Exploits of a Less Than Adequate Chef …

Cooking is (usually) my worst nightmare!  I am certainly no Nigella! The fact that I can never find the utensils I’m looking for, the fact that measuring amounts takes precious time, the fact that I have no idea what the difference is between Chinese five spice and a cardamom pod; these are all reasons why usually, the very thought of cooking simply angers me.

Fine spices? As it stands I ca’t taste the difference!

However in the last six months or so I have found myself leaning more towards cooking and the creating of culinary masterpieces (well in my eyes at least).   This has come about for two reasons: Firstly cold baked beans out of can for three dinners on the trot became too much for me to bare.  Secondly after a hypochondriac moment and insisting the doctor check me for every illness under the sun (with all of these tests coming back clear) I decided that health is important – so don’t take it for granted.  Part of that for me is ‘being bothered’ to cook dinner and a healthy-ish dinner at that.

However of course being on a student budget I can’t pick a recipe book, close my eyes, open it on a page and simply have all the ingredients.  I haven’t got forty varieties of spice, and I certainly do not have the patience to marinate chicken for 48 hours – that would require planning! Having come to the conclusion that recipe books are not for me (too many ingredients and far too time consuming) I have come up with a few ‘recipes’ myself that are cheap and if I do say it myself quite tasty.

One of my surprising favourites is a lentil dahl.  Now I’m not vegetarian but I have found vegetarian meals on the whole to be so much CHEAPER!  Take chicken breasts for example – 4 for £4-ish: On the face of it not too expensive, but when my food budget stretches to no more than £10 per week you can see why meat is not number one on my shopping list.  Lentils on the other hand less than a pound for a whole bag – bargain!  But I will admit that bag of lentils, the one mother suggested were a staple for my food cupboard upon arrival at university nearly two years ago, have only been cracked into in the last few months or so.  Before my changed cooking habits I looked at them in the cupboard, thought to myself ‘dear god what the hell are you supposed to do with those?’ and swiftly closed the door on them.

And I have to admit even when cooking them for the first time I still was not convinced!  But if like me you haven’t thus far been a lentil fan, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

But enough rambling, onto how to cook that lentil sensation!

Lentil Dahl, cheap, easy and tasty!


  • 1 onion
  • 1 tomato
  • Some lentils (A few large handfuls should do it)
  • Chilli powder (I would say a spoonful – but do it to your own taste – you’ll soon know if you’ve over estimated)
  • Turmeric
  • Maybe if you’re feeling it a touch of salt and pepper


  1. Start cooking the lentils – boil for about 20 minutes or so
  2. While those lentils are boiling away fry the onions and tomato with the turmeric and chilli powder.
  3.  When those lentils are cooked drain them and then stir in the onion and tomato mix.

And basically that’s it I usually serve with spinach cooked or not and even I’m feeling swish, one of lidl’s finest nann bread.  And I have to say it is nice, cheap and simple – only takes about 20 minutes to cook (speed is of the essence for me) and of course it is actually quite healthy.  If only chocolate were so beneficial to one’s health!

But of course if I’m learning to cook dinner I have to learn the art of cake making!  And I think I’ve managed that, this is one I made earlier (well a few months ago, but it’s the best I’ve achieved so far) …

I have to say I’m proud of these!

Follow me on twitter: @LucyBarclay1