Portuguese Treasure Revisited

Previously I posted an item about a rice cooker which I found on a visit to Lisbon ( Portuguese Treasure ), however, earlier this year while staying on the Algarve in Olhao I found an even more strange and wonderful kitchen utensil, namely this:

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As those of you who have visited Portugal and tasted their wonderful pastries will know many of these scrumptious morsels have egg yolks as one of their main ingredients; the reason for which dates back to when the nuns in the convents ran laundries and white linens were “starched” with egg whites leaving an abundance of egg yolks remaining for baking!

KG180804607aWeb1Beaten eggs yolks are put in the can and poured into a hot sugar solution to create fine threads of egg called fios de ovos. Apparently the pouring technique is an acquired skill!  Thanks to Portugal’s colonial history fios de ovos is found in many  other parts of the world including Japan (keiran somen), Cambodia (vawee), India (muttamala), Thailand (foi thong), Spain (huevo hilado) and elsewhere, when is often simply called angel hair.

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After buying the initial rice cooker I managed to order three more and used them to create a lighting feature in the corner of the kitchen while still having one spare to use as a prop; needless to say this has yet to happen.

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Favourite Photos from 2017

Well that’s another year gone and already we are well on the way into 2018! Last year I started out full of good intentions which somehow never materialised, some would say “events, dear boy, events” but whatever the reason I thought it worth a look back at the last year to see some of the things that I actually did do and to share with you some of my favourite photos from 2017.

2017 was in many ways a year of change both at a personal and a national and indeed international level. Here in Scotland we saw the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing and I was fortunate to have the opportunity of sailing under the bridge just before it opened in August.KG170806106aWeb1H

While change and regeneration continues apace throughout much of Scotland there is much that remains little changed such as this view taken in December looking down Loch Leven from Glencoe village. There are many tourist hot spots  such a Glencoe but there are still many places when you can drive let alone walk and scarcely meet a sole.171228627aWeb1H

Even along the banks of Loch Lomond it is possible to go out for a mornings walk and at most only meet a couple of people.KG170104796aWeb1H

While the opening pictures have all been landscapes it is inevitable that as a food photographer there should be some pictures of food, and drink! Taking good bottle photos can be immensely challenging due to unwanted reflections and highlights but when it all comes together it can be very rewarding; especially when it comes to the clear-up. KG171009804bWeb1H

Another change that 2017 brought, in Glasgow at least, was a slow down in the number of  hamburger openings with some venues even closingKG170623733WebH1

However, elsewhere in Glasgow eating out was decidedly on the up this summer with  a number of the city’s leading restaurants offering dinners the opportunity to enjoy a meal while suspended 200 feet above George Square

KG170614919iWeb1HGlasgow has been unusual for the last few years in having its own Whole Foods Market but in November, a few months after the company’s take over by Amazon, it was announced that both it and its sister store in Cheltenham would be closing leaving only the 7 stores in London remaining in the UK.KG171009737Web1H

Although I couldn’t compete with the variety of fungi that the Whole Food Market was offering this autumn I did manage to successfully forage for chanterelle throughout much of the summer and early fall. In my opinion chanterelle are really the best of mushrooms with such a wonderful flavour that you only need a few in a dish to totally transform it, if in doubt try 2 or 3 chanterelle halved and sauteed in a little butter and served with a couple scrambled eggs on a two slices of olive ciabatta seasoned with Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper.KG170714610Web1HOf course you can be more adventurous and cook something “fancy” such as roast duck breast with pan fried new potatoes and chanterelle as  head chef Owen Morrice from No. 1 The Grange in Edinburgh is cooking here.KG1707181466Web1H

You can’t but help notice when you shoot in as many kitchens as I have done that chefs and tattoos go together as can clearly be see with Gavin Elden’s (Head Chef at Best Western Braid Hills Hotel, Edinburgh) fabulous tattoos.KG1707181564SqWeb1H

Enough of food and drink let’s wrap up with a few pictures very different pictures starting with the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern which with its massive interactive public artworks is a must go to place on any trip to London (and of course Borough Market is only a few minutes walk away!).KG171021980bSqWeb1H

In total contrast this space is while equally a must see location can hardly be called modern with the building of Ely Cathedral dating back almost 1000 years!KG171021863Web1H

History and tradition also continue to play an important role in Cambridge even if the students are changing.KG171021846aWeb1H

Little in the way of tradition here just two gannet skulls I found while walking on the beach at Troon in SW Scotland. Increasingly I like to combine text with pictures, maybe it reflects a desire to see my wr on more magazine covers!KG171130508Web2

Finally a reminder that warmer days are just round the corner and even sooner if you are prepared to travel as in this case to the eastern Algarve in Portugal.KG170515130P57Web1H

With all best wishes to all for 2018!

