How to make povo student food seem fancy

September 18, 2015
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We students tend to get a bad rap for being tacky, untidy and stingy with our money. And this isn’t entirely fair, especially considering we don’t really choose this desperately broke lifestyle; it comes as a natural consequence of relying on casual employment for income, coupled with relentless bills and exorbitantly priced alcohol.

In fact, the ‘scruffy student’ stereotype is more than a little insulting to those of us who possess a natural eye for sophistication: our haute couture fashion sense, impeccable taste for stylish interior décor and appreciation for expensive fad diets are all stifled exclusively by our empty purses.

But despite our renowned tendency to serve up hearty meals of mi goreng on the reg, it is possible for uni students to raise eyebrows with their creative culinary skills. Here’s how.

Cook it slow

For those of you who somehow missed the bandwagon, slow cooked meats are all the rage at the moment. A slow cooked duck ragout or beef brisket will never fail to impress, and pulled pork is breaking hearts in every hipster joint in town. In fact, my observations have indicated that by simply mentioning that a restaurant meal is “slow cooked”, the street value of the dish will instantly rise by roughly $4.50.

Ironic, really, considering that slow cookers only make your life so much easier. For those of you who are hesitant to take risks in the kitchen but are yet to experience the wonder of these machines, prepare for something extraordinary.

Before you leave for uni in the morning, forget steps one to four of any recipe and skip straight to “combine all ingredients”. Whack ‘em all in the pot, turn it on, conveniently forget about it for eight hours, and return home in the afternoon to a house that smells absolutely heavenly and a meal that could only have been prepared by angels. Slow cookers really are God’s gift on Earth.

It’s time to get funky!

Aesthetically pleasing dishes don’t only come from Jamie Oliver’s kitchen. When you’re plating up, think of creative ways to jazz up the presentation of your masterpiece.

Keep it colourful; the brighter, the better! Challenge yourself to incorporate as many different colours into the meal as you can. Garnishes such as coriander or fresh chives are a great way to fix an awkward case of delicious, nutritious, but ugly-as-all-hell food.

Serve it up

Rummage through your cupboards for some non-standard serving bowls. They don’t all need to match (thank you, hipsters, for your services to impoverished students) and generally, the more impractical and irritatingly unnecessary they are, the better.

I’m talking stemless wine glasses as vessels for desserts, or scratched-up, disintegrating chopping boards for pizzas. Serve layered muesli in mason jars with oversized spoons, and watch your guests try in vain to get to the oats in the corners of the jar. Yes, it’s super wanky, but it looks good, so deal with it.

Minimise me

Make it mini. Why? Because mini is faaarshion, dahhhling. Think bite-sized cupcakes, pulled pork sliders, mini quiches and individual cob loaves.

Take this a step further and invite your friends around to experience your famous degustation ‘tasting’ menu. Serve each guest three pieces of ravioli in one course and two mini arancini balls in the next.

Remember what I said about meal presentation? The more aesthetically pleasing the dish is, the less food you can get away with serving. It’s the oldest trick in the book: ‘mini’ foods tend to be very economical.

‘Wow’ them

Lastly, be outrageous. Turn heads with something controversial: an unexpected culinary extravaganza made from chicken nuggets and leftover pizza will never fail to impress.

Hannah Hughes

Hannah is passionate about lime milkshakes. She also enjoys befriending ducks at the University of Wollongong, where she studies law and journalism.

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