I’m back………

Hello friends and followers of A Food Stylist’s Blog, I am back on WordPress, the only slight change is my site title is Come Cook in France (just so I can get all the i’s dotted) but otherwise my content will remain the same.

So with this piece of news comes my favourite recipe of the moment.

Enjoy…….

and for any of you who missed my latest posts on my website, please click on the link Come Cook In France 

Margarita cheesecake with salted lime crackle

Margarita cheesecake 2 copy 2

Makes: 8

200g white chocolate, melted

50g butter, melted

175g digestive biscuits, crushed

grated zest and juice 3 limes

100ml tequila

250g caster sugar

600g soft cheese

250ml cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

Finely grate 50g of the white chocolate into a shallow bowl. Take 8 martini or margarita glasses, dip the rims into cold water and then into the grated chocolate to coat the rims. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the lime juice, tequila and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water), stirring until the chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cheese in a food processor with the tequila lime mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate and cream and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large lain nozzle divide the mixture between the glasses. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Make praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the remaining sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and leave to go cold.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. Spoon onto the set creams and serve at once.

 

 

On the griddle

I love the first barbecue of year. Here are a few of my favourite recipes for grilling, indoors or out, so you can enjoys these dishes where ever you are in the world.

We kick off with super succulent spicy tiger prawns (cooked in the shells to help keep the flesh moist) with a lovely salty/sweet/sour salad with fresh mango – a throw back to my days in Australia where the mango season is a joy to behold.

Sausages are sausages are sausages, well no actually and these ones are a good quality pork variety from the butchers served with a homemade salsa rossa and a piquant mustard mayonnaise.

Aubergines are a great meaty alternative for a veggie burger. Here they take on a South American flavour with chimichurri sauce and wickedly delicious crispy fried onion rings.

No barbie would be complete without a good old steak, so add a Mexican twist with a spicy japeleno salsa.

If seafood is your thing, then you should definitely try barbecuing shellfish in either covered with foil in metal dishes or wrapped up in foil parcel . It’s a lovely way of keeping all those juices. Pared with chorizo they are really yummy.

Vietnamese sesame and soy prawns and mango salad

vietnamese-sesame-and-soy-prawns-copy-e1523956477714.jpg

Serves: 4

12 large raw prawns

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 mango, peeled and stoned

1 cucumber

a handful fresh Thai basil, coriander and mint

125g grape cherry tomatoes, halved

4 tbsp salted cashews nuts, chopped

dressing

3 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1-2 small red chillies, thinly sliced and seeded if wished

sea salt

Thai crispy fried shallots, to garnish

Prepare prawns. Using small scissors cut down the back of each prawn, through the shell and carefully pull out the dark vein and discard. Wash and pat dry. Place in a shallow dish. Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and sesame oil, stir well to dissolve the sugar. Pour over prawns and set aside to marinate for 2 hours. Drain and pat dry.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the mango and cut into long thin strips or julienne. Thinly slice the cucumber and cut into julienne. Place in a bowl and add the herbs and cherry tomatoes.

Whisk together dressing ingredients until the sugar is dissolved.

Thread the prawns onto bamboo skewers. Heat a barbecue or griddle pan until hot and cook the prawns for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and cooked through. Toss the salad and dressing together adding the cashew nuts. Serve prawns and salad topped with crispy shallots.

Griddled sausages with salsa rossa

Grilled sausages with salsa rossa A

Serves: 4

1 large red pepper

2 tomatoes, diced

  2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp dried oregano

100g good quality mayonnaise

1 tbsp whole grain mustard

8 premium pork sausages

Heat the barbecue or griddle pan until hot and cook the pepper for about 10 minutes, turning from time to time until charred all over. Set aside for 5 minutes and then slice open catching any juices in a small saucepan.

Chop the pepper, discarding the seeds and add to the pan with the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, oregano and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered for 25-30 minutes until thickened and the liquid is evaporated. Puree until smooth.

Stir the mayonnaise and mustard together.

Cook the sausages on the griddle for about 10 minutes, turning until charred and cooked through. Serve with the sauces.

Aubergine burgers with chimichurri and crispy onions

aubergine-burgers-with-chimichuri-copy.jpg

Serves: 4

2 medium aubergines, trimmed

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onions

100ml milk

1 egg, beaten

100g dried breadcrumbs

4 burger buns

50g rocket leaves

aioli (optional)

chimichurri sauce

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1/2 bunch fresh coriander

125 ml extra virgin olive oil

3 tbs red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

a pinch dried chilli flakes

salt and pepper

Start by making the chimichurri sauce. Whiz all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until fairly smooth and adjust seasonings to taste.

