Recently, I have been thinking about doing food photography as an actual job, rather than just something to fiddle around with in my spare time. One day, I just happened to be on Instagram (as happens far too often..) and a post popped up by one of my favourite photographers, Marte Marie Forsberg, saying she is going to run two photography workshops. I scrolled down the information about the workshop, anticipating the inevitable disappointment when I find out it’s held in Norway, or some other far-flung exciting location that I have no means of getting to. However, as Marie has recently moved to a cottage in Shaftesbury, Dorset, I was in luck. A mere two hours’ drive through rolling green hills to get there.
I had slight trouble deciding which workshop to attend, one being about how to develop food photography into a career, and the other a more general introduction. So I ended up attending both, and have just arrived back from the second. They were both fantastic, well organised (thanks to Marie’s brilliant producer, Zoe Timmers), inspirational and we all learnt a hell of a lot. There were so many lovely touches: fresh flowers on display as we came in; pastries and hot chocolate to enjoy as Marie introduced herself and told us about her journey. We then had several out and about assignments at local businesses, such as the Grosvenor Arms, a restaurant and hotel that produces some mighty fine pasta dishes.
Then it was back to the cottage to snuggle up (with more hot chocolate) and review our shots. We all came from such a variety of backgrounds – existing photographers, food bloggers, food stylists, investment bankers, caterers. It was great to meet so many like-minded people, who were all so passionate about food, photography and combining the two. I left both the workshops feeling inspired, invigorated, and determined to give food photography a go as a career.
The last few weeks have been oddly chaotic, given that I now don’t have a job. I have been frantically trying to fill my time – visiting friends in London and Brighton, and my Dad in Cornwall- so I don’t get too bored. I have also started looking for a place to live in Bristol, which involves rushing up at a moment’s notice to do a house viewing. I now understand that thing retired people say about not knowing how they ever had time to work.
On the odd day where I’ve not got anything else planned, I work on a blog post. I’ve really enjoyed taking more time over them. This one, for instance, was the product of an afternoon set aside specially to play with a new ‘prop’: a piece of slate. It’s not quite big enough to be a full background on its own, so I laid it on a chair, then arranged things on top. It’s surprisingly difficult to make pecans look like they have been casually scattered– whatever configuration I arranged them in seemed to look, well, arranged.
I am an avid granola fan, consuming it for breakfast almost every day. I pair it with some thick greek yoghurt, and sometimes some chopped banana. I keep expecting to get bored of it, but when I vary my breakfast by having toast, a little part of me wishes I were eating granola. So I thought it was high time I tried making some. There are no rules here – feel free to add any combination of nuts and seeds that you fancy. The maple syrup can be substituted for something else syrupy, such as honey, agave syrup, golden syrup or date syrup (actually, I might try that one next time..).
This is a first for the blog – a restaurant review. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of doing reviews, as I feel a bit uncomfortable with the snobbery surrounding them, and the notion that some people have more say in what constitutes a good meal than others. However, when I heard that a Hub Box, a gourmet burger and hot dog joint originally hailing from St.Ives, was opening in my neck of the woods, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Hub Box, so named for its incorporation of an industrial shipping container into the interior, offers freshly prepared, delicious burgers and hot dogs, using locally-sourced meat and served on artisan brioche. I opted for the recommended full-on meat heart attack burger called ‘The Big Kahuna’, which involves the overwhelming combination of beef burger, BBQ pulled pork and cheese, with a side of onion rings. Other tempting options include ‘Hot Chick’, comprising of buttermilk fried chicken with butternut mayo, or the ‘Mack Daddy’ – crispy mackerel, beetroot jam and horseradish mayo.
The restaurant caters really well for both vegetarians and vegans (my dining companion being the latter). The ‘Bella’ burger – grilled goats’ cheese, roasted red pepper, crispy courgette and beetroot mayo – sounded seriously tempting. The vegan option is a falafel burger with sweet chilli jam, charred corn and avocado salsa, which looked lovely. There’s an impressive range of sides, vegetarian and otherwise. One that deserves special mention is the ‘Burnt End Beans’ – in-house made baked beans, with bits of smoky pulled pork hidden in the tomatoey depths. The restaurant also offers a range of craft beers to wash down the delectable grub with.
I went in with very high expectations of this place, and it delivered on all counts. The food was cooked to perfection, presented with care, and the service was excellent. It was very good value for money, especially considering the quality of the dishes and the generous portions. Hub Box is a very exciting addition to Exeter’s food scene, and I’ll definitely be returning.
The summer before last, I went to visit some friends in the South-West Peloponnese, a beautiful corner of Greece unspoilt by hoards of tourists. Greek food, whilst being delicious, is rather same-y. I lost count of the variations of chargrilled aubergine dip, tzatziki and moussaka we tried. They were all slightly different, some being much more palatable than others, partly due to how much garlic each chef thought was acceptable.
The dessert of choice, not being presented with many other options, was baklava, a Greek and Turkish concoction made by drenching filo pastry and nuts in an insanely sweet syrup. I became mildly addicted to it, and many balmy evenings were spent hunting down the best. It took me the entirety of the week-long holiday to pronounce ‘baklava’ correctly. The emphasis is on the final syllable ‘va’, rather than the more natural Anglicised stress on the middle ‘k’, so it is said ‘baklava’.
Pronunciation aside, here’s my take on baklava. Some of the best baklava we tried I think used honey in the syrup, rather than acres of sugar, so I’ve tried that here. I chose a mixture of pistachios, almonds and walnuts, but any nuts can be used. It is ridiculously sweet, so you only need small pieces.