Carrot, Sweet Potato and Orange Soup

Nice to be able to walk upright again and I no longer need to apply pressure from time to time causing concerned / curious looks from people!  The scar matches an earlier one in length – about 5 inches, so not exactly keyhole. Combined it looks like I am inscribed with a lucky ‘7’.  One more and it’ll look as if Zorro has paid a visit!  Clearly after this you need carrot, sweet potato and orange soup – recipe below – and if you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about (and I wouldn’t blame you) watch the video! By the way, this soup is just as good chilled – ideal for the Indian summer we are having here.  Well we are today anyway.

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

 

 

 

  Apparently the humorous acronyms and abbreviations below have been found written on people’s hospital notes – I don’t think any of them were on mine – well maybe the first one.  The hospital was great although they did ask me repeatedly where the hernia was and got my confirmation as the surgeon marked a black cross on the spot.  I think they knew really  and were just testing me – good job it wasn’t something complicated, I’d hate to have to wave vaguely at an area, and say ‘it’s in there somewhere, fingers crossed’!

GFPO – Good For Parts Only.

MFC – Measure For Coffin.

ART – Assuming Room Temperature (recently deceased).

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

Laughter – the best medicine?

Oh, and a reminder when laughter is not the best medicine – any internal injury!  I should have known better than to watch a comedy program a couple of days later…Years ago, recovering from multi fractured ribs I saw Good Morning Vietnam in Hospital. The late Robin Williams at his best and I couldn’t stop watching – never mind I watched the entire film with my arms wrapped around my torso desperately trying to hold everything in place.  I did feel much happier afterwards though!

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

carrot, sweet potato and orange soup

Carrot, Sweet Potato and Orange Soup
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Ingredients
  1. Makes 6 - 8 portions
  2. 40g sunflower oil
  3. 45g unsalted butter
  4. 10g fresh ginger, chopped
  5. 1.5g coriander seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
  6. 1.5g cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
  7. 600g peeled and chopped carrots
  8. 600g peeled and chopped sweet potato
  9. 2200g water
  10. 350g fresh orange chunks - peeled and all pith removed
  11. sea salt and freshly milled black pepper to taste
To serve
  1. Greek yogurt and lightly toasted cumin seeds
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil and butter and when the butter starts to sizzle add the ginger, coriander and cumin
  2. cook gently for two minutes to release the flavour from the spices
  3. add the carrots and sweet potato and tumble in the buttery spice mix
  4. add 200g of the water, cover the pot with a lid and cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft - check and stir from time to time, don't allow to colour
  5. add the remaining 2000g of water and the fresh orange chunks
  6. bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes
  7. remove from the heat and puree until smooth
  8. season to taste
  9. serve with a dollop of yogurt and a scattering of toasted cumin seeds
Notes
  1. 1000g of water is equivalent to 1000ml - or 1 litre. I use a very accurate set of scales and 'tare' to zero between ingredients, hence everything is weighed in grams which is the most accurate and easy to replicate method
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

Spelt Soda Bread with Dates & Walnuts

The Windmill

 

Behold! a giant am I!
  Aloft here in my tower,
  With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
  And grind them into flour. 

And while we wrestle and strive,
  My master, the miller, stands
  And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
  Who makes him lord of lands. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (abbreviated)

spelt

For all their seeming impracticability in today’s landscape  there is something wonderful about an old windmill. The gentle revolution of the sails slowly turning the massive millstones, the runner-stone on top of the bedstone, sails, belts and cogs working together to produce finely milled flour.

spelt soda bread

Lined with a soft patina of flour Whissendine mill produces only organic flour, wheat and spelt.  The miller, Nigel Moon, mills slowly in the traditional way.  The grains need to be kept cool when milled and speed produces friction which produces heat.  Too much heat and vital nutrients are lost.  Modern mills with their steel rollers are efficient only in that they are fast. Stone milled flour has been found to be higher in thiamin than steel rolled flour.

Spelt

Spelt

Spelt (Triticum Spelta) is an ancient grain with recorded use dating back approximately 5000 years BC. Related to wheat it is however much lower in gluten and many people who have difficulty with wheat bread and pasta find that spelt does not cause the same reaction.  It is an original grain, unmodified and disease resistant.  Spelt contains more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat and its high water solubility mean vital substances are quickly absorbed by the body.  It is however lower yielding than wheat flour which caused a decline in commercial popularity.  In 1850 in Germany in 94% of cereal acreage was spelt compared to 5% wheat.

