You’re going to uni. Now what? A foodie perspective



A’level results are out and so a whole new batch of students will be heading off into the world, ready to fend for themselves and cook their own dinners. So, what kind of foodie student are you dispatching to uni and what do they need to see them on their way? Depends on where they already are on their food journey. Here’s a few suggestions:

The non cooking student

Oh dear, they’ve got through at least 18 years with no cooking skill at all. Maybe best put them into halls of residence that provide everything. Otherwise suggest either you need to give them a very rapid crash course in basic cooking at home, or a copy of Delia’s How to Cook. And get down to IKEA and buy them one of those kitchen starter sets.

The novice student

So, they’ve done a bit of cooking and know how to turn the cooker on. They may have cooked you dinner. They may know one type of pasta from another. They at least know what pasta is. They could be very popular though, as being able to cook could make them a lot of friends on their floor! Here’s a few thoughts for them:

* Provide them with their favourite recipes from home. You could cook them with them a few times, write them out, put them in a Word document on their laptop, make videos and post on YouTube…any way you can think of to give them a taste of home.

* If you’ve got recipes that need specific mixes of herbs or spices then you could package them up for them, as herbs and spices might not be top of their spending list. Craving for mum’s cooking is what set the idea for Spicentice in motion. Or add a few of the Spicentice packs into their packing.

* They’ll need some kitchen stuff. I would suggest they will need a large saucepan (one that you could get a steamer in as well) for doing pasta, which they may do a lot of, and you could give them a non-stick frying pan for fry ups, omelettes, even stir frys. A small non stick pan for scrambled eggs or beans. And then I would add a decent casserole dish in. I’ve had a Le Creuset one for over 20 years, and it’s truly the best for one pot cooking. Throw in a chopping board, a few decent knives and something like the Joseph Joseph stacking set, and they can cook up a huge variety of dishes.

* Give them a great store cupboard to start off with. Let’s face it, with this lot, there are a great combo of meals that they could produce. I would pack them off with: several kinds of pasta, including fettucine or pappardelle and fusilli or penne; two olive oils, one extra virgin, one ordinary and a more bland oil like groundnut; pesto, tomato puree, olive paste, anything to add extra flavour to just about anything else, likewise soy sauce and a reasonable balsamic; tinned standbys like chickpeas, tuna, salmon, tomatoes; rice for risotto and biryanas, bulgar wheat for pilaf  and cous cous. That should keep them going until their first trip home!

* Freezer bags or boxes, so that nothing goes to waste.

The Gourmand Student

Oh, this one you’re going to have to frisk before they leave!

* Check out what bits of your kit they’ve been using regularly in your kitchen, and buy them their own. Face into it, if you’ve got decent knives, good pans or exciting kit, then they’ll be off before you can wave them goodbye.

* Stock them with the goodies they might have got used to like Frescobaldi Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil or a chunk of black truffle. You could also just give them the same products I listed for the Novice Student but at the best available level.

* They’ll be the king or queen of seasonal cooking, so perhaps sign them up for an allotment. That way they can have fresh, seasonal fruit and veg, and grow varieties that even Waitrose don’t stock. Try Landshare to see what’s available near the uni, or register for a plot. Sign them up to the Heritage Seed Library or check out Sarah Raven and pack them off with a year’s worth of unusual seeds.

* Give them a list of all the local food markets and farmer’s markets, as they’ll be their natural food hunting ground. Get them a trolley to lug home their precious food treasures in.

My favourite tip is to pack them off with a large cake, or a whole lot of cupcakes. Things perfect for sharing with your new neighbours. Tea and cake, perfect for every kind of student. Unless the novice can’t boil water!

Tomorrow, going to cover alternatives to the student cookbooks that would still set them up to have a great repertoire without going into debt.

Leaving home shot by Leafar on Flickr


Off to university


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Helen Tarver

Collector of great gifts and fabulous food, mum, cake baker & eater, wine opener. I write about food and the gift of it in its many forms.

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