Sicilian blood….

oranges and lemons were routinely wrapped in tissue paper when I was a child and each paper carried colourful pictures and strange words hinting of far off lands which at the time seemed impossibly distant and exotic. Now, even though it is many decades later the magic persists and I find it impossible to walk past a store selling fruit wrapped in tissue paper without buying a totally unreasonable number of oranges, lemons, etc. .So last week when I made my regular weekly visit to my favourite greengrocers, Roots and Fruits, here in Glasgow I found it impossible not to buy some Galletto Blood Oranges from Sicily, wrapped as they were in their blood red tissue papers.

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Of course they made a colourful addition to the kitchen but they deserved a better fate than pure ornaments and the obvious answer was to use them in a salad, combining the sweetness of the orange with the saltiness of dry black Greek olives and the flavours of finely sliced fennel combined with a blood orange dressing (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/217313/orange-and-fennel-salad/).

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A great combination of flavours and a wonderfully refreshing summer salad. If you haven’t any fennel to hand try chicory whose bitter leaves work as a superb contrast o the sweetness of the orange segments.

Portuguese Treasure

One of the really great things about being a food and drink photographer is that you have absolute carte blanche to collect any and all items of kitchen paraphernalia that you might come across. Even if an item has no immediate use you can always argue that it will definitely be invaluable as a prop in some as yet unspecified photo shoot! These magpie like tendencies go into overdrive as soon as I find myself in a foreign country and the size of my suitcase combined with the pitiful weight allowance that we are granted these days are the only things which keep my collecting within, what others might call, reasonable proportions. Without doubt the most interesting and possibly cryptic thing that I brought back from my recent trip to Lisbon Continue reading

Jean Anderson’s Sweet Red Pepper Paste (Massa de Pimentão)

Pimentão

This blog was inspired by Food52 and a recipe by Jean Anderson taken from her cookbook “The Food of Portugal” (or is it Brazil given the spelling of pepper?). I suspect that many of you will already be familiar with Food52 but if not be sure to check out their web site with its wonderful recipes, inspirational photography (consistently well lit and styled but never, as is so often the case, over propped) and not to forget the amazing array of kitchen and dining “essentials” that they sell. I count myself lucky that they are not based here in the UK or I would be even more cash strapped than I am today faced with such temptations. I have always been attracted to what can be best described as kitchen paraphernalia but as I have become more and more involved with food photography my collecting of plates, cutlery, glasses, pans, etc, etc seemingly has no bounds! After all, it will all find its way into a shoot sooner or later!

slicing & salting red peppers

But to return to the recipe; peppers have long been a favourite of mine both to photograph and to eat so this recipe was clearly a “must try” all the more because of its simplicity. You can find the recipe here but essentially it involves little more than cutting the peppers into strips and placing them in a bowl with sea salt between each layer and leaving uncovered for at least 12 hours.

Sliced & salted red peppers

Any excess liquid is then poured off and the peppers roasted at 125oC for about two to two and a half hours after which the skins are removed

roasted and skinned red peppers

and the pulp homogenised together with a clove of garlic and a little olive oil.

sweet red pepper paste

By the time all of this was done the air in the studio was heady with the smell of roast peppers and I had a satisfactory stash of paste set aside to use over the weekend as a marinade and sauce as well as a number of new pictures taken along the way.

Roast Duck Legs & Stir Fry Vegetables in a Rich Plum Sauce

This dish is one of my favourites not the least because of its simplicity but it also tastes and looks great! However, be warned, it is not a quick meal to prepare with the duck legs taking 90 minutes to cook but actual hands on time is very short and the wait is definitely worthwhile! Although many would regard it as cheating the dish relies on a ready made . Sharwoods Plum Sauce, a gloriously sticky, sweet and spicy concoction. Strangely the sauce is becoming increasingly difficult to find here in Glasgow but both the Coop and Tesco continue to stock it.

Ingredients

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The meat

2 x Duck legs (I used ones from Gressingham which are widely available. Don’t use wild duck as the legs are much smaller and contain a lot less fat).

For the stir fry

1 x Red Onion, medium sized 

1 x Red Bell Pepper

1 x Yellow Bell Pepper

1 x Pak Choi

6 x Chestnut Mushrooms

You will also need

Soya sauce

Olive Oil

Plum Sauce (Sharwoods)

Maldon Sea Salt

3-4 Star Anise

 and rice; white long grain, 1/3 of a cup per person.

