Holiday Food

I’m off on my 10 day summer holiday of pure sun & sea – but while I’m away, I thought to leave you with some inspiration for holiday food.

 

Bread free Burgers

What could be more festive than simple homemade burgers?  But these burgers are a little different.

You see, Bread and I have this love-hate relationship. The thing is, that my body isn’t as appreciative of bread as I sometimes am. Picture a blowfish. Sometimes the effect is short-lived and other times it’s long-term, but should I want to avoid the blowfish effect on my body – then I should avoid bread.

So, in the good old days, in my year of wonderful healthy living, I introduced my family to the idea of bread-free burgers, and somehow this idea has stuck! The fun part of a burger all lies in the choice of the toppings doesn’t it? This burger offers the same topping variety, without the – “ugh-I-ate-too-much” feeling.

How do we make them? First I prepare the patties. Pure beef mince, a small onion, chopped very finely, one clove of garlic (also chopped finely), salt, pepper and paprika (the spice) to taste. Mix with one egg, squeeze pat and shape until you have something resembling a burger patty (and if you’re not gluten intolerant roll each patty in a little flour). Leave in the fridge, for the flavour of the garlic and onion to draw into the meat.

Then go wild preparing toppings of your choice! We always have to have the basic lettuce, tomato and cucumber layer. In this one I added fresh basil, pineapple slices, fried red onion, bacon and some sweet chilli sauce! Usually we also have cheese, mushroom sauce? Mayo? Tomato sauce? Tomato relish? Gerkins? I chop and slice and then I fry the patties.

We put everything on the table and each of us makes his own original tower, combining flavours until we have these tall towers. It’s like a giant salad with a chunk of meat on top. The girls love figuring out what they like and there are usually shouts of: “Not Chilli!” , “Look at mine!” and “Mom, take a photo!”

The only downfall here, is that this burger can’t be eaten with your hands, but you can watch your tower topple as you tackle it, and collect mini-flavour combinations with knife and fork.

Worth a try! Add some potato wedges, if you’re feeling generous! Yum!

 

Bread-free Burger

PHOTOGRAPHY NOTE: “Waaaahhhh!!! I want a food stylist!!!! ”

I’ve seen stylists work on burger builds for brands like McDonalds, Steers, Wimpy… So I thought I could do this. I mean, in theory I knew about the tricks of keeping the tomato edge fresh, lettuce in ice water etc etc. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I’d keep it simple. Right? I wasn’t quite prepared for just how difficult it would be.

You’re so focussed on getting the patty evenly brown, that you end up charring the onions.The pineapple refuses to be cut straight, the tower’s skew, the mayonnaise spreads instead of staying in neat blobs… Screams and curses can be heard from the kitchen. And then you still need to calmly photograph it in record timing before the lettuce wilts! By the end of it, I was buggered.

I’ve always respected food stylists, but now my respect has just multiplied! I will keep dreaming of the day I can work with one of the talented. 🙂

 

Bread free burger 3

Do I HAVE to use natural light?

Let me think about this carefully… YES YES AND YES!

Unless of course you have a professional lighting set-up that mimics natural light.

(Excuse me for a minute, all my Pause readers. Today’s post is more for the food blogger’s out there. But I do have a bread-free burger in store for the rest of you, soon!)

I hate ordering from menus where the pictures make you feel as if you’re staring at them through a bottle of sunflower oil. I just can’t imagine what the food tastes like. My husband has even started to recognise it : Look passed the photos, I’m sure the food tastes good! And it usually does! If only… if only the photos… if only the photos would show me how good it tastes.

I’m not going to say much. I’ve taken some very plain, honest, unstyled photos to demonstrate my point. I did not manipulate them afterwards. I took them all in my tiny kitchen, just moving the bowl from under my very bright extractor fan light (tungsten light) to the window sill, to 1 metre away from the window on the counter top. (I don’t expect fame and fortune from any of them 😉 In fact it’s quite painful to post some of them)

I’d like you to look at 5 things.

  1. COLOUR OF LIGHT: The colour of the white napkins and the shadow below the bowl. That colour (however subtle) is coating the entire image and affecting all the colours of the food.
  2. COLOUR OF FOOD: In which photo are the colours full – with dark and light tones – and in which do they simply die a painful death?
  3. TEXTURE OF FOOD. Can you get a feeling for the texture of the creamy mayo? Can you tell the difference between the texture of the spring onions and the tomato?
  4. SHADOWS: How deep and dark are the shadows between the bits and pieces? Can your eye travel calmly and comfortably over the hills and valleys of salad – taking in the details along the way?
  5. QUALITY OF LIGHT: The type of shine on the tomatoes – Is it glittery and harsh or soft and even? Is the shadow below hard edged or soft?

