Thursday, 30 July 2015

Potato and Aubergine Curry – Eating Smart Review

Vegan potato and eggplant curry | Supergolden Bakes
Although my iPhone stays practically glued to my hand most of the waking hours, I don’t consider myself particularly app-savvy. When it comes to cooking, I usually refer to my books, hastily scribbled notes, or this here blog, rather than scroll through recipes on my iPhone or iPad. 

But after downloading Woman & Home’s Eating Smart app I can instantly see the appeal. The app is free to download and comes with a selection of recipes while also offering users the option to purchase 20 more recipes for each special diet – Gluten-Free, Vegan and Dairy Free – at .99p apiece. 

Eating Smart is very easy to use and beautifully designed with mouthwatering photographs for each of the recipes. But the real strength is in its content. Each of the free-from bundles comes with some enlightening information on ingredients (did you know that Worcestershire sauce contains anchovy?) and great tips for stocking your larder. And each collection is divided into Entertaining, Midweek, Baking and Dessert recipes.

Eating Smart App Review | Supergolden Bakes

Having used the app for a few weeks now, I am pleasantly surprised by the variety of recipes on offer, anything from aubergine and potato curry (see below) in the Vegan bundle (the recipe is also Gluten & Dairy-Free) to spiced monkfish in the Gluten-Free bundle and any number of delicious desserts – I really must make the incredible double chocolate cheesecake. 

Portability and meal planning is another big advantage of using this app. Forget shopping lists – painstakingly compiled and usually forgotten in my case – with the app your shopping list is right there on your phone and you can even tick items off as you buy them. Or turn it into a food 'hunt' for the kids killing two birds with one stone by keeping them busy on grocery shopping trips. And if you are entertaining we can not only come up with a menu but also make sure you cater to everyone’s dietary needs. 

Another advantage of course is that the app, unlike cookbooks, will be updated with new content so you can keep growing your repertoire of delicious free-from recipes. The recipe I am sharing was so quick to throw together, very easy and delicious – next time I will throw in a big bunch of spinach to bulk it up a little bit. It was even tastier the next day when the flavours had a chance to get acquainted. 

Eating Smart is available at the Apple App Store for both iPhone and iPad and it comes with a starter pack of six free recipes.

Vegan potato and eggplant curry | Supergolden Bakes

Potato and Aubergine Curry 
Vegan, Dairy & Gluten free
Serves 6 (unless you are greedy like me)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp dark brown sugar or palm sugar
2.5cm | 1inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 white onions, finely diced
1x400g | 14oz can coconut milk
juice of half a lime
400g | 14oz baby aubergines, cubed
3 large potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cubed
lime wedges and steamed rice to serve
fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves to garnish

  1. Dry fry the coriander and cumin seeds in a small frying pan. Tip into a mini food processor with the chillies, garlic cloves, ginger, turmeric, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Blitz to make a paste.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When the start to pop, add the your paste and stir together.
  3. Thoroughly wash the curry leaves and pat dry. Add to the pan with the onions and sweat over low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk and lime juice and bring to the boil. 
  5. Add the vegetables then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes and aubergines are tender and just starting to fall apart.
  6. Serve with rice, extra lime wedges on the side and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
Notes: If you want a richer curry add 200g | 7oz coconut cream as well. 

Vegan potato and eggplant curry | Supergolden Bakes
Vegan potato and eggplant curry | Supergolden Bakes

Vegan potato and eggplant curry

This is a sponsored post by woman&home, creators of Eating Smart. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

My Food Photography Course with William Reavell

Photographing Cheesecake on William Reavell's Food Photography Course

As I climb the narrow winding staircase to William Reavell's studio I am hit with a very strong sense of deja vu. Not only have I been here before, I have worked with Will in my capacity as Art Editor a few years ago (on this book if anyone is curious). Today I am here to attend Will's Level 2 Food Photography course – one of the most exciting prizes I have ever won through this blog.

I am joined by Angela – a.ka. Patisserie Makes Perfect – who I have invited along, and Sissy who is an aspiring blogger. The studio is filled with the mouthwatering aroma of curry bubbling on the stove courtesy of our food stylist Tara Sura – and it isn't even 10am yet. It all feels reassuringly familiar as I have been styled, propped and art directed plenty of food shoots during my career in publishing. But being around food photography and being a food photographer are not one and the same – I only picked up my camera to shoot food when I started this blog in December 2012. My first attempts were pretty cringeworthy but I progressed slowly through trial and error and without any actual training. Now really I wish I had attended Level 1 of this course when I first started out.