Spelt soda bread

 Nigel has been a miller all his life and has rebuilt Whissendine windmill from the 1980’s onwards. Built originally in 1809, there is always something to renovate or repair.  This seemingly bucolic way of life is a labour of love, not just for milling grain but for the windmill itself.

spelt

The light inside the mill is wonderful. With three windows on each floor and soft white walls the interior has a natural sepia tone throughout. The raw images were converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro accentuating softness and subtlety and producing timeless still life images that could have been taken 100 years ago. 

spelt

 I knew I wouldn’t be able to change lenses once inside so used only my Tamron 24-70 f2.8.  Just as well – my camera needed a really good dusting off once outside and reassuring that manufacturers stress the weather and dust sealing of their cameras – in this case Nikon D800.

spelt bread

But the proof of the pudding (in this case the bread) is in the recipe.  Less finely milled than mass produced spelt flour, Nigel’s flour produces a deliciously nutty loaf with a wonderful crumb and texture. 

windmills

spelt soda bread

windmills

Spelt Date & Walnut Soda Bread
Print
Soda Bread
  1. 450g spelt flour
  2. 20g honey
  3. 7g fine sea salt
  4. 8g bicarbonate of soda
  5. 5g cream of tartar
  6. 350g buttermilk
  7. 60g chopped walnuts
  8. 60g chopped dates
Soda Bread
  1. pre-heat the oven to 200°C
  2. sift the flour into a bowl with the honey, salt, soda, cream of tartar, dates & walnuts
  3. make a well in the centre
  4. pour in the buttermilk, mixing with one hand and working from the side of the bowl inwards, turning the bowl the opposite way
  5. the dough should be soft, but not too wet and sticky
  6. as soon as it holds, turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly into a bowl and place on a lightly floured baking sheet
  7. cut a deep cross into the top of the loaf all the way to the bottom
  8. bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes
  9. the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the base
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/

Apps, Fishing, Catapults & Jam

 apps, fishing, catapults and jam

 Apps

I have a problem with vanishing apps, one minute they’re there, the next they’re not. Sometimes they just go walkabout – migrating to a different screen, or else they just vanish altogether into what I assume to be the app equivalent of a black hole.  Years ago it was biro’s which vanished seemingly off the face of the planet, in the 21st century it’s apps.

Apps, Fishing, Catapults & Jam

I’d had enough and decided to use a screen lock. With a choice of three – pin number, draw a pattern on the screen or face recognition I foolishly opted for the latter.  It seemed simple enough, just lift the phone up and let the camera recognise my face.  It worked during the daytime but I’m in the habit of picking my phone up when I wake in the morning.  Apparently I don’t look the same!  To be fair I agree with my phone, it’s not a good look and I barely recognised myself either…drawing a pattern works in a nicely non-judgemental way and doesn’t leave me feeling depressed before I’ve even got out of bed in the morning.

apps, fishing, catapults & jam

Fishing

If this is a downside of technology, I was reminded of the upside a couple of weeks ago when my grandson came to stay.  I took him fishing – his first time – and bought him his own rod to get him started.  My dad used to fish with cane rods, my first rod was a basic glass fibre job with a reel which kept me occupied more with untangling line than catching fish.  M started with a carbon fibre carp whip. Incredibly light, sections just slide out and no reel.  Very sensitive and perfect for catching crucian carp – which the little tinker did, by the bucketload;  50 to be precise. Not bad for a soon to be 7 year old. I’m hoping I’ve got him hooked and he will get the same mix of peace and excitement fishing has given me over the years.

apps, fishing, catapults & jam

Catapults

When we had finished fishing we made catapults…

apps, fishing, catapults and jam

Jam 

After he’d gone and still feeling nostalgic in a late summer kind of way Karen and I went plum and blackberry foraging to make jam. It looks like it’s going to be another good year.  I’m truly indebted to  Erica at North West Edible Life for tips and advice on making low sugar, pectin free jam. Last years jams were too sweet, this years are more in line with the Bonne Mamman softly set and slightly tart jams.  Erica makes some great suggestions for spicing up jams too – no recipes here this time, she explains it so well there is really no point.  Go blackberry picking (and anything else you can lay your hands on) and head over to her blog for spot on jamming info.

apps, fishing, catapults & jam

 

 

 

Turkish Delight / Climbing Roses

Clematis

The clematis montana had finally revealed its true identity and announced its plans to take over the garden.  However a swift rear-guard action with pruning saw and secateurs saw the upstart subjugated. Luckily for the clematis it is one of my favourite plants and will live to fight another day – this time heading west along the fence and over the arbour at the bottom of the garden.  In fact new shoots are already breaking from old wood, this is one tough cookie of a plant.  The later flowering clematis are putting on a good show; I don’t know the name of this ‘alpina’ type clematis but it’s very pretty and lightly scented too.

