Monday, 31 March 2008

Piece of Plenty - Winter Coleslaw

This is another recipe I developed whilst working at the fantastic Piece of Plenty, what started off as a plain carrot salad (delicious in itself with some toasted sunflower seeds) and with a little inspiration from Jamie Oliver... we came up with this slaw.
It basically involves either grating or slicing thinly any winter veggies you can get hold of, a combination of textures and colours works best. We usually use red cabbage, white cabbage, savoy cabbage, carrots, swedes and turnips.
A decent food processor makes this job really easy, I just pushed the cabbages through the slicing blade and grated the carrots, swedes and turnips.
We skipped the usual mayonnaise and make this wonderfuly mustardy dressing that is fabulous on any salad. Some kind of chopped nuts or seedy sprinkles would be a welcome addition.
We used to have it for lunch with pitta and hummus, tasty!

Mustard Dressing

  • 1tsp honey
  • 1tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2tbsp english mustard
  • 3tbsp cider vinegar
  • 100ml olive oil
Mix together the honey, mustards and cider vinegar. Whisk the olive oil in slowly to form an emulsion. Store in a clean airtight jar and it should keep for a few weeks. Read more...

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Heart Shaped Cakes

I thought it would be worth mentioning the virtues of Silicone bakeware. They're completely non-stick so you don't need to faff with lining cake tins, although I do grease mine with a little sunflower oil to make sure the cakes come out really cleanly. The flexible nature also means you can bake cakes in lots of different shapes (my current favourite being hearts, see below) and they last for ages!

Note: the cakes are actually the yoghurt cake in another guise...


Saturday, 29 March 2008

El Panzon

El Panzon is becoming a bit of a Friday night staple for me. The restaurant is actually located within the achingly cool Dogstar on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton. We usually get there early, stuff our faces and stay on for the dancing (usually much too late).

They serve authentic Mexican food, whilst I can't vouch for its authenticity, it is definitely delicious, everything is freshly made and the nachos are the best I've ever tasted! The portions are also pretty big, we usually eat amply for £6 a head.

I've been told by a lot of people that I need to apologise for the picture below, blame drunken picture taking in a dark bar... I assure you it goes no way towards showing how good the food is and in retrospect looks a bit like a kebab...

The fact that El Panzon is a separate entity to the pub means that you can't order at the bar and there is (theoretically) table service. This is often erratic at best, but I'm used to it now, its part of the experience! Anyway the food always arrives fast.

Definitely worth making a trip to Brixton for, if you live nearby, they also deliver! Read more...

Friday, 28 March 2008

Olive Hummus

Another recipe I tried at the fabulous Piece of Plenty. I do like homemade hummus, but somehow my own never tastes quite right, anyway this recipe worked perfectly. Its best to use good quality olives in this as you can really taste them. Although we blended everything, I think this could be really good if you blend everything bar the olives, chop them and stir through at the end.

We also talked about doing a beetroot hummus as well, if only for the amazing colour, I'll keep you posted...

I tend to always have hummus in the fridge, its the perfect snack food, and healthy too, pulses count as 1 portion of fruit and veg, use carrot, cucumber or celery to dip into it and you're sorted!

I also always buy chickpeas (in a can) from ethnic food shops (Indian or Afro-Caribbean) as they are generally much bigger and softer than the supermarket versions. I'm yet to master the art of cooking soaked chickpeas...

Olive Hummus

  • 125g olives
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 80ml balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 3 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
Add all the ingredients to a food processor, with the juice of 1 of the lemons and 3tbsp water. Blend and that's it! Add more lemon juice to taste. Read more...

Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni Cheese is without doubt, my all time favourite food. By macaroni cheese, I only mean my mum's version, unadulterated with anything but unhealthy amounts of cheese. What could be better? Its like a hug in a bowl. As with all the best food, its steeped in memory for me, we always have macaroni cheese as part of a roast dinner (its a West Indian thing), believe me, it works! Try it with roast chicken and gravy - mmm....

Since leaving home, I've tried many times to recreate this myself, and whilst they were good, they were never the same. But I think I finally cracked it last night. Basically, you need to use more cheese than I feel comfortable using, and there needs to be a lot of thick cheesy sauce to macaroni. If you're going to do it, you need to do it properly I say!

