Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Final Project on the Leiths Foodstyling course

For my final session on the Leiths food styling course, we had to style a food of our own choice and take along appropriate props, working with photographer Stuart Ovenden, to create a great final shot. After um-ing and ahh-ing for a good 6 weeks over what I was going to make, I eventually chose a lemon tart, as aside from loving a good tangy lemon tart, I wanted to create a simple, clear, uncomplicated and striking image. So on the Friday night before my shoot, I went out and bought all my ingredients, and baked about 10 lemon tarts...! (Slight over-exaggeration there, but I did bake alot of them- you need plenty back ups, especially with lemon tarts that crack so easily)

My un-pimped lemon tart

I used a Rachel Allen recipe, which includes some orange juice as well as lemon, and this adds a nice sweetness to the filling, whilst mellowing out the very tart lemons. I got alot of compliments on it from people on the course when we eventually got round to eating it, so I'd definitely use the recipe again. Find it here: http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/607601

My work area...playing around with topings and props

My slot was in the mid morning, which was nice because I had a chance to see what other people were doing first. I thought about adding raspberries to my tart, or topping it with whipped cream for a kind of lemon meringue effect, but in the end decided to keep it really simple and just scatter pistachios over it, and use these lemons that were still attached to the branch that I picked up from Natoora (http://www.natoora.co.uk/shop/index.ep), a great little green grocers nearby to Leiths.

Shooting a Persian Love cake on the day

It was such a fun day- after I'd had my turn in front of the camera, I just sat around watching everyone else produce delicious looking food, chatting to the others on my course, and pretty much having a 6 course lunch (I felt it was important to try everything everyone had made...). I'm really sad my course is over, as I have absolutely loved it and learnt alot from it, but I'm keen to continue building on what I've learnt, and have already been assisting my tutor Katy Greenwood on shoots which has been great experience. So here it is, my final project from my Leiths foodstyling course:

My Final Project- Lemon tart with pistachios, food styling by myself, photographed by Stuart Ovenden.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Holiday Paella!

Noticing there was a brilliant big paella pan in the villa we were staying in in La Palma, we decided to embrace our inner Spaniards and create a paella. So off we went to the local 'HiperDino' (supermarket) where we got incredibly carried away buying huge prawns, mussels and other seafood treats.

I love paella, because aside from being delicious and fairly easy to make, it really denotes a sense of occasion. You only make it when your having a bit of a family party, or a number of friends round for dinner. It's quite a grand dish I think (although I suppose it doesn't have to be quite as grand if you have any sense of control), using saffron and often mixed seafood. I always think it looks absolutely splendid when served steaming from the pan, like a giant golden sun beaming at you from the middle of the table. It's a real sharing dish, with everyone digging in and fighting over the prawns. It's a bit like a lucky dip, exciting to eat because it's full of hidden treasures, with ingredients varying from recipe to recipe- mussels, squid, chicken, rabbit, chorizo and prawns...whatever you choose to put in it really!

We made up our recipe as we went along, and if a Spanish person reads this, they'll probably be appalled. But it was really simple and tasted beautiful, and that's what counts for me. Obviously just make sure all your seafood and meat is cooked right through before serving:

Serves 4-6

4 chicken breasts
Chunk of chorizo (around 150g)
1 large onion (red or white)
2 cloves garlic
450g paella rice
2 litres chicken stock
2 good pinches saffron
Table spoon of Mixed Paella spice (if you can get it- we were able to buy this in a pot in the HiperDino)
2 handfuls of frozen peas
400g mussels (can use frozen)
2 big prawns per person
2 small squid, sliced into thin rings
Chopped Parsley 
Lemon wedges

1. Heat a really good glug of olive oil in a paella pan, over a medium heat.

2. Cut the chicken into chunks, and add to the pan. Fry for 5 mins or so, just to seal it.

3. Chop the chorizo into small pieces, and add to the pan. Stir continuously, and it will release a great smell and gorgeous paprika oil which will flavour the dish.

Paprika oil seeping from the chorizo

4. Next add a chopped onion, and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic. Fry for a few minutes, until the onion softens.

5. Then add the rice and stir, so that it is coated with the oils from the pan.

Get that rice in

Make sure every grain is coated and glossy from oils of the pan

6. Add the stock (you probably won't be able to fit it all in in one go, so in that case add it gradually), spices and saffron and stir. Cover with some foil, and allow to simmer on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Hubbling and bubbling

7. Add peas and the mussels and any remaining stock and stir. Then re-cover and cook for about 5-10 mins.

Starting to come together now

8. Place the prawns on top, re-cover and cook for 5 more mins.

9. Scatter the little squid rings on, and cook for a further 5 mins.
10. Once all the seafood is cooked and piping hot, remove from the heat and scatter lots of chopped parsley on top (this makes all the difference).

11. Season with salt and pepper, then serve with some good wedges of fresh lemon.

Got my fair share! Serve with tons of fresh lemon juice.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Holiday Wining and Dining

I was lucky enough to go on holiday to La Palma last week, one of the Canary islands. I absolutely love going to new places, particularly looking forward to sampling local delicacies, indulging in lots of good food and wine! I enjoy nothing more than a pre-dinner ice cold gin and tonic and of course, a few tasty snacks with it, watching the sunset over the sea. Holiday food has to be simple and stress-free. When you've got such great fresh produce, why mess with it- just a simple marinade of olive oil, salt pepper and maybe some fresh herbs and garlic, and whack it on the barbie. I love the Mediterranean diet of lovely clean salads, lots of olive oil, and grilled meat and fish- heaven!

Sunset G & T in the garden, overlooking the Atlantic

Eating out

The Canary Islands are techincally part of Spain, and this really shows in the food they eat. Paella is big, seafood too, and of course bacalao (salt cod). Things I always enjoy in the Canary's are Croquettes (bechamel mixed with fish or chicken, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried till crispy), Pimientos de Padron (Padron peppers- small green peppers, which although mainly mild, 20% are very hot- it's always fun to gamble with your taste buds...), and Papas Arrugadas (wrinkled, salt baked baby potatoes) served with Mojo Rojo, a red pepper based sauce/dip made with garlic, paprika, and cumin, and Mojo Verde, similar, but made with coriander. All these together + a mixed salad, make for a perfect tapas style lunch.

Pimientos de Padron- lovely gleaming salty peppers. Brindisa in London sell these (uncooked)- I bought my brother some for Christmas (don't say I'm not a generous sister).

Freshly baked herby rolls with Mojo Rojo and Aioli- this was served to us in a brewery we visited.

A classic- crispy and salty Calamari with tons of fresh lemon squeezed over it. We always order a big plate to share and then fight over it.

Funny little raspberry sugary shots served after a meal

No holiday's complete without a Belgian waffle smothered in ice cream, cream, chocolate sauce and jam!

Cooking in

In the evenings, we tended to barbecue at home a lot- why wouldn't we with a view like that? I have to say the boys do the barbecuing in our family (rightly so), and they tend to do an alright job, although the first BBQ of the holiday almost always involves a fire that won't light, Dad getting hot and bothered, and us eating chicken wings that have been cooking for two hours late into the night...! But it's all part of the holiday...

Squid rings fried in paprkia and spices, served with lemon and sweet chilli sauce

Chicken kebabs on the BBQ, marinated in olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper.

A holiday favourite- giant prawns baked in tin foil with butter. Served with bread for dunking.

Great setup: chicken kebabs, mixed salad with olives and artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and Papas Arrugadas.