A Scandinavian dinner

A dinner inspired by spring, the weather, Scandinavian design, great quality ingredients and sharing ideas and recipes with great friend, food writer Mary Cadogan.

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This spring is cold and wet and reminds me very much of the year we arrived in France from Sydney in 2013. We landed in May expecting balmy days and cool but pleasant evenings, but instead it was cold, wet and very grey. Not quite what we had expected but then not much one can do about the weather but get on and do what you love doing best – cooking, eating and sharing meals with friends.

For me inspiration comes from many different things. Travel, shared stories, design, colour, books and loads more. This menu came to Mary and I over a cup of tea (and one of Mary’s delicious ginger cakes) in her kitchen back in early 2014. We decided to collaborate on a Scandinavian inspired dinner and so together we set about creating a meal full of exciting flavours, colours and textures that we felt were all synonymous with the Scandinavian culture.

We start with an apero. Mary’s delicious red currant vodka served with my take on cured herrings. Steep red currants and sugar in a good quality vodka for 2 weeks, turn the bottle and gently shake every few days to help disperse the flavours. The resulting liqueur is vibrant red, slightly sweet and reassuringly warming.

Making the most of the terrific mini blinis so readily available in the supermarket I topped them with smoked herring, creme fraiche, shredded apple and poached quail’s eggs. I like the smoky richness of the fish and the eggs balanced with the freshness of the crisp apple.

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The first course is one of my favourite ways of serving a young goat cheese like the Chabichou from the region. Lightly whipped with a little buttermilk and a good fruity extra virgin olive oil. I then serve it with homemade crisp breads flavoured with dill seeds or anise. The flavours combine well and the starter is light. I love the contrasting colours here too with nigella seeds and a touch of summer with nasturtium petals and a few salad leaves. It tastes as fresh as it looks.

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For the main course we opted for a meat and a fish dish, either as a sharing course, or for those who have a preference for one or the other. Mary’s marinated salmon (barbecued on a cedar plank giving the fish a lovely deep smoky flavour) is served with pickled vegetables to offset the richness of the fish – it is a fabulous example of a well balanced dish.

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Cooking on cedar planks is is actually an ancient way of cooking something that needs to be protected from the fierceness of the flames or heat, as in indirect grilling. The Finnish have loimulohi (blazing salmon) where the fish is nailed to a plank and cooked over coals and the North West coast American Indians used red cedar planks to cook pacific salmon on. Today you can buy varying sizes of cedar planks online or make your own. The wood is pre-soaked in water to prevent it from catching fire. It is fun and does add a light smokiness to the fish.

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Spring heralds the arrival of young lambs born over winter and fed on the tender sweet grass shoots that give the meats it’s lovely flavour. Lamb works well with fruit and although fresh red currants are out of season, they are a fruit that freezes exceptionally well, even still on the stalk (as a stylist every summer I buy excess berries to keep in the freezer for any out of season photo shoots, pictured here). Here though the flavour in the dish comes from redcurrant jelly echoing the Scandinavian love of paring meat with  fruit. A side of mesclun and radish salad and baby new potatoes in a dill dressing round of the dish perfectly.instagram-in-stream_tall___wheatberry-salad-copy.jpg

Wheat berries are packed with fibre, protein and iron, so not only do they add a distinctive nutty flavour and texture to a dish, they are very healthy too. I love the pickled onion and dried cranberries here. The salad is sweet, tart and nutty all at once.

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Queen of baking and desserts, Mary triumphed with two sensational desserts to round off a very wonderful meal. Swedish pancakes are smaller than their European and American counterparts. They are particularly light too and not dissimilar to the French crepe. The ice cream is incredibly simple (Lingonberry jam is available online or from Ikea and some specialist food shops).

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The Norwegians call this cake The World’s Best Cake and they may well be right. A layer of sponge, covered in meringue with toasted almonds, filled with cream and berries – sounds pretty amazing and it is! And just when you thought that sounded good, it even has a tablespoon of vodka in the filling.

This is quite an involved meal so if it seems a daunting task pick and choose the dishes that inspire you the most. There should be something for everyone here. I hope we did Scandinavia proud, I know not everything is authentic but we made avery effort to be as true as we could to the cuisine of the Nordic countries whilst use those ingredients that we could find locally.

