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Julie Philpot

Small sponge

Victoria sponge, that takes me back to going round to my nan’s house and having tea and cake.  I think it is one of the first things I attempted to make by myself and there were times when I ended up with a flat pancake rather than a sponge, but with practice I had success.  My sponges were ok – but I didn’t want ok I wanted them to be better.

Having tried so many recipes over the years, one day by some fluke I added crème fraîche to my sponge mix as I had run out of milk. Voila! The moistest, fluffiest sponge ever.

The basic method is the same, so cream together equal measures of a good quality margarine (which I find gives a lighter sponge than butter) and caster sugar, making sure that you whisk thoroughly until the mixture is pale and creamy.

Add the eggs one at a time (one egg per 50g of sugar) and whisk after each egg is added.  Add the flour to the bowl and gently fold it in. Once nearly folded in, add one dessertspoon of crème fraîche per egg and fold in until all the flour and crème fraîche is incorporated.

Bake the sponge at 180ºC / Gas 4 for around 17 minutes for cupcakes and about 20 to 25 for a full sponge.

Here is my recipe for cupcake buns – makes 12.

150g good quality margarine
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
150g self-raising flour
3 desserts spoons of crème fraîche

Give this a try at home and let me know the results.

One last tip – if you are freezing the cakes then put them in the freezer when slightly warm and they will be lovely and moist when defrosted ready for topping.

October 1, 2017 0 comment
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How to make gluten free pastry

With so many people these days having gluten intolerance and coeliac disease, finding ways of making food to accommodate their dietary needs has become essential.

I make my own gluten-free pastry and have, over time, developed a foolproof recipe which seems to work and is more manageable than others I have tried in the past. Usually, gluten-free pastry is much more difficult to work with as it has a habit of cracking and falling apart. It is tricky to roll out and sticks if you are not careful about keeping the work surface well floured. I switched to using margarine instead of butter which has helped to overcome some of the difficulties.

My daughter is gluten intolerant so this is why I started to experiment more to be able to give her the food she would otherwise not be able to have. Cheese straws are an example of something she said she missed. Using this pastry, I was able to incorporate the cheese in my usual way. The result is not identical, but she confirms it is a good substitute.

She, like many people who have this intolerance, has struggled through finger buffets and other catering events to find anything she can eat because lots of things are pastry based. When I am catering for buffets and afternoon teas my experience with these recipes has (so far) been universally positive.

Gluten intolerant people so often find their needs are not catered for that having a decent alternative on offer is such a rarity that on its own this can be a big win.

But with this recipe you can go further than simply providing an alternative – you can give them an experience that is the full equivalent.

Try this out with your gluten-free friends, and let me know how you get on!



My recipe for gluten-free pastry


  • 225 g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100 g margarine
  • 1 free range egg


  1. Sift the flour, and add the xanthan gum and salt.
  2. Rub the margarine into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and enough cold water to bind the dough together. The pastry does need to be wetter than normal pastry. You will find that it has a tendency to stick, so you will need to use lots of flour when rolling out.
  3. Refrigerate for at least half an hour before using as you would your normal pastry. It will freeze well, and should stay good for up to three months.
August 19, 2017 0 comment
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Daal with flatbread

I learned my Indian cookery skills straight out of my Punjabi friend’s kitchen. She explained that daal is such a mainstay of her home cooking, so it was one of the first dishes she taught me.

Daal is akin to soup for Indian families and is a regular lunchtime dish served with roti. Its combination of fragrant spices and hearty lentils makes for a very comforting dish. Add some rice and it can be a nutritious and filling main meal too.

One of the secrets is to use two different types of lentils. This gives better flavour and texture. Yellow lentils (channa) have a creamy taste. Green or brown lentils add a nice texture. The great thing is that if you vary the types of lentils, you will get different daal every time you make it.

It’s odd but I never seem to get exactly the same taste even though I use the same recipe.  Friends who I’ve passed the recipe on to have commented likewise.

Lots of daal recipes I’ve seen fry off the onions and garlic and then add all the spices, water and lentils to the pan and simmer until the lentils are cooked, but I was taught to cook the lentils and the masala separately. Doing it that way enables you to skim the foam from the boiling lentil pan before adding the masala sauce.

Here is my recipe. Give it a try. It freezes really well, so feel free to make a larger quantity so you have some on hand for later.




