Times have changed Chez May as my daughter starts her second year at University. Food wise this means two things; at home we can relax into more vegetable based, mediterranean style cooking and secondly I am on call for the odd piece of advice when it comes to cooking, said daughter now being in a shared house.
When I look back at my days of sharing a house it was definitely more fun, practical and economical when we shared shopping and cooking. I once found myself living in a flat where we all had a shelf in the fridge and a shelf in the cupboard. Miserable – not only were the contents of everyone else’s shelves more appealing than my own but it meant we cooked and ate separately, truly no fun at all. Thus, before Minty left, we conducted an experiment. I wanted to buy a bag of food as reasonably as possible the contents of which would serve four people sensible, easily cooked and delicious food for several days. The challenge was to see how far the groceries would go and to make sure that nothing got wasted, that ingredients were used for more than one recipe and little twists and hints would give additional ideas. My daughter isn’t a fan of what she calls my hippy, lentil stuff but we found many recipes that fit the bill, there was only one absolute veto.
Minced beef can be easily transformed into a bolognese, cottage pie, meatballs or chilli (February 2014), all easily eeked out with no loss of flavour. Whilst none are cutting edge recipes they absolutely are suppers that many students will be happy to both make and eat. Of course many teens are adept at more sophisticated and exotic recipes but I would recommend getting the basics under your belt (literally) before branching out. There is nothing more demoralising or more likely to put you off cooking than a disaster when you are hungry.
Vegetables can be sneaked into many things under the guise of ballast and stretching for another guest, such as can red lentils which melt away as theycook and become almost unidentifiable (almost). Tired vegetables get a chance to shine chopped into a cottage pie or a soup and most fruits can either be whizzed into a smoothie or tucked under a crumble (October 2015). Always aim to throw nothing away.
Our bag consisted of some vegetables which would provide a base for the bolognese, chilli, soup and dhal. A basic collection of spices including curry powder, which can be built on. The ever useful tinned tomatoes and red kidney beans. Red lentils for the Easy tomato soup (March 2020) the easiest thing in the world yet cheap, delicious and filling which my daughter loved – but also for the quick dhal, which my son and I could eat every day but which my daughter wouldn’t even taste. Pasta and rice of course, stock cubes plus oil, vinegar and mustard. There was also flour for quick flatbreads (March 2018), soda bread (April 2013), pancakes and crumble. Chicken thighs to be split between the always popular Claypot chicken (May 2103) and a gentle curry – incidentally chicken thighs are less likely to dry out than breasts and to my mind, far more delicious.
As I’ve said before, cooking and eating well are one of the absolute joys in life and being able to feed yourself healthily and economically is a valuable life skill. That’s why I am obviously keen for Minty to eat well but also to enjoy cooking and sharing food with others. I’m not saying the alternative is a diet of Silk Cut and Jacob’s Creek but….
Finally a photograph of iced buns because they are far more tempting than a picture of a bag of groceries and also an easy recipe for a welcome treat (May 2017). More recipes to follow.