Margarita pizza.

Student cooking – the guilt-free takeaway

By my 18th birthday, I could comfortably travel alone, unblock a kitchen sink and detect whether milk had expired before I drank it.

One thing I wasn’t very good at was cooking.

As I watched my mum prepare our roast dinner, I never understood how she could peel a potato so quickly without catching her fingers. She made it look like a skill you had to take classes for. As much as I tried to convince myself that takeaways and Betty Crocker cake kits were enough to see me through university, I knew my body and bank balance would soon tell me otherwise.

How could I enjoy my takeaway favourites, save money and maintain a balanced diet at the same time? Sure enough, I had to compromise, but learning to cook made all of this possible.

So, here are three alternative take away recipes you can cook yourself that are not only delicious but both healthy and affordable…

Vegetarian Katsu Curry

Ingredients (to serve one):
– 1 celery stick.
– 1 small red apple.
– ½ a white onion.
– 1 ½ tbsp. of curry powder.
– 100ml vegetable stock.
– 1 small sweet potato.
– ½ tin of drained chickpeas.
– 2 handfuls of washed spinach.
– 75g basmati rice.

– For the sauce, peel the onion and apple, and dice both, along with the celery, into small chunks.
– Fry these ingredients in a small saucepan, gradually stirring in the stock and curry powder.
– Once softened, turn off the heat and allow it to cool.
– Once cooled, blend the ingredients into a thick sauce. Return to the pan and set aside.
– Peel the sweet potato and dice into bite-size chunks. Drop into a saucepan of boiling water.
– After 8 minutes tip in the chickpeas. Wait a further 3 mins before adding the spinach.
– Drain the ingredients and stir them into the cooled katsu sauce.
– Bring another saucepan of water to the boil and cook the basmati rice for approximately 15 minutes.
– Warm up the sauce and its contents over a low heat and serve alongside the rice.

Total Cost: £1.84 per portion.
Calories: 451 kcal.

Guilt-Free Pizza

Ingredients (to serve one):
– 2 wholemeal tortillas.
– ¼ jar reduced-fat green pesto.
– 50g smoked prosciutto.
– 60g light mozzarella cheese.
– 2 handfuls of washed spinach.
– 6 cherry tomatoes.

– Preheat the oven to 180 ºc and lay both tortillas onto a wide oven tray.
– Spread a generous layer of pesto over the two tortillas and put to one side.
– Dice up the mozzarella, spinach and tomatoes and tear the prosciutto into thin strips.
– Scatter the ingredients evenly over the two bases and return the tray to the oven.
– Cook for around 5 minutes or until the edges are crispy and the mozzarella has melted.

Total Cost: £1.79 per portion.
Calories: 590 kcal.

Italian Burgers:

Ingredients (to serve one):
– 200g turkey mince.
– 20g chorizo.
– 1 wholemeal bread roll.
– 30g light mozzarella cheese.
– 1 tomato.
– ½ gem lettuce.
– 1 tbsp. reduced-fat green pesto.

– Preheat the oven to 180 ºc.
– Dice up the chorizo into tiny pieces and mix into the turkey mince.
– Shape the mince into a patty. Don’t worry if the patty looks too big at first, as it will shrink once it begins to cook.
– Sear the outside of the burgers for 3 minutes on each side to lock in the moisture, before placing it inside the oven to cook for a further 15-20 minutes.
– While they cook, prepare your salad and spread the pesto over both sides of the bread roll.
– Cut the mozzarella into thin disks. These can be placed directly onto the bun prior to serving.
– Alternatively, place the disks on top of the patties 30 seconds before removing them from the oven to allow them to melt.
– Once finished, stack the ingredients, using a skewer to hold them all together.

Total Cost: £1.56 per portion.
Calories: 630 kcal.

Moving out can feel impossible to prepare for, but learning to cook is a great place to start.

*Prices and calories calculated using

Inspired by recipes from the ‘Lean in 15’ collection by Joe Wicks.