The Student Way of Eating… Revitalised

Realising you have to fend for yourself at university is undoubtedly daunting for the majority of students who have grown up on mum’s famous lasagne or dad’s wonderous chilli con carne.

Unless, like many who have come before you, you have adopted the infamous student mindset of living off takeaways. The reward of a greasy taste of heaven seems to ignite the food-fuelled drive of surviving a night-out at Salvos. Even more so, your purse strings seem to coincide with your taste buds – £3.00 for cheesy chips and gravy, bargain, right? 

At first glance, definitely! Yet, for those students who may be on a tighter budget, being cost-effective is like reaching the nirvana of student living, the escape from the cycle of having to prioritise rent over a homely meal. But what if £3.00 could be spent on making two meals, perhaps even more?

The go-to recipe which allows students to transform into Yorkshire’s very own Gordon Ramsay is, of course, pasta. My recipe encompasses the classic elements of Italian food, tomato, basil, and olive oil. More importantly, it is so simple to perfect, taking only 25 minutes and making it great for those beginner chefs who might be less confident. 

When I first developed this recipe, I used shop-bought pesto. After growing more confident, I cannot stress enough how easy it is to make your own pesto, and how much cheaper it is than buying pesto from Nisa on campus. So, put on your chef’s apron (or an old jumper if making a mess is your cooking mantra), and let’s give it a go!

Pesto Tagliatelle

Image credit: Georgia Lambert

The ingredients you will need are as follows:

  • 3 packets of basil 
  • 0.5 tsp of lemon juice
  • 50g of pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 tbsp of olive oil
  • To season – salt, pepper, mixed Italian herbs and oregano
  • You will also need a food processor or blender
  • Pasta of your choice
  • Tomatoes (cherry or plum)
  1. First, let’s start by making the pesto. Begin by frying the pine nuts for 3-4 minutes until softened, then set aside to allow them to cool.
  2. Place the basil leaves into the processor, leaving the stalks on to add more flavour. Then add the chopped garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and season to taste.
  3. Now add the pine nuts and begin to blend. You want the texture of your pesto to be quite smooth, so I’d recommend blending for roughly one minute.
  4. Place the pesto to one side and begin to boil the pasta of your choice. I have used penne, fusilli, and tagliatelle for this recipe and my favourite has to be the latter, but it is of course up to you as the chef!
  5. When cooking the pasta, follow the instruction times on the back of the packet, but it should take roughly 12-15 minutes to make. You want to achieve an al dente texture to coincide with how the Italians choose to cook it.
  6. Whilst the pasta is boiling, chop some tomatoes in half.
  7. Drain the pasta, add it to the pesto, then plate up.
  8. Finally, top your masterpiece with the chopped tomatoes and garnish with a leaf of basil (optional). 

This recipe costs under £3.00 to make and serves roughly four people (or four days if you are batch cooking for yourself). I would rate it 4 stars out of 5!

If Italian food doesn’t suit your palette, perhaps the taste of Japan might with my own take on Miso Tahini Vermicelli Rice. This recipe most commonly incorporates ramen, rather than vermicelli rice, so can be easily substituted depending on your preferences. 

This was my first go at tackling Japanese food, and it might be yours too! In terms of difficulty, I would say it was quite simple to make, but you do have to cook everything separately so be prepared to cook at a reasonable pace in order for your food to still be warm when serving. Overall, it takes roughly 20 minutes to make, so let’s give it a go!

Miso Tahini Vermicelli Rice

Image credit: Georgia Lambert

The ingredients you will need are as follows:

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1L of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp of miso, either red or white
  • 2 tbsp of tahini
  • 3 tbsp of mirin
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce 
  • Vermicelli rice or ramen noodles 
  • 0.5 tin of sweetcorn or frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped lengthways
  • 1 red chilli (deseeded if you prefer less spice)
  1. First, we begin by making the broth. To do so, add the garlic and ginger to a frying pan with olive oil and fry for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
  3. Next, add the miso paste and tahini, stir until smooth.
  4. Turn off the heat and add the mirin as well as the soy sauce. Once you have combined these ingredients, set the broth aside.
  5. Now char the carrot, sweetcorn, and chilli until it begins to lightly burn.
  6. Whilst the vegetables are frying, you can make the vermicelli rice or ramen by following the cooking instructions on the back of the packet (they usually take 2-3 minutes to cook).
  7. Drain the rice/noodles.
  8. Time to plate up! Add the broth to a bowl, then the rice/noodles and finally, the vegetables. 

Some of these ingredients are rather unusual, making it difficult to find them in Aldi or your local co-op. I would recommend visiting Millie’s Greengrocers located on Bishopthorpe road where all of these ingredients can be found at very reasonable prices! This recipe is slightly more expensive, costing between £5.00-£8.00, but it does serve two to three people. Perhaps the cost could be split, and you could even adopt it as a recipe you make with your flatmates!

I would rate this recipe 4 stars out of 5, the spice was spot on, and the broth made it taste very homely. The warmth made this recipe perfect for a cold day, making it an all year-round recipe for those who live in ‘sunny’ York! 

I have found that developing recipes is a great way of strengthening my mental health at university. The key to doing well is having a balance between work and hobbies, and cooking could be yours. Give these a try – your wellbeing will thank you for it!

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