Turkish Delight

 Turkish Delight

Climbing Roses

The demise of the clematis however has freed up 12 feet of fence between the clematis heading west and the hydrangea petiolaris and honeysuckle heading east. Which gives me an opportunity to correct a serious omission in the garden – roses;  in particular scented and fragrant climbers and ramblers.

Turkish Delight

One of the very best climbers is the diminutive flowered Blush Noisette.  This soft pink flower, about the size of a 50p piece packs a serious punch in the fragrance stakes!  I knew I wanted this particular rose and a visit to Peter Beales stand at the Hampton Court  flower show saw the job done.

Turkish Delight

 Honestly I thought that was all I had room for but Blush Noisette is not such a big rose and the David Austin stand was next to Peter Beales…

Turkish Delight

Wollerton Old Hall is an outstanding climbing rose with lovely soft peony type heads in soft apricot. Repeat flowering (like the Blush Noisette) this is a ‘musk’ rose with a strong scent of myrrh. 

Turkish Delight

I could just write about flowers but suddenly thought of a neat segue into food – rosewater.  Some years ago we used to make Turkish Delight to add to our selection of hand-made petit fours and I always loved the softness of this recipe compared to, well the real thing if you like which tends to be firmer and have a bit of a ‘chew’ to it. 

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight appears to date back between 250 – 500 years depending on the source and like so much food history much of the information may be apocryphal. What is consistent across stories though is that the name Turkish Delight was coined by an 18th century English traveller. The correct name is rahat lokum and the etymology suggests locum is a corruption of a Turanian word meaning morsel, and rahat is a Turkish word meaning peace or contentment. A morsel of contentment then!

Turkish Delight

 A confectioner named Haci (pronounced Hadji) Bekir is credited with creating rahat locum in 1777 and it is still a family business today, albeit now several shops and a factory.  There is a depiction of Haci Bekir making Turkish Delight painted by Preziosi which hangs in the Louvre.  The recipe has changed over the years – early versions were made with grape molasses and flour.  It’s probably fair to say its popularity grew after winning a silver medal at the Vienna Fair in 1873.

Amedeo Preziosi

turkish delight

Haci Bekir weighing out candy (often assumed to be Turkish Delight), painted by Vittorio Amadeo, 5th Count Preziosi (1816-1882.)

 Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight
Print
Ingredients
  1. 14g leaf gelatine soaked in cold water until soft
  2. 114g water
  3. 272g sugar
  4. 34g cornflour
  5. 100g rosewater
  6. 10g glycerine
  7. a few drops of red food colour
  8. cornflour and icing sugar in equal quantities to keep the cut Turkish Delight in
Instructions
  1. heat the water and sugar to boiling point
  2. add the gelatine, stirring to dissolve
  3. add the glycerine and food colour - carefully - 3 to 4 drops should give a pretty pale pink colour
  4. mix the cornflour with the rosewater and add, whisking
  5. turn the heat down and simmer gently for 10 minutes
  6. skim any scum off the surface
  7. pour into a lightly oiled tray and leave to set overnight
  8. cover with cling film, but DO NOT let the cling film touch the surface - it sticks!
  9. the next day turn out onto a cornflour dusted board and cut into cubes
  10. keep in a generous amount of cornflour / icing sugar in an air-tight container, in a cool place
Notes
  1. will keep for several weeks but will gradually harden as it dries out - still good, but better fresh!
  2. although the tray is oiled you will still need to 'help' the Turkish Delight out of the tray, it won't just slide out - this is normal.
  3. dipping your knife in cornflour helps prevent sticking when cutting.
  4. makes 24 2cm sq pieces.
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/
 

Cornish Mackerel, Smoky Char-Grilled Sweetcorn Salsa

 When I want to create a recipe for Taste and Light I begin at the shops.  I’m looking for ingredients that cry out ‘take me home and cook me!’  

cornish mackerel

Supermarkets

Which is why I came home empty-handed from our local, global (if that isn’t oxymoronic) retailer yesterday. From the feeble ‘market stall’ with the name of ‘my’ local greengrocer (aka store assistant) to the asparagus from Peru and spring onions from Mexico inspiration was replaced with frustrated emptiness.  What a soulless way to shop.

