I would just like to be clear, before you read this article, that I’m not trying to torture your arteries. Not actively. It just so happens that a large portion (geddit?) of my food related brainwaves arrive in the form of sugary, kind-of-death-inducing goods as opposed to an Elvish buffet of lettuce leaves and (my) tears.
Besides, being a student is torturous enough, in some ways. I wouldn’t want to add fuel to the fire. After a whole day of slugging it at the library/nursing your broken head in bed after another “accidental” night out at the pub (both activities equally as strenuous as the other), sometimes you just can’t be bothered to cook at all. But here comes the second problem – you have no money. Take-outs are a far-away, heavenly luxury which have already blessed half of your overdraft and made it mysteriously disappear. And you still need to pay rent and stuff.
HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO LIVE!?
Let me give you a hand with these foodie life hacks, with which Gordon Ramsay would probably have an aneurysm upon reading. Not to be eaten all at once.
1. Make “Egg”
“Egg” is a dish inspired by that cool looking bread-egg thing that Stephen Fry makes Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta. It looks something like this:
I decided to try and replicate this for my friend with different, but delightful, results.
I am not very good at following recipes at the best of times. This has led me into many conundrums, such as grilling cakes (please don’t ask), cooking food at 80 degrees (The Dish That Was Never, Ever, EVER Ready, as it is now known in legend) and making a trifle even Rachel Green would smirk at.
“Egg”. however, was a different story.
You simply do this: Lace a frying pan with butter. Grab two slices of bread. Put said bread into aforementioned frying pan. Get four eggs. Whisk them all up in a little bowl/beer hat/bucket/whatever you have lying around. Throw – I mean, place carefully – into frying pan, on top of bread. Flip bread around so that it is wearing nice egg suit all over. Get CHEESE. Grate that beauty all up. Throw it in the frying pan. Flip bread again in little dance, so that it is covered in cheese all over. Should be very yellow bread after all of this (a natural, healthy colour). TURN ON GAS. Fry (don’t forget to flip bread as you fry. You need to make it positively dizzy). When the mix has nicely melted down and is bubbling a little, it is done.
It might look a little something like this:
If you have more of a sweet tooth, leave out the cheese and pour on syrup at the end. Trust me – it is AMAZING. Also, whichever recipe you choose to replicate, it can easily be halved but I recommend two slices if you are a hungry individual (like myself) or if you are cooking for a date. I give you a 99.9% guarantee that they’ll come back if you give them “Egg” (particularly if you throw on some herbs at the end to make it fancy). It is a hit with most people. In fact, a lot of people seem to think it is “Eggy Bread” or “French Toast”. They are wrong – it nearly is, but “Egg” is its better, more comforting cousin. “Egg” looks like a volcanic mess of carbohydrate. “Egg” is a visual rebel.
2. Utilize your spreads
When the zombie apocalypse eventually comes and crumbles society as we know it (including bringing down Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda and co.), you will most likely only live if you have a medley of spreads in your cupboard. This is because spreads are God Foods. You can put spreads on ANYTHING (no euphemism intended – however, each to their own).
At the beginning of each term, I’d stock up on seeded bread, pittas, crackers, crumpets and some chocolate bars and put most of it into the freezer to last. I would then buy a whole bunch of spreads – like Nutella (the Spread to Rule Them All) marshmallow fluff and Speculoos paste. You may not have heard of Speculoos paste as it only recently came to British superstores but it is absolutely, drool-worthy, eat-whole-tubbily incredible. It’s just crushed up ginger-biscuit paste, basically. I promise you – it exists. Get yourself down to the store NOW.
Hot Chocolate’s ‘I Believe In Miracles’ plays faintly in the background
I’d also have a medley of jams, as my dad has a curious penchant once a year to stand in our kitchen until all hours making the stuff like some lovely bald witch crooning over her cauldron. I remember distinctly one year walking downstairs, blurry-eyed at one a.m., to find my dad in the dark stirring jam with single-minded determination.
This turned out to be a determination to keep me alive, as he gave me about thirty jars of jam to take to university with me. Cheers, Pa.
The most delicious spreads/food combination I ever discovered was (steady your hearts) dipping a Snickers bar into a tub of Speculoos paste and eating that. It is probably the unhealthiest thing ever to be created by man (well, woman) which is why I believe it’s not already publicized as it is literally the lushest thing ever. Reserve it for times of romantic drama/being bitterly hungover/failing your dissertation/celebrating the success of your dissertation (basically, when you start your dissertation you can eat this all the time. Or, once a week, as I’m not sure that your body would physically allow you to have any more).
3. Know your noodle!
It is very easy to run to the supermarket and buy fifty packets of Supernoodles and be done with it all. I advise you not to do that. Take a step back. Breathe a bit. Put your wallet away.
Instead, turn around and walk to your nearest asian supermarket. Asian supermarkets are the reigning monarchs of the noodle world (we the weeping, noodle-less peasants). You can buy noodles with STUFF ALREADY IN IT, like shrimp and vegetables. That’s most of the effort on your part already gone. Like magic! And they’re basically no money, so you can really stock up. And know that you’re eating food which is mostly food, not 99% chemical waste. That’s always nice to know.
Also, asian supermarkets have a range of amazing noodles which are simply not to be found in the major superstores. Like udon noodles. Udon noodles are a super thick and tasty kind of noodle (which I found surprising, as noodles are largely flavourless from my experience) which you can combine with anything – I recommend sweetcorn and tuna, like a healthier sweetcorn and tuna pasta. Or, if you’re more adventurous, seafood is really tasty with it.
