Food & Drink, Lifestyle, Featured

2nd December 2021

Winter Meal Ideas for Students

There is something so comforting about the changing of the leaves and the transition from summer to the colder seasons. Admittedly, there’s nothing better than sipping something cold in the middle of a beach with your toes in the sand. However, autumn and winter bring us cozy blankets, warm fires, hot chocolate and obviously Christmas holidays. At the same time though, the switch often reminds students of cold walks to lecture theatres, waiting for the 699 in the rain and those dreaded exam periods. That’s why I’ve come up with the perfect list of Winter meal ideas for the good, the bad and the ugly.

These recipes are ideal for students looking to cook incredible meals without breaking the bank and too much of a sweat. The main aim of these meal ideas is to also encourage some creativity and ignite an enjoyment in cooking. Why not cook in bulk to prepare for the week ahead? Feel free to add your own finesse when it comes to ingredients and measurements!

Side & Small Dishes

Smashed Potatoes

What you’ll need:

  • Baby Potatoes
  • Olive/Vegetable oil (or any equivalent)
  • Salt
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Gravy (optional)

Easily one of my favourite dishes to make! It can be paired with any fish or meat dish and is also perfect for a Sunday roast (it’s also cheaper than a Maccies takeaway after a night out in Concert Square)! It’s also super easy to make and does not require much in terms of ingredients and skill level.

Simply set your oven to 200°C while you boil your cut potatoes in a pot of salted water. It usually takes around 15 minutes for the potatoes to get soft. Once your fork is able to easily make a dent in the potatoes, that is when they are ready! Set your potatoes on a baking tray and as the name implies, get your anger and stress out by smashing them. Remember, the softer the potatoes the easier they are to smash! I usually use the bottom of a mug or pan but anything will do.

Once the potatoes are smashed and (kinda) look like mini pancakes, drizzle them in your preferred oil or butter. Smother them afterwards in salt and any spices you want then, before cooking for 30 minutes. Once that half an hour is up, take your potatoes out. If you would like them crispier just toss them around and then leave them in for another 5-10 minutes. When done, pair the potatoes with gravy for the best result or any of your favourite condiments. Bon apetit!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Honey Glazed Carrot Fries

What you’ll need:

  • Carrots
  • Olive oil (or any equivalent)
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Paprika
  • Parmesan Cheese (optional)

If you’re not a fan of vegetables and have a sweet-tooth, these fries are perfect if you’re still trying to remain on the health kick you swore you’d stay on for at least a few weeks.

While you set your oven to around 200°C, create the honey glazed sauce. In a bowl, simply add a few teaspoons of honey , oil, salt and paprika then give that a nice mix to make sure that all the spices blend with the honey. You can change the measurements to your tastebuds! On a greased up tray, lay down your carrots. These can either be cut up as french fries or any other way you prefer. With a brush or spoon, lather the veggies in your honey sauce ensuring that all sides of the carrots are coated in the mix. If you want to, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on the carrots before putting them in the oven for an extra kick of flavour! These should take around 30-45 minutes to bake depending on how crispy you want them.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

Mains

Tomato Soup

What you’ll need:

  • A blender (of any kind)
  • A mix of cherry, vine and beef tomatoes
  • Vegetable stock
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Salt
  • Onion powder
  • Heavy cream (optional)
  • Cream cheese (optional)
  • Grated cheese of any kind (optional)

There really is nothing better than hot soup on a freezing cold day. Especially when the soup has been made from scratch by yourself. I have to admit, I made this recipe from a random assortment of Tik Tok video recipes for tomato soup and it took a while to get right. I love it because it is so easy to make and can be cooked in bulk and used for days after!

To start, simply cut up all of your tomatoes and place them onto a baking tray. Lather them with oil, garlic, onion powder, salt and any herbs you prefer. Give the tomatoes a good rub to ensure they are all coated in the mix. Place the tomatoes in an oven set at 180°C for around 15 minutes or until they get soft.

While the tomatoes are in the oven, prepare your vegetable stock. I usually place a cube of the stock in a mug of boiling hot water and wait until it completely dissolves.

