Samantha Watkins at her dinner table

Our student blogger, Sam Watkins, shares her favourite recipes that are simple and tasty!

  • 12 March 2021
  • 4 minute read

It can seem like we’re all getting into a boring relationship with food at the moment, without being able to treat ourselves by going out for food and having a night off from cooking. I’ve written some of my favourite recipes below that are a mix of my go-to comfort food, something a little fancy and some basic meals that are quick and simple to make.

Cooking at Uni

 

I’ve always loved cooking, let that be baking cakes or cooking dinner for my friends. I find cooking therapeutic and it’s something to look forward to during the day knowing I’m going to make a tasty meal.

Throughout uni I’ve found meal prepping and planning has saved me time and money. Knowing what’s in my fridge/cupboards and then making a shopping list means I don’t buy random things that I won’t use and end up being wasted. It’s great to get into a habit of making a shopping list weekly and knowing you have enough food to get you through the week.

This is what my usual shopping list looks like weekly to give some inspiration!

Shopping List

  • Long grain rice
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Knorr rich beef stock
  • Taco shells 
  • Orange squash
  • Seeded loaf
  • Cereal
  • Flatbreads (Add passata and your favourite topping and cook in oven for homemade pizza)

  • Wedges

  • Pack of 6 beef tomatoes
  • Mixed leaf salad bag
  • Easy peel satsumas
  • Red onions
  • Mixed peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Corn on the cob
  • Mange tout
  • Spinach 
  • Broccoli

  • Chicken fillets/ thighs
  • Chorizo
  • Pork mince
  • Beef mince
  • Milk
  • Grated cheese
  • Olive butter spread
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream

  • Cajun seasoning
  • Chilli flakes
  • Chilli powder
  • Chicken seasoning 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Paprika
  • Cumin 
  • Garlic/ garlic powder
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce

  • Popcorn
  • Crisps
  • Porridge
  • Raisins
  • Chocolate bag
  • Biscuits to dunk in tea

Being a student means you need to know how to cook and make sure you’re feeding yourself, which on some days can be harder than others when you can’t be bothered to cook. However, on the days where you feel up to it, try out one of my favourite recipes below if any take your fancy. 

Also, I’ve recently started cooking with my flatmates, and we have a Sunday roast all together. It’s a lovely thing to do and works out to be around £5/6 each so is very affordable!

All of the recipes are for either 2 people of 4 people. I prefer to cook larger portions so that I have leftovers for the next day, or to freeze a portion. 

Comfort Food

Cottage Pie

I always find a big cottage pie with veg and gravy as my go-to on a cold day. I like to add chives into the mash for something a little extra, as well as adding Worcestershire sauce, chilli flakes, red wine and rosemary to the meat mixture.

cottage pie image

Cottage Pie

Serves 4/ 90 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 diced red or white onion
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • Handful of frozen veg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp Chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp Rosemary 
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 tspGarlic granules
  • 1 tbsp of tomato purée
  • Small glass of red wine (optional)
  • Beef stock cube
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 75 ml of milk
  • Knob of butter
  • 50g grated cheese

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the minced beef and fry until browned. Drain any fat off and set aside
  2. Add diced onion and garlic on a medium heat.

  3. Add the chopped carrots and a handful of frozen veg. I like to use any frozen veg in my freezer like green beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower.

  4. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the veg is soft

  5. Return the beef to the pan and add salt and pepper, chilli flakes, rosemary, paprika, garlic granules and a tablespoon of tomato purée

  6. Add the red wine, if including, and a beef stock cube dissolved in 400 ml, with 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and a few bay leaves

  7. Simmer for 40 minutes, uncovered, so that the mixture can reduce and gravy can thicken. Increase the heat if the mixture is still too runny.

  8. To make the mash, peel and chop the potatoes and add to cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and cook until soft.

  9. Drain the potatoes and mash with a knob of butter, 75 ml of milk and 50g of grated cheese. I like to add chopped chives too.

  10. Spoon the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish and spoon the mash on top. Sprinkle with paprika on top (an you can add extra cheese)

  11. Cook at 220C for 30 minutes until golden.

Chilli

Chilli con carne has got to be up there as one of my favourite meals. I love adding cocoa powder for a richer taste, as well as one of Knorr’s rich beef stock pots for extra flavour.

