29 March 2014

Food Styling Props



Stuart and I were on a mission.

You know who Stuart is by now don't you? Stuart helps me run the Dundee Branch of The Clandestine Cake Club, but he also bakes and blogs over at Cakeyboi.


Anyway, back to our mission. I was chatting to our handyman and all round whizz at work, Malcolm. He can always be relied on for how-to advice. He's working on his own wedding at the moment and making a lot of the decorations for the marque they are holding the wedding in.

We started talking about vintage plates as he's buying them up for the reception. I asked if he had any tips on where to go and he told me about a junkyard, come all round fabulous place in Montrose called Steptoe's
Yard. It has to be good with a name like that doesn't it?

Photo: Northern Lights Blog

Later that night, I switched on the TV while I was cooking and lo and behold a programme I've never seen before is on called Salvage Hunters and guess where they were? Yes, you guessed it, Steptoe's Yard. I have to tell you I got very excited when I saw them walk past table after table of crockery and cutlery.

I was straight on the phone to Stuart to make plans to visit the yard that weekend.


Outside there are table after table full of boxes with plates, bowls, cutlery and all sorts of other household wares. It is all outside in all weathers, but who cares? It was exactly what we were looking for.


We soon both had a teetering pile and that was before we had even entered any of the buildings. Unfortunately we came across the best building last, just as they were closing and it was full of kitchenware. I was salivating just looking at it all!


I came away with 23 items for just £25. Plates, tarnished metal chargers, vintage cutlery, a couple of gorgeous ginger jars for my bedroom as well as some napkins. A steal! Stuart got a rather nice collection of plates with retro patterns and was equally delighted.


Here are some of my tips for food styling.
  1. Always shoot in daylight.
  2. Buy art mount board. It makes a great plain background for photos. It usually come in a colour and the reverse side is white, so two boards for the price of one.
  3. Add napkins and cutlery to the shot for some interest.
  4. Buy old tarnished cutlery, it doesn't reflect what is going on in the room (including the photographer, so it looks better in photos.
  5. If you use Pinterest, take some portrait shots and leave space above or below the main items in the photo. This will mean you can add text.
  6. Slightly over exposing your photos using the Windows photos program on your computer or other software.
  7. Take some photos where the main object is off to the side and some where the background is out of focus.
  8. Try taking photos from different angles and some close up and some from a distance.
  9. Just keep taking photos. You will improve.
Last year I went to Food Blogger Connect and one of the talks was on food styling. Here are some tips I picked up:

Food Styling 101
    • Think abut the camera angle, try taking shots from different angles
    • Use paint brushes to paint oil on food for shine
    • Use marmite mixed with water to give a golden colour to food
    • Store salad and herbs in ice water to keep them fresh until you need them for the shot
    • When building up a dish, add things a little at a time
    • Use a dripper to drip on dressing
    • Show food cut into or spooned into
    • Use a teaspoon to take out a little at a time, until it looks good, this is more precise
    • Mess up a fork and add it to the dish, don't use it to cut into the dish
    • Add cutlery to your photo
    • Only slightly cook vegetables for a better colour
    • A small plate looks better in a photo
    • Turquoise and pale green plates work well with food
    • Use a dulling spray on plates and cutlery to take of the shine
    • Props - go for neutral colours and dull metals, not shiny
    • Props - search in antique shops and car boot sales
    • Slice herbs and vegetables very thinly, pop into some iced water and they will curl nicely for your shot. Chillies, carrots and spring onions work well

    For more food styling ideas check out my eBay collection Food Styling Props.

    This collection contains 46 of the best food styling props and ideas from dulling spray (for cutlery), cups and plates, to printed greaseproof paper and a hand held steam iron for quickly steaming out those napkin creases.

    Each product come with a tip on how to use it.

    If you like this collection, simply follow it and you will be updated when any new items are added.

    Do let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for additions to the collection.

      27 March 2014

      Juice Juice Baby


      You know I love my smoothies, well now I have my own collection over at eBay.co.uk called Juice Juice Baby.  Juice Juice Baby is a collection of everything you need to make juices, smoothies and shakes in one little shop.

