Super easy group meals for first-time cooks

If uni is the first time you’re cooking for yourself, the aisles in Tesco can be pretty daunting. This is a perfect time to stray away from the constant desire and need for takeaway and fire up the hob and become an amateur chef. Here are four really easy recipes I make all the time – they’re cheap, healthy (mostly), and can go a long way (just make sure you stock up on these essential products before you start anything).

Tuscan Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 leek
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 400g chopped tomatoes (1 tin)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 900ml chicken stock (2 oxo stock cubes)
  • 400g of soaked beans – cannellini, borlotti, kidney (1 can of either)
  • 250g spinach

Method

  1. Fry the onion, carrot and leek for 10 minutes (until soft), then add garlic for another minute.
  2. Add tomatoes, puree and stock to the veggies.
  3. Mash ½ the beans and add. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining un-mashed beans and spinach, simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • TIP: I add lentils to thicken it further.

Basic Tomato Sauce

This can be used as a pasta sauce, a lasagne sauce, and even in stews! It’s cheap to make, and if you freeze it, you can have quick and easy meals for those days when you don’t have time to make dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 courgette (optional, good if you want lots of veggies)
  • One tub of passata
  • 1 tsp of tomato puree
  • 1  tsp marmite (optional but adds a richer flavour)
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1tsp oregano 

Method

  1. Fry the onion and garlic until they have browned, then add the basil and oregano for 1 minute.
  2. Pour in the passata, and the tomato puree. Then add in the finely chopped carrot.
  3. Stir in the marmite, and leave the sauce to simmer until the desired thickness is reached (if it becomes too thick then add a bit of water).
  4. When all of the vegetables are soft it’s ready to eat.

Appealing Banana Bread

This one is great at uni! For two years now my housemates have been leaving their overripe bananas out for me so that in the evening I can make us all banana bread. It’s quite amusing coming down in the morning to a load of bananas – a kind of friendly hint that they want cake!

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 65g softened butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • ¾ lemon rind (optional, but better if added)
  • 3 (over)ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp wheatgerm (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a tin.
  2. Beat butter, caster sugar and lemon rind until light and fluffy.
  3. Add mashed bananas and eggs.
  4. Mix in the baking powder, flour, cinnamon and wheatgerm.
  5. Put into your tin and bake for 50 – 60 minutes. Then cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out the loaf!

Never-Fail Birthday Cake 

This is a quick-to-make cake that is near impossible to mess-up. At uni, there are always loads of birthdays so cakes will be pouring out of your kitchen! You might as well enter Bake Off at the end of first term.

Ingredients

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a cake tin.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together and bake for 25 – 30 minutes (to check it’s baked put a knife/skewer through the centre of the cake, if the skewer comes out clean then it is baked).
  • TIP: To make a chocolate cake, substitute ¼ of the flour for cocoa powder!

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