Food glorious food - student food doesn’t have to be boring!
By Annie Graham,
Healthy eating: is it really achievable for students? I think so! Unless you’re a keen body-builder or budding athlete, however, there is no need for this to mean some sort of strict health regime. You can eat fairly ‘well’ without having to commit to a gruelling food routine.
Eating at uni needn’t revolve solely around beans and takeaways (although I hope you allow yourself a fair few of these along the way!), neither should branching away from such student staples take up too much of your time or money. My first year saw me gradually mentally noting the things I liked; the things that were easy and stress free to prepare; and the things that were student-friendly in terms of price. The more you’re in charge of your own meals, the more comfortable you will become with what works for you, and where you can find this. You will also come to understand how much you will be likely to spend and consume in an average week, say.
I love eggs, and find them an invaluable university food staple, as they can be transformed into any number of dishes and are nutritious; I never feel guilty eating them! Poached eggs in particular can provide you with a very quick and relatively healthy breakfast, lunch, or even light evening meal, when simply accompanied by a couple of slices of toast (maybe opt for granary as a slightly healthier alternative to white?), for example. Why not begin with a basic ingredient like this, and experiment.
I enjoy cooking, but am definitely more interested in simple, delicious food than slaving for hours over indecipherable recipes. It’s unlikely that any of us have the time between lectures, or inclination at the end of an exhausting day for that sort of thing, anyway. With this is mind, something I am definitely going to try my hand at this year is Italian bruschetta. This recipe uses a couple of items that you may not usually have in the cupboard, but if you fancy a bit of a treat with minimum stress, it’s the perfect thing. It’s also made with fresh, healthy ingredients (so that’s two more boxes ticked!). They are as follows:
Tomato and basil bruschetta (makes 6 pieces)
- 1 loaf of ciabatta
- 2 large beef tomatoes (although you could use any kind, finely chopped)
- 2 large garlic cloves (peeled)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh basil leaves
- Salt + pepper
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C. Cut bread into slices, place on a baking tray and put in the oven for 10-15 mins, or until golden brown. Then remove from the oven and immediately rub the garlic cloves over the bread to flavour it. Next, drizzle some oil over each slice, and put some tomato, and a leaf of basil on each slice. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste, and if you want, finish with a last drizzle of olive oil.
Of course, if you don’t like any of these ingredients you could easily substitute any of them for something you prefer – a bit like a pizza!
This next idea is a simple but more exciting alternative to the normal cereal and toast breakfast. American breakfast pancakes are easy to rustle up from store- cupboard ingredients that, once purchased, will last!
American breakfast pancakes
- 8oz/225g plain flour
- 1tbsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 large eggs (beaten)
- 1 and a half oz/30g butter (melted and cooled)
- 300ml milk
- butter for frying
Make a well in the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Beat in the eggs, melted butter and milk. Next, transfer to a jug so you can pour the mix into the pan a bit at a time (you can just spoon from the bowl if you prefer). Then, leave the batter for 20 mins before using… its really makes a difference!
When you’re ready to cook the pancakes, melt a knob of butter in the pan before adding the first spoon/pour of batter. Wait for the top of the pancake to bubble before turning it over with a slice. For a healthy addition, add a sprinkling of blueberries to the uncooked side of the pancake, before you flip it.
A final, simple idea is macaroni cheese with bacon; great comfort food! This recipe is slightly more lengthy, but shouldn’t be too taxing to prepare.
Macaroni cheese with bacon (serves 4)
- 300g macaroni
- 8 rashers of bacon
For the cheese sauce:
- 750ml milk
- 50g unsalted butter (and a bit extra to grease the dish)
- 50g plain flour
- 1 bay leaf
- 175g strong cheddar cheese
- 50g parmesan cheese (you could just use extra cheddar if you don’t have this)
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 200 degrees/Gas Mark 6. First, fill a large pan ¾ full with water and bring to the boil. While you wait for this, make the sauce by pouring the milk into another saucepan and heating over a medium heat. Just before the milk boils, pour it into a jug and put aside. Next, put the butter into the saucepan the milk was in and melt over a low heat, then tip in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes a thick paste. Keep stirring and cook this through for a couple of minutes. Pour in a quarter of the hot milk and stir (you may want to begin using a whisk at this point). Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking until it is all combined. Add the bay leaf (if you have one). Now, bring this sauce to the boil and turn the heat right down, letting it simmer for 5 minutes. Make sure you stir it every now and again to prevent it from burning. Grate the cheese while you wait, and grease an ovenproof dish with butter.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, and the cayenne pepper. Add the grated cheddar cheese and mix in well. When the water in the large pot begins to boil, add the macaroni, wait until cooked, then drain. Now, add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and combine. Pour this mixture into the ovenproof dish and sprinkle the parmesan (or extra cheddar) over the top. Finally, place the dish into a preheated oven for around 20 mins, or until the sauce is bubbling, and the cheese on top golden. Meanwhile, grill or fry the bacon rashers until they are crisp, and serve on top of the macaroni cheese.
See, student food doesn’t have to be boring!