Udon noodles *weeps uncontrollably with love*
However, this is an article for dunces. So maybe just buy a load of ready-made Ramen pots and one packet of udon and put it in the back of your cupboard for when you’re feeling a cooking breakthrough. You’ll recognize the Ramen pots (easy, delicious grub in about ninety seconds) as they’ll look like Pot Noodles, though way nicer and cooler and about one hundred times more flavoursome.
Your new best friend
4. Mash everything up
In keeping with my lack of ability to follow a recipe, I learned that, usually, throwing whatever you have into a pot can most of the time turn out okay (see my use of ‘usually’ and ‘most of the time’ – this is not a guarantee. I’m not saying that everything works, like peas and jam sponge. Try and be a little kind to yourself. Food is not a punishment).
I used to make a lot of “mash”. In fact, at the very beginning of my student years I ate powdered mash, but let’s not reflect on that. Ever. As I grew older and therefore slightly wiser, I ended up occasionally boiling up parsnips, butternut squash and potatoes and mashing them all up together, sometimes (okay, always) adding cheese and then some other form of flavouring like tuna, peeled tomatoes or sweetcorn (or all). In fact, this is probably the healthiest suggestion that I’ve made yet. Flag this one, for when your body begins to fail you from trying all of the others.
So simple, so beautiful…
The “mash” theory also works for things like curries. We all know that food tastes better in a bowl, like sandwiches taste better as triangles. It is just one of those Things. So when you make curries, don’t be afraid to mash everything up together, squishing your falafel and your spices and your rice and your onions and whatever else into one, massive pile of belly-loving. It is my theory that the flavours compact themselves and become three-times as flavoursome in using the Mash and Obliterate technique. Try it.
5. “Melts”, of various descriptions
There is nothing quite so satisfying as food melted onto other foods. Just sitting cross-legged in front of your oven and watching cheese sinking slowly into something, silently yelling “nooooo!” as it goes, like the scene in the Wizard of Oz in which the Wicked Witch evaporates after water is thrown onto her.
Oh, just me? Okay.
Nevertheless, the simple act of Melting Stuff onto Other Stuff is a brilliant hack which will feed you and taste great. This is usually because it involves cheese. For instance, the Aubergine Melt – chop an aubergine in half, add mozzerella and put in the oven for something like ten minutes. Instant deliciousness. Alternatively, for parties (or just a really, really bad day) buy a whole camambert and shove it in your oven and melt it, then eat the innards with breadsticks and crackers and WHOLE BAGUETTES. Maybe one baguette per person. That usually goes down well.
Come to me, sweet mother
You see what I mean?
Also – stuffed peppers. Carve out the inside of a pepper and fill it with whatever you want, then cover it in cheese and melt it. Beautiful. Cheese on toast. Another melted classic. The list goes on.
6. Economize your pizza
If you give up and get a take-out pizza, or buy one in-store, then try and economize it (if you have any willpower at all, which usually I don’t. making this point just a tad hypocritical. This only applies to those who have magical self-restraint. I admire you).
For instance, eat two-thirds of it then put the rest away for breakfast. We all know that breakfast pizza is best pizza. Or, eat all the middling then leave the crusts, and use the crusts as dipping bread for soup later on. Pizza can definitely stretch into two meals, if you try. If you really, really try.
… Or just buy two pizzas.
7. Indecisive pancakes, or, “crepes”
For those of you who are indecisive as well as bad cooks – cook pancakes. Pancakes are the best food for the indecisive, are really cheap to make, are very easy to make and are unfailingly delectable. Nothing tastes bad with a pancake. Make pancake batter and wrap sausages in it (no euphemism intended again – come on guys, grow up). Or have it with ice cream and Nutella (which you should have, if you’re prepared for the zombie apocalypse).
You can’t really go far wrong with pancakes, and you can make the batter into cool shapes, which is as good an incentive to cook as anything else.
Like a telescope into happiness
8. Cook vegetarian stuff
I have a long-lasting fear that I might accidentally poison someone (or myself) if I cook meat for them (or me). As a result, I never cooked meat at university, worrying that my already too-frazzled brain would go into overdrive were I to attempt to grill a chicken breast.
So I ate and made a lot of vegetarian stuff – which, to my experience, tasted better most of the time. And you’re being kinder to the animal kingdom by doing so. It’s a win-win. Preserving the planet and your sanity.
You don’t have to be a genius to turn the knob on your oven, so everyone can do this. Cook vegetarian burgers. Linda McCartney sausages. My favourite were Linda McCartney pies, stodginess excused by the fact that it was full of good ol’ veg so, by proxy, had to be good for you (right!?).
Linda McCartney’s pies, undiscovered comfort food genius
9. Food that you can fit into a mug
Mug foods are another simple and satisfying dish, provided that you have big mugs (and you cannot lie). It was my sister who introduced me to the beautiful concept of the poetically titled Cake in A Mug, which is exactly what it says on the tin (or mug). You just need flour, cocoa powder, milk, sugar and Nutella (again – honestly, your needs for Nutella are inexhaustible) – you put various quantities of it all into a mug and microwave it for about five minutes. There are thousands of recipes for this online. Take a peek.
Can you hear the celestial chorus, too?
Saying this, all food that you can fit into a mug is often simple to make. Like soup, or some of your noodle dishes, or tiny pasta meals. All easy stuff, all “shove-everything-into-a-vessel-with-no-technique” food types, which makes foods-in-mugs an excellent choice for your busy/torturous student lifestyle. Especially useful when you’ve run out of clean plates.
10. Don’t be afraid to fall back on cereal
If ALL of the above fails, then don’t ever feel guilty for falling back on cereal. Cereal is a well-known symbol of giving up in the kitchen, but so what if you do? It takes all kind of fish to fill the ocean. Some are great cooks, some are mad scientists, or excellent writers or bums.
And I bet you that every one of them likes cereal.