Everyone can cook, even those who think they can’t. It takes a little practice, and there might be a few culinary disasters along the way, but soon you’ll be inviting everyone round for dinner. Making meals for yourself can be cheap, easy, and healthy - here are some super simple recipes to get you started.
We’ve chosen recipes that can easily cater to various dietary requirements with small changes, and that use common ingredients that don’t cost the world. For most recipes, you’ll also need salt, pepper and olive oil.
Baked potato (serves 2)
Ingredients: 2 large potatoes (Maris Piper, King Edward or Marfona are all good types for baking). Plus your choice of filling.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Wash and dry the potatoes. Prick them with a fork in several places. Pour some olive oil onto the potato and rub it in. Rub in some sea salt so it sticks to the oil. Place on an oven shelf and bake for 1- 1½ hours until golden brown and crispy. If you've only got a microwave, that works too! It won't be as crispy and delicious, but it's a lot shorter - just 8 minutes should do it (though pause and check regularly).
Make a cross in the centre of each potato. Add salt, pepper and your choice of filling.
Alterations: For fillings, just about everything goes: butter, cheese, beans, grilled vegetables, tuna, salsa, and more.
Pasta with tomato sauce (serves 2)
Ingredients: 1 onion (chopped), 2-3 garlic cloves (crushed), 1 jar tomato passata, 250g linguine.
Heat 1tsp of olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the onion until soft - around three minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute.
Add the tomato passata and stir well. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions. Drain once cooked. If you want to make it extra special, keep aside some of the pasta water in a cup - this is an Italian trick which helps the sauce stick to the pasta.
Season your sauce with salt and pepper, add the cooked pasta to the pan (and pasta water if you're doing that), toss until everything is covered, and serve.
Alterations: In between steps 1 and 2 you can add anything you like; just chop, add to the pan, and fry it until it’s done before adding the passata. For example, you can try mushrooms, aubergine, diced chicken, quorn, ground beef, or bacon.
Mushroom risotto (serves 4)
Ingredients: 1 onion (finely chopped), 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped), 150g Arborio rice, 250g mushrooms (chopped), 500 ml vegetable stock, 50g parmesan cheese (grated). 1 tbsp parsley to serve.
Fry the onions in olive oil over a medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and rice, and stir well for one minute. Add the mushrooms and stir well.
In the meantime, prepare the stock as per packet instructions. Add a third of the stock to the pan and turn up to medium-high. Stir well and gradually add more stock every time the rice has absorbed the last bit.
Once all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is soft and creamy, stir in the parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Sprinkle parsley and serve.
Alterations: Add peas and goat’s cheese just after you add the last of the stock. If you want meat too, add some cooked ham with the parmesan and parsley.
Chickpea curry (serves 2)
Ingredients: 1 onion (chopped), 1 garlic clove (crushed) ½ tsp cumin powder, ¼ tsp coriander powder, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, ¼ tsp red chilli powder, 1 tomato (chopped), 400g tin chickpeas (drained and rinsed), 5cm/2in piece root ginger (grated). Yoghurt, and rice or pita to serve.
Heat the oil in a deep pan/wok and fry the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and golden.
Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chilli powders, and ¼ tsp of salt. Mix for a minute and add the tomato. Cook until the sauce thickens.
Add 4 tbsp of water and stir. Stir in the chickpeas and mash a few for texture. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the ginger, and cook for one more minute.
Serve with yoghurt, and rice or pita.
Alterations: Add creamed coconut (50g), one fresh chilli, and 1tbsp of tomato puree for a richer curry sauce.
Crêpes (serves 3-4)
Ingredients: 150g plain flour, 350ml milk, 2 eggs, 2 tbsp melted butter, pinch of salt. Plus your choice of filling.
Mix the flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a dip in the flour, crack the eggs in and start mixing. Pour the milk in little by little, and keep mixing until you’ve used it all up and created a smooth batter - though a few lumps won't hurt anyone. If you want to keep to the true French method, you should let the batter sit for an hour in the fridge. But you can start right away and it will be almost as good.
Heat some butter in the pan and pour the excess into the batter (this helps it not stick but it’s optional)
Add a ladleful of batter to the pan and spread it out until it fills the bottom of the pan. When the underside is golden brown, flip it over (you can use your fingers if you're careful, a spatula, or try flipping in the air), and cook until the other side is done. Repeat.
Alterations: For savoury toppings, try ham and emmental cheese, spinach and goat’s cheese, or grilled vegetables (you can build these in the pan so the cheese melts). For sweet, try lemon and sugar, maple syrup, Nutella, honey, fresh fruit, yoghurt, and anything else you like!