That’s it.

What do you think? Do you have to use natural light? Is it worth it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Tungsten + Daylight      Tungsten x2

Flash

Natural

Natural 1m Do I have to use natural light

Making Lemon Meringue

making lemon meringue

I was determined that the next tin of condensed milk would NOT go directly into my mouth and I would use it for a lemon meringue. (I can’t call it a lemon meringue pie – why do they call it a pie? It should be called a tart – it is tart afterall!)

Anyway I’ve never made a lemon meringue anything before. I know there’s a way with proper lemon curd, but I’d also heard of a condensed milk shortcut way. I’m into shortcuts so I went off looking for it. There are so many recipes on the internet – who do you trust & which do you choose?

Lemon Meringue 3

Instead I found an old recipe book on tarts that was my grandmother’s. She used to scribble notes and recipes on the inside of her books, and there I found her lemon meringue condensed milk filling!

I love to work off her recipes, seeing her strange Rhodesian-taught hand-writing and the real smudges of dough make the memories come flooding back.

Both my Oumas, in very different ways, took pride in their good cooking and baking and I was fortunate enough as a child to be included in this rich tradition. I remember being given the tasks that little hands could do best – dis ‘n werk vir klein handjies – and being so proud that they found me useful.

One of those tasks was helping with the crust. We’d take a rolling pin and crush ginger biscuits, until they were fine crumbs. Then she’d add stuff – I guessed it was butter and maybe flour?- and then my little fingers were given the messy job of pressing down the mixture into the pan. And then I could prick patterns with a fork.

Lemon Meringue 5     Lemon Meringue2

I couldn’t find that recipe and they don’t sell ginger biscuits in Germany, but my version with oatmeal biscuits, melted butter and flour seems to have worked just fine.I did follow her directions for the lemon filling, and found a similar recipe which had an extra egg which I added and I used their directions for the fluffy meringue top.

It is not prize winning lemon meringue, but my family and I love it! I was able to show my little girl how the egg whites change into this shiny fluffy cream. That if any egg yellow goes in there the magic won’t work! How you know it’s ready, when you can cut through the egg with a knife or when you can make the tall spikey towers with the egg beater.

Cooking is more than just preparing food to eat. It’s a little bit of alchemy, handed down through the ages. It’s about a process of making and remembering and… making new memories.

 

Lemon meringue 4b

 

Lemon Meringue Tart- the shortcut recipe

Lemon meringue 4b

 

Once again my disclaimer : I am not a chef or a fancy cook. In fact I’m a photographer who likes to throw stuff together and make pretty pictures. But I know you’re going to ask for the recipe now, and the good thing is: if I can make this, so can you!

My crust consisted of a packet of crushed biscuits, a blob of melted butter and a dash of flour mixed and pressed into the pan. If you have an actual recipe – We’d all love to hear from you in the comments below!!!

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees

Lemon Filling

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (can add rind of 1 lemon)

1 tin sweetened condensed milk

Beat the yolks – add the condensed milk – keep beating – add the lemon juice and beat some more.

Place in fridge until your egg whites are ready.

Meringue

3 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1/3 cup white sugar

Beat the egg whites and Cream of Tartar until it gets light and fluffy – gradually add the sugar and keep beating until stiff and shiny peaks form, when you remove the beater.

Lemon + Meringue

Spread the lemon filling over the crust.

Spread the meringue over the lemon filling

Put into the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until meringue goes golden.

Eat and Enjoy!

 

Any suggestions on how to improve this recipe? How do you make Lemon Meringue Tart?

(READ THE STORY BEHIND THE TART here )

Lemon Meringue 5

Comfort Food

It had been raining hard all day. The girls had been fighting, I got them to bed with crocodile tears and all. Husband phoned to say he  wouldn’t be home for supper. I was in the kitchen, trying to make headway through my elaborate cooking mess, when I noticed an intensely sweet taste in my mouth.

I looked down at the teaspoon… Then the tin opener.

You didn’t! You said the one tin was for a lemon meringue and the other was a spare. You lied! (to yourself)

Know the feeling? Ever done this? Hah! I know of at least one of you that DEFINITELY has done this!

