30th September 2016
Students: Affordable vegan cooking
Venturing to university as an independent adolescent can be exciting and daunting. Fending for yourself and trying to organise every aspect of your life can be a lot to take on, and let’s face it, a whole 10 years has passed since I left home for the same university adventure, but I can guarantee cooking and eating right is easier than ever. Freshers week is all about finding new friends, establishing yourself and joining societies of interest, but it’s important to maintain your health and wellbeing. As a young vegan, accessibility to affordable foods is key in prioritising your own nutritional intake, as well as sharing with new friends. If cooking experience is limited, have no fear – mealtimes should be easy, quick and as low-cost as possible. This is why I have compiled a simple supermarket guide. If you have these basic items in your cupboard and freezer at any time, you will be able to make a range of satisfying meals and snacks whenever required.
The store cupboard
Stock your cupboard up as much as possible – these items will have a long shelf life and can last you for months if needed.
- Dried beans and lentils: Dried green lentils don’t need soaking overnight, however black turtle beans are super hearty and high in protein for stews, soups, chilli and homemade burgers
- Tinned baked beans: A pre-made staple to top toast, a jacket potato or to be part of a cooked breakfast (with grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and meat-free sausages)
- Peanut butter: Nut butters are not only great on toast for breakfast or a snack, but you can make easy satay sauces for stir fries or curries when mixed with coconut milk and spices (see below for a simple Thai noodle soup recipe)
- Oats: Warming porridge for breakfast can set you up for the day (oats and milk over the hob or in a microwave), or fuel your mind with simple baked flapjacks for study sessions and late nights
- Long-life milk: Long-life milks from the supermarket aisles will last longer and you can make the most of stocking up with supermarket offers to save the pennies (often 3 cartons for £3 for example)
- Vegetable stock cubes: Add to super-quick soups, sauces, curries and stews to make anything taste comforting
- Chopped tomatoes: Not just tomatoes on toast or part of a cooked breakfast, make your own pasta sauces, soups and chilli by slowly cooking with garlic, onion and your chosen vegetables and/or meat substitute
- Dried grains – rice, cous cous, pasta: Make your packed lunches, such as pasta salads, homemade sushi or spiced cous cous
If you get assigned more than one drawer in the freezer, congratulations! Space is usually limited so freeze wisely.
- Sliced bread: Simply toast as required, or defrost for sandwiches – make the most of the reduced bread from the supermarkets!
- Meat-free products such as sausages and mince: Cook from frozen as required – sausage sandwiches, roast dinners, bolognese, cooked breakfasts, spaghetti and ‘meatballs’, chilli, moussaka, etc – the possibilities are endless
- Frozen vegetables: The supermarkets have a great selection of frozen vegetables nowadays and they often work out cheaper than some fresh produce, with the benefit of minimal wastage – simply cook the portion you require from frozen
Thai noodle broth (Serves 2)
1 tablespoon vegetable/sunflower oil
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
1 large handful green beans (from frozen)
1 large handful sweetcorn (from frozen)
5 chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
5 spring onions, sliced diagonally into small thin pieces
1 vegetable stock cube
1 litre boiling water
1 sheet egg noodles (dried)
Optional: 1 handful of cashew nuts or sesame seeds
In a large saucepan heat the cooking oil for a couple of minutes and then add the Thai paste, green beans, sweetcorn, mushrooms and spring onions. Cook for around 5-7 minutes on a medium heat until all the vegetables are soft.
Boil the kettle and carefully measure 1 litre into a jug, then crumble a vegetable stock cube into the water and stir. Add this stock into the saucepan, along with a sheet of egg noodles (and cashew nuts if desired).
Gently simmer for 3-4 minutes before serving.
Basic pasta sauce (Serves 2)
1 tablespoon vegetable/sunflower oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/minced
1 onion, finely diced as small as possible
Optional: 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (with herbs if possible)
2 tablespoons tomato puree
In a saucepan, heat the cooking oil for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic and onion. Cook for around 5 minutes until soft and lightly golden, then add the vinegar to cook out.
After another 2 minutes, add the tomatoes and puree. Leave to gently simmer for 35 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to avoid burning.
Serve with pasta, make into a bolognese by adding mince, or simply add a tin of mixed spicy beans for a bean chilli to serve with jacket potatoes or rice.