Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Smorgasbord of Dancers...

Apologies to the readers who want more recipes - there WILL be more in future, don't worry - but here's some more of the rich fare that has lately lured my eye away from the kitchen.

I consider it 'food for the soul'...!

My long-time friends Dr Richard James Allen and Dr Karen Pearlman of the Physical TV Company invited me to witness the next stage of their creative process, a documentary film about Dance called: Doesn't Fit into a Box, inviting me to take stills photographs during the filming.

Over the last few years, Karen has been doing some Post-Doctoral Research in the Dance-Film area through a Fellowship with an organisation called Critical Path, based in Rushcutters Bay in Sydney. Through that research she says she didn't so much come up with answers, but rather - as is often the way when delving deeper into things - discovered still more questions.

So in this stage of the documentary-making, Karen was posing her questions to a diverse range of professional dancers and choreographers, asking:

"Where does Dance come from?"

"Where does Dance go when it leaves you?"

- and the ultimate existential question -
"What is Dance for?"

It was fascinating to listen to the varied responses of the professional dancers and choreographers who were being interviewed. Their expertise ranged from classically trained ballet, to flamenco, to indigenous performance, to Japanese Butoh, to yoga and martial-arts, to contemporary experimental cross-media arts that weave movement and text and light and voice together into dance.

Sitting very still for 20 minutes at a time - not a pin may drop during filming! - over a twelve-hour day and focusing intently on the responses of these professional artists was an intense meditation that made me reflect on my own creative practice.

And I found myself coming up with my own responses to Karen's Questions:

"Creativity comes from the air;
through the crackling impulse of the thoughts and experiences we share with each other;
though the moments of inspiration that we scatter like seeds from our flowering;
through the enlightenment that the burning of our flame sheds around us...

When it passes through us, creativity continues -

in the lives we have touched, in the minds we have changed
- it goes back into the air.

And 'what is creativity for?'

- well, you might as well ask:

'what is breathing for?'..."

Here is the view out the window of the dance studio as dusk fell. It had rained heavily throughout the day, but as you can see, all clouds have a silver - or in this case golden - lining.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Out & About...

I've been a bit slack in the Food Photography department lately... not because I haven't been eating - there's still been plenty of yum-oh in the tum-oh - just no time to photograph it!

For the last few weekends my camera's gaze has lifted from the dinner table and my mind has been occupied elsewhere, captivated by learning a host of new technical skills, as well as embracing new photographic opportunities outside the kitchen.

Shooting in RAW has been one of the technical things I've been exploring, bringing an appreciable difference (I think?!) to the quality of my finished images.

Another has been getting hold of a new lens - the Zuiko 12-60mm wide-angle zoom, which has opened a whole new window on my photographic world.

I've also been shooting in a whole variety of fascinating and (gasp!) 'non-food' areas, such as: weekend travel, stills for a contemporary dance documentary, a Buddhist garden centre, a Catholic christening and promo shots for a pregnant yoga-teacher colleague... (you can see I'm a pluralist at heart!)

For now, here's a collage of some pics from a wintry day-trip to Shell Harbour, down near Wollongong on the South Coast of NSW, about an hour-and-a-half from Sydney.

And a cup of hot soy-milk with chocolate stripes on top - just to show I haven't entirely abandoned Food Photography!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Learning New Presentation Skills

Today I learned some new presentation skills! So If you'll bear with me, here's a collage of some of the photos from Marienne's Zesty Citron Cake shoot...

This was done using the free software on Picassa from Google. Picassa is a great picture-organising tool, I don't know how I'd keep track of my pics without it - it's super-fast for browsing images and has some really good picture-editing tools. For some of the simple fixes - cropping / straightening / lightening / darkening / sharpening / saturation / etc - it is almost as good as PhotoShop and nowhere NEAR the mucking about.

Who said there's no such thing as a Free Lunch??! lol.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gluten-Free Spaghetti Pesce

A quick Tuna-Pasta for a week-night dinner...

Since discovering that living in a wheat-free world suited my system a lot better, I’ve spent a bit of time experimenting with the variety of alternatives that are available. In the early days of wheat-free products there was, shall we say, a LOT of room for improvement. The breads typically tasted like cardboard and the pastas often failed to hold their shape, turning into a watery glug.

