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How you can eat well on a student budget

PASTAPre-prepared pasta sauces are expensive and nutritionally fairly useless. To make a basic pasta sauce, you simply need to gently fry an onion and some chopped garlic until soft, add two tins of chopped tomatoes and cook on a gentle simmer for 20-30 minutes (the longer you cook it the smoother the sauce). This sauce will freeze easily or keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.

Pre-prepared pasta sauces are expensive and nutritionally fairly useless. To make a basic pasta sauce, you simply need to gently fry an onion and some chopped garlic until soft, add two tins of chopped tomatoes and cook on a gentle simmer for 20-30 minutes (the longer you cook it the smoother the sauce). This sauce will freeze easily or keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.

Spaghetti Bolognese (Right, serves 6-8)

Ingredients: 1 medium onion €0.10, 1 carrot €0.10, 1 stick of celery (optional), 800g minced beef €6.25, 2 cloves garlic €0.10, 1 tin of chopped plum tomatoes €0.37, 4tbsp of tomato purée €0.15, herbs, lemon peel, salt and pepper (for seasoning), spaghetti (0.47).

Total Cost Approx: €7.50

The basis of all Italian sauce cooking is the soffrito, a finely chopped mix of onion, carrot and celery, but unlike in Italy you cannot easily buy sticks of celery, so don't feel you have to buy a whole head of celery just to make this dish. Just use whatever herbs you have to hand -- if using dried herbs only use a small pinch. Finely chop the onion, peeled carrot and celery (if using). Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and fry for at least five minutes until soft. Increase the heat and add the minced meat and stir until fully browned. Peel and finely chop or mash the garlic cloves and add to the meat.

Next, add the tin of tomatoes, purée, fresh herbs, strip of lemon peel (use a potato peeler), salt and pepper. Cook on a gentle heat for at least 2 hours. Follow the instructions on the packet of spaghetti and try not to over-cook the pasta which should still have a bit of a bite (al dente, the Italians say).

Spaghetti carbonara (Near left, serves 4)

Ingredients: 500g spaghetti €0.47, 1 clove of garlic €0.05, 100g pancetta pieces €0.87 (or bacon lardons or chopped rashers), 2 eggs €0.60, 80g Parmesan €1.30 (or pecorino or a mix of the two), salt, pepper.

Total Cost: €3.30

The Italian food police will come and get you if you add cream to your carbonara, so why bother when it tastes just as good without it? Pancetta is Italian bacon and available from most supermarkets and delis. Some chefs insist on using only egg yolks but I respectfully disagree. Fresh Parmesan or pecorino is essential to this dish. Cook the spaghetti in lots of salted, boiling water.

As the pasta cooks, fry the whole peeled garlic clove with the pancetta/bacon in a little oil until crisp and browned. Remove the garlic and discard.

Beat the eggs with the finely grated cheese.

Drain the pasta and add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water to the pan with the pancetta to loosen the pieces.

Scrape the pancetta into the egg mixure, mix well, and then add immediately to the cooked spaghetti.

Carefully mix in the sauce using two forks until the pasta is fully coated and serve topped with extra pecorino or Parmesan.

Spanish omelette (Above, serves 2-4)

Ingredients: 100ml olive oil €0.50, 200g potatoes peeled and thinly sliced €0.22, 1 large onion €0.10, 6 eggs €1.99, salt and pepper

Total Cost: €2.80

Gently heat the oil in a small frying pan (7-8 inches) and once warmed add the peeled and thinly sliced potatoes. Cook the potatoes in the olive oil until soft, turning occasionally (this may take 10-15 minutes). Once the potatoes are almost cooked add a large sliced onion and cook until translucent.

Add 6 eggs to a bowl with a good pinch of salt and pepper and whisk with a fork. Remove the potatoes and onions from the pan with a slotted spoon and mix well with the eggs.

Remove half the oil from the pan to a cup and turn heat to high for 30 seconds. Pour the eggs and potatoes onto the pan, reduce the heat and cook gently until the omelet has set and is golden underneath.

Place a large plate on top of the pan and flip out the omelette. Add the remaining oil to the pan, heat until sizzling, and slide in the omelette to cook the other side. Top with some fried chorizo if you wish.

STEW

Beef and Guinness stew (Left, serves 6-8)

Ingredients: 1kg stewing beef €6.80, 3 tbsp flour €0.5, 1 onion €0.10, 1 can of Guinness/dark ale €1.90, 2 carrots €0.20, 2kg potatoes €2.20, salt and pepper.

Total Cost: €11.50

Trim the beef of any fat, season with salt and pepper and mix with a couple of tablespoons of flour (this is easy to do if you put the beef, flour and seasoning in a plastic bag and shake it). Heat some oil in a saucepan and fry the beef in small batches and remove once browned. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until soft, replace the meat, add the can of Guinness (or ale) and bring to a simmer.

After 1 hour add the chopped and peeled carrots and potatoes and cook for a further hour until the meat is tender and the veg is cooked.

>TOMORROW: ONE-POT COOKING AND SAVOURY SNACKS


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