Friday, 28 February 2014

Recipe Roundup #2: Piri Piri Chicken Wings, Homemade Sprinkles & Spicy Mini Meatball Grilled Cheese

Welcome to my second monthly edition of 'Recipe Roundup'. I am so glad that you guys enjoyed the first round up of the recipes on other peoples blogs I'd been enjoying last month, so, without further ado I'd like to introduce you to my favourite recipes that I can't wait to make that I have seen in the month of February! 
Recipe Roundup 2

This month, as far as other peoples recipes I've been making I enjoyed What To Cook Tonight's Pancetta, Pea & Sage Orecchiette twice in the space of one week. I'd really recommend it, and best of all it is part of their free sample pack of recipes they have put out ahead of their subscription service launch next month, which you can download here; there is also a recipe for Chicken Fajitas with Homemade Salsa & Guacamole and Vanilla Pound Cake with Caramel Sauce and Crushed Strawberry Cream in there I can't wait to try as well. Also, stay tuned on the blog over the next few weeks, as I've got a feature on What To Cook Tonight with a little treat from the WTCT team in it in the works! 

What recipes have you particularly been enjoying making this month, or have you stumbled across that you can't wait to try? I also made a pretty fantastic sausage casserole from The Times Eat! Saturday supplement too, but you'll have to wait to hear about that because my own personal twist on it will be appearing on the blog on Monday!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Recipe: Hoisin Duck Pancake Wraps

I honestly did not think I'd have time to do a Pancake Day themed recipe this year, but when Waitrose got in touch with me about creating a Chinese pancake recipe for their internationally themed pancake feature, I realised that instead of taking the time out to make something sweet I could incorporate pancakes into my weekday meal rota. A couple of years ago my Father and I over the space of two days made the whole crispy aromatic duck from scratch, and we also made the Chinese thin pancakes from scratch too. 
Hoisin Duck Pancake Wraps #pancake #duck #chinese #hoisin Hoisin Duck Pancake Wraps #pancake #duck #chinese #hoisin
Now, I think we both decided after that exercise that life is too short to do the whole duck again, but making my own Chinese pancakes was a skill that I was happy I learnt. The pancakes here are slightly thicker than those originals, because those were very fiddly and I think slightly thicker pancakes are easier to hold if you like to stuff them full like I do. This recipe will make a great main meal for Pancake Day night before dessert, because I don't think I'd ever manage to not have the traditional sugar and fresh lemon juice crepes for dessert. Recently I've also taken to mixing fresh thyme into my sugar for a grown up twist. Instead of having a big duck or doing the whole roasting lark, I've found for a manageable treat to serve just you one duck leg, rubbed with Chinese Five Spice, roasted and then shredded with two forks, skin and all will suffice.

  • 1 Duck Leg
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese 5 Spice
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt
  • Waitrose Hoisin Sauce
  • 1/4 Cucumber, cut into matchsticks 
  • 2 Spring Onions, shredded
  • 115g (4 oz) Plain Flour
  • 80ml (5 1/2 tbsp) Boiling Water
  • 1/4 tsp Vegetable Oil
  • Waitrose Toasted Sesame Oil

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (335 degrees fahrenheit). Sprinkle the Chinese 5 Spice over the skin of the duck leg and place on a foil lined baking tray. Roast in the oven for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, you can make your pancakes and prepare your vegetables. Mix the flour, boiling water and vegetable oil together to create a dough. Knead it into a ball and wrap in cling film. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Shred the spring onions and matchstick the cucumber.

Knead the dough until smooth, this should take about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 8. Heat a big dry frying pan to a medium heat. Flatten each dough ball into a patty and brush half of them with a lot of Toasted Sesame Oil. Press an oiled patty to a dry one to make them stick together, and roll each one out until thin. This helps make thinner pancakes than you can physically roll, because the oil will allow them to separate once cooked and therefore less fragile. If you are in a silly student flat like me and don't have a rolling pin, use an empty wine bottle; I'm sure you'll have loads of those hanging about! However, this is my excuse for why my pancakes are not round, though I know full well I can't roll pizza dough into a circle to save my life, either. Bake these thin rounds one at a time in the dry pan for a few minutes each side until the puff up and have a few brown spots on each side. Remove from the pan and while still hot, but cool enough to touch carefully find the edges and prize apart the two halves. This does take a bit of practice, I warn you, but the more oil between them without making a mess the better. 

