Sustainable Student Living: easy Vegan Recipes

By Izzy Hardern, GLOBUS Correspondent

Often, student living can be so busy that cooking can feel like a real drain. However, cooking can be a great way to destress, and – if it’s vegan – it has the added bonus of being much better for the environment. 

The best way to make your eating habits more sustainable is to eat fewer animal products. Did you know that it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, whereas it only takes 25 gallons to grow the same amount of wheat? Not to mention the pesticide usage, methane released from raising ruminant animals (like cattle) and the clearing of forests and rainforests in order to produce more animal products. According to the documentary ‘Cowspiracy,’ 50% of the world’s grain is fed to livestock – this is food that could be given to the almost 850,000,000 undernourished people in the world. 

It may seem that switching to a plant-based diet won’t have much of an impact, but it is one of the most effective ways with which you can reduce your environmental impact – read this GLOBUS article by Ana Lopez de Arenosa for more information. However, it is important to note that there are ways that a vegan diet can be unsustainable (although not as much as a meat-based diet) as it has become enveloped in consumerism in recent years – read this GLOBUS article by Zafirah Kesington for some more info. 

Student life is stressful, so trying to undertake a complete lifestyle change alongside studies and whilst being on a budget might not be feasible. Remember that you don’t have to go completely vegan to make a difference, even just reducing your meat intake will have an impact. Therefore, I thought I would share some of my favourite easy, affordable vegan meals that are student-friendly to help you on your journey. It makes it even easier (and more fun) if you can find someone else who wants to eat similarly to you so you can cook together and share the costs. If the recipes make too much, you can adapt them for how much you need or put leftovers in the fridge for another day if you make too much. Also, for all of these recipes you can add/ substitute in any leftover veg you have in your fridge to use them up. My biggest tip for vegan cooking is to season with herbs and spices, you can experiment so much with flavour when you are not relying on meat. 

Mushroom Risotto (Serves 4)

This one takes a bit longer – 30-40 mins – but it’s worth it and the optional wine can make it a nice start to a lockdown night. This is a recipe for 4, but feel free to adapt. 

Ingredients:  

  • 500g chestnut/ similar mushrooms (sliced – can chop before or during cooking) 
  • Vegetable stock (2 cubes so about 900ml) 
  • 1 white onion (large) – diced 
  • 2 cloves of garlic 
  • 100g frozen peas  
  • 300g arborio risotto rice  
  • 150ml white wine (cheap ones work great; it adds a lot to the flavour but is optional) 
  • Mixed herbs 
  • Salt & pepper 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice 
  • Olive oil 
  • Rosemary & thyme (optional – dried or fresh works well) 

Equipment: 

  • Large saucepan or wok 
  • Jug for making stock 

Method: 

  1. Dice the onion and garlic and add about 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pan. Cook onions for a few mins on a low heat, add the garlic and cook for another 5. 
  1. While this is cooking, make up the vegetable stock in a jug. 
  1. Add the risotto rice and toast for a few mins. Then, turn the heat up and add the white wine so that you can smell it quite strongly.  
  1. Turn back down to a medium heat, add some of the stock and leave for about 2 mins. Once enough of the wine has been absorbed by the rice that when you move the rice around there isn’t much free liquid, add some more stock. 
  1. Continue doing this for 10-15 mins. Add the salt, pepper, mixed herbs (quite a lot), rosemary, thyme and lemon juice. 
  1. Add the mushrooms and keep adding stock for another 10 mins. 
  1. Add the frozen peas for the last 3 mins, taste and serve. 

Green Lentils, Veggies and Tofu (Serves 4)

This is a good meal if you want to feel healthy and want to cook but also don’t want to spend too long on it. The tofu is optional, but it tastes amazing. 

