When I was a teenager, I used to keep a list of songs that reminded me of particular people and events. Looking back at them now, some songs still instantly transport be back to a particular time, place or company while other associations have been lost and can only be vaguely recalled because I wrote them down. But it always interests me that a song can bring back such powerful emotions and memories, even years later. I can still get goosebumps when I hear the opening chords of Under Pressure and am transported back to The Doors nightclub when it was still in downtown Joburg, and I was still desperately in love with somebody completely unsuitable.
I would not be surprised if it is the same area of the brain that is responsible for making associations between particular foods and movies – another useless skill at which my brain excels! For example, I cannot think of…
…a box of chocolates without thinking of Forest Gump‘s iconic (and true) catchphrase “Life is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get”
…Java (relating to coffee, not the place) without thinking of that memorable scene in George of the Jungle where he breaks down in the supermarket coffee aisle, overcome by too much choice in the coffee department. He then goes home, *eats* the ground coffee and re-enacts the weather forecast in hyperactive mode, muttering “javajavajavajavajava!” under his breath. Adorable.
…Cherry pie without thinking of the monumentally eccentric 1990s TV series Twin Peaks where the lead character FBI agent Dale Cooper had an abiding love for a slice of cherry pie and a “damn fine cup of coffee”. I’d never tasted a cherry pie at the time.
…a royale with cheese (evidently the French version of the Macdonalds Quarter Pounder burger) without recalling the fantastically incongruous conversation between John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson’s in Pulp Fiction about burger terminology, right before executing a roomful of people.
… macaroni without thinking of, without a doubt, the funniest set of ad lib lines I have ever heard in a movie, courtesy of Walter Matthau in Grumpier Old Men. While sweet-talking a female character, he proposes that she comes back to his place and then: “I’ll show you my beefy bologna… my bony macaroni… my fatty alfredo… my hard salami… my spicy, peppy pepperoni.” It never fails to make me fall about with laughter – do yourself a favour and just watch it!
I also seem unable to hear the word turnip without thinking of the classic British comedy series Blackadder, where Edmund Blackadder’s sidekick Baldrick always gets the most memorable lines. In Series 2, Baldrick goes out to dig for vegetables and comes back highly amused because he came across ” a turnip shaped exactly like a thingy”. Which, says Baldrick: “is ironic because Iv’e got a thingy shaped like a turnip. I’m a big hit at parties, I hide in the vegetable rack and frighten the guests.” I have never looked at turnips in quite the same way – and never heard the word turnip mentioned without thinking of Baldrick. My other thought at the mention of turnips is usually “why?” As root vegetables go, they lack the starchy comfort of potatoes; the super sweetness of parsnips and the jaunty colour of carrots. I can never quite see the point – the only useful purpose that turnips serve in my opinion is as an ingredient in Branston Pickle!
So let’s just say I was not ecstatic when Nick came home with a bunch of baby turnips from the allotment. “Turnips! What on earth possessed you to grow those? And what on Earth am I going to do with them?” I wailed. But inspiration was on its way, because the other thing that Nick brought back that day was a bunch of rather vintage radishes (yes, some shaped like thingies…) that were definitely not salad material. As I mentally earmarked them for braising, I realised there was no reason that I could not treat the baby turnips (of a similar size and consistency) in the same way, and thus a new dish was born. The secret lies in the sweet/salty flavour combination and allowing the liquid to reduce slowly, leaving the vegetables with a glistening, caramelised coating. They retain a little bite, but their flavours are both mellow – and the colours are undeniably beautiful (and not a thingy in sight!).
Recipe follows at the end of this post, but first – an announcement! Drum roll please…
I am thrilled to be able to announce that I will be co-presenting a food photography and styling workshop with my sister-from-another-mother and talented photographer Meeta Khurana-Wolff in Italy in May! Meeta and I have been teaching together since 2011 as part of the Plate to Page team and also ran the very successful London Food Photography and Styling Workshop in February 2013. So while Plate to Page takes a short hiatus this year, we wanted to find another opportunity of working together – and the opportunity to teach in the heart of Prosecco country outside Venice was just too good to pass up!
Yes folks, pack your bags – we’re going to be living la dolce vita just outside Venice, Italy in the form of a sensational 2-day food photography and styling workshop. We will be staying among the rolling hills in the heart of the Prosecco-producing region in Valdobbiadene, a picturesque village in the Veneto. Here, far from the tourist crowds, we will spend a two days at the tranquil Hotel Diana, making use of their modern meeting facilities in an environment conducive to inspiration, creative development and collaborative learning. Hotel Diana not only provides us with a convenient base for our field trip but is also well located for strolling into the village, or as a base for exploring the area after the workshop is finished.
We have put together, what we believe to be an interactive, stimulating and fun programme, where you will learn the fundamental elements of food photography as well as the principles food styling as we help you to unlock your personal style. Unlike many other workshops, the focus will not only on natural lighting but we will also be extensively covering how to shoot in the low-light conditions specifically encountered restaurant photography. You can look forward to two days of engaging practical assignments, a lot of theory, creative sessions and individual feedback. But it won’t be all work and no play! We also plan to spoil you with delicious traditional Italian food and wine during on-location shoots at dinner in a local osteria, and during an exclusive vineyard and winery tour including a tutored tasting at the stunning Nino Franco estate. The beautiful estate and their Villa Barberina will also provide the backdrop for practical assignment.
Ticket price: EURO 770.00
- 2 day food styling and photography sessions with Meeta and Jeanne
- 2 nights accommodation (Thursday 1st to Saturday 3rd May) including breakfast
- Friday: Meet & Greet Brunch, Dinner at a local Osteria
Saturday: Field trip transportation, winery/vineyard tour and tutored tasting
- Fruit and beverages during the workshop
Does NOT include:
- Travel costs to venue, insurance
To register for this workshop please fill out the registration form here.
Payment: Full payment upon registration, no refunds are possible. Once you have registered you will receive a confirmation email within 48 hours of registration, containing further details and instructions.
Please note: The workshop is limited to only 12 participants and places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. All presentations will be in English. The course is suitable both for beginner and more advanced photographers wishing to build on their and is aimed towards beginners, novice and advanced level participants. The instructors reserve the right to modify the programme should the need arise.
I really hope to see some of my readers in Italy in May!
And now – back to the recipe! I served my braised vegetables with pan-fried trout on a saffron risotto, but it would make a great side dish for a creamy chicken stew, or even a steak.
- 1 bunch of baby turnips (I had about a dozen)
- 1 bunch of large radishes (preferably the long French radishes)
- 30g salted butter
- 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
- 300ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Bouillon powder)
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- Wash the vegetables well to remove all the soil (I use a potato brush). Trim the leaves. Don’t throw them away – you can sautée them with butter and garlic and eat like spinach. If some of the turnips and radishes are larger than others, halve or quarter them so that all the pieces are roughly the same size.
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and gently fry the onion until it starts to soften, but do not brown it. Turn up the heat a little and add the radishes and turnips and fry until they start to colour, stirring frequently so that the onions do not burn.
- Add the vegetable stock, stir in the sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are fork tender and the liquid has reduced to almost nothing – really just a sticky glaze for the vegetables. Season with thyme and serve immediately.