Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook

As a student foodie, I can really relate to Sam. He’s passionate about getting students into the kitchen and cooking delicious food. Many have tried, many have failed. From my experience, I’ve learnt there is only so much you can do to persuade students to really give it a stab in the kitchen. I came to realise that cooking isn’t for everyone, not everybody enjoys it as I do – for me it’s my escape and way of relaxing after a long busy day at uni, whereas for others, it’s their idea of hell and want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.

After reading this book, I could see Sam was trying really hard to excite and engage with students. However, with great intentions mind, as a student cookbook it’s not very realistic in terms of the cost of ingredients he uses as well as the abilities and methods of cooking. The book really does alienate those students with little experience in the kitchen whilst appealing to those who have.

However, there are some great bits about Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook…

  • A different range of cuisines (Spanish tapas, American, Tex-Mex, Indian, French, Greek) with some interesting recipes that are designed for sharing with your flatmates. I knocked up a big bowl of classic French onion soup (see picture) and it went down a treat!

  • It has a good recipe key that indicates how many the recipe will feed, whether it’s fast to cook and a cost key (skint to flush).

  • A few great skint recipes that don’t skimp on taste!

  • Range of hot toasties, sandwiches and wraps that cost a fraction of those you can buy at your local supermarket or takeaway.

  • Great drinks section that many other student cookbooks lack. It includes different ways to up your water intake as well as some great cold/flu/hangover remedies. Try the hot ginger tea the morning after the night before – it works a treat. Oh, and not to mention some drinks to try the night before! You can’t go wrong with a classic Bloody Mary.

  • One of the best vegetarian sections I’ve seen whilst flicking through numerous student cookbooks, Sam really does make an effort to create exciting, innovative vegetarian recipes.

I admire Sam’s enthusiasm however I do think he’s missed out on one of the most important aspects of a student cookbook. The budget. I came to wonder what sort of budget he was living on as a student with recipes such as fillet steak, seared duck breast and moules marinére… Not your average student budget I’m sure! Not only are many of the recipes out of budget but also slightly unrealistic for beginners – if anything it will scare them and send them running in the opposite direction of the kitchen.

This doesn’t take away from the fact that the recipes themselves sound and look delicious, and you can see in every single page the effort that Sam has gone to in creating this book. So in conclusion, I think it’s definitely worth a read if you’re quite experienced in the kitchen and your budget isn’t very restricted – that way you can really make the most of Sam’s recipes.

A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe

My wildcard and personal favourite of all the books – I’ve saved the best till last. Whist A Girl Called Jack doesn’t call itself a student cookbook; it has all the makings of one. Healthy, nutritious, clever cooking with a miniscule budget of £10 a week in a very small, limited kitchen. Sound like something you want to be involved in? Me too.

After reading about how she came about writing the book, I was amazed. She went from shopping the high end range of products to scraping together pennies for the value supermarket ranges after getting into financial difficulty. I saw some similarity in my transition from living at home where there was always food in the cupboards and often branded goods filled the fridge – then suddenly as a student trying to save as much as possible and having no choice other than the value ranges. It was a massive reality check.

This book gives you faith that even when life is looking grim and the lack of funds get you down (especially for students – no money, no going out!) you can always come home and cook up something utterly delicious in the comfort of your weekly budget.

Here are some of the many reasons why A Girl Called Jack needs to be in your life!

  • All the recipes use basic yet useful and multipurpose ingredients that are accessible to all students. Somehow Jack has created 100 recipes within the realms of these ingredients!

  • Ways of saving a bit here and a bit there on your shopping with cheaper alternatives.

  • Excellent and innovative ways on using up your leftover bread, vegetables, garlic, eggs etc.

  • Easy to read, straight to the point recipes. No faffing about with what length to chop your vegetables, just simple recipes that everyone can understand.

  • Some great bread recipes – I think I’m the only student who spends their Monday mornings knocking up a fresh wholemeal loaf. Jack shows just how easy it is and that you don’t need fancy equipment just abit of elbow grease and patience, and believe me its 100% worth the effort.

  • Great food photography that makes you want to jump in and eat the whole bowl. What I quite like particularly is that it’s not a picture book full of fancy photos, there’s just a few dotted here and there – a little imagination is needed.

  • The recipes are not bland or boring, as I’ve found many other student cookbooks are full of recipes that are simply drab with no imagination and are more like what you would feed your seven year old. Jack doesn’t call her book a student cookbook, and appeals to anyone who wants to cook delicious food whilst on a tight budget.

If I had to criticise anything about this book against the others it would be that the recipes don’t have a key to indicate the level of difficulty (although none of the recipes are that complicated), how long it takes to prepare/cook and cost per serving.

Besides that – I have nothing to complain about! This cookbook is completely under rated and more people need to be made aware of this little gem. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m Jack’s biggest fan and love everything she and the book stands for! It’s a must for any student no matter the ability, and it’s even cheap to buy – Amazon is selling 2nd hand copies for as little as £5.