Breakfast News

Today am on reverse gear, backing up to a few food shots I did a couple of weeks prior to the Acadia Trip. I had been yearning to photograph Indian food since I started shooting food and this concept was stuck in my head and bursting to come out. I have always seen Indian food being photographed within a very “Indian” context and set up and I wanted to break the rules. I wanted to shoot it in a more contemporary set up and just wanted to showcase the actual food in a less formal and more accessible way with the cleaner compositions and colors of a Scandinavian design ethic that is far more modern.  So I decided on making brunch, since the mid morning light in my office is perfect for food photography and I could cook and set up ahead of time(read scramble like a maniac).

The food in the photograph is what I am used to eating since childhood, but this isn’t something we make all the time. Its a rather special brunch and needs some advance planning if you insist on making all the requisite batter at home. The breakfast comprises of Rava Idli & Paniyaram(steamed savory semolina cakes & fried rice cakes) with a Tomato chutney and a coconut-coriander chutney. All of these are South Indian delicacies and actually non-spicy.

f/11, 1/60, EV +1

I knew I wanted to photograph on a white background and everything else came out of that original platform.  If the background is white you know you want things on the plate with color and can absorb and deflect light well. So the colors on the plate had to be complementary to each other. A lot of Indian food is brown and I had one main dish that was going to be brown and the other a more pale greenish beige ( pardon my knowledge of names of colors). To offset it, I needed greens and oranges, so I tweaked the coconut chutney to be more green by adding coriander and added more green elements to the composition to balance off the lack of color. The oranges/reds are to break up the monotony and to push the eye into different parts of the picture. Worked well, I think.

October 1st was also the day we released the fifth issue of the online magazine that I edit, do the layout for and also wrote a piece for this time. Its a good magazine, with plenty of tips for every type of photographer. Give it a read, its completely FREE!!  Here is the link to the October-Dec 2012 issue and here is the link to the previous issues. Here is a look at the cover that will give you an insight into what you can find inside.

For the piece in the magazine, I shot some extra shots of food that I had made on various occasions.  The recipes to each are in the description section of the photograph. You will have to click on the photograph to view it.

f/5, 1/180, EV +1.5

Breakfast News

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Move over berries, tomatoes & fresh summer produce and make way for the root vegetables and vines. I love to cook and I’ve said that before, but to date I have bought just one cookbook and I have never followed a recipe(unless am baking) to the tee. I can’t follow recipes to the tee, because I am either out of some ingredient that is required or I don’t like the taste or fancy an ingredient. I like my own twists and turns, cookbooks and recipes are just guidelines for me, guidelines for proportions, baking times etc. Besides if you have noticed, bulk of these darn books make things in batches that serve 6-8 and we are just two people at home here. It is almost like condemning us to stale baloney sandwiches because we aren’t entertaining or have a family big enough!! In my case let me throw in another spoke into that wheel – my husband is a vegetarian – yeah you heard me right – vegetarian. For the record there is nothing wrong with it, it is probably healthier in some ways but sometimes that means I have to make two different meals which is rather off putting. Can you imagine double chopping, double cooking and worst of all double washing ( you know that kind of load isn’t going to fit in a dishwasher). Oh joy! the things we do for our loved ones! Let’s come back to not following recipes…so here I am inspired by Ina’s butternut squash soup, but I don’t want to sprinkle on toasted coconuts and curry powder as a garnish. I come from a land that uses those ingredients generously and am not fond of eating either as a garnish! Why waste fantastic flavor like that? Butternut squash soup embraces the concept of successfully marrying something innately sweet with a spice that sits squarely and firmly on the opposite side of sweet. As a tamilian (from the state of Tamil Nadu in South India), we are genetically predisposed to hating such flavors, we are purveyors of spice and heat, so for me it is a recently acquired taste and one that I genuinely can’t get enough of.  So I picked up Ina’s recipe and tweaked it to roasting the squash with curry powder, cut out the coconut and added a tinge of maple syrup to help with the caramelization of the squash. Well, I’ll just furnish the recipe below.

But lets not forget that this blog is aimed at photography. The best thing about food photography is that much of it is done under natural light – something that is free and plentiful. The only issue is, as we close in on fall and winter, there are lesser hours of sunlight and more dark and dreary days. Also, in the interest of not losing much of that beautiful light, it will mean cooking dishes earlier during the day. Planning is key during such days, winging it just wont cut it! Visualizing the shots and getting a story board together, helps. It helps to keep the props ready to go, and have everything at hand when you suddenly realize pouring the soup into the bowl is just not a smart idea, ladling it in – is. So does that mean end of shoot , just because you have splashed soup all over the bowl and there are specks of soup that make the bowl look like a dog’s breakfast??? Nope, that’s why there are little things called swabs and tissues. I have learnt to appreciate the usefulness of the “quicker picker upper” more, since I started shooting soups.  Today, I stuck to my kit lens of 18-55mm, compensated for the dreary rainy day through my exposure compensation and by adhering to a slower shutter speed. I will post the EXIF details along with the picture,one will have to click on the picture to see the exif. There were no reflectors used, I liked the natural shadows that were falling around the plates and the food itself was lit well enough and I wanted the details of the swirls to show through a little bit. I got about 5 slightly different compositions with the same variants and am posting each one of them. So if you are here  just for the photography, skip the next part and go to the picture, if not read on for the recipe.

Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe

2 pounds butternut squash soup

1tbsp curry powder

1tbsp maple syrup

1 cup diced red onions

4 cups of vegetable broth(low sodium only)

1tbsp butter or olive oil to saute

salt to taste

Olive oil to coat

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the butternut squash into 1.5 inch cubes, toss with olive oil, maple syrup and curry powder. On a baking tray, lay out the squash and bake for 40-45 minutes, until its golden and beginning to char. In a stock pot, saute the onions until translucent, add in the squash and the broth and simmer for 15-20 mins. The stock should have reduced from 4 cups to about 2-2.5 cups (depending on how thick you want the soup). Blend in a food processor and serve warm with croutons.

Curried Roasted Butternut Squash Soup