Hows your weekend going thus far ? many plans ???
As you may remember from a few weeks or so back I made an Apricot , Almond spice cake from The Hungry Girls
I was lucky enough to score an Q&A with Rachel Pitts the recipe brains behind these lovely recipe!
So away we go !
How did you start off cooking and what was the first thing that you remember cooking?
I started cooking when I was in last few years of high school and living at home with Mum. Vegie burgers were one of the first things I created. At the time I waitressed on weekends at a café with a fairly hippy, vegetarian menu featuring things like dhal, felafel and vegie burgers, and I started making my own version of vegie burgers at home and they turned out pretty well! Another time I remember having my boyfriend and his friend over for dinner and making one of the worst curries known to mankind, which was basically all cabbage and tinned curry sauce. Really, I can’t work out what was I thinking! How was that ever going to taste good?
I saw on you blog that you very much enjoy travel, has this influenced your cooking style very much?
Definitely. I am carrying around a very long list of great things we ate, particularly in China, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand a few years ago, that I still need to work out how to cook. Originally I said to myself that when I cook them all and write recipes of the good ones, then it’s time to go travelling again! But actually, it might take me a decade to get through them at my current sporadic rate, and we’d really like to go travelling again somewhere next year.
When did you realise that your love of cooking could be turned into a lovely book? ( I don’t own a copy yet, but I wish I did)
Probably only when I started talking about it to my friends Katherine Bird (Hungry Girls’ illustrator and designer) and Leah Holscher (Hungry Girls’ photographer). It wasn’t something that I would have considered doing on my own, but with the three of us combining our skills, we all thought we might be able to make something beautiful. And actually, Volume 1 was mainly made as a Christmas present for friends and family, and we thought we could sell a few copies at the café we had at the time. Quietly we were wondering if the book would spark any other interest, and we’re very excited when it did!
What’s your favourite thing to cook and why is it so special to you ?
I am a shocker for cooking things until I get them right, such as for the Hungry Girls Cookbooks, and then shelving them away for a very long time, as I’m always excited by new things. But the things I enjoy cooking most are probably the simpler things that don’t have piles of ingredients and complicated steps, but which surprise you in how good they taste. Some things I’m thinking of are a fantastic noodle salad we ate in China, a chicken curry with not much more than a handful of ingredients from Laos, minimal Italian pastas, Chinese stir-fries featuring one or two ingredients, proper potato tortilla with the minimum of ingredients (potato, onion, egg, oil). Not everything I cook is this simple, but I think this kind of cooking really rewards you for your effort, and it feels like something magical steps in to make it taste so good.
Do you find you relax a lot whilst cooking ?
Hmmm. If my daughter is trying to climb up my leg, or if she is sitting on the bench next to me and trying to pull out all the peppercorns from the spice drawer, then it’s not so relaxing! I usually find it more relaxing if my husband has taken Greta out for a few hours and I can concentrate, and then I find it very relaxing and time flies, and I don’t really need any music or anything on as I’m happy just being quiet. (That said, sometimes Greta is great company and we have lots of fun together cooking certain things. Anything with dough or pastry – anything she can get her hands into and squash!)
Do you make up a lot of your recipes from scratch or do you find inspiration from other things people have made or a bit of both ?
Everything starts with inspiration from somewhere, whether it’s a dish eaten overseas or at a restaurant or seen in a cookbook. I’m a recipe fiddler though, so I might cook something as the recipe says the first time, and then make changes and simplifications that appeal to me the next time, until eventually it evolves into my own way of doing it.
What do you enjoy to do when you’re not cooking and is cooking a big part of your life now because of the Hungry Girls ?
Going for walks and bike rides with Greta and my husband. Gardening in our vegie patch ... But cooking has grown to be a pretty big part of my life. There never seems to be enough time!
Are you more of a savoury person or a sweet tooth ?
Both! I’m not one of those people who can skip dinner and just eat cake, but a day with a little bit of cake in it is a good day!
Have you always known what you would end up doing or has it been always changing ?
I had no idea I would want to write recipes! I was always keen to write, but it’s a bit intimidating when you don’t know what you want to write about ... It was great when I worked out I was interested in food, as having a little niche is much cosier. But writing is not by a long stretch the only thing I do. I’m also a cookbook editor working freelance from home, and my husband and I have other little pipedreams of fun things we might do one day. A single career seems a little too boring these days!
Is cooking for a toddler hard for you when you like more exotic food, and when she likes what you have made does that give you a little buzz inside ?
I’m always cooking different things, sometimes a little on the whacky side at least from a toddler’s point of view. I keep forgetting, probably being a bit too stubborn all the time, and when it comes to serving up I often have a sudden realisation of ‘oh bugger, this isn’t going to work at all!’ It’s very silly of me, but on the up-side, I think she has been exposed to a wide range of food and most things are pretty acceptable. She doesn’t mind a bit of chilli, which we’re happy about – although recently I accidentally dished her up a massive chunk of hot chilli thinking it was capsicum, and that was not pretty! I felt awful. You’re right – when she likes food that I cook (when she eats it with no tricks or coaxing), that does make me feel quite ridiculously happy!
Does it thrill you when you see someone other than family with one of your books ?
Absolutely! But even family is good. You can’t make anyone cook your recipes, whether they’re family and friends or strangers, so when I hear of people cooking my recipes, that makes me grin from ear to ear.
What has been your favourite part of making the Hungry Girls’ cookbooks?
The photo shoots. We all love styling the food with interesting old props, and Leah is such a good photographer that the food always looks great and I feel proud!
Do you have a cook book that you love to make things out of and why is it so special?
There are a few that I keep going back to. One that I’ve cooked heaps of things out of is actually a book I worked on a few years ago as an editor – the SBS Food Safari cookbook. Almost all of the recipes I’ve cooked from it are brilliant – authentic and interesting, from 30-odd countries around the world, and even if they’re classic dishes they tend to be very good versions. I like any book that has authentic recipes from a given country.
What gives you the inspiration to cook yummy things ??
A lot of the time I’m inspired by produce coming out of our garden, which is beans, beans, beans this summer, finally with a few tomatoes too. I love the feeling of growing your own vegies and having your own eggs, and whatever else it is you might have, which means you can make yourself a delicious and healthy meal from what you’ve got, without having to do too much shopping.
Lastly is there anything on the horizons for the Hungry Girls or separate projects ?
Happy Days !:D
Thanks Rachel for doing such a spiffy Q&A for me YAY, make sure that you head over to The Hungry Girls website and check out their wonderful blog and shop !