But behold the advancements of the 21st Century! Wheat-free breads and pastas are now being produced which rival and even surpass their wheaten counterparts.

San-Remo make a beaut range of Spaghetti, Tagliatelle, Penne, etc, that hold up under all the usual pasta tests: they remain aldente when cooked, they hold the sauce well on the plate, and they taste great.

Here’s one of my week-night stand-bys - a quick and easy tuna-pasta with fresh herbs. It was so un-seasonally warm yesterday that a light pasta seemed just the thing – spring is definitely returning!

I grew these Rocket and Chicory herbs myself, in pots by the back door, using organic compost.

The recipe?

Spaghetti Pesce with Fresh Herbs


1 packet of gluten-free spaghetti pasta,
1 can of dolphin-safe tuna in oil
1 large dollop of Organic soya mayonnaise

1 small red Spanish onion, finely sliced
a handful of fresh green herbs, shredded

(I used Rocket and Chicory, but basil, coriander, spinach, dandelion greens, etc, are also great)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until aldente - cooked, but with a slight firmness to the bite.

Drain most of the oil off the tuna and scatter it into a mixing bowl. Slice the Spanish onion finely and shred the green herbs and add them to the tuna. Add a dollop of mayonnaise to the tuna and herbs and mix through lightly.

On the weekend, you could make your own mayo from scratch, but for 'quick-and-easy', shop-bought organic does just fine.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it and place in a serving bowl. Top with the tuna mix and fold it though with a couple of large forks. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Beth’s Four-Flours Gluten-Free Bread

Last Sunday morning, Beth cooked up a fabulous breakfast to celebrate Audrey handing in the final copy of her thesis - remember Audrey? She has been writing about the Sarawak cloth-weavers and she made us that delicious Laksa and the Mohinga Fish Soup.

The piece-de-resistance of Sunday’s breakfast was, in my opinion, the Four-Flours Bread that Beth made from scratch, with her own special combination of gluten-free flours. It was absolutely yum-oh: it toasted well and harmonised perfectly with poached eggs, fried mushrooms and spinach & fennel.

Here’s Beth’s Secret Recipe:

Four-Flour Bread Ingredients for a 1 kg loaf.

Wet ingredients:
water 400 ml
olive oil 3 tbs
sea-salt 2 tsp
maple syrup or carob molasses 2 tbs
soy milk 2 tbs

Dry ingredients:

Mix these four following flours together:
- Besan (chickpea) flour 1 cup
- Buckwheat flour 1 cup
- Brown rice flour 1 cup
- Potato starch 1 cup

- 2 tbs xanthan gum
- 2 tsp batatis rhizome powder (Shan Yao - Wild Mountain Yam)
- 2 tsp Tandaco yeast

Seeds/Grains to be added later:
- 2 tbs linseeds
- 2 tbs kibbled oats

Directions for Bread-maker:
Beth uses a Breville Baker's Oven: Electronic Bread Maker (model BB280) that she bought from the Breville Factory Outlet in Ultimo, near the Sydney Fish Markets. She says it was a cheap one that she bought just to see if she was really 'into' bread-making. And now that she knows she really IS into bread-making (!) she says she will probably upgrade sometime to a model with a retractable blade, as the BB280 blade leaves a hole in the bottom of the loaf.

Add ingredients in the given order above, wet ingredients followed by dry, making sure that the yeast is the last one in. Set to Basic Bake (2 hours), with preferred crust setting.

The machine will take off and start mixing all the ingredients, letting them 'rest' for the appropriate times for the yeast to rise etc. You can watch if you want through a little window in the top - great for entertaining the kids on a rainy day (or is that only pre-Nintendo kids?) - when the blade starts kneading, the dough comes together in a ball and it is like watching a fat hamster scurrying around the barrel.

After the second rising (about 20 minutes) the bread maker will beep and you add the grains, mixing them into the dough for a more even spread.
Fancier model bread-makers have an auto function for adding seeds at this stage - you put them in a little chamber and they are released at the appropriate time.

