29 December 2010


I've neglected the recipe posting lately. That's mainly because of Christmas and the fact I've started the BA (Hons) Photography course with the OCA. I have a few more images and their associated recipes to post over the coming weeks. Once I've settled into the course, I'll start some new images. My son gave me Lou Manna's book for Christmas so I'm hoping to b able to improve my technique and styling over the coming months.

If you want to see what I'm up to with the OCA, my "The Art of Photography" learning log is here:

12 December 2010

Potato Onion and Cheese Layer

This is a slow cooked vegetable dish which could accompany a casserole cooked at the same time. Again, from Rose Elloit's vegetarian cookery, this is filling winter food.

Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment

25g butter
2 large washed and peeled potatoes, sliced thinly
100g grated cheddar cheese
salt and ground black pepper
4 tbsp milk
Sliced cherry tomatoes and parsley to garnish
  1. Heat the oven to 170°c, gas mark 3. Grease a shallow casserole dish with half of the butter.
  2. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of potato slices, then a layer of onions followed by a sprinkling of grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Carry on layering like this until all of the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of potato slices. Pour the milk over the top and dot with the remaining butter.
  4. Bake for about 1½ hours until the potato feels tender when pierced. Garnish with parsley and tomato slices.
As an alternative, why not try a tablespoonful or two of soured cream instead of the cheese, omit the milk and a top off with a layer cheese and breadcrumbs.

The Photograph
Lit from above with a 60cm softbox, reflectors below the lens and a 30cm softbox at 45° to the left.

06 December 2010

Stilton and Broccoli Soup

Continuing with the winter warming soups, this one is based on a recipe from Alwyne Broome. I've made it to my taste but that's the beauty of soup, you can adjust the recipes to suit what you've got in the larder.

4 Servings

15g butter
1 medium onion sliced
1 medium head of broccoli cut into small pieces
150g wedge of Blue Stilton
1 dsp flour
squeeze of lemon juice to taste (about ½ tbsp)
Cream for garnish
Parsley for garnish
Salt and black pepper to season

1. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.
2. Add the onion and cook over a low heat, covered, for 5 minutes without browning.
3. Add the broccoli and cook (covered) for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent the vegetables from browning. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple more minutes
4. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Blend until smooth and simmer again.
6. Turn off the heat  and crumble in the Stilton, stirring constantly while it melts.
7. Squeeze in some lemon juice to taste (I find this just tones down the richness of the cheese but don't overdo it).
8. Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with parsley and a swirl of cream accompanied by fresh bread rolls .

The Photograph
This is a very simple lighting setup which works well I think. There is a 60cm softbox to the left of and at 90° to the table and a similar sized reflector in a similar position opposite. The seamless white backdrop is overexposed by 1½ stops by two wide angle slave flashes. There are two polystyrene block reflectors to the right of  the lens lifting the shadows on the right of the bowl.

05 December 2010

Carrot Cake

I've had couple of requests for this one. It's very popular at coffee time at work and in Devon! It's straight from the Dairy Cookbook 1996 edition. The topping is delicious, soft cheese, icing sugar, double cream and vanilla and the cake is really moist. You'll need to line a loose bottomed 21cm (8") tin. To be really indulgent, you could make two and stack them with a layer of the topping in between. This recipe has no cinnamon but there is so much going on in there that you don't need it.

For an 8" cake

225g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
150g soft light brown sugar
50g chopped walnuts
50g raisins
100g grated carrots
2 ripe bananas peeled and mashed
2 eggs
150ml vegetable oil

For the topping

65ml fresh double cream
50g sifted icing sugar
75g full fat soft cheese (softened)
½ tsp vanilla essence
chopped walnuts to decorate

1. Sift together flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and add sugar.
2. Add nuts, carrots,raisins and bananas, stir.
3. Beat the eggs with the oil and pour onto the mix. Stir until well mixed.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 180°c gas mark 4 for 1½ hours until firm to the touch or when a skewer comes out clean.
5. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire tray.

1. Whip the double cream until softly stiff
2. Cream the icing sugar, cheese and vanilla together with a fork. Fold in the cream.
3. Spread over the top of the cake with a palette knife and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

The Photograph
I took this so long ago I can only guess at the lighting set up. It looks like two lights at 45° left and right. I think it was a softbox on the right and a diffused brolly on the left.

