Six recipes to get you through self-catering

One major challenge of university life for many people is suddenly having to keep yourself alive and well – and cooking is no small part of that. Some people may be experienced cooks already, which is fantastic, but many others will find this one of the biggest adjustments during their time at uni. Whether you didn’t cook much at home, are in a self-catered college for your first year, or have recently moved out of a catered college, don’t worry! Here are six easy and cheap recipes to get you through the year, tried and tested by students – feel free to use, re-use and adapt them to your heart’s content!


Butter Chicken

Credit: @letskwoowk on TikTok

This TikTok recipe shows you a quick and easy way to make a delicious, fragrant meal without breaking the bank. You can adjust the spice levels to your taste, and this is a great one to batch cook and freeze for later! (Just make sure, when reheating chicken and/or rice, that everything is cooked through and piping hot).

The original video is linked, but the recipe is also written out below.


Serves as many portions as you make! The ingredients don’t really have specific measurements as everything can be adjusted to taste.


  • Chicken thigh (or any kind of chicken, diced)
  • Garam masala
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Yoghurt
  • Onion
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Cream
  • Coriander (optional)



  1. Salt the pieces of chicken in a bowl, then sprinkle with garam masala, smoked paprika, and a touch of cayenne. You can adjust these proportions to suit your own taste.
  2. Grate some garlic and ginger into the bowl and add a spoonful of yoghurt. Mix everything together until the chicken is fully coated. Marinade the chicken in the fridge – the longer you marinade it, the stronger the flavours will be, but it’s also okay to leave it for 5 minutes before continuing.
  3. Cook the chicken in a pan until it is piping hot and white inside, then remove from the pan.
  4. In the same pan, heat some butter, then add onion and garlic. Fry these until soft and season with the same spices used on your chicken.
  5. Add a can of tomatoes, mix, and finish the sauce with some cream. You can blend the sauce with a blender if you want to, but this is optional.
  6. Add your chicken to the sauce and give everything a good mix before serving (with rice, naan, or whatever you want). You can also add some coriander on top if you’d like.


Tomato Pasta

Credit: Lesley Waters on BBC Good Food

Pasta is a student staple, being cheap, easy to cook, and filling. It’s perfectly acceptable to buy pre-made pasta sauce, but if you want to try making your own sauce from scratch, here is a great recipe to try! You can also add your own ingredients to it, such as extra vegetables or toppings.


Serves 2


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 400g can cherry or chopped tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 100g pasta
  • 50g cheese of choice
  • Hunk of baguette or sliced bread, coarsely grated
  • 2 frankfurters, sliced (optional – can be removed for a vegetarian recipe)



  1. Heat the oil in a medium pan and fry the onion for 5 mins until softened and lightly golden. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further min. Mix in the tomatoes and sugar, bring to the boil and summer for 20 mins. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and season to taste. This basic sauce can now be chilled or frozen.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to pack instructions. Heat the grill to high. Mix together the cheese and breadcrumbs.
  3. Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce. Tip in the frankfurters (if using) and spoon into a heatproof dish. Scatter over the cheesy crumbs and grill for 3-5 mins or until bubbling hot and golden.


(Chicken) Fajitas

Credit: student (anonymous)

This recipe can be vegetarian by taking out the chicken! Maybe try adding extra veggies or your favourite meat alternative.


Serves 1


  • 1 chicken breast or alternative
  • 1 or 2 peppers (sliced)
  • 1 onion (finely sliced)
  • Fajita seasoning
  • Tortilla seasoning
  • Other seasoning of choice


Extra optional toppings:

  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce



  1. Chop up the chicken breast into small pieces and cook on a high heat in a pan with oil. When the chicken is nearly cooked, add the onion and pepper.
  2. When the onion and pepper have softened, add the fajita seasoning (either a bought packet, or try making your own!). Mix until the chicken, onion and pepper and fully coated.
  3. Take the fajita mix off the heat, warm your wrap up in the microwave, and assemble the fajita with any toppings of your choice.


Teriyaki Chicken Noodles

Credit: student (anonymous)

This can again be made vegetarian by taking out the chicken or using a meat alternative.


Serves 1


  • 1 chicken breast or alternative
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Egg noodles
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Chilli flakes
  • Spring onion



  1. Chop up the chicken into thin slices and slice your vegetables of choice (a great way to use those extra veggies that are lying around in the fridge).
  2. Cook the chicken on a high heat in a wok (or deep pan if you don’t have a wok) with oil and season with salt, pepper, and paprika, plus any other seasoning you might want.
  3. When the chicken is cooked, add the chopped-up veggies and keep on a high heat until they have softened.
  4. Meanwhile, add egg noodles to a pot of boiling water and add a little salt. When the noodles are ready, drain them and add them to the wok with the chicken and vegetables.
  5. Add the teriyaki sauce to the mix and stir thoroughly until the sauce covers everything.
  6. Serve up the noodles and top with chilli flakes and spring onion.


Easy Beef Burritos

Credit: Barney Desmazery on BBC Good Food

This mixture can also be served in tacos or with rice.


Makes 8 burritos/Serves 4


  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 500g beef mince or alternative of your choice
  • Pinch of golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 400g can black beans or kidney beans, with the can water
  • 8 flour or corn tortillas
  • 500g cooked rice
  • Toppings of choice, e.g.:
    • Avocado
    • Guacamole
    • Chopped tomatoes
    • Soured cream
    • Shredded lettuce
    • Sliced red onion
    • Grated cheddar
    • Sliced red chilli
    • Lime halves



  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the onions for 8 mins, then add the garlic, spices and oregano and cook for 1 min. Crumble over the mince and sizzle for 5 mins, stirring, until browned. Stir in the sugar and leave for a minute, then splash in the vinegar and pour in the tomatoes.
  2. Simmer for 5 mins then tip in the beans and water from the can. Season, stir and simmer everything for 20 mins until the beef is in a thick gravy. The sauce can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, chilled and reheated with a splash of water, or frozen for 6 months (ideal for student living!)
  3. To make the burritos, heat the tortillas following pack instructions. Pile some rice and beef sauce along each tortilla and scatter over your choice of topping. Fold over the ends and roll up to seal. Secure by wrapping with foil if you want. Eat immediately.


Roasted aubergine & tomato curry

Credit: Chelsie Collins on BBC Good Food

This recipe is vegan!


Serves 4 (and freezable!)


  • 600g aubergine, or baby aubergines, sliced into rounds
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 400ml can chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • Pinch of sugar (optional)
  • ½ small pack coriander, roughly chopped
  • Rice or chapatis, to serve



  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Toss the aubergines in a roasting tin with 2 tbsp olive oil, season well, and spread out. Roast for 20 mins or until dark golden and soft.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in an ovenproof pan or flameproof casserole dish and cook the onions over a medium heat for 5-6 mins until softening. Stir in the garlic and spices, for a few mins until the spices release their aromas.
  3. Tip in the tomatoes, coconut milk and roasted aubergines, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 20-25 mins, removing the lid for the final 5 mins to thicken the sauce. Add a little seasoning if you like, and a pinch of sugar if it needs it. Stir through most of the coriander. Serve over rice or with chapatis, scattering with the remaining coriander.


TOP TIPS: you can buy preprepared garlic, ginger in jars to save you from peeling and crushing your own garlic. You can also freeze ingredients such as onion and bell peppers to make them last longer, or buy them frozen to begin with. Frozen vegetables are also a great way to reduce food waste.


Featured image by Dana Tentis on Pexels

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