Thinly slice the onions into rings and place in a bowl. Cover with the milk and soak for 5 minutes.

Cut the aubergines horizontally into 3mm thick slices. Season the oil with salt and pepper and brush the slices with the seasoned oil. Heat the barbecue or griddle pan to high and once hot, grill the aubergine slices for 3-4 minutes each side until charred.

Drain the onion rings and dip firstly into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs to completely coat the rings. Heat 5cm vegetable oil in a wok until it reaches 180c on a sugar thermometer (or until a cube of bread crisps in 20 seconds). Deep-fry the onion rings for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Slice rolls in half and char-grill until toasted. Fill rolls with aubergine slices, rocket leaves, onion rings, chimichurri sauce and aioli, if using.

Barbecued beef skirt with jalepeno salsa

barbequed-beef-skirt-with-jalpeno-salsa-copy.jpg

Serves: 4

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, crushed

grated zest 2 limes

1 tsp each salt and pepper

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

650g beef skirt steak

salsa

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ bunch coriander

2 jalepeno chilies, seed and roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

juice 1 lime

¼ tsp caster sugar

serving suggestions

cherry tomatoes, avocado and coriander

Place the rosemary, garlic, lime zest, salt, pepper and oil in a bowl and stir well to combine. Place the meat in a shallow dish, add the marinade, stir well and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Return to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

Make the salsa just before you cook the meat to keep the lovely vibrant green colour. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, season to taste.

Preheat a barbecue or grill pan until hot, spray lightly with oil and add the meat. Cook for 3-5 minutes each side, depending on how well you like the meat cooked. Transfer to a board and rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with the salsa and some cherry tomatoes, avocado and coriander leaves.

Clams and chorizo cooked on the griddle

clams-with-chorizo-copy.jpg

Serves: 4

1 kg small clams

150g chorizo, diced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

50ml white wine

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper

beer, to serve

Soak the clams in clean water for 30 minutes, then rinse well and drain. Divide between 4 small metal dishes (or make foil parcels).

Add the chorizo, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and wine to the pans and seal each one under a sheet of foil (or wrap the foil up tightly forming a sealed parcel).

Heat the barbecue or griddle pan until hot, add the dishes or parcels and cook for 3-4 minutes until the clams have opened. Check one parcel to see. Scatter over the parsley and serve with beer.

 

Waiting for summer……………

Well after an initial burst of warm spring weather, it is yet again cool and wet, so in order to give myself a little taste of summer, I came across this lovely summer entertaining feature my husband, photographer Ian Wallace and I shot last summer for Food & Travel magazine in the UK.

As you can see from Ian’s stunning photos it was a lovely sunny day and the colours from the food, styling and flowers zing out at you. Rather than a formal sit down menu, the al fresco nature of the story led me to assemble sharing patters, ideal for a more relaxed ambience.

Scene setter for our summer menu

Seared tuna is one of my favourite ways of eating this meaty and some would say king of the ocean. Here it is served with a spiced chermoula salsa with a hint of chilli. Chermoula is a combination of herbs, spices and aromatics used as a marinade or sauce in many Arabic countries. The actual combination of ingredients varies widely from country to country and even region to region and this one is inspired by a version I had in a London restaurant many years ago. It is great with most types of meaty fish, chicken, and lamb or even drizzled over grilled vegetables.

Tuna chermoula 2 copy
Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Beef and anchovy are happy sparing partners and here, beautifully moist slices of rare beef fillet is served with a creamy anchovy dressing. A contrasting texture comes in the form of the crispy pangrattato, Italian for fried bread crumbs. It is spiced up here with a little red onion, garlic and fresh thyme.

Beef with pangrattata copy
Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattato

Alongside our main dishes are two pretty salad platters full of Mediterranean flavours – you can almost feel the warmth of the sun as you look at them. The orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb salad is my version of a dish I was served last summer by friends who love everything Spanish. They too had been inspired by this dish from Ibiza, one of the Spanish balearic Islands. I love the little sprinkles of blackness made by the olive crumbs.

To further complement our two main dishes is a platter of char-grilled asparagus topped with creamy burrata cheese – where balls of buffalo mozzarella are filled with a rich creamy centre that oozes pure yumminess when cut open. The dressing is made sweet with the inclusion of vincotta, a thick syrup made by the long, slow reduction of grape must, produced in the Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Apulia, and Marche regions of Italy. If is available from Itlian food stores or online. If you can’t find it, an aged or reduced balsamic vinegar is a good alternative.