02 December 2010

Mushroom Croustade

I found this tasty recipe in the Nut Dishes section of Rose Elliots "Vegetarian Cookery". You can make this with any suitably prepared nuts. I've used almonds and my granary loaf breadcrumbs in the croustade. (The original recipe calls for fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs. Mine were a bit moist so use freshly crumbed stale breadcrumbs in preference to off the shelf processed ones.)

4 -6 servings from an 8" (21cm) loose bottomed flan tin

75g flaked almonds
75g freshly made stale granary breadcumbs
75g ground almonds
1 small onion, skin removed and grated (if your eyes are sensitive to onions, mince in a food processor)
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped finely
90g softened butter
Salt and ground black pepper
450g small button mushrooms, sliced
300ml soured cream
Freshly grated nutmeg

1. Heat the oven to 180°c gas mark 4.
2. Keep a few flaked almonds for garnish (you can toast them to enhance the flavour). In a bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, ground and remaining flaked almonds, the minced onion, garlic and 75g of the butter. Season well with salt and pepper. (add the butter gradually until the mixture holds together. Depending on the amount of moisture in your breadcrumbs and onion, you may not need all of the butter)
3. Mould the mixture into the bottom and up sides of your loose bottomed flan tin. Place in the centre of the oven and cook until golden and crisp, (about 20 minutes).
4. Melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan and cook the sliced mushrooms for 15 -20 minutes until they have shrunk and lost all of their moisture.
5. Cover the base of the croustade with the mushrooms, season well with salt  pepper and nutmeg and spread 150ml of the soured cream over them, allowing some to show through the cream. Add a generous shake of paprika.
6. Place the croustade back into the oven to warm through for 10 - 15 minutes, remove from the tin and serve on a warm plate garnished with the reserved (toasted) flaked almonds. Serve the remaining soured cream separately.

This dish is also delicious served cold as buffet food made in 10cm mini flan tins. They also make ideal individual starters with a green salad. If you're going "nuts" at Christmas, why not try this to kick off your Christmas lunch?

The Photograph
Nice even soft lighting was achieved with the large soft box above the table, white reflectors below the lens and a small soft box from the rear at 45°above to give the specular highlight on the cream. Unfortunately the depth of field was not sufficient to bring the front of the croustade into focus but this was the best shot to show the texture and colour of the crust. The aperture was f11, f16 may have done it! Must try harder.

01 December 2010

Egg Cheese and Bacon Flan

This could be a quiche but as far as I remember this has always been called egg cheese and bacon flan. It has it's origin in my recipe folder from way back in the 70's when I was sharing a farmhouse in Shropshire at the start of my dairying career. There were always plenty of eggs available and the lady who came in to clean once a week often offered to bake for us, either a cake or a flan. I think the sum of 50p changed hands. As I was the only one of the three of us who had any rudimentry cookery skills, I took on the job of cook and added the flan to the menu once I had learned to cook it. The only thing I've changed are the units of measurement. In my head it's in lbs and ozs, pints and fl oz.

For an 8½" 22cm flan dish

225g plain flour
115g butter
pinch salt
2-3 tbsp cold water
3 large eggs
Milk to make the filling up to 400ml
100g  grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
6 rashers of grilled streaky bacon cut into short lengths
2 -3 tbsp of very hot vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 200°c Gas Mark 6.
2. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, rub in the butter evenly (or blitz it in the food processor).
3. Slowly add enough cold water to make a firm dough, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
4. Chill for 30 minutes in the fridge, roll out fairly thinly into a circle. Roll the pastry onto the rolling pin and transfer it to the greased flan dish, lifting the edges gently and pressing the pastry all around the sides and into the corners.
5. Trim the top, prick the base all over with a fork and place in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes, pressing it down flat if it rises up. It's cooked enough when it is firm to the touch and a pale brown colour.
6. Remove from the oven and pour 2-3 tbsp very hot oil onto the base to make sure the pastry comes out really crisp. Brush the base with beaten egg to seal any holes and bake it for a further 4-5 minutes until the egg glaze is set.
7. Meanwhile, break the eggs into a graduated jug, add 75g of the cheddar, enough milk to make up to 400ml and beat the mixture to combine the ingredients. Add salt and pepper.
8. Put the grilled bacon onto the base of the flan, pour on  the egg/milk/cheese mix.
9. Sprinkle on the remaining 25g of grated cheese and bake in the centre of the oven for 35 - 40 minutes until the egg mixture has set and the cheese has melted and browned nicely.

