New year, new meals

By Constance Lam, and Piers Eaton.

We students haven’t much time to plan our meals, and we have even less time to cook them! When we’re in a rush, it can be helpful to know you have ingredients in your cupboard that will transform any haphazard meal into a truly delectable dish.

Herbs and spices are so easy to use, and get this: they actually make your meals taste of something.

Paprika is an absolute must have, and you can chuck a bit over macaroni cheese, hummus, chilli con carne or roast potatoes to add a bit of oomph. 

Oregano is essential when it comes to veggies, and spreading generous amounts over roasted butternuts, broccoli, peppers and onions (before sticking the veg into a lasagne or risotto!) guarantees top notch flavour with very little effort.

Condiments are absolutely not a waste of money. They can be used as main components in your meals, rather than just a dip.

“Hint: light soy sauce can be used in larger amounts in a stir fry, whilst dark soy sauce is the real punchy stuff added almost last in the stir fry process.”

Wholegrain mustard makes anything taste good. Add a teaspoon to mashed potato, to pasta sauces, and to ANYTHING with sausage in it. You can even stir some into plain yoghurt to make a quick dressing for boiled potatoes or salads.

What student kitchen would be complete without a bottle of soy sauce? Hint: light soy sauce can be used in larger amounts in a stir fry, whilst dark soy sauce is the real punchy stuff added almost last in the stir fry process. Soy sauce and honey (in a 2:1 ratio) is a winning marinade for chicken. Throw some over chicken thighs, roast for 25 minutes, and you’ve got a flavoursome accompaniment to those weekly stir fries!

“Stock makes everything more flavoursome.”

Sesame oil has become an essential for me. It is surprisingly useful, allowing you to easily add flavour to a variety of foods, ranging from tofu to peppers to straight to wok noodles. It also enhances the present flavours in any food. It’s perfect for a stir fry, for frying up white meats or even as a dressing.

Stock makes everything more flavoursome. Melt a beef stock cube into bolognese or chilli for a more earthly flavour, and boil rice or risotto in stock as opposed to plain water for more satisfying grains. Stock is also, obviously, the essential component of soup, soup being the essential dish for clearing uni-induced colds and flus, and for chucking all your leftover food into and blending, to save on food waste!

Breakfast cereals are an easy snack option, and go well with non-dairy milk. Soy, almond, cashew, oat milk have longer shelf lives than dairy milk, so are great in transit. They can be kept out of the fridge until opened, and they are rich in protein and minerals, and low in fat.

Need to make your cereal more exciting? Want to impress your mates with yet another veg curry? Trying to make a fruit salad but can’t afford the fresh stuff? Raisins make everything interesting, mainly because we don’t expect to find them in half of the dishes you can legitimately use them in. Coronation chicken? Add raisins. Literally any sweet Christmas recipe? Raisins are a must. Spiced couscous? Go on. Stick some raisins in. If you don’t like raisins, dried dates or apricots are just as valid an addition to any of these dishes.

Flour. Sounds hilarious, but you’ll be thanking us when you fancy a quick, cheap pizza. Mix flour, salt, water and a little oil together to make a dough, roll out, plonk whatever you fancy on top and bake for 20 minutes. Job done. Flour is also essential for emergency procrastibaking sessions, and for thickening soups and sauces.

Maggi, Mi-Goreng, Instant Ramen, Tom Yum soup noodles … there are so many varieties of instant noodle available which make for an easy meal at a pinch.

Photograph: Creative Commons

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