Sinfully Delicious

Some sundays are meant for nothing but absolute decadence and just luxuriating in abundance. When there is a French Open Final match between Djokovic and Nadal on TV and not much else on the schedule for the day, it was the perfect opportunity for me to make us a sinfully delicious brunch of my favorite things to eat for brunch – Poached Eggs on a bed of asparagus and the yummiest and easy to make hash browns,drizzled with an almost effortless hollandaise, accompanied healthily by a plate of mangoes and strawberries ( all in season) , a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice and a cup of my favorite tea.  Good weekend indeed…how was yours?

For the poached eggs – I did the ‘create a whirlpool and gently ease eggs into the vortex’ method, in a pan of boiling water with a tablespoon of vinegar. The asparagus was blanched for 5-7 mins in salted boiling water. The recipes for the hollandaise and hash browns are below  and are good to serve two:

Hollandaise

1/2 stick of butter

1 1/2 tsps lemon juice

1 egg yolk

salt to taste

Melt the butter for 40 secs in a microwave. Blend the yolk and lemon juice a couple of times and then slowly drizzle the butter into this mixture as you blend. Add the salt and if you like – some cayenne pepper as well and blend once more. If it’s still a bit too thick – which it usually isn’t – drizzle in some warm water.

 

Hash Browns

2 medium sized yellow or yukon gold potatoes

1/2 red onion, diced to the same size as the potatoes

1/2 jalapeño, chopped fine

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper.

This works best if made in a cast iron skillet, the crunchiness is just perfect and browning is uniform. Heat up a skillet and pour in the olive oil. Dice the potatoes to 1 inch cubes and throw them into the oil, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook on medium to high heat and keep an eyes on it and turn it every couple of minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, throw in the onions and jalapeño and switch off. The residual heat is enough to cook the onion just to the point of turning golden brown.

Poached 1 poached 6

 

All pictures and writing on this blog are Copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT download, copy, print of use in any form without our explicit written permission to do so.

 

Sinfully Delicious

Au revoir l’été bonjour automne

It is now officially fall, in fact it has been fall for over a week. It is that time of year when I reluctantly bid adieu to summer, which has felt strangely short this year – perhaps because time sometimes feels like it flies by,while at other times cause sheer agony in the length of each second. Don’t mistake this for the depression that millions feel when the weather is about to turn bleak and dark, I look forward to fall and winter just as much, just not so much the transition periods. I reminisce about summer because I am cherishing some of its best work as I type. I chanced upon some lovely ripe yellow peaches, the last of summers’ bounty for the year and decided to combine it with my new found love for greek yoghurt – which I am not ashamed to say has begun to substitute sour cream and sometimes even mayo. I did decide early on this year that health will take precedence in decision making and I’d like to think that, that switch is a product of that decision. I have made some healthy choices through the year, key word being some. In fact I even braved the darned dentist and got some extractions done. Now back to the peaches, surely its fun to eat the peaches just as it is with yoghurt, but it is fall after all, so poaching it with some spices couldn’t be all that bad an idea. It is a bit nippy outside, some warm spice poached peaches over a honey vanilla greek yoghurt base is just the best of both seasons. The spices evoking a gentle trigger to remind me that the holidays aren’t too far off, that mulled wine , pumpkin pie and cider are just a few weeks away. On those toasty thoughts….

POACHED PEACHES 1

POACHED PEACHES 2

POACHED PEACHES 3

I seem to be obsessed with the concept of symmetry in my photography and I need to break the mould soon….Everything is in pairs…oh dear lord! I feared that my OCD would bubble over into other facets of my life but wow, this is rather disconcerting. So here is a promise – the next food blog post/picture will NOT have anything to do with symmetry, I will come up with compositions that are more fluid. All shots were shot with natural light, no reflectors and everything you see are things most of us already own.  As for the recipe – this was really off the cuff – poached in water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and a wee bit of all spice and the sauce is just a gentle mixture of greek yoghurt, vanilla and honey! Proportions are completely taste based on this one so have fun – one can’t really screw this up! You could poach this in some gorgeous Riesling, if your intentions are to make this a bit more sophisticated sounding.