      Not heard of eBay collections?

      Collections were launched on eBay at the start of this month and they are all about bringing you the best products. No more scrolling through page after page of mixed quality results. Think of one of the nicest pinterest boards and imagine you can click and buy the products on it at a good price, well that is what eBay Collections do.

      I've been working with eBay and put together 12 collections, all kitchen and household based, with a lovely little board especially for bloggers called Food Styling Props and a coupe for kids.

      Why not pop over to eBay and have a browse through a collection or two? If you particularly like any of my boards, you can easily follow them, then when I add shiny new products, you will be notified.

      My eBay Collections:
      Juice Juice Baby 
      -  Food Styling Props
      -  Pretty in Pink
      -  Great British Cake Off
      The Breakfast Bunch
      -  I'm Dotty About You
      -  Super Hero Kids (and Big Kids)
      -  Crafting with Kids
      -  Eating Al Fresco
      -  Queens of Hearts
      Pasta Please
      -  BBQ King (or Queen)
      Now the fun part is you can create your own collections.
      On another note, my friend Genna has just started a family blog.

      She is writing all about her 2 little boys and husband. She will be covering daily life, books, crafts and food.

      Please take a minute to visit her and welcome her to blogland. It's a wee bit lonely out there until you have had a visitor or two.

      Her blog is called Blethering Boys.

      23 March 2014

      New in my Kitchen #12


      This is where I like to share with you my new kitchen discoveries.

      I have quite a lot to share this month as I visited St Andrew's Fine Food Fayre with a few of my friends. including Stuart (cakeyboi) and we did go a bit spend crazy. The fayre is in it's third year and there were 50 exhibitors selling local, healthy and organic food. To be honest, it was a bit packed, but we had a fun day.
        
      I hope you enjoy my recommendations and do let me know if you have any new products you have discovered and enjoyed.


      This is glorious stuff. A pure rhubarb hit. This is a cordial made by Pickled in Scotland. I picked it up at the food fayre. I tried it straight and there is no way after trying it that way that I would dilute it. It is heavenly. 

      The lovely lady that makes this cordial also makes fruit cheeses. Unfortunately she doesn't have a website and you can only pick this up at food events in Scotland and some local suppliers. If you are interested in trying some you can get in touch with Danya via twitter.
      @pickled_in_scot

      St Andrews Fine Food Fayre
      RRP depends on the current offer
      Score 10/10 




      2. Holy Lama Spice Drops

      These spice drops are the latest thing in spices. They are the concentrated extracts of natural spices which keep the flavour of the whole spices and herbs, but can be added without adding texture.  

      The other great thing about them is they keep for 3 years after opening. I've been adding the garam masala drops to dal and burgers.  

      I like fresh spices, but what I will be doing is buying more of these little bottles of the spices I don't use so often, because these little bottles will keep longer than the spices, so it makes sense.  

      RRP £3 for the Garam Masala
      Score 9/10 




       3. Thistly Cross Cider

      This is lovely stuff. I picked it up at the fayre, but have since discovered one of my favourite pubs in Dundee has it on tap. Result!

      On draft they have the original, but if I was buying it by bottle, I would go for the Whisky Cask or Strawberry.

      The Whisky Cask is matured in ex-Glenglassaugh distillery casks and the flavour really comes through.

      The Strawberry is made from freshly crushed Scottish Strawberries that they grow themselves. It actually tastes like crushed strawberries. It's divine. Slurp!

      This is now my cider of choice. Check out the website to find out where you can buy it local to you.


      St Andrews Fine Food Fayre
      RRP 12 x 500ml strawberry cider £42.94
      RRP 12 x 500ml Whisky Cask £33.97
      Score 10/10



      4.  MaRoberts Pili Pili Sauce

      Another new Scottish product from my trip to the fayre. This time a hot pili plil sauce. MaRobert's was established by Maggie Mazoleka, who’s is originally from Tanzania, but has lived in Edinburgh for the last 19 years. She makes three authentic East African sauces (Fruity, Mild Chilli and Hot Chilli).

