[STANDFIRST] Here’s our verdict on radio presenter Chris Stark’s debut cookbook for students. By Ella Walker.
Radio 1 presenter and co-host of That Peter Crouch Podcast Chris Stark is admittedly no chef – but he does love to cook, and has channelled that passion and energy into a student cookbook, snappily named Eat, Sleep, Zoom, Reheat.
Now 33, the new dad – who studied at the University of Southampton – remembers his own uni days, and is hoping to help get Freshers eating stuff other than take-out.
Here’s what we thought…
The book: Eat, Sleep, Zoom, Reheat: How To Survive And Thrive In Your Student Kitchen by Chris Stark.
Who will love it? First off, parents of Freshers. With their babies heading out into the great unknown of halls, lectures and having to fend for themselves, slipping this cookbook in with their kids’ suitcase (OK, laundry bag) will likely provide a modicum of reassurance that they will make it to Christmas without living on pasta and toast alone. Secondly, the Freshers themselves. Sick of people implying they can’t/won’t cook, a couple of these recipes passed off as their own should shut up the naysayers. No one wants to get rickets, you know.
What is it trying to get us cooking? The kind of food that will sustain you through library sessions (‘The academic asparagus omelette’), sit happily in the freezer (‘Chris’ ‘cheap as chips’ chilli con carne’), give you a boost before sports matches (‘Pesto chicken with fridgeraider bulging muscles salad’), and speedy dinners that require minimal washing up. Obviously, there are hangover cures too (‘Pizza naan’), as well as date-night fare (‘Choco Lovin’ Pots’) and party ideas (‘Ultimate wing roulette’). It also has Christmas dinner covered – in two hours.
How easy is it to use? Very. Stark sets out everything you need to buy – from kitchen equipment to staple ingredients – on your first ‘big shop’, meaning from that moment on, you’ll have the basics to hand. The recipes are solid, straightforward, and designed to cost less than a fiver (as long as you’ve got those basics in). There are no fancy methods, complicated techniques, or long words, but it does include veggie alternatives and ‘flavour tips’, if you do gain in confidence and want to up the ante.
Helpfully, it offers tips on how to store food too, so you don’t end up poisoning yourself by leaving rice out all night and then reheating it. There aren’t any pictures to follow – which may be a help or a hindrance. You won’t have something to aim for, looks-wise, but then you won’t have anything to negatively compare yourself to either, regardless how your dish turns out.
The best recipe is… It’s got to be the ‘Stroganoff Before-You-Dancey-Off’ for the name alone. That or the ‘Starkay satay chicken’ (recipe below).
The recipe we’re most likely to post on Instagram is… ‘Easy-but-deadly’ banoffee pie – retro and delicious, it’s a winner.
The dish we’re least likely to try is… ‘Gourmet Beans a la Toast’ – what’s wrong with the classic version?
Overall rating: 8/10 – engaging, witty and packed with solid recipes, it’s a must for anyone facing their first term at uni.
How to make Chris Stark’s ‘Starkay Satay’ Noodles
300g boneless chicken thigh meat, diced
2tbsp soy sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lime
400g dried noodles (2 nests per person)
4tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 broccoli, cut into florets and stalk thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
50g smooth peanut butter
2tbsp sweet chilli sauce
400ml tin coconut milk
100g mangetout, thinly sliced
50g frozen peas
50g roasted peanuts, lightly crushed
Vegetarian: removing the chicken and adding firm tofu to this dish works just as well.
Flavour tip: adding some sliced spring onions and sesame seeds at the end might make you consider quitting university and becoming a chef!
1. Put the chicken in a bowl, add the soy sauce, lime zest and cornflour and mix together well. Cover and leave to marinate for five minutes. If you are using tofu, do the same step.
2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the noodles and cook for two minutes. Once cooked, drain with a colander and rinse under running water until cold. Drain again and drizzle with two tablespoons of the vegetable oil, coating them well before setting aside.
3. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat until hot, add the remaining oil and fry the onion, broccoli stalk and carrot for one minute. Stir in the peanut butter, chilli sauce and coconut milk. Bring the pan to the boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the marinated chicken or tofu and poach for five minutes. Throw in the mangetout, peas and broccoli florets and simmer for another two minutes.
4. Return to the boil, stir in the lime juice and cooked noodles and heat until they are piping hot. Serve with the crushed peanuts on top.
Eat, Sleep, Zoom, Reheat: How To Survive And Thrive In Your Student Kitchen by Chris Stark is published by John Blake, priced £9.99. Available now.