As usual, all pictures and everything on this blog are copyright of the Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT copy or reuse or download or print without my explicit written permission.

Au revoir l’été bonjour automne

Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry & Orange Rose’ Sangria

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you know its a hot one out there today. So here’s my idea for a good cool off – a pink grapefruit, strawberry & orange Rose’ sangria. Am probably going to serve this tonight with a light salad of some sort. Its one of those days when I don’t want anything hot , spicy or heavy, going into my system.

Before I give you my recipe for this incredibly invigorating cooler, the set up is simple its a small light box that I received as a christmas gift, propped up against a window. It was shot around 2pm and the window is east facing, so there is no “direct” sunlight streaming in, that can cause very harsh shadows. Simple props of two highball glasses, the “napkin” is actually a top of mine folded to look like one, and some oranges I had at home.

Voila!

Sangria 1

sangria 2

sangria 3

Recipe

2 large pink grapefruit sliced

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled

3 oranges sliced

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup pink grapefruit juice ( i juiced another 2 grapefruit)

1/2 cup vodka ( if you have either orange flavor or grapefruit flavored its better, otherwise just use normal vodka)

1 bottle rose’ wine ( i used a spanish grenache rose)

Put everything into a jug and let it mascerate overnight. If you want it to be a little sweeter add some simple syrup, it was perfect without the syrup though.

All pictures and material on this blog are copyright of Photopportunist.com/shruthi venkatasubramanian. If you are interested in working with me on a food shoot or purchasing a print of my work, kindly visit my website – http://www.photopportunist.com

Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry & Orange Rose’ Sangria

Food Photography – Ingredients

It doesn’t matter if one has been following this blog for long or has just come upon it thanks to a wordpress shootout on their freshly minted page, but the one thing that would hit you in the face is that I am a photographer and I shoot food a lot. It’s always been about some recipe or an occasion, but today since spring has finally arrived, I find myself and my diet being drawn more towards fresh produce and a definitively higher fruit and vegetable intake. The word that is most associated with spring is freshness and if you have worked in the fragrance industry you would know very well that Citrus will always be a top note when they want to achieve a FRESH smelling scent. Think about it, even when we want to perk up a dish, the last thing to add is either some fresh herbs or citrus – just to give it that fresh burst of flavor.

So, whilst shopping for groceries this weekend I found a ton of fresh oranges – mandarins and clementines, and as I was picking them up some photo ideas cropped up and here they are….All of these shots were shot using natural light, with a diffuser by the window and on a grey board. I adjusted the white balance first on the camera based on the grey board and then shot these. No other equipment was used and they were post processed in lightroom, with minimal adjustments. The only thing to be cognizant of when shooting raw ingredients is the color wheel, its a wonderful guide to keep in mind whilst styling objects that are monotone for the most part and usually belong to a vibrant primary color family. The thing to take away from all this is that, it doesn’t always have to be something specially made and styled for a food shot, sometimes inspiration and practice are right in your refrigerator. Effort & Imagination are all you need.

Citrus 3 copy

Orange

Citrus 2

DO NOT reprint or reuse anything on this blog without the prior and explicit permission of the author.

Food Photography – Ingredients

The sun is back out…and so am I

It’s the last day of winter, and the remnants of the last snow and sleet, have finally vanished. Outside the sun is peeking out from the cover of grey clouds that are quickly being usurped by the blue. Spring will be here tomorrow, that lovely season where everything comes alive. It isn’t warm yet, but like Hemingway once said “…With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning”! Perhaps, that morning isn’t too far away, or perhaps I am now desperately seeking the sun after weeks of rain and snow. So today to celebrate the end of winter I ended up baking the last of the pears for the season into a tart with an Almond Mascarpone Cream. Decadence you say? Oh yes it is! I poured so much time into it, though it is extraordinarily easy to make, that I forgot about making lunch. But, on days like this when I am super hyper active, I couldn’t let that go with just leftovers, so I made myself a bowlful of Kimchi Fried Rice topped with the ubiquitous fried egg. I’m happy and I can’t wait to have more such days of energy and craziness – seems they are my most productive.

