Category Archives: Student Food




I rather like this African take on ratatouille, or perhaps the French copied this when they colonised parts of North Africa. Anyway who really cares, as I like ratatouille and I also like shakshuka.

This recipe is simplicity itself and you could put a meal on the table in little over 35 minutes. Ignore the title and think poached eggs in rich tomato sauce.

If you Google ‘shakshuka recipes’ you will get about 181,000 hits and if you start to read some of them, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a dish that is at home anywhere from Mauritania on the north-west coast of Africa all the way round the Mediterranean to Albania and beyond into the Balkans. Each country that has it will doubtless claim it as their own. However what is certain is the number of different ways of adding different ingredients. Essentially a vegetarian dish, in some countries sausages or shrimps are added . The cheese and the spices used vary according to country and availability.

Basically make a spicy tomato sauce and add what else takes your fancy.

In some countries this is a breakfast meal, cooked and served straight to the table, in single serving cast iron pans with hunks of bread to mop up the juices, but this is versatile enough to be served straight to table, in a paella dish for instance, as part of a dinner course, with rice and some green vegetable.

With an eye to appearances, I would have preferred to have had a green pepper, however they are basically unobtainable here in the north of Italy. I think next time I make it I will add some peas, just to add contrast with the red background.


Serves 4

Total time to prepare and cook 35 mins


3 tbsp Olive oil

1 large onion diced

2 small zucchini diced

3 cloves garlic

1 red pepper (green would look better), diced

1 yellow pepper,diced

3 medium tomatoes or a 450 g/1 lb can of tomatoes diced small

100 ml/3½ fl oz/½ cup red or white wine

2 tsp ground cumin

1 – 2 tsp chili flakes (or whatever form of chili you are most comfortable with)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 or 3 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper to taste

100 g/3½ oz/1 cup grated cheese (Use what is local and available. I used parmesan, but cheddar, feta or pecorino would be ideal)

4 medium to large eggs



Peel and dice the onion, put it into the pan with the oil and soften for 5 minutes. (I used a 30 cm/12 inch pan, but you might want to use a bigger pan otherwise the eggs will look crowded)


Dice the peppers and add to the pan and soften for 5 minutes


Dice the zucchini and add to the pan and soften for 5 minutes.


Dice the tofu and add to the pan ( I know, it is not in the list of ingredients but I found it lurking in the fridge and decided to add it)


Add the tomatoes and wine, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.



Meanwhile add the spices, basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir them in well. Taste and adjust the flavour according to your desire,


Sprinkle the cheese all over


Make 4 ‘nests’ in the mixture and crack the eggs into them. The observant ones of you will have spotted only 2 eggs, and that is because I was cooking for 2, me and Joy, but the list of ingredients is for 4.

Cook for a further 5 minutes or so, according to how soft you like your eggs.

You might have to add water if the mixture is drying out or cover the pan with a lid to help cook the eggs or to stop it from drying out.


Serve immediately













Filed under All Year, Main Meal, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food, Vegetables

Spicy Potatoes

DSCN5877As a British kid, I grew up eating potatoes. It was a staple of post Second World War Britain. But there was on offer only boiled, baked, mashed and chips, and only the chips had anything other than gravy or mint sauce on them. Potatoes with every meal and so little variation in presentation, but I was not complaining. I loved them and still do. But with cooking books and the internet, the variation on offer now is beyond belief.

I happened upon this Lebanese/Syrian recipe last year and it has established itself as a regular in our family. I have modified it slightly to suit my philosophy of cooking in the most efficient way within the bounds of a recipe.

Because it is baked it lends itself as a dish that can go in the oven alongside a main course, and therefore is cooked for ‘free’. Well perhaps I am kidding myself, but you understand where I am coming from.

Serves 4. Preparation Time 10 minutes. Cooking Time about 40 minutes


1 large potato per person, cut into 1 cm dice

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 red pepper or 2 large tomatoes, diced to 1 cm

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

2 or 3 teaspoons ground coriander

a grind of salt and pepper



Mix all the ingredients, except the lemon juice, in a bowl and stir together well.


