Despite the stereotype of pot noodles and microwave meals, writers at The Siren know that students are more than capable of cooking up a great dish. Roisin O’Connor has a couple of ideas for your kitchen she thinks you’ll like, so why not try them out?

One of the things I missed the most when I was away from Swansea over summer was having my own kitchen. Since none of my housemates cook half as much as I do, I tend to get the place to myself, though they always manage to appear just as I’m taking a freshly baked cake out of the oven. For me, cooking is incredibly therapeutic: something to look forward to rather than a chore, and here I’ve written down some simple ideas for you to try out at home.

Starter

All the recipes I give as ‘starters’ can also be used for a quick and easy main or side dish when you don’t have too much time on your hands or if you’re tired after a long day on campus. But if you’re entertaining friends or want to impress someone special with a three course meal, why not try something new?

Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad (Serves 6)

This salad only takes ten minutes to prepare, cook and serve. If you’re starting to miss summer, the great flavour of the goat’s cheese mixed with fresh salad, juicy olives and crunchy walnuts will allow for a little nostalgia.

You’ll need 300g of goat’s cheese, six slices of baguette, two bags of the mixed salad leaves you can get from any supermarket, 50g of walnuts, and 100g olives (black nicoise are best, though if you’re not a fan you can give them a miss).

Heat the grill to high, cut the cheese in to six 1/2 cm slices, and put on to each slice of bread, though don’t put under the grill just yet. To make a quick dressing, mix two parts olive oil with one part balsamic vinegar and whisk with a fork, adding a squeeze of lemon juice and seasoning to taste. Pour into a mixing bowl, add the salad leaves, walnuts and olives, and toss well. Put the goats cheese under the grill and cook for two minutes, where the cheese should start to bubble and brown at the edges. Serve at once on a bed of salad.

Main

Fresh Sole Fillets (Serves 2)

This dish takes about the same time to prepare and cook as it does to boil a kettle for your pot noodles and less time than it does to make a jacket potato, though I do warn you, housemates may complain about the fishy smell.

Make sure you have two fresh sole fillets (The Market Plaice is my favourite stop for fish), salt and pepper, one lemon, flour, and a knob of butter.

Put the fish on a chopping board, season with the salt and pepper, and then add a small handful of flour. Rub into the fish until it’s well coated. Heat the pan, cook for around two minutes or until the fish turns golden, then add the butter. Cook for no more than another two minutes, then serve with salad, boiled new potatoes, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Dessert

Lemon Tart (Serves 6)

From a recipe book by one of my favourite writers, Joanne Harris, that specialises in the amazing flavour and texture you can find in French cooking. I prefer to make my own pastry, since the ready-made stuff tends to crumble and causes a lot of stress when trying to roll it out. The filling for this dish is perfectly light, packed with lemon zest and a sure winner to beat those September blues.

Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees

For the pastry, use 250g of plain flour, 175g of butter, 20g of unrefined sugar, one egg, and a very small splash of water. For the filling, you need 4 eggs, 100g unrefined sugar, 150ml double cream, and the juice and zest of four lemons.

Cut the butter into small cubes then rub this and the flour together to form what looks like very fine breadcrumbs, making sure there aren’t any lumps. (You’re advised to have cold fingers and to work in a cool kitchen, but in a student house in September this shouldn’t be any trouble!)

Mix in the sugar, add the egg and water and mix with your fingers to form a dough ball. If the dough is too sticky, just add a little more flour. Put the pastry on to a cool, floured work surface, knead lightly until the dough is smooth, then wrap in cling-film and put in the fridge to rest for half an hour.

For the filling, put the lemon zest, juice, sugar, eggs and double cream into a measuring jug and whisk until pale and creamy. Roll out the chilled pastry, dust with flour and roll out before lining a circular pastry tin. Pour in the filling then place in the oven (being careful not to spill the ingredients everywhere) then cook for 40 minutes or until the filling has set. Leave to cool for an hour.

                        

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