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niversity can be eye-opening in many ways, and one of the biggest concerns when moving out is very close to our hearts, and stomachs – how, and what, you’re going to feed yourself.

Regardless of the lies you were told before going to uni, you can’t eat Domino’s every day. Unless you’re a foodie like me, the likelihood of you turning towards Super Noodles, soup, and baked beans is high. If you’ve spent all your budget on going out, or you just haven’t learnt how to turn the hob on, your diet, your health, and your parents’ high aspirations for you will start to deteriorate. However, this can easily be avoided. No, there’s not a lot of effort involved, either.

Regardless of the lies you were told before going to uni, you can’t eat Domino’s every day.

At the University of Exeter, approximately 20% of our students are international (based on international fee status). In my first year, I was the only non-international student in my flat, and the food cooked within those walls was not only good for the body, but good for the soul.

Introducing culturally diverse dishes into your meal intake will not only improve your diet, but also improve your taste buds, your flatmates’ opinions of your solo-living ability, and will make your dinnertimes a lot more interesting. So, here are some tasty ideas for how to embrace different cuisines, whilst also embracing your dietary needs – i.e. not just beans.

I was the only non-international student in my flat, and the food cooked within those walls was not only good for the body, but good for the soul.

Starters

Japanese
Teriyaki Beef or Tofu Lettuce Cups

I’m never going to shoot down Wagamama. Wagamama is always top choice when considering a Deliveroo order. Still, when you’re feeling the pennies less and less in your pocket, you can still enjoy Japanese cuisine at home, to the surprise of both your belly and your housemates. Japanese food is generally light and healthy, making it a perfect starter if you’re trying to impress.

Teriyaki Beef and Lettuce Cups are ideal nibbles and take very little time to make. Marinate your beef, cut up some onion, chilli, and cucumber, add some lime and coriander, assemble – and then yum. For a veggie option, swap out the beef for tofu, and enjoy.

Caribbean
Jerk Chicken or Sweet Potato and Mango Kebabs

Caribbean food, for me, is always associated with something fun. Think of carnival, colour, and heat – and all of these things can be present in your kitchen, rather than popping to Turtle Bay or reverting to the bland, basic meals that students are associated with.

The balance of sweet and savoury is key to most Caribbean dishes, and having a starter dish to show these subtle tones is ideal. The ‘jerk’ flavour can be bought rather than made for extra ease, and then you put however much you want on the kebabs, and have extra fun making a salsa side. It’s fun, vibrant, and looks impressive to whoever you’re cooking for!

Turkish
Falafel or Lamb Mini Flatbreads

We’ve all eyed up the falafel van on Fridays on campus. It always looks really good. So why don’t we do the same at home? I’m not saying get-your-bake on and magically make some flatbreads. If you’re not feeling particularly skilled, you can buy some flatbreads from most supermarkets, and then prep for your toppings – sort of like a Turkish flatbread pizza, but mini. Add garlic, cumin, coriander and mint to your choice of lamb or falafel, and then finish it off with some natural yoghurt on top. It’s refreshing, full of flavour, and definitely a unique alternative to Domino’s or Chicago Town minis.

Mains

Mexican
Black Bean and Beef or Veggie Chilli

Mexican is the food for friends. From tacos, to nachos, to fajitas, to guacamole, right down to the sour cream and salsa, Mexican food always feels like a party. The great thing about it, as well as being the best food choice for a themed birthday, is that it’s simple but tasty.

Chilli con carne is the staple dish to demonstrate this. You can pretty much put anything you want in it – spices, vegetables, and any other wacky flavours and sauces – with the statement pinto, black, or kidney beans, which are needless to say, incredibly cheap. The only beans I will advocate in this article. To make it veggie, swap out the meat for lentils or more beans. One of my good friends at uni did this exact dish for her birthday meal at home, and it’s so easy to cater for everyone’s dietary needs. A big bowl of one, a big bowl of the other, and happy tums all round.

Italian
Spaghetti Bolognese

No, Italian cuisine doesn’t always mean pizza from the freezer. Turn to your friend pasta. Whilst pasta is an essential in every student’s cupboard, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be the same every time. Pasta is one of the most versatile starches available to us, and you can do really fancy things with it without having to go to a fancy restaurant, and without getting scared and reaching for the microwave meal. However, if you’re not quite ready to tackle cannelloni, spag bol is always a safe bet.

Whilst pasta is an essential in every student’s cupboard, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be the same every time.

Using minced meat or a Quorn substitute, you can take your bolognese past the mundane by adding oregano or mixed herbs, or giving it that extra kick with Worcester sauce. Trust me, it works. Easy to make in bulk, you can serve to friends or freeze it for desperate times, saving money.

Greek
Moussaka

Fun fact: Greece is my favourite place in the entire world. Mostly because it always puts a smile on my mother’s face, but also because of how beautiful everything is, including their food. I’m sure if you made a top notch Moussaka, it would put a smile on your mother’s face too.

With a main base of aubergine, artichokes, and lamb (if you’re meat-inclined), a Moussaka is fragranced with herbs and spices that will get your stomach craving for a slice – oregano, bay leaves, and even a cheeky cinnamon stick if you fancy.

Desserts

French
Crème Brulee

The French are known for their sweets, and their ability to address the stress that that uni can bring. Yes, it’s easy enough to buy a croissant or a pain au chocolate from the Market Place, or when you walk past the shop on your way home. But it won’t taste as good as something made at home, ever. Making and baking food is therapeutic in itself. With a crème brulee, the stress is reduced further by the short list of ingredients needed. It’s creamy and self-indulgent, letting you have a little ‘me’ time and giving your stomach some self-care. Oh, and don’t forget that satisfying feeling of breaking through the caramelised sugar into its gooey centre. If that’s not happiness, I don’t know what is.

American
New York Cheesecake

The U.S, more specially the Big Apple, was inevitably going to appear somewhere on this list. But don’t fret – I’m not proposing you eat anything as healthy as a fruit for your dessert. You’re watching a film with your flat and it’s all winding down. It’s too late to accomplish your five-a-day; now is the time to treat yourself. Whilst you’ll need some time on your hands for this one, cheesecake is always worth your time. And when the ingredients name items such as digestive biscuits, vanilla essence, lemon, sugar, and the heavenly Philadelphia cheese, you know the only place that they belong – in your belly.

In all seriousness, this is a rewarding dessert to prepare, and definitely impressive if for an occasion. Your flatmates will owe you big time, if you’re willing to share.

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