I always pair my chilli’s with cheesy Doritos and lots of sour cream and guacamole too.

chilli image

Chilli

Serves 2 / 60 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 diced red or white onion
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • Chilli powder 
  • Paprika
  • Garlic granules
  • 1 tbsp of tomato purée
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of kidney beans
  • Small glass of red wine (optional)
  • Beef stock cube
  • 2 tbsps cocoa powder 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Rice
  • Serve with guacamole, sour cream and cheesy doritos

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the minced beef and fry until browned. Drain any fat off.
  2.  Add diced onion and garlic on a medium heat and cook until softened.
  3. Add salt and pepper, chilli flakes, chilli powder, paprika, garlic granules and a tablespoon of tomato purée and cook through. 
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, tin of kidney beans, red wine, if including, and a beef stock cube dissolved in 100ml of water.
  5. Add 2 tbsps of cocoa powder and a few bay leaves.
  6. Simmer on a medium low heat for 40 minutes, uncovered, so that the mixture can reduce. Increase the heat if the mixture is still too runny. Remember to stir regularly. 
  7. Boil the rice according to your preference and serve alongside the chilli.

Quick and Simple

Chicken and Chorizo rice

I love the flavour in this meal from the mix of the chorizo, Cajun seasoning and chicken stock.

chicken and chorizo rice

Chicken and Chorizo rice

Serves 2 / 35 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 2 chicken breasts chopped into pieces
  • Serves 2 / 35 minutes
  • 1 diced red or white onion
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 1 red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • Cajun Seasoning
  • Paprika
  • Garlic granules
  • 50g chorizo sliced
  • 1 tbsp of tomato purée
  • 100 g long grain rice
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Chicken stock cube in 300 ml water

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the chopped chicken breast pieces. Cook until golden.
  2. Remove and set aside.

  3. Add diced onion, garlic and chopped red pepper on a medium heat.

  4. Add the slices of chorizo along with salt and pepper, chilli flakes, Cajun seasoning, paprika ,garlic granules and 1 tbsp of tomato purée. Cook for 5 minutes.

  5. Stir the chicken back in. Add the rice, tin of tomatoes and chicken stock cube dissolved in 300 ml of water.

  6. Cover the mixture and cook on a medium heat. Stir regularly and cook until the rice is tender (around 20 minutes)

Teriyaki Pork Mince with Mange Tout

I rarely used to eat pork mince but find it a great alternative to beef with great flavour that pairs so well with teriyaki sauce.

teriyaki pork mince

Teriyaki Pork Mince

Serves 2 / 25 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 250g pork mince
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp Garlic granules
  • 1 tsp Ground ginger
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 100g rice/egg noodles (or can serve with rice)
  • 1 tbsp of tomato purée
  • Teriykai packet sauce
  • 200 g Mange tout
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce 
  • Beef stock cube
  • Chopped chives- to serve

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok/pan and add the pork mince and stir fry until lightly browned. Drain any fat off.
  2. Add salt and pepper, chilli flakes, 1tsp garlic granules and 1 tsp ground ginger to the meat mixture and stir through.

  3. Add diced red onion and garlic on a medium heat and cook until softened.

  4. Cook the noodles or rice separately, according to their packet instructions. Drain them and set aside.

  5. Add the tomato purée to the wok mixture and stir through.

  6. Add the teriyaki packet sauce to the wok.

  7. Add the mange tout to the wok.

  8. Mix the 2 tbsp soy sauce with 250ml of beef stock and add to the mixture. 

  9. Simmer and stir frequently for a few minutes. You can cook for longer depending on whether you prefer the mixture to thicken.

Fake Nandos

I love trying to recreate my favourite takeaway meals. This mix of seasoning won’t quite be the same as Nandos but it’s great to pretend! My favourite sides are peri-salted chips and corn on the cob. I like to cook the corn in the oven in chilli flakes and butter wrapped in tin foil.

fake nandos image

Fake Nandos

Serves 2 / 40 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • Chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts/ chicken thighs
  • 4 small corn on the cobs
  • Chips/ Wedges
  • Tender stem broccoli 
  • Chopped chives

  1. Pre heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Make your marinade by mixing 2 tbsp of oil with chilli flakes, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, juice of 1 lime, 1 tsp of paprika, 1 tsp Cajun seasoning, 1 tsp of oregano, salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Score the chicken breasts/ thighs and add to the marinade mixture, ensuring all the chicken is coated. 
  4. If you have the time you can add the chicken to the marinade overnight in the fridge, or if you’re rushed for the time just add it whilst the oven pre heats for 5 minutes. 
  5. Place the chicken onto a roasting tray and place in the pre heated oven.
  6. Butter the corn on the cob and add chilli flakes. Wrap the corn on the cob in tin foil and cook in the oven. 
  7. Cook both the chicken and the corn on the cob for 30 minutes in the oven. 
  8. Cook the chips or wedges in the oven according to packet instructions. I like to add peri-salt in the last 5 minutes. 
  9. In the last 10 minutes boil water and cook the tender stem broccoli to taste. 
  10. Serve the chicken alongside the corn, broccoli and chips. You can squeeze lime juice on top of the chicken and scatter chopped chives.

