Mango Mousse

To kick the summer off I decided to share this refreshing dessert with you. It’s in that colour appeal, the lush texture and energizing taste, all of it speaks summer to me –  a sensational combination of mango, lemon and lime in one glass! Pure summer indulgence!

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The idea comes from a wonderful book “Foolproof Cooking” by the inspirational cook, Mary Berry,  published by BBC Books, 2016 © Mary Berry to accompany her tv series.

It is very simple, and what is absolutely great about it is the fact you can easily prepare it the day before serving – the mousse holds well and stays fresh just as the moment it was made.

 

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For 4 – 6 servings, use 2 ripe mangos (about 400 g mango flesh), 300 ml double cream, juice and grated zest of 1/2 lime, 100 g good – quality lemon curd.

I used mango, but as an adapted version for those possibly allergic to fresh mangos, as myself, I also tried tinned peaches – they work just as well, they’re nearly the same colour and feel just as indulgent and summery as their more exotic counterparts.

Skin the fruit and slice the mango flesh, take good care around its stones, leave some of the chunks aside – keep them reserved for the final decoration of the dessert.

Puree the flesh in a food processor till smooth and velvety.

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Whip the cream in a bowl and check constantly throughout the process – avoid whipping it too thick, only until there are soft peaks – the lemon curd and lime juice will do the thickening once added. Fold them gently into the cream, twirl evenly until the cream is all nicely coherent.

Then simply start filling 4 – 6 small glasses with the pureed mango on the bottom, then layer the cream, mango puree and cream again.

I went for larger glasses and used only some of the cream to decorate the top mango layer. Also, this way you can see more of the puree texture in the images. You can layer them as you wish, or as Mary suggests – having four layers in total (two of the mango and mousse).

You can always adapt the amount of cream, I wouldn’t use more than 350 – 400 ml though, so it wouldn’t overpower the fruit puree.

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Finally, use the reserved mango chunks & lime zest to decorate each glass. Chill in the fridge for about an hour or more before serving. Enjoy the summer!

 

 

 

 

 

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Berry Sundae

What child wouldn’t love this simple sweet juicy mellow sundae? I don’t even have to say.

I’ll be quite short today – celebrating our small ones all around the world, I think this is just a thing to make their day all brighter, juicier, sweeter..

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To make two portions (or more depends how big the little people are )  you need 1-2 large meringues, double cream 250 ml (lightly whipped), a large handful of each fresh raspberries and chopped dry roast macadamia nuts.

Break and crumble the meringues, then whip the cream, don’t make it too thick, and gently fold them together. Add the berries, try not to squash them, be very light handed.

Serve two scoops of good quality vanilla ice – cream in each glass, top with the cream & meringue mixture, sprinkle with the nuts, and as we did, drizzle a little with golden syrup.

Delicious and serves as a wonderful pudding ending any special children’s lunch or dinner!

 

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My favourite Nigel Slater is the author of the original recipe from his series “Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers” which I loved watching as well as following in the kitchen. This one works! Wink.

Find the link to the original recipe here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/acreamycrunchyfruits_92490

Apricot Tart

I do love apricots, they remind me of my first pregnancy, too, when this was the kind of fruit I would want to have very often for no particular reason – well, of course, expecting a baby obviously was a reason good enough – for my apricot cravings. Smile.

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This tart doesn’t require fresh fruit, you can use tinned apricots in juice, so you can make it any time of the year you like. And of course, being pregnant or not. Wink. If you are though, watch for the sugar levels (14.9 g per serving).

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I tried this recipe from Sainsbury’s Cookbook Volume Two, published by © Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2015. I think it’s simple and doable, as most of their recipes, and brings you a lovely pleasant treat in about an hour’s time. It is perfect for an afternoon tea / coffee break.

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For the pastry rub with your fingers 175 g plain flour (keep some extra flour for dusting) with 25 g caster sugar, 100 g baking block (previously cut into pieces) until it crumbly. Add 1 egg yolk and enough water to form a soft dough, which you need to wrap and chill for half an hour (I placed it in the freezer).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180 ºC / 160 ºC fan / gas 4.

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Roll out the pastry to about 3 mm thick and line a 22 cm  tart tin, leaving an overhang of at least 1 cm. Prick with a fork, brush with the egg white, line with greaseproof & non-stick baking paper and fill in with baking beans. Bake for 20 mins, remove beans and paper, and bake for further 5 mins, then trim off ragged edges while warm with a sharp knife. (As you can see in my images, I couldn’t do that, I used a larger stone tart baking tray, so was happy to have had enough dough for the edges – not so pretty, but nothing short of the good taste though.)

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For the filling, whisk 200 ml single cream, 50 g caster sugar, 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk and 1/2 tsp Madagascan vanilla extract in a bowl.

Lay 400g apricots (halves of fruit from a tin, in juice, drained) cut-side down, over the tart case. Place on a baking tray and pour the cream mixture over the fruit. use a rubber spatula to distribute the mixture more evenly if necessary. Bake for 30 – 35 mins until just set and golden.

