Freshers Meal Ideas

Are you starting university and want to make simple, cheap, vegan food? Or maybe you aren’t a student, but don’t have too much money to spend on buying food? If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, then these three recipes are for you. These three tasty plant-based meals are simple and certainly won’t break the bank

I’ll try to be clear with the methods, so if you haven’t got much cooking experience you’ll be able to make these. None of us leave the womb imbued with the cooking knowledge of Gordon Ramsay, we all have to learn somewhere. So if you haven’t cooked very much, don’t worry

First up; Tomato & Vegetable Pasta


This can be eaten hot or cold. You can serve this as a smaller lunch portion along with salad, or have a larger serving for a main meal

Yield; 2-4 servings Cook time; 25 minutes

You’ll need;

  1. One teaspoon of oil
  2. One small brown onion, diced
  3. One pepper, diced
  4. 250g/9oz mushrooms, chopped
  5. One tablespoon tomato puree
  6. One 400g/14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
  7. Half a teaspoon of the following dried herbs; basil, parsley and oregano
  8. Salt and black pepper to taste
  9. 200g/7oz (dry weight) pasta


  • Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, once it’s warmed up add the oil, then the onion and pepper. Give them five minutes to cook before adding in the mushrooms
  • Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and herbs, cover with a lid and allow the mixture to simmer for ten minutes
  • Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet. Once cooked drain away the water (don’t rinse the pasta) and add the pasta to the sauce. Mix well to ensure the sauce coats the pasta evenly. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot, or allow to cool, store in the fridge and eat it chilled

Next; Three Bean Chilli


Eat this as a baked potato topping, or serve along with rice, inside tacos, or as a burrito or enchilada filling. Alternatively use it to top tortilla chips, then top with melted cheese for some great vegan nachos. This will make quite a bit, if you want to make less, halve the recipe and only use one tin of mixed beans

Yield; 8 servings Cook time; 45 minutes

You’ll need;

  1. One tablespoon of oil
  2. One brown onion, diced
  3. Two peppers, diced
  4. Spice mix; two tablespoons of the following; ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika. One teaspoon of cayenne pepper and one tablespoon of oregano
  5. Two tablespoons of tomato puree
  6. Two 400g/14oz tins of chopped tomatoes
  7. Β Three 400g/14oz tins of beans
  8. 100g/3.5oz of textured vegetable protein aka soya mince
  9. 300ml hot water
  10. One tablespoon of light soy sauce


  • Add the oil into a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and pepper and allow to cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Then add in the spice mix and the tomato puree. Mix well to combine and allow to cook for two minutes before adding in the chopped tomatoes
  • Cook for ten minutes before adding the beans. Put the tvp/soya mince into a shallow dish and cover with the hot water. Cover, a dinner plate will do, and allow to hydrate for five minutes, then add it into the chilli
  • Add the soy sauce and check for seasoning, add more salt and black pepper as needed. Cover with a lid and allow to cook on a medium heat for another 20 minutes, then give it a good stir before serving

Finally; Red Lentil & Chickpea Dhal



This is a really cheap, filling meal that you can eat simply along with rice. Or you can serve it with dairy free naan bread, poppadoms, or serve it as a side dish with a vegan curry.

Yield; Four servings Cook time; 30 minutes

You’ll need;

  1. One tablespoon of oil
  2. One clove of garlic, minced
  3. One brown onion, diced
  4. Two teaspoons of the following; ground cumin and ground coriander, and one teaspoon of turmeric
  5. 250g/9oz red lentils, thoroughly rinsed
  6. 750ml hot vegetable stock
  7. Salt and black pepper to taste
  8. One 400g/14oz tin of chickpeas, drained and thoroughly rinsed


  • Add the oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat. Then add the onion and garlic, allow them to cook for five minutes
  • Next add the spices and give them a good mix to combine. After you’ve stirred through the spices, add in the lentils and stock
  • Cover with a lid and once the mixture comes to a simmer remove the lid and give it 25 minutes to cook, stirring every now and then, just to make sure nothing sticks
  • After the dhal has been cooking for 20 minutes, add in the chickpeas. Stir them through and give them about five minutes to heat up. After five minutes it’s ready to serve

Cooking tips;

  1. Dried textured vegetable protein aka soya mince is very cheap, versatile, a good source of protein and low in fat. You can buy it from Tesco or Holland and Barrett for Β£2 for a 375g/13oz bag. In addition to chilli, you can use this mince in bolognese, shepherds pie, lasagne or pies
  2. Initially your food will cost a little more due to buying herbs and spices, but they’re versatile and will last a while. The herbs used for the pasta and the oregano in the chilli, can be used to flavour other dishes, sauces and soups. The spices used in the chilli and the dhal can also be used in curries, soups, or as a spice rub for vegetables or potato wedges
  3. As you cook, keep checking for seasoning. If you’re cooking something and it’s tasting bland, inject flavour into your food with herbs or spices, and salt and pepper
  4. You can really cut down on any potential digestive issues with the beans by rinsing them really thoroughly. So give them a really good rinse in plenty of cold water before adding them into food
  5. To get a smoother sauce for the chilli and pasta dishes, blend the chopped tomatoes until they’re smooth with either a blender or immersion blender
  6. Most importantly, have fun with it. Play around with different foods and flavours to find what you enjoy cooking and eating most

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