What’s cooking?

Hey there stranger! 

In this short* little section, we’re not going to tell you that you should eat healthy, or what that really means because you’re an adult and you’re perfectly capable of googling that; indeed you probably have on multiple occasions. 

Rather we want to give you some tips and advice on how to stay interested in (or start!) cooking during lockdown, but really, your PhD journey. 

As we all know, eating a healthy, balanced diet is a huge contributor not just to physical but also mental health and we need all the boosts we can get on this marathon. 

Because we’re all about sustainability this year, we’d also like to provide resources for those who want to change to a vegan or vegetarian diet.  

* this is a bit tongue in cheek because there are a ton of links here. 

Do you enjoy cooking and just want some more blogs ideas? Just scroll through to Part III

If you like tips on how to stick with cooking and save your sandwich money you’re in the right place. 

Part I 

This may not be a huge problem amongst students, given that we’re typically not the independently wealthy type but if you were a regular at the college canteen and the sandwich aisle, you might want some tips on getting started with cooking. 

So, how do you start a cooking habit? 

  1. Figure out why you’re not cooking – is it doing the dishes? Or time constraints? Does it just not taste as great? 
  1. Address the issue – maybe look for one-pot dinners? Or break up the work and prepare stuff on the weekend? 
  1. Start small – with simpler recipes and don’t think you MUST COOK EVERY DAY (it’s like the gym, every little helps) 
  1. Make larger portions and have leftovers – make use of a freezer if you have one to reduce food waste – yay!  
  1. Grow slowly – like the wonderful little PhD flower that you are 
  1. Start with food you enjoy – not necessarily the healthiest dishes! It takes a while to wean yourself off processed foods and your own cooking might taste a bit bland in the beginning 
  1. Share with others! (well, once COVID has passed) 
  1. Enjoy the process & appreciate the benefits – you might even enjoy spending time in the kitchen and getting your mind off things 
  1. (and check out this piece on medium from where I shamelessly plagiarised this) 

How to stay interested in cooking 

  • Find a food blog, podcast, Instagram account, magazine or cookbook you like and browse every now and then to add dishes to your routine, or maybe tweak an old favourite 
  • Find a blog or cookbook that teaches you the basic techniques of cooking (which vegetable to sauté and which ones you can stew to death; how to combine flavours; how to cook rice); here are 25 Cooking techniques you can learn about, tips for storing vegetables 
  • Pick a dish and try to perfect it – make the best pizza crust or a really amazing 3 bean chilli 
  • Reduce the time you spend on deciding what to cook; for example, dedicate a “pasta day” or a “curry day” per week so at least you won’t have to think about what to cook that day, or make a plan for the week so you know what to buy. 
  • Tell your friends what you’re cooking to share recipes and tips and ridiculous mishaps. Everyone loves a baking fail, but it might still taste great! 
  • If you’re completely stuck for ideas, try this (but be advised *explicit language*) www.whatthefuckshouldimakefordinner.com 

Part II 

Eating on a budget 

  • Cook for two meals – you’ll have leftovers and won’t have to worry about lunch! 
  • Portion control – serve your dish and put away the leftovers, preferably right into the fridge; you won’t be able to get seconds and end up with that “too little for a meal”-sized portion that you’ll then try to finish as well resulting in utter stuffedness! [was that just me?] 
  • Freeze surplus meal components like sauces – bonus points if you freeze them in a ziploc bag lying flat you save space once frozen AND they defrost more quickly; 

but beware, some things don’t freeze well, like most raw vegetables – their cell walls just explode 

leaving you with mush 

  • If you’re trying out a new staple, consider getting a smaller quantity at a bulk store (if you have one near) and you won’t end up sitting on a bag of …freekeh that you don’t like 
  • Ask your mum what to do with a turnip (Blackadder has me believe that this is a very sought-after ingredient in British cuisine) 

Part III 

Do you want to become vegetarian, vegan or generally reduce your animal product consumption? 

There’s plenty of resources out there, but maybe the best place to start is asking a friend or cohort member who’s already made that change. Similarly, there are plenty of reasons to change to a vegan or vegetarian diet, which we, environmentally conscious as we all are, don’t have to repeat here. 

But two of the key lessons I learned from becoming a vegetarian 10 years ago are that 1) it helps to have a buddy or several who can keep you on track, 2) and eating is a habit; it takes time to adjust it. Especially when you’re switching from a diet with maybe quite a bit of processed food to home cooking, which can taste a lot more …bland in the beginning. 

You don’t need to go cold-turkey (excuse the pun) – reduce the number of meals in a day or week where you eat meat/animal products or only have them on special occasions/certain days of the week.  

The non-profit organization Veganuary has lots of resources on their pages, check them out 

  • If you are worried about nutritional challenges and ‘vegan myths’ [although Marmite is for weirdos, fight me!!!! ;)] 
  • Or meal plans to start out on your vegan journey – gluten, nut or soy-free options available! 

