Cheap and Easy Recipe for Student Budgets: Shakshuka
We’ve all been there, the bank statement reads like an average temperature in the Arctic and you hardly have the time or energy to muster up a three-course Sunday roast. But beans on toast…again?
The student culinary repertoire gets a bad rap. How many non-students have insinuated that your diet will be nothing but beans on toast, instant noodles and, for the more well-rounded, chickpea wraps? To be honest it’s an easy trap to fall into. Assignments, deadlines, work and play all make these meals seem quick, easy and cheap. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way!
If you’re looking for inspiration, then the charity shop is a great place to start. Next time you go - have a look, it seems most of the book section is made up a cookery book where people have made a very fleeting go at a new diet. Excellent, their lack of will power is our gain. Vegan and vegetarian books are particularly easy to come by. Plus, it is always useful to have a look in the miscellaneous homeware section. A great source of mixing bowls, whisks, pot and pans that you never thought you would need when you packed.
There is also a wealth of inspiration online. If you have a glut of a particular ingredient, then the BBC Food website is a great place to start. You can search by ingredients. It also has some great in-season recipes and inspiration from famous chefs. But in truth, Google can provide many of the answers. As I write this blog piece I’ve just made the most horrible runny mashed potatoes, a quick search and order has been restored (a bit of flour and a few minutes in the microwave did the trick!). So even if you're prone to the odd foody faux pas, then help is generally at hand.
That’s great, but how do I do this as cheaply as possible?
As a student in Ambleside, there is not a big supermarket and it can be so much easier to shop locally. The trick is don’t put all your eggs in one basket, literally! Identify where you can get things cheapest. If you have to walk around the corner to save 30p on eggs at a different shop, it’s probably worth it once you add it up.
Buying in bulk is not always the cheapest way to do things either. Fruit and vegetables are often packed up into more than you could ever reasonably eat before the sell-by date. To save on waste buy loose. That way you only buy what you need and you’re using less plastic to boot, saving money and the environment. Greengrocers and weekly market stalls are particularly useful for this (Ambleside has both).
Then there is the online shop. Your housemates are invariably in the same position as you. Club together for the delivery fee and stock up on essentials.
Shakshuka is something I’ve been making for a while now and I cannot think of a time when I wouldn’t eat it. Even once I’m graduated, on an amazing salary. It is a traditional breakfast/brunch in North Africa and the Middle East, but it is perfectly suitable for any time of the day. Best of all it will take around 15-20 minutes to cook and costs very little to make. The flavour comes from the harissa paste which is a mix of spices that give it a nice earthy kick. It is vegetarian but can easily accommodate chorizo or sausage. It’s a great flexible dish too, so don’t feel restricted by what is in the ingredients.
Splash of Oil
1 Whole Onion - Chopped
2-3 Cloves of Garlic - Finely Chopped
1 Red or Green Whole Pepper - Chopped
1-2 Teaspoons of Harissa Paste (More or less to taste)
1 Tin of Chopped Tomato
Coriander to Garnish. (Ideally fresh, but dried is fine and lasts way longer)
In a frying pan heat the oil on medium heat and add the onions and pepper and garlic till softened.
(If you’re feeling adventurous and have a gas hob, you can char the peppers and add them in later. But be careful!)
Stir through the harissa paste and then add the chopped tomato.
Make two little holes in the mixture with a spoon and crack the two eggs into them. Leave them to sit on top until they poach, ideally with a cover, for 5-8 mins.
Once the eggs are done serve up and garnish with coriander.
Easy as that.
Note: I often just eat it straight out of the pan with a spoon and a flatbread! Saves on washing up.
2. Sausage Carbonara
1 large egg
25g parmesan cheese (more if you love your cheese)
150g dried spaghetti
Salt and Pepper
- Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water, using the pack instructions as a guide. once cooked drain the pasta but reserve a mugful of cooking water. At the same time, cook the sausages as per the pack instructions.
- You're best to do the next stages whilst the pasta is still warm.
- Beat the egg and a splash of warm pasta cooking water, then grate and mix in most of the Parmesan - save some to sprinkle on top later on.
- Cut up the cooked sausages and pop them in the pan you cooked the pasta in. Heat the pan if it's not still warm, then take it off the heat. Add the drained pasta, pour in the egg mixture, and gently mix for 1 minute off the heat (the egg will gently cook in the residual heat).
- Loosen with the reserved cooking water if you desire more liquid, season with salt and pepper, then throw on the remaining Parmesan.
3. Nasi Goreng