My mum always makes her white sauce in the microwave and I can testify it does work really well, I do however, usually do it in a pan. Recently, I've got particularly lazy and even use cold milk when making a white sauce, as long as you whisk it in slowly, its fine!

In an attempt to feel more virtuous (and not end up feeling sick) I had mine with a mustardy pea, rocket and tomato salad(trying this mustard dressing), although I eat plenty more out of the dish afterwards, but still had enough for my lunch the next day.

What follows is (a version of) my mum's recipe...

Macaroni Cheese
serves 2
  • 30g butter
  • 30g flour
  • 300ml (½ pint) milk
  • 175g mature cheddar
  • ½ tsp english mustard
  • 200g macaroni
Cook the macaroni in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Melt the butter in a pan, whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes more. Take off the heat, whisk the milk in the slowly to avoid lumps. Return to the heat and cook slowly until the sauce thickens (it will coat the back of a spoon). I usually wait until it just starts to bubble. Take off the heat, season well and add the mustard and cheese, wait a few minutes for the cheese to melt and mix with the macaroni. Bake at 200°C for about 30mins or until bubbling and golden. Read more...

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Piece of Plenty - Brown Rice Salad

I got this recipe whilst working as a cook at Piece of Plenty, a small artisan food business selling at Barnes Farmers' market and Alexandra Farmers' Market. This is one of the most popular salads on the stall and its easy to see why, its delicious! The dressing is what really makes it, thick soy sauce and olive oil coat the rice in a syrupy dressing, with lemon juice and ginger to lift it. Plus, what with the brown rice, veggies, cashew nuts, ginger and lemon juice, this is positively virtuous eating, I often took a box of this home whilst I was working there...

I am a bit of a garlic fiend, but I made a version of this with 1 clove of chopped garlic and 1 chopped red chilli, which I think were welcome additions, especially the extra heat of the chilli.

Serves 2-3
For the salad

  • 2 cups of brown rice cooked until soft
  • 4 or 5 peppers, diced finely
  • 1 small bunch spring onions, sliced finely
  • 100g cashews nuts, toasted
For the dressing
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • juice 1 lemon (approx 50ml)
  • 50ml dark soy sauce
  • 1tsp grated ginger
Place all the dressing ingredients in a clean jam jar and mix well. You can make up large quantities of this and it will keep happily for a few weeks Mix together the salad ingredients, pour over enough dressing to coat and enjoy!

Note: when cooking drown rice, I like to use twice as much water as rice, bring it to the boil, cover and leave to simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is soft, top up if necessary. I find brown rice does actually take at least 30mins to cook, being the impatient cook that I am, I often undercook it, which is fine, you get a nuttier grain, but its a bit heavy on the old digestion...


Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Yoghurt Cake

This is possibly the easiest recipe for a cake ever, and perhaps my favourite cake. The idea is you use a small carton of yoghurt to flavour the cake and then use the empty carton to measure the rest of the ingredients. Genius! no scales, no cups. Using oil and yoghurt also means that the cake in wonderfully moist and lasts for days, although what cake ever last for days?

Also, as this recipe is so easy to make, its perfect to make with children.

Below is the basic recipe.

Yoghurt Cake

  • 1 individual pot of yoghurt
  • 1 pot of flavourless oil
  • 2 pots of sugar
  • 3 pots of self raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Whisk the yoghurt, oil and sugar together. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly. Stir in the dry ingredients. Transfer to a lined cake tin and bake at 180°C for 30-40mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

The beauty of this recipe is that there are endless variations, both with the flavour of yoghurt, icing and shape of tin used. I like to use a Black Cherry yoghurt, baked in a loaf tin for a delicately flavoured plain tea cake. This also works very well if you substitute one carton measure of flour for ground almonds.

I made this cake to use up some blueberries that were past their best in the fridge. I followed the recipe using plain yoghurt, and 1 carton measure of ground almonds instead of 1 measure of flour. I then stirred the blueberries in at the end before baking.

I made this cake for my sister's birthday. I used raspberry yoghurt and baked it in sandwich tins, then filled it with fresh raspberries and mascarpone mixed with icing sugar. I like to use mascarpone as a cheat's (and a fatty's) version of whipped cream as it only needs gently beating with a wooden spoon to look like whipped cream. Read more...