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Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Enjoy as a part of your afternoon tea but it is also a good idea for a picnic as the filling holds very well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passion Fruit & Cream Pots

In her latest book “Foolproof Cooking”, published by BBC Books in 2016, Mary Berry brings us this “divine, delicious, delectable…” dessert – as described by her own words. I am her big fan, and I truly enjoy following recipes from her books, as well as watching her presenting them on tv.

This recipe is so simple, and the result is incredible. It has become an instant favourite of our home, and am sure will stay with us for long. Or more like forever. Smile.

It is a particularly great idea for a dinner party – the pots can be made ahead,  they do not demand any long preparations, truly easy to make and still able to impress your guests – especially when served in pretty glasses. A lovely touch of luxury.

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You need 600ml double cream, 100 g caster sugar, 6 passion fruit, juice of 1 lime.

Pour cream in a saucepan, add the sugar and stir on lower heat until it dissolves completely, then increase the heat and boil for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Scoop the pulp, seeds and juice of 5 passion fruit and place in the blender, then pour through sieve, add all the juice to the warm cream and stir well. Discard anything left in the sieve. You will notice how the cream starts to thicken after a while, it is such a fascinating process – I love watching it! The cream will thicken further as you add the lime juice.

Pour the cream into glasses – this amount of cream makes either 4 larger glasses (see images in this blog post) or 6 smaller pots, such as shot glasses.

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Place them in the fridge, where they will need up to 3 hours to set, but you can also make this in the evening and use them the next day.

Serve them topped with juice and pulp of the remaining passion fruit. They will give you lots of love. Wink.

 

 

Pecan Pancakes On The Set

I am adding my two cents to the pancake avalanche that has been descending upon us these few weeks: gorgeous Pecan Pancakes, or Maple Pecan Pancakes as originally named by their author Martha Rose Shulman (featured in NYTimes/Cooking), are labelled as “healthy” for a good reason – the flour used to make them is a combination of the wholemeal & almond flour.

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I adapted the original version – I didn’t use cranberries in the pancake mixture, and used vegetable oil that I had at hand already. For the rest I followed her recipe completely, which resulted indeed in very scrumptious pancakes of beautiful, nutty taste and truly delicate texture. Adding the syrup accomplishes your day! Gold!

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My only advice would be to handle them with real care – from  being rather sparing while dropping your batter onto the heated pan , to flipping them over cautiously, too. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded – they are wonderfully deep in taste, yet feel absolutely light all along.

They made a lovely eye – catching subject for my shoot, because, no need to emphasize, the pancake syrup trickle is a joy to work on for every food photographer, I think everyone must love it – it gives immediate results, and attracts the viewer from almost every angle.

Beware, of course, of the sort of pancakes you’re shooting, and still where would the light be best reflected against the golden drip. Also, it’s good to show the atmosphere – are they meant to be for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert? All that counts into planning your set, and adjusting light conditions – as well as the post process in addition.

I did a little “setting – the – scene” video, for which I used few JPGs – view the short video on my Facebook or Instagram pages:

https://www.facebook.com/MilkiLiving

https://www.instagram.com/miriamionica/

For the blog here, I add this collage of the images used in it – so you have a look at the process of “building up” your scene. Adding objects to the frame, or even movement – e.g. by pouring the syrup – for all this, pancakes are really more than a plausible dish to capture.

PicMonkey Collage 2

 

If you’d like to make these golden pancakes, find all Martha’s ingredients & instructions here:

 

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12878-maple-pecan-pancakes

May you be merry! .. and compassionate & kind!

Listening to Bin Crosby’s White Christmas, trying to imagine snow in our sun – lit backyard, thinking of the Little Person ice – skating last week – in a half – melted ice rink..

Well, it’s not the snow or cold that I am missing, I am quite happy being under weather as it is right now – not even joking, truly, being thankful for all – even the breeze, or rain, or sunshine.

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What I am missing these days is the compassion and good will. I see a lot of prejudice on the other side.

Perhaps it all just comes with the times we are living. Perhaps that is the survival instinct in us.

Still, what a difference a little act of kindness can make! Anywhere and anytime.

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I won’t come with long messages, only the thought of gratitude and love.

They don’t stand in any way to our being merry or happy.

It’s not only the silver leaf that makes Christmas..  Applicable throughout the whole of the year.

May you be all happy, dear friends!

~

And if these gorgeous little cookie cakes would add to your happiness, then there’s not much ado about them. Also, they are a fantastic joy to make!

See them building up the lovely tree is so satisfying! Smile.

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I got inspired by Molly from a wonderful blog mynameisyeh.com .

I myself used a different recipe for the dough and icing, however, the idea of the cute cookie cake came all from her – I just fell in love with it the moment I saw it!

You find her original recipe and many more brilliant ideas here:
http://mynameisyeh.com/mynameisyeh/2015/11/sugar-cookie-mini-cakes

 

 

Jarred & Preserved

If I can do it, anyone can.

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I’m so glad I put my hands on this little lovely book of “579 recipes for preserving fruits & vegetables and making jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles” by Beryl Wood, published by Square Peg 2011, © Beryl Wood 1970. 

