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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

As much as the prospect of a takeaway every night is certainly tempting, there is no reason why you can’t make delicious dishes in your own kitchen! Cooking for yourself for the first time doesn’t have to be daunting and uni offers a perfect opportunity to try new recipes and foster your culinary skills. Cooking with your new flatmates is also a great way to make friends so what are you waiting for? Here are my favourite quick and easy recipes which are perfect for emerging chefs!

a Pasta Bake (serves 1)

Any uni student needs a trusty pasta bake recipe and this one is absolutely amazing! It uses a basic cheese sauce recipe which you can use in so many other dishes (mac and cheese, cauliflower cheese, lasagne – to name a few) and is a go-to midweek meal.

Ingredients:

  • 60g Pasta
  • 200ml Milk
  • 20g Butter
  • 20g Flour
  • 25g Cheese
  • Pinch of White Pepper, optional
  • 110g Can of Tuna
  • 80g of Frozen Peas

Method:

  1. Weigh out the pasta into a pan and cook in boiling water for 10 minutes. When there is 6 minutes left on the timer add the frozen peas.
  2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, start making the sauce by melting the butter in a separate pan along with the flour.
  3. Once the butter has melted, gradually whisk in the milk. This should be done slowly with more milk being added as the sauce thickens. Repeat until all the milk is used up and the sauce is a thick, creamy consistency.
  4. Grate the cheese into the sauce and add the white pepper, if using. The amount of cheese and white pepper required will depend on personal preference, giving you the perfect excuse to try the sauce before putting it in the oven!
  5. Drain the peas and pasta and add to an oven proof dish along with the tuna and cheese sauce.
  6. Stir the peas, pasta, tuna and sauce together. To make it extra cheesy, grate more cheese over the top of the dish before placing in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Simple Risotto (serves 1)

This basic risotto recipe was a staple for me during my first year. It is so versatile as you can experiment with flavours, swapping in/out vegetables depending on what takes your fancy! While this recipe asks for half an onion, I have found it useful to prepare a whole onion and then freeze half ready to use next time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 50g Risotto Rice
  • ½ Chicken or Vegetable Stock Cube
  • 90ml White Wine
  • ½ Red Onion
  • Vegetables – I often use 80g of mushrooms and half a pepper.
  • Meat – My favourite additions are chicken and chorizo.
  • 80g Frozen Peas
  • Handful of Spinach
  • 80g Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese

Method:

  1. Add the butter to a pan with the risotto rice.
  2. While the butter melts, make 250ml of either chicken or vegetable stock.
  3. Pour the white wine into the pan and, once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat and set a timer for 20 minutes. During this time, make sure to regularly stir the pan to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom. As the rice starts to dry out, add a little of the stock and repeat until the all the stock has been added.
  4. As the rice cooks, finely chop the onion and add it to a warmed pan with a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Prepare the vegetables by chopping into bite-sized chunks. If adding meat, cut it into small pieces and slowly cook it in a separate pan of warmed oil.
  6. Once the onion has cooked, add the prepared vegetables (except the peas and spinach) to the pan and fry them until cooked.
  7. When there is about 8 minutes left on your timer, add the peas and spinach to the rice and cook.
  8. Once the timer has gone off, ensure all the stock has been reduced and add the rice to the pan of vegetables along with any cooked meat and the garlic and herb cream-cheese.
  9. Stir everything together and serve.

Tandoori Chicken (serves 2)

If you’re looking for a lighter meal, this tandoori-marinated chicken is a perfect option. I found cooking with meat quite daunting at first but as long as you ensure it is properly cooked, there is nothing to fear. This recipe is a great way to build confidence when using meat in the kitchen. It is also really easy to double the ingredients so I would recommend making two portions and then freezing the rest of the chicken once it has cooked and cooled. My recipe serves this with rice and vegetables, but you could always add the chicken to a salad instead.

Ingredients:

  • 150g Plain Yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp Curry Paste
  • 300g Mini Chicken Fillets

To serve (serves 1):

  • 50g Rice
  • 160g Vegetables – I often used either peas and sweetcorn or carrots and broccoli

Method:

  1. Start off by slicing the chicken fillets into smaller strips. The smaller you cut the chicken, the quicker it will cook in the oven later.
  2. Mix together the yoghurt and curry paste in a bowl until combined.
  3. Add the chicken to the bowl and coat with the yoghurt mixture.
  4. Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
  5. As the chicken marinates, preheat the oven to 220⁰C and prepare the vegetables.
  6. After 20 minutes, place the chicken pieces onto a baking tray, ensuring that they are evenly spread out.
  7. Put the baking tray in the oven for 10 minutes, turn the chicken then cook for another 10 minutes. In the final 10 minutes, cook the vegetables by following the packets instructions.
  8. Once the timer is up, check the chicken is cooked through by cutting the largest piece in half and ensuring it is not pink on the inside.
  9. To serve, place the chicken pieces on top of the rice alongside the cooked vegetables.

Lentil Dahl (serves 4)

This lentil dahl is amazing. It only requires one pan (which minimises washing up) and is so simple. Just make sure you are regularly stirring the mixture as the lentils can easily start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Again, this is another recipe which is great to batch-cook. I normally make four portions and put the remaining three in the freezer to be used for a quick lunch between lectures.

Ingredients:

  • 260g Dried Red Lentils
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Tahini
  • 2 tsp Curry Powder
  • 400g Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
  • 400g Tin of Coconut Milk
  • Couple of Handfuls of Spinach
  • 4 tbsp Coconut Yoghurt

To serve:

  • Warmed Flatbreads, Pittas or Naans

Method:

  1. Crush the garlic cloves and add to a large pan with the lentils, soy sauce, tahini, curry powder, chopped tomatoes and coconut milk. 
  2. Bring the lentil mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the spinach and coconut yoghurt to the pan and mix together.
  4. Simmer for a further 5 minutes and then serve in a small bowl with either some flatbreads, pittas or naans.

Pesto Pasta (serves 1)

Pesto pasta is probably the easiest and quickest dish for any uni student. Whilst my recipe gives instructions on how to make your own pesto, for an even quicker fix, shop-brought pesto can be used as well - both result in a fast and delicious dinner!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 20g Fresh Basil
  • 50g Pine Nuts
  • 50g Sunflower Seeds
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 60g Pasta
  • 80g Frozen Peas
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Sprinkle of Parmesan

Method:

  1. Start by roasting the garlic cloves in a small frying pan. I leave the skin on to do this to prevent the garlic getting burnt.
  2. Wash the basil and add to a blender with the garlic, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and olive oil.
  3. Once the pesto has been blended gradually add water until it reaches a desired consistency (I often use 3-4 tbsp).
  4. Add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook for 12 minutes.
  5. When there is 6 minutes left on the timer, add the frozen peas and spinach.
  6. Drain the pasta, peas and spinach using a colander and then return them to the pan.
  7. Mix together the pasta and the pesto along with the parmesan and serve.
Hello! I'm a second-year history student studying at Exeter Uni, who loves reading, travelling, baking, acting and a variety of sports.
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