Dinner For One

When you have no one to come home to but you

Cambridge cooking cambridge food cambridge students food healthy eating healthy lifestyle quick recipes salad student meals uni cooking uni life University of Cambridge

So by now you've basically conquered Sainsbury's, you've fallen in and out of love with ready-meals, and after having forced yourself to finish your umpteenth spaghetti bolognese, you've decided that you can take it no longer. 'Tis the time for change.

If your degree isn't going well at this stage, face it, it never will. Michaelmas may have been the time for a new-term-new-you, but at this stage, you should acclimatise yourself with the cold hard truth. You might've chosen something for the job prospects, or something for the fun of it (in which case, you're going to end up having a lot of free time anyways), but one thing you'll always need to learn is the art of cooking. From fending for yourself in these early adult years, to throwing grand dinner parties to feign how put together your life is, to eventually being in charge of the Christmas turkey, it's never too late to start.

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A gift from your future self.

With countless recipes to choose from, and countless hours in which to do so now that you've given up on your law degree, you can make anything from a cake in a mug to tackling the Masterchef death dish in all it's glory… in a microwave. (And if you haven't fully given up on your degree, finding new recipes *technically* isn't procrastination because if you think about it, you need to eat, therefore cook, to survive and so isn't everything else you do the real procrastination? #solidargument #whyismylawdegreefailing)

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Why read about the burden of proof when you can read about breakfast toasts?

And what better place to start than with a salad because there's no way you can screw it up, right? You might be saying, salad isn't real cooking and so why do I need to read this? Salad is the Land Economy of cooking. Valid question, I must admit. But do you, do you, know how to poach an egg in a microwave to top off your salad? Do you know how to make perfectly fluffy couscous to mix into your salad? Do you, good sir, even know the origin of the word 'salad'? (And if yes to all of the above, please still read on for entertainment value).

First things first, make sure you control your gyp. Fully mark your territory – grab bottles, bowls, bells, whatever – but spread them all out. You don't want someone to sneak in a plate of leftovers into the microwave at the very moment that you need exactly ten seconds to perfect your egg. The real world starts here and it will bring you down. Mindless small talk will serve as a distraction and you should always be at one with the egg, as any good chef worth their salt will tell you.

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Got to love that gyp decor™

In order to fancy up your salad, get couscous. Plus, you need something to bulk up your salad. You can't just have leaves for dinner, you aren't a rabbit. Couscous is the most magical thing in the world. With an easy to remember 1:1 ratio of couscous to boiling water, and just about five minutes of soaking time, you get fully cooked and fully delicious couscous.

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To cous or not to cous

While your couscous is soaking, start assembling your salad in a big bowl. Throw in whatever mixed greens you find in the fridge (preferably your own, but theft is a valid last resort). Now start cutting up any meat you want in your salad. Sainsbury's has pre-cooked roast chicken and other bits and bobs of ham and things, but you could always go crazy and try to cook your very own bacon (between two pieces of paper towel, one minute per slice). Once you've added the meat to the leaves, separate your couscous with a fork. Then add that to the big bowl. Feel free to crumble in any type of cheese.

Lettuce ignore that sad pun

You should have a pretty standard salad in front of you. Grains, greens, great expectations.

Now for the truly magical part. Fill up a mug or a bowl with water and crack in an egg. People online say to add in a dash of vinegar at this stage but what do they know, I didn't and my egg was fine.

Microwave your egg for about a minute. Check to see if it has reached a desired consistency, and if not microwave in further ten second increments. Finally, *very very carefully* move your egg from your bowl to your big bowl. Voilà. Look who just made a fancy salad. Gold star.

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Runny like all your problems

Finally, make sure to season with salt and pepper, especially if it tastes bad because then you can always blame the salt – "ohmygod it would've been delicious but this is too salty".

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Dinner with friends

Life tip – always have something or someone to blame when things go wrong, which oui, includes this article if the salad fails to live up to your (clearly stupidly high) expectations.