Many of London’s students inhabit accommodation without the privilege of an oven. For those who love to cook (like myself), this is nothing short of a tragedy – it either means living on soulless microwave meals or spending your student loan on disappointing canteen food.
Do not fear, though – there is a way you can beat this irritating system: cooking decent food for yourself using just a microwave and a fridge.
How, I hear you ask? Well, after spending a couple of months living with just this equipment, my top five tips for creating good, healthy (ish) meals on a budget with limited facilities can be found below:
Sounds dull but trust me, if you mix them in with some kind of sauce/soup and microwave them, they taste just like normal veg, and they are one of your five a day. They also keep forever and are much cheaper than fresh veg – at Tesco they are around 40p a tin, providing 2 portions. Because they don’t need to be refrigerated, you can keep them in your room, so your hallmates don’t steal them. That said, it’s not one of the most likely things they would steal, but you never know.
It’s excusable to think you can’t cook pasta in a microwave, and for many of us, this is one of our staples. Good news – you can actually make it in a microwave. You just need to have a little time and patience, as it’s not instant.
First, fill up a microwaveable container with 1/3 pasta to 2/3 boiling water from your kettle. Stir it up a bit so all the pasta is covered by the water. Put a lid on it, leaving space for air and steam to escape. Cook on high heat for 8-10 minutes, making sure to check the pasta and stir every 2 minutes, being careful not to burn yourself.
Once this is done, drain pasta over the sink as you would normally. Put some sauce on it (homemade or otherwise), stir and put in the microwave for 1 minute. Then add some cheese if desired – and you can also make up the pasta with some tinned veg, just mix it with the boiling water. Bingo! Cheap, decent meal that you won’t feel ripped off by. Just-a like-a Mama used to make.
Warm bread with soup sounds like a great idea, right? Just don’t microwave it. Bread goes strangely chewy that way. It’s like when you reheat takeaway pizzas – nothing like real pizza at all. Though it takes more time, my suggestion here is either toast it, or in the case of pizzas, lay the pizza slice over the top of the toasting sections, and turn the heat on. This way the cheese will melt (so put it on some foil or something to stop it going into the toaster itself), and the crust will still be nice and crunchy. Yum… almost like what you had last night!
Because you’ve got a microwave, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to dull foods – you’ll get frightfully bored. Baked beans just won’t cut it after your 10th can of the week. Try mixing and matching to create your own new meals.
Lastly, this piece of advice is mainly for those like me who love to cook. If you really miss baking, what might satisfy your craving is buying a good quality base cake, and then decorating it yourself with equipment you bring up from home. It’s a small comfort, but use it to tide you over until the next time you’re home.
With a bit of luck, you should be feeling less gutted about only having a microwave now.
One last thing – my friend and I came up with an amazing dessert invention. Get yourself a couple of cookies, and pop them in the microwave for ten to fifteen seconds. Have some ice cream ready, so that you can get the hot cookies out of the microwave and place them over the ice cream. It’s like your very own hot cookie dough dessert!
Next year, I will hopefully be within reach of an oven, so I can share more cooking tips and cheats to help both bakers and novices alike.
Go forth, students, and cook!