Our competition winners

It's our cooking hall of fame!

Check out the winning entries from our competitions…

Pre-arrival competition

We asked you to try one of our recipes before you came to University. We had some fantastic submissions, but our two favourites were:

Stephanie Sam's quick and easy Pad Thai

Stephanie Sam student photo

Recipe: quick and easy Pad Thai

This recipe uses the quick method of stir frying with minimal oil, and the emphasis on fresh vegetables means that it is great for health conscious students trying to cook nutritious and delicious food on a budget.

I made a few changes to the original recipe by adding more spice to create a pungent, authentic taste that is characteristic of Thai food. I did this by incorporating Thai fish sauce, crushed garlic, a teaspoon of honey and a fresh red chilli, the juice of a lemon, as well as crushed chilli prawn flakes. I also added prawns and pork fillet slices to the noodles for more flavour. This dish of stir fried spicy noodles was bursting with zingy flavour from the red chilli and the tangy lime juice, and the crunchy peanut butter added a rich savoury taste that complemented the spice and sourness from the lime juice.

pad thai photo

Overall, I really enjoyed making the dish of ‘Quick and easy Pad Thai’ as it is easy to prepare the vegetables, and the cooking process is very quick. This is definitely a great meal to cook for yourself, or even for friends and family!

Rating: 5*

Harry Walker's best (attempt at a) carbonara

Harry Walker student photo

Recipe: best carbonara

I thoroughly enjoyed making my carbonara for myself and a friend yesterday! The recipe was great :) However, I found I had not got any cottage cheese so had to think fast on my feet. In the end i decided to use natural yoghurt! This blip did not put me off my commitment to the task, a novice cook I was both alarmed and proud that I could actually make something edible. Importantly I now have a recipe I can make that will impress my new flatmates next year at the University of Birmingham. 

carbonara photo

The best part about cooking the dish was the smile on my friend's face as they ate it (coupled with a look of surprise that I can actually cook)! I'd like to thank whoever submitted the recipe as you've given me the confidence to try new recipes in the future!

I'd give the recipe a rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 (with a more accomplished cook perhaps a score of 5 may have been possible).

National Baking Week competition

We asked you to try your hand at one of our yummy deserts in honour of National Baking Week. Our winner is:

Chloe Kane's drizzle delight 

Chloe Kane student photo

Recipe: lemon drizzle cake

I enjoyed making (and eating) this lemon drizzle cake, and by the number of helpings going around, my family did, too! It was deliciously moist and bursting with zest. A nice, refreshing change when you've indulged in too much chocolate!

lemon drizzle cake

The ingredients were very easy to come by, and the method itself was very concise and simple to follow. The four clear steps are appealing because they’re not addled with threatening cooking terms that might serve as a deterrent to novice cooks. There are a few tips I would add, such as letting the butter sit out for a while beforehand, so it’s easier to cream (save yourself the arm-ache!) And also skewering the cake before pouring the syrup on top, as it ensures the sponge really soaks in all that citrus-y sweetness. To decorate, I sprinkled bits of candied orange and lemon peel over the top, just to jazz it up a bit, but it tastes just as good as is. 

It’s simple, easy to make, and delicious (not to mention more-ish) – so what are you waiting for? Those lemons won’t grate themselves!

Rating: 5*

Autumn competition

With the nights closing in and the weather getting chilly, we asked you to try out one of our tummy-warming main dishes. Our winner is:

Taahira Khan's lasagne

Photograph of Taahira Khan, a current first year student

Recipe: lasagne

I cooked this recipe for a group of 7 friends and they absolutely loved it, all the plates were left clean!

Preparing the meal was very easy, the thing that took the longest was chopping the veg. I've made lasagne before and this recipe is perfect for both the experienced cooker and the rookie, with the instructions being very simple and having enough detail.

photograph as a lasgne cooked by a first year student

I did make a few changes to the recipe (due to preference). I swapped the mushrooms (not a big fan of), for carrots and they worked SO well with the peppers and added a great sweetness to the dish. I also took out the 1/4 of a jar of tomato pasta sauce at the bottom of the pasta tray, as I didn't want it to be too tomatoey and for it to distract from the other flavours. Plus, I found that more is definitely better with the mixed herbs (I found some from Asda for 68p and used half the jar, but it was well worth it!). I also found that adding a very small amount of grated cheese to the bechamel sauce was also really tasty.