Part IV 

And now, bunch of recipe websites that I compiled instead of working on my PhD 

1. Vegan and vegetarian intro: 

Over at Veganuary, there are tons of very pretty pictures of very delicious recipes and you can sign the pledge for a bit of peer pressure – sorry I mean community spirit ;P 

The Vegetarian society has a massive list of recipes here… 

… as does the International Vegetarian Union, who don’t spend 2000 words on what inspired them to make this dish (as opposed to many of the food blogs below); they’ve amassed recipes from basically every regional cuisine and are a good source for Latin American and Caribbean recipes. Gallo pinto, anyone? 

…as does the duo behind Veganlovlie 

2. Cooking on a budget 

Cooking on a bootstrap’s Jack Monroe has been writing really affordable and delicious recipes for a while, and now does vegan, too! There’s also a tab for microwave cooking ;D 

Over at Budget Bytes, they specialise in affordable recipes with few ingredients; they also do meal prep suggestions and one pot meals! 

The Minimalist baker writes recipes that either have 10 ingredients or less, are 1-bowl or 30 minutes and under in prep time and maybe you need to try out their 24 delicious chickpea recipes? 

3. Slightly more involved cooking 

Jenné Claiborne’s blog Sweet Potato Soul has so many recipes and a decidedly soul foody theme (including vegan Chicken and Waffles, for the Americans), some of it being a bit more involved. 

For a more Jamaican flavour, including gluten-free recipes, try out the Jamaican Jerk Cauliflower bowl by Michelle Blackwood. 

If Latin American food is your speed, Mamás Latinas will hook you up with recipes for vegan versions of huevos rancheros, arepas, chilaquiles, ajiaco, … the list goes on and on and on… And needless to say, you don’t have to be a parent to cook their food. 

The peeps of BOSH! Have also clearly invested in food photographer, so treat yourself to some of their recipes here; they do British stuff (like mushroom Wellington) and other cuisines. 

Bad Manners from LA know the biz and certainly catch a lot of attention with their site [a lot has to do with their recent renaming]. I don’t know what to make of the butternut squash chili cheese dip (vegan) but I am here for it, once I find decent tortilla chips and can have friends over again. 

These folks at Love and Lemons have a turnip recipe for you, if you need it; plus it all looks smashing and comes with an extensive vegan & vegetarian section. 

Richa over at Vegan Richa does lots of Indian and other recipes, including gluten- and soy-free dishes… 

…or head over to Cook with Manali for more dals, curries and dosa. All of this looks scrumptious to me [had to use this word once – come on!] 

For a range of vegan Vietnamese dishes pop on over to Lisa’s blog The Viet Vegan. Maybe you want to try her vegan phở, or OK this is England, you probably want some sandwiches 😉 

Nada, of the gorgeous One Arab Veganwill bring you tons of recipes, including one of my favourites, foul mudammas and Moroccan harira soup. 

Ethiopian food is traditionally easy to manoeuvre and once you bought your first bag of berebere, you’ll be good to go for lots of delicious stews (which I, heretically, suggest can also be eaten with rice instead of making your own injera). Check out this blog and this one for a couple recipe suggestions. 

If your hankering for jollof rice or pepper soup keeps you up at night, may I suggest you head over to The Vegan Nigerian and let Tomi Makanjuola guide you through this admittedly not so vegan cuisine. OMG she also has a plantain cookbook and I might buy it. 

4. Now we’re getting a bit crazy 

If you’ve ever wondered how to make your own flat rice noodles, look no further! WoonHeng would love to show you, but don’t worry, there are entirely feasible recipes on there too! Including how to make vegan nước mắm chay (that’s fish sauce), or a vegan stir fry/ oyster sauce. 

If you can get a bit more involved in cooking and like it spicy, Kip cooks vegan Thai food on The Messy Vegan Cook that is absolutely incredible; and by the way if you want to use the totally ok shortcut and buy Thai curry paste, there are vegan options available for yellow, green and red curry from Mae Ploy, typically available in Asian grocery stores! 

This Korean American attorney has set out to prove that Koreans can be vegan, but you should probably love cooking by the time you give her recipes a try. There’s certainly some gochujang paste to be bought, and a lot of (vegan!) kimchi. And don’t hate garlic 😀 

The good thing is, if you have kimchi that is rather more mature, you can use it in this delicious stew and everything looks positively amazing, though beware, it’s meant to be spicy. 

5. Baking 

Joking, there is no baking section because I don’t dance with the devil and we want you to eat healthy, not procrastinate! 

Nah, go on then. All the love to the stress bakers. Go forth and multi-ply your pastry dough and babkas. 

Other public safety announcement 

Here are some tips to reduce your plastic waste in the kitchen. 

Lastly, as UCL says “if you feel that reducing your alcohol intake may be beneficial”, do read their post on how to cut down on drinking. 

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