cornish mackerel

What is going on in the UK? I accept that there are many ingredients that can’t be grown in the UK but spring onions and asparagus? In July? Food miles was obviously yesterdays buzz-word.

cornish mackerel

Cornish Mackerel

So I didn’t cook that day and instead waited for the Saturday market in Oakham. With a proper greengrocer and a proper fishmonger. The Cornish mackerel looked far to good to ignore and they are always such good value.

cornish mackerel

That bit sorted I moved next door to the greengrocer stall. Corn on the cob still in its natural packaging – just right for grilling whole. The tender kernels protected by the papery leaves and the char-grilling imparting a smoky loveliness that is perfect in a salsa – summery and simple. Try doing that with neatly trimmed and cleaned sweetcorn in a plastic tray from the supermarket!

cornish mackerel

A few tomatoes still on the vine and a cracking bunch of spring onions. The parsley was an afterthought simply because it was such a fresh bunch I couldn’t resist. How much would I like? Oh, about that much please. The bunch divided my portion was put into a brown paper bag. Now that is a greengrocer! 

cornish mackerel

Putting up a sign in a supermarket does not make a greengrocer, what cynicism.

cornish mackerel

I do love salsas – I had a simple tomato and fresh basil one on toasted sour dough for lunch, so simple and so perfect.  This corn salsa has a few more ingredients and a touch of chilli and plenty of fresh coriander – perfect with mackerel.  This salsa is low in oil too, to allow for the oiliness of the mackerel which is cooked dry, in a non-stick pan.  Apart from cooking the corn (which pretty much looks after itself) it is a really quick and simple recipe.

cornish mackerel

 

Cornish Mackerel with Char-Grilled Corn Salsa
Print
Ingredients
  1. 4 fresh mackerel butterflied or fillets, all bones removed
  2. Salsa - serves 4
  3. 1 fresh corn on the cob
  4. 1 medium tomato skinned (blanch in boiling water), deseeded and diced (concasse)
  5. 1 spring onion finely sliced
  6. 2 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro)
  7. 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  8. 1 small red chilli finely chopped
  9. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  10. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  11. sea salt to taste
Salsa
  1. simply place the unwrapped corn on the griddle and cook gently, turning frequently for 1 hour (see photograph)
  2. Allow to cool, unfold the leaves and discard
  3. slice the kernels into a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients
  4. leave to sit for 30 minutes before serving
Mackerel
  1. heat a non-stick frying pan
  2. season the fish on the flesh side only and place in the pan skin side down
  3. use a spatula to gently press the fish flat in the pan to give an even golden colour
  4. cook for a few minutes and then carefully turn over and cook the other side
  5. serve immediately with the salsa on the side
Notes
  1. Mackerel is an oily fish - using a non-stick pan allows the fish to cook in its own oils
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/
cornish mackerel

 

Soft Shell Crab in Brioche

soft shell crab

Soft shell crab

is one of those wonderful treats available fresh briefly each year when the animal sheds its old exoskeleton and is for a short while particularly vulnerable whilst waiting for the new shell to harden. At this stage it is possible – and delicious – to eat the whole crab, legs, claws the lot without the need to crack the shell.

soft shell crab

A visit to Mitch Tonks’ second (and less expensive) eatery, Rockfish,  in Dartmouth last week had them on the menu crisply fried (the only way to cook them) in a soft brioche bun with sweet chilli sauce, coriander and mayo – boy was it good!

devon lanes

Cockles

They also had cockles from Leigh-on-Sea on the menu, which is where I was born. It’s great to see a childhood memory claim its place on modern menus – the Olive Branch have them too.

devon lanes

I have happy memories of dad taking my sisters and me down to the cockle sheds on a Sunday morning for a dish of cockles seasoned with ground white pepper and malt vinegar which we ate sitting on the sea wall. It’s probably the taste of the vinegar and the grains of sand that seemed to be ever present I remember most – this was Essex food at its most basic and I still love cockles!

bantham beach

Burgh Island from Bantham beach

It’s funny how the simplest of meals can provoke such fond memories. In the case of the cockles it was dad, my sisters and the smell of seaweed. Another time it was eating a simple meal of viande des grisons for the first time in Switzerland – sitting at a cafe overlooking the ski slopes on a sunny over-saturated day. We had cooked dinner the night before for Prinz von Hohenlohe at the Dracula Club in St Moritz and were on our way back to London. Whenever I’m asked if I have a favourite meal this moment is always near the top – interestingly above a visit to elBulli many years later.

