Packing for university was a nightmare. It was the time when the pointless paraphernalia suddenly became vital items that you definitely could not live without. Factor in self-catered accommodation and you have a near-international crisis on your hands. Cue trip to Tescos to buy pots, pans, spatulas, cutlery and a teapot. But what food to have with you to see you through your first couple of weeks of university when you are not going to be focusing on culinary excellence, and have yet to work out how to acquire more food? Here is a recipe for a successful few weeks in the kitchen complete with hangover cures: this is what you should have brought instead of a handheld electric whisk and a lava lamp.
1. Bacon. In fact, add eggs, sausages, baked beans and (if you’re really pushing the boat out) black pudding to that list. You can never underestimate the power of the waft, the whiff, even the merest tendril, of smoked bacon aroma on a hung-over morning. Even if you’re like me and not really partial to a giant breakfast, honestly, I considered arsenic to get at my flatmate’s when he whipped it out during Freshers’.
2. Cheese. Makes every meal yummier.
3. Tinned chopped tomatoes. The quickest way to a hot meal is fried onion and peppers plus a tin of these. Add pasta, cheddar and a bit of basil for that extra flourish.
4. Apples. When you are only buying food for one you want fresh fruit and veg that will last. Rotten carrot smells terrible, trust me. Apples, tangerines (to a point), pears, onions, potatoes, root vegetables in general, are all relatively good.
5. Eggs. I know I’ve mentioned them already, but on their own they last forever (you don’t necessarily need to keep them in the fridge), they are a cheap source of protein and the possibilities are endless. Think omelette, scrambled eggs on toast, moussaka (if you’re adventurous), cakes (best way to make friends quickly), pancakes, and so many more.
6. Mixed herbs. One of the little jars of dried herbs – makes every meal taste better and you look like a pro. Also salt and pepper for the same reasons, but make sure you get ones with inbuilt grinder. A box of black peppercorns by itself is nobody’s friend.
7. Tinned tuna. Again a relatively cheap and risk-free source of protein, and mixed with pasta, frozen peas and mayonnaise this will warm your cockles (whatever they may be) on a chilly Yorkshire day.
8. Minced beef or lamb. On a budget when you need meat this is the way to go. You can make shepherd’s pie with lamb mince, onions, carrots and mashed potatoes. Bolognese sauce is beef mince, onion, tinned tomatoes, garlic, basil and bacon. Lasagne magically appears by adding sheets of lasagne pasta and cheese sauce to the Bolognese. The possibilities, again, are endless.
9. Lentils. For when you get bored of rice and pasta.
10. Curry paste. Let’s face it, you’re going to make curry. So don’t buy the expensive curry sauce, but get cheaper curry paste that you need much less of, and a tin of either coconut milk or chopped tomatoes (depending on the curry). You can also add it to anything. Try Bombay potatoes, spicy rice, smeared over pasta with butter or cream, anything. Spice up your life.
11. Chicken thighs. I say thighs because the meat is just as good as chicken breast but about half the price. Turkey can also be a good cheap alternative to chicken.
12. Stock cubes. Slightly strange but this addition to a pot can make a stew or casserole that much more yummy.
13. Olive oil. No oil, no fry-up. Disaster averted.
14. Juice. My preference is pineapple juice but really any juice is good. More Vitamin C and an injection of health into your day to keep Freshers’ Flu away. Also a great hangover cure. Note: juice drink is not the same as juice. Juice drink has a ton of sugar and is not actually that healthy.
15. Berocca (or cheaper supermarket equivalent). You may not think you need it, but when your entire flat is in bed with flu or a hacking cough that shakes the foundations, you may just be grateful for that little orange fizz in the morning. Also another good pick-me-up when your liver is taking revenge on your brain for what you did to it last night.