But I refuse to photograph the tin of condensemilk. The fact that there’s nothing left of it has nothing to with my decision. I have some other comfort food for you. This is a good wholesome meal that will fill you up and make you sleep well:

Salmon tagliatelle pinterest

Don’t go panicky on me now! This is not a fancy recipe! I think it might even be the fastest, simplest recipe I have. And it’s divine!

Go to the supermarket and buy a little packet of thinly sliced, smoked salmon. (You don’t need much – it probably won’t cost more than a decent helping of mince.) Then get some pasta – any pasta will do! I chose the spinach tagliatelle, for the colour, but my girls  tell me it also tastes better with this recipe than normal tagliatelle. Then you need a packet of frozen peas and some fresh cream.

Salmon tagliatelle

Boil the pasta, in salty water. (That’s the only salt you’ll need in the recipe)

Slice the salmon into random bits.

A little butter, the salmon and about a cup full of frozen peas go into the pan. Fry lightly until the salmon has just changed colour and the peas have defrosted.

Add the cream to the pan and heat until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat.

By now your pasta is ready. Drain the water off and add a blob of butter to stop the pasta from going sticky.

Pour over the salmon-pea-cream sauce. Stir well and serve with grated parmesan and black pepper.

That’s it. It’s a ten minute meal.

Creamy, warm, filling and YUM!

salmon pasta 3

 

Back to Basics – B+W

Back to Basics B+W

 

I’ve had some challenges this week, and for some of the decisions I made, I had to to listen to my basic gut. I had to strip away all my surrounding influences, until I could see the basic values that I have been raised with. And the thing is, it wasn’t a choice between black and white – that would’ve been simple. No, these were subtle choices between different shades of grey, neither of which were right or wrong. The shade that was right for me, just happened to be different to what was right for everyone else. And the absolute incomprehension from everyone around me, of why I had to choose a different grey, surprised me.

But that’s the thing. Most decisions in life aren’t black and white. They’re just different shades of grey. Aren’t they? You just have to find the shade of grey that suits you in every situation.

Black and White Photography is also all about choosing the right shade of grey. It’s all in the exposure – it’s all about which area you choose to be your mid-grey, with a range of lighter and darker greys falling to either side of that.

When you’re shooting in manual, you can decide which area to read your exposure from and that becomes your mid-grey. If you expose for the dark areas, these dark tones are lifted and lightened to become your mid-grey. Or if you take your reading off the light areas, you pull them down, darkening them to become your mid-grey. In that way, you control your entire image. Once you’re able to do this well, in basic Black&White, you’re able to continue thinking in this way, when you work in colour. (BEYOND AUTO: How to switch to Black&White mode )

As you know, I’ve been needing to come to grips with lots of BASICS. So while I was baking a huge batch of rusks this week, I grabbed my camera and decided to take some un-styled black&white shots as I went along. Just an exercise to remind my brain to see in terms of grey.

Without the seductive distraction of colour I found texture in the soft flour, lovely clean forms in the eggs and curved linear patterns in my dirty dishes. And with each shot I fiddled until I was satisfied that I’d found just the right mid-grey – the grey that was right for me.

Flour and Eggs

 

 

Dishes

BEYOND AUTO: PICTURE STYLE

 

Screen shot 2014-07-03 at 10.32.30 AM

 

 

(Note: I speak Canon, but you might find, with a little fiddling, that you’re able to translate this to your own camera language.)

 

So you want to shoot directly in Black and White?

It is such good training for the eye! For the entire first year of my photography studies we were only allowed to shoot in black and white. It’s like drawing in art – it teaches you to look for pattern, tone, texture, and form. And with B&W you can remove your viewer from our world and make them see reality, differently.

Ok, Here we go:

 

 

  • Switch your camera to Manual. (M on the top dial)
  • Press MENU on the back of your camera.
  • Scroll across (using the circle of buttons on the back) until you reach a page where you see PICTURE STYLE.
  • Scroll down until you’ve highlighted PICTURE STYLE.
  • Press the centre button of the circle of buttons (SET).
  • Scroll up and down the list of Picture Styles. Landscape = Brighter colours; Faithful+Neutral = softer colours (good portrait setting); MONOCHROME = Black and White
  • Centre click (SET) to choose your Picture style.
  • Start shooting.
  • Remember to set your camera back to colour once you’ve finished shooting!

Have fun!