Servings 4
Author Julie Philpot


  • 200 g brown or green lentils (1 cup)
  • 100 g yellow lentils (1/2 cup)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped, or 1/2 tsp powdered garlic
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped, or 1/4 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped, or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 300 g tomatoes chopped
  • 1 tspn ground cumin
  • 1 tspn ground coriander
  • 1 tspn ground turmeric
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tspn ground black pepper
  • fresh coriander to garnish


  1. Cook lentils in boiling water for about 45 minutes until soft, water should be about 1 inch higher than lentils. Top up frequently if lentils start to get dry and skim the foam that develops during cooking.

  2. Meanwhile make masala sauce by heating a tablespoon of rapeseed oil and frying cumin seeds until they ‘fizz’. Then add onion and cook until translucent. 

  3. Add ginger, garlic and green chilli and cook for a further 2 minutes. If using dry garlic, ginger and chilli you only need to cook for 1 minute.

  4. Add all of the spices except garam masala and cook for a minute. 

  5. Add tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes until it thickens and has a glazed look. 

  6. Add sauce to the cooked lentils along with garam masala and cook for further 5 - 10 minutes.

    Check seasoning, and serve with fresh chopped coriander.

August 13, 2017 0 comment
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Barbecue in action

Who doesn’t love a barbecue on a nice warm sunny evening? Such a nice way to entertain friends too.

I have, over the years, developed my own marinades and pastes to add flavour to various meats and fish to make sure that my barbecues are not just sausages and burgers. Don’t get me wrong I love the hot dogs and burgers but its nice to have variety too.

Chicken Satay had been a firm family favourite both with the adults and the children. I get told off now if it isn’t on the menu when I have a barbecue. Its really simple to do and cooks quickly as well.

Uncooked chicken satay

Chicken Satay

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Julie Philpot


  • 2 free range chicken or turkey breasts cut into fine strips
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter preferably one made with 100% peanuts
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper


  1. Mix all the ingredients together and then add the strips of chicken, mix thoroughly cover with cling film and put in the fridge to marinate for several hours, give the mixture a stir occasionally to make sure all the meat is coated.

  2. Soak wooden skewers or use metal skewers and, once marinated, skewer the meat and cook on the barbecue for around 15 minutes.

Barbecue table

Having learnt Indian recipes from friends from the punjab I adapted a recipe and made my own Tandoori paste which can be used for both meat and fish.


Tandoori coating


  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 150 ml natural yoghurt
  • rapeseed oil or other non-flavoured oil


  1. Mix all the spices together and add enough rapeseed oil to make into a paste then add the yoghurt. You can use this for either meat or fish. Coat with the paste and leave in the fridge to marinate a little while before cooking.

Good luck with your summertime cooking! Let me know what you think of the recipes.

July 31, 2017 0 comment
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Making samosas

Kids are surrounded by fast food, and even the most diligent parents can struggle to get them interested in eating and enjoying good food.

Something I have always thought about is this – can you teach children to have a love of food and to inspire them to cook whatever their experience has been to date? With so many cookery shows on TV now it does seem that children want to learn to cook.

This isn’t just a theoretical question. For the past two years I have been asked to go to a local school and, in their activity week, teach a group of 12 -13 year olds to cook Indian food.

And it was just last week therefore that I needed to grapple with the question again and do my best to bring cooking to life for an energetic and, possibly sceptical, young audience!

When I got there, I found that the class was a mixed group – two lads and twelve girls. There were certainly some that were keen and excited, but others were noticeably lacking in confidence and suffering from nerves.

The class at work

The dishes we were cooking were vegetable samosas, lamb keema and aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes).

I explained that the recipes they would be using were taught to me by an Indian family from the Punjab and that they wouldn’t find these exact same recipes in any cook book. That helped make the session seem more exciting – the thought that they might be learning something others didn’t know. And none of them had cooked Indian food before.

But that alone doesn’t solve the nerves.

The challenge was probably most obvious when it came to the area of getting the youngsters to taste their food as they worked. There were several who were unwilling to do this at all. When I asked them why, they said that they didn’t think they would like it!

It’s hard to have fun and be creative if you have that mindset from the beginning. My own experience with my three children at least gave me some insight into this. I always tried to get them to taste as I cooked. Sometimes I’d be asked whether or not they would like it. All they got from me was the challenge to ‘try it and see’.