Salad accomps copy
Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb & Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincota dressing 

I simply adore coconut, so any excuse really to use it in a recipe. It adds a wonderful moist texture to this simple cake made just that little bit more special with the passionfruit drizzle. You can sieve out the passionfruit seeds if you prefer, but I think they look great and I love the crunch they add.

Coconut and passionfruit cake 2 copy
Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

And if you don’t fancy cake, why not treat yourself to this delicious and decadent cocktail inspired, upside down cheesecake. It is a lovely end to this summer feast and the salty zing from the salted lime praline is lovely surprise.

margarita-cheesecake-2-copy.jpg
Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Summer may still be a little ways off for us here in France, but at least I can dream of warmer evenings and delicious flavours to come.

RECIPES

Moroccan tuna with chemoula salsa

Serves: 6

6 x 180g tuna loin steaks

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds (optional)

1 bunch coriander

1 large red chili, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

a pinch of saffron strands

juice ½ lemon

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

salt and pepper

lemon wedges, to garnish

Trim the tuna steaks and brush with a little oil. Combine the paprika, cinnamon, fennel fronds if using, salt and pepper and press all over the tuna. Set aside.

Make the chermoula. Combine the coriander leaves and smaller stalks, chilli, garlic, saffron strands, lemon juice, oil and some salt and pepper in a mini food processor and blitz until smooth.

Sear the tuna on a hot barbecue or griddle pan for 1 minute each side and then rest for 2-3 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with the chermoula.

Thyme beef fillet with anchovy dressing and pangrattata

Serves: 6

1.25 kg beef fillet

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

salt and pepper

pangrattata

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, bashed

100g day old bread, made into rough crumbs

½ small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

25g pine nuts, toasted

2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

anchovy dressing

125g aioli

3 anchovy fillets, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

pepper

Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5. Rub the beef fillet with oil and then dust with the thyme, salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a high heat and sear the beef for about 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Transfer to a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile make the pangrattata. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic for 3-4 minutes over a low heat until lightly golden. Discard garlic. Increase the heat, add the breadcrumbs to the pan and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until evenly browned. Drain on kitchen paper. Combine the onion with the vinegar and set aside to soften for 15 mins. Drain and pat dry.

Make the dressing. Place the aioli, anchovies, lemon juice and a little pepper in a blender and puree until smooth. Cover and set aside.

To serve, place the breadcrumbs, onion, pine nuts, capers and parsley in a bowl and stir well. Cut the beef into thin slices (it should be lovely a pink in the middle) and top with some of the pangrattata, the anchovy dressing and a little extra drizzle of oil.

Asparagus, burrata and pistachio salad with vincotta dressing

Serves: 6

1 kg asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

200g ball buratta cheese

300g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved

50g rocket leaves

25g pistachio nuts, chopped

15g Parmesan shavings

dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon vincotto (or aged balsamic)

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Trim the asparagus stalks and place on a tray, add the oil and season with salt and pepper, stir well. Cook on a hot griddle pan for 3-4 minutes turning half way through until lightly charred. Transfer to a platter and let cool.

Make the dressing. Whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

Tear the burrata into pieces and arrange over the asparagus with the tomatoes, rocket and pistachio nuts. Drizzle over the dressing and serve scattered with parmesan shavings.

Ibiza salad with orange, fennel, radish and olive crumb

Serves: 6

50g pitted black olives

300g baby new potatoes

1 small head fennel, trimmed (fronds reserved for the beef)

8 large radishes, trimmed

3 oranges

3 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

a small fresh chervil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 140c/220f/gas mark 1. Make the olive crumb. Place the olives on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake the olives for 1-1/2 hours until dried out. Leave to cool and then transfer to a chopping board. Chop finely until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes for 10-12 minutes until just tender, drain, refresh under cold water and drain again. Pat dry and let cool. Cut larger potatoes in half.

Finely slice the fennel. Thinly slice the radishes.

Peel and thinly slice the oranges over a bowl to catch the juices and arrange the slices on a platter. Taking all the peelings and ends of the oranges squeeze any juice into the bowl. Whisk in the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard and salt and pepper.

Top the orange slices with the potatoes, fennel and radish slices and scatter over the chervil leaves. Top with the olive crumbs and serve drizzled with the dressing.

Coconut cake with passionfruit syrup and raspberries

Serves: 8-10

180g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

6 eggs

225 g desiccated coconut

225 g self-raising flour

250g Greek yogurt or crème fraiche

300g raspberries

passionfruit drizzle

150g caster sugar

150ml water

100ml passionfruit pulp, about 6 large passionfruit

Preheat the oven to 160c/fan-forced 140c/325f/gas mark 3. Oil and line a 23cm loose-bottom cake tin. Cream the butter and half the sugar together until smooth and then beat in the remaining sugar and eggs, a little at a time until combined (don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled). Fold in the coconut and flour until smooth and spoon into the prepared tin.

