Food styling for Guardian Cook

PancakesCook

If you’re a follower of this blog, my Twitter or Instagram, you may have noticed that the old Cathcart/Birkett dream team was recently reunited for a shoot for the Guardian’s Cook supplement, which comes out each weekend as part of the Saturday Guardian, sharing some wonderful recipe ideas and relevant, original food content. You can read a couple of pieces I’ve written for the supplement here. Being a massive fan of Cook, which has been taken up a notch by hot-shot editor Mina Holland, (author of the wonderful Edible Atlas), and always includes gorgeous photography and styling, I was super excited to work on four of its 10 Best spreads, which included cover shots.

The 10 Best feature takes one ingredient and shares recipes that are brilliant because you’ve probably not made them before. Our ingredients were pepper, plums, sweet potato and ‘sauces’, and the recipes included things like dairy free, gluten free sweet potato donuts and one of my faves, walnut romesco sauce, from amazing cooks including Michel Roux Jr, Anna Jones and Anissa Helou.

During the shoot we were spoiled rotten with the food – I particularly loved Michel Roux Jr’s plum tarts, which while being fairly demanding (I needed to make a proper creme pat and stock syrup to poach the plums in) are worth every effort once you sink your teeth into them. They also look beautiful because the plums sort of melt into the creme pat, their skins scorching and shrinking, their flesh turning to sweet, unctuous pulp. Hurry up and make them while plums are still here! 

Hemsley and Hemsley’s beef Lok Lak was also delicious, and will certainly be gracing my table again, not least because it’s fabulously quick and satisfying.

You can find all these delicious recipes here:

I love working with Helen because her pictures are always beautiful, natural and evocative, and she always makes food I cook look its best. It’s amazing to see these pictures in print on the cover of a supplement I’ve been reading (and writing for) since it started. Here are some of the pics – I hope you like them. With thanks to Linda Berlin for her ace prop styling and Jenny Brown for her brilliant assistance during the shoot, check out her excellent blog Bake here.

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Roz on film: Masterchef, 60 Second Reviews and my Brixton Kitchen Series for Videojug

Christ. Chokers and tie-dye.

When I was about 12, my camcorder was one of my most treasured possessions. I would spend hours with long-suffering friends encouraging them film me as I mimed along to 90s abominations like like Meredith Brooks’ ‘Bitch’, wearing outfits (watch out Teen Vogue) like the above. To put it bluntly, I was a massive show off. Thank god my mother went through a faze of recording episodes of Coronation Street over our family video collection.

Thankfully, the horror of adolescence kicked any misguided ideas I might have had about being a ‘performer’ well and truly out of me, and a heartfelt rendition of the rather unfortunate Kit in a GCSE drama version of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls was my final turn on the stage. Saying that, this past year has seen me make a bit of a comeback behind the camera – just one of the hilariously unexpected twists this food writing lark has led to. And being the lame-ass blogger that I am, I’ve only just got around to blogging about it.

Me having a 'there were three of us in this marriage' moment on Masterchef.

Being asked to appear on Masterchef series 9 amidst a top-billing of the UK’s best, most formidable critics was a massive honour and a fantastic experience. As well as being paid to eat lunch with a bunch of my most-esteemed colleagues, it was brilliant to eat the food of future food star Natalie Coleman – who would go on to later win the competition. Her dishes jumped out at me from the restaurant-style menu we were told to order from, and her inspired combination of rabbit loin wrapped in moist, sweet ham with a punchy cockle vinaigrette is not something I’ll be forgetting in a hurry!

Back in March I was approached by online content creator Videojug to do my own series of video recipes for their food and drink section. This was both utterly terrifying – I had never demoed my recipes to any audience, let alone the massive online one – and challenging: I had no idea how hard it is to cook and try to sound engaging while being filmed doing so. But it’s something I’m really glad I did as it was fun, informative, and great to bust-out and formalise some of the recipes I’ve been playing with for a while.

We decided to call the series ‘Rosie’s Brixton Kitchen’, because of how much my recipes are informed by the great array of fresh and interesting ingredients available in my area, both at the stalls on and around Electric Avenue, and the covered markets. I’m super keen to encourage people – particularly people in cities who have such good access to fresh markets – to use and support local and independent shops and markets because they, along with wet fish mongers and local butchers are sadly dying out.

The homogenisation of the high streets, increased rents and aggressive expansion of the supermarkets are driving out small businesses who provide fresh, healthy, affordable food to communities and make the area what it is. I am passionate about supporting them, not just because I love wandering around the market and asking my butcher which cuts are best for which cooking method – much nicer than being told that yet again, I’ve put a bloody ‘unexpected item in bagging area’ – but because, like many, I’m worried about our food system.

Food poverty and the increased reliance on food banks (Oxfam estimates that over 500,000 people are now reliant on food aid in the UK), as well as being driven by benefit sanctions and the increased cost of living, is related to the decline of local markets and shops which provide access to fresh, healthy food at a bargain price. You can read an extract from Oxfam’s Walking the Breadline report – all about ‘food deserts’ and the Poverty Premium here on the amazing Jack Monroe’s blog or download the report in full.

Anyway the hope with these recipes for Videojug is to highlight some of the fantastic and delicious ingredients I find when I’m down the market and encourage people to do the same. Here’s my leeks vinaigrette recipe as a little taster. I’ll be posting the videos along with the recipes on here when I get a chance too.