Remove the duck from the oven and using two forks, shred the whole thing off the bone including the skin. Serve hot wrapped up in the pancakes with the cucumber, spring onions and liberal amounts of Hoisin Sauce (the best Chinese flavour ever!)

What are your plans this year for Pancake Day? Are you going to go down the traditional route, or are you going to make something a little bit different. I feel making something non traditional for Pancake Day is a bit like not having a turkey on Thanksgiving, some people get excited about it, and some people think it is a real crime! 

Monday, 24 February 2014

How To Temper Chocolate + A Chocolate Ganache Layer Cake

This particular cake recipe holds a special place in my heart. The original version is from Mary Berry At Home, and it is the cake batter I invoke whenever I get a certain type of emails from blog readers. They go something like this: "it is alright for you saying all this cooking and baking is easy, you can already do it!" Then I tell the story of the first time I made this, my all time favourite rich and indulgent chocolate cake solo. 
Shard Cake
Back then it was just a two layer sandwich cake, but as I have said it was really the batter that was the real story. I was quite young at this point, and the long and short of it is that to rescue the batter my Mother had to press the mix through a fine sieve to salvage the cake I'd managed to screw it up so badly. The real lesson here is everyone had to start somewhere, people you see as great bakers have made mistakes in the past and still make them occasionally, and we all learn from our mistakes. I reiterate here that anyone can cook, bake and eat well; practice makes perfect. I'm still learning every day, and I love to learn new skills in the kitchen.

While most of the food on this blog is really easy and simple because I don't want any of the recipes here to seem intimidating, behind the scenes I've slowly been teaching myself new skills, and going off to a few one off classes people are kind enough to send me on. For example in the latter few months of last year I learnt how to make French madeleines, make a soufflé, bone and fillet a couple of different type of fish and how to bone the chickens I learnt how to joint over the Summer. This year as I've been so busy I had not really learnt anything new yet, so when Something Sweet magazine wanted to know if I wanted to learn how to temper chocolate if they sent me a copy of the first issue of their magazine and some of the kitchen equipment I'd need, I jumped at the chance. After a bit of deliberation of what exactly I could use tempered chocolate for, I though why not make my favourite cake as an indulgent little three layer cake and temper chocolate shards for the top.
This recipe works in three stages. If you follow the instructions for the three steps carefully there is no reason that anyone should find this difficult. First the cake, then the ganache, then you need to make the tempered chocolate shards. So, without any further ado first up is the sponge cake recipe. You need all the usual suspects for baking a cake, as well as three 6" cake tins. I find it easier to use the ones with loose removable bottoms.

  • 50g (2 oz) Cocoa Powder, sifted (I like Cadbury's Bournville and Trader Joe's own brand)
  • 6 tbsp Boiling Water
  • 3 Large Free Range Eggs
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Whole Milk
  • 175g (6 oz) Self-Raising Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 100g (4 oz) Soft Margarine
  • 275g (10 oz) Golden Caster Sugar (if you live in the USA granulated is fine) 

Line the bottoms of each tin with baking parchment and grease the sides well with a little extra margarine. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 degrees fahrenheit). I make my cake in a food mixer (I use the Kenwood K-Mix, mine is cream) but I have also made this cake batter using the good old mixing bowl and wooden spoon method many times. Make a smooth paste out of the boiling water and the cocoa. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat well until smooth. Divide equally between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Test after 25 minutes and test with a sharp knife or cake tester. If you can poke the skewer in and it comes out clean they are ready. As soon as the tins are cool enough on a cooking rack to touch turn the cakes out upside down onto the racks and remove the baking parchment. Set aside to cool while you make the chocolate ganache. 

