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My earliest food memory is probably standing on a chair, rolling out pastry with my nan. Creating good food from scratch was always at the heart of my family, and it was sessions like those (even if, in retrospect my nan did all the work while I “helped”) that gave me my passion for food and cooking.

In turn, I have always encouraged my children to cook from an early age. Even if it doesn’t become a passion for them, it remains one of the most useful life skills.

That’s all very well when they’re at home. Of course, once they leave to go off to university, there are so many reasons why they might fall into bad habits.

When two of my children went off to university I made sure they had some cheap, nourishing and simple dishes they could make and also keep within the constraints of their budget.

I was surprised just how many of their peers seemed unable to do this. They had never learned at a younger age, and believed that cooking was complicated, that home cooked food would take a long time and be more expensive.

But there are really good reasons why good nutrition really matters to the education and development of young people. A 2011 study showed that improvements in the food and drinks consumed by sixth graders in a US school had a real positive impact on their academic progress.

So to address this need I decided to introduce ‘Off to Uni’ cookery classes.

The aim was to make food fun and relatively quick to prepare, and to give the budding students a number of recipes that they had mastered that would be practical, nutritious and delicious.

In other words, to get them cooking food fast instead of eating fast food.

It seems to be a successful formula. Having run over a dozen of these classes, I’ve had happy customers (both the students-to-be and their savvy parents who often were the ones to enrol them).

Do the habits stick? I hope that most find they have picked up a lifelong habit.

I did get some direct feedback from the brother of one former student who followed in his sibling’s footsteps a couple of years later.

According to him, his brother was not only using his skills to feed himself, but also his culinary prowess had won him attention from members of the opposite sex. That’s an angle I hadn’t even thought about when promoting the courses!

So if you’re in the position of waving a tearful goodbye to your young adults heading bravely into a new world of academic excellence and you would like to give them the gift of a new habit that will be valuable to them for the rest of their lives (and may just improve their dating life as well!), this may be something you’d like to consider.

Contact me for details of courses.

Alternatively, below is a recipe that I’ve found to be useful for students. Let me know how you get on with it.

Sweet potato and lentil soup

Course Soup
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 1
Author Julie Philpot


  • 25 g red lentils
  • half onion small
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 100 g sweet potato cubed
  • 100 g floury potatoes cubed
  • half pint vegetable stock

Curry paste

  • 0.25 teaspoon turmeric
  • 0.25 teaspoon coriander
  • 0.25 teaspoon cumin
  • 0.5 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 0.5 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 0.25 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon rapeseed oil


  1. Mix all the curry paste ingredients together into a paste.

  2. Cook lentils in boiling water for 15 minutes. Chop onion and cook in a little oil for few minutes until softened and beginning to brown.

  3. Add chopped garlic, curry paste and cubed potatoes, cook for 5 minutes. Drain lentils and add to potato mix along with stock. Cook for 15 mins until potatoes are soft. Blend until smooth. Season to taste.

May 2, 2017 0 comment
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