What a treat it is today to have wholefood mama Rachel Pitts gracing this post with her wholefood story and delicious recipe. Rachel has a distinctive flair for inspired recipe writing and delightful food styling and it brings me much pleasure to introduce her story to you. Without further ado from me, its over to Rachel. Enjoy! And a very big delicious thank you Rachel for being part of this and sharing your words and photos here. Muchas gracias xx
Rachel Pitts loves to feed people, none more so than her husband and two young children, Greta, 3, and Finian, 7 months. She writes The Hungry Girls’ Cookbooks – petite handmade books that are a collaboration with two friends, illustrator and designer Katherine Bird and photographer Leah Holscher. She is also a freelance cookbook editor with recent books including the SBS Food Safari series. In her spare time Rachel loves to tend a small vegetable patch, and she somewhat sporadically posts stories and recipes on the Hungry Girls’ blog. In 2013 she hopes to have a lot more spare time!!
where does your love of food and cooking come from?
Probably with a few memorable food experiences in my childhood – the giant box of apricots that Nana and Grandad brought down to us at Christmas, and nana’s Christmas pudding and Christmas cake, all of which I absolutely adored. My family wasn’t a big cooking family, but I realised as a young teenager that I could start to make delicious things myself and so I started making cakes, and then I think vegie burgers came next ... I loved the creative side of cooking and realising you could experiment a bit.
what are your favorite dishes to cook and why?
Dishes abundant with fruit and vegetables. Some people adore seafood or meat, and I love these too, but I think what I love most is the stuff of the earth. A simple bowl of silverbeet sauteed with onions and currants, a pile of ‘Persian carrots’ on homemade sourdough toast with a dollop of yoghurt, or a cherry-smothered chocolate pavlova that went down really well this Christmas.
kitchen gadget or appliance you can't go without?
Our wok and our big, heavy mortar and pestle ... Staying at a holiday house over Christmas and trying to crush seeds with a hammer inside glad-wrap was not quite the same. So, these are essential items, but as for irreplaceable I’d have to say the one round aluminium cake tin that was my nana’s. All my fancy springform, non-stick cake tins age badly as their coatings start flaking off, so this simple cake tin is always the best.
what do you hope to teach your children about food and cooking?
To be open minded about all food and see the deliciousness of just about everything! We eat really varied meals at home and I think this was challenging for our 3 year old girl (and us) when she first started eating, but now she eats pretty much anything and even a touch of chilli, which I’m still fairly amazed by. She claims she just doesn’t like ‘white tangy things’, by which she means horseradish, and I figure at this point in her life that’s okay. I want my kids to become good little cooks as that’s of course how you eat well and keep healthy.
which cookbooks and food blogs do you turn to for inspiration?
I don’t find nearly enough time for reading blogs at the moment. I feel a bit out of the loop, although I do really like Trotski & Ash ... As for cookbooks, I find all the cookbooks/travelogues by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid very inspiring, and also love thumbing through Moro and Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark. Otherwise, I love digging around in old fashioned cookbooks – little hardbacks with yellowed pages and no pictures, particularly ones on different cuisines.
a memorable food moment?
The night before I headed off on a four month trip to Nepal and India with a girlfriend, my partner, who is now my husband, made me the most romantic dinner ending with chocolate mousse for dessert. It was slightly daggy served in tall glasses with strawberries, but it blew me away! I think I knew then I should marry him. I still have a big soft spot for chocolate mousse.
Rachel's recipe: Chinese peanut and celery salad
photos by Leah Holscher
I’ve been slowly growing my repertoire of Chinese salads – cool, crisp numbers that are fresh with rice vinegar and the perfect accompaniment to dumplings, spiced skewers or steamed fish. This one features boiled raw peanuts (juicy and softly crunchy like water chestnuts) along with stir-fried celery, all suspended in a delicious dressing.
1 cup raw peanuts in their skins
11/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon black or white rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
11/2 tablespoons oil for stir-frying such as peanut or sunflower
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2–1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (depending on their heat)
4–5 celery stalks, wide bottoms cut in half lengthwise, sliced
Boil the peanuts in a saucepan of water for around 15 minutes, until they have softened a little.
Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, sesame oil and sugar in a bowl. When the peanuts are cooked, drain them and toss immediately in the dressing. Set aside for 30 minutes or longer to soak up the flavours.
Heat the oil in a wok over high heat and the garlic and chilli flakes. Sizzle briefly, then add the celery and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes. Add to the bowl of peanuts and mix well. You can serve the salad immediately or leave it to cool to room temperature.