This flan is really tasty served hot or cold, and is an ideal snack straight from the fridge.

The Photograph
Another simple lighting setup, just one soft light at 45° to the right with a large white relector on the left. The reflective black surface is a granite worktop protector.

30 November 2010

Choc Chip and Hazelnut Biscuits

These went down a real treat in the office. Based on a plain biscuit recipe from the Dairy Cookbook, I added chopped roasted hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

Makes about 30 biscuits

225g self raising flour
pinch of salt
150g butter
100g caster sugar (I used unrefined)
75g chocolate chips (plain or milk - your choice)
65g chopped roasted hazelnuts
½ tsp vanilla essence
beaten egg to mix

1. Sieve flour and salt into a bowl.
2. Rub in butter (I use the food processor for this - it's easier on the hands and a lot quicker).
3. Stir in the sugar, nuts and chocolate chips.
4. Add the vanilla, then enough beaten egg to make a stiff dough.
5. Turn the mixture out onto a floured work top and knead until smooth.
6. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7. Roll out the dough thinly and using a 5cm biscuit cutter, cut into rounds.
8. Place on  silicone paper on a baking tray, leaving enough room for them to spread. Prick with a fork and bake for 10 - 15 minutes at 180°c, Gas mark 4 or until pale gold.

My baking tray takes 12 biscuits. Be prepared to cook three batches.

The Photograph
I was thinking how to make a plate of biscuits look interesting and came up with this idea using limited depth of field and the mug in the background. The original shot was wider and I tried to include steam from the mug but I couldn't make it work. (that's a another project entirely). I cropped very close. The reflections are from a sheet of clear acrylic placed on top of the the seamless black cotton backdrop. The lighting is very simple, the 60cm soft box above the table with a silver reflector above the lens lifting the shadows.below the plate. 

29 November 2010

Salmon Tagliatelle with Parsley and Lemon

This is a quick supper for one or two. The recipe is for one generous serving which I usually cook  when I have been working late. I prepare it with tagliatelle but it works well with penne rigata. liguine or spaghetti.

1 Serving (you can increase the quantities in proportion for more servings)

For the sauce:
1 tbsp plain flour
15g butter
225ml milk
½ tbsp lemon juice
1tsp grated lemon zest
1½ tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and ground black pepper to taste

A 125g fillet is enough for one. Cut the raw fish into cubes.

50 - 75g per person cooked according to the instructions on the packet. I usually add a tablespoon of olive oil to the boiling water to prevent  the pasta from sticking.

To make the sauce by the quick method: (You can do this in the time it takes to boil up the water and cook the pasta)

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over gentle heat.
2. Pour in the milk and add the flour.
3. Using a balloon whisk, stir the sauce constantly whilst heating gently, until it thickens.
4. Turn the heat down to a slow simmer and cook the sauce for 5or 6 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon regularly so that the sauce doesn't stick to the pan.
5. Add the lemon juice, zest  and salmon, stir over a low heat for 3 or 4 minutes to cook it. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
6 Once the salmon is cooked, stir in the parsley and pour the sauce over the drained pasta. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and thin strips of lemon zest.
7. Serve immediately with a green salad.

The Photograph
The lighting for this high key image was similar to previous images, the overhead 60cm soft box to give even lighting and the 30cm soft box at 45° and to the right gave the highlights on the sauce. The two wide angle flashes onto the white backdrop threw light forward to provide some backlighting. I have cropped this close to show detail and contrasts in texture. I think this is the most difficult shot I have done so far. It took a lot of planning and was good practise for working quickly. Again I think I need to give more consideration to the styling so all tips and suggestions are welcomed.

28 November 2010

Seeded Granary Rolls

Nothing beats fresh baked rolls to eat with your soup. These are homemade and I make them once a week. If they are frozen within an hour of coming out of the oven, they keep well in the freezer for up to a week. After that, they lose texture and start to dry out.

I use my breadmaker to prepare the dough and if you have one, try this recipe. I've not tried it for hand baking but I'm pretty sure it would work just as well.

