Over the Christmas period, I had the opportunity to cook for the in-laws. My partner and I chose to make them a prawn and chorizo risotto with homemade garlic bread. This was the third time I had made risotto and it surprisingly went down really well! Cooking normally doesn’t really stress me out, but every time I cook for my boyfriend’s parents I find it SO STRESSFUL because I don’t want them to ever feel like they have to eat a meal because I cooked for them so I find that the pressure is on not to fluff it up.
Anyway, my boyfriend and I worked as a team and we triumphed. Honestly, I experienced such a wave of relief when there were clean plates at the end of the meal. Tonight, I am planning on making another risotto tonight, this time with chicken and mushrooms as prawns are chorizo are a little fancy for a student budget. However, this meal got me thinking about the ideas surrounding risotto. Many people think that it is an expensive, posh and difficult meal to make ,but, when you actually break down what makes up the risotto. I think the stigma around the dish is actually not true.
Firstly, lets look at the ingredients needed for a simple risotto:
- Arborio or Risotto Rice- This is more expensive than your average white or brown rice, however, a little does go a long way. I find that about 300g of rice feeds 2 people and there is enough left for the next day. So, you’re getting about 2 meals worth from that 300g of rice.
- Chicken or vegetable stock- If you cook on a regular basis, this is most likely a staple in your cupboard. Stock cubes are very affordable, most brands and flavours do not exceed one pound.
These two ingredients are the basis of your risotto. If you only had two pounds to spend on food. This would be a filling, warming and comforting meal to last a couple of days.
Meat, fish, veg and wine are the extras that increase the price of the dish. These are not ingredients that are crucial to make the risotto, however, they do complete the dish.
- Meat- Although, students do not have a vast budget to spend on food, most students spare about five pounds on meat. Presumably, chicken is one of the most popular choices. Therefore, adding chicken to the dish will total to around £5 for two people.
- Fish- This is slightly more expensive than chicken if you’re wanting prawns or salmon. However, white fish such as Pollock is very inexpensive. Also, tinned salmon would be another alternative if you were short on money. Tins are not economical in the long run, nevertheless, they are a cheaper than buying fresh fish or frozen and you wouldn’t need more than one tin for your risotto.
- Veg- Vegetables are almost as cheap as the vegetable stock. I buy the supermarket value brand of frozen peas and broccoli which I add to the risotto for extra nutrition and to add a little colour to the dish. The great thing about risotto is that you can add lots of vegetables because the flavour takes away the veggie taste and the slow cooking process really softens them without losing all the nutrition like you would do boiling or steaming. Frozen vegetables are an absolute saviour in my diet because I never have the issue of them going off, they elevate the nutrition in daily meals and they are a far cry from breaking the bank. I strongly believe that every student should have a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer at all times.
- Wine- Now, this is a bit of a luxurious purchase. It tastes fantastic in the risotto but can your risotto live without it? The answer is yes. However, if you have an extra couple of quid lying around and you were desperate to cook your risotto with the wine, then you could purchase the smaller bottles which are no more than two pounds.
Secondly, let’s look at the method. As long as you have a spare hour on your hands, you could easily whip up this dish. All you need is time and patience as the method requires browning off an onion, adding the rice and cook for a few minutes, then keep adding the stock until you have achieved a gooey, rice pudding texture. Simple. I believe that every student who is patient and has time could do it.
Finally, lets move onto the garlic bread. This is unbelievably easy, so cheap to make and tastes a thousand times better than the pre-made frozen ones you buy from the store.
- Thick bread slices
- Garlic, finely diced
- Parsley (if you want to make it fancy)
- Melt the butter
- Add the garlic and the parsley
- Soak the pieces of bread in the buttery mixture
- Bake in an oven until golden brown
This side dish could not be easier if you tried. The ingredients are so cheap that this is so much better than buying garlic bread. Furthermore, most of the ingredients are staples in the majority of food cupboards. So, if you’re a student with empty cupboards and do not have much money to spend on food, then this is a great snack to make to keep you going. Plus, it is a great way of using up old bread. It is not the most nutritious meal, however, it is better than skipping a meal entirely!
The underlying message I wanted to share with you was that being a student is not relying on instant noodles or ready meals. Sometimes, the meals which seem posh, expensive and complicated are not in reality. Therefore, evaluate the recipe and tailor it to suit your budget. If you have a small budget, it doesn’t mean that you’re limited to a poor, unhealthy diet.
I have been sitting talking about risotto so much that I have made myself hungry. I’m now going to make my own risotto. Bye!