Transfer to the oven and bake 45-50 minutes, covering loosely with foil if the cake begins to brown. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire tray and spike with holes.

Meanwhile, make the passionfruit drizzle. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Add the passionfruit pulp and bring to the boil, simmer gently for 8-10 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened. Spoon all but a few tablespoons over the cake and let infuse until cold.

Serve the cake in wedges with the yogurt, raspberries and remaining sauce.

Margarita cheesecake pots with salted lime

Makes: 8

200g white chocolate, melted

50g butter, melted

175g digestive biscuits, crushed

grated zest and juice 3 limes

100ml tequila

250g caster sugar

600g soft cheese

250ml cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

Finely grate 50g of the white chocolate into a shallow bowl. Take 8 martini or margarita glasses, dip the rims into cold water and then into the grated chocolate to coat the rims. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and pour into a bowl. Add the digestives and stir well until evenly coated. Divide between the glasses pressing them down lightly using the end of a rolling pin. Chill until required.

Combine the lime juice, tequila and half the sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool completely.

Melt the remaining chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water), stirring until the chocolate is melted. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cheese in a food processor with the tequila lime mixture and blitz until smooth. Then stir in the melted chocolate and cream and blend again. Using a piping bag with a large lain nozzle divide the mixture between the glasses. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Make praline. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Combine the remaining sugar with 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for a further 5-6 mins until the liquid turns golden brown. Pour the caramel onto the prepared tray and leave to go cold.

Roughly crumble the praline and place in a food processor with the lime zest and salt and blitz to make a slightly chunky crumb mixture. Spoon onto the set creams and serve at once.

Copyright Food & Travel, 2017

Recipes,  Louise Pickford

Photographs, Ian Wallace

Recipe of the week…………pearl barley

Barley, roasted vegetable and caramelized garlic risotto

Risotto

Serves: 4
Pearl barley makes a great alternative to arborio rice in risottos as it doesn’t require constant stirring and gives a lovely nutty texture to the dish. Here it is combined with oven roasted vegetables and caramelised garlic.

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 large onions

8 large garlic cloves

250 g carrots, roughly chopped

250 g baby beetroot, cut into wedges

250 g peeled pumpkin, diced

2 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary

350 g pearl barley

100 ml dry white wine

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

25 g freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 c/fan forced 180c and line a roasting tin with baking paper. Cut 1 onion into thin wedges and place in the prepared tin with the garlic, carrots, beetroot, pumpkin, herbs and salt and pepper. Add half the oil, stir well and roast for 45-50 minutes, stirring half way through until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, after the vegetables have been cooking for 15 minutes, finely chop the remaining onion. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onion with a little salt and pepper for 5 minutes until softened. Add the barely and stir for 1 minute until all the grains are glossy. Add the wine and boil until evaporated, then add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently, uncovered for 30 minutes until the barley is al dente and the liquid absorbed.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir into the barley with the cheese and herbs. Season to taste and serve with extra cheese and basil leaves.

 

 

Recipe of the week…………….Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake with Figs and Caramel Sauce

sticky gingercake

Serves 12

This is a dark, sticky and totally delicious cake, topped with grilled figs and dulce de leche sauce.

250g unsalted butter, softened

225g caster sugar

125g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

75ml (110g) golden syrup

300g plain flour

11/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

150ml hot water

4 figs

150g dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 160c/325f/gas mark 3 and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Using a food mixer, beat the butter, caster sugar and 100g of the soft brown sugar together until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat the eggs in one a time until smooth and then beat in the golden syrup.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a large spoon fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and hot water until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth the surface and bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to burn.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, turning upside down and leave to cool.

Just before serving, cut the figs in quarters and sprinkle with the remaining  soft brown sugar. Place cut side up under a hot grill for about 1 minute until they start to blister. Warm the dulce de leche in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until it softens and is pourable.

Serve the cake in wedges topped with the figs and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

 

© Food & Travel magazine. First published November 2016. Recipe Louise Pickford. Photo Ian Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe of the week…….Chicken

Sumac Chicken 

 

Barbecued chicken with sumac, pomegranate molasses and mograbiah

Here I use a whole chicken, butterflied, so it cooks evenly on the barbecue. Alternatively use chicken thigh joints and cook for 10-12 minutes each side.