The other videos I’ve been doing are my restaurant reviews for app and website 60 Second Reviews. It’s a very clever, user-friendly idea for subscription content – getting specialised journalists to provide 60 second reviews of their chosen field, and the team behind it are really great to work with. Here’s my review of Dishoom:

Dishoom, Rosie from 60secondreviews on Vimeo.

It’s both a little bit strange and a little bit scary that there are now videos of me ‘out there’ on the internet, but I can just thank my lucky stars that the home recording of me doing an energetic, improvised dance routine to Chumbawamba’s ‘Tubthumping’ while on a bouncy castle will remain firmly where it is. And I’m not telling…

 

A winter’s feast: slow roasted rosemary lamb shoulder, Jansson’s Temptation and kale salad

When it’s getting dark at 4pm, you know it’s time to start feasting. I had some friends round last weekend and I wanted to spoil them with cosy home-cooked dishes that would warm their cockles and make them feel sated and happy. Because I knew I had a tough week ahead of me, and because I wanted to have fun, dammit, I settled on a roast for the main course. I wanted something I could whack in the oven and leave to its own devices, which in this case was a nice fatty British lamb shoulder, covered in rosemary and garlic and slow cooked for four hours (180°C) with some peeled carrots and onions.

The starters, or perhaps ‘nibbles’ is more apt, were two things I got out of the Polpo cookbook; rough chopped chicken liver pate and walnut and rocket pesto – both things that could be easily made in advance and slathered onto some toasted sourdough (from Wild Caper, natch) on the night. I added chopped tarragon to the pate recipe because I bloody love tarragon with chicken, and I used Courvoisier rather than port and brandy, because it’s what I had to hand. It worked well, but next time I might be a bit more generous with the cognac…

With the lamb I served two sides inspired from my travels and recent meals. I did a take on Jansson’s temptation, an amazingly comforting Swedish dish which is basically dauphinois without the garlic and with the genius addition of anchovies, which as you know, go ever so well with fatty lamb. I had this recently with my Chateaubriand at the new Hawksmoor Air Street, and have been thinking about it ever since!

I adapted my recipe from one I found in Delicious magazine. I added in thyme, even though authenticity dictates rosemary, because I had some to hand and I always think thyme and caramelised onions are lovely together. I also added in the zest of a lemon to give it a fresh lift.


Jansson’s Tempation
Takes about an hour and a half including prep, serves 4-6 as a side 

2 white onions, finely sliced
25g unsalted butter, halved
5 medium waxy potatoes, finely sliced as you would for Dauphinois
300ml double cream, seasoned with white pepper and a pinch of salt (no more because of the anchovies)
1 and a half cans of good quality anchovy fillets in olive oil
The leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme, or rosemary
The zest of half a lemon

While you’re slicing all the ingredients, preheat the oven to 180°C. Drain the anchovies, pouring the oil into a frying pan, add half the butter and heat until the butter has dissolved into the oil. Then add the onions and make sure you’re cooking them over a very low heat, until they’re sweet and melty but not charred – should take about 20 mins. Near the end, add in the thyme and cook it with the onions for about five minutes.  When the onions are sweet and translucent, remove from the heat and set aside.

Butter a deep baking dish or tin with the rest of the butter and layer half of the potatoes in it. Pour over the onions and then place the anchovies evenly spaced on top. Place the remainder of the potatoes on top and pour over half of the seasoned cream and lemon zest. Bake for about 30 minutes, then add the remaining cream and bake for another 25-30 minutes, until the top has caramelised and the potatoes are cooked through.

The other side was a kale salad: because kale is in season right now, and I wanted something fresh and sort of healthy to go with the guilt of the lamb and JT. It’s based on a raw Tuscan kale salad I had in Nashville (the yanks are really good at kale) at a place called Tavern, which was so delicious and texturally interesting with all the nuts and raisins I couldn’t stop eating it. I’m pretty sure the Tavern version didn’t have chilli in it, but where I can I like to add a bit of fire to salads.

Raw kale salad with toasted almonds and sultanas
Takes about 20 minutes, serves 6 or more as a side dish

400g curly kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
Two good handfuls of sultanas
Two good handfuls of sliced almonds
The juice of one lemon
50ml nice extra virgin olive oil
50g Parmesan, finely grated
Red chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 180°C. While you do this, whizz the kale up until it’s fine like tabbouleh. I did this in two batches to get an even chop. Then lay the sliced almonds onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until they’re starting to go golden.

Mix the lemon and olive oil until it’s emulsified. Put the kale into a large mixing bowl, add the sultanas, chilli flakes, Parmesan, and when they’ve cooled, the almonds. Mix it all up nicely using a spatula or good metal spoon. Pour over the dressing and give it one more stir.

To finish off the meal, we had a delicious hunk of Gorgonzola DOP which was kindly sent to me by Gorgonzola, which we ate with some rather interesting Sav Birch Sap wine, which was given to me by the Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren at a recent meal he hosted in London.

Dessert was treacle tart. I had this very one a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s house and they kindly passed on the recipe, which is Heston, though I used April Bloomfield’s brilliant grated sweet pastry recipe for the case! I served it with clotted cream.  These guys enjoyed it. Or at least looked like they did: