It’s reached that point in the year where that $5 fee to have Maccas fries delivered to your door had started you on a small existential and budgetary crisis. But never fear – before you resign yourself to a week of mi goreng and cheesy toasties, let me broaden your horizons to the lesser known cuisine of Student Food: cheap, tasty, and the most amateur of amateur recipes. Now before you say “I can’t cook”, these recipes are coming from the person who at eighteen years old had to Google how to boil an egg – so if I can do it, you can too! (besides, it’s all just chemistry anyway right?)
These are some of my favourite fall back meals I’ve managed to pick up along the way. All of them can easily be adapted to be vegetarian, and if you’re cooking for one the serving sizes are large enough to be eaten over the next few of days (Yay for packed lunches!).
Broccoli Cheese Pasta Bake
This is my go-to guilty-pleasure lunch food during semester. Bake a dish on Sunday and then voila! – Lunch for the whole week.
For the bake:
- 400g dried pasta
- 200g broccoli, chopped into small floret (approx. 1 small broccoli bunch)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 100g fresh spinach leaves
- 100g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
For the cheese sauce:
- 700ml milk
- 50g butter
- 50g plain flour
- 200g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 2000 C
- Boil the kettle and fill your largest saucepan with the boiling water. Place on a medium heat and bring back to the boil, then add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook for the time stated on the packet. Add the broccoli 5 minutes before the end of the pasta cooking time. Drain the pasta and broccoli well in a colander once cooked.
- Warm the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion and garlic are soft but not brown.
- Meanwhile, start the cheese sauce. Make sure you have a wooden spoon, whisk and the milk measured out in a jug next to you. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat.
- When all the butter is melted, tip in the flour and stir it in quickly with the wooden spoon. It will look like a thick paste. Continue to stir vigorously for the next couple of minutes until the paste starts to bubble.
- Pour in the milk a little at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition until smooth. When all the milk has been added, the sauce should look smooth and glossy. Tip in the grated cheese and continue to whisk. Season with salt and pepper and let it bubble gently for 4-5 minutes, whisking continuously.
- Stir together the cooked pasta and broccoli, the onion and garlic, the fish spinach leaves and cheese sauce in a large baking dish. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
Adapted from ‘The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook’ by Charlotte Pike
Cost Estimate: ~$10.00
Raisin and Pine Nut Couscous w Lamb and Continental Parsley
Moist and buttery, this couscous is sweetened with raisins and crunchy pine nuts. A slightly fancier student recipe to impress visiting friends and possible parents coming over for dinner.
- 1/2 bunch fresh continental parsley
- 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
- 25g butter
- 1/2 brown onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 55g (1/3 cup) raisins
- 45g (1/4 cup) pine nuts
- 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- 240g (1 1/4 cups) couscous
- 400g lamb diced
- spices to season (cumin, salt, pepper)
- Prepare the stock according to the label. Carnivore friendly: Marinade the lamb in extra olive oil and season with spices, set aside.
- Pick the leaves from the parsley stalks and reserve. Discard half the stalks. Finely chop the remaining stalks and reserve.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large deep pan over medium heat until foaming. Cook onion and salt, stirring occasionally for 12 minutes or until golden. Add raisins, pine nuts and reserved parsley stalks. Cook for 3 minutes or until pine nuts are golden and raisins expanded, stirring continuously.
- Add stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Stir in the couscous and remove the pan from the heat. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
- While waiting for the couscous, roughly chop the parsley leaves. Carnivore friendly: Stir-fry the lamb in a frying pan on a high heat until cooked through.
- Use a fork to separate the grains of couscous. Stir in the [lamb and] chopped parsley leaves.
Adapted from taste.com ‘Raisin & pine nut couscous with parsley’
Cost Estimate: ~$7.00 (+$10 for Lamb)
A recipe as old as time, there are so many variations of the good old spag bol. This is loosely based on a combination of my parents’ two conflicting recipes and is super easy to whip up (and keeps in the fridge for meals throughout the week).
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2cm cube of fresh ginger (optional)
- 1 onion
- 3 carrots
- 1 zucchini
- 1/2 bunch broccolini
- 1 red capsicum
- 1 cup of frozen peas and corn
- 1 can of tinned tomatoes (diced)
- Optional: chopped parsley and grated cheese to serve
- 400g beef mince
- Dice the carrots and zucchini. Prepare the broccolini by removing small leaves, and cutting into small pieces of about 2cm in size.
Carnivore friendly: Meanwhile, put a dash of olive oil in a large pan and bring it to a high heat. Add the beef mince and fry for about 5 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside. (Reuse this pan for the vegetables and sauce in Step 3)
- Boil the kettle and fill a medium saucepan with the boiling water. Bring to the boil. Place on medium heat and bring back to the boil. Add the carrots to the saucepan. After 4 minutes, add the zucchini and broccolini to the carrots and cook for another 3 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, dice the garlic and ginger into very small pieces and chop up the onion. Heat a dash of olive oil in a large frying pan at medium heat, then add the garlic and ginger. After about 30s, add the chopped onion and fry until the onion is lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
- Boil the kettle again and fill the saucepan with boiling water. Add some salt and the desired number of servings of spaghetti and cook for the time stated on the packet. Drain well
- Once the onions are cooked, turn the heat down to low and add the frozen peas and corn to the frying pan. Chop the capsicum into small bite-sized pieces, then add to the pan. Add the cooked carrot, broccolini and zucchini. Stir until all vegetables are combined.
- Add the can of diced tomatoes to the frying pan and any spices to season until well combined. Mix in the spaghetti (Optional: Mix in the beef mince). Serve seasoned with roughly chopped parsley or cheese.
Note: After a day or so, if the pasta starts to taste a bit samey, stir in a pre-prepared pasta sauce of your choice.
Adapted from life…
Cost Estimate: ~$9.50 (+$4-6 for minced beef)