  • 270g (10 oz) Plain Chocolate (I use Cadbury Bournville) 
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) Double Cream

Break the chocolate into the smallest pieces you can manage into a large heatproof glass bowl. I swear by my 2l Pyrex bowl. Add the cream. Simmer a small amount of water in a medium saucepan. Place the bowl with the cream and the chocolate in on the top, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl and the water does not boil. The steam from the water hitting the bottom of the bowl will melt the chocolate and heat the cream. This is a good practice for tempering the chocolate to make the decorative shards later. Occasionally stir the cream chocolate mixture until the chocolate has completely melted into the cream and the ganache is smooth, rich and glossy. Remove from the heat and keep in a cool place, stirring occasionally. Set aside while you make the chocolate shards. 

  • 100g Dark Chocolate
  • 100g Milk Chocolate 

To temper the chocolate you will need either the same or another heatproof glass bowl and the saucepan of water, a suitable thermometer for tempering (the team at Something Sweet sent me Lakeland Limited's Infrared Thermometer, which was perfect for the job), a large palate knife, a tea towel and a flat surface. I used a plastic chopping board wrapped in baking parchment, but I think acetate would have been better for the job. 

Temper the chocolate in two batches, washing and making sure your equipment is very dry between chocolate types. Water added to melted chocolate will make it go grainy. Break the chocolate into small pieces and set aside 1/3 of the pieces. Melt the rest of the chocolate in the glass bowl over the pan of simmering water until all the pieces have melted and the chocolate reaches 48 to 49 degrees celsius (118 to 120 degrees fahrenheit). Remove from the heat and rest in a nest of a clean tea towel to stop the bowl losing too much heat. Stir in the remaining 1/3 of the chocolate until melted and allow the chocolate to cool, stirring occasionally to cool to 28 to 29 degrees celsius (82 to 84 degrees fahrenheit). Pour the chocolate onto the flat surface and using the palette knife smooth it out thinly, backwards and forwards until the top of the chocolate only just goes a little cloudy. Leave to cool until you can touch it with the tips of your fingers without making a mark. Using a sharp knife cut shards and gently peel away from the surface. Trim to smarten up. 

  • 3 tbsp Apricot Jam (I like Bonne Maman) 

To assemble your cake, heat the jam in a small saucepan over a medium heat until it thins. Brush on top of each sponge and place one on the bottom of a cake stand. Sandwich each layer together with as little ganache as possible so you have as much as possible to frost the cake. Using a palette knife, carefully spread the rest of the ganache across the outside of the rest of the cake until smooth. Press the longer of the shards in a milk and dark alternating pattern around the sides, and arrange the rest of the smaller shards across the top of the cake.  

Have you ever tempered chocolate before? I found it easier than I expected, but I feel that I am going to get much better at it with practice. You can read the full Something Sweet issue one which tells you how to temper chocolate, coat fondant fancies and make vanilla fudge on their website, and you can subscribe here

Friday, 21 February 2014

Weekly Love: Week 123

I spent a few days in London first, going to class and catching up with old friends over lunch and dinner, but yesterday I got back from spending some time visiting family out on the Isle Of Man. This essentially has meant for me cooking, working on my dissertation, watching TV with my grandfather and playing copious amount of Farm Heroes on my iPad, which my Aunt has got me hooked on! Such a time waster, but good in study breaks. On a side note the nominations for the Homies awards close tomorrow, so I'd also really appreciate it if you could take a moment out of your day to head over and nominate 'Rachel Phipps' as your favourite 'Blog From Abroad'. It will only take a few moments, and I'd really appreciate your support!
Weekly Love 210214[1]
1. Sunday afternoon with sushi, the Sunday papers (The Sunday Telegraph and Waitrose Kitchen free with my My Waitrose card, The Sunday Times on my iPad) and Porter Magazine. | 2. I'm a big fan of Pret's new Super Smoothies. I love this one with Avocado, Spinach, Apple, Pear and Cucumber. | 3. Waking up to this view over the Irish Sea on Ballaugh Shore, Isle Of Man. | 4. A delicious rabbit and creme fraiche dish for lunch at Jamie's Italian, Gatwick. Lunch and Jamie's Italian and a bottle of Merlot really improved the whole airport experience! | 5. Again at Jamie's Italian, Autumn Pavalova with smashed hazelnut brittle, zesty cream and limencello soaked berries. | 6. Grabbing a little bit of whatever looks good for lunch from Ottolenghi's in Islington.