Method

  1. Place the duck leg in an oven proof dish, sprinkle about a teaspoons worth of Maldon sea salt over the skin of the duck legs, add the star anise, cover with a tightly fitting lid (I first cover the dish with a sheet of aluminium foil and place the lid of the dish on top of this) and placed in the oven at 180oC to cook for 60 minutes.
  2. While the duck legs are cooking cook the rice in boiling water, depending on the type of rice that you are using this will take around 15 to 20 minutes after which time the rice can be tipped into a sieve and be left to drain with the sieve hanging over the pan used to cook the rice and loosely covered by the pan lid. When it is time to plate up the rice is gently fluffed up using a pair of chop sticks and rinsed with a litre or so of boiling water. I am sure that many people will think that this way of cooking rice is heresy but it works for me and adds a great degree of flexibility to the timing of the cooking of the other dishes.
  3. After 60 minutes in the oven the duck legs will have released any excess fat and water and this should be poured off before returning them to the oven, this time uncovered, for a further 30 minutes.
  4. KG150413641a1bWeb1During the final 15 minutes of cooking the duck legs roughly cut the peppers, pak choy and onion into chunks about 2 to 3 cm square and stir fry in a hot wok in a little olive oil.Stir fry red and yellow peppers with red onion
  5. Once the onion and pepper begins to soften add  thinly sliced mushroom and continue to stir fry all the ingredients in the wok. I  prefer to keep working the contents of the wok with a broad wooden spatula while more accomplished chefs will  undoubtedly keep things moving with a simple flick of the wrist.Stir frying peppers onion and mushrooms
  6. As the sliced mushroom begins to take on a little colour add a splash of soya sauce and the pak choy, again cut into 2 to 3 cm squares, and mix well.
  7. Remove the duck legs from the oven and place on a chopping board and using a couple of forks pull the meat off the bones in large chunks and add to to wok together with a third to a half of a jar of plum sauce and continue to work with the spatula so as to ensure that the sauce evenly coats all of the vegetables as well as the meat.
  8. Finally reheat and rinse the rice that you set aside earlier with about a litre of boiling water, allow the rice to drain for a minute or so and then plate up onto a warm plate.

Sharwoods plum sauce makes a wonderful addition to a duck stir fry

Enjoy!

moules ‘n more

For some time now I have wanted to try my hand at photographing moules mariners but the opportunity has yet to present itself in any of my commercial shoots. So last week I finally gave up waiting and instead decided to make my own moules mariners to photograph. Having made the decision the next step was to buy some mussels and that of course meant a drive out to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. Although Loch Fyne is only an hours drive away from Glasgow (assuming that the A83 is not closed by yet another landslide as the road climbs up to the appropriately named Rest and Be Thankful) it’s a world apart, this is especially true at this time of year when roads are relatively quiet and the hills are looking their best; there is no soft cloak of green to mask the landscape and the snow on the hills some how always makes them seem closer and higher!

KG150204291WPLooking across Loch Fyne to the Ardkinglas Estate and beyond to the Kinglas valley and the Arrochar Alps

KG150204296WPThe view from the Oyster Bar at the head of the loch with its steep deeply furrowed hills which hem in the loch on both sides.

Loch Fyne Oyster BarThe Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in 2011 before its 2013 renovation – the Farm Shop has become a deli and there is a new main entrance but otherwise little has changed outside apart from the addition of some giant sized funky New England style chairs a theme which is taken up inside too with the bar stools.high bar stools at the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar

The Oyster Bar first made its appearance in 1988 and it has developed as a popular stopping off place as well as a destination in its own right. For more information about the history of Loch Fyne Oysters please visit the company’s web site: http://www.lochfyne.com/about/

Of course any visit to the Oyster Bar inevitably involves oysters so in addition to mussels I also returned home with half a dozen oysters. Eaten au naturale with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Tabasco sauce accompanied by some good crusty buttered bread and a glass of dry white wine there is little to beat it.KG150205362bWP

As for the mussels. There are innumerable recipes for moules mariners all of which essentially come down to remove the beards, wash and discard any shells that are broken or do not close, cook for 5 to 10 minutes in a large heavy bottomed pan with a lid containing diced onion, a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme and a glass of white wine, plus or minus an equal quantity of cream. Discard any shells that don’t open and serve. For a more detailed recipe see http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/655746 or any of several dozen more that you will find with a simple Goole search.

moules marinière

moules marinière

The mussel shell next to the black bowl in the picture below is all the cutlery that you need – use them like tweezers to pick the plump meats from the other mussels and while the bread is used to mop up the juices.Moules, bread and white wineMoules with chunks of fresh bread and a glass of sauvignon blanc a perfect combination.

The moules tasted great; with such great ingredients its hard to go wrong. As for the photography I am reasonably pleased with the results. I like the way that the plump  orange meat of the mussels contrasts with the shells and the black bowl. I also took the opportunity to take some shots form directly above the dishes, a shooting angle which is increasing in popularity, I like the cropped shot where we just see the curved shapes of the pan and the bowl and the way the back pottery contrasts with the stainless steel pan both of which work well with the white boards of the background. In the non-cropped shot more attention should have been given to the placement of the bread board so that it didn’t overlap with the pan handle. A plain wooden board would probably have worked better. The wine glass needs to be brought more into the shot and photographed more directly from above, as it is it looks as if it is falling over, the lines between the white wooden boards need more attention too as they are distorted by the lens, they should be parallel! I would also have liked to have seen more detail and colour in the shells, which would have meant a different lighting setup. All in all it looks as if I have an excuse to make another trip to Loch Fyne in the not too distant future!

As is always the case with seafood take the very best and freshest ingredients, prepare simply and…. enjoy