The ultimate comfort food: Cacio e Pepe

January is finally upon us, which means cold weather and long nights… Elliot shares his go-to comfort food recipe to see you through the winter months.

As the coldest months of the year begin to take hold, cheap, minimal effort comfort foods become invaluable for cash and time-strapped students.

Foodies may recognise this dish, which is currently making a resurgence – with good reason. Described by Bon Appétit as ‘a stripped-back mac and cheese’, this recipe hails from ancient Rome (alongside pasta alla gricia and carbonara). Cacio e Pepe is simple, with a mere 6 ingredients, and less than 15 minutes cook time, making it the perfect late-night snack! It’s also an excellent introduction to using just starchy pasta water for creamy sauces (which is cheaper, tastier, and far less cloying than cream-based sauces). As ever, I advise against using pre-grated cheese, since the added starch (which prevents cheese clumping inside the bag) stops it melting properly.

Allergens

Milk, gluten

Portions

2

Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp freshly ground, coarse black pepper

Kosher salt

225g spaghetti

2 tbsp (15g) unsalted butter

55g Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

 

Prep

  1. Finely grate cheese, and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to a medium-sized pan, pre-heating on low to medium-low (olive oil turns bitter when burned).
  3. Add 1 tsp black pepper to the hot oil, and cook until you hear sizzling, and the pepper is fragrant (if you smell bitterness, the pepper has burnt and you should discard and restart) – remove from heat immediately and set the pan aside.

Method

  1. In a large pan (different from the oil/pepper pan), add pasta, and just cover with water, along with a pinch of kosher salt. Heat over high, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. This method comes courtesy of Kenji-Lopez, and heavily concentrates the starchy water for far more effective sauces.
  2. Cook until pasta reaches al dente (1 minute less than package instructions) and immediately remove from heat.
  3. Immediately spoon 3 tbsp of the pasta water into the medium oil/pepper pan, and add 2 tbsp butter.
  4. Using a pair of tongs, transfer pasta to the medium, oiled pan (saving any remaining pasta water). Add cheese to pan, and place pan on the stove top, setting heat to low.
  5. Holding the pan handle in one hand, and fork in the other – shake and stir pan/pasta very vigorously. This melts the cheese, and most importantly, emulsifies the oils and starchy water (above link for method video).
  6. Continue until a creamy sauce has formed – add extra pasta water a tbsp at a time if too thick (i.e. if the melted cheese, oil, and water is too clumpy to resemble a creamy sauce). Remove from heat, season to taste with kosher salt, and dish immediately.
  7. Serve pasta with an extra drizzle of olive oil, and some more fresh grated cheese, to taste.

Halfway there! Tips to get through Dry January

Struggling with your Dry January challenge, or just wondering what it’s all about? Abi has some tips on how to stick with your goal of a booze-free January, and explores the benefits of reducing our alcohol consumption.

So you’ve celebrated the winter holiday and you’ve decided to try out Dry January. But we’re halfway through the month, and you’re tempted to head to Park Bar and give up. Or perhaps you’ve stumbled upon this article and want to attempt a half-dry January…

It’s often too easy to lose motivation. Here are some top tips to help you through the rest of the month:

  1. Remind yourself why. It’s often too easy to focus on the difficulty, and the days may feel like they’re dragging along. But you’re halfway! Focus on the reasons you are doing this. Want to improve your health? Consuming less alcohol allows your body to reset and even get better sleep. And a month of no alcohol is a month of no hangovers. Are you trying to save money post-Christmas? Some are doing Dry January to raise money for charity. Focus on your purpose for Dry January and remind yourself when you lose motivation or are finding it difficult.
  2. Get Involved. Divert your energy into a hobby you have neglected or try something new. You’ve got more time now, so why not attend the Give It a Go events (28th Jan-3rd Feb) and join a new society? The RU Not Drinking Much society do regular film nights you can enjoy with other students in an alcohol-free environment! As you keep yourself busy, you forget that you’ve had 31 days of no alcohol.
  3. Treat yourself! A month of no alcohol can save you some serious money. You can transfer this straight to your savings account or treat yourself. Go out for a nice meal or do some online shopping and buy those shoes you’ve been looking out for. Why not go explore nearby cities- London, Oxford and Bath are only a short train journey away.
  4. Ask for Help. It’s very difficult to attempt Dry January when you’re tempted by cheap drinks, start of term socials and general student settings. Let your friends and family know you are doing a Dry January and ask for help and encouragement. Maybe get a friend to do it with you or get yourself involved with them. This will make it a lot easier!

The charity championing Dry January is Alcohol Change UK, who approximate that there is an alcohol-related death in the UK every hour! Whether it’s the classic Park Bar snakebite or a glass of wine- remember to drink responsibly. Good luck!

Acing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Taz has some advice for successfully setting and achieving your goals this year.

Whilst cliché New Year’s Resolutions to ‘Get Fit’ and ‘Get stuck in’ with uni work may seem very contemporary ideas, New Year’s Resolutions date back to over 4000 years ago. New Year’s Resolutions can be a great way to secure a fresh start for yourself and overcome any challenges from the previous year.

The best way to form your New Year’s Resolution is to make a list of all the things that you’re hoping to achieve by the end of the year (whether that be university, lifestyle or relationship related) and to identify your largest priority or an overall goal within the list. Top tip: Try to avoid generalised resolutions such as ‘Lose weight’ or ‘Get more Firsts in my assignments’. The best way to achieve health or grade related resolutions is to create resolutions which are more specific and therefore ones which will offer a larger sense of achievement by December.

Resolutions such as these might be a good starting point:

  • Plan and cook at least 5 healthy meals a week
  • Schedule my revision more effectively using a revision planner
  • Keep in more regular contact with family and friends from home
  • Join a new sports society
  • Take a managerial role in group projects more often

The next stage once you have your Resolution…

The next step to securing that fresh start is coming up with an achievable action plan which will get you well on your way to success. Here’s a few questions you may want to consider before diving straight into the deep-end and trying to achieve your resolution in one go before January is up!

How will you maintain the resolution throughout the whole year?

The key to achieving your resolution is your diary. Use a coloured pen to produce a sub-goal for each month. Doing this will help you to piece together your smaller monthly steps into one larger achievement at the end of the year.

What sacrifices will you need to make to achieve your resolution?

This is very important to consider- you don’t want to throw yourself into anything which you won’t be able to handle alongside your other commitments. For instance, if planning to cook healthier meals, you’ll need to factor this into your shopping list and consider how going home or weekly takeaway routines might affect this.

If you achieve your resolution early in the year, can you extend it to achieve an even bigger goal?

If you enter the year with a flying start and have your resolution down to a ‘T’ by March, use this success as motivation to strive further. If you decided to join a new society to meet more people whilst increasing your fitness, why not find some part-time work so that you can save to go on the sports tour?

The best thing about New Year’s Resolutions is they’re completely personal and controlled by YOU. Use this to your advantage in 2019 and make a change which will help you for the rest of your student life and beyond.

Where to look for help

 If you’re stuck for ideas, or simply the motivation to start, the university’s Life Tools programme is offering a huge variety of workshops this term ranging from ‘Techniques for increasing concentration and memory’, to ‘Achieving your potential’. They’re a great starting point for those looking to make an independent change.