1. I add the ingredients to my baking pan in this order: (makes 8 rolls)

 1⅛ cup (standard cup) water at around 25-30°c
 2 tbsp dried milk powder
 ½ tbsp demarara sugar
 2 tbsp vegetable oil
 1½ tsp salt
 1 cup of strong white bread flour
 2 cups of Hovis Granary malted wheat flour
 1½ tsp dried bread yeast

2. Set your breadmaker to the dough programme (mine is 1h 30m)
3. When the dough is ready, knead it for 6 minutes.
4. Divide the dough into 8 (about 90 - 100g per roll) and shape into a ball.
5. Brush the tops with beaten egg and dip into a bowl of mixed seeds. (e.g. sunflower, pumpkin, sesame)
6. Place on baking paper on a baking tray and put in a warm place to prove (I use the airing cupboard) They are ready when they have doubled in size.
7. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (220°c)
8. Reduce the heat to gas 6 (200° c) Put the baking tray near the top of the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
9. Cool on a wire tray and freeze what you don't need within an hour.

If you don't want to seed them, brush them with egg, milk or vegetable oil as a glaze.
I perfected this recipe after a bit of trial and error. I found that the recipe in the breadmaker hand book for rolls gave a dough that was too wet and the rolls spread out instead of rising up.

The Photograph
This high key photo was lit from above by the 60cm soft box and the background (seamless white paper) was overexposed 1½ stops using two wide angle flashes either side and below the table. The camera was low, at table level and I have cropped the image tight around the central roll of the group.

Watercress Soup

In case you're wondering, I'm not a vegetarian although I have friends who are. This is yet another recipe based on one from Rose Eliot's Vegetarian Cookery. I picked up a copy that was being deleted from our library and have found it really good for soups.
A word of caution here. Some ingredients are not sold in any particular weight or volume. Watercress is one of them. You either get a bag (which is labelled with the weight) or a bunch which can vary in size depending on where it is packed. My local greengrocer sells a bunch which weighs about 80 or 90 grams including stalks (which you can chop and cook with the potatoes and onion) I used 165 grams for this recipe (two bunches) Don't stint on the watercress, you need a lot to get the lovely peppery flavour!

For 4 servings

1 medium onion, sliced
15g butter
700g peeled and diced potatoes
900ml light vegetable stock (see previous post) or water
165g watercress (reserve 4 sprigs for garnish)

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook gently (without browning) covered, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes and any watercress stalks (cut them into 10mm lengths otherwise they may wrap themselves around the blade of your liquidiser) cover the pan and cook on low heat, without browning, for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the stock or water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.

4. Add the watercress leaves to the pan and liquidise with a hand blender or transfer to a liquidiser. Season with salt and pepper and serve in warm bowls topped with a sprig of watercress (you can also swirl in some cream)

The Photograph
This lighting set up was very similar to the last bowl of soup, a 60cm soft box above the table, a 30cm soft box to the rear left and my polystyrene block reflectors below the lens lifting the shadows in front of the bowl. I needed to crop this quite close. There was a lot of empty space top right. Once I have sorted out the lighting, I must concentrate on the styling!

Light Vegetable Stock

These soups all require a pale vegetable stock. Using stock cubes is quick and convenient but I have found that some of them are too strongly flavoured, particularly with celery. To make a light coloured stock, use this recipe. (based on Rose Eliot's) What you put into it can vary with what's available and each batch of stock will always be slightly different . I store mine in a Kilner jar in the fridge for up to a week.

For 900ml to 1100ml of stock you can use as a basic batch:

1 large whole onion, peeled
1 carrot, scraped
1 celery stick
2 garlic cloves
a bouquet garni (use fresh herbs if you have them (parsley, thyme and a bay leaf tied together) or you can use dried herbs prepacked in a bag.
Cover with cold water (I find that 1½ litres is fine)

Bring the pan to a boil then simmer gently for an hour with the lid partly off. If you are not using  it straight away, let it cool before straining and storing. The volume will have reduced down to about 900 - 1000ml.

You can use leek tops (make sure you rinse any soil out of them before adding) and  peelings from well washed potatoes. Allspice and juniper berries (a couple of each) and thinly pared lemon zest also add flavour. Use brassicas with care or not at all, the flavours can be quite stong and can overpower delicately flavoured soups.

The Photograph
I tend not to photograph in the kitchen as there is very little space. This was hand held (I use a tripod otherwise) and lit by one 30cm soft box over my right shoulder. I don't like using on camera flash where there is a lot of reflective metal. Even with a diffuser it is too harsh and brings up too many highlights. I was quite pleased with this lighting.

21 November 2010

Carrot Soup with Ginger

Another warming soup, again based on a recipe from Rose Elliot. I added lemon juice to counter the sweetness of the carrots and find that you need to add less salt. I’ve increased the ginger a little too, for my taste but if you don’t like it too warm, use just a teaspoon.

