We all remember the thrill and novelty of going to university. The sudden liberation from the chains of parental control in favour of a new temporary home with new mates and a chance to go get drunk and have a great time – along with many other opportunities along the way. Yes, you have to work, and ultimately that comes first among the priorities, but in fresher’s week you can meet people and have a bloody good time without worrying too much about your studies.
Part of the equation is shared living, usually in halls of residence for year 1 and in rented houses thereafter. This means taking responsibility for your own living arrangements, doing your own washing and other chores, sharing cleaning duties with other residents, and, of course, cooking – providing you aren’t wealthy enough to get a place in a catered hall.
The reputation of male students is not great when it comes to cooking at uni, and many doubtless subsist on cornflakes, pot noodles and baked beans on toast. Not my children though: Adam and Lindsey were brought up to appreciate fine ingredients, cook adventurous and creative dishes for themselves, and to start from scratch rather than falling prey to convenience dishes.
OK, so Adam does like the occasional pot noodle and junk food, but I’m hoping he will keep up the proud Millward family foodie tradition and cook for himself. Whether he and house mates get together to cook in turns for the group remains to be seen, though it’s always more economical to cook en masse, and it does offer the chance to practice dinner parties or even family meals for later years.
But… what to cook? Paucity of imagination is part of the problem, though if you have a love of food and are prepared to experiment you probably have all the tools needed. A few good rules to start with:
- Don’t just use the nearest supermarket. Go out to markets, farm shops, specialist oriental supermarkets, butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers, delis and anywhere selling great foods. Go to places near the end of the day and find what they are reducing for quick sale too.
- Get to know your suppliers and find what is good value. Look for ingredients that are fresh, local, in season and cheap, then devise your dishes around them, rather than choosing a dish and buying ingredients to fit.
- Think healthy: don’t buy processed foods packed with salt and refined sugars. Don’t buy white sliced bread either. Look for quality, even if your budget is restricted.
- Remember to build a store cupboard with spices (not just a ready-mixed curry spice selection), herbs, seasonings and flavourings. Great ones to have in stock include Worcestershire sauce. Remember also a decent oil, not the cheapest available.
- Recipe books are useful, but they are only the starting point to your culinary adventures, so don’t be afraid to try things out or recreate dishes you ate in a restaurant.
- Buy in bulk, cook in batches and freeze dishes in takeaway pots so you have quick and simple home-made food ready for when you get back home late from the library!
The recipes in this book are a starting point: the sort of recipes you could easily cook with minimal cooking facilities in a restricted kitchen, without the need for expensive ingredients. Every single one could be varied according to what ingredients are available, but what they represent is good wholesome stuff you could easily cook on a budget and vary in quantity depending on how many mouths you have to feed. Enjoy!