I know lots of you comment on my Instagram that you'd love some recommendations of what to do and eat in my beautiful historic home town of Canterbury. Over on Nicole's website Eat This Poem this week she published a foodie literary guide to Canterbury I put together at the end of last year with all of my favourite spots and insider local tips around the city as part of her City Guides series. Some of my other favourites on her site include Nicole's own guide to Los Angeles (I love you my second city), and Oxford, written by one of my favourite food bloggers, Emma from Poires Au Chocolat
WeeklyLove 210214[2] copy copy
7. Mist over the mountains on the Isle of Man. | 8. Delicious rose wine and peach vodka cocktails at Burger & Lobster. | 9. A little preview of a little something I threw together at the weekend for Monday's blog post. Chocolate tempering happened. | 10. Curling up with Nigella in the conservatory during an essay writing break. | 11. A nice clear, sunny day along Ballaugh Shore. | 12. Ballaugh Old Church at The Cronk. So beautiful, and has rectors listed inside the church dating back to 1408, but the first historical mention of the church is in 1231. When I want to clear my head and I don't fancy walking down to the shore, I like to wander around the cemetery and read the headstones. The earliest I've found there dates from 1691.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm going to work on one of my upcoming recipes for Great British Chefs tomorrow, and I'm heading back into the city on Sunday ready for a week of class, breakfast meetings, recipe development and brunches. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Places To Eat In London: Grain Store, King's Cross [Now Closed]

On Monday night before my friend Amy got her train back up North I finally got to dine at the third and final spot on a list of King's Cross eateries around Granary Square I've had my eye on: Grain Store. Grain Store is French chef Bruno Loubet's relatively new joint. Think Scandi plates, unusual flavour combinations and a really great paired down atmosphere. You're transported into a top London restaurant but with the more fashionable attitude you've come to expect from a lot of London's exciting new eateries. 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Student Suppers: 'Winter Cure' Kale, Barley & Root Vegetable Soup

You know how I said the other day that I was sick of soups? It turns out that I just needed the right soup to come along to make me fall head over heels with them again. I'd been eyeing a recipe for Winter Kale & Barley Soup in the 'Fuss-Free Suppers' section of the Waitrose Magazine 'Harvest' supplement of seasonal recipes ever since I got it with the January 2014 issue, to the point where I cut it out and stuck it up behind my desk. When I finally got around to trying it it was like a hug in a bowl, the perfect cure to the horrible weather outside (I'm currently on the Isle Of Man in the middle of the Irish sea visiting family. I find it cold and wet here even in the Summer), but flavour and texture wise, I still thought there were a few elements missing, elements I just did not want to simply add some smoky bacon or pancetta to, the usual flavour fix for soups like this. 

Friday, 14 February 2014

Places To Eat In London: Burger & Lobster, The City

I like dining in the Square Mile. On the weekends it is deserted. During the week, if you book a table for 1pm, by the time you've got your drinks your restaurant has practically emptied out when all the city workers go back to their offices. I've wanted to eat at Burger & Lobster for about two years, since back when there were the hottest pop up ticket in town down in Mayfair, so on Wednesday to escape from rain and midweek blues Kathryn and I headed to their City branch to indulge in some grilled lobster. Who said students ate eat badly? 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Recipe: A Cheap & Easy Classic Tea Bread

When I first arrived at university I was terrified that I would not be able to afford to feed myself on a student budget, and before I really started making money off of this blog, all my original recipe posts were made using the Sainsbury's Basics range which was a total life saver. While today I do most of my shopping at the farmers market, I sometimes pick up some good basics there. So, when Sainsbury's offered to send me some products from their basics range to put together a recipe, my original plan was to throw back to being a Fresher and do a special edition 'Student Suppers' post. But then, as always, my Mother came up with a better idea. 
A Cheap & Easy Classic Tea Bread | @rachelphipps
She instantly looked at the big bag of Mixed Dried Fruit that was delivered, and the Tea Bags, and she told me to make a Tea Bread. Because she is my Mother and I am her daughter, naturally I wanted to come up with my own idea. After a few weeks in London scratching my head the next time I was back on the farm last week I gave in, and made a Tea Bread. My loaf is a mash up of several different recipes for such that Mary Berry has published over the years (my Mother has an enviable food library here that I'm always looking through for ideas), and is perfect served for afternoon tea or a mid morning snack with lashings of lightly salted butter. 