Tip into a baking dish as a single layer

Put into a hot oven set at 180 C/350 F/Gas 4/ Moderate for about 35 to 40 minutes. Half way through baking, stir them through.


They are finished when they are nicely browned.


Drizzle with the lemon juice and serve them immediately. Here I have served them with Peas and Stir Fried Cabbage (recipe here)




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Filed under All Year, Main Meal, Side Dishes, Spicy, Student Food, Vegetables

Spiced Chick Peas and Basmati Rice

DSCN5847 This is another family favourite, for several reasons. This is student food (or harassed parent food) at its very best. It is very quick to put a nourishing and filling meal on the table. It is dead easy to put together. It is one of those forgiving recipes that you can tinker with to produce different flavours, and it always comes out just hitting the spot. This is a store cupboard special, where the hardest part is chopping up an onion and squashing a clove of garlic.

The recipe is for 4 people, but it is very easy to scale up to account for how many people you are serving.

Time to prepare and cook about 25 – 45 minutes, dependent on the time it takes to cook your rice.



per person 80/100 gm basmati rice

1 large onion, sliced

1 clove of garlic

1 -2 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 454 gm/1 lb tin of chick peas

1 x 454 gm/1 lb tin of chopped tomatoes

1 level teaspoon curry powder/paste or to taste

2 cups frozen peas (optional)

salt and pepper to taste


Put a pan of salted water on to boil for the rice.

Meanwhile slice the onion and put it in to a saucepan with the oil and saute gently for 5 minutes.

As soon as the rice water boils, add the rice, bring back up to the boil and simmer to cook (this is how much time you have left to cook the chick peas and tomatoes!). If you have ample time you can save some money by looking at my suggestions for ‘slow’ cooking here .

Meanwhile add the minced garlic to the onions and saute for another 2 minutes.


Add the chick peas, tomatoes and frozen peas.  Increase the heat to bring to a boil. reduce the heat to simmer.

Add the curry powder and season to taste.

As soon as the rice is cooked, serve everything on hot plates.


Here I have served it with Stir Fried Cabbage (the recipe here) as well as the basmati rice.






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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Main Meal, Pulses, Beans and Nuts, Rice, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food

Stir Fried Cabbage


We grow and eat a lot of cabbage, and we use many different recipes in order to vary the way we eat them. This is one such way, which is quick, economical and also tasty. As with a lot of our recipes this is one that can be adjusted to suit the style of cuisine that it is accompanying.

This serves 4. Preparation 10 – 15 minutes. Cooking 10 minutes


1 medium cabbage

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 dessert spoon caraway seeds or fennel seeds


Wash the cabbage leaves and then steam or boil them for 5 minutes.

Drain the leaves.


Shred or slice them finely

In a wok heat the oil, and add the seeds and garlic, cook for 1 minute.


Add the cabbage leaves and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes.

Season and serve immediately.

And if you are thinking, that is not much cabbage for 4 people, you are correct. I was doing and photographing a half recipe.

If you wanted to liven up the visual aspect of the cabbage you could add a finely chopped red, orange or yellow pepper, which takes little or no time to cook, before you add the cabbage to the wok.



Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Side Dishes, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food, Vegetables

Baked Cauliflower and Lemon Tahini Sauce



Cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable, found across a whole range of cuisines, cooks easily and compliments many different flavours. I have just about cooked it in as many ways as you could think of but up until now I have not baked cauliflower. Well this recipe did it for me, paired with a sauce that threatens to become a store cupboard standby.

See what you think. It takes only minutes to prepare and with a total cooking time of no more than 25 minutes, this could be a boon to people in a hurry. As a side dish you would want to put it alongside food that is not strongly flavoured so that you can savour the sauce.

This recipe serves 2 but is easily scaled up to suit your requirements.



1 small head of cauliflower broken into florets

1 tablespoon of olive oil

a good pinch of salt

For the sauce

Tahini paste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon white wine

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 clove of garlic minced

3/4  tablespoon Sumac spice

3/4 tablespoon fresh chopped dill or 1 dessert spoon dried dill

1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes

1 /4 teaspoon salt





In a bowl mix well the florets of cauliflower, salt and oil, tip into a baking dish and roast at 200 C/ F/ Gas / in a preheated oven for about 25 to 30 minutes.


