Category Archives: photos – food

Tres Macs


This post is about trying a new lighting set up. These were shot in the afternoon.

In these photos, I had a dark brown kitchen bar stool sitting next to my living room sliding door, where the warm afternoon sun is coming in at a nice 45 degree angle, coming through from the left. The reason for choosing the bar stool is for its wooden-palette like stripes, which I’ve seen used in lots of food photography shots.
I used a white foam core board as background, and another one to the right at right angles as a bounce.
I tweaked the macarons a bit to show less chocolate ganache. Is it better?
How about having them flat on the plate, to show off their circular symmetry?
Here’s a photo of the boxed up gift for my colleague in exchange for some sour dough starter. See the shadow? I think I need a better bouncer! Will try the white umbrella with my speedlight next time – time is running out today!
Another shot of the gift with the top off.

Blueberry macaron


Once again I delegated the task of choosing our next macaron flavour to J. ‘What colour macaron should we make this time?’

‘er. Teal!’ ( that being my favourite colour)

Hm how can I get this colour without buying the actual colour gel? A bit of blue and yellow should do the trick! Read my basic macaron recipe:

Macaron shells
90 g almond meal
60 g macadamia meal
150 g icing sugar
58 g egg whites extra

Italian meringue
58 g egg whites (about 1.5 egg)
1 g meringue powder
150 g caster sugar
38 g water
5 drops of blue coloring gel
2 drop of yellow coloring gel

Instead of sifting, I blitzed the almond meal and icing sugar until it is a fine powder.

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Put the first lot of egg whites into your stand mixer.
Clip the sugar thermometer according to manufacturer’s instructions to a milk saucepan. Don’t let it touch the bottom of the pan. Put the water and caster sugar in and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Some recipes say you should stir this gently – I’ve found that so long as I didn’t splash the sugar around, I won’t even have to stir. Use a clean pastry brush to brush down the side of the saucepan to avoid any crystallization if the liquid splashes up. Increase the heat and bring to the boil.

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To make teal-coloured shells, I added the gel colourings to my Italian meringue. The amount depends on the strength of your gel, what depth of colour you desire and how it mixes with other ingredients. Practice is the only way to test it out. I scrapped tiny balls out using a tooth pick. I used the Wilton brand of gels.

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Cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 70°C. You should monitor your sugar thermometer, and as it reaches this temperature, add the meringue powder to the egg whites and whisk in medium until it becomes frothy.

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Once the sugar syrup has reached 118°C (soft ball stage), take the saucepan off the heat, decrease the mixer speed to medium and slowly trickle the sugar syrup in, down the side of the bowl. (Be warned not to get the syrup onto the whisk as you will then have spun sugar.) Increase speed to high and whisk until the bowl is warm to touch, about 8 minutes.

20120420-121504.jpg Look at that colour! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Add the extra egg white to the almond meal mix, then add the meringue and use a large spatula to thoroughly combine it. Continue folding the mixture to soften the meringue. To achieve “macaronnage”, I mixed the batter about 18 times. Don’t over do this.

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Scoop the mixture into a piping bag (stand the piping bag in a tall glass if you can’t quite scoop and hold the bag at the same time) with a 12mm plain tip. Holding the bag slightly above the tray, pipe from the centre of each template circle to make a 4cm round. Keep it just within the border of each template circle. Do so without moving your tip to ensure your round is actually round in shape. At the end of piping each round, flick your tip from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock quickly to end the piping action. The tip on top should drop back and result in a smooth top. Decorate as you wish the top of the macarons.

Leave the macarons at room temperature for at least 30 minutes until a skin forms. It might take longer in humid days. Preheat your oven to 135°C around 20 minutes into this step (you know your oven best – I use fan force and have it on at 125°C). Test the skin by gently touching the side of a macaron with your fingertip – it should not be sticky. This is important as the skin lifts while the macaron cooks, resulting in the all important ‘foot’! Today I waited for 40 minutes for a nice skin to be formed.

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I fan-baked them at 125°C, for 18 minutes. As I have 3 sheets in total, I decided to bake the first in by itself, and then this time add the two last trays in after 6 minutes to see if that changes the results. The macarons in the trays that were baked last were a little bit stickier than the sheet that went in first but still ok with an extra minute in the oven. I think I will stick with baking them individually next time and only resort to time-cutting measures if I run out of time again.

Once out of the oven, the macarons were left for 2 minutes on its trays before I checked them. They peeled off the baking paper quite easily. I then slid the whole sheet off the baking sheet onto my cool marble counter top. This causes a thermal shock and will make it even easier to peel off.

