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Student Food: vegetarian chili, rice and salad

October 25, 2013

chili ingreds

Ok – this is not gourmet cooking! This is a very basic and very cheap – but healthy – meal for students to make on cold winter nights. My Fresher-son said he and his housemates loved it. He event sent me a photo of his cooking in-situ, in a student kitchen – apparently, what it lacked in visual elegance it made up for in taste. I’ve added some (very) rough costs so you can start to see where the costs lie in a meal and to become a savvy-food shopper. Total cost per (large) serving of this meal is around £1.10

Alex chili pic


The Chili

1 tin/carton tomatoes (50p) (don’t get super-cheap ones it’s not worth it as they are very watery/tasteless)

Squirt or two of tomato puree (very very cheap)

1 medium-large onion (10p), finely chopped

2 cloves garlic (5p)

1 tin kidney beans (60p) (tip them into a colander/sieve and rinse off the salt water)

½ red chili (chop finely, remove the seeds) or ½ level tsp chili powder

Topping: Greek yoghurt and cheddar cheese



  1. Cook the onion in a little (about a tablespoon) sunflower oil on a medium heat, adding the fine-chopped or crushed garlic after about 5 minutes (turn the heat down and be careful that the garlic doesn’t burn or stick to the pan).
  2. Add the chili, stir for a few seconds and then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat back up to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the kidney beans and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add a pinch salt and a few twists of black pepper.
  4. Using a potato masher or fork, squash a few of the kidney beans to make a thicker texture.
  5. If the mix dries out a little, just add a few tablespoons of water and warm up again.

Serve on rice with a dollop of sour cream (or Greek yoghurt – supermarket own brands are £1 a large tub, so a dollop is about 5p), some grated cheddar (about 2 tablespoons/ 20g – a 250g block is about £2.50 so 20g is about 40p), and salad.


Brown Basmati and wild rice

A 500g bag will cost about £1.70 (this is much better for you than white rice and easier to cook). A standard serving is 75g/half mug  per person (about 25p). If you are very hungry you will need 100g/ 2/3 mug rice.


Put half a mug of rice per person in a pan (make sure it will be big enough to hold the expanded rice once it’s cooked – it doubles in size) and cover with boiling water leaving about an inch of water above the rice. Do not cover the pan with a lid.

Simmer for about 20-25 minutes – the liquid should all have been absorbed


Crunchy green salad (serves 1)

Avoid over-priced, bleached bagged salads – buy a few basic raw ingredients instead.


1 stick celery, sliced into ½ cm pieces (10p)

2” length of cucumber, quartered and sliced into ½ cm pieces (5p)

4 leaves of a Little Gem lettuce, roughly sliced into strips (90p for two lettuces, about 15p for a few leaves)

Costs: 1 pack celery (90p), 1 double pack Little Gem lettuce (90p) and a cucumber (80p) = total £2.60   will give you about 7-8 decent portions of salad at about 30p a go.


Quick salad dressing (serves 1, cost – less than 5p)

1 dessertspoon olive oil

Squeeze of lemon (about a teaspoon, 35p each) or a teaspoon of white wine vinegar (about £1.50 a bottle) or balsamic vinegar (about £7-12 a bottle– don’t buy the very cheap versions, these are merely coloured to look like balsamic vinegar). A bottle of vinegar will last you about 6-8 months

Few pinches of salt and twists of black pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard (about 80p – will last 6-12months – andf very good in cheese sauce)



Mix dressing together in the bottom of a large bowl and then add the salad ingredients just before serving.

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