  • 300g (12 oz) Sainsbury's Basics Mixed Dried Fruit
  • 475ml (16 floz) Strong Black Tea made with 4 Sainsbury's Basics Tea Bags
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 225g (8 oz) Dark Muscavado Sugar 
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 450g (1 lb) Self-Raising Flour

The night before you wish to bake your cake, soak the mixed dried fruit in the tea. I must say, I honestly can't tell the difference between these Basics Mixed Dried Fruit and the one I usually use. When it is time to bake, like a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment and preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (350 fahrenheit). With an electric whisk beat the eggs and the sugar together until the mixture is thick, light, smooth and glossy. This will also get the lumps out of the sugar. To those familiar with it, the mixture should taste like Gypsy Tart filling. Fold in the flour, lemon zest, fruit and the remaining soaking liquid until the cake mixture is smooth. Spoon into the tin and smooth over the top. Bake for about an hour, until you can put a skewer into the cake and pull it out again clean. Be sure to put the skewer in several places. I've made the mistake before of putting it in one place, thinking it was cooked and taking it out the oven. It was in fact still raw in the middle; I could almost imagine what Paul Hollywood would say, and the look of disappointment on Mary Berry's face, especially as this is a mash up of a couple of her recipes! Leave to cool in the tin before serving warm.

What are your favourite classic home bakes? I have a few more recipes for our farmhouse favourites here that I have been tweaking slightly to make my own that I can't wait to share with you. I find it hard to bake anything sweet or bread like in my London flat, but in a few weeks time I won't have any more classes and just essays to write, so I'll be spending a lot more time in Kent with the kitchen, so expect more sweet treats soon! 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Recipe: Roasted Mussels with Cherry Tomatoes & Chorizo

It has got to that point in Winter where I am officially sick of soups and I want it it be Spring already. Maybe it was that year in Los Angeles where 'weather' is more of an abstract concept than something that actually happens that has made me much less tolerant of weather where you can't choose to eat outside or barbecue if you wish. Anyway, in something that is delicious, warming and comforting for all the horrible weather we've been having (and yes, I eat all of this with my hands) today I have a recipe for Roasted Mussels with Cherry Tomatoes and Chorizo. Because yes, you can roast mussels. Who knew? This discovery blew my mind at first. 
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An important lesson I have learnt over the past few months or so is it pays to really get to know your fishmonger. You'll always know what is good or fresh that day and pick up recipe ideas. The other week mine was unloading a crate of live lobsters, and he took the time to teach me how to tell the difference between a male and a female. It is all about the splaying of the tail, it transpires. So, when your fishmonger warns you he is selling you wild mussels rather than the rope grown you usually buy and they'll need some scrubbing, you ought to take him seriously. Two days running scrubbing these beauties I learnt that cold water and barnacles are not kind to your hands. Barnacles are also the best way to ruin a brand new kitchen sponge. 
I do plan to do a post on how to clean and de-beard mussels at some point with a step by step, but for now Waitrose has a great online guide. Another great thing about going to a proper fishmonger. They'll sort through the mussels as they are weighing them out for you, so you rarely get bad ones. I have learnt the hard way that when the guides tell you to soak your mussels twice to remove grit, they really mean it. I like to use the middle of my set of three mixing bowls that the guys over at Red Candy were kind enough to send me last year. As I don't have much space in my London flat the fact they nest, are shaped like jugs and have jug measurements inside so that I can multitask with them makes them essential to my kitchen. 
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This is a simple recipe, but a recipe in three parts. While you are soaking the mussels croutons need to be made out of day old or almost stale bread under the grill. I keep infused extra virgin olive oils in my kitchen, and I've found rosemary is perfect for this if you are into that sort of thing. Obviously preparing the mussels are another element, and the third is just arranging your mussels, tomatoes and chorizo on a baking tray and allowing the mussels to open up in a very, very hot oven. You need to make sure you use a deep tray for this; the mussels give off the most amazing elixir. So amazing, it has made me excited to try Nigel Slaters 'A Clear, Hot Mussel Soup' from The Kitchen Diaries Volume I.
I think I have mentioned this before on Instagram, but coming from a home where we grow all our herbs in pots, when I first arrived in Los Angeles where herbs at the grocery store came in big bunches, and I started shopping at the farmers market, it took me a while to figure out how to stop big bunches wilting in my fridge within a day or two. It turns out that the solution is a big glass or jar of water. I only have a tiny fridge in London, so as well as a glass with a big bunch of coriander in my fridge door you'll also usually find a glass of parsley on my desk, next to the flower vase. There is a bunch of dill in there too, at the moment. 
For my Roasted Mussels with Cherry Tomatoes & Chorizo recipe head over to Great British Chefs. It is a website I've been reading and cooking from for a while now, so I am absolutely honoured to now count myself among its bloggers. Fans of The Taste, Felicity Spector's weekly blogs about the show have also had me cracking up over there