I will definitely be making this again!

Rating: 5*

Christmas competition

Our Christmas competition was a little different and we asked you to tell us all about your festive celebratory meals with your housemates. We loved reading through the submissions and our winners were:

Elizabeth Hewitt's house

photograph of two current studentsphotograph of current studentphotograph of two current students


  • Eggnog: a thick and creamy drink seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and maybe a cheeky tipple!
  • Three Bird Roast: a magnificent three bird roast takes pride of place on our festive table
  • The Trimmings: accompany your roast with a selection of roast potatoes, mash, home-made gravy, sage and onion stuffing, cauliflower cheese bake, honey-glazed parsnips and a vegetable medley
  • Chocolate Delight: Cadbury's finest hot chocolate topped with adorably small marshmallows
photograph of a student oven

Christmas dinner this year was a mix of us housemates (the four girls in the pictures), a couple of boyfriends and the next door neighbor's cat, Tigs. Tigs technically belongs to next door but he's always at ours, clearly loves us more and turned up at the back door just in time for our Christmas day to start. 

Christmas dinner plate

Three out of four of us are in our final year so for us it was our last Christmas dinner as a student house and for me it was definitely the best I've done. There were things that could have been better such as the carrots took twenty minutes longer than everything else to cook and we overestimated how much food we could eat and still drink copious amounts of mulled wine and baileys. However after waiting a bit after dinner we all huddled up with mulled wine, baileys hot chocolates and watched Love Actually - the ultimate Christmas movie.

photograph of hot chocolate

Overall: things weren't perfect but we did it as a house and the presence of Christmas cheese was unmistakable - the perfect way to kick off the holidays.

Abbi Robertson's house

student group cooking photostudent group photo


  • Festive Nibbles: Turkey and stuffing pasties with pork and cranberry sausage rolls
  • Full Turkey Dinner: Turkey crown with streaky bacon and stuffing, pigs in blankets, slab of Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast carrots, cauliflower cheese, fried cabbage with bacon and lashings of turkey gravy.
  • Chocolate profiterole gateau with vanilla ice cream
photograph of timings for serving Christmas dinner

The meal prep started as early as noon, when we went to buy all the ingredients! After a whole afternoon of peeling, chopping, mixing and basting and with the help of a list of timings, we began the meal at 17.30 with our festive nibbles alla Sainsbury’s. Had we prepared earlier we would have made our own starter-y bits, but the Sainsbury’s festive foods section is so vast, it really wasn’t a problem.

photograph of a student oven

After a brief moment of panic when we realised our little Selly Oak oven was not designed to cater for 8 hungry students at once, we managed to get food out and on the table by 18.45 – just 15 mins later than planned! With a glass of pink prosecco, everything tasted wonderful and adorned with paper hats and armed with dodgy cracker jokes, it felt like a true Christmas day with our little house family.

Christmas dinner plate

The only thing I would do differently is make double the amount of gravy as my cheeky housemates had used it all up before I had even sat down, meaning I had to make do with a cheap Bisto alternative. For dessert we had a profiterole gateaux (again, alla Sansbury’s) with some good vanilla ice cream, whilst sat on the sofas playing charades. The whole evening was finished off with a Christmassy film, and we all went to bed very happy people. We had a great evening and wouldn’t change a thing next year!

Recipe tips

  • Make your own Yorkshire pudding batter, heat oil in a baking tray and pour the batter into the tray and cook at 180° until risen and golden. Carve large slabs of the Yorkshires.
  • When making the roasties, parboil until just soft. Leave to drain for at least half an hour to ensure really dry. Shake the potatoes and parsnips about a bit to rough up the edges. Coat in oil and small nibs of butter then roast. Halfway through roasting, drizzle honey over the parsnips.
  • For the Cauliflower cheese, parboil the cauliflower. Make up a cheese sauce using a roux and strong cheddar. After draining the cauliflower for at least 20 minutes,  put in a baking dish, pour over the cheese sauce and COVER (and I mean cover!) it with more strong cheddar. Bake for 20 mins or until golden and bubbling.
  • For the cabbage, it’s as easy as it sounds, but instead of oil in the pan, use the cut off bacon fat. Much more tasty!


Measuring cup