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To start off the new term for freshers or returning students, guest blogger Lauren Mahoney from the Food Project is focusing on one of the most important student areas: cooking and the kitchen. Here’s a chance to read about her experience and get some tips and recipes to get you started – perfect for first time cookers!

So you’ve just moved into your new digs, and the first thing you realise is how tiny the kitchen is. Or perhaps there isn’t enough cupboard space for tons of kitchen apparatus? Maybe you haven’t even had chance to buy any yet? So naturally you find yourself reaching for the stack of takeaway menus that have landed in your hallway over the summer, and before you know it, you’ve just blown £30 on pizza and sides at Domino’s.

It’s an easy trap to fall into and one I think every student has encountered, despite their best intentions. I know when I moved out for the first time, I found cooking for myself to be a bit of a chore and never really had enough time. Most of my meals were salads that were quickly thrown together and eating out a lot. I didn’t necessarily order takeaways but I did enjoy meals out and the cost can add up quickly.

I found that sharing a house with fellow students is particularly difficult when it comes to cooking. The kitchen is filthy or somebody has used your pans and not washed them. Yep, it is pretty gross, but I found that you need to put your foot down and confront the ones making a mess. After all, they wouldn’t live like that if they still lived at home!

After the first few months of enjoying my freedom, I realised that I really needed to invest in some decent kitchen ware. I bought a set of pans, a chopping board and some knives from IKEA and decided to plan my meals and write a shopping list. I admit it is easy to skip a week and fall back into the trap. Before you know it, your back at the local Tesco spending upwards of £10 on food for just one meal and you’ve thrown a bunch of random stuff into the basket.

Once you’ve picked up the essential cooking equipment that you need, it’s always good to have a well-stocked ‘larder’. Space-wise, this can be any size you want. I’ve always made sure that I’ve got some essential spices, pastas and grains in the cupboard at all times, so this way I’ve always got something to eat.

Grains such as pearl barley and rice are great for bulking out meals and there are a million things you can do with pasta. It’s also handy to have a few bags of things like lentils, chickpeas and couscous. All these can be made into dishes with a few spices and herbs added for flavour and are super cheap to buy.

Over the course of this series I will be incorporating pulses, pasta and grains into the recipes I select. So to get you on your way, here is a selection of some simple, no-fuss meals to ease you into student life!

This week’s recipes:

Spicy root & lentil casserole – http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1364/spicy-root-and-lentil-casserole

Falafel burgers: http://themichiganmom.com/falafel-burger/

Matchstick potatoes: http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/matchstick-potatoes-675.html?omnisource=gid_uk

Carrot Salad: http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/2012/08/french-fridays-with-dorie-cafe-style-grated-carrot-salad/

Check back for more tips and recipe recommendations next week!

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