University: Simple Student Meals with McCain

It’s finally here, the time everyone has been waiting for – the start of the university year. Whether you’re coming to uni for the first time or just moving out of halls and into your first student flat with all your mates, chances are there are going to be some quite important ice-breaker meals just around the corner. Whether you’re swapping stories of crazy summer holidays, soul-finding treks in Vietnam or long work-days saving up for Freshers Week, it’s important to have some serious nosh to keep the energy up.

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Remember, student life is all about working out your own way of doing things, and finding little life hacks that make your experience all the more smooth. The first tip for you: impressive food doesn’t have to have a hefty price tag or overly complicated preparation.

Avocado Fries – avocado is all the rage, and you’ll find tonnes of your fellow students are buying up all the stocks in the local supermarkets, but there’s more than one way to enjoy this versatile little fruit. Click here to discover the secret to avocado perfection – the humble McCain oven chip. Coat them in avocado blend and cover with breadcrumbs. Fry them up and you’ve got a delicious avocado-based snack food, with a zing of spice at its core.

 photo potato-wedges-843311_1920_zpsi2uqqlqi.jpgGarlic & Herb Wedges – probably the simplest dish on this list. Start by slicing up some potato into wedges and spreading on a baking tray, then finely chop garlic and mix with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle this generously over your chips before seasoning with thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes and you’ll have the perfect starter sorted.

Poutine – if you really want to impress your housemates, why not embrace the Canadian way of life by cooking up some Poutine. Poutine is essentially cheese curd melted over fries then soaked in gravy – Bisto Granules are a great way to make delicious gravy in a flash. It’s a taste sensation, and you’ll be able to introduce it to all your friends too.

Nacho Chips – a great party food that’s easy to make, this dish is basically the same concept as cheese and salsa nachos but with chips instead. Simply melt grated cheese over a plate of wedges before covering in a home-made salsa of chopped tomatoes, chillies, red onion, garlic and lime juice. The result: a more filling alternative to nachos that’ll tide you over during even the heaviest Freshers night out.

 photo fried-eggs-456351_1920_zpsxum3qrrj.jpgBreakfast Fry Up – there’s nothing quite like a fry-up to get you over the long nights out. Everyone will have their own way of doing it, but yours will truly stick in their memories. This fry-up begins with a bed of hot, buttered toast which is then followed by two fried eggs. Sprinkle with crumbled feta, chili flakes and fresh basil and you’ve got yourself the ultimate hangover breakfast. A pot of beans on the side for dipping wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Some of this food sounds delicious – I’m so intrigued by the Avocado Fries, and of course you can’t beat a good fry-up (minus the beans of course, damn you allergy!). I have to admit that as a MASSIVE lover of chips’n’gravy, poutine is something I’ve always been meaning to make. I guess I’ve got no excuse now!

*Collaborative post. All opinions my own as always!

What’s your favourite super-simple meal? I have to admit I’m a fan of a crisp sandwich (smoky bacon, or salt’n’vinegar on buttered white bread) when I’m really craving quick comfort food!

Recipe: Vegetarian Stew & Dumplings for Really Hungry Students

One of my favourite meals is a stew, casserole or hearty chunky soup. They are easy to cook, freeze really well, and are comforting and relatively healthy. They don’t have to take forever to cook up to – yes, a good beef stew takes a day in a slow cooker, but I can generally whip up a sausage casserole, chorizo soup or vegetarian stew in under an hour after work. A chop of veg, a shake of various seasonings, a splash of whatever I can find, quick stir and then it’s ready to simmer whilst I get on with whatever else I have to do. It sits virtually unattended, filling the kitchen with delicious smells, and is ready to go with just a bit of veg, some bread, or perhaps some mash if I’m feeling up to a little more prep.

 photo 8eb920f9-190a-4501-bd12-c499cd158fae_zps0da92cb2.jpgWhen I was offered a copy of The Really Hungry Vegetarian Student Cookbook to review, I was initially a little dubious. I’m far from a vegetarian. I don’t actually eat a lot of meat, but I do tend to throw a little bit in most meals to add flavour. A bit of chorizo in a stew makes it (to me) seem far more special. Some bacon sprinkled in a Mac’n’Cheese just finishes it off. I also like to use meaty stock in any ‘veggie’ dishes I do make as I think it just works a little better. But anyway, I challenged myself to cook a recipe strictly from this book. Or as much as I could, as vegetarians do like their tomatoes! I went for this veggie stew, as I had everything in my kitchen already. Bar veggies sausages, which I just omitted.

 photo baa46a0e-84ce-44de-bfbe-8221bf830138_zps71e5ed45.jpgThis stew is actually pretty amazing. Filling, super hearty, super healthy, and the gravy is pretty damn good considering there’s no meat involved. But it wouldn’t be cheap to make. As a student I wouldn’t tend to cook with wine, and I also only have balsamic vinegar in because I’m on placement year and thus earning a good wage. I found this a regular problem with this book, recipes seemed to require a few expensive additions, or some complicated cooking (too much deep frying, the idea terrifies me!). Having said that, it has some lovely breakfast ideas, some great sandwich combinations, and I’m working towards adapting their baked beans recipe to be tomato-free.

 photo db90df76-cb13-491f-9b3d-e188189e3c92_zps9a4b77d6.jpgI’m not going to repeat the recipe on here (for fear of copyright legalities!) but I will hint towards it. It’s super easy, frying off onions, adding seasoning and wine, boiling off the alcohol, adding other veg, stock and simmering away in the oven. Dumplings are made from butter (not suet, as is my usual) and flour, with plenty of herbs. Add salt and pepper too, which the book omitted. Then plop into the stew and bake until golden. The dumplings needed longer cooking in my opinion, but the ratio of double the flour to butter was spot on. It made a heart meal, that needed nothing else apart from some green veg. I felt super virtuous eating it, and knowing I had five portions of the stew ready for quick dinners and microwaved lunches in the coming weeks.

 photo 255218db-f225-47a7-8b8a-16b8a33170aa_zps7b5db913.jpgIf you’re a vegetarian bored of your meals, or simply want to get more veg into your diet, then I highly recommend this cookbook. If you’re looking for a budget option, it’s probably not for you. But its a cookbook I will continue to refer to you for a good few years. Despite having far too many of the things…

Do you eat vegetarian food? What’s your favourite veggie recipe?