Following on from my last post, here are a few of my suggestions for easy, cheap meals at university.
Easy Tomato Sauce
This sauce is the base for many recipes. Great on its own with pasta or as a component of a more adventurous dish, if you can make this you’ll never go hungry at university.
1 x 400g tin tomatoes
1 x onion
2 x cloves of garlic
Splash of oil
1 x chilli optional
Salt and pepper
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Finely slice onion, garlic and chilli if using. Add onion to oil and, when it starts to brown, add garlic and chilli, stirring to ensure it doesn’t stick.
2. Once this is cooked, add the tin of tomatoes. Fill empty tin with water to loosen remaining tomatoes and add along with a good sprinkle of herbs, stir in. Bring to the boil, lower heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce is at your preferred consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper or more herbs if you wish.
For simple Bolognese sauce: At step 1: Add 500g of beef mince and 1 x packet of diced bacon/2-3 rashers of bacon (sliced) with the onions and mix to break up meat, cook until mince is fully browned. At step 2: Add 1 beef stock pot with water. Bring to the boil and stir until dissolved. Optional: For a healthier option, add mixed veg before bringing to the boil.
For Chicken Pasta Bake: Before step 1: Boil 250g pasta, drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 180֯c. At step 1: Add 1 chicken breast (cut into cubes) and 1 x packet of diced bacon/2-3 rashers of bacon (sliced) with onion, fry until chicken is lightly browned all over. Add ½ sliced pepper with garlic and chilli, fry until slightly softened. At step 2: Add 1 ball mozzarella (sliced to quicken the dissolving process), stir to create a creamy tomato sauce, add precooked pasta and a handful of whole cherry tomatoes, mix in well. Step 3: Transfer to an oven proof dish, top with plenty of grated cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is golden.
Roast Chicken (plus stock)
Chicken is a cheap option for meat and, by buying a whole chicken, it’ll go much further than individual cuts, simply freeze the leftovers for future dishes.
1 whole chicken
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven 170, take chicken out of fridge so it comes up to room temperature.
2. Remove all packaging, including string. Season meat with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and put on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. As a guideline, cook for 20 minutes per 500g plus an extra 15-25 minute. You’ll know its cooked if you pierce the meat and the juices run clear.
3. Leave to stand for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, strip the meat and separate into portions of 200-300g. Freeze any meat you’re not planning to immediately use when cooled. This can be used instead of chicken breasts in many one-pot dishes, including the pasta bake above. I recommend leaving the pieces quite large, so they don’t disintegrate too much when you recook them.
1 stick celery
2 bay leaves
6 whole black peppercorns
Whole carcass plus juices from cooking
1. Put the carcass and juices in a large saucepan, cover with water. Cut the onion in half, leaving the skin on for flavour. Snap the carrot and celery stick in two. Add all the ingredients to the water, bring to the boil and simmer for at least an hour, the longer it simmers, the more flavour, just don’t let it dry out.
2. Once cooked, place a sieve over a second saucepan or large bowl. Pour stock, catching the carcass, veg, bay leaves and pepper.
This makes an excellent base for soups. My family has a tradition of throwing any vegetables that are past their best into a stock-based soup, so nothing goes to waste. Simply fry off the veg with onion, garlic and chilli, season, pour over stock and simmer for half an hour or so until veg is tender, firmer vegetables like potatoes will take longer than, say, peppers. Add pasta, spaghetti or noodles to make a more filling minestrone-style soup or experiment with flavours by adding ginger and soy sauce for an oriental twist.
To freeze: If you’re not going to use the stock immediately, simply reduce it down by simmering further on a low heat until it fits into a small pot, leave to cool and freeze.
As I said in my last post, jacket potatoes are the busy student’s best friend. Pop in the oven and forget about it until dinner time.
1 x large potato
Salt and Pepper
Knob of butter
½ tin of baked beans
Plenty of grated cheese
1. Preheat oven to 180. Pierce the potato a few times with a fork (exploding potatoes may very well be a myth but I never fancied taking the risk only to have to clean the inside of the oven). Coat generously in oil for a nice crispy skin and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place on a baking tray or, if you’re feeling lazy, fold a piece of tin foil into a nest for the potato and place directly onto the rack to save on washing up.
3. Leave to leave for about 40 minutes- 1 hour. Potatoes are pretty low maintenance so if it’s a bit longer it doesn’t really matter. Slide a fork into the potatoes and if it goes in easily, they’re done. (If they need a little longer when you cut them open, simply mash the flesh a little and return to the oven for a few more minutes.) Microwave beans.
4. Place a generous knob of butter on each half and let it melt into the flesh then top with the hot beans and grated cheese or any alternative topping of your choice.
If you need to leave the potatoes for longer while you socialise or get your washing done, cook on 160 for about 1 ½ hours. You can also use sweet potato for this recipe.