One of my jobs as a food writer and stylist is being commissioned by magazine clients to write, style and shoot food features for them. Often people ask me what is actually involved in this process, so I thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes and blog a typical food shoot. Once the client has decided on what feature they want I will write the recipes, style the food and style the props whilst Ian, my husband, will photograph the feature once everything is in place.
Day one…… Food & Travel magazine ( http://www.foodandtravel.com ) has asked us to illustrate an alfresco evening dinner for 6 people.
The menu is a 4 course meal with an appetizer, a starter, main course with accompaniments and a dessert. Once developed I then test them in my kitchen to make sure they work and of course taste great.
Monthly brocante in Angouleme
The fabulous thing about France is all the local brocantes (fleamarkets) and local antique shops where I can source absolutely everything I could ever need for any type of shoot. I need to look out for some more plates, napkins and cutlery to add to my ever growing stock of props, but most of all I want to find some old matching chairs for the shoot. With this in mind I decide to try a monthly Sunday brocante in Angouleme as well as a couple of nearby shops.
So plates, cutlery and napkins are sorted, so I head off to an antique shop locally to see if I can grab those chairs and perhaps a candelabra or chandelier.
Having got everything I was looking for, its back to give the chairs a makeover, clean up the chandelier and pick out which plates, napkins and cutlery will work for the shoot. Then that’s all for day one.
Day two – As it is shoot day I’m up bright and early to start prepping the food and setting out the props ready for the evening shoot. Because it’s light until 10pm in the summer I have the whole day to cook and set the scene which is great.
Ian and I have decided to shoot this feature next door at our neighbours as they have a pretty courtyard setting with a rose garden, lovely for the background of the shot. By late evening I am adding all the last minute finishing touches to the table, hanging the chandelier and lighting the candles. Then Ian’s ready to set up and shoot the opener.
Ian’s shot is perfect, we are both really happy with the scene setter. As the light is fading we will end on this beautiful note and return tomorrow evening so we can photograph the recipes in the same dusky light, to perfectly match the opener – one of the great advantages Ian and I have, working here in France.
Day three…… Returning to our location, it takes a little time to recreate our opener and then we are ready to shoot the 5 recipes. Once the food is plated, Ian and I check all the little details to make sure everything is in place and finally Ian can shoot the finished dishes. Here are 3 from the feature.
Seared scallops and chorizo with a tomato and vanilla dressing
150g dried haricot beans, soaked overnight in cold water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small leek, trimmed and finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
grated zest and juice 1/2 lemon
50ml dry white wine
100ml single cream
150g chorizo, thinly sliced
18 large scallops
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 vanilla pod, split
1 small shallot, very finely chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
Drain the soaked beans and place in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 1 hour until the beans are al dente. Drain well, refresh under cold water and set aside.
Make the dressing. Place all the ingredients except the basil in a bowl and stir well. Add a little salt and pepper to taste and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Stir in the basil.
Heat the oil and gently fry the leek, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and salt and pepper for 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Stir in the beans and add the wine. Simmer and reduce for 2 minutes until reduced slightly, then stir in the cream. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add a little lemon juice to taste. Keep warm.
Heat a heavy based frying pan fry the chorizo over a medium heat for 1 minute until golden and cooked through. Reserve and set aside. Add the scallops to the pan and sear for 1 minute each side.
Divide the haricot mixture, scallops and chorizo between each serving plate and spoon over the dressing. Garnish with basil leaves and serve at once.
Seared beef fillet with celeriac, apple and walnut salad
1kg beef fillet
150g peeled celeriac
1 large apple
50g toasted walnut
a handful fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp drained baby capers
1 egg yolk
10 anchovies in oil, drained and chopped
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
50ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5. Rub the beef with a little oil and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy ovenproof frying pan and sear the beef on all sides over a high heat for 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Make the dressing. Place the egg yolk, anchovies, vinegar, mustard and a little pepper in a food processor blend until completely smooth. Gradually whisk in the oil, then the cream keeping the motor running until the sauce is thickened.
Thinly pare the celeriac and cut into sticks. Cut the apples into the same size sticks and place in a bowl with the walnuts, parsley and capers.
Thinly slice the beef and place on a large platter. Arrange a little of the salad over the beef and serve drizzled with the anchovy dressing. Pass the remaining salad around the table.
Meringues with grilled peaches and Pedro Ximenez sauce
A sweet Spanish white wine, Pedro Ximenez has a lovely caramel raisin flavour and is a perfect addition to a toffee sauce.
3 egg whites
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp white vinegar
50g unsalted butter
50g agave syrup* or soft brown sugar
6 small peaches, halved and stoned
100ml Pedro Ximenez
150ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 140c/275f/Gas mark 1 and draw 6 x 10 cm circles onto baking paper and place on a large baking tray. Whisk the egg whites in an electric food mixer until stiff and then gradually whisk in the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is thick. Continue to whisk for several minutes until the mixture is glossy, then whisk in the vanilla paste and vinegar.
Carefully spoon the meringue onto the 6 circles forming neat rounds and pressing a small dip in the middle of each one. Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour until meringues are set. Transfer to a wire and leave the meringues to go cold. Increase the oven temperature to 190c/375f/gas mark 5.
Heat the butter and agave syrup together in a heavy frying pan and when bubbling, add the peach halves, cut side down and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and transfer to a foil–lined baking tin and roast for 15 minutes. Leave to cool.
Return the butter mixture to the boil, stir in the Pedro Ximenez and simmer for 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Leave to cool.
To serve the meringues, warm the caramel sauce stirring until amalgamated. Place 2 peach halves onto each meringue and drizzle over the cream and the caramel sauce. Serve at once.
* Agave syrup is available from health food stores
For the remaining recipes and images please go to http://www.foodandtravel.com
© All recipes Food & Travel magazine, first published in August 2015