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Flatting tales

Here are some entertaining and sometimes hilarious flatting cooking stories sent in by readers.

Cooked to perfection?

“I’d like to tell you about a simple flatting cooking disaster but a good one! My sister thought she would be very grown up and organise a Sunday roast. She got the veges and a chicken. She read the instructions and timed everything perfectly to dish up at 1pm. Sadly, she forgot to take out the plastic bag of giblets from the inside of the chicken first, and despite the strange smell coming from the oven, didn’t realise this until she cut into it at the table! We all had veges and gravy for lunch that day! And she’s been a cookery teacher for the last 20 years!” – Linda

Easy meal with mountain bread

“I have just discovered a good, quick and healthy flatting dinner option that’s not just toast and can be as cheap or extravagant as you want: mountain bread (or pita) pizzas! We used pesto, feta and Chop Chop! chicken on one, and small lite tuna (chilli-flavoured), parmesan and mushrooms on another. You could just do with whatever is around but the Chop Chop! chicken is the best thing, I must say!” – Rebecca

Boiling point

“A friend of mine was learning the ins and outs of cooking in her flat, having previously lived at home. She was going to make some rice to go with dinner one night and her flatmates had bought some ‘boil-in’ bags and told her it was easy to prepare just put the bag in the pot to boil. Unfortunately, she misunderstood and put in the whole package as it came from the shop with ‘boil-in’ bags inside it! The rice that night wasn’t quite what was expected!” – Lara

More to life than nachos

“My experiences of flatting weren’t too bad. The worst I had was a flatmate who couldn’t cook anything but nachos. After a couple of months of nachos every Tuesday night, the other flatmates and I were whole- heartedly sick of them. It fell on my shoulders to tell our flatmate we no longer wanted nachos. So we introduced her to Maggi Cook-in-the-pot with strict instructions never to cook the same meal two weeks in a row.  Things were much better after that.

Our neighbours were far more interesting – four boys, none of whom were brilliant cooks. One night, they tried to make Old English devilled sausages, only they used grapefruit instead of apples! Needless to say, it was inedible and fish and chips suddenly appeared. Another night they tried to cook frozen mixed veges in a pot on the stove. They didn’t read the instructions properly and didn’t add any water! The pot, understandably, was thrown out after this effort.” – Carol

Meat loaf marvel

“I’d like to share my favourite flatting meal: meat loaf.

500g mince
1 cup mashed potato
1 egg
1 packet Maggie soup (mushroom, tomato or pumpkin-flavoured)

Mix ingredients together and cook in a loaf tin for 1 hour. Serve with a salad and baked potatoes. Any leftover loaf is good cold in sandwiches to take to uni for lunch the next day.” – Emily

Keep an eye on the oven

“One important thing to remember when flatting is that the oven is on when you are chilling in the lounge – just in case you don’t want chargrilled pizza! Also, if you are making biscuits, it is best to follow a recipe because no amount of cooking will firm up too much liquid you may end up putting in the mixture! The best flat food is a good old stir-fry. But our flat’s favourite dinner recipe is HFG lemon chicken* (sic). You rock HFG!” – Sarah

*We think Sarah means our simple one-pan dish Poached chicken with chilli, lemon and mint.

Thrifty flatting

“I am currently in my third and final year at uni and I’ve been flatting for the last year and a bit. In my flat, we are always on a very strict budget of $20 for two each week. This may sound unbelievable and I never thought I could do it either but we manage! Every couple of days, we do a reasonably large crockpot meal such as apricot chicken. Chicken costs about $4, a can of apricots 99 cents on special, and potatoes about 20 cents each. We then add heaps of lentils to thicken it up and to add extra protein. This is usually served onrice or more potato, to stretch it further.

When making a lasagne, I add grated potato to the mince, again to stretch it further, and then have mince sammies the next couple of days. Unfortunately, we can only dream about the luxuries of fish and even steak so we use a lot of canned tuna and we find that stocking up on items when they’re on special may cost more upfront, but it saves us so much more in the long run.

We have a local grocer who we’re friends with and he tries to get us slightly older fruit at a highly discounted price. Apart from that, we love night raiding our families’ feijoa, mandarin, apple and
passionfruit trees around Auckland.

To make fruit last longer,we often freeze such as the fejoas to make a sweet oat crumble. Lastly, for Easter this year, I gave up Easter eggs, much to my family’s amusement and instead asked for vege plants. We are now growing numerous veges such as onion, cabbage and silver beet.” Kara

Hot stuff

“When I left home my mum gave me the Edmonds cookbook, which I still use to this day. I made a really easy dish spaghetti bolognese. It was going so well that I decided to spice it up with chilli powder  five good teaspoonfuls  without realising how hot the stuff is. When I served it to my flatmates, not one of us could eat it. It was so hot, it brought rivers to our eyes. We still laugh about my cooking. I’m a much better cook now.” Angela

International dish

“As a medical student back in the day, I flatted for longer than most! I remember mostly eating baked potatoes with baked beans and grated cheese, endless cups of strong coffee when studying, and curry and beer on a Friday night. It was also my first glimpse of what other people had been brought up to make or had cooked for them at home.

I had German, Italian, Bengali, Chinese and Indian flatmates who all liked different things. Marina’s mum would arrive at 8am on Sunday with containers full of fish curry, okra, eggplant, gulab jamun and burfi just the thing if you are hungover so we forgave her early visit! Maria’s dad owned a restaurant so she would come back from weekends at home with prawns, stir-fries and containers filled with ‘secret sauce’.

Alessandra cooked mostly pasta and Isobel was horrified that we didn’t have a coffee percolator ahead of her time in the ’80s  and one day came home with a mint green one and some Mövenpick coffee. We never went back to instant after that. I will never forget Sam’s favourite dish  in fact, the only thing I ever saw him make. He tore up a couple of slices of bread, poured over tomato sauce and grated cheese mixed together and microwaved it for a minute. I stood with my mouth open for quite a while as he tucked in with enjoyment.

It’s funny how clearly you remember those years and the fun we had.” Emma

Master pasta

“When flatting at Christchurch uni, after one too many wines, one of the girls thought that dip the reduced cream and onion soup kind would make a great meal heated up and added to pasta. It was pure genius at the time, but looking back now, it is really revolting.” Karen

Just desserts

“My flatting tip to save disaster is to always check the setting on the oven before use. On one occasion, when I was making dessert for a dinner party I managed to grill a pavlova. This is not  ideal as when I pulled the oven tray out, the gooey pavlova slid off the tray through the oven racks and on to the element. I don’t think the oven was ever the same again.” Donna

First published: Sep 2008



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