THE RECIPES

Smoked herring blinis

Makes: 12

100 g smoked herring

12 quails eggs

1 apple

1 tsp white wine vinegar

12 mini blinis

2 tbsp crème fraiche

a little watercress

extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Make the topping. Cut the herring into small bite size pieces and reserve. Very gently crack the quails eggs into small dishes. Poach the eggs in gently simmering water for about 1 minute until soft set. Remove with a slotted spoon and cool in cold water. Transfer to kitchen towel to dry and set aside.

Just before serving very finely julienne the apple and toss with the vinegar. Spread each blini with a little crème fraiche and top each one with a slice of herring, a poached egg and garnish each with the apple and watercress . Season with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with a little oil.

To make red current vodka

Layer 250g red currents and 175g caster sugar in a bottle and pour in 1 litre of vodka. Screw tight and leave to infuse for 2 weeks, gently turning and shaking the bottle from time to time.

Dill crisp breads with goat cheese

Serves: 6

150 g soft goat cheese

3 tbsp buttermilk

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

a handful of nasturtium flowers (optional)

a sprinkling of nigella seeds

a few salad leaves

crisp breads

150 g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp dill seeds or anise seeds

50 ml cold water

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Make the crisp breads. Preheat the oven to 200c/fan-forced 180c and lightly oil 2 large baking trays. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a food processor and stir in the dill seeds. Add the water and oil and process until the ingredients just come together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough into a ball.

Wrap in cling wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a large thin rectangle about 2 mm thick. Cut into long thin triangles. Transfer to the prepared trays and bake for about 15 minutes until crisp and lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Combine the cheese, buttermilk, oil and salt and pepper in a bowl until smooth. Spread on a plate and scatter over the nasturtium flowers, salad leaves and the nigella seeds. Drizzle with a little oil and serve with the crisp breads.

Plank barbecued salmon

Serves 6

You will need a thin cedar plank 30cm x 20cm for this recipe, these are available from specialist cookware stores or online.

800g salmon fillet, skin on

2 tbsp sea salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp white peppercorns

1 tsp fennel seeds

large bunch dill

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

sauce

2 tsp each dijon and wholegrain mustard

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp sugar

100g crème fraiche

2 tbsp roughly chopped dill

Line a dish with cling film, large enough to take the salmon. Mix the salt and sugar. Crush the peppercorns and fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar or spice mill and stir into the sugar mix. Finely chop the dill stalks and reserve the fronds for later.

Sprinkle half the salt

mixture over the cling film, then scatter over half the dill stalks. Put the salmon on top and sprinkle with the remaining salt and dill stalks. Cover the fish tightly with cling film and put in the fridge overnight.

The next day, soak the cedar plank in water for 2 hours. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Combine the mustards, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl with a little salt. Stir in the crème fraiche and dill. Chill until required.

Unwrap the salmon and brush off most of the marinade, pat it dry with kitchen paper. Brush the salmon lightly with oil on all sides and place on the prepared planks, skin side down. Cook the salmon for 12-15 mins over hot coals or on a heated griddle pan, covered with a tent of foil, or the barbecue lid. Serve on the board scattered with dill sprigs with a bowl of sauce on the side.

Swedish pickled vegetables

Serves: 6

600ml water

500g sugar

400ml white wine or cider vinegar

1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tsp white peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 tsp allspice berries

2 cinnamon sticks

250g baby carrots or carrot sticks

250g baby beetroots

1 head fennel

half a cucumber

Put the peppercorns, bay leaf, allspice and cinnamon stick into a large pan and dry roast the spices until they give off their perfume. Add the water, sugar, vinegar and onion and bring to the boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Peel and trim the carrots and trim the beets. Cut the fennel into wedges. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and have ready a large bowl of iced water. Cook the vegetables one type at a time, the beets for 15-20 minutes, the carrots and fennel for 5 minutes. As they are cooked scoop from the water and cool quickly in the iced water. Cut the cucumber into sticks and keep these raw.