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It serves people far better in preserving than me, as well as beginners as myself. I loved going through its pages when freshly bought with a gardening magazine earlier this summer, and looked forward to my own jars full of goodness.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed the process so much! Because it is not just you all hot and sweaty in the summer heat, standing there in the kitchen at the cooker, stirring the bubbly sticky sweet mixtures. It truly takes much more.. Mostly joyous activities, smile and wink.

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First step – get your fruits (or veggies) – it makes a great family outing opportunity when you decide to go picking your own fruit. This had served us so well few times – taking our children for a lovely afternoon out, picking the berries or apples. Fantastic moments of doing something very worthy – the work is not hard at all thanks to amazing PYO farms in beautiful Kent. Or else, on another occasion it was a lovely meet up with friends over the summer school holidays, picking berries, play and picnic – I mean, who would say no to that? Smile again.

Then there is the photographic and stylistic challenge – fruits and veggies are so photogenic, just calling for all those clicks! You go trying different props, different backgrounds, settings, lighting arrangements, you name it.

Going lighter.. with raspberries. In natural light (see the image above) and in artificial light (see the image below). Using reflectors to enhance their colour or freshly sprinkled drops of water – with fresh fruits & veg always keep your water spray handy, aim well.

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Going darker.. with blackberries. Try new lighting or styling scheme. For quite some time I thought the best in food photography is to fill in all the shadows, which of course, is not quite so true. You need shadows, they bring on the texture of the food pictured, and also, have magical powers in creating a certain mood.

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Compare the two above images, and you can see what I mean – fresh, bright, energizing raspberries, and on the other hand, darker, almost gloomy blackberries. I chose the styling & lighting according to what each of the berries awoke in me – judged mostly by a couple of factors – their colour, taste, shape and texture, and where they come from, too . Raspberries come from bushes grown in open fields, with lots of sunshine surrounding them – so I allowed more light onto them, with more reflectors, they’re all wrapped in light, they pop out at you in all their colourful beauty.

I picked blackberries on the wood sides, that are a bit darker, and their sweetness when fully ripe is much deeper, and it also takes more time to ripen. I went for darker setting, I let less light in, I blocked the light and directed it the way I wanted. Blocking the available light well is just as demanding as reflections, maybe even more.
All this comes to my mind when I create my images, because since ever I started shooting food, or anything, I always think of a concept, of a story that may be behind each and every picture. And I love that about my work.

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After fruits, you go looking for nice jars – you may collect them few months ahead while buying and using shop bought preserves, or go and get brand new ones. I did it both ways, some shop bought preserves are sold in such lovely shaped jars it is hard to resist them – plus, everyone at home is used to the fact there’s something sweet in them. Smile.

When shopping for styling, go definitely for some classic, or typical shapes.

Then there’s the recipes. Of course all my blogger friends already know that testing a recipe takes few turns before it is actually published. If you choose to do something just for the photos’ sake, trying lighting, and still want to enjoy the home making, use recipes by another author, giving credits or information where they originate in your post.

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Get your ingredients ready, and experience the joy of preserving a bit of one season for the seasons to come – it really is wonderful to just reach to your shelf and get all the fantastic stuff from under the lid – the picking, the preparing, the cooking.. spread on your toast, or enjoyed with a biscuit and cheese… Like my jams and chutney.

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I’ve got two berry jam and apple chutney recipes for you, using the book by Beryl Wood mentioned above.

Raspberry Conserve (or jam):

920g raspberries; 1.1 kg sugar; water

Clean and husk berries; put in pan with very small quantity of water to prevent sticking; bring slowly to boil, stirring gently; add sugar, stirring till dissolved, boil for 3 min; pot and cover.

 

Blackberry Jam :

910g blackberries, 450g sugar, 2 lemons

Husk and pick over fruit carefully; lay on large dish, cover with sugar and juice of lemons; stand overnight; put into pan on gentle heat, stirring till sugar dissolved, then boil for 45 min, or to set.

For both jams I used preserving sugar.

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Apple Chutney :

There are many variations of apple chutney, but the cooking principle is the same and very simple. The apples should be peeled, cored and coarse chopped together with any other fruit or vegetable used, the whole spices tied in a muslin bag; put all ingredients in a pan, simmer gently for about 1 h or until mixture thickens, remove muslin bag, pot and seal.

I used these ingredients (chosen from more options):

450g apples, 450g onions, 340g brown sugar, 500 ml malt vinegar, 15 g each ginger, turmeric and curry powder, salt to taste. I also added fresh ginger to add more heat.

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Hope you enjoy many happy moments preserving and shooting!

“And don’t forget,” as the author of the recipe book says, ” do experiment with mixing fruit and vegetables and flavours – the most outstanding things can result quite accidentally.

Mind you, there also can be some horrors, too, but a little practise and even more ingenuity can make you the envy of many an accomplished hostess and ‘your recipe’ will be much sought after.”

I guess some of her advice may very well be applied to photography, too. Practise, or even experiment sometimes with some new settings, styling, and you may come to some new lighting, styling or compositional ideas, or make sure you developed the very special style unique to you which will make your images stand out among others.