soft shell crab

This preamble is in fact an excuse to show some holiday photographs – how else can you get them seen?  I fully except that holiday snaps are only really of interest to the person who took them!  There is however a recipe for soft shell crab at the end…

soft shell crab

Salcombe

The south Devon coast is extremely beautiful and photogenic with the towns of Dartmouth and Salcombe particularly so.  The lanes in the South Hams district are something else. Single track with passing places most of them are ancient and very deep. The dry stone wall and earth sides vary between 6 – 10 feet in height and are vertical gardens of bracken dotted with foxglove, vetch, campion and many other beautiful wild flowers. Which is just as well as driving through them provides only the briefest of glimpses of the surrounding countryside.

soft shell crab

Kingswear from Dartmouth

The town of Dartmouth faces Kingsear across the River Dart and glows in the evening sunlight. The beach at Bantham offers fine views across to Burgh Island and the art deco hotel – reached at high tide by sea tractor. 

soft shell crab

Salcombe Harbour

soft shell crab

Salcombe boat-builder

Two of my favourite shots though are the scruffy dinghy with the crushed can of McEwens lager and packet of cigarettes in the bottom and the boat builders workshop. The later looks as if it has not changed in decades whilst the dinghy provides a wry contrast with the expensive cruisers and yachts dotting the harbour. 

soft shell crab

Salcombe

soft shell crab

Salcombe

The recipe is very easy – there is no preparation for the crabs at all.  If not available fresh there are several fish companies that provide a mail order service.  Brioche is easy to make but the dough should be made the day before. They can be made even further ahead of course and frozen. Little blini pans are a good size and shape to use – we’re looking for a burger shape rather than the traditional fluted side brioche with top knot.

brioche

Tempura batter is quick and easy to make – the icy water gives a crisp batter. If using tap water try adding a few ice cubes as part of the water weight. By the time you are ready to cook they will have melted and kept the batter nice and cold. The mayo recipe is here – just swap the watercress for spring onions.

soft shell crab

Soft shell crab brioche burger with sweet chilli sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 4 soft shell crabs (serves 4 as a light meal - ideal with a few chips on the side)
  2. Brioche (make dough the day before): makes 4 small buns
  3. 2g dried yeast
  4. 12g water
  5. 125g strong (bread) flour
  6. 3g sea salt
  7. 19g castor sugar
  8. 1 egg
  9. 75g unsalted softened butter
  10. Spring onion mayonnaise - see previous post and substitute the watercress for 45g finely sliced spring onion
Sweet chilli sauce
  1. 150g water
  2. 80g granulated sugar
  3. 25g finely chopped red chilli (more or less depending on taste, chilli variety and personal preference)
  4. 6g finely chopped fresh ginger
  5. 5g tamari soy sauce
  6. 2g sea salt
  7. 20g fresh lime juice
  8. 10g cornflour dissolved in 30g cold water
Tempura batter
  1. 1 egg white light whisked to 'soft peak'
  2. 50g plain flour
  3. 25g cornflour
  4. pinch salt
  5. 100g very cold water
  6. Oil for deep frying
Salad
  1. lettuce leaves
  2. fresh coriander
  3. fresh lime wedges
Brioche
  1. cream the yeast, water and 5g of flour. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling and clearly active
  2. Using a food mixer with the paddle or 'K' beater combine the yeast starter, the rest of the flour, salt, sugar and egg
  3. Beat for 5 - 10 minutes until elastic
  4. Add the butter and beat again until the dough is smooth, elastic and shiny
  5. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate overnight
  6. The following day divide the dough into four rounds and place in lightly oiled pans or tins
  7. Leave to prove in a warm place until double in size (3 - 4 hours)
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C
  9. Brush the brioche with a little beaten egg yolk and milk and bake for 20 minutes
Sweet chilli sauce
  1. combine all the ingredients except the cornflour / water mix, bring slowly to the boil whilst stirring and cook gently for 20 minutes
  2. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the cornflour / water mix (make sure the cornflour has not settled out on the bottom)
  3. Return to the heat and simmer for 5 minutes
  4. Stored in a sterilised jam jar this will keep for weeks in the fridge and can be used as a dipping sauce for prawns or a stir fry)
Tempura batter
  1. sift the two flours into the egg white and add the salt and water
  2. mix lightly - lumps of flour are fine, don't knock the air out of the egg white
  3. Rest for 10 minutes before using
To serve
  1. heat the frying oil - it is hot enough when a piece of bread dropped in bobs back to the surface immediately
  2. Dry the crabs on kitchen paper and dip into the batter
  3. Place carefully into the hot oil and cook for 5 minutes until golden and crisp
  4. Drain on fresh kitchen paper and season with sea salt
  5. Slice the brioche buns in half and layer with lettuce, mayo, coriander and sweet chilli sauce
  6. Place a crab on top, put the lid on and serve with a chunk of fresh lime skewered through the bun to hold everything together
Notes
  1. This recipe would also work well with fish fingers, crispy prawns and squid
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/
soft shell crab

Bantham beach

 

Rutland Water Brown Trout

Rutland Water

Rutland Water

was constructed in the early 1970’s – by damming and then flooding 6 – 7 square kilometres of the Gwash valley. Built to provide drinking water to the cities of Peterborough and Leicester, two hamlets, Middle Hambleton and Nether Hambleton were removed prior to flooding. Upper Hambleton – now just Hambleton remains atop the peninsula that divides the north and south arms of the water.  The reservoir covers an area in excess of 3000 acres and is the largest single body of water in England by surface area – Kielder Water in the Lake District is deeper and has a greater volume of water.

Rutland Water

Having lived in the area for just 15 years, I’ve never known Rutland any other way, but talking to one of my neighbours  a few years ago who used to farm in the valley, it became clear that the construction caused a lot of concern, unhappiness and displacement. Rutland itself covers an area of 380 sq kilometres  and is England’s smallest county whose motto multum in parvo or ‘much in little’ exemplifies this beautiful part of the east midlands.

Rutland Water

 Normanton church

was very nearly lost to the water too, but was saved following public appeal. At least the top part was. The lower part was reinforced to protect against the water and the top part is now a museum telling the story of Rutland Water.

Rutland Water

Photograph by John Wright – LRWT

One end is a nature reserve run by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Anglian Water and is a haven for birds and bird watchers. The highlight of each year is when the ospreys return to breed from their wintering grounds in Africa. Re-introduced about 10 years ago if you are lucky (and patient) you may catch sight of one of these beautiful birds of prey diving and plucking a fish from just below the surface of the water. A reversible back toe enables the bird to manoeuvre the fish in its talons so it can be carried ‘torpedo’ fashion lessening wind resistance.

Rutland Water

The two sailing clubs, one each on the south and north shores take up the middle to the dam sections of the water with a mix of dinghies, day cruisers and windsurfers – I sailed here too for many years with quite a few capsizes!

Rutland Water

 The 26 mile cycle track that surrounds the water is especially popular in summer, at times it can almost get too busy and we prefer to cycle the lanes in Rutland instead passing through pretty villages along the way.

Rutland Water

 The 4th major activity at Rutland Water is fly fishing – the reservoir is home to both brown and rainbow trout which grow to a decent size (the one in the photograph weighed 7lb) and they can be bought either from the anglers or from the fish stall at Oakham market on a Saturday.

Rutland Water

Which brings me (eventually!) back to food.  Walking along the north shore in February trying to catch some late afternoon light and play around with a panning technique I thought I’d cook and write up a trout recipe, forgetting the season was closed and I would need to wait a couple of months, which then became four…

Rutland Water

When I eventually got my trout there were so many other good things in season to go with it, starting with Tallington asparagus. Grown 15 miles away it is sold in the Lord Nelson in Oakham. A bit random perhaps…I’ll have a pint of best, a packet of crisps, oh and a bunch of asparagus too!  Tesco were selling asparagus from Peru – nice one Tesco!

Rutland Water

English watercress is also at its best now and the market sells proper bunches not supermarket packets of stalks with a few leaves, a pet hate. I do wish they would sell watercress properly – by the bunch.

Rutland Water

Elderflowers

too are in season now and the air is heady with their sweet fragrance. I used last years elderflower vinegar in my dressing and scattered the flowers over the salad along with some chive flowers. I love using edible flowers, they give such a summery freshness to food.

Rutland Water

The trout I bought was not quite as big as the 7lb beauty above but it was a very respectable 3½ lb brown trout and I wanted to keep it simple and summery.

Rutland Water

Wafer thin radishes, shaved fennel, cucumber and local asparagus dressed with elderflower dressing and a trout caught just a few miles away served with fresh watercress mayonnaise – summer on a plate. 

