How Cooking Like Mum Helped Me Make Friends

How Mac’n’Cheese Helped Me Make Friends.

Sarah’s Mum thought she was simply helping her daughter to eat well, when she taught her how to make some of her home-style classics, but she was giving her so much more.

This story was sent into us from a university student and amateur baker who wanted to tell us how she managed to make a whole host of new friends at University with the help of some extra nostalgic recipes that she learnt from her Mother…

Students are notoriously bad eaters. Although they might not be raiding the supermarkets for pot noodles like they did in the 90s, it can still be said for many of these young people that they are simply not ready to sustain themselves, when many of them arrive on campus for their first year in University. They’re more often than not likely to fall for the first piece of campus marketing that they see, and remain blindly loyal to a cheap takeaway shop for the rest of their time at Uni.

Whilst it might be tempting to attribute this lack of care to laziness, or simple stupidity, in reality many freshers aren’t given proper direction in how to plan their meals or do their shopping. This lack of education can lead to a steep learning curve for young people who have just flown the coop and, if not corrected, can potentially result in poor habits developing in adult life.

Luckily, Sarah was not one of these kids. We’ll let her continue in her words:

“I’m not one of those kids who has horror stories about all the terrible meals they were served by their parents, in fact, the opposite is true. I’ve always loved my Mum’s cooking, she learnt how to cook from my Grandma and holds her in a similarly loft fashion. As much as I relished every single one of my Mother’s meals, I never showed much interest in how they were prepared. To my Mum’s credit, she never once forced me into the kitchen. She did, however, make a series of blindingly good dinners leading up to my final weeks living at home, which made me realise just how talented she was and just how hopelessly clueless I was.

So it was, that after nearly two decades of avoiding touching the oven, my Mother was finally able to get an apron around my neck. Over the course of the last few weeks I spent my evenings learning how to make the dishes of my childhood: sausage & mash, mac’n’cheese, roast dinners, pork chops. I’d never appreciated all the details that were involved in creating these familiar meals, but by the time I left for university I was armed with a host of new skills (and a recipe book) and was ready to get cooking!

On my first night in halls, whilst my new room-mates were stocking up on chicken nuggets and pot noodles, I was carefully picking out ingredients for my debut meal: a faithful recreation of my Mum’s Macaroni Cheese. In the hours before the drinking games and inevitable drunken night out, I sat down to eat with my new Uni family and was happy to find out that not only could I cook, but that my cooking could also make people happy!”

Cooking Your Way To Mealtime Success

Get in the kitchen and save money at the same time!

Learning how to cook cheap, healthy dinners isn’t as difficult as you might think it is…

One of the chief  excuses (yes – excuses!) that parents come up with for not feeding their children properly is that it’s too expensive to buy fresh ingredients, or simply too difficult to make healthy food that their children will like and that is within their budgets. This is, of course, nonsense. Whilst it might be fair to say that cooking using fresh ingredients might take more time (and effort) than giving your kids a pound and sending them down to the chippy, the sooner you embrace this style of cooking, the sooner you’ll be able to get to grips with these skills, and the better you’ll be able to cook in the future.

As with learning any new skill, you should try to remain patient when starting your cooking journey. Perseverance is key to cooking success and you shouldn’t be disheartened if your early attempts do not quite hit the mark.

Start simple

If you’re new to cooking then it’s best to start simple. Luckily, most kids prefer simple foods so your family will be able to ease into your new food routine without too many tantrums or trip-ups. Think simple pasta bakes with chopped tomatoes, pesto, basil and mozzarella; or sausage and mash, with peas and gravy. These meals won’t break the bank and require minimal equipment, there are also plenty of recipes online that you can use to get started.

Get your larder stocked

Before you start your new cooking journey, you should think about pulling together a larder of food that will be able to support your future meals. A few years ago, James Martin presented a television show for the BBC with the purpose of explaining how cooking from fresh ingredients doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. He published a list of basic store cupboard ingredients that would cost around £20 at the time of writing, and then asked his chef friends to offer up healthy recipes that would cost an extra £3 for 4 portion on top of this – both of these resources are highly recommended.

Plan ahead

In order to make the most of your limited budget and time, it’s crucial that you plan your meals ahead, depending on your work schedule, this is best done on the weekend. Find the recipes you want to cook, factor in any evenings where you’re busy and consider subbing in frozen portions, if you have them and make sure you have everything that you need in your cupboards. You’ll find yourself slipping up if you don’t get this preparation done in advance.

Cook in bulk to save

Finally, try and prepare meals in bulk so that you can either freeze your leftovers, or save them dinner or lunch later in the week. Although eating the same meal a few days in a week might not be the most attractive of prospects, if your priority is keeping to a budget and providing your kids with a healthy diet then this shouldn’t be an issue. Always make sure that your food is completely cooled before popping it in the freezer. Once your food is frozen it should be consumed within 2 weeks, keep a record of what you’ve got in there so that it doesn’t get forgotten!

Surprise The Kids With Two Of Jamie’s Salads

Give your oven a rest and make one of these crowd-pleasing salads!

The humble salad has gone through something of a renaissance in recent years thanks to a much-needed cultural shift around healthy eating.

Out of all the stereo-typically ‘healthy’ foods, salad has perhaps been derided the most.