Serves 4

1.75 kg free-range organic chicken

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

1 tbs ground sumac

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp clear honey

2 tsp pomegranate molasses

1 garlic clove, crushed

juice 1/2 lemon

salad

200 g mograbiah or pearl couscous (see tip)

50 g picked watercress leaves

50 g dried cranberries

50 g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped

2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

2 tbs each chopped fresh mint and parsley

salt and pepper

Ask your butcher to butterfly the chicken for you. Combine half the oil, sumac, cinnamon and salt and pepper and rub all over the chicken. Leave to marinate overnight. Return to room temperature 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat the barbecue for 10 minutes until hot. Place the chicken skin side up on the barbecue plate, close the lid, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes. Flip chicken over and cook for a further 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (to test skewer the leg meat, if the juices run clear it’s cooked).

Whisk together the remaining oil, honey, molasses, garlic and lemon juice and season to taste.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a board, chop into 8 large pieces (a meat cleaver or large knife is good for this) and place on a large platter with any juices. Pour over the dressing over the chicken and leave to rest in for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the salad. Cook the mograbiah in lightly salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes until al dente. Drain, refresh under cold water and drain again, shaking off excess water. Place in a large bowl, add a glug of olive oil, stir well and leave to cool. Stir in the watercress, cranberries, almonds, spring onions and season to taste. Spoon onto plates and top with the chicken using the beautiful juices to dress the salad.

Tip: Mograbiah is a larger variety of couscous often referred to as pearl couscous and is used in the same way. It is great in salads or can be used to thicken soups and stews. It is available from most larger supermarkets or specialist food stores.

 

The right background

Choosing the right background for a food shoot is a hugely important part of my job as a stylist and sets the scene for the picture. Whether it’s a moody rustic winter look or a clean white summer feel, without the right background the shot just will not capture what you are hoping to portray. Over the years I have been commissioned to put together hundreds of different styles for magazines and cook books so I thought it would be fun to share a few of these and look at a few options you have to do this yourself.

Still Life (Women's Weekly Books)
Still Life (Women’s Weekly Books)

For this shot of autumn produce I chose a zinc table top with an old metal sheet marked with rust immediately creating a rustic feel – implying an old farmhouse kitchen – with quite elegant props. A pewter cake stand and pitcher and French wine glasses. I love this contrast, which is further emphasised by an old distressed linen cloth with frayed edges.

Prop Stop, Sydney
Prop Stop, Sydney

Now that I live in the rural France I no longer have access to prop house like the one above (Prop Stop in Sydney ) where you can hire all the props you might need in order to fulfil a brief. So I have to  ‘ad lib’ and either buy or make backgrounds that I can keep to use in future projects. This could be purchasing a roll of wallpaper and pasting it onto a large sheet of ply so the image represents part of a room.

Wallpaper and Rust Paint
Wallpapers

Or perhaps I may have to paint up some surfaces to make a mock wall or table topLuckily there are some fabulous paint products available today which will create an instant rust look, or crackle glaze effect. All these skills are essential if you going to be a stylist.

Food and Travel 18
Rust paint product with a painted rust wall behind

I remember one of my most taxing and head scratching briefs was to create a look that said ‘heroin chic’! Taking the example from the fashion world where beautiful young models were made to look half dead from drugs, I determined the look should be a combination of old, damaged, rustic surfaces with very clean, beautiful plates and exquisitely plated food.

I trawl as many flea markets or brocantes as I can to pick up bargains both smaller pieces like plates, glasses, cutlery etc. as well as old tables, doors, shutters, chairs etc. These get stacked in the barn or painted  varies colours, all of which add to an ever growing props cupboard.

Spring Brocante Bordeaux
Spring Brocante Bordeaux

Below is an old trestle table bought on ebay, plus an old door sourced from a reclamation yard.

Old floor boards, still covered in old peeling paint can be cut into lengths and set into a frame, making a lovely rustic table top (thanks Mick) and even discarded skip items like the piece of zinc below that was at some point used to mix cement on. All add atmosphere to a shot.

You could also try creating your own distressed zinc table top – buy a sheet of new zinc from your local hardware store and then using a solution of copper sulphate, available from art stores or a pharmacy (as powder) wipe over it to create an instantly aged zinc top. It’s like magic working in front of you – I love it. Here’s one I made earlier this year and now it takes pride of place in my kitchen!

Zinc table top
Zinc table top

Of course in the real world you just use your kitchen table or work top but as a stylist it’s your job to create an image for the reader and for me, it’s why I do the job. Creating something from nothing and being satisfied with the end result. It’s very rewarding.

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