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December is here so…☆ミCranberries☆ミ

I’ve never really used fresh cranberries before but have a little penchant for using fun, untested ingredients so when the supermarket served up a cascading wall of ruby red jewels I fell for it.

Erm, what to make?
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Other than a vague desire to make something and a punnet of cranberries there was no plan.

Cranberry lime/ cranberry orange/ cranberry white chocolate.
Sorbet/ biscotti/ muffins/ marshmallows.

A quick look in the store cupboard and pinterest determined my fate.

Cranberry orange tea loaf.
Ingredients – 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup muscovado sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 cup halved fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 tablespoon grated orange peel, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup milk, 3 tablespoons butter, melted, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

I must have been feeling cavalier as I went with the cup measures. Usually I’m over-cautious about converting American recipes into grams and mls but this time I pulled out a mug and threw caution to the wind. Quite freeing!

Result – beautifully tart cranberries perfumed with orange and spice. Lovely and moist. Packed with flavour. Yum

In terms of photos, I had already seen an image of a cranberry loaf that I wanted to recreate.
As always light in Northern Ireland is an issue but I was pretty pleased with the outcome.
Hopefully this will be the last time I use my camera phone! #Camera for Christmas (*^_^*)

Now, what to do with the rest of the cranberries?

Rosewater marshmallows

Gelatine leaves and a bottle of rosewater have been burning a hole in my pantry.
Despite a healthy dislike of marshmallow a quick scan of pinterest got me interested in the idea of gourmet marshmallows.
Call it gourmet and I’m in.

Macaron-making has me preconditioned to favour egg white inclusive recipes so I went with the French version of marshmallows, guimauve.
It pleased me to read the history of marshmallows. Having only experienced shop bought cardboard, I was confused about the purpose of marshmallows. Are they simply a hot chocolate invention?
Apparently not, there was an ancient Egyptian sore throat cure using the marshmallow plant (there’s a marshmallow plant?), an early 19th century French sweet recipe which eventually substitutes the plant for egg whites and gelatine, coincidentally using rosewater as its flavouring. Fate!

The process was surprisingly satisfying. Boiling sugar, liquid glucose and water to 121°, adding soaked gelatine leaves, then trickling it into pre-whisked egg whites til fluffy and cooled to 40°. Whisk in some food colouring and flavouring then pour into a greased and dusted pan and leave overnight to set. The pouring of the liquid was pure joy!

Ingredients: 90g egg whites – 12g gelatine leaves – 230g caster sugar – 20g of liquid glucose – 90ml water – rosewater essence – A few drops of red dye – 30g icing sugar – 15g cornflour – A little oil

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Marshmallow moon

Morning light came and my thoughts turned to photographs.
The best room for natural light is not my kitchen so I had to cart all my supplies to the middle room and set up a table near the window.
I chose an old battered baking sheet as my background. Scrunched up some tissue paper and turned out my marshmallow moon. Dusting icing sugar and cornflour in a room that’s not the kitchen holds its own set of challenges but I wanted the sieve in the photo and that marshmallow moon was sticccccky.
Light was still an issue. My poor little camera phone doesn’t cope well with imperfect light so I’m still not satisfied with the final shots but I’m enjoying playing around with the composition and styling of the photos.

Gotta admit to looking into upgrading to a real camera.

Rosewater marshmallow – yum!

Inspired, at last

Everyone loves good food, right? I love beautiful food.

I didn’t know this about myself until recently.

Yes, it’s true that for many years I’ve oohed and ahhed over my meals, spent excessive amounts of time trying to get the perfect shot of food before ruining it with a fork, despaired at any imperfect attempts at recreating such beauty on my own but still it wasn’t clear to me just how much I love beautiful food.

I guess it really all started when I first met a macaron. Was it Tokyo Laudree or Pierre Herme? I can’t quite recall but what I do remember is how struck I was about its utter perfection. They quickly became an obsession.

It wasn’t until I moved back to Northern Ireland and I was cut off from my regular supply that I was forced to start making them for myself. Some more successful than others but oh the sense of achievement. The flavour possibilities, the colours, the process, the care, seeing ‘ feet’  form through my oven door. J’adore!

As I experimented, equal care was taken to try and capture the beauty of what I was creating. My phone soon became full of pictures, not only documenting each dinner out but of all my culinary attempts, in excruciatingly great detail. Not just any picture would do. I became increasingly frustrated by the quality of photo my camera phone could take, searching for decent light, spending more and more time thinking about the composition, the styling, the props. I’d unwittingly stumbled upon a desire to learn more about food photography.

Armed with my brand new copy of Pixel to Plate: Digital Photography and Styling by Helene Dujardin I aim to learn, improve and stumble further in my pursuit of ever more beautiful food.