JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, July 30, 2010

Eliza Acton's redcurrant jelly

The quickest and best way to make redcurrant jelly, so that the flavour of the fruit shines through. Can't believe I've never posted this before, but I couldn't find it when a friend asked for the recipe. It comes via Jane Grigson, from her Fruit Book, so I'm quoting her direct:

Run a thin layer of water over the base of the preserving pan, then put an equal weight of red currants - no need to remove the stalks - and sugar. Stir and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and boil hard for 8 minutes. Tip out onto a sieve set over a bowl, or into a jelly bag, and pour the resulting liquid into small pots.

I always use a fine plastic sieve.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Food photography at the Irish Embassy with Alastair Hendy

Lovely party in the beautiful ballroom at the Irish Embassy in London, a house which used to belong to the Guinness family ...

A group of bloggers was given a masterclass in food styling and photography by Alastair Hendy - author, chef, photographer, stylist (he doesn't seem to have a website so sadly I can't give you a link to his wonderful photographs).

Here's Alastair's "holy trinity" of things to think about: the look (ie the styling), the light (which will make or break any photo), and the lens (seduction by depth of field and point of focus). Suddenly I'm looking at Alastair's images in a different way.

After Alastair's talk, we were given a chance to take pictures. Alastair provided the props, and the food was provided by BordBia, the Irish food board. Lovely produce, in four groups - seafood, cheeses, puds, booze.

Alistair takes all his pictures in natural light, avoiding bright sunlight, and never using flash. So you'll see bloggers working by the window, and using reflectors - not expensive camera shop reflectors, but ones made of cardboard and cooking foil.

This picture was taken at some distance from the window, with a foil reflector to one side (similar to what's going on in the one above). Even before we get on to the question of artistic merit, it's no good - I didn't spot the creases in the tablecloth. It's an illustration of what, for me, was the main photographic lesson of the evening: the camera sees things differently to the way we see them, so images need to be planned, not casually snapped.

The photograph below of black pudding appetizers with samphire sums up, for me, everything that is good about Irish food: wonderful livestock, great seafood, abundant oats. Mixed farming, in other words - something we have largely forgotten about on this side of the Irish Sea.

Shocking to hear from the Ambassador how far adrift UK food production has got from reality: Eire is 666% self-sufficient in beef production, whereas the United Kingdom is a net importer of beef. It's not just Ireland that has the longest grass-growing season in the northern hemisphere - but here, in the United Kingdom, we've sidelined grass production, and that hasn't done us any good, either as individuals, or as an increasingly broke nation.

Amongst the other bloggers there were:

CookSister, Eat Like a Girl, Feast with Bron, Extra Relish, The London Foodie, Kavey Eats, 5amFoodie

PS most surprising photography tip of the evening: travelling food photographers should always take a damp cloth in a bag ... and within moments of starting work on our own pictures, what did we all need? yup, that's right