Worth the time

Pulled Chicken Tacos

I love this recipe and have tried it with beef and pork mince, or go veggie and use a variety of mushrooms. I love using crunchy tacos, but you can also try it with tortilla wraps or soft tacos.

pulled chicken tacos image

Pulled Chicken Tacos

Serves 2 / 60 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 diced red or white onion
  • 1 whole red/yellow pepper
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 2 whole chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp Garlic granules
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • Taco Seasoning packet
  • 6 beef tomatoes chopped in quarters
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • Salsa- 4 tablespoons in the mixture, and then extra in your tacos
  • Taco shells
  • Salad
  • Guacamole/ Sour Cream
  • Grated Cheese

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add diced onion and garlic on a medium heat.
  2. Then add a bell pepper (of any colour!)
  3. After 2-3 minutes, add two chicken breasts to the pan.
  4. Add salt and pepper, paprika, garlic granules, and a packet of taco seasoning (You can also add in some chopped jalapenos if you want a bit of a kick!)
  5. Wait for the chicken to cook through on both sides 
  6. Add 6 chopped beef tomatoes, one beef stock cube dissolved in 200 ml of water and 4 tablespoons of salsa.
  7. Leave the mixture for 30-40 minutes and your chicken will have cooked through and the mixture will have reduced and thickened. You can leave the mixture for longer and reduce the heat and leave it to simmer.
  8. Shred the chicken breasts using two forks.
  9. Cook the taco shells according to the time on the packet.
  10. Assemble your taco shells! I like to use salad, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and cheese.

Chicken and Chorizo Traybake

I use boneless and skinless chicken thighs, but you can use chicken breasts if you prefer.

chicken and chorizo traybake

Chicken and Chorizo Traybake

Serves 2 / 60 minutes

  • 2-3 tablespoons
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • Chopped new potatoes
  • Chorizo chunks (chop up a chorizo log)
  • Orange zest
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp Oregano

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 190C
  2. Add the oil to your tray

  3. Chop the new potatoes and add them to the tray

     
  4. Chop the onion into quarters and add to the tray

     
  5. Place the chicken thighs on top

     
  6. Season the chicken, add the oregano and orange zest all over

     
  7. Cook in the oven for 50 minutes

     
  8. Add the chopped chorizo and cook for 10 minutes longer

     
  9. Take out the oven and enjoy!

Meatball Pasta Bake

This tomato meatball pasta bake is great alongside any green veg. I used multicoloured pasta in that picture, explaining the green pasta!

meatball pasta bake

Meatball Pasta Bake

Serves 2 / 60 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 12 beef meatballs tablespoon of oil
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • Tablespoon of tomato purée
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  • Paprika
  • Chilli powder
  • Oregano
  • Garlic granules 
  • Herbes de provence
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • One beef stock cube 
  • 120 g pasta
  • 125 g mozzarella ball (or you can use grated mozzarella)

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add diced onion, garlic and meatballs on a medium heat.
  2. Fry the meatballs until golden and drain off any fat if there is any.
  3. Chop mushroom and fry until soft
  4. Stir in a tablespoon of tomato purée
  5. Season with salt and pepper, chilli flakes, paprika, chilli powder, oregano, garlic granules and herbes de provence
  6. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a beef stock cube dissolved in 100 ml of water. The mixture will look quite watery but keep it simmering for around 40 minutes and the mixture will reduce and thicken
  7. Boil pasta and cook according to instruction.
  8. Drain and mix the pasta with the meatball mix. Spoon into a heat-proof dish
  9. Break up the mozzarella and place on top of the mix
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden

 I hope you try out any one of the recipes and enjoy them!

Thank you for reading! Speak soon, Sam.

If you have any questions about my experience or there’s a topic you want me to write about in my next blog, please email me at samantha.watkins@port.ac.uk.

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