Student Handbook: Cooking 101

Cooking is fun, exciting, cheap, interesting and a bona fide life skill. Here’s some quick tips on getting started, delivered via everyone's favourite vegetable

Feature by Peter Simpson | 13 Sep 2018

If you want to relieve some stress after a long day in lectures or the studio, you have some options. You could go to the gym (if you can be bothered), hit the student union (but losing at pool again would be bad for your self-esteem) or stick your face in a sink full of bubbles (because your purpose-built student apartment doesn’t have a bath). You could do those things, but you shouldn’t – instead, you should do some cooking. Specifically, you should grab yourself some onions.

You see, onions are cheap. A big ol’ bag of red or white onions – oh, the variety! – can be had for about 50p, and if treated properly they’ll last in your cupboard for a good wee while. The same goes for plenty of other fresh vegetables, especially your earthier root numbers, and even herbs and fruit can last a good few days after coming home from the shop. Keeping your food habits and accidental tendencies under control is one of those skills that you just have to pick up as you go, but planning your week’s meals for both budget and space reasons is a good place to start. You’ll find yourself eating better, spending less and having more free time cos you won’t be in and out of Tesco every two minutes.

The other thing about onions is their versatility. Dice them up for cooking into sauces and soups, or popping raw into things like salsa or pico de gallo. Slice them for salads and quick pickles (the other ingredients for that pickle, by the way, are vinegar, sugar and a Tupperware box). Chop them for use in curries and casseroles (anything where you need a bit of bite), and cook them right down to caramel for a tasty garnish or pie filling. Each of these preparations is a little bit different from the last, but these knife skills come up time and again across all manner of recipes. They apply equally to fruits, vegetables, meats and herbs, so learn them and practice them – your dining buddies (and precious fingers) will thank you.

Plus, as a bonus, onions will make you cry. Everyone’s got a trick for stopping it – wearing sunglasses, rubbing the chopped side of the onion with water, avoiding cutting through the root – but none of them work. Need some cover for post-break-up tears, or want to practice your cry-acting because you are apparently a drama student in this scenario? Just get chopping and you’re in teary business, particularly with the amount of onion-based homework we’ve just set you...