Leiths School of Food and Wine

21 July 2014

Ten days ago I attended a two day course in food photography and styling at Leiths School of Food and Wine. For a while now I have been taking my own images for this blog, broadening my limited knowledge with online tutorials. It has taken me so far, but there is nothing that can match being in the company of someone who has made a success out of food photography. 
Food photographer William Reavell, who has worked on books with Mary Berry, Rick Stein, Antonio Carluccio, Sophie Grigson and Gizzi Erskine, to name but a few, led the course. Every aspect of food photography was covered; from the technical, which covered exposure, composition, lighting and angles, through to the creative side that tackled styling, plating up and propping images.
It was largely a practical course, which is frankly the only way to learn. The class worked in pairs taking it in turns to both style and photograph the food. On the first day we worked on salads and brownies and on the second day it was stir fries and meringues. We worked in one of the Leiths kitchens with a fantastic range of both produce and styling products at our disposal. I was like a kid in a sweet shop.
This post shows just a selection of the images I took during my time at Leiths. I must say, I did feel more at home styling and photographing the cakes, particularly once I saw that edible flowers were on hand. One thing that this course did unexpectedly provide me with was a definition of my style of work. Talking through my photography and styling with Bill, it became clear how I want to take my work forward visually. He provided me with lots of valuable advice which I intend to follow over the coming months. I can't wait to put it into practise now.

A Blueberry Cake {and some new napkins}

10 July 2014

I made this Blueberry Cake for the little local cafe that I supply on an adhoc basis. They requested
something summery and fruity, which is exactly what this cake is. You could easily replace the blueberries with other berries of your choice; raspberries would be a nice alternative.

You see those napkins in I used in the shot? Well, they were the result of a sewing challenge I recently undertook for Ikea. They sent me a sewing machine with all the basic kit and challenged me to produce a set of napkins using one of their new (free) in-store craft patterns. Once I'd selected my fabric (also Ikea), I set to work and just under 90 minutes later I had a brand spanking new set of six napkins. You can follow my challenge and read more about Ikea's free craft patterns over at Heart Home.

Blueberry Cake

175g soft butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
142ml carton soured cream
3 x 125g punnet of blueberries
200g tub Philadelphia cheese
100g icing sugar 
Preheat the oven to fan160C/ conventional 180C/GM 4 and butter and line the base of a loose-based 22cm round cake tin with non-stick baking paper.
Put the butter, sugar, eggs,flour, baking powder and vanilla in a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes, or with a hand electric beater for 1-2 minutes, until lighter in colour and well mixed. Beat in 4 tbsp soured cream, then stir in half the blueberries with a large spoon.
Tip the mixture into the tin and spread it level. Bake for 50 minutes until it is risen, feels firm to the touch and springs back when lightly pressed. Cool for 10 minutes, then take out of the tin and peel off the paper or lining. Leave to finish cooling on a wire rack.
To make the frosting, beat the soft cheese with the icing sugar and the remaining soured cream in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Spread over the top of the cooled cake (don’t be impatient as the frosting will melt if the cake is too warm) and scatter with the remaining blueberries or a mix of blueberries and other seasonal berries. Tip: If you want the icing a little thicker, let the frosting in the fridge for a while.

{Pots n' Pans} Over On Heart Home ...

20 June 2014

Over on Heart Home today I am sharing my pick of pots, pans and oven dishes, along with some of my favourite recipes that are perfect for such vessels.

This is the third in my series of product post for Heart Home. Past posts in this series include breakfast and cake stands


Some women have a weakness for shoes. I have a weakness for beautifully designed kitchenware.

Images: left to right - John Lewis | Yummy Supper

A Flourless Chocolate Cake + Holiday Planning

13 June 2014

Have you planned you sumer holiday yet? Over the last couple of weeks we have. Flights are booked and the countdown has begun in earnest (though it's not until mid August). This year we are off to Finland and we are all extremely excited at the prospect. 

Our friend is letting us stay at her family summerhouse. It's a place that really has the best of both worlds. It's only a mere half-an-hour or so from Helsinki, yet it's pretty isolated, surrounded by pine trees and vast lakes. It will be the break we'll need: days free of agenda to kick back and relax combined with days of exploring a capital city I have always been fascinated by.

Over the weekend, our generous Finnish friend came over for lunch, with her husband and children and gave us a fantastic list of places to see and things to do and to impart some 'general Finnish knowledge' on us.

We ate Tahini-dressed courgette and green bean salad, with cheeses, sourdough and focaccia. Afterwards we indulged in this seriously chocolatey cake. Made without flour, it's rich and indulgent with a texture not to dissimilar to a chocolate brownie. The recipe originates from a Sophie Dahl cookbook I own, but I have made a few adaptions, mainly as I don't own a food processor, so I've adapted the method a little to suit my old-fashioned kitchen.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Butter for greasing
300g plain chocolate (or 150g of plain, 150g of milk chocolate)
225g caster sugar
180ml boiling water
225g salted butter, cut into cubes 
6 eggs, separated
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
To top the cake:
125g blueberries
125g strawberries
a handful of pomegrante seeds
200ml crème fraîche

Grease and line the base of a 23-cm/9-inch round springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180℃/160℃ fan/Gas 4.

