Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Food Styling Is So Much Fun

Well what a day we had.  I had the privellige of working with professional food photographer Gerry Colley and the gorgeous portrait photographer Nelly Compte.  I learned so much.   There was a great team work vibe and we glided through the day, managing to get 13 shots in the can. Not at all bad for our first day.  With cooks, kitchen helpers, coffee runners, stylists and photographers all buzzing around helping to make it happen.

These are some of the photos I styled.  You might recognise some of my props.

And here's the finished shot loaded onto the computer.  The shots were much tighter than I expected and the photo could be shot will all sorts of other stuff on the surface as it was just cut out. 

These are my Asian Chicken Balls with dipping sauce being shot by Nelly Compte  I was trying to achieve a fresh coastal feel with this shot.  What proved to be a real hit on the day was my rusty old boot locker.  It proved to be a really beautiful surface to work with and it's dings just added character.

Another thing I learned is that I will definitely be investing in the cook book.  We ate very well during the shoot and I so want the recipes to all these gorgeous dishes.

Here's what I mean about having junk all over the table and it being cut out of the shot.

Here's my lame shot of the dish.  This is a gorgeously fresh pasta, with roasted tomatoes, prosciutto, Danish feta and rocket, drizzled with lemon infused olive oil that I make.  So again , here's my shot

And here's Gerry's.  By the way that porridge with poached pears was divine and I can hardly wait to make it.

And here's the recipe for my weeknight wonder spaghetti.  It's delicious and so'll love it.

Spaghetti with Prosciutto, Roasted Tomato, Danish Feta and Lemon infused Olive Oil

2 Slices of Prosciutto per person
1-2 punnets of cherry tomatoes
1 large handful of rocket per person
150g Danish feta
Lemon infused olive oil for drizzling. 

Pre heat oven to 180C
Place prosciutto and tomatoes on a tray lined with baking paper.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until roasted. When cooked crumble prosciutto and set aside.

Meanwhile cook enough spaghetti for each person.

Place rocket at the bottom of  individual serving bowls.  Drain spaghetti and place on top of the rocket to wilt it slightly.  Aportion the prosciutto, tomatoes and feta between serving bowls.  Mix gently to combine and drizzle generously with lemon infused olive oil.
Sprinke with extra feta if desired.
Serves 2-4 people depending on how much prosciutto and tomatoes you roast.

 I learned that the way you would style something for the shot is not the way you'd present it in real life.  Gerry lined these shot glasses of gazpacho up through the lens so he could shoot them in one line but the photo for the cook book, (which I don't have to show you) turned out as though they were set up in a square.

This is my shot, but the one going in the book is all blurry round the edges

For this picnic shot, the background is blury green grass.  We tried to get the ribbing of the blanket to show up as well.  This again is just my shot.  

And here's that trusty old foot locker again.

Again my shot...... you may recognise the chalk board place tag.

There are some amazing cooks in my community.  The book launches 15 October, personally I can't wait.

Oh and I have conformation of my Garden Gourmet cook off place and time.

It's at the Chopping Block at the Good Food and Wine Show Sydney, 22 June 12.30pm to 1.15pm.  I'd love to see you there.

Today I'm linking up here
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Beach House on Location

Hi Gals
I'm out cooking and styling a cook book today.  Just thought I show you some of the props we will be using.  I love this ocean blue colour.....more on the gorgeous linen to come.

A bit of red, white and blue stowed in the back of the car.

And some pretties.  I delivered the props this afternoon to the location and the littlest Beach House Brat was very worried I was giving away what she calls her 'star cups'.  A good lesson in sharing will be learned here, I do believe.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Easy Gluten Free Chocolate Slice

I promise this blog is not becoming a foodie one, but I have my fingers in a few foodie pies at the moment and it's just what's happening for me right now.  On Monday we start shooting our glossy Tastes of Pittwater Cookbook.  I am busy gathering together props for the shoot and writing styling suggestions in unison with other members of my community.  It's lots of fun and a big challenge.  I will be test cooking a few of my dishes in an unfamiliar kitchen on Monday, then styling them for shooting by a foodie photographer.  I'll be test cooking them at the Beach House over the weekend as well just to be sure I haven't forgotten how to make them great.

This little gluten free number won't be going into our book, as I got it out of another fantastic Northern Beaches school cookbook.  But I guarantee it won't last long if you make it at your house this weekend.  Luckily it only takes about 8 minutes to put together, as it has been known to be woofed down in one sitting here.... It can be a bit crumbly, but the secret is to allow it to cool in the pan over night if you can wait that long.  I usually hide it.  It is divinely moist and actually quite healthy, if you consider that dark chocolate is an antioxidant and almonds are regarded as a weight loss snack.  The only 'naughty' in this one is the sugar, but other than that, it's packed with nutrients.