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I paired this with a chocolate ganache, and the recipe follows:

150g chocolate, chopped
150ml cream
3 tbsp blueberry jam

Melt cream in a pot and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes until the chocolate melts. Add blueberry jam to the chocolate. Mix till the ganache is smooth. Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm for spreading. Use an offset spatula to spread some ganache in the centre of the shells, being careful not to put too much. Once you have half of the shells done, take each top shell and put it on top of one with the ganache, with a twisting motion.

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These need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the ganache to flavour the shells, so don’t eat it yet! These can keep in the freezer for up to 3 months – just wrap a few of them (4 or 6) with cling film wraps and place them in a airtight box. Bring them out an hour before serving to allow them to return to room temperature. The moisture will cling to the cling film and not your macarons.

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Results: I will definitely add the blueberry jam as a separate layer from the ganache next time, as my dear guinea pigs (aka my lovely colleagues) said they couldn’t taste the flavour.

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Chinese pickle – turnip, carrot and cucumber


Chinese pickles

Chinese pickles

Chinese pickles

Chinese pickles

Sushi has become a very common choice for meals these days, for its multitude of flavours and healthy ingredients (perhaps not so the fried pork cutlet with layers of fat-ladden mayo).
Surprisingly, J doesn’t like sushi and I still haven’t figured out exactly why. With her new found love for prawns, I might try a prawn salad filling next time to tempt her. Except she might unpick the whole thing and eat just the prawns. Well that will be an entirely different post and I digress.
One evening I served an extra dish of scallop sushi – bought from Sushi Pac as a reward for S – and J frowned and asked me what the pink coloured slices on the side of the box were.
“They are ginger slices, pickled in vinegar.” and J replied,
“Oh life can be a real pickle, eh?” I was stunned! Where did she pick this up from? So I ask,
“Who taught you this?”
“er…Linda!” (her teacher at childcare)
“Do you know what it means?”
“Yes it means sometimes, some things shouldn’t break, you know, but some things then break! We don’t know what to do. That’s a pickle!” she said a matter of factly.

I was made speechless by that explanation, and was inspired to make some pickled turnip, carrot and cucumber.

Ingredients

  • 600g turnip (about half of a large one) – in Chinese it is called ‘white carrot’
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 750 ml apple cidar vinegar
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar

Instructions

  1. Peel the carrots and cut them into logs: about finger-length and half centimeter by half centimeter wide. Half the cucumber lengthwise and scoop the seeds out and discard. Cut the cucumber into the same size as the carrots.
  2. Sprinkle about 2 tbsp of salt over the vegetables and gently massage it in. This draws the moisture content out and makes a nice crunchy pickle. Leave this in a colander to drain for 30 minutes.

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3. In the mean time, pour the apple cider vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add sugar in, stir to dissolve it. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

4. Give the vegetables a good firm squeeze and use paper towels to dry them further. Put these in a large glass jar, and pour the cooled pickle solution in. Leave overnight in fridge.

5. Serve with anything really. After all, you never know what kind of pickle life is going to throw at you.

Chinese pickles

Chinese Poached Chicken


This is a dish where most of the cooking is done without spending too much time in front of the stove. You can work on your other dishes while this is cooking. Yes you have a bit of chopping and tearing to do in the end, but to me it is time well spent for a healthy, delicious and succulent dish. Chicken cooked like this remains very moist and tender. J loves this.

Ingredients:
1 size 14 whole chicken
2 litres chicken stock
2 teaspoon salt
8 whole black peppercorns
1 stalk of green onions, chopped into finger long lengths
5 slices of ginger
Enough water to cover the chicken

Dipping Sauce:
5 Tbsp oil
2 stalks of green onions, chopped into small thin rounds
4 slices of ginger, chopped into small pieces
3 tsp salt

Garnish (optional):
Cucumber ribbons
Coriander
Spring onions
Garlic chilli sauce
——————————————————————————–
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking and cooling time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Instructions:

1. Place the chicken, chicken stock, salt, peppercorns, green onions, ginger in a large stockpot and set it over high heat. Add enough water to cover the chicken.
2. Bring this to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for about 1 hour until the chicken is still very tender. Skim the surface of any foam. (If you own a Thermos cooker, then you would bring this to a boil for 5 minutes, take it off the heat and place it in the outer shell of the Thermos cooker for an hour).
3. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Chill it with cold water. Replace water a few times until the chicken has cooled down.
4. Once the chicken is cool to the touch, set it in a large bowl.
5. If you don’t like eating chicken skin, gently remove it and discard.
6. Remove the wings and drums off. Reserve for plating.
7. Tease the two breasts off the bones – they should come off quite easily if the chicken is cooked. (If there are any signs of an undercooked chicken, you can put the whole chicken in the microwave for a short 30 seconds to finish the cooking process.) Set aside.
8. Continue to remove all the meat off the bones. Discard all bones.
9. Slice the chicken meat into thin pieces. Plate up with wings and drums on the side.
10. Make your dipping sauce by heating the oil in a small pan. Add the chopped green onions, ginger and salt. Fry until it is fragrant, about 1 minute.
11. Pour this into a dipping sauce dish, and serve with chicken.
12. Best served with hot rice and optional garnish of cucumber ribbons, coriander, extra spring onions and hot chilli sauce.

Blackcurrant macaron with grape jelly and chocolate ganache


We went up to the Matakana Farmers Market last weekend and tried some gorgeous local produce. I was really inspired by the produce and picked up some macadamia meal and grape gelly for my next macaron taste adventure. I made some simple variations to my basic macaron recipe:

Macaron shells
90 g almond meal
60 g macadamia meal
144 g icing sugar
6 g freeze dried Blackcurrant powder
58 g egg whites extra

Italian meringue
58 g egg whites (about 1.5 egg)
1 g meringue powder
150 g caster sugar
38 g water
2 drops of Rose coloring gel
1 drop of Violet coloring gel

I substituted 6 g of icing sugar with 6g of freeze dried Blackcurrant powder and did something I haven’t done before – instead of sifting, I blitzed the almond, macadamia meal, icing sugar and Blackcurrant powder until it is a fine powder.

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Put the first lot of egg whites into your stand mixer.
Into a milk saucepan, put the water and caster sugar in and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Some recipes say you should stir this gently – I’ve found that so long as I didn’t splash the sugar around, I won’t even have to stir. Use a clean pastry brush to brush down the side of the saucepan to avoid any crystallization if the liquid splashes up. Clip the sugar thermometer according to manufacturer’s instructions. Increase the heat and bring to the boil.
To make reddish-coloured shells, I added the gel colourings to my Italian meringue. The amount depends on the strength of your gel, what depth of colour you desire and how it mixes with other ingredients. Practice is the only way to test it out. I scrapped tiny balls out using a tooth pick.

Cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 70°C. You should monitor your sugar thermometer, and as it reaches this temperature, add the meringue powder to the egg whites and whisk in medium until it becomes frothy.

Once the sugar syrup has reached 118°C (soft ball stage), take the saucepan off the heat, decrease the mixer speed to medium and slowly trickle the sugar syrup in, down the side of the bowl. (Be warned not to get the syrup onto the whisk as you will then have spun sugar.) Increase speed to high and whisk until the bowl is warm to touch, about 8 minutes.

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Add the extra egg white to the almond meal mix, then add the meringue and use a large spatula to thoroughly combine it. Continue folding the mixture to soften the meringue. To achieve “macaronnage”, I mixed the batter about 18 times. Don’t over do this.

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Today I waited for 30 minutes for a nice skin to be formed.

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I fan-baked them at 125°C, for 18 minutes. As I have 3 sheets in total, I decided to bake the first in by itself, and then this time add the two last trays in after 6 minutes to see if that changes the results. The macarons in the trays that were baked last were a little bit stickier than the sheet that went in first but still ok wit an extra minute in the oven. I think I will stick with baking them individually next time and only resort to time-cutting measures if I run out of time again.

Once out of the oven, the macarons were left for 2 minutes on its trays before I checked them. They peeled off the baking paper quite easily. I then slid the whole sheet off the baking sheet onto my cool marble counter top. This causes a thermal shock and will make it even easier to peel off.

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I paired this with a chocolate ganache, and the recipe follows:

150g chocolate, chopped
150ml cream
Melt cream in a pot and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes until the chocolate melts. Mix till the ganache is smooth. Cool in the fridge for 30 minutes until firm for piping.

In the meantime, I used a small icing spatula to lift off thin sections of the grape jelly. I placed these on one pair of the domes and piped the chocolate ganache onto the other pair of the domes.

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These need to be kept in the fridge for 24 hours for the ganache to flavour the shells, so don’t eat it yet! These can keep in the freezer for up to 3 months – just wrap a few of them (4 or 6) with cling film wraps and place them in a airtight box. Bring them out an hour before serving to allow them to return to room temperature. The moisture will cling to the cling film and not your macarons.

This reminds me acutely of Ribena, my favourite childhood drink (actually still is!).

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