      I bought some of the mild sauce, which still has a kick to it. It would be great for dips or topping burgers, but I am thinking of marinating tofu in it.

      MaRoberts is sold in Markets in and near Edinburgh.


      St Andrews Fine Food Fayre
      RRP ?
      Score 8/10



       5. Cranachan Fudge

      The Wee Fudge Company certainly know their fudge. It was all delicious and it turned out that Stuart actually knew the owners. Scotland really is a small place.

      I was very restrained and only bought one bag. I went for the Cranachan. The flavours in it were very fresh and distinct. You could really taste the cream and the raspberries. They use fresh local fruit in their fudge and you could taste the difference.

      They make a range of flavours and are constantly adding new flavours. You can buy fudge directly from their website.


      St Andrews Fine Food Fayre
      RRP 100g bag £2.50
      Score 10/10






      6. Shaken Udder Milkshakes

      Cooper has been loving these milkshakes in his packed lunch.

      They are made with pure milk and fresh strawberries, fresh banana and Belgium chocolate, without any hidden nasties. I'm more than happy for him to drink these and he says they taste great.

      He also gives them full marks and a double thumb up.


      RRP 330ml bottle £1.29 (Tesco, Waitrose & Ocado) 
      Here are some voucher codes for Ocado.
      Cooper's Score 10/10



      7. Eden Brewery - Rum Barrel Beer

      We got rather tipsy sampling beer from the Eden Brewery. Especially as we were given a generous pouring of their Shipwreck IPA, which is rather strong and could know you off your feet.

      I preferred their Rum Barrel Beer, which is brewed in, yes you guessed it, rum barrels. You can really taste it in the beer. I don't drink beer very often, but I did enjoy this.

      Eden Brewery is a small brewery based in St Andrews that specialise in craft beers. They just have 7 staff, but produce 14 different beers that fall into 3 ranges: Craft range, Oak Wood Series and Aristeuein beers.


      RRP £2.50 
      Score 9/10





       8. Gusto Balsamic Vinegar

      I do love balsamic vinegar. I drizzle it over dishes, make my favourite dressing with it and team it with olive oil, then dunk crusty bread in it.

      Gusto hand make flavoured dressings, vinegars and oils using local Scottish ingredients. Their balsamic vinegars come from Modena in Italy and are then infused with flavour. 

      I bought the raspberry and roast garlic and they are both lip-smackingly good. Unfortunately my raspberry balsamic (made with fresh Scottish Raspberries) jumped from my cupboard, when I opened it one day and smashed across the kitchen before I had the chance to enjoy much of it.


      St Andrews Fine Food Fayre
      RRP depends on offer
      Score 10/10




      And a special shout out to Metcalfe's Skinny Topcorn for sending me out another box of their fabulous popcorn. I am still wild for the Sweet 'n Salt, so now I just have to persuade them to send me out a whole box of that!

      "Metcalfe’s skinny's Sweet ‘n Salt Topcorn is freshly popped butterfly popcorn with a sweet/salt flavour mix that’s incredibly more-ish. A healthy popcorn snack that's perfect for the indecisive! With only 115 calories per bag, it's a delicious and low calorie alternative to crisps."






      Thanks to Spice Drops, Shaken Udder and Metcalfes for sending me their products to try. 

      Have you tried any new products lately? Are there any you would like to recommend?


      Disclosure: I was not expected to write a positive review for any of the brands who sent me products to try and any opinions expressed are were my own. 

      19 March 2014

      Fridge Lentil Soup


      Doesn't it look gorgeous?

      Fridge lentil soup.

      Lentil soup makes a regular appearance on our table. I love the flavour and how warming and filling it is. So what is the difference in this fridge lentil soup? Well you probably guessed it was all about using up leftover vegetables from my salad drawer.

      My fridge lentil soup is made from celery, carrots and a red pepper that all needed using up and fast.

      Fridge Lentil Soup

      I spiced up my soup with cumin and ground coriander. It was thick, full of flavour and utterly lush. It lasted us 2 days, so it was a frugal meal and very healthy too.