When the vegetables are cool transfer to four jars and cover with the pickling liquid. Leave to marinade for 24 hours and eat within 3 days. To serve, drain off the pickling liquid and serve with the mustard cream (recipe above).

Roast glazed lamb with herb flowers and red currants

Serves: 6

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary with flowers

2 tbsp dried oregano flowers (or fresh from the garden)* available from specialist stores or online

1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed

4 whole all spice berries, crushed

1.75 kg boneless leg of lamb, butterflied

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp red current jelly

mesclun, radish and hazelnut salad

3 handful mesclun leaves

6-8 radishes, very thinly sliced

50 g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

a few red currants, optional

3 tbsp hazelnut oil

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp whole grain mustard

1 tsp clear honey

salt and pepper

Combine the rosemary, oregano flowers, crushed fennel and crushed allspice in a bowl and add some pepper. Place the lamb on a board and using a sharp knife score the flesh in a diagonal pattern all over. Brush with oil and rub the herb and spice mixture into the lamb, cover and leave to infuse overnight.

Preheat the oven to 230c/210c fan-forced. Arrange the lamb on a rack set over a roasting tin with 150ml cold water in the bottom of the pan. Combine the red currant glaze with a little salt and brush all over the top of the lamb. Transfer to the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 190c/170c fan-forced and roast for 30 minutes until browned. Remove the lamb to a platter and wrap loosely in foil. Transfer the pan juices to a small saucepan, reducing slightly, if necessary and keep warm.

Just before serving, arrange the salad leaves in a bowl and scatter over the radishes, hazelnuts and a few red currants, if using. Blend together the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad leaves and toss lightly. Slice lamb and drizzle over the pan juices. Serve with the salad.

Potato salad with dill salsa

Serves: 6

1 kg baby new potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 bunch fresh dill

1/2 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley

150 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1/2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp dijon mustard

2 tsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Scrub the potatoes and place in a large saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-12 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, place all the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blend and blend to form a smooth green sauce.

Strain the potatoes and return to the pan, add the pesto and stir well until coated. Serve with the lamb.

Wheat berry salad

Serve 6

300g wheat berries

1 red onion

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

4 tbsp rapeseed oil

100g dried cranberries

50g pistachios, roughly chopped

bunch mint

bunch chives

handful baby spinach leaves

Cook the wheat in plenty of boiling salted water for 25-30 minutes or follow pack timings, then drain well and leave to cool. Peel and thinly slice the onion and mix with the vinegar.

Add the cranberries and pistachios to the wheat berries and mix well. Pick the leaves from the mint and snip the chives, then stir in thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to the onion, then mix in the oil. Tip onto the wheat berries, add the spinach leaves and toss everything together until the berries are glistening.

Lingonberry and cardamom ice cream with Swedish pancakes

Serves: 8

Ice cream

4 cardamom pods

400 ml double cream

400 g jar lingonberry preserve

Pancakes

3 large eggs

350 ml milk

150 g plain flour

50 g butter, melted

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

butter, for cooking the pancakes

icing sugar for dusting and clear honey for drizzling

raspberries to serve

Make the ice cream. Put a plastic food container into the freezer. Split the cardamom pods, remove the seeds and crush them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Whip the cream to firm peaks.

Tip the lingonberry preserve into a bowl and fold in the cardamom cream. Transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Make the pancakes. Mix the eggs with about ¼ of the milk in a food processor. Add the flour and process again until smooth. Add the remaining milk and all the ingredients and process briefly to mix. Pour into a jug.

Heat a knob of butter in a small pancake pan. Add a tablespoon of batter and cook until the edges turn brown, then flip and cook again briefly.

Keep warm while you make the remaining pancakes. Serve warm with lingonberry ice cream, a drizzle of honey and a light dusting of icing sugar.

Norwegian cloud cake

Serves 8

100 g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

100 g caster sugar

100 g softened butter

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp milk

meringue

4 egg whites

100 g caster sugar

100 g icing sugar

2 tbsp flaked almonds

filling

500 g summer berries

1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

1 tbsp vodka, optional

300 ml double cream

1 sachet vanilla sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and draw a rectangle on each, 10cm x 22cm. Turn paper over and fix to the baking sheets with a little butter on the corners.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the remaining cake ingredients and beat for 2-3 mins until light and fluffy. Spread half the mixture evenly over each rectangle.

