Dinners of the Week

I thought this would be quite an interesting post to do (please do let me know what you think of it in the comments) as dinners on a student budget could be quite interesting. I tried to steer away from the typical pasta, pesto and cheese for 7 nights a week as even though I do love that, it’s not the most varied diet is it? I also wasn’t quite sure how to include some fish into my food as I’m not a big fan but it’s important to get those essential oils and whatnots – but I returned from my Tesco’s trip today with 6 fillets of salmon which will go in the freezer for later (thank you mother for the help!) so will be using those soon. More bargain hunting included some meaty chicken legs and fillets and king prawns which are also sharing the freezer at the moment (I even put them in those little freezer bags and labelled them with dates too). I was really pleased with those because I find it a little harder to include some proper meat and fish in my diet because they are slightly more tricky to cook but hopefully I will get to try out some new recipes in the process! Anyway without further ado, here’s what I ate last week…

Saturday : My mish-mash dinner – Stir fried beansprouts with cucumber, chopped apple slices and two cheese ‘toasties’

I didn’t have much time because I got back late so I just cooked the vegetables to use them up and shoved in my carby toast to give it some ‘substance’ otherwise I would have just kept eating and eating!

Sunday : Beansprouts with a Fried Egg and Pepper accompanied by a generous bowl of rice

Unfortunately I had eaten all the rice by the time I remembered I was supposed to be photographing my ‘dinners of the week’ so it’s just the vegetable side dish really. I just bunged together some vegetables that needed eating and fried eggs make everything better!

Monday : Egg Fried Rice with Vegetables 

Once you’ve cooked the rice on the ancient hobs we have here, it’s relatively quick to make. Unfortunately you can’t really see the egg in the photo (I promise it’s there) and it would have been nice with a splash of soy sauce.

Tuesday : Pasta and Bolognese

I was thinking all afternoon ‘oh I’ll have that lovely bolognese with spaghetti I’ve taken out for defrosting’ and then what do I do? I only go and pour a whole load of pasta into the pot instead of spaghetti, and I was looking forward to doing some serious slurping! Oh well, it still tasted just as good.

Wednesday : Salmon with assorted vegetables and steamed rice

My new rice cooker was put to the test today and oh how I love it so, it is marvellous! My mother gave me a few tips on how to cook the salmon and it tasted yum indeed (dankeschön, yep I have been spelling it wrong)!

My new rice cooker!

Thursday : Egg fried rice with sweetcorn and king prawns

 

Friday : Roast Potato Chips with Carrot, Broccoli and Tomato

I had bought a bag of Charlotte potatoes which needed eating so decided to make them into healthy ‘chips’ – another one of my mother’s ideas… You basically just put a few tablespoons of oil into a baking tray and coat both sides of the thinly sliced potatoes. (I may do a very short blog post on these, they are so yummy they deserve it!)

I hope you enjoyed this longish post and Happy Eating!

 

Apologies for the varied background and lighting in the photos, it is quite difficult to control here (especially when I’m hungry)!

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What’s in my kitchen?

So I was thinking of ideas for posts to do and I thought why not take a photo of what’s in my kitchen cupboard and fridge? I would always recommend for students especially to buy things on offer and check for bargains (but don’t go buying things unnecessarily just because they are on offer which you’ll never eat, assess whether it’s worth it).

– Some packs of Green Giant sweetcorn (my favourite) which are always useful to add to rice, pasta or a salad, or just straight out the can

– A few tins of canned tomatoes which I used for making some bolognese

– Pasta and spaghetti are a must in cupboard (I’ve got a few more in my room) as they are dry and store for ages

– That big box of Mingles isn’t actually full of mingles, it’s just to keep crackers/biscuits dry so they don’t go soggy (any old biscuit tin will do)

– Rice, I don’t recommend the Tesco basics long-grain rice, next time I will pay a bit more for some good tasting rice (cheaper to buy in bulk)

– Dried fruit like apples or apricots are good snacks, these can be expensive so I don’t have them all the time

– If you’ve spotted that unmistakable gold and red stripey packaging, yes I did go and and buy an 8 pack of Caramel bars because they are so DELICIOUS (my treat after I’ve worked hard in a sports session)

– Go Ahead bars and other cereal bars

– Green tea (the only kind I drink)

– Porridge oats

– Nut granola and bran flakes go really well together although since the granola wasn’t cheap cheap I ration myself to 3 spoonfuls per cereal bowl of bran flakes!

– Some fresh fruit, bananas and apples

– Little canisters of salt and pepper (you can get them really cheaply) and some mixed herbs (oh and a spare jar of pesto)

– Knorr’s chicken stock cubes, for flavouring vegetables

I saved the apple ‘trays’ to put my cutlery and knives in, they are just the right length although the chopsticks stick out a tiny bit. I also had a pack of tortilla wraps, onions and some garlic in a bottom cupboard.

– Pesto and cheese, friends for my pasta

– Activia intensely creamy apricot yoghurt pots (LOVE THESE!)

– Eggs, they are just so yummy.

– Fresh vegetables, when I took the photo I had a pack of beansprouts, a carrot, cucumber, and some peppers

– Leftover minced beef from the bolognese which will be going into the freezer too for the next time I make it

I would be careful with the fresh vegetables and fruit though because you don’t want to go overboard and buy loads (easily done when looking for bargains) as you won’t be able to eat them all at once (as they won’t keep for too long), so just have a rough idea about what sorts of fresh food you have at home when shopping. I don’t eat a lot of fish because I’m a bit fussy but will be out to get some salmon (buy a large piece and chop into smaller ones) or prawns as they store well in the freezer and give you lots of essential oils.

