My style of cooking during term time had a consistent themes: whatever was reduced price in Tesco or Iceland. Healthy, creative, and original are unfortunately not words I would use to describe my repertoire of dishes. So when lockdown arrived and restaurants waved goodbye to their customers, I knew this was the perfect time to finally put my student house kitchen to good use.
First, I did my prep. Google Docs at the ready, I compiled a list of all the recipes that looked worthy of an attempt. Mob Kitchen and Bon Appetit were particularly useful. Both cater towards students and home cooks, meaning that I could still whip up a hearty dinner without my bank account weeping at the cost of the ingredients.
Shopping list in one hand and basket in the other, I was on a mission: a mission to locate all these ingredients in the land of Tesco Market Place. Some were easy to find, but costly. Spring onions, for instance, were cheap and cheerful, but expired extremely quickly. Some ingredients I had never even heard of before, and I had to venture into the heart of Gilesgate to ‘Big Tesco’ to track them down. I truly was committed to this endeavour.
Once I had my ingredients, the recipes displayed on my laptop and my Spotify ‘cooking’ playlist filling the kitchen, how hard could cooking really be?
Much to my surprise, a solid 95% of my meals were a success. In the absence of travelling by plane, I traveled by taste. My homage to Italy was a delicate gnocchi pesto dish, a tad fiddly with the dough, but the tender dumplings are a delight to eat. Next, my palette descended into Mexico, with an extremely large batch of enchiladas. I cannot pretend these were perfect, I overestimated my ability to handle spice and ended up dousing the whole batch in sour cream, just to make it edible. Of course I ate all of it though, food waste is simply not done in a student household.
Particular meal highlights were Mob Kitchen’s halloumi peanut curry – extremely rich, extremely creamy and extremely quick to make. Pad Thai, my favourite dish, also was a delight to the tastebuds, courtesy of RecipeTinEats. In mourning of the closure of restaurants, I tried my best to imitate the likes of Wagamama and Taco Bell, thanks to them releasing various recipes during lockdown. First on the list was the staple, the iconic meal of Wagamama: Chicken Katsu Curry. Did it look appetising? Not at all. Instead of the luxurious, velvety sauce that seems to ripple off the chicken in such a divine manner of the Wagamama website, mine was awkwardly dumped onto the sliced chicken in a clumsy style. Some may call it ‘questionable’. I call it ‘redefining a classic’. Did it taste good? 100%. The taste certainly triumphed over the appearance.
For those Taco Bell lovers, the crunch wrap supreme certainly is a feat. The artery clogging love child of a taco and quesadilla, this meal was a winner. Whilst it did make me question my health habits during lockdown, it was a perfect meal to consume on the sofa, as the food coma certainly hits after.
The more I cooked, the more I felt confident with customising and editing the recipes I found. All the meals I cooked were then documented on my original Google Docs, with notes of what to improve if I did decide to use the same recipe again. Undoubtedly a successful lockdown project: not only was I saving copious amounts of money on takeaways, I found myself developing a hobby that I knew would continue into the future.
Whilst I do not miss the heaps of washing up that was left after each meal, I will miss my student house kitchen and the aromas that were created from my new lockdown hobby.
Taco Bell Crunch-Wrap Supreme: https://cookingwithjanica.com/homemade-crunchwrap-supreme-recipe/
Illustration: Alice Healy