Are you bored of cooking the same dishes over and over again, or are you worried about setting your kitchen on fire because of your lack of cooking experience? In this blog, Gunisha draws on her personal experience to provide tips and tricks to make cooking at university a piece of cake. She also shares a fun and easy-to-make Potato Sandwich recipe.
University is a transformative experience because we learn so much about ourselves and how to handle difficult situations independently. For many of us, it’s the first time that we are handling all household chores, from cooking to cleaning and laundry, without our parents’ help. Cooking is an essential life skill, but it’s also one of the more intimidating skills to master. Personally, it was quite an interesting transition for me as I went from being someone who barely knew how to cook to becoming someone who now cooks three square meals for herself almost every day. I often like to quip that at the end of my time at Warwick, I would have at least improved my cooking skills, if nothing else! Therefore, I thought it would be apt to share my adventures and misadventures with cooking, along with some tips I have learnt.
Tip No. 1: Learn some basic dishes before you come to university.
I am glad that I learnt how to cook rice, pasta, scrambled eggs and sauté vegetables before I came to Warwick. Learning these basic dishes in the comfort of my home before coming to Warwick gave me a foundation to build on later and made me feel less worried about embarrassing myself in front of my flatmates or setting the shared kitchen on fire. It also gave me some confidence that I would be able to survive university with my almost non-existent cooking experience. But, if you haven’t managed to do this before university, now is a good time to start. Start with the basics before you move on to more complicated recipes.
Tip No. 2: Make cooking a fun social activity.
I enjoy cooking with my friends. It makes the process less cumbersome because we can divide the tasks and chit-chat along the way. It also gives me an opportunity to prepare elaborate dishes and try out new cuisines. Why not suggest to your flatmates to have a cooking evening, trying different dishes from around the world, and turning it into a bit of fun?
Tip No. 3: Experiment and meal prep when you have the time.
On most days, I am running around like a headless chicken between lectures and society events. There are so many exciting things happening on campus that I want to minimise the amount of time I spend in the kitchen. As a result, I end up sticking to the same dishes – rice and dal, dim sums and sandwiches, which I enjoy and are easy to make. Therefore, I try to experiment with recipes and meal prep, usually on the weekends. Instead of meal-prepping entire dishes, I often prep major components that can be used in different dishes. For example, making chutney and boiling potatoes in a batch reduces the hassle later. I also try to experiment with different ingredients on the weekends, so I don’t waste time on weekdays. Once, I bought a giant butternut squash, and it was quite an adventure to roast it. I ended up adding butternut squash to every savoury meal that I prepared for the next two weeks after that.
Tip No. 4 Remember that ancillary activities like grocery shopping and cleaning up after cooking will also take time.
When I first started cooking at university, I didn’t realise that cleaning up after cooking also takes time. If a recipe mentions that it takes 20 minutes to cook something, there’s a fair chance it would also require 10 minutes to clean up afterwards. Nowadays, I try to minimise the number of utensils I use whilst cooking, so it’s easier to clean up later. I also buy my groceries in one go from Cannon Park every week to save time.
Tip No. 5: Try some recipes!
Here’s a recipe for Masala Aloo Patti (Potato Sandwich), which was my go-to breakfast for the entirety of term one and is super easy to make!
For the sandwich:
- 2 slices of Bread
- 1 small Boiled Potato, sliced
- 1/4 of a Cucumber
- ½ a Tomato
- 1/4th of a Capsicum (a small pepper, or use bell peppers)
For the Mint Chutney:
- 50 grams or a handful of Mint leaves
- 50 grams or a handful of Coriander leaves
- ½ an Onion
- ½ a Tomato
- ½ a Green chilli
- Salt and Seasoning
Step One: Butter and toast bread.
Step Two: Blend the mint leaves, coriander leaves, onion, tomato, green chilli using a blender, and sprinkle salt to taste. Alternatively, you could finely chop and mix the ingredients together. Voila, your mint chutney is ready!
It’s best to prepare the mint chutney beforehand. It stays fresh in the fridge for up to a week.
Step Three: Slice the boiled potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumber into round pieces. Dice the capsicum.
Step Four: Spread the mint chutney on the toasted bread. Place the sliced potatoes. Layer the tomatoes, cucumber, and capsicum on top.
There were days when I was out of the vegetables that the recipe calls for, and I would substitute other vegetables that I had at hand. Remember that the potatoes are the star of the dish. As long as you have boiled potatoes, you are good to go. Feel free to experiment and add different vegetables based on what you have.
Step Five: Sprinkle salt and seasoning to taste
Chaat masala packs a flavourful punch, and I recommend buying a packet of chaat masala from an Indian store to use as seasoning.
Step six: Enjoy!
Cooking is an essential skill to develop while at university. If you would like to read more about other must-have skills at university such as time management and enhancing productivity, check out balancing work and social life at university and how to stay productive when it gets dark early.
Did you try out the Potato Sandwich recipe? We would love to hear how it turned out! Share your experience and any other recipes that you might have by tweeting us @warwicklibrary, messaging us on Instagram @warwicklibrary or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.