Once both your tomatoes and vegetable stock are respectively ready, combine them in a large pot and get ready to blend the two together! At first, make sure the ratio of your tomatoes is larger than the amount of stock you pour in to make sure the soup is not too thin. Once you begin blending you can make your own judgments as to whether or not you need more vegetable stock, based on how you like the consistency of your soup. Once the majority of the pot contents are blended together, you can choose to add some heavy cream and a table spoon of cream cheese to add to the flavour and thicken the soup. Again though, this is all entirely optional to the individual.

Once all of the contents of your pots are blended, simply place the pot on the stove on a medium heat. Allow it to boil until it gets piping hot and ready to eat! Save the leftovers for lunch and dinner for the next few days too, it’s the perfect meal for any student on a budget!

Photo by Milada Vigerova from Pexels

Lazy Macaroni and Cheese

What you’ll need:

  • Pasta (ideally penne or macaroni)
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • A block of cheese (or cheeses) of your choosing

Like its name, this Mac n’ Cheese is perfect for anyone who doesn’t have the time or effort to make your regular oven-baked macaroni and cheese but it honestly tastes just as good! It’s called Lazy Macaroni and Cheese because of the minimal ingredients you need and the fact that I made it on a Sunday afternoon when I had no intentions of cooking but also did not want to spend money on a cheeky takeaway.

To start, simply boil your pasta in a pot of boiling salted water. While that is cooking, grate your cheese – remember, the more the merrier! You can either stick with one type of cheese or use an assortment. At the same time, set your stove top to medium and in a pot place 1 and a half tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has finished melting add a dash of milk and your cheese and proceed to stir. Keep on adding more and more grated cheese until it starts looking, well, cheesy!

Similar to the tomato soup, the consistency of the sauce is up to personal preference so if you want to add more milk or even a bit of pasta water that is perfectly fine!

It is super important, however, to remain vigilant with your stirring and keep the stove’s heat consistent, especially if you keep on adding more cheese, to ensure the sauce does not get super clumpy!

Once your pasta is done cooking and you’ve strained it, simply add it into your pot of cheese sauce and give it a good mix to make sure all of the pasta is covered in sauce and then voila! your lazy macaroni and cheese is ready to eat. I try and keep it consistent by eating a lovely bowl in bed or on the couch but that is entirely up to you.

Photo by Any Lane from Pexels

Broccoli and Mushroom Quinoa Stir Fry

What you’ll need:

  • Quinoa
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Vegetable stock (optional)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sweet chili sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sweet chili mayonnaise (optional)
  • Chicken (optional)
  • Beef (optional)
  • Shrimp (optional)

One of the main reasons I love this recipe is because it’s super easy to make while being extremely healthy. It caters to everyone in terms of being a great meal for vegetarians, pescatarians and meat-eaters.

Start by cooking your quinoa. I love boiling it in a pot of water with vegetable stock for added flavour. While your quinoa is cooking, add some oil of your choice in a pan with some salt and garlic powder. Wait for the oil to bubble and the garlic to combine well with it and in the meantime grab your veggies. In a bowl, place your washed and raw broccoli and mushrooms and add some hoisin, sweet chilli and soy sauces. The measurements, again, are very lax so add as much of each as you like. Mix the veggies in with the sauces well to make sure they are fully coated and then place them in the pan of oil.

Cook your mushrooms and broccoli until soft and at the same time keep an eye on your quinoa to make sure it doesn’t boil over or overcook. While the vegetables are cooking make sure to add some more seasoning for maximum flavour and once they’re slightly more than fork-tender that means they are done. Wait until your quinoa has finished cooking and no more water is in the pot then simply drop it all in the pan with the vegetables and toss them all up together like a salad.

If you want, add either chicken, beef, and/or fish but the quinoa alone with the broccoli and mushrooms is perfect enough for a good vegetable stir fry. If you have them, garnish the dish with some sesame seeds and add a bit more soy sauce and some sweet chilli mayo.

Photo by Cats Coming from Pexels

For more student foodie inspiration like these winter meal ideas, check out the rest of our Food and Drink articles!

Feature image credit:  Milada Vigerova from Pexels