      I pretty much always make soup to use up vegetables. What do you make with yours?

      Fridge Lentil Soup


      I'm entering my fridge lentil soup into this month's No Croutons Required. Lisa over at Lisa's Kitchen is hosting this month. The theme is now open every month, so any vegetarian soup or salad can be submitted. Hopefully she'll like mine.


      print recipe

      Fridge Lentil Soup
      A warming lentil soup, made to use up salad drawer stragglers. Healthy, nutritious and very, very tasty.
      Ingredients
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 onion, chopped
      • 2 stalks celery, sliced
      • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
      • 4 large carrots, chopped
      • 3 large carrots, grated
      • 1 red pepper, chopped
      • 400g red lentils
      • 2 tsp cumin
      • 1 tsp ground coriander
      • 2 litres/3 ½ pints vegetable stock, more if needed
      • a good grinding of salt and pepper
      Instructions
      1. Saute the onion, celery and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent.2. Add the chopped carrots and red pepper and cook gently for 5 minutes.3. Add the grated carrots, lentils and spices. Stir well, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, pop a lid on the pot and cook for 30 minutes until the vegetables are all tender and the lentils are soft.4. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and add more spice if you like.5 Serve with crusty bread.6. Enjoy!
      Details
      Total time:
      Yield: Serves 6 - 8



      I costed this recipe with supermarket ingredients. It costs £2.08 for the pot of soup, only 35p per servings (6 servings). Look out for special offers or buy in bulk to make this even cheaper per serving.

      1 tbsp olive oil = 5p
      1 onion = 10p
      2 cloves garlic = 6p
      4 carrots = 24p
      2 red peppers = 30p
      400g red lentils (21.4p per 100g) = 86p
      2 tsp cumin = 24p
      1 tsp coriander = 14p
      3 stock cubes (value 3p each) = 9p


      Total = £2.08

      17 March 2014

      Cheesey Vegetable Puff Pie


      Cheesey Vegetable Puff Pie. Mmmmmmmm!

      Le Creuset asked me to make a pie for them for National Pie Week to promote their new deep oval pie dishes. Unfortunately events were against me. 

      The first pie I made didn't go well at all. I made a deep chocolate pie. Unfortunately I used ready rolled shortcrust pastry and it just wasn't big enough to cover the dish and shrank on blind baking too. The chocolate filling was divine, but it didn't look bonnie at all, so I scrapped the idea of posting it. Graham didn't mind at all. He thought it was amazing and scoffed most of it over 2 days. Yes, it was indeed a vegan chocolate pie. I'll make it again sometime, but make my own pastry or buy a block next time.

      Then the winter was against me. If you are a food blogger you know what I mean. You need daylight for a good photo and it's just too dark in the evening by the time I get home from work. So I waited for my day off and we all got ill. We're still ill, but I managed to make my cheesey vegetable puff pie yesterday and get photos. At last. Pie week is long gone, but it was worth the wait, I hope you'll agree.



      Potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, peas and sweetcorn in the richest cheese sauce, all topped off with golden puffy pastry. You really can't beat it. True curl your toes comfort food.

      The new deep oval pie dish was the perfect size for a family pie and would feed 4-6 depending on what you are serving it with and how hungry your guests are.

      Cooper and I only managed to eat a third of it. Mind you we didn't have anything with it. I was too gubbed after making two sauces and two pies (I made a vegan pie for Graham with my vegan cheese sauce).

      I loved my wee pie birdie and I don't know if you can see from the photos, but I topped my Cheesey Vegetable Puff Pie with three little people (one for Graham, Cooper and I) and a little heart.



