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.
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.
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.
I’m going a little canapé mad at the moment, what with all the festive parties. These were inspired by some lovely canapés that the chef at work made for our Christmas party, which were wolfed down in seconds. Canapés can be, to my mind, the most exciting part of a meal – when you’re starving hungry they tease you with what’s about to come.
I made these for a New Year dinner party. The party had eleven guests (and five courses if you count the canapés) so I ended up making three different sorts, totaling around sixty. By the end of meticulously balancing tiny bits of fennel on top of minuscule dollops of crème fraiche, I was going slightly cross-eyed, and had lost count of how many I’d made. I also assembled grated beetroot, pesto and pancetta on circles of toast, and smoked salmon, cucumber and mustard mayonnaise on more blinis.
Blinis are small Russian yeasted pancakes (a bit like tiny crumpets) that are traditionally used as a vehicle for smoked salmon and caviar. But they work well with a variety of toppings, such as here with silky crème fraiche and crunchy fennel. Blinis take a couple of hours to make, as the batter needs to be left to rise, but they can easily be make a day in advance and kept in an airtight container.
The trick to a good canapé, I think, is to get a good mixture of contrasting textures and colours that work well together. This canapé would have looked and tasted a bit bland if it were not for the little segment of orange, and some bright green fennel fronds placed on top – at which point I almost resorted to using tweezers.