This week I'm reviewing cookbooks. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. Still, here we go with a student classic.
Every year without fail, there will be a huge group of people who will leave home and go to university completely unprepared in the basics of life. They will have no concept of budgeting. And they will have no idea how to cook.
No surprise on the latter then that there is a huge market for cookbooks aimed at students, and the best well known of them all is Grub on a Grant. Originally published in 1986 (and updated as More Grub on Less Grant in 1999), my original version sits alongside Catherine's dogeared copy of companion book, Vegetarian Grub on a Grant.
Over the years, author Clas Clarke became almost the Delia of student cooking and Grub on a Grant became known by many as the student cookbook bible, thanks to its extremely easy to follow recipes which were simple, and wholesome and tasty. And of course, especially useful for the student audience, it was a book that didn't get extravagent and therefore expensive.
However for me, the most useful section was its selection of recipes for one person - the solo diner is a concept that most cookbooks seem to ignore, despite the fact that a third of the population live by themselves.
Even after leaving university I was regularly using Grub on a Grant, and when I moved in with Catherine, the Vegetarian version became more important too. Regular favourites had included a crusted mince recipe, where mince and onions would be served with french bread croutons, and a sort of mushroom pasta sauce made with condensed mushroom soup. Frying pan pizza came out time and time again for those times when only some melted cheese could do.
Okay, they don't sound particularly glamorous and sexy meals, and I can't deny that both books tend now to sit on the shelf looking rather folorn and unused. Getting jobs after university meant more money, and our tastes have changed and matured.
And it is perhaps not so much a surprise that neither book gets much of an outing anymore. Why do frying pan pizza with self raising flour and cheddar cheese when I can make a proper pizza base and smother it with mozarrella and sundried tomatos? Chances of me doing crusted mince are slim as it's not veggie friendly, however if I did find myself with some mince in hand, I'd probably make a lamb keema instead.
Yet it would be wrong to dismiss Grub on a Grant just out of hand as not being sophisticated. For it's a book that helped me learn more about cooking - that helped give me the basics. It's recipe for chilli-con-carne is pretty similar to what I do now for example (except with veggie mince). Perhaps it is fair to say however that much of the food is representative of the era it was written in - cooking in the mid 1980s was quite different to now. I mean, I can still remember this strange stuff called pasta appearing in my mum's food.
Times have changed, and the title perhaps most reflects this. Student grants have gone and so too have these books - although still available, they're not published any more. A new edition merging More Grub on Less Grant and Vegetarian Grub on a Grant was published in 2003 called The Essential Student Cookbook. I haven't seen it, but I'm sure it's been gone through and a host of new recipes have been added to it. And no doubt it's the student cookbook bible for a whole new generation.
Well if that's tempted you, you can find Grub On A Grant, More Grub on Less Grant and Vegetarian Grub on a Grant in the second hand sections of Amazon. And if you want something new then you're clearly not a student. so don't look for Essential Student Cookbook: 400 Quick and Easy Cheap Recipes.
Tomorrow, well I think we'll have a curry...