I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email asking if I was interested in spending Saturday morning learning food styling/photography session with Philly ambassador, Kate Gibbs. I use a fair bit of Philadelphia products in my cooking and follow the blog, The Kitchen Inc. So absolutely!
As some of you may not be aware, Kate Gibbs is a Sydney-based journalist and cook that has a great resume of writing for Sydney Morning Herald’s food section, Good Living, the Sunday Life magazine, Australian Gourmet Traveller and Frankie magazine. Kate is also a major contributor to The Foodies’ Guide to Sydney 2011 & 2012, SMH Everyday Eats 2011, SMH Good and Cafe Guide 2011. She is also the lovely daughter of Suzanne Gibbs and grand daughter of the very charismatic, Margaret Fulton. I was excited to learn tips & tricks of cooking and styling.
The bunch of us gathered around her in the kitchen of Concrete Blond for a very casual ‘how to’ session in making three dishes – Tuna Nicoise Crostini, Beetroot and broad bean salad and Mussels tossed in white wine, cream and specks. First up, it was a very simple Tuna Nicoise Crostini. Remember to slice the tuna against the grain!
We had lighting issues that Saturday. It was pretty wet and so natural light was scarce! I did what I could. I have much to learn. Out of a zillion shots, this made the cut. What I learnt was to add an element of a step in the photo? That is why there is the action of the knife spreading Philadelphia cheese on the plate. I always have issue taking long plates of food. One of the ways to overcome is to take it straight on and horizontally. I shall practise that. Any more tips on this type of shot? The other thing I liked was to play around with textures. I guess I need to start collecting textures.
Next up was a very colourful and beautiful beetroot and broad bean salad. I love beet root but hate preparing it because I keep thinking how messy it is! But it appears not as hard as I thought it would be. Just boil the beetroot with the skin on. And then the skin just slides off with a little push. Also Suzanne Gibbs shared that using vinegar in the boiling water helps retains the colour. Here is another beetroot tip in the little video that I took.
Kate gave us some tips on how food should be bite size pieces and that we should dish it out as how we will like to eat it. For example, cheese should be crumbled instead of being cubed. I agree. I prefer to crumble cheese on top of food. It is much more pleasurable. She also added that other half of the Philadelphia cheese was added after tossing the beetroot so that it not completely stained.
The walnuts were gently crumbled into the salad as well.
I did struggle a fair bit when taking this photo. I could not get the angle right and then there was shadow. And then there was the lighting issue. I almost gave up and then took one with my iPhone for instagram-ing. It appears pretty good or rather the way I like it.
Or do you prefer this shot?
The last was a simple and rustic mussel dish. I don’t throw away mussels that are open. Do you? Please don’t waste it. It is also wise to cook the onions till it is translucent as it literally stops cooking once the mussels are thrown in. Be patient with the onions. Once it is cooked till soft and slightly caramelised, that is when the extra flavour kicks in. The great thing about cooking with the Philadelphia cream is that it does not cuddle in the heat. It just blends right in. If you are more healthy conscious, there is also a light version.
I love the whole rustic feel of the pot, the mussels and the bread. I actually like this shot of Kate setting the ‘scene’ up for photography. Mother Gibbs also added that it is a good idea to open up a few mussels to show the beautiful plumb flesh and also it is a visual break from the darkness of the shells. It provides colour and texture difference. Kate also mentioned that it can be hard to style with parsley. Don’t just lay it flat, tuck it in and so it stands pretty.
I had even more issues with this photo. Every angle did not seem right. Plus, my back was blocking the natural light. I struggled. Not great. I really need more tips on food photography.
While waiting for the table to be set up, I turned my attention to the spit at the other end of the kitchen. Chef Ian was preparing the lamb for a table of 25. Four lamb shoulder was turning and the aroma was intolerable! I will make it back to Concrete Blond to check this out!
Ok. Back to the table. Boy… I need a lesson in setting tables. Everything is so pretty and perfect. That is Suzanne Gibbs looking at me….. #blush
And thanks to Wolf Blass for the wines that we were drinking.
And see how pretty my plate of mussel is! I really wish I could plate like this. I have a long way to go. The sauce is snugged below and the mussels were all well constructed on top with a well laid sprinkling of parsley. And such clean plates!
And this is the group of us. The four bloggers - Jeroxie, Food Booze and Shoes, Simon Food Favourites and Noodlies. We were well hosted by the people of Kraft Philadelphia and Liquid Ideas. And kudos to both Kate and Suzanne Gibbs. The meal was very casual and interesting. I had so much fun and this was a really nice introduction to Sydney events. It is well designed and thought out. The flow was fantastic and loved the intimacy of this event. Thanks for making this a really nice experience. It was definitely worth waking up early on a Saturday for. Check out the Kraft Philadelphia website - loveitshamelessly.com.au for a heap of recipe ideas and promotions.
Finally, a photo of Kate Gibbs and myself! Thanks to Simon (Simon Food Favourites) for taking this photo and sending it to me.
Kate – I will be looking forward to your new cookbook in September this year!