What to cook when you’ve never cooked

Coming from Singapore, I never had learn to cook. A full meal including a bowl of rice and three dishes (usually 1 meat, 1 egg and 1 veg), will cost you just about £1.80 or even less. With an average store selling 10-12 different kinds of dishes, we literally never run out of different food combinations.

While I was preparing to leave for exchange to Sheffield, I was worried about cooking proper meals on my own for the very first time – yeah, at the ripe age of 21 *ashamed*

However, I was relieved to find that I’m really not that bad at cooking. My confidence in the kitchen has improved by leaps and bounds since I got here, just slightly more than a month ago! I might not be the best or most creative cook, but I think I cook decently enough to get by.

Plus, there’s no ignoring the crazy savings that you get by cooking yourself (I’m Aldi’s biggest fan).

I first started off with doing meal prep, where I prepared about three days of lunch and dinners for myself. As the days went by, I realised that I enjoyed the time spent in the kitchen, and the variety of dishes that I could prepare every day. (Eating the same meal for lunch three days in a row can get old).

Here’s some of the food that I’ve prepared over the last month, with short descriptions. I don’t follow any specific recipes, as I adjust it according to my own preferences.

Hopefully it’ll give you some ideas on what to cook for your next meal!

P.S. The Tasty app by Buzzfeed is a lifesaver.

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First try at meal prep:

Meal one: stir fry tofu and kale in hoisin sauce, crispy baked kale and pasta
Meal two: grilled paprika chicken with mixed vegetables

This three-ingredient pancake is healthy, cheap and tasty! Combine equal parts of egg, mashed banana and oats. You don’t need to use a food processor, but make sure its well combined! My pancakes turned out a little ugly because I didn’t have a pancake scoop or shaper, but it tasted fine! Top with maple syrup if you prefer. I topped mine with crunchy peanut butter.

If you want the pancakes to be sweeter, wait for your bananas to become ripe and spotty.

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Pan-fried salmon with vegetables. Pro-tip: check out the reduced-to-clear section at Tesco! They have great deals, usually between 7pm-8pm. I managed to get two salmon fillets for £2.34, quite a steal I would say.

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Egg fried rice with mini sausages. Fried rice works best with overnight rice straight out from the fridge. But if you don’t have any leftovers from the night before, feel free to use freshly cooked rice 🙂 Tesco has some frozen rice packets that can be microwaved and ready to cook in minutes. This one lets you get in your carbs and veggies at the same time.

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More fried rice, with sliced chicken breast, imitation crab meat, and asparagus. Do include dark soya sauce into your dish to add some colour! It’s not as salty as light soya sauce, so you don’t have to worry.

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I baked this sticky toffee pudding during a Give it a Go session. The class is kept small at 8pax maximum, and they alternate between savoury and sweet dishes every week! I highly recommend this if you’re keen to learn how to cook, as the teachers are very helpful and you get a full hands-on experience.

Also, I got to bring home this huge dessert for my flatmates and I to share. The session, including the ingredients, cost just £3 🙂

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Japanese curry is easy to make, and so satisfying in the cold weather. The curry paste can be purchased from Tesco or Sainsbury 🙂 Simply simmer it on the stove for 30-40minutes, depending on how much water you’ve added. You can throw in anything you want – vegetables, meat, etc.

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Minced pork omelette with onions and vegetables. Simple dishes to be paired with rice or porridge.

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If you’re too lazy to cook, try this. ‘pizza’. It will be ready in minutes! The falafel balls and sliced herbed chicken breast can be purchased from Aldi, and are ready to eat after being microwaved. Now this is no excuse for pizza, but its easy enough for a quick meal.

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Cheese baked pasta is even simpler! Sprinkle your choice of cheese on top of cooked pasta mixed in pasta sauce and any ingredients you want. Here, I included chicken, mushrooms and a runny egg. Remember not to put it in the oven for too long!

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Messing up is part and parcel of learning how to cook. Like the time I almost melted a plastic container in the microwave, or the other time when I tried to heat up my tortilla and turned it into something resembling a papadum.

But take heart, because you’ll probably return to your country a better cook 🙂 Enjoy the process and good luck!

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