Stir through and turn the florets at least once during the baking.


Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, in a blender and produce a smooth puree. If necessary add a little more wine to thin it.

Either serve on plates with the sauce drizzled over the cauliflower or serve at the table with sauce in bowls for dipping.


Here I have served it with boiled potatoes, carrots and some cauliflower leaves.




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Filed under All Year, Main Meal, Sauces, Side Dishes, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food, Vegetables

Deep Fried Stuffed Queen Olives


I just love olives. Any sort. I also cure raw olives bought from a local market in the autumn, and that means I can add all the garlic and herbs I want.

This, however is an antipasto or ordeauve that can be put together in about 10 minutes, using the large or queen olives. You can buy them with stuffing, but it would be a matter of a few minutes to stuff them yourself with red or yellow pepper, garlic or anchovy.



5 or 6 queen olives per person

oil for deep frying


egg, beaten



Drain the olives on kitchen paper

Bring the frying oil up to temperature. If using a deep frying machine then set the temperature to 185 C/360 -370 F. If using a normal saucepan then you want to have the oil deep enough to just cover the olives. If you haven’t got an oil thermometer then the oil is hot enough when a small cube of bread browns in about 2 minutes.

Working quickly dip each olive in turn into the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs, repeating the process so as to double dip each olive.

Put each olive into the hot oil for about 2 minutes, turning the olive over at least once.

Remove, when golden, with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve as soon as the last olive is out of the oil. Yummee!


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Filed under All Year, Antipasti, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food

Stir Fried Brussels Sprouts and Apple



I just love Brussels Sprouts. Raw, boiled, steamed, baked, in a stew, cold the next day, whatever and now this way. It is made with a little maple syrup or honey added, and that touch of sweetness gives the sprouts a bit extra on the taste front and help counter any bitterness from the sprouts.

One of the beauties of wok cooking is the speed with which food can be prepared and brought to the table, and the smaller the food is chopped to, the quicker it is cooked, and this recipe is no different. When my son Adam was at high school, he had a Chinese friend, whose parents owned and ran a Chinese takeaway, and on occasions when I went to collect Adam when he had been playing with his friend, I had the opportunity to see the behind the scenes action in the kitchen of the takeaway. An array of woks on impossibly high gas flames and the  two parents stirring and shaking vigorously for all they were worth, and producing a meal in mere minutes. Impressive.

One can of course prepare all the food before cooking, in which case one would have to soak the prepared apple in lemon juice to prevent it from going brown. However by working swiftly it can be prepared while the onion is cooking, saving the cost of said lemon juice. Like wise the sprouts can also be prepared quickly while the onions and apples are cooking.

Serves 4. Preparation Time 15 minutes. Cooking Time 15 minutes (maximum). Total time approximately 20 – 25 minutes


1 large onion, finely sliced.

2 cloves of garlic.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

1  cooking apple or firm crisp eating apple.

1 level tablespoon maple syrup or honey or sugar

370 gm/12 oz/ 3 cups Brussels sprouts, chopped into eighths , or shredded in a processor

100 gm/ 3 1/2 oz/ 1/3 cup pine nuts, any nuts, chopped or flaked, no nuts

salt and pepper to taste


In a wok (preferably), or medium frying pan, gently soften the onion, in a little of the oil, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue for another 2 minutes.

While the onion and garlic are cooking, chop the apple into small bite size pieces.

Add to the onion and garlic, increase the heat and stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes.


Add the maple syrup and stir fry for 1 minute, and then scrape into a bowl and reserve for later.



Add the rest of the oil and then the sprouts. Over quite a high heat stir fry the sprouts up to 5 minutes, depending on how fine they have been chopped, and until they have turned bright green and are beginning to brown on the edges.


Add the onion. garlic and apple mixture, and working quickly, stir fry, warming through the whole mixture. Season to taste.


Add the nuts, stirring through to distribute them equally.

Serve immediately onto hot plates.


Here I have served them with hot home made sauerkraut in a tomato sauce, and plain boiled potatoes.



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Filed under Autumn/Winter, Main Meal, Spring, Student Food, Vegetables