When the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so the old Billie Ocean song goes. I'm not exactly sure what he means, but at the same time I think that's what I've been doing for the last two weeks. If someone had told me this time last year that I'd be blogging, writing features and styling food shoots on top of my day job, plus training for a half-marathon, I would have looked at them as if they'd grown an extra nose.
But that's life I guess. One minute you're moping about, thinking nothing fabulous is ever going to happen to you, and then the universe overhears and throws more good stuff your way than you know what to do with (and whispers to itself, 'That should shut her up!').
Today I'd like to share a food shoot I did for Psychologies magazine SA (February/March 2010) a few months ago. Good friend and photographer Deryck van Steenderen took the images.
One of the quirks of high tea is that it does not (necessarily) have anything to do with tea – sophisticated eats are the stars of the show. Delicate chicken sandwiches, sumptuous strawberry mousse, elegant goat’s cheese quiches and, of course, irresistibly decorated cupcakes all beg to be savoured. Invite a few girlfriends over, put the kettle on (or open a bottle of wine) and indulge in an afternoon of pure hedonism.
I've entered these recipes in the Fun & Food Café's Valentine's Day / Superbowl competition. Wish me luck.
White chocolate cupcakesMakes 12
180g butter, plus 140g for the icing
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
500g white chocolate, chopped
1 cup cream
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Combine the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Add the eggs and beat well.
Add the flour and baking powder and combine.
Line 12 muffin tins with cupcake cases, and divide the mixture between the cases. Bake for 35 minutes or until cooked, and allow to cool.
For the icing: In a saucepan, heat the chocolate, cream and remaining butter on a low heat, and stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Allow to cool completely.
Beat the icing until thick and fluffy, and decorate cupcakes as desired.
Smoked chicken sandwichesServes 6
3/4 cup mayonnaise, plus extra for brushing
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
500g smoked chicken breast, finely shredded
24 slices white bread
70g baby salad leaves
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and chicken. Spread the mixture over half the bread slices.
Top with the salad leaves and remaining bread slices.
Remove the crusts and cut each sandwich diagonally in half.
Spread a little mayonnaise on one edge of each sandwich and dip into the sesame seeds. Arrange on
a platter and serve.
Strawberry mousseMakes 8
300g fresh, ripe strawberries, halved1 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
1 tsp gelatin
2 cups thick cream, whipped
Place the strawberries in a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water, and cook over a medium-low heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.
Simmer until the strawberries are soft, then liquidise the mixture with the gelatin until smooth. Allow to cool. Fold the syrup into the cream and pour into eight 125ml serving glasses. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set. Decorate with strawberry slices and serve.Tip: Any fresh, ripe berries can be used in place of strawberries.
Chevin and chive quichesMakes 12
3 sheets shortcrust pastry
150g chevin, crumbled
40g chives, chopped
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups cream
1 tsp lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. On a baking tray covered with baking paper, line 12 greased egg rings with pastry (gently push the pastry into the rings so that the edges rise slightly).
Trim any excess, and place the chevin and chives in the cases.
Whisk the egg yolks, cream and zest together, and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.Pour the egg mixture into the cases, bake for 20 minutes or until golden, and serve.