To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Continue whisking while adding the sugars to make a stiff heavy meringue. Spread half the meringue over each cake mixture, spreading it over the edges to enclose it. Smooth one meringue flat and form swirls and peaks with the other. Sprinkle the almonds over the peaks.

Bake the cakes for 30 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp. Leave to cool on the baking sheets.

Tip the berries into a bowl, halving any that are large and sprinkle with sugar and vodka if using. Stir well, then leave to macerate until the juices flow, about 1 hour.

To assemble the cake whip the cream with the vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)  to stiff peaks. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain in the berries, reserving the juices. Invert one flat meringue cake onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and put the cake on a platter, meringue side down. Spread with the cream and then cover with berries. Invert the other cake, peel off the paper and put on top of filling, meringue side up. Dust with icing sugar and serve cut into thick slices.

 

 

A good time was had by all

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As followers of my blog know, I ran my first ever pop up dinner on Saturday night, at the beautiful workshop venue Les Soeurs Anglaises in the Dordogne. Armed with fresh herbs, fiery chillies and a vat of fish sauce (note to self – make sure you have the lid on tight before transporting in the car!) and aided by the brilliant Sue Holland in the kitchen; her husband Ian, front of house and my Ian, head waiter (and photographer extraordinaire) we got through the evening with no mishaps or food disasters.

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Guests arrived promptly at 7pm and were seated in good time by 7.30pm. The amuse bouche – an explosion of Thai flavours – Betel leaves, home smoked trout, garlic, chilli paste, nam jim, herbs and salmon roe was followed by a Thai green curry soup, with a choice of either prawn, chicken or vegetarian. The main course for meat eaters was one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes, Caramel pork belly and was served with steamed jasmine rice and a tangy Green papaya salad that balanced the sweet richness of the pork. Vegetarians didn’t miss out on big flavours as they enjoyed Puffed tofu with chilli tamarind sauce, the rice and papaya salad.

From the convivial hum emanating from the dining room it seemed everyone was happy and the clean plates arriving back to the kitchen confirmed this. With the meal two thirds complete, Sue and I were able to catch our breath before adding the finishing touches to the dessert – Roasted tamarind pineapple with coconut sorbet and coconut caramel brittle.

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The evening drew to a close with the coffee or jasmine tea and diners left satisfied and full. The pop team had survived the night and we are all looking forward to hosting our next pop up – sometime in late April or early May.

I would like to thank my co-workers and of course Katie and Mike, owners of Les Soeurs Anglaises, for not only allowing us to use their venue but for gathering friends and family and spreading the word.

 

 

Exciting news…….my first pop up dinner

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I am so excited to be co-hosting my first ever pop up dinner at the beautiful Les Soeurs Anglaises in The Dordogne, SW France. I am also thrilled to be joined by fellow chef, artist, blogger and dear friend Sue Holland. Sue and her husband Ian, originally from Australia, co-owned and ran the wonderful seafood restaurant Customs House, in Baltimore, Co.Cork. Ireland. for 10 years before moving to France. Sue cooked whilst Ian was front of house and together they held the coveted Bib Gourmand in The Michelin Guide, from 2000 to 2006 as well as Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2004, Georgina Campbell’s Guide. In France they ran ” La Vielle Poste” Restaurant, Champagnolles, Charente Maritime from 2009 – 2011. Sue now spends her time cooking for various events, travel and posting on her great blog. https://customshouse.wordpress.com/

I am so looking forward to this new experience and with Sue alongside me I am super confident that the evening will be a huge success. Of course much of the ambience of the evening will be down to our beautiful location.

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Katie Armitage and her Husband Mike will welcome you to their stunning home and event venue, where they hold workshops throughout the summer months in the beautiful converted barn.

Tickets are limited and it is a first come first served event. so anyone in the area of SW France on 10th march, get in touch. I am going to be holding more of these dinners, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Recipe of the week……….pork

Pork with spring greens

A lovely combination of tender pork fillet and mixed spring greens in a light buttery stock. Delicious with or without crème fraiche.

