As the gnashing teeth of Jack Frost begin to bite you in the arse (and other extremities), the desire to leave your cocoon of duvets and optimistic stacks of books dramatically wanes. You bargain with yourself and come to realise that the only real reason to leave your room is your weekly tute; some succeed with this hermitic lifestyle, subsisting on lonely pizzas, nibbles fetched by their snack-wench, and whatever kindly passers-by decide to place in the bucket-pulley hanging out of the window. But one cannot always depend on the kindness of strangers, so if you want to survive, read on for the Gourmand’s tips on how to cook from within your humble college abode.
You have a vast arsenal in the eternal struggle against hunger, but the most versatile and reliable weapons therein are your kettle and your heater. The former facilitates that most essential of student meals: the instant cup noodle (with cuppa soup coming in a close second). But that’s old hat: the kettle’s pasta-making capabilities go far beyond that tangled haystack of blandness, and for those who dare, such delights as tortellini and cappelletti are the order of the day – simply boil the water, add the pasta, give it a good stir, and re-boil a few more times until al dente (though beware: reuse of this kettle may result in starchy tea). A similar method can be used to boil eggs, though they take a tad longer to reach edibility, so feel free to experiment. (Disclaimer: the Gourmand does not accept liability for food poisoning, explosions, or college disciplinary proceedings.)
Other possible uses of the ubiquitous kettle include instant porridge (for those cold winter mornings) and chocolate fondue – for this, simply fill a bowl with boiling water, place a larger one on top of it and add grated chocolate, then gently stir until it melts. Enjoy by dipping fruit, marshmallows, or sensitive body parts into the alluringly-scented melting pot; alternatively, mix with cereal, spread over a tray and allow to set in the fridge for cereal bar treats.
The electric heater, meanwhile, is truly a thing of wonder, so bad luck if you’re stuck with college-controlled central heating; dubbed the ‘five-second heater’ for its incredible ability to create an instant inferno, it is also perfect for warming food. Yesterday’s pizza need only sit atop it for 5-10 minutes to ensure a crispy base and oozing cheese, though frying an egg may prove a little more challenging.
The real dark horse in this race is the unassuming iron: used perhaps once termly in a desperate attempt to uncrease your dress shirt before a black tie dinner, it can be put to much better use. Toasted sandwiches – be they tuna melt or buffalo mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and salami panino on ciabatta – are easily achieved with what is essentially a handheld hotplate and your kitchen counter (aka ironing board), whilst the more ambitious amongst you can try cooking up a few rashers of bacon – or even eggs – with it, provided they are securely wrapped in foil. Again, if they ask, it wasn’t me.
A word on the more exotic cooking methods: have you considered the benefits of a slow cooker for Mission-style carnitas at your desk? Perhaps you have a spare camping gas stove or are lucky enough to have a fireplace with an unblocked chimney – why not hang up the cauldron and pour in some shreds of Boomslang skin, a few lacewing flies and a tin of chopped tomatoes? Or be the life of the party with a barbecue and grill up some dubious-looking burgers for everyone! The possibilities truly are endless. (Warning: please do your very best not to burn down the Dreaming Spires if you’re enough of a dunderhead to attempt the more questionable of these tips. Thanks.)