Rutland Water

 

 

Poached Brown Trout with Watercress Mayonnaise
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Ingredients
  1. trout fillets - skin on
Salad
  1. asparagus, blanched
  2. cucumber
  3. shaved fennel
  4. thinly sliced radishes
  5. thinly sliced shallots
Dressing
  1. 50g elderflower or rice wine vinegar
  2. 50g olive oil
  3. 1g sea salt
  4. 10g sugar
Mayonnaise
  1. 1 large egg yolk (16g)
  2. 10g Dijon mustard
  3. 10g fresh lemon juice
  4. 150g sunflower oil
  5. 2g sugar
  6. 30g finely chopped watercress
  7. sea salt and freshly milled pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Make both dressings and prepare the salad before poaching the fish.
Trout
  1. do not scale the trout and leave the skin on the fillets (this keeps the trout moist and leaving the scales makes it easier to remove the skin when cooked)
  2. heat a pan of water to 60°C, add a splash of lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt
  3. add the fish and cook for 10 minutes maintaining 60°C
  4. remove the fish carefully and leave to cool - peel the skin just before serving and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt flakes
Dressing
  1. combine all the ingredients in a clean screw top jam jar and shake well - dress the salad just before serving
Mayonnaise
  1. combine the egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice and sugar
  2. add the oil gradually in a steady stream whisking quickly to create a thick emulsion (it is the lecithin in the egg yolk that does this)
  3. stir in the chopped watercress and season to taste - serve with the trout
Notes
  1. salmon can be used in place of trout - cook for 20 minutes instead of 10
tasteandlight http://tasteandlight.com/
Packaging Photography / No Smoke & Mirrors!

Packaging Photography / No Smoke & Mirrors!

Packaging  photography

calls for many additional skills within food photography! A recent commission  for Kaleidoscope Publishing involved photographing clear packaging against a black background whilst maintaining the profile and detail in the packaging without distracting reflections and artifacts. The logical step would be to use cutting paths in photoshop, but with care it can be done without this extra process.

packaging

The primary reason for my involvement was to present food in the packaging that looked great but kept the focus on the packaging. Easier said than done as my natural inclination is always to put the food first!  Attention to detail is paramount – every prawn in the correct position, the ham curled just right! I’d also lie to point out that all the food was completely edible – no tricks for the camera, that’s not what I do – or want to do. We ate very well over the three days!

packaging

The brochure, which is nearing completion, is for Sealed Air – part of the Cryovac brand and a global producer of packaging solutions for over 50 years, so I was truly delighted to be offered the project.

packaging

The images shown were actually three days work in my studio, with the client. This could be quite intense but I was fortunate to have in Chris, the most delightful customer and a real pleasure to work with, happy to help with anything including the washing up – no pot washers employed at Studio Stewart! 

packaging

The slimmest image is the correct size for the catalogue and the negative space to the right of the images is to allow room for the individual, and empty, packaging shots with catalogue reference numbers etc.  The page will open in thirds revealing images in an eye-catching way that is designed to reflect the quality of Sealed Air products.

Robin Stewart

Something I’m quite pleased with is my new flash drive USB cards to supply clients with their images. These credit card size 4GB drives look so neat I used the opportunity to turn them into business cards as well! Isn’t technology amazing? My first computer had a 120 MB hard drive…The TIFF files for the Sealed Air images are over 200MB each!

All Cooked Out

All Cooked Out

I appear to be ‘all cooked out’ at the moment. Perhaps teaching  cookery three days  a week is taking its toll. It will be the end of the college term 19th June and I am hoping to get my mojo back over the summer.  Last month was a good month for photography assignments too – more food, all of which had me yearning to photograph something different for a change. 

I love the countryside in the spring – there is so much to look forward to. Starting with snowdrops in February, daffodils in march, blackthorn blossom followed by hawthorn – or ‘Foam of May’ / ‘Bridal Foam’ as it used to be called given that springtime was the traditional time of year to wed. Magnolia followed by lilac and then cow parsley and bluebells – the delicate beauty of English please, not the more substantial Spanish variety which look  like straggly hyacinth…I choose to ignore forsythia altogether; its sickly yellow is far too harsh for soft spring light.

all cooked out

 

 

I can day-dream in the countryside too, something I’m really good at – it’s official, my maths teacher once wrote on my report “Robin is in the class physically but not mentally. The most persistent day-dreamer I have ever met”. Finally, I thought – I am good at something! My parents took a slightly different view…

Karen and I were walking alongside what’s left of the Oakham to Melton Mowbray canal the other Sunday and spotted what looked like a female mallard with a different species of duck. This duck had a blue bill, golden eye and a little tuft – only noticeable in profile but definitely a tuft. Now I would call that a ‘blue billed duck’ given that that is the most noticeable feature but apparently it’s a ‘tufted duck’.