Gluten Free Chocolate Slice

200g (1 block) dark chocolate chopped
90g butter, chopped
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1.5 cups almond or hazelnut meal.
Olive oil spray for greasing
Baking paper for lining
Icing sugar to dust.

Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F.

Spray a 16 x26cm (small) baking pan and line with baking paper.
Melt chocolate and butter in a bain marie on the stove.
Beat sugar and eggs with an electric beater until pale and fluffy.
Gently fold in almond meal and chocolate.
Pour into pan, bake for 25 minutes or until skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Cool in pan.
Turn out onto a board, cut into squares, dust with icing sugar.

Makes about 16 bite size squares.

A little Taste of Pittwater.  Here's to producing a cook book as beautiful as this place.

Today I'm partying here

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm Cooking at the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show in June

I got an email yesterday with this line in it:

"The competition was tight however we have reviewed all the posts today and voted based on both blog and recipe creativity and we are delighted to invite you to progress to the “Cook Off” round of the promotion. Congratulations!!"

So what does it mean?  It appears I made the cut down from 80 to 18 Bloggers across 3 states.  This apparently is what that means,

"Cook Off Sessions
•Will involve you and another blogger cooking your recipes at The Chopping Block stand (sponsored by Gourmet Garden, John West Fresh, Leggo’s, VZUG appliances & Campbell’s Real Stock.)
•The sessions will be MC’ed by a celebrity chef (Sammy/ Bella from My Kitchen Rules or Chef Dominique Rizzo) and they will judge the winning recipe from the 2 bloggers Recipe Requirements. Due to time and stand constraints, recipes must:
 1. Be able to be prepared, cooked & plated within 30 minutes (you can prep ingredients prior to session if required) 
2. Use equipment available on the stand: wok burner, induction cook top and oven 
3. Feature Gourmet Garden herbs & spices. It would also be great to use products of other partners from The Chopping Block (see ingredients available on stand Page 2) 
4. Be your own original recipe 
5. Recipe ingredients and additional equipment lists to be provided 4 days prior to the show"

So 3 bloggers from each state (making 9 finalists) will then be chosen to attend the Noosa Good Food and Wine Show later in the year.  The winner of that round will share in some fabulous prizes including a 12 month ambassadorship for Gourmet Garden..........Baby steps guys, baby steps!!!!!!

Hmmmm  I've got my work cut out 'cause the other contestants look good. Real good!!!! But hey I'm still in it and we are all subject to the same rules.  I have nothing to lose and will be doing my best.

Check out the competition here.  It looks great.......If nothing else, I will learn something doing this.

For the recipes I blogged for this competition and for all my other savoury recipes go here.  For sweet ones
go here

Today I'm linking up to
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Coastal Styling Ideas for Your Mantel and Porch

Hello from Sunny Australia!!!!
We are still managing to pull temps of 21C here 10 days off Winter, which isn't too shabby.  It's still lovely at the beach, but at this time of year I need to sit in the full sun to feel warm.  Usually in high Summer I don't do anything unless it's in the full shade, but at this time of year, it's just lovely under the Australian sun.

This little Beach House has a Summer theme all year round but I've been changing things around a bit lately.  It was getting cluttered in here and I've just mixed things up for a cleaner look.  The banana leaf is a feature on my mantel right now.  I just love the statement a beautiful piece of greenery can make to a room.  I often use large leaves in my decorating because it's sometimes all I have in my garden and they last longer than cut blooms.

Juxtaposed against the clean coastal lines, I often have a little French themed vintage going on too.  It's a more cluttered look but is very textural and earthy.

I really adore having pieces from nature in my collections and as much as I like white, I so like it against the greys of nature.

Something as beautiful and simple as a Chinese orchid poking out through a shabby frame can be very effective.

  And for a more masculine look, which I also adore, I think a cluster of vintage nautical is swoonworthy.

Oh and just a simple shot of my latest porch makeover.  The foam came with a blue cover, which I have kept due to the state of the Beach House finances and I have to say the black and blue combo out here is growing on me.

If you'd like some more coastal styling ideas I have a button at the top of my side bar, with lots of  inspiration for you

Thanks for all your lovely comments on my last post, after my momentary meltdown.  Mr Beach House and I are happily on speaking terms again.  Can you believe the big Beach House Brat told him he should be nicer to me and that's what prompted the movie offer. At least he does try!!!!! I think I am bringing up a  great husband for someone in the future.  If only I could teach him to pick up his stuff, she would be a very lucky girl indeed.