I totally forgot that we had an oven until a few days ago so all that’s in my freezer drawer is one pizza and some bolognese I made earlier. It’s really easy to make (see recipe here) and you can freeze a few portions so that they give you an hearty meal in no time.

(I don’t have the luxury of a chopping board yet I didn’t really get round to finely chopping anything) I also substituted the celery for pepper (put this in 20mins before the end) as I wouldn’t be able to finish the rest of the celery, but I love peppers. The same goes for ingredients like tomato puree, you don’t have to buy every little thing, just the important ones.

They are ready for the freezer when they have cooled.

So that was a rather long-winded post, I hope it wasn’t too boring but I tried to include a few tips and ideas about how to save money and plan ahead by buying food in bulk. Please do check out my other recipes by using the categories column on the right hand side or the ‘recent recipes’ column. I will be posting a ‘Dinners of the Week’ post to show how a few similar ingredients can make a tasty variety of meals. If you have any ideas for posts or quick and easy recipes to try out on a student budget, I welcome all suggestions! Cheerio.

Simple noodles and veg for dinner.

My mother is a superb cook, I only wish that some of her instinctive skill had rubbed off on me. I remember sitting on the kitchen work-top when I was much younger and watching her cook as well as helping her make delicious dumplings, oh if only I had the freedom of time now! She is Oriental and cooks fabulous meals from the most basic ingredients – her simple and lightly-flavoured Chinese cooking is characteristic of the region she grew up in as opposed to some of the very strong flavours favoured (that’s a tongue-twister!) by other regions. My palate is used to this style of cooking as I have been brought up in it, and I think it works best for everyday home cooking – it’s healthy, simple, and quick. However despite this I am not really used to cooking Chinese food, I find the eating part suits me better. I think the ultimate comfort food for me is just a steaming bowl of rice really. That’s how easy I am to please. Anyway, my skills do exist beyond opening a pack of ‘gong-zai mian’ (Cantonese for ‘doll/toy noodles – aptly named after the famous ‘Nissin’ brand noodles which have a little cartoon person on them), even if only just.

Although I do love these instant noodles very occasionally…

Tonight I used shrimp-flavoured noodles instead. You can get these easily in any Chinese/Oriental supermarket (we go to Wing-Yip which has EVERYTHING, I didn’t even realise they also have a new online store too in case you don’t live by one). They are quick and easy to cook (about 10-15 minutes in boiling water) and have a gentle shrimpy/prawny taste which is less bland than plain noodles.

Anyway, before cooking the actual noodles, I first chopped up some broccoli and put it into the pan of water first. If you chop them relatively small, it cooks much faster and so after about 10 minutes you can put the noodles into the same pan. I also sliced some baby sweetcorn and cut up some leftover roast pork. You can basically add any vegetables or meat that you have in your fridge really and it makes a decent meal.

After about 20 minutes of total cooking time, remove the broccoli and noodles from the pan. Meanwhile heat another pan and pour a few teaspoons of oil into it when hot. Stir in your meat and vegetables and fry for about 5-8 minutes. You can also add a little bit of chicken/beef stock (about 10ml) before seasoning to taste. Serve on top of the noodles and stir in with a light drizzle of soy sauce.

Ta da! (Sometimes I also add a fried egg on top). A really quick easy meal ready in less than half an hour.

Good old spaghetti bolognese

This recipe provided the main course for our meal this evening. It’s a great hot-pot dish that you can prepare and then leave bubbling away for an hour and half while you get on with something else. Not to mention how easy it is to make. A fantastic solution to feeding any hungry student!

Spaghetti Bolognese, makes 8

Preparation time : 45 minutes

Cooking time : 1 and 1/2 hours (90 minutes if you prefer)

All that steam has got to my camera - sorry about the blurriness

-500g good quality lean minced beef

-A few tbsp of mild olive oil

-2 onions, finely chopped

-1 carrot, finely chopped

-2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

-150g pancetta (or smoked bacon rashers), diced

-A few tsp of dried mixed herbs or a handful of torn basil

-2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

-2 tbsp tomato purée

-150ml white wine

-100ml water

-150ml milk

-5oog spaghetti or tagliatelle

Ingredients line up

Heat a casserole heat-proof dish/large pan and add the olive oil. Ensure the pan is hot so that the mince sizzles when added. Keep at a medium heat whilst you brown the mince for 10 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the lumps. The colour should change from raw pink to a rather unappetising grey before the familiar brown.

 

Remove the mince from the heat and place in a spare bowl. Now prepare the vegetables (easily done in advance). Finely chop the carrot, celery, onions and garlic.

As you can see from the photo, I like to have everything ready – there’s no harm in measuring out the milk, wine and water at this stage. To the same pan/casserole dish, add a little more oil if needed ensuring it is hot. Add the diced pancetta and fry gently for 7-8 minutes (bacon rashers will take a few minutes longer).

Next add the vegetables and turn down the heat cooking for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened (you can put the lid on and stir every few minutes).

Then return the mince and add the herbs. Stir in the tomato purée and wine, allowing the bubble and reduce for a few minutes.

Then stir in the milk and both tins of chopped tomatoes. Slosh the water in the cans to rinse them clean and add all the liquid to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Partly cover the pan and leave to simmer gently.

This makes a really tender and rich sauce. After about 45 minutes, cover completely otherwise the sauce may become dry.

Leave for an hour and a half - patience is a virtue

Cook the spaghetti or tagliatelle when ready to serve. Drain and serve with the bolognese. Season with cheese.

Hungry no more - Dig in!

Those observant views will notice this is only the second meal of a three course dinner. Dessert awaits – apple and walnut loaf…