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Serves: 4

4 large slices Parma ham

2 x 350g pork tenderloin fillet

50g butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 leek, sliced

250g cabbage hearts

100g broccoli florets

250ml chicken stock

150g frozen peas

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as mint, chives and parsley

salt and pepper

crème fraiche, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. Lay the Parma ham slices flat on a board. Cut each pork tenderloin in half crossways to give 4 x 175g pieces. Season lightly with salt and pepper and wrap each one with the ham, securing in place with cocktail sticks.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and once hot, sear the pork fillets for 3-4 minutes until evenly browned. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest, covered for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt half the butter and gently fry the shallots, garlic, thyme and a little salt and pepper over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the leeks, cabbage and broccoli and stir well then add the stock. Simmer gently, covered for 5 minutes. Add the peas and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Stir in the remaining butter and any pork juices, cover and let sit for 1 minute. Serve the pork with the vegetables and pan juices, with a little crème fraiche, if wished.

 

 

Upcoming food styling & photography workshop

“Come and join us in the beautiful French countryside for 6 days of cooking, styling, photography, eating, drinking and making friends. If it sounds perfect, well that’s because it is!”

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For anyone with a passion for food, food styling or food photography, this 6 day course is a perfect way to improve your skills as I join up with acclaimed food and lifestyle photographer Ian Wallace. This amazing course will take place in the stunning workshop accommodation venue Les Soeurs Anglaises in the Dordogne.

In June this year, Ian and I will be sharing all the knowledge we have gained from our years of experience working in food publishing. The course will include demonstrations, discussions and practical hands-on classes over the 6 days and covers all the skills needed to produce your own beautiful food images. Alongside the daily classes, all meals will be provided accompanied by wines from the region. There will also be a visit to local brocantes to source vintage props and time off to explore the local area, stunning villages and food markets.

“This is a totally immersive course for lovers of good food, budding food bloggers, food stylists and photographers, set in a truly beautiful setting with a relaxed ambience and wonderful food and wine”

Our workshops are the perfect platform for small business owners who want to improve the quality of their images for both website use and social media content. It can help chef’s looking to market themselves and their food. Food bloggers who want to improve their food styling and photographic skills. Even food stylist looking to get involved in the food publishing industry. Lovers of good food and wine with a penchant for France and all it’s charm.


What’s on offer 

We have access to really beautiful settings where we can shoot on location
We will learn how to prepare and cook food, style it and plate it for a perfect food shot.
You can only take a beautiful still life image of an ingredient if you can source them in the first place. We shop at local food markets or help ourselves to home grown veggies.

The Venue

The course is hosted Katie Elliot Armitage co/owner of the fabulous workshop accommodation venue Les Soeurs Anglaises in the Dordogne in South West France. Katie has been running workshops here for over 10 years and after many successful textile and music workshops Katie is looking to offer more food and wine based courses. Set on the outskirts of a pretty French town, the venue nestles in beautiful gardens, surrounded by rolling hills and fields full of sunflowers, cereals and sweetcorn. The stunning workshop is in a converted barn with cathedral ceilings and a vast wall of glass that opens up to invite the outdoors in. The atmosphere is one of calm seclusion, a perfect environment for learning, relaxing, entertaining and eating.

 

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A hint at what lies beyond the two huge workshop doors – this is a truly beautiful environment in which to work – it will inspire you.

 

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And then of course, after all the hard work is done, there will be plenty of time to kick back and enjoy the pool and other recreational area of the property.

 


Itinerary

Each workshop is bespoke. We like to look at what is going on at the time in the local area so we can take you out to photograph a market, producers or festivals depending on what is happening. We can also use the extensive grounds or the workshop at our accommodation. That said, all courses include the following criteria in order to ensure you get the maximum information in order to create your own stunning images.

