In the midst of exam season, food is one of the only things which keeps me sane. Taking time out to cook a decent meal after a day of revision is therapy to an over-saturated mind, and really helps me to shake off some of the stress. Bulk-cooking ensures I’m not eating beans on toast when I come home, too tired to do anything else.
Thankfully, the worst of my exams are now over, and I’ve been enjoying some well-deserved downtime: cooking, going for coffee and cake, eating out. Also, I can get back to blogging without feeling as though I’m committing some kind of sacrilege against my degree.
So I thought I’d share one of my favourite salads, one of many lunches eaten at a desk in a crowded library, or outside for ten minutes of snatched sunlight. I’ve tried many combinations of veggies, and have managed to isolate a few which really work. Avocado and sweetcorn is one: the former is a good source of fat to fill me up for longer, and the sweetness of the corn compliments the balsamic vinegar very well.
In general, I eat every weekday lunch at uni, so every night I pre-prepare something to eat to take with me the next day. Although food outlets on campus aren’t too bad, there’s no way I can afford to buy food everyday: spending £3 on a reasonable meal would equate to £15 per week – over a ten-week term, that’s £150, guys.
So it’s become part of my evening ritual to throw together a sandwich or a salad ready to put in my bag the next day. Quinoa and couscous are gloriously versatile as the basis of salads – they’re easy to cook, and go well with just about anything. (I used to hate quinoa, until I realised that eating it cooked simply in water was doing it no favours. Simmering it in vegetable stock is a good way to go, or letting it absorb the flavours of salad dressings. With couscous, you can pour boiling water over the top, cover, and leave to stand for a few minutes, before fluffing it up and seasoning it well.)
For the salad, all you’ll need is:
- quinoa / couscous
- half an avocado
- a few tablespoonfuls of sweetcorn
- salad leaves (ideally, rocket or another peppery leaf)
- red onion
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
If you prefer quinoa, simmer for ten minutes on a low heat. I tend to go for half a mugful. Once it’s absorbed all the water and is fluffy, add a good squeeze of lemon, season, and mix. If you prefer to cook it in vegetable stock, go for it.
Simply chop the avocado into rough chunks (if you’re keeping the other half in the fridge, add a few drops of lemon to stop it going brown). Cook the sweetcorn in the microwave or in a pan, drain, and add to the pan – or heap everything straight into a container. Chop or tear your salad leaves, along with a quarter of a sliced red or spring onion. Drizzle with olive oil, dress with plenty of balsamic vinegar, and season. Incorporate everything, pop the lid on the container and shake it round, round, and all around.
Place in the fridge until it’s needed – and voila. An easy, healthy, and tasty lunch, with no hefty price tag.