About a week ago, I found myself heading to Leiths School of Food and Wine (off Askew Road in West London) after work. I had been invited to a cooking and food styling and food photography class there hosted by Microsoft Devices. Ever keen to play with yet another gadget, I accepted the invitation to this blogger event. It turned out to be a fun night!
Phones were lent to us that evening and after the event, the photos taken on them were sent to us. So, all the photos in this post were taken using the Nokia Lumia 1520 (running Windows Phone 8). As you can see, the photos are quite good for having been taken using a phone camera; the only downside I can see to this particular model is its size. It’s massive and I have tiny hands so…cue a lot of fumbling. I was glad for the chance to play around with a Windows phone, however, and can see why lots of people like it.
We started with an introduction by Jessica Mills, who ran us through the dishes we would be cooking that day and who gave us various cooking and styling tips as well. She would also help us with styling the dishes after we had finished cooking them all.
We then moved across to the other side of the (gigantic) kitchen where Jenny Dowling then gave us a demonstration on how to prepare a rack of lamb. It was inspiring…so much so that I chose to tackle the lamb myself!
Anyway, we divided up into teams and yes, I did get stuck in with the lamb. My hot teammates were Rosana of Hot % Chilli and Cathia of jingle jungle. While I prepared the lamb, Rosana made the salad starter while Cathia was in charge of the pavlova dessert.
That lamb was a pain to prepare. All that fat had to first be trimmed and then the bones scraped. Scrape, scrape, scrape rasped my knife along the bone. Scrape scrape scrape scrape scrape. After what felt like hours, I had a couple of clean bones, a couple awful looking bones and a bone that was falling off. Brilliant. Jenny took pity on me and helped me clean it all up and I then spread the mustard breadcrumb crust on top and here’s how they finally looked.
By the way, if anyone’s expecting me to prepare this at home, they can dream on; I now fully appreciate everything that a butcher can do.
By the time I had finished with the lamb and the accompanying tomato and mint salsa (there were a lot of tomatoes to chop!), Rosana was already plating her spinach and bacon salad with chilli and mango. Isn’t it gorgeous? Jenny had her think about colours and textures and even the background for the dish. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that this kind of styling is beyond my abilities (and let’s be honest, it’s not fun to eat cold food).
After we all tucked into our salad starters (unstyled for the rest of us), the racks of lamb had already come out of the ovens and were resting, waiting for their turn on the catwalk.
And here’s the love I gave our serving of rack of lamb with mustard and breadcrumbs and tomato and mint salsa. The main thing I really enjoyed about this food styling session? The selection of plates that were laid out for us – wow, I wish I had a cupboard and a budget big enough to house them all! They were beautiful! It was difficult to choose between them when it came to plating.
This plate seemed perfect though when it came to my hasty family-style plating of the rack of lamb to serve our team…and I almost prefer it! This is really how I like to style my food at home, though I appreciate how much work goes into one of those artily styled food photos.
Dessert time! The meringues made by Cathia turned out beautifully! I couldn’t help myself and before I knew it, a meringue had entered my mouth. And they really were wonderful – all crisp on the outside and incredibly chewy on the inside. (And that’s the phone there in the shot below.)
Cathia had prepared all the fruit – papaya, pomegranate and passion fruit – and we all had a go at plating up our own dessert. Dollops of cream, scatterings of fruit and we had our masterpieces. My mouth is watering as I write this post!