My Food Photography Course with William Reavell

Will's studio set up is not unlike my little set up at home – a table, natural light from a north-facing window, a tripod and a camera. The backgrounds and backdrops are a mix of wooden boards, fabric and pretty handmade paper rolls that are all laid out on a table together with a selection of props for us to use. We have to style our own curry shot – curry having been chosen by Will and Tara as it is a difficult dish to photograph. I decide to go dark and moody for my shot and choose a wooden board (flipped over to reveal the wood grain texture) and dark props to show off my fish curry's bright yellow colouring.

With the boards and props all ready, I hand my bowl over to Tara to fill with food. The role of a food stylist is vitally important in making food photos look both appetising and somehow effortless. As food bloggers we take on that role ourselves and it is interesting to see just how much finessing my simple bowl of curry has to go through!

Photographing curry on William Reavell's Food Photography Course

When I photograph my recipes at home I review my images in the camera. If I have enough time, I transfer the shots to my computer for a more detailed look. But Will introduces me to the wonderful world of tethered capture – my Nikon D610* is connected to his iMac through a long USB cable and each shot appears on the computer screen for immediate review. This is how food photographers normally work and I have wanted to try it for ages – turns out you just need the cable, Capture or Lightroom software and a computer within a short distance of your camera. Mentally I am already calculating how I can possibly afford a laptop.

With tethered capture you can instantly see which areas of your photograph need more or less light, whether the food creates weird shapes or if there are crumbs you need to brush away. You can even adjust your exposure and aperture through the computer. It is a brave new world and one that takes some getting used to.

I am soon perched up a ladder trying to get an overhead shot and Will's advice to use manual focus becomes too much for me to handle what with having to hold the camera steady and not fall over. I switch back to autofocus but his advice comes very handy when I try to shoot my Grey Goose cocktail and the camera sensor doesn't know where to focus. After capturing a few shots I am happy with, I take my camera off my beloved Manfrotto 190 tripod* (which I am pleased to note Will is coveting) to take a few snaps from different angles. Handheld shots are definitely encouraged. They often turn out to be the most interesting, as long as the shutter speed is safely above 1/60 second.

Photographing curry on William Reavell's Food Photography Course

After shooting our curry, it is time to eat and it is just as delicious as it smells. Eating the food has to be the best part of any food shoot! But we don't sit down for very long because after the curry we move on to the two cheesecakes Tara has prepared for us. They look so delicate and pretty on their little cake stands that the shot calls for equally lovely props. Out goes my dark background and the table is draped in pretty fabric with patterned wrapping paper as backdrop. The first few shots are a bit too busy so I switch to a plainer background to show off the strawberry topping. For some reason it feels more difficult to get this styled right – and there's nothing more frustrating than a prop or element spoiling a shot. It can make the difference between a stunning photograph and one that ends up deleted – and I have my fair share of those.

William Reavell setting up the cheesecake shot
My Food Photography Course with William Reavell

Time is racing however so we swiftly move on to a drizzling shot with some raspberry coulis. Drizzling it off a spoon looks wrong and so we transfer it to a small jug and try again. But, as anyone who has attempted drizzling shots will tell you, we have limited opportunity to get this right before our elegant cheesecake (below left) turns into a volcanic eruption (below right)! I immediately make plans to try the drizzling action at home (see photos at the end of the post). My little £3 shutter Remote* will finally come in very handy.

Throughout the day Will is very hands on helping us with everything from the initial set up and styling to exposure and the right way to handle a camera. It is invaluable to have this guidance and it doesn't stop there as we are given a quick demo of Lightroom. I have been using it since I started the blog to import and catalogue my photographs but turns out I have only skimmed its capabilities as a developing tool. Not only that, I have acquired some bad habits when processing my images, but by taking Will's instructions onboard I can see instant improvement. Thankfully I always shoot in RAW format which means I can now go back through my old photos and process them again with the benefit of more experience.

As the course winds down and we regretfully start to pack things away, I feel physically and mentally exhausted. But I also feel incredibly motivated, energised and eager to take my food photography a step further – I can't recommend this course highly enough to food bloggers who wish improve their skills. Below are a couple of shots I did at home the very next day (you can tell I am an eager pupil) trying to capture dusting with icing sugar and drizzling with chocolate. A fair few cupcakes were drowned in chocolate sauce much to the delight of my children!

Pouring chocolate on a cupcake | Supergolden Bakes
Dusting icing sugar on a cupcake | Supergolden Bakes

Final thoughts... Will and Tara will be at Food Blogger Connect teaching a photo workshop so I will inevitably stalk them again soon (thank you for answering my endless questions and being so encouraging). Meeting Angela was like running into an old friend that I hadn't seen in ages. I wish we lived a little closer but this is definitely not the last time we meet. Make sure you read her post about the course and take a look at how she styled her photographs.

More information about Will's food photography courses can be found on his website and his Facebook page. You can connect with Tara through her site Fork and Dram.

Please note items marked with an *asterisk are affiliate links.