Bland to brilliant

gives new students five easy tips to jazz up their mealtimes at university

  1. Ditch pre-packaged sauces

Not only are jarred items often full of added sugar and additives, they really don’t taste as good as your own creations. It’s easy to make your own tomato sauce: fry an onion, add a can of chopped tomatoes, a squirt of tomato purée and plenty of garlic, and you have a basic sauce which can be easily improved and customised by using the tips below. Making a big batch and freezing the leftovers is a great way to save time and money too – perfect for the revision period.

Photo: McKay Savage

Photo: McKay Savage

2. Get spicy!

Jars of spices are available for no more than a pound each and truly open up a whole new realm of possibilities. A good spice to get started with is smoked paprika, adding a delicious smoky flavour to any dish. Other great spices are cumin, garam masala and turmeric, particularly good for making your own curry.

3. Embrace vegetables

Vegetables might not be the first things that spring to mind when discussing the typical student diet but these can really be a lifesaver. Simply adding a handful of mushrooms into a sauce will not only make your meal go further, but will add more flavour, texture and nutritional value to your meal. Other delicious additions can be as simple as throwing some frozen peas and sweetcorn in with your dish.

4. Know your herbs

Photo: Lin Nguyen

Photo: Lin Nguyen

This might sound a bit ridiculous on a student budget, but you would be amazed at the difference that a handful of freshly chopped basil leaves makes to any tomato based dish. Though it may sound expensive, small herb plants such as basil and mint can be bought for as little as a pound and can provide you with fresh new leaves all year. Even the worst gardeners will find these plants easy to care for; they only need watering when they visibly start to wilt. Plus, when placed on your windowsill, they brighten up even the messiest of student kitchens.

5.  Add Barbecue Sauce

Believe it or not, this humble ingredient can really take any tomato sauce, such as your standard bolognese, to a whole new level. Using canned tomatoes can often lead to a slightly acidic taste, but stirring in a small teaspoon of barbecue sauce counteracts this perfectly and adds a subtly smoky undertone to the dish.

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