Man in the kitchen: university challenge

By Simon Round, September 30, 2013
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This is a big week for youngsters up and down the country as the start of the university year looms. There are challenges for everyone in their fresher year.
Will you be able to get out out of bed without your mum snatching away the duvet? Will you be able to drink the quantities of beer demanded of a university student? And how on earth are you supposed to feed yourself without the life-support system of the fridge at home?
I remember the first meal I made for myself when I moved into a student house with my friends. It was the basic tomato sauce recipe I had learned before leaving for Leeds.
Everything was going well. I remembered to buy all the ingredients, I still had all my fingers after chopping the onion and I even had the right kind of saucepan. Indeed had the gas not gone off halfway through the cooking process I would have had a tasty meal. As it was, I was unable to cook the pasta so I feasted on semi-cooked tomato sauce poured over cheese and onion crisps (I was thinking nachos). Let’s just say I have cooked better meals since.
However, there is nothing wrong with the tomato sauce recipe, which I have used hundreds of times since. It is cheap, easy, nutritious and very versatile – after all, you can have it with linguine, tagliatelle, penne or even alphabetty spaghetti.
Finely chop an onion and a clove of garlic (that’s the smaller whiter looking thing that looks a bit like an onion but isn’t), and saute gently in some olive oil until the onion is translucent and not brown — and certainly not black. Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and about a third of a glass of water. Season with salt and pepper, add a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar (most vinegars will do but don’t be tempted to use lager), a teaspoon of sugar and simmer on a low light for 20 minutes to half an hour.
Then mix into your favourite pasta, and add some grated Parmesan. If you don’t have Parmesan, then a strong cheddar will suffice and even cheese strings wouldn’t be a complete disaster.
All you need to do is find a fork, or failing that a pair of chopsticks. Oh, and remember to have a packet of instant noodles and a kettle handy just in case.

Last updated: 9:45am, September 30 2013