Are you still into your Winter soups and stews, or are you also starting to hanker after something a bit more bright and colourful? And do you also know any other awesome ways with mussels? As well as roasting and steaming, I know baking halves with crumbs and stuffing. I'd love to hear about some of your recipes! 

Friday, 7 February 2014

Weekly Love: Week 122

It has been a good couple of weeks; the first of which enjoying all that London has to offer and the second in the countryside. Here was me being all smug that I'd avoided the tube strike, then I realised that we have next week to deal with. Hopefully my Burger & Lobster reservation won't come to nothing! Anyway, I've got another piece of food television for you to absorb/ obsess over. Russell Norman (whom London foodies will know as the guy behind Mishkins, Polpo, Ape & Bird) in The Restaurant Man consults on people who want to start their own restaurants. It is a fascinating look into what goes into setting up a restaurant, and I am hooked. For some reason the first episode is no longer on BBC iPlayer, but the second episode is available to watch now
1. My £10 flower haul from Columbia Road Flower Market which looked beautiful on my desk all week. | 2. My amazing drippy eggs and anchovy soldiers from Beagle in Hoxton. | 3. The view out over the Kentish fields surrounding the farm on my walk to the postbox in the village. | 4. Sharing seafood starters for lunch at The Shakespeare in Canterbury. | 5. A sneaky afternoon frozen yogurt treat from Snog in South Kensington after a Sunday morning spent wandering around the V&A. | 6. An early morning trip to my fishmonger, Furness Fish at Borough Market.

7. A lovely lunch of pork schnitzel, smoked eel and spritzers at Boopshi's in Fitzrovia. | 8. Sunday afternoon sundown over the Serpentine. | 9. Watching Jun Tanaka put together some Japanese home dishes in the Sainsbury's HQ test kitchen. There should be a few dishes inspired by what he made for us coming your way in the next month or so! | 10. Enjoying a lovely Domaine Les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone with dinner at the farm c/o the guys at Supertravel. It is one of the wines they serve in their ski chalets. | 11. Cocktails with some of you guys at Reverend JW Simpson off Goodge Street to celebrate this blogs 5th birthday. | 12. A Saturday afternoon spent looking around my favourite gallery in London, the Saatchi.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm dressing up in black tie tomorrow night for an event which I've been looking forward to for a while, and depending on how late I stay up dancing will depend on if I even make it out for Sunday lunch; brunch might be a little optimistic! 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Places To Eat In London: Boopshi's, Fitzrovia [Now Closed]

I've probably said this before, but I'm not really bothered about going to restaurants the moment they open. I like to do things at my own pace. However, sitting in a bar with a load of people who work in politics rather than food on Friday night and people exclaiming that I review restaurants, yet I have not been to such and such a place, I realised that I could sometimes try to be a bit more on the ball. Luckily for me I was able to redeem myself by recommending where I'd had lunch that day; Boopshi's, an Austrian Schnitzel and Spritzers place that opened in November (so being three months late to the party is improvement for me!) in Fitzrovia.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Recipe: 5 Minute Skinny Smoked Mackerel Pâté

