As many of you may know, I started this blog to amuse myself while doing some navel gazing about what next to do with my life. I love spending time in the kitchen, and so naturally one of the first things I did while not working was spend the day checking out recipes and then whipping up something new and exciting for dinner that night. This space is an offshoot of that, a little side project to record my cooking adventures, to give me some purpose and to keep me busy. And to justify the food and cookbook bills. I’ve come to realise its not just the cooking I am loving, I quite like the writing and photography side of this page too!
So much in fact that it is time to improve my creative writing and photography skills (or lack thereof). Some of the earlier photos on this site were taken during the longer, sunny, summertime hours in Sydney, where natural light was plentiful. Even though it is still summery weather outside (26C today), it is only two weeks away from winter and it is getting dark well before I’ve started cooking dinner. I have now moved my dinnertime “photo shoot” from outside on our balcony to the kitchen table under glaring lights, with mixed results, especially with my compact camera which is a couple of years old.
Barth, who doubles as MacGyver, made some food photography “ghetto” lights for me this week out of some foam, cardboard and some kitchen lights which didn’t fit our socket (don’t ask)… so I’ll be trialling those lights this weekend and over the next couple of weeks. I’m also thinking of upgrading my Canon Powershot 90S camera. I have been looking at the Sony A7, which is a full frame camera and (just bigger than) the size of a compact camera. I never would have purchased a Sony camera in the past (they make televisions, right?), but the reviews are great and we went and checked it out last weekend, and were really impressed. Has anyone bought this camera, or got any good suggestions for a good camera for food photography? I would also like a camera which is suitable for taking travel photos. Please leave a comment below or email me with any suggestions!
My writing style over the past 10 or so years has been geared towards drafting legal documents and writing legal advice, so I’ve also ordered Dianne Jacob’s book, Will Write for Food, to help with the transition. I received a note in the postbox yesterday that I have a parcel waiting for me at the post office. I’m hoping its the book, and not a speeding ticket from our roadtrip up to Brisbane. After I digest the book, we will see how the creative juices and masterpieces flow, and watch whether I stop using bullet lists, archaic latin terminology and defined terms.
While you are all desperately awaiting my new and improved style, below is a recipe adapted from the Travelers Lunchbox I found while surfing the internet looking for some guidance on better blog writing. I love the food from Barcelona and I love chickpea stews, especially with tomato, so this recipe immediately grabbed me. I’ve now cooked the dish a couple of times, and its really great – sweet and savoury kicks, with the distinct saffron and almonds flavour. The photos were taken pre my new light installation, so you will hopefully only see an improvement from now on. You can eat this dish on its own (with or without bread), or serve it as a side tapas style with some spicy sausage. The recipe serves 2-3 as a main.
- 1 cup dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight (or 2 x 400g tin chickpeas)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large brown onion, finely chopped
- 500g fresh ripe tomatoes (or 1 x 400g tin tomatoes)
- 1/4 teaspoon dark muscovado sugar
- 1/3 cup almonds
- A couple of saffron threads
- 3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon celtic sea salt
- Half a bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 piece of preserved lemon, finely chopped
- 1/2 bunch of cavolo nero or English spinach, spine removed and roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- If using dried chickpeas, add the soaked chickpeas to a large saucepan and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until they are cooked right through and soft to bite (I sometimes add some baking soda to the chickpeas when cooking as this reduces cooking time and makes them softer). You should have 2.5-3 cups of cooked chickpeas once cooked. (If using tinned chickpeas, drain and rinse the chickpeas.)
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, cook the onions in the olive oil on low-medium heat for about 20 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Be careful not to let them burn.
- Chop the tomatoes and remove excess liquid. (If using tin tomatoes, drain the tomatoes, and chop.) Add the tomatoes and sugar to the onion and cook for another 15-25 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced and have formed a paste with the onions.
- While the tomatoes and onions are cooking, lightly toast the almonds in a dry pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the saffron threads to a couple of tablespoons of boiled water and let soak for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and the salt to a mortar and grind with the pestle until a paste is formed. Add the saffron (and its water), toasted almonds and parsley and pound until a thick paste is formed. (You can also do this step in the blender.)
- Once the onions and tomatoes are cooked, add the almond and parsley paste together with the chickpeas to the saucepan and quickly stir on high heat. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is reduced.
- Stir in the spinach with the chickpeas and cook until it is wilted. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and preserved lemon, and season to taste.