If you don’t know how to cook, and you are planning in staying in self-catered accommodation, get practicing over the summer or winter break! Food in the UK, especially London, can be pricey, but if you know where and when to buy, it gets a lot easier. Having a few go-to recipes under your belt will make your life a lot easier. And you can always say that just like Julia Child, you learned to cook when you went abroad . . .
Keeping simple ingredients, such as eggs, cheese (if you are not vegan), rice, cans of diced tomatoes, beans, onions and garlic in your kitchen will help avoid the temptation to break your budget with takeaways.
If you are not a vegetarian, and not opposed to poultry, learn how to roast a chicken. This is one of the cheapest ways to eat well. You can buy a chicken for £5 -10. All you need is a lemon, some garlic, and thyme if you want to get fancy.
Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.
Stick a lemon in the chicken cavity, push some garlic cloves under the skin, coat skin in butter or oil, and sprinkle with salt and some thyme.
Put it in the oven for 70 minutes, or whatever it says on the package according to the chicken’s weight. Check that it is done by sticking a skewer or meat thermometer in the thick part by the leg. If the juices run clear, it is done.
For more detail, the BBC’s version is here:
You can also throw some vegetables under the chicken and have a wonderful side dish prepped at the same time. Check out Jamie Oliver’s recipe:
You now have a dinner, and chicken for sandwiches the next day. Or dice it up and make the British classic Coronation Chicken.
The chicken bones provides the starter for stock, from which you can make risotto or soup. You can also do this without the chicken bones if you are vegetarian or looking for a more subtly-flavoured stock.
Once the chicken has been stripped of meat, cut up an onion and fry in some oil. Add the chicken bones, if there is a bit of meat on them that’s fine. Once they have browned, add water. Add celery, peppercorns, 1 or 2 bay leaves, a carrot, salt. Leave to simmer on the stove for 3 hours or so. You can then ladle this out into Tupperware or Ziplocs (though good Ziplocs are hard to find in the UK, bring some from home if you are so inclined) and freeze it.
You can then turn this stock into risotto – though some claim risotto is best made with water, I don’t agree.
Cut up an onion and fry it in some oil. Throw in some butter for flavor. Add Arborio rice (about 1 cup) and brown it. Before it burns, add stock, one cup at a time, stirring so the stock is absorbed. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked. About 20 minutes. Throw in either just Parmesan (Grano Padano is very similar and cheaper) and either zucchini, peas, etc. Almost anything can be added to a risotto.
Tomato sauce with courgette (that’s zucchini to you)
Another good stand-by to have is tomato sauce. Generally, the longer you cook it, the better it will taste, though you can also enjoy a lightly-cooked version over spaghetti.
Heat an onion in oil until soft. Add minced celery, carrot and garlic and some grated zucchini. Add diced tomatoes or passata. Cook for 1 hour or more on low heat.
The courgette will pretty much dissolve, and you’ll have a tomato sauce that works on gnocchi or pasta.
If you are looking up recipes online, it’s best to use a British website as you may find some ingredients listed in American recipes difficult to find. Try the Quick Recipe Finder on the BBC’s website. You’ll find most British recipes use metric measurements so you might need some help converting measurements.