 

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Ian going through some of the basics of setting up a food shot
Getting to grips with your DSLR camera and look at composition
Sourcing props at home…… and at the local brocante
How to prepare and cook food for photography

Shooting light and dark and how it affects food

 


What is included

Six days/seven nights in one of the beautiful ensuite rooms at Les Souers Anglaises

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Double ensuite bedroom

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Twin ensuite bedroom

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One of the two lovely pools

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Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided. Breakfast by the pool with locally sourced pastries, fresh juices. A light salad lunch and a three course dinner with wines form the region.


Tuition

As well as the above, all your tuition costs with internationally acclaimed food photographer Ian Wallace and food writer, stylist and cook book author Louise Pickford.

There will be hands on practical shoots, outdoors when possible with all the food and props provided.

At the end of the stay you will receive a handout package including a copy of all the images and all the recipes.


Dates 

 

The course runs from June 6th – June 11th

 


Prices

A: Luxury double bedroom en suite (single occupancy) : £2450

B: Luxury double bedroom en suite (shared occupancy)£1950

C: Standard twin bedroom with shared bathroom (single occupancy)£2100 

D: Standard twin bedroom with shared bathroom (shared occupancy)£1550

For the Food Styling & Photography Workshop we require a £400 non-refundable deposit to secure a booking, the full balance being payable two months prior to the start of the workshop.

Flights are not included but we can arrange to collect you from Bordeaux or Bergerac airports or from the train station at Angouleme, this has a direct high speed train link from Paris.

 


Your tutors

Louise Pickford has been writing about and styling food for over 25 years in both London and Sydney, where she was involved in recipe writing and development, styling the props as well as the food for shoots. She became  food editor on several glossy magazine as well as styling a host of books for Bauer Media’s Woman’s Weekly titles. Recently Louise and Ian relocated to SW France where they continue to work together for clients around the world including Delicious Magazine Australia, the UK and Holland, Food & Travel Magazine, Grazia UK and The Mail on Sunday. She has written more than 30 cookery books to date, including over a dozen for bespoke publishers Ryland, Peters & Small.

Ian Wallace has built a very successful career working in both London and Sydney for clients that included all the main book publishers, and top food  magazine titles and Sunday newspaper supplements, shooting a mixture of editorial, packaging and advertising, clients including Marks and Spencer, Vogue Entertaining and Travel, Delicious Magazine Australia and UK, Gourmet Traveller, The Mail on Sunday and Food and Travel Magazine as well as photographing many book titles for Bauer Media and News Life Media and Ryland Peters and small.

 

BOOK SOON TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT

For more information about the accommodation, course or to book please go to Les Soeurs Anglaises

Recipe of the week……………….spelt.

Mushroom spelt risotto with melted camembert

Spelt is one of the world’s oldest wheat grain varieties. It is great as an alternative to rice in a risotto as it retains a wonderfully crunchy texture and unlike rice, you can add the stock all at once and let the risotto simmer away on the stove – making it low maintenance as well as delicious.

Spelt and Mushroom risotto 2

Serves: 4

300 g spelt grains

15 g dried porcini

150 ml boiling water

100 g butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbs chopped fresh thyme

500 g mixed mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped

150 ml red wine

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

50 g Parmesan, grated

150 g Camembert, sliced

salt and pepper

freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Soak the spelt grains in boiling water for 20 minutes. Soak the porcini in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain spelt and shake dry. Drain and chop the mushrooms, reserve the liquid.

Melt half the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion, garlic and half the thyme over a low heat for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms and porcini and stir-fry until starting to soften. Add the spelt and stir for 1 minute then pour in the wine and boil until it is all but absorbed.

Meanwhile bring the stock and reserved porcini liquid to the boil in a separate pan. Add 750 ml to the risotto and cook gently over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stock is almost absorbed and the spelt, tender. Add a little more stock if needed (any left over stock can be reserved, chilled in the fridge for up to 3 days).

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan and half the Camembert, cover and leave to melt for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan and add the remaining thyme leaves. Cook gently over a low heat for 2-3 minutes until the butter turns a golden brown. Serve the risotto topped with the remaining camembert and drizzled with the thyme butter.

Tip: Spelt is available from larger supermarkets as well as health food stores.

Recipe amendment….pearl barley

Sorry everyone, just realised I omitted the quantity of pearl barely from my previous post………….so you will need 400g for this recipe.