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Can't cook, Won't cook?

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What if I told you that the reason you have a kitchen in your student accommodation isn’t just to gather for pre drinks with friends or sit and enjoy noodles and takeaway pizza? I know… mind blown, right?

Okay, I will level with you. I know that not all students are terrible at cooking for themselves, but so many are, no matter whether it’s a case of “Can’t cook” or “Won’t cook”. During my brief stint at the University of Leeds, I fell into the latter camp (it’s sometimes just SO much easier to stick in some chicken nuggets when you’ve got a night out planned…), but fortunately, by the time I’d grown up a bit and moved on to Liverpool, I had sorted out my eating habits and was cooking most days. Based on that little bit of insight, I reckon I’m qualified to give advice in this area. Well, sort of!

Some people who definitely CAN give you a little bit of a hand with this stuff are the Sorted Chefs. A while back, Liberty Living commissioned them to produce some videos in their London residences to give you an idea of what can be achieved with just a basic bit of knowledge and some low cost ingredients.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’ll be releasing some simple videos and recipes showing you how to get all independent in the kitchen.

Each video is three to four minutes long and involves Ben Ebbrell, the group’s chef, getting one or two members of the Sorted crew, and a few stduents, to help him create a dish. All the recipes are relatively simple, mainly using store-cupboard ingredients and designed to appeal to those who want to make an impressive-looking dish with the minimum fuss.

These five friends met at school in Hertfordshire, but went their separate ways in 2008 to attend various colleges. When Ben Ebbrell, who was studying culinary arts management at University College Birmingham, returned home in the holidays he was horrified to discover what his friends had been eating. Did you know there’s such a thing as a frozen doner kebab? He started writing simple, cheap recipes on the back of beer mats for them to try. A lot of them would cost less than £1 each, so they were cheaper than buying takeaways.

In 2010 they self-published their first book, Sorted: a recipe for student survival… and things have progressed from there. They have their own YouTube channel, SortedFood, and with more hits on YouTube than Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay combined, SortedFood’s online cookery videos and recipes are consigning the era of the TV chef to the kitchen bin.

Now everyone’s got to start somewhere, and so seeing other young people give it a go might just be all the inspiration you need. Not only is home cooking typically healthier, it can also be tastier too (trust me!). I love making everything from casseroles, to soups, to fancy side dishes and all kinds. It’s definitely won me brownie points with my boyfriend, too – plus it gives me something to do! Once you’ve got the hang of it, it can even be your party trick – showing off your culinary skills can be entertaining to your new flatmates for sure, just ask the producers of every cooking show on TV, like, ever. You can even cook as a group, because it can be a right laugh. You’ve got great cooking facilities here at Liberty Living, so make the most of them!

Of course, if you are going to get into making your own food from scratch, you’ll want to be savvy about it. Don’t cook when drunk, for example, because it’s all going to end in tears! At worst, you’ll do yourself some serious harm, but based upon my old flatmate’s experience (that girl just keeps on coming up…), at best, you’ll inexplicably throw some chicken into the kettle, much to everyone’s dismay when it’s found, completely rotten, about two weeks later. Gross. You also shouldn’t cook when super tired (I’ve been there… waking up four hours later to a blackened casserole dish isn’t ideal, and I was lucky it wasn’t a lot worse!).

Finally, don’t ever, ever leave the food unattended, particularly when it’s on the hob. A girl I once lived with clearly thought she was the exception to this rule and left her wok (a big no-no in student accommodation anyway) by itself and it caused a genuine, legitimate fire. We couldn’t live there for weeks, our sofa was melted along with everything else, and we’re so fortunate that nobody got hurt. If there’s ever a story to remind you to be vigilant when cooking as a student, it’s that one.

No matter whether you’re a newbie in the kitchen and your idea of cooking is microwaving tinned soup, we hope that the four videos we’ve got coming up for you will give you some insight and inspiration. Good luck, and remember to upload some of your creations to our residence Facebook page and don’t forget to invite us over for dinner sometime soon!

Liberty Living provides student accommodation in 17 university cities across the UK, including student accommodation in Medway, student accommodation in Newcastle, student accommodation in Preston plus many more.

Posted on 21st October 2014 by Claire L.

Claire Louise Sheridan lives and works in Peterborough. She recently graduated with a degree in English and Communication Studies from the University of Liverpool.

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