As a student, I'm always short on time, and after a long day of work the last thing I want to do is come back home and cook. Usually, my easy option is to make instant noodles but I've recently realised that they're probably not the best thing to eat five times a week. So I set myself the challenge of cooking a healthy meal, but with a twist: I could only use a microwave to cook it.

To start, I googled "microwave recipes" to look for recipes that were tasty and easy but also healthy. Quiche, salmon, and mug cake were the ones that jumped out at me (I realise that mug cakes aren't exactly healthy, but we all need to treat ourselves sometimes).

To test out the microwaved food, I recruited my friends as reluctant taste testers (let's just say I'm not known for having amazing cooking skills) and told them to rate the food out of 10 and say how much they would pay for it. I had no expectations whatsoever going into this experiment, but I have to say the results were surprising.

Starter: Cherry Tomato Quiche on a Bed of Salad

egg, chicken
Vivien Zhu

I had already found it strange that this recipe called for bread as the substitute for pastry in this quiche, but I found it even weirder that the recipe called for the bread to be placed on top of the egg instead of under it. Surely it would get soggy this way? I chose to go with my gut and pushed large chunks of bread into the base of the mug instead.

The gamble did not pay off. 

salad, arugula, tomato
Vivien Zhu

My friends’ comments were pretty much all the same. “It tastes like bread” said one, and the word “bready” was definitely tossed around a lot. There was a fair amount of criticism. When asked what she thought of the quiche, one friend had the audacity to respond with, “Wait, this is a quiche?” and another when asked to rate the starter replied, “As a quiche or as food?” Needless to say, this recipe was an utter disaster.

Average rating: 5/10 (but that was generous)

Price they would pay: Around £1 (though one person said they would pay £6 purely for the decoration)

Main: Soy, Ginger, and Garlic Marinated Salmon with Seasoned Potatoes and Salad

Vivien Zhu

For my next course, I attempted a classic dinner party food–salmon. Considering I had no experience with marinating anything before in my life, I have to say it turned out remarkably well.  I just chucked the salmon, soy sauce, and random seasonings lying around in the kitchen into a box and hoped for the best.

vegetable, salmon, cheese, fish
Vivien Zhu

Unsurprisingly, the main comments for this course was that it was well seasoned, with the potatoes emerging as the runaway hit. “These potatoes are so good,” someone said whilst shovelling in their third or fourth potato.

Criticisms on the salmon included that it was verging on being undercooked but it was still edible, with “squidgy” being the standout remark. All in all, this course was a relative success and a marked improvement on the last (though that wasn’t hard to do).

Average rating: 8/10

Price they would pay: £5

Dessert: Chocolate Mug Cake

chocolate, ice cream, cream, ice
Vivien Zhu

Mug cakes, despite their “easy to make” reputation, can be notoriously hard to get right due to varying powers of microwaves and differing sizes of mugs. As a result, my first attempt ended up being very dry but very cakey, whereas my second, undercooked attempt was moist but almost paste-like in texture. Nevertheless, the cakes were still a winner, with the only negative comment being that it needed ice cream.

Average rating: 9/10

Price they would pay: £3


salad, tomato
Vivien Zhu

 “I feel like your cooking got better,” was one comment that everyone was in general agreement over. With that in mind, I would say that the experiment was a relative success. I was able to create a fairly quick and tasty meal (if you disregard the "quiche") that was also relatively healthy, so I would definitely recommend microwave cooking to anyone who was short on time.