Student Cookbooks: Which is the one for you?
Published Monday, 20 October, 2014 by Beth Bradshaw
Starting to run out of ideas in the kitchen? Sick of having spaghetti bolognese every other night? Mum refusing your calls because she’s sick of the endless amount of ‘how do I cook this’ questions? Thought so. Seeing as you’re only about one month into this cooking for yourself malarkey, maybe it’s time you got some help in the kitchen – that’s not from your mother.
Here at Studentrecipes.com we’ve picked out a few of the best and top-selling student cookbooks and over the next few weeks I’ll be scrutinising their recipes, layout and student-friendly vibes. So whether you’re a student chef or complete novice in the kitchen, we’ll find the right cookbook for you!
The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook by Silvana Franco
Silvana herself has Italian origins, and this is very much reflected in this book with a wide range of authentic Italian recipes such as pasta primavera, Napolitano and meatball tagliatelle – this is handy, as it’s one of the most popular cuisines amongst students so she’s already onto a winner there! However, she also includes some less familiar authentic recipes such as pasta fagoli – a sort of pasta bean stew/soup. Really easy to make and incredibly cheap, adding beans to bulk out any pasta dish is really economical and also will be sure to fill you up.
Here are a few best bits about The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook…
Wide range of pasta and rice recipes – great as they are such staples in your average student diet.
Includes recipes that incorporate leftovers, for example: pasta omelette and cheesy pasta puff for those (most) students who tend to cook more pasta than necessary and either end up throwing it away or forcing it down their throat so they don’t feel guilty about the waste.
Some different, more appealing ways to eat your vegetables – important now your parents aren’t there watching over you to make sure you get your 5-a-day! Try the cauliflower pasta with crispy crumbs or pasta and aubergine layer – even as an aubergine hater I enjoyed this dish very much, after all, everything tastes better with pasta and a sprinkle of cheese!
An opening section on the theory behind a healthy diet – this will be really useful for those students who would like to be able to keep on top of their diet whilst at university, which can be really hard on a budget. Not only does the book explain the purpose of the main food groups but a summary of top tips to keep in mind whilst food shopping, cooking and eating.
Franco also includes a section on food safety in the kitchen. If you’ve read my blog from last week, you’ll know how important this is in keeping the tummy bugs away.
Promotes cooking with seasonal fruit and vegetables – which can be very economical.
Recipes use familiar ingredients that are typically found in a student kitchen.
Indicates how many servings per recipe, how long it takes to make and whether it is suitable for vegetarians. It also describes the recipe as either easy or really easy!
However, The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook doesn’t contain any pictures or illustrations for recipes which can be off putting for some seeing as we eat with our eyes most of the time! Many students need inspiration to persuade them to get in the kitchen, which is where this book may fall down. Recipes don’t include any costings either, which are quite important when you’re trying to stick to a strict budget.
Be warned, as there are some very weird and…wonderful recipes – not sure I’ll be trying out the orange rice or egg and lemon soup anytime soon! There are also a few slightly adventurous recipes, along with a few ingredients that may not feature in your average student kitchen cupboards. I tried out the paella, but found a few ways to cut the cost out – buy a bag of frozen mixed seafood rather than fresh and buy a ring of chorizo instead of chicken, it will work out cheaper and keep for months in your fridge and a little goes a long way in a range of dishes.
So, is The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook really that useful? Definitely. I’d recommend this book to any aspiring student chef who wants to learn the basics, or a student who simply wants something different for their tea that doesn’t make much effort, take too long or cost too much.
The Really Hungry Student Cookbook by Ryland Peters & Small
To some students, this book may look a little ‘chef-y’ at a first glance with its fancy hardback cover and arty food photography. Whilst this may appeal to some foodie students, it may also be slightly daunting to others. This whole vibe continues throughout the book as well as trying to use ‘down with the kids’ language, for example, one section is called ‘party on dude’, another called ‘chill while you grill’. Need I say more?
In saying that, there are some great bits about The Really Hungry Student Cookbook...
Great ‘Taste Tips’ section at the start of the book – a go to when you need some help, for example, what to do when it tastes bland or you’ve added too much salt – it’s got the answer.
Advice on storing and preparing ingredients.
Something that other student cookbooks don’t include – kitchen wisdom and know-how. Seeing as many students have barely stepped foot in the kitchen before moving to university, it’s going to be pretty handy. Simple but useful things such as making the most of your kitchen space (which, in university halls is often limited) and removing unwanted odours from kitchen equipment.
Some great recipes for feeding your flat or housemates – lots of Mexican influenced foods such as quesadillas and burritos, which are great for sharing and everyone can get stuck in. There are also some traditional winter warmers such as the steak, leek and mushroom pie and a lovely sausage bean stew.
A small breakfast section called ‘badass breakfasts’ – some minimal effort recipes for when you’re running late or laid back Saturday mornings. I tried out the Nutty Honey Granola, it worked out great as spending that little bit of time saved me bags of time when I was in a rush in the morning – simply serve with yoghurt, milk or fruit. It’s delicious and keeps you going all morning!
The book itself is very attractive – the design throughout the book is great and gets you inspired and excited to try something new!
With those positives in mind, take note that there are a few things lacking in the book itself. There are no prep or cooking times listed, neither is there any indication for vegetarians or whether the recipe is easy, moderate or difficult.
There are also some unrealistic and unpractical recipes for students – one breakfast recipe is called ‘Heuvos Rancheros’ which is basically minced beef, beans, tomatoes, chillies served in a tortilla wrap with a fried egg and lime. To me, that doesn’t scream breakfast. It’s definitely not the sort of thing I’d want to eat in the morning let alone have time to make.
Many of the recipes include ingredients that students are unlikely to be familiar with let alone use, and some that are slightly out of budget for most of us students. For example, who’s heard of turmeric or tamarind paste? Or do you always keep a handy jar of anchovies or capers? Didn’t think so!
Finally, the healthy section is slightly uninspired too – barley and carrot risotto doesn’t sound very appealing neither does it look it. It’s already a struggle to get students eating healthy, and this book doesn’t give an incentive to students to start! So if you’re looking to start cooking healthier, I wouldn’t recommend this book as it wouldn’t get you very far!
I would, however, recommend The Really Hungry Student Cookbook to anyone that’s confident in the kitchen and wants to try out new, adventurous recipes. You’ll need a healthy store cupboard to do so, but it would be worth it. That’s not to say aspiring student cooks shouldn’t read this book, there are just a few intricate and detailed recipes that could easily confuse you and get you in a fluster!
Next week I’ll be reviewing The Vegetarian Nosh Student Cookbook as well as The Healthy Eating Student Cookbook so stay tuned!