Four Servings

1 medium onion sliced
15g butter
700g carrots peeled and chopped
1 - 1½ tsp grated fresh root ginger (depending on your taste)
salt and black pepper to taste
900ml vegetable stock
squeeze of lemon juice to taste

Single cream and parsley to garnish

1.      Melt the butter in a pan over a gentle heat.
2.      Fry the onion over a low heat for 5 mins (covered) without browning then add the carrots, ginger and a shake of salt. Cover and fry for another 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Do not let the vegetables brown.
3.      Pour on the stock, bring the pan to the boil and then simmer gently for about 10-15 mins until the carrots are cooked.
4.      Blend the soup until it is smooth, then press it through a sieve
5.      Return it to the saucepan, add the lemon juice, then the salt and pepper to taste
6.      Serve in warmed bowls. Swirl the cream into each one and add the parsley to finish.

The Photograph
This time I've used the 60cm soft box above the table with the smaller 30cm soft box at 45° to the left with a polystyrene reflector below the lens to fill the shadows. There is a nice highlight of the back edge of the bowl in the top surface of the soup. Photographing soup in bowls has taught me a valuable lesson; always place the bowl on the set, then fill it carefully with a ladle. This ensures that you don't get a tidemark resulting from trying to carry the bowl to the set. If you do get the odd spot above the surface, cotton buds work wonders.

Smooth Potato and Leek Soup

Here is an image for the same recipe but blended and garnished with chopped chives.

The Photograph
Apart from the garnish, the soup is featureless and not that interesting. Back lighting it would not have had the same effect as that previous shot. From above, the round shape of the plate and the diagonal planking create an interesting graphic effect. The table was lit by a 60cm soft box from the right with a 30cm softbox from the the bottom left at 45°. A large reflector opposite the 60cm soft box lifted any resulting shadows.
The  planking is in fact pine cladding boards nailed to a piece of MDF. I have a pair of trestles which are at a comfortable working height and I can interchange different surfaces as backgrounds very easily.

19 November 2010

Chunky Potato and Leek Soup

Based on a recipe from Rose Elliot's 'Vegetarian Cookery', this soup is really filling. Just right for damp autumn days.
Soup recipes are easily adaptable. To make a bigger batch, just multiply the ingredients.

For 2 servings


1 medium leek, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
25g butter
450ml vegetable stock
Squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper (to taste)

Chopped chives and croutons to garnish.


  1. Melt the butter on a low heat
  2. Add the sliced leeks and diced potatoes, stir to coat them in butter. Fry, covered, on a low heat for 10 minutes. Stirring often. Do not brown
  3. Continue cooking, very gently, (heat on minimum) covered, for a further 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Pour in the vegetable stock, stir and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Squeeze in approximately half a tablespoonful (8ml) of lemon juice.
  6. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  7. Garnish with chopped chives and croutons.
  8. Serve with fresh baked crusty bread.

If you prefer, you can blend this soup to make it smooth. Depending on the size of your potato, you may need to add a little more stock to get the desired consistency.

The Photograph
The table was lit with two main strobes, a 60cm parallel soft box from above and a 30cm soft box at 45° above and to the rear to give the highlights on the surface of the soup.  I think this may be overdone with the large highlight at bottom left. I don't like the harsh shadow cast by the bread on the side of the bowl. I tried to fill the shadow cast by the plate by introducing a wide angle diffused flash. I have since cut short blocks of polystyrene to stand below the lens which reflects just enough light to lift those shadows. I'm not sure about the styling. I'm hoping it makes you want to get in the kitchen and cook. I've got lots to learn. What do you think?

17 November 2010

Introduction and history

My cook books, diaries and notebooks are stuffed with recipes on flyleaves, old envelopes, scraps of exercise book paper and post-it notes. A lot of them are revisions to other people's recipes; recipes I've adapted or copied but they all have one thing in common; I've cooked them at least once and enjoyed sharing and eating the resulting dishes. Most of them are good, plain wholesome everyday food. Nothing too fancy but occasionally, I'll surprise myself...........
My food images are taken as the food comes from the kitchen, no tricks, no fakery. They don't always work and those that do may need improving. All constructive criticism, questions and suggestions on how to improve my technique are welcomed. If you enjoy food, photography or both, join the discussion.