Then it's a matter of putting your feet up and waiting for the house to be filled with that oh-so-delightful smell of fresh baking bread.

In a later post, we will investigate the traditional 'made by hand' bread method. My friend Stevie in Newcastle is a dab hand at bread, having made fresh, crusty loaves for his family of six for years. He knows his way around both the hand-kneading processes, as well as several bread-making-machines. Look out Steve - the bloggstudio is coming!!

Beth was saying yesterday that she is keen to try making a gluten-free Pizza base that the Breville instruction book says can be made in the bread-maker.

Mmmmmm - Yum-oh!

Mohinga – Burmese Fish & Noodle Soup.

I was Googling 'breakfast' the other day, to do a little compare-and-contrast of what the rest of the world is tucking into as the sun rises. And the strange proclivity that many modern westerners have for either cold cereal or a greasy fry-up is, it seems, mostly a marketing invention of one Harvey Kellogg, who at the turn of the last century wanted to find a way to sell corn and sugar in a more appealing way; and a hang-over from the English farmers' breakfast where a solid meat meal would keep a man hard to the plough all morning.

My own personal taste in breakfasts leans much more towards the East in general, and Asian soups, congees and dumplings in particular. It is nice to know I am not alone in this desire - 80% of the worlds population dream of this kind of thing for breakfast. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Mohinga - Myanmar's classic breakfast meal - which could be considered the national dish of Burma. Frequently served up by mobile street-hawkers as the early rays of sun break into the day, the soup-base is cooked the previous night and is served piping hot, poured over noodles and topped with garnishing ingredients that are all carried in two baskets hanging from a bamboo pole balanced across the Mohingar’s shoulders.

Since this food photography project first began, I have been rounding up my friends to act as Food Stylists - and when I mentioned this Mohinga concept to Audrey and Howard, they were keen on collaboration. As it happens, this was one of our first shoots, but it's taken me until now to get around to posting it. As you can see, I didn't know much about my new camera then, so the depth of field is a bit 'atmospheric', but I think you can get the idea - the finished dish was delish!

A little note of editorial authenticity:
I ran into Enid, a Burmese woman I met through my friend Beck and told her we had been cooking Mohinga. She agreed the recipe was authentic (no coconut milk, please, we're Burmese!) but she corrected our use of bean-sprouts that you will see in the photo, because these aren't traditionally used in garnishing Mohinga. I guess we had been borrowing that Idea from Laksa...

Mohinga Ingredients:

1 cup yellow-split-peas
2 cups water - boil 12 minutes

500 grams dewfish (or other white fish)
cut into bite-size pieces & tossed with:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder

½ cup long grained rice, dry fried for 5 min in a heavy based pan, stirring continuously until a golden colour and nutty aroma arise. Grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle.

¼ cup peanut oil or rice-bran oil
1 stalk of lemongrass, with the bulb
2 large onions, grated
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled & grated
1 small lotus root, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fish sauce (nam pla / ngoc mam)
4 cups water

1 packet of dried rice noodles
Boiling salted water to cook noodles - 5 min


3 hard boiled eggs, quartered
a bunch of coriander leaves
1 cup sliced bamboo shoots
3 shallots/spring onions, sliced finely diagonally
2 limes, quartered
1 teaspoon cayenne powder

Cha Ca - Fried Fish:

1 fillet of Ling, cut into bite sized pieces.
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon salt
oil for shallow-frying


Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions and fry over low heat until they turn golden, about 5 minutes. Pound the lemongrass stalk lightly to release flavours. Add the marinated fish, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, lotus root, paprika, black pepper and fish sauce to the onions and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for five minutes.

Add the boiled split-peas, the extra water and rice powder and stir well. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 12 minutes.

Prepare the garnishes, setting them out on platters for diners to choose from. Boil the rice noodles for 5 minutes and drain. In a separate frying pan, fry the Cha-Ca turmeric-fish pieces until crisp and golden outside and tender and juicy inside.

To Serve:

Place the fish soup stock in a serving pot in the centre of the table, along with the platters of garnishes, Cha-Ca fried fish and the cooked rice noodles. Diners should fill their soup bowls first with noodles, then with the fish curry and whatever garnishes they wish to add before tucking in.


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