If you are wondering why a simple tart took so much of my time that I almost forgot to make lunch, then I should clarify. I spent a good deal of time photographing it. I was challenging myself to come up with different compositions and layouts. Take a look and let me know if I succeeded.

Pear Almond Tart Pear Almond Tart with Almond Mascarpone Cream DSC_0010 DSC_0008

Here is my lunch from today….

Kimchi Fried Rice

The recipes are below, in case anyone is interested. Please DO NOT reuse/reprint/download any of these pictures, they are copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian and cannot be used in any form without my explicit permission.

Pear Almond Tart

1 Store bought 9 inch pie crust

5 tbsp butter (room temperature)

5 tbsp sugar

5 tbsp almond flour

3 tbsp flour

1 egg

1/4 tsp almond extract or 2 tsps amaretto

2 bosc pears, peeled and sliced

For The Amaretto/Almond Mascarpone Cream

1/2 cup mascarpone

1/2 cup cream

1/2 tsp almond extract or 3 tsp amaretto

3 tbsp powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or paste

Preheat oven to 350F

Cream together butter and sugar about 3 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add almond flour and regular flour. Add egg, and amaretto/almond extract and cream till the ingredients are all just combined. Press the store bought pie into the tart pan and do not stretch the dough. Peel and slice the pears into thin slices. Spread the almond filling into the bottom of the tart. It will not fill the tart to the top, but it will rise during baking. Press the pears into the filling, keep the pears in the same shape when you slice so you can place them as is. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely. For the cream by whip mascarpone and heavy cream until thick, add powdered sugar, amaretto/almond extract, and vanilla.

Kimchi Fried Rice

1 cup leftover long grain or basmati rice

1 stalk green onions

1/2 onion, chopped

1 pod of garlic, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup kimchi without juice, chopped

2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

1 egg

In a frying pan, heat some oil and add the chopped onions,chopped white part of green onions and garlic and sautee till the onions become translucent and begin to change color. Add the kimchi and sautee till it begins to brown. Now add the rice and soy sauce and fry till the rice isn’t sticky anymore and starts to brown. In the same pan, after removing the kimchi fried rice, fry one egg with a tiny bit of salt and until the yolk is just about runny. Top the rice with the egg and sprinkle the rest of the green onions and eat up! Takes all of 15 mins to whip this up!

The sun is back out…and so am I

Roasted Tomato Soup

Inspiration can strike anywhere, perhaps inspiration is too strong a word….ideas, maybe? IKEA is a strange place to be hit with the yearning for a tomato soup, especially in winter when no one really gets the freshest of tomatoes. But a black bowl was inspiring enough to rummage the fridge in order to whip up a batch of this fantastic soup that keeps for a month in the freezer, probably even more but we always finish it before that. The sweet, rich flavor of this soup comes from slow roasting tomatoes into submission, at a steady 400F for 40 mins, then adding in a can of whole peeled roma tomatoes, stock, garlic and chilli flakes to give it that extra kick. Toast some lovely croutons and its the meal alternate to curling up on a chair with a hot cup of coffee.

Roasted Tomato Soup 1

 

Roasted Tomato Soup 2

 

Roasted Tomato Soup 3

 

 

Roasted Tomato Soup

6-8 Tomatoes (large)

1 can peeled whole roma tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp red chili flakes

1 large red or yellow onion

3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the tomatoes in halves, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 40 mins.

In a stock pot, add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes. Add the chopped onion and sautee till they are soft and about to change color. Add the can of roma tomatoes and break up the tomatoes(otherwise they do tend to burst and splatter).  Add the roasted tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Blend and serve hot or cold.

