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suama's guide to cheap and delicious cooking :3

Tagged as: food, yum.

Written by suama on December 2, 2011
Something I posted on Basil originally. Since Bryan can't even cook pasta, thought it might be useful to post it here. :D

The best guide on Basil for you starving college students living on ramen every day. :D Weirdly enough, people have approached me a few times asking for cooking advice, so I thought I'd compile a guide for eating cheaply. :x I don't know what cooking facilities are like in most American colleges, so just give me a list of what you have access to and I'll see what I can do. (Apologies for any typos, I'm typing in the dark right now.)

You can add whatever small bits of cooked meat to a lot of these basic ideas, but to be honest it's cheaper being vegetarian. Remember to be creative though!.. Or to use whatever leftovers to pad food out.

The essentials

White sauce

25g/1 tablespoon of butter
25g/1 tablespoon of flour
600ml milk

Put the butter and flour in a saucepan and cook on the stove on a medium low heat. Mix it until the butter melts and combines with the flour to make like a paste. Then add a small bit of milk, whisk until smooth (It will start to get thick really quickly), add a bit more milk, whisk, and repeat until all the milk is in the pan. Carry on whisking on the stove until the sauce is thick enough to your liking (It may take like 5-10 mins.), and season with salt and pepper.

What can this be used for?
It's basically a cheaper and healthier way to make a cream sauce without using double cream or anything. So you can
- add cheese to make mac and cheese
- cauliflower cheese
- add pesto to make a creamy pesto sauce (Which is better than using pure pesto since it makes it last longer thus saving more money :D)
- use it for topping lasagne
- fry off onions, mushrooms, garlic then adding the sauce to make a delicious pasta sauce (You can actually fry the veggies in the fat, then add the flour and milk like normal, just add more oil/butter as it's absorbed by the veg)

Red/Tomato sauce

To be honest, it's pretty cheap just to buy jars of tomato sauce. But if you do wanna make it yourself:

Tins of chopped tomatoes
Tomato paste
Random herbs

Fry up the onions (And whatever other veggies you like that need frying) in a little oil, chuck in the chopped tomatoes with about a tablespoon of tomato paste, ketchup, sugar, then put in enough salt, pepper and random herbs to your taste.

What can this be used for?
Man, what can't this be used for. :o Variations and recipes include:
- Frying off minced meat before the onions, drain the fat and carry on with the basic recipe and you have bolognaise, which can also be used for lasagne.
- Adding with the white sauce to make a creamy tomato sauce
- For something really easy (But not necessarily quick) Pasta bake: get a big dish, fill it 1/3 with a layer of raw pasta (Like ziti or the swirly ones), get your favourite pasta sauce and dump it in, then using the glass it was in, fill it with water and dump that in the dish as well. Mix til it's all one consistency. At this point, you can shove in frozen veg like peas, sweetcorn, etc. Put it in the oven at 180C (don't know in F sorry) and cook for 30 mins. While that's cooking, grate as much cheese as you like, then after the 30 mins most of the water should be dissolved. (You should probably mix it from time to time in that 30 mins. If it looks really dry at the 20 min mark, add more water. If it looks really wet still, cook for longer.) Once it looks saucy enough, add a crapload of cheese and cook for another 15 mins until the cheese is nice and crispy.
- "Huevos Rancheros" (I think? I made this and was told it was Huevos Rancheros, but it's just something I made up) by adding chopped chillies, chipotle chilli powder, paprika to the pasta sauce in a frying pan, then cracking 2 eggs on top, putting a lid on so the yolks cook a little (But they still have to be runny!), then serving with thick crusty bread.
- Tomato soup, just add some chicken stock (Either cubes or from bones, which I will go on about later)
- 3 Bean chilli, by simply adding chilli (either fresh or ground), tins of drained black, pinto and kidney beans, corn and topping with cheese.
- Roasting a spaghetti squash for an hour, fork it out and top it with the sauce

Mashed potatoes

A crapload of potatoes (And a pot big enough to hold crapload of potatoes)
A potato masher and a little elbow grease

Peel and chop potatoes into even chunks and put into the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Add a bit of salt to the water and set the stove to high, checking it from time to time so it doesn't boil over. Cook until the potatoes are soft, which will be about 15 mins depending on the size. Drain all the water. Once it's all drained, add milk (how much depends on what you want to use it for; For fishcakes it won't need much milk at all) and butter, and mash the hell out of it until it's smooth. Taste. Does it need salt and pepper or more butter? Then you know what to do.

What can it be used for?
You might be wondering why I added mashed potatoes. Simply because, they're so versatile. :o I'd suggest making a big batch of mashed potatoes at the beginning of the week, since these can be turned into

- Fish cakes (mix boiled/steamed fish and random veg in with the potatoes, and cover in breadcrumbs if you can be assed. Fry in a little oil on both sides til crunchy or cook in oven until crunchy),
- Sheppard's/Cottage pie (make the bolognaise mentioned in the red sauce and top with the mash. You can eat it like it is but it's nicer if you put it in the oven for a bit so the top goes crispy)
- Croquettes
- Bangers and mash (sausages, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, yum)
- Thickening soups

Roast Chicken

If you want a bit of meat in your life, I'd suggest buying whole chicken. They're cheap, there's a lot of meat and the bones can be used for stock as well. I can't say exactly how to cook roast chicken as the times vary depending on the weight, but according to Google this is a guideline for roasting times for a chicken at 375ºF (190ºC).

Chicken Roasting times (unstuffed)
2½ - 3 lbs - 1 - 1¾ hrs
3½ - 4 lbs - 1½ - 1¾ hrs
4½ - 5 lbs - 1½ - 2 hrs
5 - 6 lbs - 1¾ - 2½ hrs

I can't stress enough that you don't contaminate other things with your raw chicken hands and to check if the chicken is cooked thoroughly. This means clear juices with no pinkness in the meat. Always check from the thickest part of the meat, such as the thigh.

So what it be used for?

- A roast dinner. Obviously.
- Stir fries
- Sandwiches
- Pies (Put chicken with gravy in a dish with random cooked veg like leeks, carrots, mushrooms then top with premade shortcrust pastry)
- Pasta dishes
- Salads
and so on. Let your imagination and tastebuds go wild. :o

But wait! Don't throw the carcass away. Chuck it in a pot of boiling water instead with salt and pepper. Let it simmer for like an hour or two, and then you'll have chicken stock, which you can
- Make into gravy by adding it to flour and cooking the flour out on the stove to thicken (Careful, it can get lumpy very easily)
- Soup bases
- Or for broths for things like wonton soup or pho (I think? I've only had pho once)

Flavoured butters

Flavoured butters are so easy, and it's such a tasty way to flavour boring foods, even sandwiches. ;D Just get some softened butter and flavour it with various things such as
- fresh herbs
- garlic puree
- chillies
- lemon rind
- sundried tomatoes
- capers
- smoked salmon
- curry powder

And other flavourful ingredients. My favourite combination is fresh rosemary, garlic and lemon rind. Remember to try and make the ingredients as fine as possible, chewing on a massive chunk of garlic isn't the tastiest of things.

What can it be used for?
I use flavoured butters when I can't be assed to cook much, but don't wanna just shove something in the microwave. So I generally use it with
- Hot spaghetti
- On top of meat, fish or veg
- Hot cous cous
- With mashed or baked potatoes
- In sandwiches
- With scrambled eggs
- Garlic bread that'll go perfectly with the pasta. :D There's two ways that I make garlic bread, depending on how many people I'm making it for. For a large group of people, I just get a big french baguette, cut slices in it about an inch apart from each other (But making sure it doesn't go too deep, you want it to stay together) and put a knob of flavoured butter in the gashes. Bake for about 8-10 minutes on 180C until the butter is melted.

Another way I do it is getting a nice thick slice of any type of bread, spread butter on quite thickly on one side and fry it in a pan until golden. This way is much tastier but is more effort.

It's not a good idea to actually cook with the flavoured butters though, since the ingredients inside are likely to burn and turn bitter. But yeah, this is definitely something you can customise to whatever you like. :D

Perfect pasta

Here are some tips for the perfect pasta as requested by @Wallflowers :D
- Get a big pot of water for the pasta. The reason why you want a big pot is so that the pasta has more space to move, making it less likely to stick to each other
- Add about 1-2 tablespoons of salt to the water. This increases the boiling temperature. Don't worry about the pasta being too salty though, it won't absorb as much salt as say vegetables do.
- Boil the water before putting in the pasta. If you put the pasta in while the water's cold, it's more likely to get soggy.
- Mix the pasta in the water every few minutes so it won't stick.
- Don't overcook! I can't tell you the exact amount of time, but just remember to taste test all the time, like you should always do with cooking. You want it "al dente", meaning you want the pasta to have a little bit of bite to it (Not crunchy), rather than just being soggy and tasteless. You also need to remember it will carry on cooking once it's been drained in the colander as well.

That’s it for basic stuff. :D Will post various recipes throughout the thread. Please feel free to share any of your recipes for cheap deliciousness and I'll link to them if they're not troll posts.

Disclaimer: Try the recipes at your own risk. If you don't like it or didn't cook it enough so you fall ill, then it's not my problem. Apologies if there are things that are unclear, my English writing skills are pretty naff. If you need anything elaborated or made clearer, please feel free to ask. And yeah yeah, too long didn't read etc

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December 2, 2011
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Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:18 AM +

I believe the paste you're referring to in your white sauce recipe is a roux.

Also, I like your liability disclaimer at the bottom. Very Nexon.

Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:37 AM +

darkness said: I believe the paste you're referring to in your white sauce recipe is a roux.

Well yeah I know, but I don't need to add poncy terms in a basic cooking guide.

Fri Dec 02, 2011 02:13 AM +

suama said:
darkness said: I believe the paste you're referring to in your white sauce recipe is a roux.

Well yeah I know, but I don't need to add poncy terms in a basic cooking guide.

Understandable, though I should point out I don't really know a few of the bolded terms. So the applications are not as basic as you may suggest. (Just looked up croquette.)

Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:46 PM +

For pasta, just go by the cooking directions on the box, its usually pretty accurate, but cut the time short maybe 2-3 mins because as you said, it keeps cooking, especially if you are going to transfer the pasta into where ever you are cooking your sauce.
I love to cook :)

Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:50 PM +

Awesome guide!

Mon Dec 26, 2011 04:54 AM +

Hehehe white sauce.


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