      As I said,  I made two cheese sauces. You can find my full cheese sauce in my Messicani with Spinach Cheese Sauce  recipe (feel free to add spinach too) and my vegan cheese sauce over at Great British Chefs. I will let you pick up the recipes from there. Otherwise my recipe for this pie will be more like a novel! I now add 2 heaped tsp of onion powder to my vegan cheese sauce but you can taste it as you go an make your own decision.


      print recipe

      Cheesey Vegetable Puff Pie
      A gloriously golden puff pie filled with a selection of vegetables in a rich cheese sauce.
      Ingredients
      • 1 portion cheese sauce or vegan cheese sauce
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 300g potatoes,, cut into chunks
      • 200g carrots, sliced fairly thickly
      • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
      • 150g frozen peas
      • a small tin sweetcorn
      • 500g block puff pastry (Jus Rol is suitable for vegans)
      • a little milk or unsweetend soya milk
      • a good grinding salt and pepper
      Instructions
      1. Make your cheese sauce and set aside.2. Preheat the oven to 200c fan/220c/425f/gas mark 7.3. Steam or parboil the potatoes and carrots until just about tender.4. Saute the mushrooms in olive oil. Give them a good seasoning of black pepper as they cook.5. Lightly flour your worktop and rolling pin and roll out your pastry until it is a bit bigger than your pie dish. Turn your pie dish face down and cut around it, so you will have the correct size lid. Keep the scraps, you'll need them.6. Wet the edge of the pie dish and use the scraps to line the edge of the pie dish all the way round. Making a type of collar.7. Mix all your vegetables into the cheese sauce and pour into your pie dish. Add a pie bird if you are using one, if not slice the top of the pie to let the steam out, before your put it into the oven.8. Place your pastry lid over the pie dish carefully, making sure it fits to the edge all the way round. Use a fork to seal the edges onto the pastry collar.9. Decorate the top of the pie with leftover pastry (stick down with a little water) and brush the pie top with milk or soya milk and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pie is puffy and golden.10. Enjoy!
      Details
      Total time:
      Yield: Serves 4-6



      Disclosure: I made this recipe for Le Creuset, who kindly sent me a baking set including my pie dish, so I could create my recipe and covered the cost of my ingredients. I was not required to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own. 

      16 March 2014

      Better Late Than Never - Bookmarked Recipes #32



      Yes, I'm very, very late posting this roundup and announcing the next challenge open. A combination of a very sick household and general exhaustion have taken their toll. I am extending this next challenge until the end of April (linky at the bottom of this post). I do hope you will join in and share any bookmarked recipes you've made.


      So here we go!

      Bookmarked Recipes: a monthly event to encourage food bloggers to revisit the recipes they've bookmarked from magazines, newspapers, cookbooks. websites and blogs, to try them out and post about them.
      Bookmarked Recipes #32 


      Recipe #1


       

      Chef: Janet
      Blog: The Taste Space 


      Recipe bookmarked from: Florida Coastal Cooking




      Recipe #2


       
      Chef: Janet
      Blog: The Taste Space 


      Recipe bookmarked from: Keepin it Kind and The Simple Veganista






      Recipe #4


       
      Chef: Christian
      Blog: Cooking Around the World 


      Recipe bookmarked from: Chef Maximka






      Recipe #5


       
      Chef: Janet
      Blog: The Taste Space 


      Recipe bookmarked from: Julia's Vegan Kitchen



      Recipe #6


       
      Chef: Jen
      Blog: Blue Kitchen Bakes 


      Recipe bookmarked from: Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
      Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
      Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
      Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood
      Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood






      Recipe #7


       
      Chef: Charlene
      Blog: Food Glorious Food 


      Recipe bookmarked from: Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy



      Recipe #8


       
      Chef: Tina
      Blog: The Worktop 


      Recipe bookmarked from: The Cupcake Project



      Recipe #9


       
      Chef:Choclette
      Blog: Chocolate Log Blog 


      Recipe bookmarked from: The Great British Bake Off






      March/April's Bookmarked Recipes is now open for business.
      If you would to add a post, just go to the linky at the bottom of this post.



      • Please remember that bookmarked recipes must be suitable for vegetarians.
      • Please link to this post and state where you bookmarked your recipe from. 
      • Up to three entries per blog. 
      • You can find the guidelines, current challenge and past roundups here
      • Bookmarked Recipes March/April will be open until Saturday 26 April 2014. 
       




      For all the latest foodie challenges and giveaways, head over to The Food Blog Diary. The diary is updated throughout the month, so do be sure to check regularly.