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Recipes: the beginner's guide to cooking

Are you still eating beans on toast? Read this article for some easy meals to master.

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dried spaghetti with dried pasta on top


If you’ve never had to cook for yourself before, then the prospect can be daunting. But never fear – your Students’ Union is here! And we’re going to show you how to master five easy meals, so you too can enjoy cooked meals.




Pasta is one of the easiest meals to learn to cook, and it’s so versatile as well. All you need is to select your pasta, and it will normally even come with instructions on the back. But the idea is that no matter how much pasta you have in your pan, you should:

  • Cover it with water, and keep it covered while it’s cooking.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer, and cook the pasta for however long it indicates on the packet – generally only a few minutes.
  • If you’re unsure, you can always take a piece out with a fork and see if it’s cooked by eating it.
  • Then, you just need to drain the pasta in a colander.



Then the fun part. You can make this pasta any kind of meal you want! Put loads of cheese on it for cheesy pasta, add a tomato sauce or pesto sauce, or even make a pasta bake – you can find some great recipes online, but it’s normally just a pasta in a sauce, maybe add some veggies and meat in, put some cheese on top, and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes.



Making a curry is super easy, especially if you have curry paste and coconut milk which you can handily buy in supermarkets. You can experiment with spices and really make this dish your own.

  • Take your desired meat and cut it into small pieces. You can also use a vegetarian substitute. With your vegetables, cut those into similar sized pieces.
  • Fry up a large tablespoon of curry paste with some brown sugar in a generous splash of cooking oil on a low heat
  • Add your meat and/or veg and keep on low heat till cooked through
  • Add your coconut milk and any additional spices
  • Then let it all simmer for a while so the meat and veg can soak in the flavours
  • While this cooks you can get started on some rice - measure out how much you want, give a good rinse in cold water and...follow the instructions on the packet (it is very similar to pasta in that you cover it with water, bring it to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 10 minutes)
  • Once your rice is cooked and drained,  fluff it up with a fork and serve it in a bowl and put your curry on top - garnish with a squeeze of lime and fresh corriander if you're feeling fancy
  • Don't forget salt and pepper!




Lasagne always seems like that meal you’re never going to be able to learn to cook. But it’s so easy! You’re going to need

  • Mince, real or vegetarian will work
  • Bolognese sauce
  • Cheese sauce
  • Pasta sheets
  • Cheese of your choice.

You will also need a frying pan and a deep tray to stack your lasagne layers in.



  • First off, you need to brown your mince in the frying pan – basically it means cook it until it is all brown.
  • Optional extra: chopped onions or other veg. Then add your Bolognese sauce. Or, make your own with herbs, stock, and chopped tomatoes.
  • Set it aside.
  • In your tray you’re going to want to layer in this order – the mince mixture you just cooked, pasta sheet, cheese sauce.
  • Do that over and over until you’re at the top, then cover it in grated cheese.
  • Then put it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes.



Spaghetti Bolognese

You already know how to cook Bolognese (hint: it’s the same as for lasagne) so let’s assume you have already done that.



‘But what about spaghetti? And how do I find a pan that big?’ we hear you ask. Well, you don’t. Use your regular pasta pan.

  • Fill it with water, and put your spaghetti in.
  • As it comes to the boil, you will notice that the end in the water is cooked and becomes soft. Turn the heat down as it starts to bubble away.
  • Now you’ll be able to bend the spaghetti so that it all fits in the pan. Then just cook for a few more minutes until it’s all cooked.
  • Serve with your Bolognese.



Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is another meal that seems impossible, but again, it’s so easy.

You will need:

  • mince (or green puy lentils if you're veggie or vegan)
  • gravy granules
  • potatoes
  • butter (or vegan spread)
  • cheese (or your choice of alternative)
  • a colander
  • potato masher
  • the same tray you used for your lasagne (after you washed it).


With your mince, it’s the same principle as spaghetti Bolognese, except instead of Bolognese sauce, you want gravy. You might also choose to add some onions or vegetables in at this point. Gravy granules will tell you how to make gravy, so that’s straight forward. Add it to the mince, and add more granules if it seems a bit sloppy.


In another pan, you want to peel and cut potatoes into small pieces, cover them in water, and bring them to a boil. Sometimes potatoes can take quite a long time to boil, but generally the smaller the pieces, the quicker it will take. You can tell they are cooked if you put a sharp knife into a piece of the potato and it slides off easily. Once they are cooked, drain them with your colander. Add a knob of butter in the potatoes and mash them – it is important to do this while they are still hot as it is way easier.


In your tray, you want to add your mince, then add the potatoes on top. It’s easier if you dollop potatoes around the whole tray rather than putting it all in the middle and trying to spread it. You might find it easier to do this with a fork. Then sprinkle grated cheese on the top, and put in the oven until the top begins to brown.


So now that you’re basically Gordon Ramsey, why don’t you share your meals with us?



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