The student's guide to healthy and hearty meals

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While they may be dirt cheap, there’s only so many times one can eat instant noodles. But don’t stress - Bronte Gossling has some healthy and filling recipes that are perfect for winter, and don’t break the bank.

I’m usually one to ramble on and on about this, that and the other thing, but let’s be real, there’s nothing more infuriating than a recipe post that takes eons to get to, well, the recipe. So, without further ado, here are three recipes that are perfect for omnivore, vegetarian or vegan students who are on a tight budget but are looking to go into hibernation after having a phat feed.

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Chili con carne

Makes ten servings.

Contains meat.

Gluten free.

You will need:  

  • 500 grams of ground beef

  • 1 x 400-gram can of diced tomatoes

  • 2 x 420-gram cans of red kidney beans

  • 1 x 400-gram tin of tomato sauce

  • 1 x yellow onion

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • 1 x red capsicum

  • Spices to taste - personally I love 2 x 40-gram packets of Old El Paso’s Spice Mix, and a little bit of chilli oil.

  • 1 x cup of cooked rice per serving

  • Olive oil, salt, pepper - to taste

Chili con carne is the perfect winter stew-type dish that not only is cheap, healthy and filling, but allows for multiple satisfying variations to be achieved even when the chef lacks culinary skills. Start by browning the ground beef in a large pot with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then drain the fat. Add the diced onion, crushed garlic, and stir occasionally until the onion starts to brown. Add roughly-chopped capsicum, then the diced tomatoes. Add two tablespoons of water, then stir occasionally for about seven minutes. Add the beans and spices, then the tomato sauce. Simmer for one to three hours on low heat.

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, start preparing the rice. For every 250ml cup of uncooked rice, pour 1 ¾ cups of water into a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. One cup of uncooked rice serves two. Add a pinch of salt for each increment of water, and bring the water to the boil. Pour in the rice, and stir once to separate it all. Cover the pot, and turn heat to low. Let the rice simmer for 18 minutes, then remove the heat and let the rice steam in the pot for five minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork briefly before serving.

There are multiple variations of this dish that don’t alter the preparations too much, which is ideal for the struggling student who doesn’t have time to learn many recipes. To make this dish vegetarian, omit the beef and instead add two cups of frozen corn, and an extra can of beans. If you’d like to add more vegetables, chili con carne works perfectly with carrot, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin - and, hear me out - sometimes celery. It can also be served with mashed potato, pasta or tortilla chips. You could eat this for days and not get sick of it.

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Slow-cooked coconut lentil curry

Makes six servings.


Gluten free.

You will need:

  • 1 x 400-gram can of diced tomatoes

  • 3 cups of vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

  • 2 cups of dry, brown lentils

  • 1 x yellow onion, diced

  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon of curry paste (ideally garam masala, and this can also be to taste)

  • 1 x 400-gram can of coconut milk

  • 1 x cup of cooked rice per serving

  • Olive oil, salt, pepper, turmeric - to taste

Place all ingredients in a large pot, except for rice and coconut milk, and add a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper and turmeric over low heat on the stove. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, which may take up to eight hours. Stir every hour. Once the curry has been cooked, slowly stir in the coconut milk. Rice can be cooked using the directions above. The leftovers can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to three months - perfect for when you’re smashed with uni work.  

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Sweet potato shepherd’s pie

Makes eight to ten servings.


Gluten free.

You will need:

  • 1 kilogram of sweet potato (about 4 - 5 medium-sized ones)

  • ½ cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk. My favourite is coconut milk, which can also be used for the slow-cooked coconut lentil curry above.

  • 1 x yellow onion

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • 2 carrots

  • 250 grams of mushrooms

  • 1 ½ cups of dry, brown lentils

  • 2 cups of vegetable broth or water

  • ¾ cup of green peas

  • ¾ cup of corn

  • Spices to taste - I use oregano and thyme

  • Olive oil, salt, pepper - to taste

Your regular winter comfort food now has a vegan twist. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius, 160 if your oven is fan-forced. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small, but evenly-shaped cubes. Fill a large pot with water and bring to the boil, then pour in the sweet potatoes. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until soft, and then drain the potatoes before putting them in a large bowl. Mash them until smooth, then add the non-dairy milk, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir then set aside.

In a large pan, warm a tablespoon of olive oil, and a pinch salt and pepper. Cook diced onion until brown, then add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add carrots and mushrooms, and cook for five more minutes. Add lentils, broth or water, and herbs. Stir, bring to a boil, before lowering the heat and letting the mixture simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add green peas, corn, salt and pepper, and stir. Fill a large oven-proof container (pyrex or cast-iron) with lentil mixture and flatten the top, before scooping the sweet potatoes on the top and flattening. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until the top is crispy, and then let cool before serving. The leftovers for this taste amazing cold or hot, so don’t fret if you can’t find a microwave to heat up your lunch.

Bronte Gossling is a fourth-year Bachelor of Communications (Journalism)/International Studies (Spain) student. Currently enjoying the tranquila lifestyle in Spain, when she’s not running late or enjoying a siesta, you’ll find her sipping sangria.