook.

Student halls present their own unique set of challenges for cooking, with appliances generally less powerful than those you’re used to at home and a lot more people using the kitchen every day, but the five meals below are flexible to many dietary requirements and tried and tested favourites in student kitchens.

1. Stir fry

Stir fries are the ultimate flexible student meal | Phoebe Ransom / Epigram

Stir fry is the ultimate in flexible student meals. Pick a carb, protein, some veggies and a sauce and it comes together in no time. Make it gluten free by using rice instead of noodles, vegetarian by using halloumi, or vegan with some tofu or Quorn pieces (note that some Quorn products contain egg).  Single use sauce sachets can usually be found in the fridge section of most supermarkets, but homemade sauces from pantry staples are just as good and cheaper – soy sauce, honey, oyster sauce etc.

2. Chilli

Chilli is an easy Tex-Mex meal which can make using only store cupboard ingredients if you can’t make it to the shops. It can be vegetarian or vegan if needed and it’s a great way to use up veg. It’s versatile and you can have it in a wrap, over rice or on a jacket potato.

3. Curry

Curries tend to be chep and cheerful | Savannah Coombe / Epigram

Curries are easy comfort food. They freeze well and the recipes tend to be very forgiving and varied. Dal, originating in India (and not technically considered a curry but deserving of a shoutout here nonetheless), is a brilliant option as it uses cheap ingredients and is ‘accidentally vegan’.

4. Pasta and sauce

This title is intentionally vague because the possibilities here are endless, and pretty much always come together quickly. Think tomato sauce, Bolognese, pesto, cheese sauce, and vary the type of pasta and toppings you use to keep things interesting. If you’re not vegan, consider adding chorizo or bacon to sauces too, and if in doubt, most pasta dishes are improved with some melty cheese on top.

5. Homemade Pizzas

Pizzas are both a tasty treat and a great way to minimise food waste | Dharma Carlin / Epigram

Stay with me here – you don’t need to go all-out making your own pizza dough. Get creative with your base, for example a wrap, pitta or a naan both serve as easy replacements, or you can buy pre-made ones from the supermarket. Pizzas are a great end of week treat and an easy way to use up all the tired veg and leftovers you have in the fridge before you do another big shop.

You can of course expand your repertoire further than these suggestions, but they’ll get you up and running and if you can get to grips with cooking in halls, the only way is up!

A note on staple ingredients and making use of your freezer

Most of the recipes you’ll come across as a student will involve onion and garlic. Buy, chop and freeze onions in bulk, ready to throw into anything you’re making – this helps to stop them going off, reducing wasted money and food, and saves the tears of cutting them fresh every time!  Tubed garlic pastes are a good replacement for fresh garlic also.

Fresh chillies, herbs and ginger also freeze well to help them last longer – just grate/chop them up from frozen, or you can use the dried alternatives. And if you’re using a lot of dry spices, consider stealing some from home and creating your own spice mix before you go to uni.

Featured Image: Epigram / Phoebe Ransom

Will you try making these simple, yet delicious, meals?

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