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Let’s Get Started: Cooking Up a Storm in College

By Nathan Carey

My name is Nathan and I’m heading into my final year as a Neuroscience student. I’ve always had a love for food but living away from home in my first year of college really helped me to hone my skills and become efficient at cooking my own meals. Through studying the brain and its interactions with the rest of our body over the years, I’ve become even more enamoured with how we fuel ourselves. I hope that through the food and health section this year I can teach you a few things about cooking effectively as a student and just how important food is in influencing our mood and behaviours. 

When you walk through the gates of college for the first time, one’s mind can run wild with all the possibilities that starting this new life can bring. Studying your passion, making friends for life and creating lasting memories. However, this new beginning can also bring stress. You may be moving into accommodation with people you don’t yet know, you might be away from home for the very first time and need to quickly learn to adapt to a new way of living. One thing that can ease you into the college experience is learning how to cook your own meals. To kickstart your culinary journey in college, it’s wise to gather some essential kitchen tools and gadgets. A medium-sized saucepan is always a great shout as it can be used in any number of ways to braise, stew and simmer. A frying pan is also an essential piece of kitchenware that can help you to fry up meats, eggs and veggies. While often overlooked, kitchen scales can go a long way in levelling up your cooking. You can find decent scales online for only a couple of euros, but the difference they make is astronomical. Whether you’re counting macros or baking up a storm, scales can take the guesswork out of your cooking. They also make clean-up a breeze as you can measure right into the mixing bowl, no more cups or spoons to clean! Another tool that I love to use in the kitchen is an immersion blender (also known as a stick blender). This small kitchen gadget allows you to create silky-smooth sauces and soups with the push of a button. If you know that time will slip away during a busy week, why not make a big batch of soup at the weekend and keep it in the fridge for a quick midweek lunch. Simply reheat and serve with a fresh slice of bread slathered in your favourite butter, it can’t be beaten! 

With these tools in your arsenal, you will be serving up quality dishes in no time! If you’re sitting in your new accommodation right now fired up to start cooking I’ve got you covered. Below is my recipe for the best Bolognese around. It uses some of the techniques I’ve mentioned above but don’t worry if you can’t get your hands on an immersion blender, the sauce will be just as nice when left a bit chunkier!

Bolognese Recipe:

This recipe makes 4 hearty portions, you can always save the leftovers in the fridge for later!

Ingredients:

  • 500g pack of beef mince (5% fat keeps the calories low and protein high)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion 
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste/purée
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
  • Red chilli flakes (if you like some heat)
  • 500g tin of chopped tomatoes 
  • Parmesan and basil for serving 

Method:

  • Place a medium-sized pot on medium-high heat until hot.
  • Crumble in beef mince and break up using a wooden spoon/fork. The aim of this step is to brown the mince so don’t worry if the beef isn’t fully cooked through yet, it will finish cooking in the sauce.
  • Remove the beef from the pan and set to one side 
  • Turn heat down and add 1 tbsp of olive oil to the beef fat in the pan.
  • Finely chop the onion and garlic and add them to the shimmering oil 
  • Gently fry the aromatics until they are almost soft. Be sure to keep them moving so they don’t stick – this should take about 5 minutes. 
  • Add tomato paste and fry for a further minute. This step cooks out most of the raw tomato flavour from the paste and allows it to caramelize a little. If you are using chilli flakes, add them at this stage.
  • Add the whole tin of chopped tomatoes along with half a can of water, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste
  • Gently simmer the sauce for 10 minutes.
  • At this stage, you can leave the sauce in a chunkier state or if you prefer you can blend it smooth using an immersion blender.
  • Add the browned beef back into the sauce and pop a lid on the pot.
  • From here you can let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes and even up to 4 hours!
  • When you are ready to eat, serve this Bolognese up with your favourite pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan and some torn basil leaves.Keep up to date:

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