The summer has been a busy one – rich with creative opportunities for me. A highlight of the past few weeks was shooting the images for the stunning online magazine, The Foodie Bugle. Alongside Silvana de Soissons, the visionary Editor/Publisher, I worked on making a set of photographs to illustrate the magazine over the coming seasons. I would like to share a small selection of these with you. Below is a portrait of Silvana – her artistry as a cook and stylist is supreme. She is a perfectionist; a curator of all things glorious, quirky or simply beautiful. Above all, she is one who nourishes, both with ideas and food. Rarely do I eat anything during a food shoot – I am concentrating too much on the photography or I just don’t feel like eating. This wasn’t the case on location in Silvana’s country farmhouse. I was fed from morning to evening, and the food was immensely delicious and simply impossible to resist!
Shall I tell you about the food? Above is the mid morning snack that Silvana set out for me: warm from the oven bread rolls, with home grown fruit jam and a drink of elderflower cordial. We had some exquisite Italian almond biscuits with our tea. And then on to some work. Look at these quails’ eggs, one of nature’s works of art.
Making these sparkling scarlett Prosecco cocktails was lots of fun. At least I abstained from drinking these, as tempting as they were.
I have never tasted a tomato soup quite so vibrant and intense as this. You’ll have to beg Silvana for the recipe. And a dish of chicken, marinated in herbs and baked in the oven with sweet garlic and silvery sage leaves. This is just a little glimpse of our day. There was more, much more.
I hope you will spend some time pouring over the wealth of food writing, photography and stories featured on the pages of The Foodie Bugle – these are always moments well spent! http://thefoodiebugle.com
I don’t think I am alone in finding the summer holidays have flashed past. Do you feel that too?
The September new year is underway, all back to school with shiny shoes and anticipation. I love this time of year – that zest for getting on with projects and the hint of Autumn around the corner – heightened by a tinge of wistfulness for the end of summer.
Thanks for visiting, please leave me a comment if you feel in the mood – I love to hear your thoughts. P
Sometimes you find yourself on a most unexpected journey. Have you ever been on a church bell ringing excursion? A day of hopping from village to village, calling in for a spell in each church bell tower to ring the bells? Well, this was new for me. But it turned out to be a wonderful day – old fashioned and gentle – and uplifting too.
One day, a few months ago, I found myself facing a babysitting crisis and so a friend in the village offered to mind our young son. Only it happened to be the evening she practiced with the church bell ringers so he went along and sat up in the bell tower with them. And had a little go. Ever since, he’s been going along to ring the bells. Last weekend, the bell ringers arranged an outing to some beautiful little villages in Northamptonshire. Not far from us, but a new patch to me. So I went along as the driver, and while they rang bells I explored and photographed in the churchyards. And provided the picnic, of course!
It’s been raining for weeks now. The landscape is vibrantly green and the churchyards are adorned with jewel like wildflowers. Even the stone work, the carved angels, are wearing cloaks of golden green moss.
A portable feast is just the thing for an occasion like this. Most of the bell ringers cycled from village to village. There were lots of lovely pubs and some farm shops along the way. But it’s always nice to bring something from home, hand made for the occasion.
So, the picnic. I don’t know about you, but since I was little I have adored sausage rolls. Is anything more perfect for an outdoor snack than a thoroughly satisfying savoury sausage roll? But I am quite fussy about them these days. I like them to be filled with plenty of top quality sausage meat – meaty, and not too fatty – and just the right pastry. I love home made ones. But I have come across some amazing ones in a couple of great food shops recently, ones I aspire to make at home. If you are in London, try the sausage rolls from a shop just off Marylebone High Street, called the Ginger Pig. Or in the Cotswolds, pop into Daylesford Organic for a most superb sausage roll. Take a look – here.
I’ll tell you how I made these sausage rolls. But it’s worth knowing – if you are in a hurry or just would like to make it less complicated – you can make great sausage rolls using a good shop bought pastry (either puff or shortcrust, as you like best) and best quality sausages. Simply remove the casings to use the sausage meat.
The pastry. I only make shortcrust pastry at home, so that’s what I used here.
In a food processor, whizz together 150 grams of plain flour, a good pinch of salt, and 80g of cold unsalted butter. When it resembles fine crumbs, drop in an egg yolk. Allow it to whiz around until it just forms together in a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour. Meanwhile, prepare your sausage meat.
For the sausage meat. In a large bowl, mix together 500 grams of good quality minced pork (about 20%fat), along with 50g of fresh breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and two tablespoons of fresh minced herbs. I used lots of sage, and oregano and a bit of thyme. You can also use dried herbs if you like. You can do this a day or so in advance – in fact it is better as it gives the meat a chance for the flavours to really develop.
Roll out the pastry to a large rectangle, about 25cm by 15cm. Place the sausage meat, shaped into a long roll, along the centre of the pastry – the long side. Be generous with the sausage meat because really fat sausage rolls are the most delicious. Then roll the pasty over to make a long roll. Use some beaten egg to seal and crimp the edges. Then cut into individual rolls – about four to six, depending on how big you want them. Brush them with beaten egg to give a lovely glaze.
Bake in the centre of the oven, preheated to 180 degrees centigrade, for 40 -45 minutes, and until they are all golden brown.
Cool a little before wrapping in wax paper and packing into the picnic basket.
There you have it – a bit of the divine and a bit of the earthly. All in all, a beautiful day.
More soon. Px
I thought you might like to see a few pictures of my new garden workshop. It’s a log cabin – from Finland – built in our English village garden. As the house and garden we’ve taken on is quite a project, this studio seemed like a good place to start – a place to work and a place for retreat! And because I always like a little reminder of the West Indies, we gave it a Caribbean inspired splash of paint on the trim and a moat of tiny sea pebbles to lend a little mood of seaside. There are shelves and cupboards to keep all my bits of equipment and props, and lots of space to rest and think!
One of my plans for the garden is to grow some lovely edible flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables. I’ve planted up plenty of seeds and they are all happy (mostly) in their temporary seed tray beds. But it’s a long way off from here to harvest! The best prospect for instant rewards lies in the herb beds – so I’ve got busy planting an array of fragrant, and flowering herbs around my studio.
These herbs come in handy for a delightful mid morning snack of cheese and crusty bread. I used a local fresh salad cheese – a bit like a light feta cheese. I snipped and sprinkled over some chives, flowering thyme, and mint. Then a drizzle of honey – for a delicious salty sweet combination – and a few drops of golden rapeseed oil. Lastly, a bit of cracked black pepper and it’s soon ready. And yes, that is a nice cup of tea to go alongside!
I’ve been working on some still life projects in the studio. I’m getting used to the light, working on making the right effects and so on. I hope to post some of the results here sometime soon.
We have a lot happening here in Britain over the next few weeks. Our village is gearing up for big celebrations for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Then, of course, we have the London Olympics…very exciting! More soon.
Hope you like my shed (studio) – don’t hesitate to drop me a comment with any thoughts or ideas!