When I was a kid, my favourite lunches were those made up of things from the deli section in the Marks & Spencer Food Hall. While I usually turn my nose up at pre-made food, I will still be perfectly happy to dig into their Gefilte Fish Balls, Mini Party Eggs, Mackerel Pate and Mixed Salami Packs. And on the sweet side, let us not forget Percy Pigs and Extremely Chocolaty Mini Bites. The problem is, I like to read labels. I like to know what is in my food. So, I have given myself a mission. Perhaps with the exception of the salami, to reproduce my M&S favourites in my own kitchen before I read the back of them and become put off for life.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Rachel Phipps Turns 5 Years Old Today!

I'm writing this post on the back of reading Joy's post celebrating the 6th year of her blog, so you can imagine I'm feeling a bit of performance anxiety right now. But what do you say to an amazing bunch of people on the internet, most of whom you've never met to say thank you for sticking by you, and putting up with your rambling and learning curves for 5 years? I'm afraid that in wet and rainy London, I'm not really in the position to go and film a video message on Santa Monica Beach this year!
Newpost Beach
Photo by Nicole Anderson, Memorial Day Weekend 2013, Newport Beach, Orange County, California

Last year I thanked you all for following my food, fashion and travel blog. Well, I've said ad nausium how much happier that last year I kind of unintentionally made the transition to being just a food blog with a bit of food related travel thrown in, but what I have not said yet is how surprised, grateful and thankful I am that so many of you chose to stick by me and keep on reading once I stopped posting about my outfits or photos from London Fashion Week and started posting recipes for brownies and reviews of food trucks. Also, hello to all of you who found me as a food blogger, and thought I was good enough to hit 'follow' or leave me a comment; I have not forgotten you all either! You all make me feel that yes, food is something I'm getting right.

While the past two years in blogging were pretty big for me, moving to Los Angeles and moving back, I think if anything this year is going to be even more crazy. Last count I only have 6 weeks (that is 36 hours) more teaching left, 6 essays and a 10,000 word dissertation left to write before I leave my education behind all together. It sounds like a lot, but honestly it all feels a bit daunting and I'll be done in 15 weeks. Then what. 

What can you expect from me? Well, while I will probably base myself for the Summer down in Kent where there is a bigger kitchen and a vegetable garden, and I'll probably pop over to France once or twice I'll still have somewhere to live in London until September, so you can expect many more restaurant reviews and adventures around the city. I also have a trip planned around the fjords in Norway and to Iceland over the Summer, so I can't wait to share that with you all.

Then things start to get a little bit more fuzzy. I love writing from London, but rent prices here are so crazy mental I don't quite know how I'm going to manage that as I don't really know what I want to do with my time. I have been looking at jobs in food media and in politics, which would allow me to stay in the city, but looking at all of them I think I'd rather go work on the cottages and be able to dedicate more time to this blog every day, but then I'd be leaving so much of my life and friends in London and the train depresses me. 

So we'll see. I'm not worrying about it, because there are so many more of my friends and peers in worse positions of finding a job and paying their rent, so I know I need to be thankful for what I've got, which brings me back to you guys. This blog has given me so much, and not just on the financial side of things that has allowed me to make my own decisions, choose my own path (for example as a student it have been my alternative to working in a bar or in retail, the usual typical student jobs) and it has allowed me to be able to stop and think for a moment, without worrying, about what I'm going to do next. Anyway, this year as I don't have a fancy video message in a lovely location for you all, I thought I'd leave you with a round up of some of my favourite posts so far, since I started blogging way back in 2009.

So thank you for sticking with me, putting up with my rambling posts, odd details about my life, and I apologise for making you all hungry at inopportune hours of the day! Here is to another year filled with cocktails, cake, and hopefully by the time I write my next 'year in blogging' post I'll have another trip to Los Angeles planned; this is my only mission going forward. To save so I can see the city I used to call home and I miss every day again in 2015.