All of which gave rise to another train of thought whilst we were having breakfast this morning. The last few Tuesday evenings Karen has been meeting up with the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust (she is their membership officer) to listen to and identify bird song. Last week they were at Rutland Water where there are a lot of ducks (at this point I should say ‘stick with me – this is leading somewhere’, but to be honest it isn’t really, so if you are bored at this point, just look at the photographs instead) and many of them look very similar to each other so why don’t they cross-breed? Dogs don’t seem particularly fussy, labrador you say? yes I know I’m a border terrier, but hey, it’s spring!

Female gadwall, mallard, shoveler and pintail are all brownish birds with brownish bills so how does it work? Does the drake sidle up to the duck  and whisper ‘gadwall?’ out of the side of his bill – to which she replies ‘possibly,  depends who’s asking’…Anyway, the tufted duck we saw was definitely not with a female tufted duck – I’ve checked. He was with a mallard so maybe it does happen and I’ve been too busy day-dreaming to notice…

Flower Photography

The other thing that caught my eye was the campion. I  love wild flowers but they do tend to be quite small, so a macro lens is great for revealing their shy beauty. Another lens I love to use for flower photography is the 35mm Lensbaby Composer Pro although it can be a real sod  to get the point of focus where you want it. The upside is lovely, soft, out of focus edges that create a slightly surreal, dreamy look.

all cooked out

The hosta leaves are plants we have had in pots for years. We bought them from a hosta specialist – Mickfield Hostas and the golden leaf is called ‘June Fever’ and the green one ‘One Man’s Treasure’. I forget the name of the other, they are all beautiful.

all cooked out

 

The cups in the triptych with the striped tulip were made by my daughter, Jessica. I hope she will be able to get her potter’s wheel out again one day when she has more time, she is very in demand as a yoga teacher – she has a lot of talent. Biased you say? Of course, but it’s true!

all cooked out

all cooked out

all cooked out

Tea pot by Jessica Stewart

The photograph of blue irises below is not mine at all, it was taken by a friend Olga Van Sanne. I think it’s a stunning abstract and wanted to share. All the other photographs are mine. (This is the first time I’ve published someone else’s photo on my blog!)

all cooked out

Iris by Olga Van Saane

 

 

 

Food Photography Story Boards

Food Photography Story Boards

Food Photography Story Boards

Something I find particularly interesting is how essentially disparate images can be linked together to tell a story. A recent assignment at the Olive Branch was to photograph food for an upcoming magazine article. However, in-between food shots I had the opportunity to wander around with my back-up camera and a Nikon 1.8 50mm prime lens capturing snippets of kitchen life that say as much about the Olive Branch as the food does.

Food photography story boards

The Beech House, opposite (and part of) the Olive Branch is a luxurious place to spend the night after a meal at the Olive Branch (I know from first-hand experience). As much thought goes into breakfast as any other meal, with home-made jams and marmalade as well as freshly laid eggs from the five araucana  hens that Sean keeps behind the pub.  The hens are significant – they epitomise the philosophy behind the pub, local ingredients as much as possible, home-grown even better supplied from the vegetable and herb beds created last year, with the greenhouse built this spring. 

food photography story boardsThe relaxed nature of this country pub belies the thought and work that goes into creating memorable food and this is where I find story boards so appealing.  The beautiful food on the plate is the end product and to photograph just that, is well, fine, but a series of images exploring all aspects of the process provides a narrative that puts the final product into perspective.

food photography story boards 

Cooking is essentially about people – that is why we do it in the first place – and a true chef is a craftsman. To capture the concentration on the faces and the hands doing the work  is, to me, an important part of food photography.

food photography story boards

food photography story boards
food photography story boards

food photography story boards

Sean Hope

 Writing about, and photographing my own food has taken a back seat of late, I imagine that over the summer when I am not teaching cookery I will have more time to devote to this. I must say though, that I enjoy the way ‘taste and light’ changes and evolves. I have a couple of photographic projects in mind that will continue this journey. One of these projects involves a brilliant local potter who has made some plates for me.  Another one would be more portraiture based with my daughter and her yoga students, but I have to persuade her first – and work out a food angle to tie in ‘taste and light’!  I have no idea if this blog appeals in the same way to people who have been following me for a couple of years or not, I hope so,  but it seems an honest approach that reflects how my working life has changed.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

 

 

 

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