Ingredients: 

  • Green lentils CHECK QUANITITY 
  • Vegetable stock (2 cubes) 
  • 1 pack of green beans 
  • 1 head of broccoli  
  • Tofu (I would recommend the ‘Tofoo’ one because you don’t have to press it 
  • Cornflour 
  • Mixed herbs 
  • Garlic 
  • Garlic powder 
  • Salt & pepper 
  • Olive oil 

Equipment: 

  • Big pan e.g. wok with a lid if possible 
  • Frying pan 
  • Jug for the stock 
  • Bowl 
  • Tongs 

Method: 

  1. Put the kettle on and rinse the green lentils. Check how long the lentils need cooking for, as often they need different times. 
  1. Make up the stock and put it all in the pan. Bring it to the boil and add the lentils – cook them on a low-medium heat. Add mixed herbs, garlic powder and salt and pepper. 
  1. Cut the broccoli into florets, chop the green beans in half (or smaller) and leave aside to put in later.  
  1. Keep an eye on the time – the broccoli will go into the pan 7 mins before the end, and the green beans will go in 4 mins before the end. Adapt this to how long your lentils will take to cook. Also, keep an eye on the water level, if it gets too dry, add some more water. (I explain it like this just because in my experience different green lentils take different amounts of time to cook, hopefully this isn’t too confusing!) 
  1. Drain the tofu and cut it into small cubes. Put into a bowl and toss in enough cornflour that they are dry. 
  1. Dice the garlic and add to the frying pan for 1 min. Add the tofu, making sure the cubes are covered in oil. Turn every few mins, cooking for a total of about 10 mins until crispy. 
  1. Once the veg and the tofu is cooked, serve. 

Cous-cous salad – serves 2 or 3: 

A quick, cheap salad that you can add your favourite bits to. I would recommend getting the ready-made cous cous packets, but you can also add your own spices to plain cous cous.  

Ingredients: 

  • Cous cous – eg lemon and herb 
  • Protein – eg tin of chickpeas or butterbeans 
  • Your favourite fruits and veggies – eg peppers, broccoli, kale, sweetcorn, olives, raisins, grapes, avocado. 
  • Salt, pepper, chilli flakes or your favourite herbs and spices. 

Equipment: 

  • Bowl 
  • Saucepan (depending on veg) 

Method: 

  1. Prepare your cous-cous and veg (cooking whatever needs cooking eg kale or broccoli) 
  1. Mix together in a bowl and add your spices. 
  1. Serve 

Roasted chickpeas with Jackfruit (Serves 1-2) 

Lastly, I thought I would share one of my favourite snacks/ lunches. The roasted chickpeas are perfect to nibble on throughout the day (or just have in one go) and the jackfruit works perfectly in a sandwich with some sweet chilli sauce.  

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tin of chickpeas or 1 tin of jackfruit 
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder 
  • Rosemary & thyme or cayenne pepper & paprika (you can experiment with other spice combinations) 

Equipment: 

  • Baking tray 
  • Baking paper 
  • 2 forks 

Method: for chickpeas 

  1. Turn the oven on at 200°C fan. 
  1. Drain the chickpeas and spread out on the baking tray.  
  1. Add about 3 tbsp olive oil and your spices. 
  1. Cook for 40 mins, moving them around halfway through, until crispy. 
  1. Serve. 

Method: for pulled jackfruit 

  1. Turn the oven on at 200°C fan. 
  1. Drain the chickpeas and spread out on the baking tray.  
  1. Add about 3 tbsp olive oil and your spices – I would recommend the rosemary and thyme combination for this. 
  1. Cook for 40 mins, turning them halfway through. 
  1. Pull the jackfruit apart with 2 forks, until they have a pulled pork effect. 
  1. They are great served in a sandwich with vegan butter and sweet chilli sauce. But they would work well by themselves or in a salad too. 

I hope these recipes can help you to enjoy cooking vegan food, they are easily adaptable to suit your tastes and are relatively quick and affordable. Even just making a few of these recipes a week rather than your usual meat-based meals will make a difference to how sustainable your eating habits are. 

Header Image: Photo by Ryan Song on Unsplash

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