Like many young adults, Jess has recently become a full-time student. In the pursuit of her goals, she has left her parental home in Sheffield and moved to London, where she is currently undertaking a foundation degree at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). Yay Jess! Anyway, at 18 years old, it’s the first experience she’s had of living independently, which apart from anything else, means having to shop and cook for herself on a daily basis.
And it seems as though she’s been doing a pretty good job. Reports suggest that she’s using fresh ingredients, is making a lot of soup, and has discovered the convenience of cous cous. Yet despite her obvious capabilities, she has asked if I would provide her with some suggestions of quick, affordable and healthy meals that she could prepare easily after a long day at college. Actually, to be fair, she asked me for one suggestion. But after careful consideration I have decided to respond by providing her with a series of meals that she can prepare over the course of a week. Poor Jess. I hope she isn’t going to regret making her modest request.
Anyway, in an attempt to provide something that might actually be of use, I began by asking Jess a series of questions, which told me the following: she goes shopping once a week, and has very little time for cooking. She cooks for herself (rather than with / for her house-mates) and has a basic, but functional kitchen. She has limited storage (but this does include a cupboard shelf, as well as some fridge and freezer space), which is something that she has in common with most students living in shared accommodation. She also has a modest – but perfectly reasonable – budget for her food shopping, and is a really, really unfussy eater. Jess wants to eat healthily, and be able to manage her food / eating so that she doesn’t end-up wasting fresh ingredients. She also asked me about planning for lunchtime – LAMDA doesn’t have a canteen, but she does have access to a fridge, microwave and kettle.
Working within these parameters, I’ve devised what I hope will be an interesting and practical series of recipes that will be at least of some use to Jess, making healthier versions of what are reported to be some of the most popular student meals in the UK.
And what better way to start than with a home-made ‘pot noodle’…
I was actually really surprised by this – not only were the noodles and vegetables cooked, it also tasted pretty good. The ‘pot’ that you use does need to be covered once the water is added, and the kind of preserving jar that I’ve used here is ideal. The wide opening also means that it’s easy to eat from. If you don’t already have one then it could be a useful investment – mine cost £2.75 from a supermarket. Alternatively, you could use a small bowl or even a large mug (it’s important not to use something too big) and cover tightly with cling film.
It takes just a few minutes to prepare the vegetables, and then you leave it to ‘cook’ on its own. It really is the ultimate quick meal, and ideal for supper if you’ve had a long day, or just don’t have the time to cook. If you make it in this kind of jar, then it’s also pretty portable, so with access to a kettle, then it could make a great weekday lunch too. The finished product is really a noodle soup though, so make sure that you’ve got a spoon handy.
Recipe: Home-Made ‘Pot Noodle’
1 nest of thin, quick cook egg noodles
make sure that you use the type that will soften in boiling water without the need for pan-cooking – just check the packet for cooking instructions
¼ vegetable stock cube
if you wrap the rest in foil it will last for a few days and can be used for making soup or in other recipes
1 small carrot, peeled and very finely sliced
3-4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
6 sugar snap peas / green beans / or frozen peas
you can use whatever you have in the fridge, but if you’re using the sugar snap peas or green beans then slice them into small pieces
1 leaf of spring greens or green cabbage, stalk removed and finely shredded
I used a handful of spinach leaves, but again you can use whatever you’ve got
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
¼ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
You can just omit this if – like Jess – you’re not keen on chilli
Juice of ½ lime
Put all the ingredients, except the soy sauce and lime, in a ‘pot’.
Pour over boiling water to just cover everything, and press the ingredients down.
Cover and leave for 8-10 minutes, stirring once during that time.
Add the soy sauce and lime juice to taste, and eat.