Monday, 10 March 2008

The Perfect Boiled Egg

Soft boiled eggs and soldiers are one of those things that you rediscover every so often and wonder why you don't eat them more often. For me, they evoke memories of childhood, I used to have one every day for breakfast, a tradition now continued by my mum with my nephew, who only ever eats Grandma's 'chucky eggs'.

With something this simple, quality of ingredients is best, with the egg being the obvious star, try to use the best quality you can (don't even bother with battery eggs). Use good quality bread, real butter, and as much salt as you dare.

This isn't actually my breakfast, it my best friend Rose's, the Queen of boiled eggs. She uses the Delia recipe. Delia can always be relied upon for these kind of recipes, there are about 2 pages dedicated to boiling an egg in 'How to Cook'. This gist is to use fresh eggs, preferably not cold from the fridge as they're more likely to crack and to carefully place the egg in the pan using a spoon.

For perfect soft boiled eggs (thanks to Delia) : Carefully place your eggs into a small pan of simmering water using a tablespoon, allow to simmer for 1minute. Now remove from the heat and cover for 6min 30s to give a perfect soft boiled egg. Toast your bread whilst the eggs are sitting. Having tried, it doesn't really work trying to do this without an accurate time keeping device...

Ps: notice the perfectly topped boiled egg in the picture? No boiled egg enthusiast should be without an egg topper.


Saturday, 1 March 2008

Blogs I like

Below is a (growing) list of blogs I like. I’m pretty new to the whole blog scene so these are the ones I’ve stumbled across. Initially, all I could find were US food blogs, (101 Cookbooks is becoming a mild obsession) but know I’m finding more and more British ones which are equally fab.

101 Cookbooks
BBC Good Food
Chocolate and Zucchini
Delicious Days
Dinner Diary
Domestic Goddess in Training
Simply recipes
Hollow Legs
Milk and Cookies
La Tartine Gourmande


My Favourite Cookbooks and Websites

I actually have about 50 or so books, some of them decidedly unused, it seems as soon as people know you like cooking, they buy you any old recipe book as a present! I guess I should go back to them and have a look... Thing is, I think I’m actually in recipe overload these days, what with all the recipes on the internet and food magazines.

I also thought its worth mentioning that I love the BBC Good Food website for searching for recipes. They index all the recipes from Good Food and Olive magazine and have great pictures for every recipe. The UKTV Food website isn’t bad either. I also love the Jamie Oliver website, but mostly because it is serious food porn.

I used to live for the Observer Food Monthly (despite Nigel Slater whom I detest, so smug!), but know there seem to be less and less recipes, but what is there is very good and simple. I also like Olive magazine.

Below is a list of some of my favourite cookbooks, the ones I come back to time and time again and as a result are completely battered and covered in all manner of foodstuffs.

  • Nigella Lawson – although her TV persona has become a tad ridiculous, you can’t detract from the fact that her recipes are amazing. Yes, a little calorie heavy, but you know they’ll always work, taste delicious and be really generous. I have:
  • How To Eat
  • Nigella Express – ignore the TV show, this is actually full of pretty good recipes.
  • Feast – probably my favourite
  • How to be a Domestic Goddess - a classic and a must for any beginners

Other Favourites include..


About me

Welcome to What Rachel Ate Today, I'm Rachel and I am quite literally obsessed with food, I'm always thinking of my next meal. I love to eat, to read cookbooks, go food shopping, go out for dinner... Food is my favourite social activity and is central to most things I do.

I tend to use recipes as inspiration and then make up my own, usually depending on what I have in. I’m big on eating locally, seasonally and organic where possible and increasingly reducing the ridiculous amounts of food waste we all produce. This blog has also ignited a growing obsession with food photography, before this I didn’t even own my camera, but now all the pictures on my camera are of food and I’m currently dreaming of buying a fancy new camera....

I’m currently working at Hampstead Tea, a small company where I get to do lots of fun marketing things whilst I figure out my ultimate ‘foodie’ job. I also do various other foodie things on the side such as sell bread for Born and Bread Bakery, test recipe and work on various websites (more on that soon...fingers crossed!) Read more...