Photo by Stuart Ovenden
I had a big birthday recently. Ok, so it was two years ago recently. Knowing full well my passion for food, my dissatisfaction with my job and my hive inducing reaction to big changes in my life, my dear friends N and J sent me on a food styling course at Leith’s Food and Wine in west London in the hopes that I might find a truer calling and stop the whining I was subjecting them to.
It was an amazing experience run by the lovely Sarah Cook, Deputy Food Editor of BBC Good Food magazine. One of our first tasks was to try and recreate the “money shot” on a ready meal using a pack of M&S lasagne. Well that was an eye opener. In the UK, one cannot use more food in the photo than is in the ready meal itself. So in order to make the lasagne look fuller as in the pack photo, the pasta was separated from the ragout and the sauce as best as we could manage. Then paper towels were scrunched up and strategically centred on the pasta whilst filling in the edges with what now looked to be a terribly generous portion of ragout. Apparently, we could have used cardboard to level the floppy pasta sheets. We also got to make and style a Greek salad and a fruit trifle, using our own props, both of which were challenging! The course culminated with a professional photo shoot using food we had made. Sarah brought in some amazing props which she has been collecting, magpie like over the course of her career and we got to work with the uber talented Stuart Ovenden Food/Lifestyle Photographer & Deputy Art Editor, Good Food Magazine at BBC Worldwide.
I realised fairly early on in the course that placing bits of parsley with a set of tweezers was not for me – I like a more natural finish which is not to say that I don’t appreciate a beautifully styled shot – I just don’t have the patience for it and can drive myself to distraction agonising over which berry should be at the front of the shot. So when it came time to decide what to make for the shoot I remembered a Delia Smith bread recipe that I had earmarked from a long time ago and thought I would give it a try. I mean, why make something I had tried before right? Luckily I had had some sort of foresight to buy extra chèvre because of course the first loaf, delicious as it was, looked a complete and hideous mess. The second one turned out beautifully but as I was now running late, I had to pack it (and its ugly older sister), still warm, loosely wrapped in its parchment paper into a basket along with some props which I thought we could use and schlep across London on Sunday public transport to the school. The Tube has never smelt so delicious as I sat there pretending that it had nothing to do with me!
I fretted all the way there worrying that I had done something too basic – it wasn’t even a yeasted bread…and when I got to the shoot, my worst fears were confirmed. One person had prepared a trio of beautiful tarts complete with chocolate decorations. Another had made a meze of three or four Lebanese dishes – from scratch. Someone else had caramelised a pear and made a ginger pudding with chocolate sauce…a fourth was doing some fantastic wizardry with a sugar candy machine to make candy floss “ice cream” cones.
I sheepishly laid out my props on one of the tables and pulled out the loaf , smoothing out the parchment paper to let it finish off cooling. Sarah came over and said how wonderful it smelled and looked, Stuart came over, smiled and asked if he could have a piece of the ugly sister to eat and went back to shooting and before I knew it, most of the ugly sister had been eaten by people coming over to take a look. Still feeling a little sheepish when it was my turn I hesitantly took it over to the table where Stuart was working. He practically snatched it out of my hands and told me that he wanted to shoot it as it was, on the parchment it had been baked in and transported on and that props really would not be necessary as it was such a beautiful thing on its own. I was speechless. Can I tell you that I’m ridiculously proud that he included it on his gorgeous blog appledrane, here some time later?
Below are some of the images that were shot on the day. Aren’t they gorgeous?
Looks aside, this is a really delicious bread, which smells wonderful. It is quick as no yeast is involved and goes well with a soup or with cold cuts. Yet another good candidate for a picnic.
GOAT'S CHEESE, ONION AND POTATO BREAD WITH THYME
Adapted from Delia Smith
Makes one delicious loaf which will serve 4-6 people
- 180g log of firm goats cheese (chèvre)
- 4 spring onions finely sliced
- 1 spring onion coarsely sliced for the top
- 175g (approx) red potato which is about a medium one
- 1 generous Tbsp of chopped thyme leaves as well as a couple of sprigs for the top
- 175g self raising flour plus a little more to sprinkle on the top
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp (30ml) milk
- 1 heaped tsp of grain mustard
- Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper on a sturdy baking tray and butter a 6 inch loaf shaped area onto it.
- With a sharp knife, remove the rind as best as you can from the chèvre. Don’t worry if there are a few bits left on here and there. Then slice it into half inch cubes. Set aside about a 1/3 for the top.
- Sift the flour, salt and cayenne pepper into a bowl. I have found that I can get the same effect by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and using a balloon whisk to mix and aerate it.
- Peel the potato and coarsely grate it into the flour mixture. Tip in the finely sliced spring onions and 2/3’s of the cheese and mix it all together with a palette knife.
- Gently whisk the egg with the milk and mustard, then pour the mixture onto the dry ingredients. Using the palette knife, Bring it all together to a form a loose, rough dough.
- Tumble it onto the buttered parchment paper on the baking sheet and gently form it into a 6 inch (15 cm) rough loaf. Lightly press the rest of the cheese over the surface as well as the coarser chopped spring onion. Dust with a little flour and scatter over the small sprigs of thyme.
- Bake the bread on the middle shelf of the oven for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove it to a cooling rack and serve it still slightly warm if possible.
Makes one delicious loaf which will serve 4-6 people