Many die-hard ‘carnivores’ happily call salads ‘rabbit food’ and don’t see much beyond green leaves, but the modern salad is so much more than this. Whereas many kids might initially turn their nose up at a plain garden salad, or a sad pile of leaves from a pre-mixed bag, you can hardly blame them for this! Treated and prepared properly, a dinner comprised completely of salad can be a real crowd-pleaser that can leave your whole family happy and satisfied.

Here in the UK, our households have developed certain traditions and standards that are not only unhealthy, but also extremely expensive. It’s estimated that the average meat eater in the UK consumes twice the world average. Although the government recommends eating no more than 70g of red or processed meat a day (roughly equivalent to two slices of bacon), our eating culture and cuisine is hopelessly ‘meat-centric’.

Our obsession with eating meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is expensive, unhealthy and messy. Meat tends to spatter fat and juices wherever it’s cooked, so meat eaters will also find that they’re having to get their ovens professionally cleaned much more frequently than non-meat eaters. Put short, although our country’s meat-eating habits is great for businesses oven cleaning in Bicester, and the rest of the UK, it’s hardly a convenient habit for most of us!

Thankfully, we live in the 21st century and have access to a whole world of ingredients in supermarkets that can transform kids’ perspective of salad from most-hated to prized favourite. There’s no greater advocate for the salad than healthy-eating fanatic Jamie Oliver. Here are two salad recipes taken from his website which are bound to keep you your kids healthy and happy:

Simple Chopped Salad

What you’ll need for 6 side portions:

6 small carrots, mixed colours if possible
2 sticks of celery
handful of ripe, mixed colour cherry tomatoes
2 small gem lettuces
100g feta cheese
few sprigs of fresh mint
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


  1. On a large chopping board, trim and finely chop the carrots and celery, then finely chop the tomatoes and the lettuce.
  2. Once your veg is finely chopped, you can start to mix it together and continue chopping it some more.
  3. Crumble over all the feta, roll the mint leaves and chop them into the salad.
  4. Mix together the balsamic vinegar and oil with a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. Give your salad a final mix on the board and then serve it with your dressing.

Lentil Tabbouleh

What you’ll need for 4 servings:

200g puy lentils
1 bunch of spring onions
200g ripe cherry tomatoes
1 large bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large bunch of fresh mint
extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon


  1. Rinse the lentils thoroughly and then cook them in plenty of salted water, until just tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Trim, then finely slice the spring onions, halve each tomato, then pick and finely chop the herbs.
  3. Mix the cool lentils with the spring onions, tomatoes, herbs and 4 tablespoons of oil. Add the lemon and season to taste before serving.

Create A School Riot with Nathan Outlaw’s Kedgeree

We look to India for some time-saving cuisine…

Save time and cook a big batch meal that can cover you for dinner, breakfast and lunch!

Kedgeree is a rice-based curried dish that has its roots in both Indian and English cultures. Although the origins of this dish are not exactly certain, what we do know is that this deft mixture of rice, smoked haddock and boiled egg is an absolute treat regardless of when you eat it. Whilst you’d hardly describe these ingredients as being an easy sell for younger kids, if you’re savvy with your introduction to this dish, you could find yourself whipping up vast batches that can serve as a speedy breakfast, a nutritious packed lunch or a super-easy dinner.

This dish is the perfect example of an interesting, nutritious take on a food stuffs that your child might already be familiar. Most kids don’t have a problem with plain rice, its bland flavour is inoffensive and they’re likely to associate with takeaway meals. Pairing this staple food stuff with a new food stuff, like smoked haddock, is a great way of introducing kids to new flavours and texture combinations without taking them out of their comfort zone. Despite it’s Indian origins, kedgeree was originally designed as a dish that would introduce stuffy Victorians to the new flavours discovered in the East, but without blowing their heads off with spice – therefore it’s a perfect choice for introducing young kids to curry flavours, smoked fish and low levels of spice.

There are many different variations on the classic kedgeree recipe, but we found award-winning chef Nathan Outlaw’s to be the best for young ones.

What you’ll need for 4 portions:

400g skinned smoked haddock
300g long grain rice
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 leek
1 celery stick, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tsp mild curry powder
700ml fish stock
2 tsp fresh coriander, chopped
4 eggs
1 lemon
50g unsalted butter
1 dash of vegetable oil
Salt & pepper to season


  1. Dice up the fish into 2cm cubes and set to one side, then preheat your oven to 200c/gas 6.
  2. Trim the top off your leek and give it a good clean under cold, running water. Slice finely, then put to one side.
  3. Heat a large pan over a medium heat, once hot, add the oil and butter. Once this is bubbling nicely you can add the shallot, leek, celery, garlic and for 2 minutes whilst stirring so that the veg softens, but doesn’t brown
  4. Wash the rice thoroughly before allowing to stand for 15 minutes and then adding to the pan. Stir thoroughly for a minute, coating the rice in the oil and butter before adding your saffron, curry powder and fish stock.
  5. Bring the pot up to a simmer, then cover with a lid and transfer the whole pan to the oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Whilst the kedgeree is in the oven you can boil a separate pan of water and gently lower your eggs into it. After 10 minutes, remove, leave to cool and then peel, and slice.
  7. Once your rice is quite cooked you can add the smoked haddock and steam for 3-5 minutes in the hot pan.
  8. Then all you’ll need to do is fold in the coriander and egg, season to taste and serve with lemon wedges. Perfect!