Break up the chocolate and add to a bowl and suspend over a pan of gently simmering water and melt, stirring occasionally. Then pour the melted chocolate and butter into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar, boiling water, egg yolks, coffee powder and vanilla extract and mix until combined. In a glass bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then add them to the mixture in the large mixing bowl and blend for 10 seconds or so. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and put in the hot oven for 45–55 minutes. The top will be cracked like a desert fault line.

After you take the cake out of the oven it will collapse in on itself quite a bit. This is ok; it’s not meant to be a proud cool cake, it’s meant to be slightly rough around the edges and home-made, and the crème fraîche and berries will hide any dips and cracks!

Let the cake cool, then put it in the fridge for a few hours. When you are ready to serve, remove from the tin and smother it in crème fraîche and liberally adorn with strawberries, blueberries and pomegrante seeds. You can indeed use any berries you like such as raspberries, blackberries or beautiful summer currants.

Orange & Almond Cake {again}

6 June 2014

Yesterday evening I baked a couple of Orange & Almond cakes for The Hive, and taking advantage of the early morning light, I took a few pre-breakfast shots before delivering the cakes. I can almost make this cake with my eyes shut, I've made it so often. I actually featured it here on the blog three years ago (three years!!!). With a new image and the fact that this recipe really has withstood the test of time, I am cheekily (or lazingly) repeating it for those who it may have bypassed the first time around.

Orange & Almond Cake.

Makes 12 slices

6 medium free-range eggs
300g golden caster sugar
200g ground almonds 
1 large orange
2 tbs water

Grease and line a 25cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas2.

Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites aside in a mixing bowl. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining whole eggs in a large bowl.

Add 200g of the caster sugar and all of the ground almonds and mix thoroughly. Grate the zest of the orange and add this too, keeping the rest of the orange for later.

Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Using a slotted metal spoon, fold the egg whites into the thick cake mix, a spoonful at a time. Be careful not to knock the air out of the whites.

Now pour this foamy cake mix into the lined tin and place in the oven for 35 - 60 minutes. The cake is ready when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Keep your eye on it and if it starts to brown to much, cover the top with foil.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and make the syrup. Put the remaining 100g of sugar in small saucepan and add the juice from the orange and a few tablespoons of water. Place this on a really low heat in order to dissolve the sugar and slightly reduce the syrup. Using a toothpick, plant holes all over the cake and pour over the syrup. Allow the cake to cool and absorb the syrup before removing it from the tin.

Delicious served with a dollop of Crème fraîche and eaten in the sunshine.

{Breakfast} Over On Heart Home ...

5 June 2014

Over on Heart Home today I am sharing some of my favourite products for the breakfast table along with some of my recipe finds from a cluster of inspirational food blogs. If like me, you wake with a rumbling tummy, you'll love the recipe links - I plan to bake a batch of the Marzipan Dark Chocolate Scones (with raspberry Jam) for breakfast this weekend (You'll find a link to the recipe over on Heart Home).

This is the second in my new series of product posts for Heart Home. Last week the focus was on cake stands - if you missed it you can check it out here.

Images: left to right - Anthropologie | Green Kitchen Stories

Carrot, Pistachio & Coconut Cake

22 May 2014

A while ago now I decided to dispose of my towering pile of cookery magazine. It was getting out of hand. I did however go through them before putting them out for recycling to tear out any recipe that were favourites or ones I had never made, yet still wanted to. I now have a small box of these random recipes of which this one falls into the category of 'never made but wanted to'. 

On Sunday we had a family lunch to celebrate Arthur's birthday and I made this cake for pudding. In fact I made it last week and popped it in the freezer, defrosting it the day before I needed it. It was delicious and I will be making it again very soon. It lends itself to summer really well and it light, tasty and with the specks of pistachio, carrot and dried rose petals, very pretty too. 

Carrot, Pistachio & Coconut Cake

Serves 8 - 10

3 large eggs
200g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g ground almonds
100g desiccated coconut
2 tsp ground cinnamon
140g unsalted butter, melted
2 large carrots, coarsely grated
100g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
icing sugar, for dusting
dried rose petals and ground pistachios (optional)
To Serve:
300ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
a few drops of rose water

Heat oven to 160C / 140C fan / gas 3. Line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with baking parchment.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together. Add the ground almonds, coconut and cinnamon, and stir before adding the butter. Mix throughly, add the grated carrots and pistachios, then mix again until all ingredients are evenly combined. Pour the mixture into your cake tin and bake for 1 hr, checking at 40 mins to ensure it's cooking evenly.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 4 hrs (or overnight) before turning out the cake onto a plate. 

Dust with a little icing sugar, then scatter with dried rose petals and pistachios, if desired. Just before serving, tip the cream, icing sugar and rose water into a bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Serve a dollop of cream alongside each slice of cake.

This cake will keep for up to one week, if covered with cling film - though the chances of it still being around for that long are slim.