Red Rice and Griddled Aubergine Salad

Red Salad

This salad is an unashamed plagiarism from a recently acquired cookbook, ‘Persiana’ by Sabrina Ghayour. Packed full of mouth-watering photos of exotic dishes, it’s a firm favourite. Many recipes feature ingredients that I already (somewhat smugly) own, such as sumac. The book is littered with recipes that I have already made more than once, which is rare – I consider a cookbook a success if I make one recipe from it.

M1

I am normally somewhat underwhelmed by rice salads, and almost flicked straight past this one when browsing through the book. However, given that I have a nearly empty box of red rice lurking at the back of my cupboard, I decided to give it a go. It’s safe to say that I needed to seriously reevaluate my view on the matter after making this salad. The balance of sweet and salty is just right, and the colours and textures compliment each other beautifully. There is also a pleasing balance of warm and cold ingredients – chargrilled vegetables and toasted nuts with cold rice and onions – which works well.

M2

Owning more than one type of rice may sound extravagant (at last count I have 3), but red rice is definitely worth tracking down for this recipe. It has a pleasant nutty taste, and retains its attractive maroon colour, even when cooked. It does take a rather long time to cook though, which I always forget, and am left tapping my fork impatiently against the side of the pan, willing it to cook faster. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding it, as Sainsbury’s stocks it, proving once and for all that they’re paying attention to the latest hipster food trends. Red rice is staying firmly on my (somewhat hipster) shopping list from now on.

Red Rice

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Sweetcorn Fritters with Griddled Chilli Pineapple

SF7

This recipe was written by my friend Clare, a chef. She’s an amazingly creative cook, and a fan of putting (non-toxic, as she always reminds me) glitter on top of everything from cakes to roast dinners. I remember a particularly surreal occasion involving rice noodles topped with silver glitter. Clare’s got an incredible gift for making a meal look like a work of art, meaning that the dishes she whips up usually look too pretty (not to mention too covered in glitter) to be edible. Clare wrote this recipe as a guest contribution to Ohana magazine, and asked me to take the photos.

Montage

We cooked this recipe back on dreary, dark February evening. Ironic, considering Clare’s titled this recipe ‘Sunshine Sweetcorn Patties’. To make this recipe, Clare bought over her entire spice cabinet, and set about decanting pretty much the whole lot into the fritter batter. This is a relatively simple recipe, but one that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Whilst Clare fried the fritters, I fussed about ‘styling’ the shot: arranging pieces of fabric on top of a wooden box and going through numerous plate options. I eventually settled on a neutral, sand-coloured plate to compliment the yellow of the sweetcorn.

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I have had a few (unsuccessful) forays into artificial lighting before, but as I had no other option on this occasion I had to give it another go. Sunlight is naturally more flattering to food than any other type of light, in my opinion. High-end food photography for big brands is usually done with carefully controlled artificial light in a studio, but I prefer the more authentic touch that natural light gives. My ‘set up’ for this shot involved dragging a wooden box to the middle of my bedroom floor and angling a desk lamp at it. Most of the problem with artificial light seems to be the high contrast and harsh shadows that using a single directional light source creates, so I counteracted this by placing a diffuser between the lamp and the food. This helped a little, but there was still some white balance adjustment needed in post-production to get the colours to look less washed out. The finished result is ok, but will never compare to the magic quality of natural light.

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Carrot, Orange and Coriander Salad

carrot salad

I’ve recently got a new camera. I finally took the plunge and upgraded to a full- frame model. I found it a bit intimidating at first. For the first few days after I got it, it just sat in the corner of my room, and I would give it little nervous glances now and again, as if it was suddenly going to jump out of its box and quiz me on my photography knowledge. But eventually, I bit the bullet and took it out of its box, charged it up and attached my macro lens.

montage

This is my first blog shoot with the beast. I used a wooden crate turned upside down as a background, to create a (cringingly food styling word alert) ‘rustic’ feel. I used a black plate, to make the bright orange of the carrot and the vivid green of the coriander leaves stand out. I spent what felt like a ridiculously long time pushing the ribbons of carrot around with a fork, trying to tease them into an attractive shape, but they didn’t seem to quite want to behave themselves.

carrot salad with fork

I sometimes really enjoy making a meal that is just for me. To put lots of effort into making something taste delicious and looks attractive, even though it’s only you that’s going to eat it, is quite satisfying. This salad was born out of a whim to make something simple, healthy and refreshing, to antidote a period of creamy overindulgence, demonstrated by the preceding tiramisu. Carrots, orange and coriander is a textbook combination. I’ve recently started experimenting with using spices in salad dressing – here I’ve used cumin, another of carrot’s best friends.

carrot salad and dressing

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Lamb and Date Koftas

lamb koftas

I wanted to set myself a challenge to shoot something that is difficult to make look appetizing. It’s fair to say, these lamb koftas didn’t lend themselves as well to being photographed as, say, the cupcakes in the previous post. Generally, I find savoury food more difficult to make visually appealing than sweet. Maybe because sweet things tend to be ‘prettier’, so what makes them delicious is more easily communicated visually.  Meat, especially, always presents a challenge, as the line between it looking amazing -making you want to dive right in – and disgusting –making you want to be sick- is a fine one.

coriander and dates

I found that photographing the meat straight after it had been cooked meant that it retained some of the glistening grease from the cooking oil, rather then becoming dull if it was left for too long. Also, adding lots of greenery in the form of spinach and herbs helped to increase the visual appeal of the dish. Going for a rustic feel, I assembled the meat in its pitta on a wooden board. Using Camera Raw, I changed the white balance to ‘Cloudy’ (shooting in RAW lets you do this), to give a warmer cast to the image. Then in Photoshop I heightened the contrast using ‘Levels’ and boosted the saturation.

lamb in pan

Koftas (or maybe kofte?) are Turkish kebabs made from minced lamb, served in pittas. This recipe is from a recently acquired cookbook gem ‘Kitchen & Co’ by Rosie French and Ellie Grace – the duo behind the blog Salad Club and the restaurant French & Grace in Brixton, London. It’s one of those rare books that is written in a lovely relaxed voice, is visually stunning, and also has easy, delicious recipes that have to be made again and again (just try making these and see for yourself!).

lamb in pitta

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