Rachel Phipps has been running her popular food blog since 2009 and is one of Pinterest’s most-followed users. Now, she has published her first book: “Student Eats” promises simple and affordable, yet healthy recipes. In our interview, Rachel shares details about her own experience studiying abroad, and recommends the best recipes from her book.
You’ve been blogging for over 8 years now, starting well before university. On Pinterest, you have amassed quite a following. What is the - pun intended - recipe for your success?
Honestly? I just keep creating and sharing content I love. Yes, the past few years I’ve approached what I do with a bit more of a “business cap” on, but across all of my platforms I’ve learnt I’m not going to be happy, and my readers are not going to feel something is authentic, if I’m not writing about what I love.
Rachel Phipps blogging while enjoying a glass of wine
You graduated from Queen Mary University of London with a BA in English in 2014. How valuable has your study experience been for yourself, personally and professionally?
Academically it is no secret that while I loved university in America, I did not really enjoy my studies in London, as I did not find the curriculum broad enough - though I do still adore my subject! However, going to university moved me to London where all of the opportunities that really turned my blog into what it is today were to be found.
Also, during my second year I had the chance to study abroad at the University of California, Los Angeles, and I would not trade that experience for the world. Not only does moving to the other side of the world teach you to be independent in a way I don’t think any other experience does, it also gives you a totally new perspective on life. It was in California I really became a food writer.
Have you ever considered going back to university for a Master’s degree? If yes, what subject would interest you most?
I honestly don’t think I would, just because I did not enjoy the academic side of my British university experience. However, if I somehow knew I’d love it if I went back, I’d do something to do with classical literature, law or architecture. I loved studying them at UCLA and I regret not doing a joint English and Classics degree; or something to do with food policy drawing on my political background.
There are already lots of books with recipes for students. What inspired you to publish “Student Eats”, and how does your book distinguish itself from others?
I wanted to write “Student Eats” because while yes there are student cookbooks, at university I did not know anyone who actually cooked from them past the first week - people who did cook used food blogs and other cookbooks instead. I’ve tried to write a book for students that should get even the least confident cook into the kitchen, but also a book that is ‘student’ in budget and simplicity only, full of modern recipes and world flavours.
As for what other books are out there, most student cookbooks are either really really old, so they don’t reflect what students want to cook today and what ingredients are available; or they’re written by parents or companies with the sort of recipes they think students should be eating, not what they actually want to make.
Looking at your own experience abroad, how do you think British students’ meal choices compare internationally? What similarities do you see, what differences?
Honestly, student cooking is not really a ‘thing’ where I studied in America because students live either in fully catered dorms, or they cook lots of food ahead at the weekend to eat over the week, and it honestly does not compare with how British students cook and eat.
While there are recipes in the book I developed in my American kitchen for students like my Homemade Chicken Fajitas and the California Scrambled Eggs, I just wrote a book for my British friends. Everything in “Student Eats” I can see working in all of my friends’ different student kitchens, from my best friend’s cozy two-bed and sprawling shared student house, to my tiny box room with an even smaller kitchen - so glad I never have to cook in there again! More and more British students want to cook from scratch every day.
Homemade Chicken Fajitas, from “Student Eats”
Let’s try a couple of recipe ideas: What would you recommend as a lunch during exam time, to stay alert and energetic?
It’s probably a psychological thing because I know that fish is supposed to be good for the brain, but there is a Seafood Citrus Salad Rice Bowl in “Student Eats” that is so fresh, filling and full of good, slow burning energy from the brown rice.
And what would make for the ideal post-Freshers’ Party hangover breakfast?
Eggy Bread, made with stale French bread and served with lots of tomato ketchup and grilled bacon. However, if you know you’re going to need a hangover breakfast in advance, I promise everyone will love you if you prepare the Full English Breakfast Quiche from “Student Eats”, so it is just ready in the fridge for whenever you crawl out of bed!
Finally – what is your own favourite recipe from “Student Eats”?
The Sausage Bolognese, because a big bowlful of it is just so comforting! Also, I wanted there to be a bolognese recipe in the book - but I could not make it with beef, as I don’t think any recipe could beat the Prue Leith recipe my mother makes. Using sausage meat cooked down into a mince is an American-Italian idea I got from reading lots of food blogs and from my time studying in Los Angeles, and it is great for students because it means you don’t need to bother buying bacon. Sausage is cheaper than beef, too.
Fore more recipes, have a look at Rachel's blog: http://www.rachelphipps.com
Information about the book:
“Student Eats. Fast, Cheap, Healthy – the best tried-and-tested recipes for students”. ISBN 978-1-78503-366-7. Ebury Publishing, August 2017.