Today I am partying here
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Flower Power Fashion for a Summer Beach Party

Well it's been a crazy weekend here at the Beach House.  It started out well enough, having lunch with some old uni friends on Friday,  which was a great catch up, but in many ways thereafter, it took a turn for the worse.  I could  ramble on about how I totalled the side passenger door on the station wagon, while rushing to get a park close to the front door of swimming lessons on Saturday morning and only a month after all the other dings in the car had been fixed.  I could go on about how I grabbed the keys on Saturday night, because I could take it no longer and left home momentarily, after the littlest Beach House Brat refused to eat her dinner for the fourth night running. I mean give me a kid who will not eat roast chicken and I will show you my daughter.  I didn't think they existed but apparently they do.  

 And I won't tell you how the kids ran after me into the garden crying for me not to go.  How I explained I wasn't going anywhere, I just wanted to sit alone in the car for a little while so I could be by myself.  Or how  in the 5 minutes it took us to walk back in to house, Mr Beach House had thrown her full chicken roast in the bin to punish me for screaming.  Nor am I going to tell you about how I then really lost it with Mr Beach House and said lots of horrible things to him and went to bed early on my own.  Or how he came in the next morning and said I clearly needed a break and how I should catch a movie by my self and he would look after the kiddos.  No  I'm not going to talk about all that, because if you are anything like me, that would bore you witless!!!!!!!  By the way I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which gave me hope and made me feel good.

But what I will tell you about dear reader, are these cute little beach shoes I used to make with my mum in the 70's, which I resurrected on the weekend.  So many good things came out of the flower power era, not least of which, were the matching floral print peasant dresses my mum made for us to get around together in. And these little floral adornments, were another.  I mentioned them to my mum the other day and asked whether she still had the old daisy wheel we used to make these on.  She couldn't remember throwing it out, but she couldn't remember where it was either, so she gave me a new one for Mothers Day, which was very thoughtful.

This raffia is actaully what is left over from the 70's.  

These daisy wheels have a little knob on the front which you can turn to make the spokes go in and out.  You just wind the raffia around them to form a flower.  I used two different colours to make it look pretty.

You then push a needle threaded with raffia between the daisy wheel and the petals. 

Tie it in the middle to form the centre of the flower, Leaving the strings long so it can be tied to the shoe strap.

Turn the knob to retract the spokes.  You then have a sweet little daisy. 

  To make the straps for the shoe, cut three stands of raffia per shoe in alternate colours and tie them off at the end with a knot.  Push a needle through the knot and hammer it onto a wooden surface, so you get even tension on the strap.  Braid by plaiting.  When you get to the end, tie it off in a knot to secure.  

Measure the braid around the first or second toe and tie the flower to it with the over hanging strings left from the raffia used to tie off the centre of the flower.

To wear the shoe, slip it over your first or second toe and tie it on a bow at the back of your ankle.

You can also adorn hair clips with the daisy.

Just slip a bobby pin through the centre of the flower

Or how about a pretty little wrist band?

I know what I'll be wearing to the next barefoot ball on the beach.  Because Lord knows I need a little bit more partying in my life. How about you?

Have a great week and thanks for all the support for the recipes I posted last week.  The judging starts Tuesday and I'll let you know whether I proceed to the cook off or not.

Today I am partying here
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Indian Potatoes with Dill My Fifth Entry in the Garden Gourmet Blog Off/ Cook Off

It's been great keeping a food diary this week via the Garden Gourmet Blog Off/ Cook Off.  What I've learned is, we eat a lot of seafood here at the Beach House and second, these Gourmet Garden herbs and spices are a fast, convenient and tasty way to add flavour to even my most tried and true dishes.   The ones I don't have to open a recipe book for, as I cook them so often.  We survived all the experimenting very nicely thank you very much and Mr Beach House even commented it was like having a restaurant, when he saw the menu board.  No wonder he rarely takes me out to dinner.  Hmmm I'll have to work on that.

So last night it was potatoes.  Some of my relatives came out to Australia from Ireland due to the potato famine of the 1840s, so I guess you could say potatoes are part of my DNA.  I am always very interested in different ways to prepare them, because my fall back position in cooking, is a quality piece of protein, served with a green salad and potatoes.  This recipe is sure to delight, it is interesting to the palate and very healthy.  It's loaded with herbs and spices and you leave the skins on, so you get the full nutritional benefit of the vegetable  

Indian Potatoes with Dill

1.5lb or 750g small potatoes (chats or new)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
10 curry leaves. (available in packets in the supermarket)
1 brown onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon of ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons Garden Gourmet Dill
2 teaspoons Garden Gourmet Ginger
2 teaspoons Garden Gourmet Chunky Garlic
Salt to taste

In a saucepan, combine potatoes with plenty of water to cover.  Bring to the boil over a high heat and boil, uncovered, until  just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cut into quarters.

