Cookery hints for students and teenagers

Many students are now finding out just how good they had it at home, arriving at the dinner table just as the plates are served and then out of there at the speed of light once the last morsel is eaten.

Student life can be bleak unless you have a hefty weekly allowance. The mealtime choices are re-heat processed rubbish, starve, or learn how to cook. Of course there are exceptions, those of you who have always liked to cook and learned in the kitchen at home will now be glad you did. For those of you who need to learn some basics, and perhaps create something special to impress someone, there are some guidelines I would recommend and also some sources of information and recipes.

Avoid jars of sauces. The supermarkets are overflowing with them. They are mega high in salt and very expensive. Make your own sauces, for example a simple pasta sauce is made with some onions, tomatoes, and a few fresh herbs. If making a curry, bolognaise, or chili then be sure to prepare enough for several meals and freeze individual servings in used take-away containers or plastic bags.

Watch out for special offers. Every major supermarket has an area where they offload items that may be a bit damaged. Call in to your local butcher or vegetable shop and ask for help, explain that you are a poor student and need to be pointed in the direction of good value, special offers, etc. Don’t try to emulate Gordon Ramsay, Richard Corrigan, or any TV chefs, and don’t worry about making mistakes, however, a good tip is to lay off the booze until the cooking is finished.

There is a teenage cookbook author called Sam Stern. He has written about five books even though he himself is still a teenager. The two books I looked at are called Get Cooking and Sam Stern’s Student Cook Book. They are written for the student or teenager who has no previous cooking experience. The recipes are hard to fault and many have a ‘variation’ section included which allows you to make the same recipe with different styles, eg, vegetarian. I asked two teenagers to look at the books and some of the recipes. Their comments were that the pictures of the author were a little cheesy, however they are well written and the recipes they followed worked out perfectly. All the recipes have a legend which tells you how many it will feed, an indication of cost, whether it is vegetarian or with a vegetarian option, and if it is fast to cook. All the basics are there — how to separate eggs, how to marinate, how to chop an onion, melt chocolate, cook a roast, and how to whisk eggs. Ideas are there for what basic equipment to buy, what ingredients to stock up on, and even a section on how to get food free.

My favourite of the two books is the Student Cook Book and I think it will feed you all through college and give you the basics for cooking for the rest of your life. It is available in Eason’s, price €13.

Finally a date for your diary. The Malt House restaurant has a special offer for Valentine’s night and Valentine’s weekend, a free glass of prosecco before dinner plus a free after dinner drink. There is a three course menu for €35 and a two course menu for €30. To book call (091 ) 567866.

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