When deadlines are looming and studying takes over the social calendar, a student’s diet can often turn tragic.
Dry handfuls of cereal snatched straight from the box strategically balanced on a pile of library books. Or a jar of nutella, bearing trawl marks from a spoon, pencil or fingers (times were tough and the sink was full) are just some examples of late night studying sustenance I have witnessed. The beauty of student living.
Quick sugary fixes to fuel all nighters and encourage tired eyes to stay open, often mean a rise in profits for the corner shops around campus.
But in times like these, I find “comfort food” to mean something very different to the processed, chocolaty stodge most people raid the cupboards for. Not to say I never crave these sweet treats. There are times when a mixture of hot chocolate, peanut butter and ready break so thick you can stand a spoon in it would top a date with Gerard Butler...almost.
After buffering up the computer at 6:30 am on Wednesday and barely taking a moment to stop and think before 7:30pm, I was struggling to form coherent sentences. It was the kind of day where I had reached cave man like communication and had begun barking one syllable words. At that moment it was : “FOOD!”
Rather than running out in search of the student inhibited sat. Fat. Aisle of Tesco, or even worse the alcohol fridge, I headed for the spice rack. The best cure for a growling stomach at the end of a stressful day for me is a ‘real’ dinner. One that is packed with flavour and colours that weren’t added unnaturally.
The idea of a filling, home cooked meal that wouldn’t result in guilt and a food baby gave me one final boost of energy. Less than an hour later, my efforts had paid off. I was happily sitting down with a plate of Mediterranean stuffed aubergines and peppers, roasted and bulging with a spicy mushroom and tomato filling.
The twenty or so minutes it took to prepare the vegetables and filling before heaving the tray into the oven for 25 also massively helped me to unwind and re-align the list of jobs I had to do the following day.
When you develop a confidence in the kitchen, you also build a mental catalogue of safe, go to dishes which you can knowingly prepare quickly and enjoy fully. For the amateur cook, this may just be a jacket potato with a favourite filling and sides, but there’s nothing wrong with simplicity when it works this well.
Personally, cooking should always be simple, quick and taste so good that you’re surprised it didn’t take longer to prepare. After all, a complex dish which has been slaved over and watched through the oven door with an eagle eye for six hours will still only take tops, twenty minutes to be annihilated by a hungry diner.
Something which, without fail you will hear my Dad say at the end of every Christmas Dinner.
The following night after my med veg feast, I had soldiered on through another tiring day of articles writing, production research and fighting with the laptop.
After finding brief solace in a trip to Grainger Market I was looking forward to cooking my ultimate, favourite curry. Thai red fruit curry with prawns and pilaf rice. This time I was willing to share, provided the other party go buy the prawns. ‘Compromise’ after all, that and a can of coconut milk was shockingly almost £2 from the Japanese market!?
After such a hectic day, I found it therapeutic to be pre-occupied for just forty minutes with the rhythmic chopping and stirring of the aromatic curry, which has a wonderful balance of sweetness and spice. Something which I have had to consider multiple times when cooking for the “prawn supplier”, appearing in this entry.
I’m known to be a little heavy handed with the chilli flakes and hot paprika, but this doesn’t sit well with a spice-a-phobic who still confesses to enjoy a curry. It’s the same with people who enjoy sweet food, but strongly dislike it when used in savoury recipes. Thankfully, this time taking a chance had paid off and the once brimming wok of golden, sweet prawns and juicy mango chunks in a spicy coconut sauce was being scraped out for thirds.
With full tummies and rouged cheeks, we could sit back and enjoy repeats on Dave, a sure sign that the student culture had only been shortly abandoned.
For recipe details, just leave comment or contact me.