In a large frying and heat oil over a medium heat.  Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, onion, coriander and turmeric and cook stirring until onion is lightly golden and spices are fragrant. 4-5 minutes
Add dill and reduce heat to low.  Add ginger, garlic and salt stirring for one minute.
Add potatoes to pan and stir to coat in herb and spice mixture.
Serves 4-6 adults as a side dish.

Well that's it from me and my Garden Gourmet odyssey.  I would like to thank Garden Gourmet for giving me the opportunity to strut my stuff, in the quest for some truly great prizes and for supporting Australian bloggers in this way.  This is a corporate which really gets us guys and for that I am truly grateful.              
Until this week, I had never used Gourmet Garden Herbs and Spices, but have found them to be a great and cost effective alternative to the bunches of herbs I usually buy.  I will be making sure I have a stash of these in my fridge from now on.

If you would like to see they other recipes I feed my family with go here for savoury and here for the sweet 

Over and Out

Today I am partying here
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Seafood and Dill Pies My Fourth Entry in the Garden Gourmet Blog Off/ Cook Off

Today I am going to talk about my number one cooking mother.  I grew up cooking at her knee.  I have talked on here about what fantastic entertainers my parents where and how they were both fantastic cooks.  But where did it all start???  

Well for my mother's part, she was not the kind to get married and have 3 kids hanging off her by the time she was 23,  oh no no no.  In 1954, as soon as she was old enough, she boarded a ship with her best girlfriend and headed for the UK.  They landed in London in late Autumn, just in time for the cold weather to hit.  In order to avoid paying rent and so as to have a comfortable warm abode for the harsh European Winter, she applied and got a job in a home in St Johns Wood London, as a mother's help.  Originally her job was to do housework and look after the 4 children of the house.  But one week, the Dr and his wife attended a medical conference abroad and my mum was left to look after the entire running of the house.  When the head of the house and his wife returned home, it happened to be mum's half day off.  She had left them a Steak and Kidney pie, which they thought was delicious and immediately offered her another 10 shillings per week to assume the role of household cook.

As Spring rolled around mum left the house to meet up with her girlfriend to hitch-hike around Europe for 6 months........which of course is a fabulous story in itself.

As the Winter rolled around again it was decided she and her girlfriend would apply for another cook's role, this time in a large country manor, so they could stay together.  They ended up in a large country house with their own apartment in Aylesbury.  Very English and actually very friendly.  They were cooking for an old couple.  One of their sons had been a fighter pilot, killed in the war and the other was  the headmaster at Cheam School, later attended by Prince Charles, who ate at home occasionally.  So you can imagine the standard required.

One memorable occasion mum said, was making and then handing round the fruit cake along with the whisky on the fox hunt held on the estate.  Anyhoo to say my mum is a good cook is an understatement.  It was a pleasure to grow up in a home where meals were almost always delicious and on many occasions an event.  My father would visit the Sydney fish markets every Saturday morning and Saturday lunches were big in our family.  Usually involving things like fish roe, octopus and shell fish, which was most unusual in an Australian home in the 1970's and early 80s.  My parents fostered in me, a love and inquisitiveness of food and its preparation, which I hope to pass onto my children.  And so today I give you my fourth instalment in the Gourmet Garden Blog Off /Cook Off Competition.  Seafood and Dill Pies. Again a tasty, quick and easy weeknight wonder, to be enjoyed by the whole family.

Individual Seafood and Dill Pies

1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of  plain flour
1 cup of low fat milk
1 onion diced
2 tablespoons of Gourmet Garden Dill
500g marinara mix (mixed seafood such as firm fish, prawns, mussels, scallops)
1/2 cup of white wine or rose
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry thawed
1 egg lightly beaten 

Saute the onion in some peanut oil in a fry pan.

To make the white sauce use a small saucepan . Melt the butter over a moderate heat.  Stir in the flour.  Gradually whisk in the milk until the flour is well combined with the milk. Whisking gets rid of any lumps.

Add the dill, sauted onion and white wine and allow to thicken slightly.

Add the seafood and cook for several minutes.

Once the pastry has thawed  up end the pie dish and place it on the pastry.  Cut  around the edge of the pie dish leaving a1cm over hang.

Spoon the seafood mixture into the pie dishes.   Top with the pasty cut outs.  Fold down the over hanging pastry and press the edges down with a folk and cut a slit into the middle of the pie.

Brush on the egg wash and bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.  Serve with garlic and rosemary potatoes and a simple green salad.

This mixture makes 4 pies in ramekin dishes or 2 pies in larger pie dishes.

For my other recipes go here for savoury and here for sweet

Today I'm partying here

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