Please do not reprint or reuse anything on this blog without the author’s explicit written permission.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Of Whims, fancies and hunger

Fresh from an exhausting week, leading up to a moderately successful exhibition of photography, I am engulfed with a craving for the Far East. Perhaps it has something to do with my itch to scratch off the cabin fever that winter has gifted us with. It has been a long, harsh winter and it’s been below freezing since October of last year. But the groundhogs have promised us an early spring and it does seem just suitably far away. For now the windows outside are still frosted up, snow on the ground and my stomach would like nothing better than a spicy far eastern hug. From satisfying chilli fish to beef rendang, my mind in conjecture with my stomach, which so whole heartedly seems to be taking over every thought right now, is conjuring up steaming bowls of Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and ,absurdly tangential enough, Korean food. It is such a yearning that I had to run out in 4 layers of clothes to get a bottle of gochuchung, a good half a foot of galangal and a bunch of lemon grass. I blame multiple viewings of Kimchi Chronicles and Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, because it would be sacrilege to just blame hunger for such monstrous hankerings? Let me for one moment wander away from this and plug Rick Stein’s programs – he is a seafood crazy chef from Padstow, England and has these shows on BBC UK, you can watch his programs on youtube though. If you are a foodie or a food writer of any caliber, watch his stuff, I don’t think anyone quite describes or articulates about food quite as well as he does, in this modern era of texting. He has a sort of transcendent way of making travel and food synonymous with the exploration of new cultures.

I digress, as I walk the aisles of a local H-Mart, the only recurring thought is a Beef Rendang lunch, made from scratch. So here I go this morning, toasting coconut or rather making kerisik and grinding together shallots, chillies, galangal, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to concoct this spicy and fragrant paste that the beef will slow cook in, along with a can of coconut milk, until the beef has drunk in every last drop of the heavenly gravy and is fork tender. I wish photographs had a way of conveying smells, it’s a sensory explosion that has gratification etched into it. There are certain smells in cooking that are deeply arousing and I don’t mean that in a sexual connotation. If you are like me an overwhelming joy can envelope you, at the smell of garlic and onions hitting hot olive oil or the smell of a slow cooked rendang, wafting slowly through the air in a gentle dance of seduction. There is a reason why warm, freshly baked cookies are made by realtors when they want to sell a house, the sense of smell is exceedingly powerful in eliciting an emotional response to things we see and hear.

For those curious souls who want to replicate this, there is a caveat – unless you like the strong taste of toasted coconuts this is not a dish you must attempt. I come from a country and region, where it is consumed atleast once a day, so its a taste that is reminiscent of my childhood. Also this is my interpretation of something that sorely lacks one of its key ingredients – Kaffir Lime leaves….I couldn’t find these at the asian stores close by and I didn’t want to risk the chance of frost bite just for a few leaves! Besides I had lemongrass and galangal – two things that are supremely versatile, exceedingly effluvious and generously divine. These two, have an irrevocable place in the spice cabinets of South east asians everywhere.

Without much more ado, read, look, weep and enjoy! Today’s whims, fancies and hunger have all been pleasingly allayed!

Ingredients

Spice mix

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

500 gms beef chuck or cuts used for stews

3 cloves

3 black cardamoms

2 star anise

2 inch stick cinnamon

3/4 cup toasted coconut (or kirisik is toasted to golden brown)

1 cup water

1 can coconut milk

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

Spice Paste

4 large shallots

12 dried red chillies soaked in water

4 cloves garlic

1 inch piece of ginger

1 inch piece of galangal

3 stalks of lemongrass, white part only

Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender until its fine, use some of the water the chillies are soaked in, if necessary.

Heat oil in a dutch oven, add the cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom. Add the spice paste and fry until the raw smell of onions dissipates.

Add the turmeric and coriander powders and sautee for another 2 mins. Add the beef, the coconut milk, water and sugar. Cook for about 30-40 mins until the beef is half to 3/4 way done. Add salt to taste, cover the pot and allow to simmer on medium heat for about an hour to hour and a half, until the gravy has dwindled down to less than half. Check for seasonings and serve hot with rice.

On a side note, I wish I could change my camera with immediate effect and get some new lenses to replace the broken ones….feel like I am missing a couple of limbs with a broken camera and lenses. Please do not reproduce or reprint these pictures or writing in any form without the author’s permission.

 

Of Whims, fancies and hunger