It's been 2 whole years since I was a student now, but I'm still living with many of the habits I picked up living away from home on my student loan. It's crazy how you graduate and leave uni, and somehow, a magic money doesn't proceed to grow?! Living on the outskirts of London is super expensive and sometimes our budget can be tight - so we make lots of our meals from scratch.
Martin and I are both pretty capable cooks, and it pays to avoid pre-packaged, prepared foods if you can. This time of year seems to be a bit of a pinch for a lot of people, so I've put together a few, easy recipes for those days when you're trying to stretch how long you can go without doing a food shop! Many of these work for me because I keep garlic, ginger, and pantry foods like pesto, soy sauce and stock cubes in the house at all times, but hopefully these recipes work for you, too!
CREAMY PESTO PASTA
Easily one of my favourite foods in the world - pasta is so hearty and filling, and the perfect vehicle for salt, cream and lots and lots of garlic. This recipe is vegetarian (can be made vegan) and the key is to keep a box of stock cubes (chicken or vegetable depending on your preference) and a little pot of pesto close to hand at all times. Serves 2 people or one greedy person. ;)
- 250g of Pasta - I used Rigatoni for the aesthetic.
- 7 -ish Brown Mushrooms
- 150ml Single Cream (or Soya Cream)
- 1 tbsp-ish of Olive Oil for frying
- 2 large cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 a Chicken or Vegetable Stock Cube
- 1-2 tsp of Pesto
- Ground Black Pepper to Taste
- Parmesan Cheese to Taste (Optional for Vegans)
1. Chop the Mushrooms thinly and peel and mince the Garlic.
2. Put the pasta in a pot of water to boil. I like to add a splash of oil and salt to the water. I have no idea why, but that's just what you do - so I do it.
3. Heat the oil over medium to low heat and sautee the mushrooms and garlic lightly until softened.
4. Turn the heat right down, and once the pasta water has begun to go wonderfully starchy and cloudy, scoop a ladle or two of pasta water over the mushrooms. You can use normal water if you prefer, but the starchy water helps to make a thick and glossy sauce.
5. Add the half a stock cube to the pan of mushrooms and allow it to dissolve. If the sauce begins to cook away, add a little more pasta water, a small amount at a time. You want just enough to stop the pan from cooking dry.
6. Stir in your pesto.
7. When the pasta is cooked, drain in and add to the sauce. Turn the heat right down and pour over the cream and add your black pepper. Stir to combine, and grate in as much Parmesan cheese as you like.
8. Serve, yum.
EGG FRIED RICE
A classic that I learned from Martin - I make this for lunch when I'm working from home from the leftover scraps in the kitchen. There aren't any rules for the ingredients, but my favourites are: tiny diced carrots, tinned sweetcorn, babycorn, roasted cashews, eggs, mushrooms and diced peppers. This dish is vegetarian but can be made vegan by leaving out the eggs, or many people add meat such as thinly chopped bacon or leftover roast pork. Serves 2 people, with leftovers.
- 2 cups (ish) of steamed, long grain white rice. Preferably leftover, but fresh will work too.
- 2 large eggs
- any leftover vegetables, diced. Mushrooms are particularly good.
- 1 small handful of roasted cashews (from the crisps/snacks section)
- Soy Sauce, to taste
- Sesame Oil, to taste (the magic ingredient!)
- 1tbsp of sunflower or other flavourless oil for frying.
1. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or frying pan on high. Beat the eggs, and add them to the oil, stirring them to make "scrambled egg".
2. Add the diced vegetables starting with the hard vegetables like carrots, and ending with the soft ones, and add the cashews.
3. Once the vegetables have softened, add the rice, breaking up the lumps of cooked rice carefully with the back of your spatula/spoon.
4. Turn off the heat, and pour over the soy sauce - there should be enough to turn the rice a golden brown. Pour over a generous glug of sesame oil, enough to distribute evenly over the rice, and stir to combine.
5. Adjust the soy sauce/sesame oil to taste.
STIR FRIED VEG WITH STEAMED RICE
This recipe is a staple in our house, particularly when we're low on funds because we always have a huge bag of rice on hand (we're talking 15kg!!), ginger and garlic in the fridge and soy sauce in the cupboard. There are many more exciting variations on this, but when you're broke and raiding the fridge, this makes a filling and slightly greener alternative to beans on toast. Serves 1 person, with leftovers.
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 1 inch piece of ginger
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp-ish sunflower oil or other flavourless oil
- Stir-Fry friendly vegetables - my favourites are: thinly sliced carrots, broccoli, Chinese leaf (lasts for ages in the fridge) Iceberg lettuce (yes, you read that right) and mushrooms.
- a fried egg (optional) for more protein.
1. Thinly slice the vegetables, and peel and slice the garlic and ginger. The ginger should be chopped into 'matchsticks'.
2. Cook the rice. We use a rice cooker for perfect rice, but it's ok to boil it in a pot if you don't have it. The vegetables will come together quickly, so it's best to wait until the rice is fully cooked before starting on them.
3. Heat the oil in a pan on high, and add the ginger and garlic. Next, add the vegetables in order of "hardness" from longer-cooking ingredients like carrots and broccoli, to shorter cooking ones like lettuce, chinese leaf and beansprouts.
4. Once all the vegetables are softened, remove from the heat, and pour over the soy sauce, to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl.
5. If you're having an egg on top, clean or wipe out the wok, add a little more oil, and fry the eggs. Often we whisk the eggs to form a mini omelette.
6. Transfer the veg and eggs to a bowl, and serve with bowls of steamed rice, or put it all together in one if you're eating solo.