But they at least were a lot easier to raise than one of their school friends, who would only eat Ready Brek. And by that, I mean Ready Brek for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That would have driven me to distraction!

But there are limits to what you can do with a group like this in one day. If you get too focused on that sort of detail, then it stops being fun – and the key to success is getting a session where they feel treated like adults, and where the process of cooking is inherently a pleasurable thing rather than a chore.

That said, I did get through to some of them by letting them know that, whereas I’d tasted their food and told them when they needed more seasoning for the earliest dishes, for the last dish of the day they would need to do this for themselves – since I wouldn’t be there when they did it at home! There were certainly a couple of the kids for whom the lightbulb went on when they tasted the difference between under-seasoned and properly-seasoned food.

We started the morning with a demonstration on how to make the filling for the samosas and how to chop the vegetables and ‘cook out’ each ingredient to ensure layers of flavour.

With that dish simmering away, there was no time to rest. We had to get on with preparing onions, garlic, chilli and ginger for the next dish which was lamb keema. Since they had started to get the hang of what we were doing, it was time to up the pace. Rather than me doing a demonstration and then them following suit, now they had to cook along with me from the start. That helped to give them a sense of responsibility for keeping pace, and probably helped avoid the attention wandering as well!

After they’d been propelled through the task at hand to the lunch break, they could relax for a while. But once they came back, the biggest challenge was still waiting for them. A challenge that plenty of adults have struggled with. In my own early days, it was something I had problems with myself.

Namely making the samosa pastry and assembling the finished samosas.

I did a demonstration first and we used a mixture of egg yolk, cornflour and water to make a paste to seal the samosas. This was a tip I’d learned in sealing spring rolls in Thailand – an approach that would help stop the parcels from bursting open during the frying process.

Assembling a samosa

As none of them had done this before we did get some funny shaped samosas all different sizes. Of course, they weren’t allowed to actually do the deep frying themselves – for obvious reasons. But their creations had to stand up to the cooking that we subjected them to.

Out of the 14 children, the number that were actually successful in creating at least one samosa that was a complete success was …

14. That’s got to count as a result. All the samosas tasted good, even if the look of some of them was a little unconventional. And nothing encourages enthusiasm quite like success.

14 happy children all keen to make the dishes again for their parents during the summer break. They all got to take home the food and the recipe sheets too.

There are limits to what you can do it one day. But I think we made real progress. Teaching them was exhausting but a joy to see them getting pleasure from preparing food from scratch. Hopefully, it will become a habit that follows them into adult life, and never again will any of them feel the need to avoid tasting something because “I might not like it”.

July 23, 2017 0 comment
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People enjoying a dinner party

Great food in good company – it doesn’t get better than that if you’re a foodie. And that’s why we love to hold dinner parties for our friends. Which is great when it all goes smoothly – the food comes proudly out of the kitchen, the guests are all in great form and before you know it you have an evening to remember.

But like me, you’ve probably experienced the opposite as well. The food isn’t all quite ready on time. Certain things didn’t work as well as they were supposed to. The guests are already here, but you’ve still got five more jobs to do in the kitchen.

So how can you go about planning your dinner party to avoid the pitfalls and make it stress-free for you, and a great evening out for them?

Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do through experience.

1. The first and most important thing to check is your guests’ likes and dislikes and any food allergies they may have. Nothing worse than cooking a fantastic meal only to find that there is a previously unflagged issue. Don’t assume they will proactively tell you. Trust me, it isn’t always the case!

2. The biggest problem when deciding on your menu is making sure you are not in the kitchen for a long time when your guests arrive. Most of us have seen Channel 4’s ‘Come dine with me’ where guests sit there and stare at each other in awkward silence whilst the host struggles to get the next course finished. It’s funny to watch but very stressful to be in that position.

The key to overcoming this is in the planning, I always try to plan a starter which can be already prepared before the guests arrive. For example, a savoury baravois is brilliant for this. It’s easy to prepare ahead and looks stunning and will wow your guests.

3. Likewise, desserts are relatively easy to make ahead of time. Yes, you can go for the magic of a chocolate soufflé, but such dishes are really designed for the restaurant where chefs are busy working while you’re enjoying the previous course. If you actually want to share the evening with your friends, you need to select accordingly. There are some great, very impressive desserts made up of multiple components all of which can be prepared earlier in the day, or even the day before.

