Food & Drink

Things You Should Know Before You Start Cooking

Whether you set fire to your toast or the kitchen, we have all had our share of culinary mishaps. Emma-Louise Pritchard gives some simple pointers to help pave the way.

Today’s budding freshers have no excuse to not be competent in the kitchen. Even if ‘Come Dine With Me’ is our only resource, we should all know the basic do’s and don’ts before we leave home to attempt world domination, or at best, independence. Competency in the kitchen does not include the careful placing of a Dominos from its box to a plate and the squeezing of ketchup (although if all fails, it is 2 for 1 on a Tuesday!) It should also stretch further than a cheese and crisp sandwich or heating up last night’s Chinese.

A typical Tuesday night dinner

 

Today’s budding freshers have no excuse to not be competent in the kitchen. Even if ‘Come Dine With Me’ is our only resource, we should all know the basic do’s and don’ts before we leave home to attempt world domination, or at best, independence. Competency in the kitchen does not include the careful placing of a Dominos from its box to a plate and the squeezing of ketchup (although if all fails, it is 2 for 1 on a Tuesday!) It should also stretch further than a cheese and crisp sandwich or heating up last night’s Chinese.

Moving into halls is a new experience for everyone! Seeing how people do things differently can be both educational, like my flatmate’s homemade lasagnes, and shocking, like the one who couldn’t boil an egg…! With copious amounts of alcohol and abnormal sleeping patterns, the least we can do is fuel our bodies appropriately. So, if you are a wannabe Ramsay or wish you were the guy off “Man vs. Food”, I have devised, from my own experiences, some food for thought.

1. The price.

The first food shop I did from my own pocket was a big shocker, especially with meat and veg. So before you start cooking it, you need to learn where to get the best deals. I would definitely recommend going frozen for meat, fish and veg, it is cheaper and lasts longer. However, if you are feeling fresh…go to Lidl, it never fails.

2. Microwaves.

Knowing what you can and can’t put in the microwave would have saved us a few explosions and sparks. Plastic, metallic objects and foil is a no; china and Tupperware is a yes.

3. The difference between the oven and the grill setting on the cooker.

I strongly suggest that one of the first things you do when you get to your new, shared kitchen is learn how to navigate the oven settings. In my case, this would have avoided walking in on our kitchen on fire! One of my flatmates was cooking a pie on what she thought was the oven setting, and also thought that making sure the pie was touching the top of the oven would speed up the process! Inevitably, her pie caught alight, and when we opened the oven door, the flames were pretty angry…but not as angry as the guy who had to replace our scorched oven.

4. The correct quantity of rice/pasta.

The amount of rice and pasta I have wasted over my 3 years at Uni is shameful; especially when cooking for just myself, I always manage to make enough to feed an army! My biggest tip here is definitely, less is more! It’s that extra handful that always fails me. So find a small mug, test how full it needs to be for your perfect portion and stick with it, it will save you money!

5. The Wok.

If you don’t already own one, go and buy one. You can cook pretty much anything in a wok and fairly quickly as well. Instead of taking with you 1 big pan, 1 small pan, a frying pan and casserole dish, just take 1 large pan and 1 wok (just make sure you take care of the non-stick bottom.)

6. Condiments.

If you are, like me, a condiment fan then you won’t need telling, but if you aren’t I suggest that the next time you have a spare couple of quid you buy a new condiment. Condiments either make your dinner even tastier or hide any culinary mistakes.

I hope these tips can prevent you from making the same mistakes that others and I have, and also save you some pennies! If you can conquer the kitchen, it leaves more time to concentrate on what is really important when embarking on your academic career…socialising!

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