For example, any cakes, tarts, sweet sauces, home made ice creams, meringues – all of these can be components of a great dish.

Which then only leaves the main course to worry about.

4. While you often can’t get away from the fact that your main element may need some last minute attention, you can certainly minimise the need for this with other components.

Vegetables can be pre-cooked most of the way and then immediately plunged into cold water to stop them from cooking further. Then they will only need to be either heated in the microwave or sautéed in a little butter in the pan before serving.

5. And you do have the option to choose a meat dish that you can prepare ahead and put in an ovenproof dish ready to pop into the oven whilst you and your guests enjoy the starter. I usually find that 15 minutes feels right as a pause between starter and main course, so allow for that in your timings for when things go into the oven.

Once you have got used to using these techniques it should become second nature to build good planning into your dinner parties. Believe me, they will be less stressful as a result – and you should enjoy the evening as much as your guests.

Give this a try and let me know how you get on.

PS. If you live in Norwich and want a tried and tested three course dinner party menu that benefits from this sort of approach, you might be interested in the Summer Dinner Party Course I’m running on 19th July. You can see more information here.

June 25, 2017 0 comment
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I grew up in the 70’s and back then my knowledge of making a curry was that you used ready-to-use curry powder that would be either mild or hot on the label and then you threw all the ingredients in the pan at once.

Obviously in the modern age, with rather more cookbooks to choose from, most of us will know that’s not the best way to make a curry.

But it’s also well known that the best curries are made by Indian families, following the recipes and methods handed down to them by their grandmothers.

I was lucky. During the years when I had an Indian partner, I had the opportunity to learn to cook authentic Indian-style curries as taught by the superb and knowledgeable women of his family.

The family were Sikh, from the Punjab in Northern India. Punjabi cuisine is known for its rich, buttery flavours and a wide range of vegetarian and meat dishes.

So what was the essential difference?

The older Indian families would use ghee (clarified butter), which is high in saturated fat and can be a large factor in heart disease. Younger generations now tend to use rapeseed or grapeseed oil to reduce risks.

But the main difference was how the spices were cooked out at the beginning. This is key to developing the levels of flavour from the spices that is the biggest difference between really great Indian food and the rest.

This is now what I do when I’m cooking a curry.

I begin with just the cumin seeds in medium hot oil. Let the seeds cook until they begin to fizz. Only then do you add the onions.

The onions have to be cooked out until they’re translucent, then you add finely chopped fresh ginger, garlic and chillies. You cook these for a good five to ten minutes before adding the dry spices.

Once you add the remaining spices and cook them for a further minute, the mixture will look really dry. You might be tempted at this point to add oil, but this would be a big mistake! If oil’s added at that point, the finished dish could end up being greasy, since the spices have their own oils which get released during cooking.

Only at this point do you add your tomatoes and a tiny quantity of water, to cook on for another ten to fifteen minutes with the lid on the pan, until thick and glossy. That gives you the masala sauce that you can then add whatever meats or vegetables you want in your curry.

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on. I’ve copied below a chicken curry recipe using this process, but you can adapt it to your own choice of meat if you wish.


Chicken curry

Servings 2


  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken breasts can be substituted by quorn for vegetarian
  • 2 onions
  • 1 potato large
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds heaped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch root ginger
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric heaped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder heaped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder heaped
  • half teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons tomato puree
  • 400g tomatoes chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala heaped


  1. Peel and dice potato, finely chop onion, garlic, ginger and chilli.

  2. Heat a little oil in a pan and add cumin seeds cook until they ’fizz’. Add the onions and cook for further 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

  3. Add ginger and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add all spices except Garam Masala and cook out for another minute, Mixture will become dry but don’t add more oil. Then add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes with a little water. Stir and cover, cook for 10 minutes till thick and glossy, if mixture starts to stick add a little hot water.

  4. When cooked (oil starts to rise to top and looks glossy) add chicken and sear on high heat. Add potato and 150 mls hot water and cover and simmer for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

  5. 5 minutes before end of cooking add Garam Masala. When ready, garnish with fresh coriander and serve with basmati rice.

May 2, 2017 0 comment
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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

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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