A lot of people may not know this but paella came to Spain via the Moores. That this goes unrecognised is a sad indictment of ignorance and prejudice and the way that legacies can be ignored to fit dominant narratives. While filming for Your Eyes Only with his then wife Luisa Mattoli,
Since I know people who take photos for money and stuff, I’m a bit reluctant to be HERE’S HOW IT’S DONE BITCHEZ! but since I’m very experienced at not knowing what I’m talking about and a few desperate lucky ducks got cameras for christmas and had to resort to me as some kind of authority, here is my explanation I can point to.
Actually before I do, a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, I realise this may qualify as a ‘here you are’ shot and to deflect any criticism, it was shot live so it is in fact ‘un moment decisif’. As an experienced adult educator, I feel the need to come across as incredibly patronising. OK we’re good.
If you’re Ansell Adams and you’re at Yosemite Park and you see a nice cliff, you may want to see everything. When you take photographs of food there are bits you want to see like a prawn; and bits you don’t want to see so much like boring lettuce, or a wall; or you want to hint at like a contextual saucepan, the bottle of wine you’re incidentally having, or the KitchenAid you’re a bit embarrassed about but still want everyone to know you’re got.
So you can signify this hierarchy of importance in you photo by using focus. The things which are important are in focus and the ones that aren’t so important are out of focus. How much is in or out of focus is called depth of field. The above photo has a shallow depth of field - you’ll see the spoon, index finger, and narrow line of almonds are in focus. Watch, wineglass, elbow, etc are out of focus. This picture would therefore be for Spoon Monthly or Pudding Almanac rather than Elbow!
So, how can you get this shallow depth of field thing?
First you’ll need to change your camera to aperture mode. This is usually indicated by an A.
Then you’ll need to understand aperture. Aperture is how much light is let in by the camera. A large aperture lets in lots of light and a small aperture lets in a little bit of light. Aperture is represented by an f-stop e.g. f/2.8
Here is the mind bending bit: small numbers mean a large aperture and big numbers mean a small aperture. f/2.8 large aperture. f/22 small aperture.
In an olden days camera you’d adjust the aperture to get the photo exposure right. Bright and sunny – less light in; bit dark – more light in. A by-product of this is that aperture also affects focus. A pinhole camera will be in focus from the pinhole to infinity and then as the aperture increases from the size of a pinhole, you have increasingly less depth of field.
Lets recap: A larger aperture, represented by a smaller f-stop, will let more light in and also give you a shallow depth of field which will mean less of the picture is in focus such as in the above photo.
In low light situations you increase the aperture so shallow depth of field is a great double bonus for food shots, which are often indoors. Eventually you’re going to get to the other side of the light trade off – as the light decreases your shutter (opening) speed has to decrease to allow more time for light to get in. 1/60 of a second is usually seen as the point to stop for good hand held shots and the 1/30 second and below for resting your hands or something or a few hand-steadying pints.
I love you digital film speed. In the olden days you could get slow film, which was beautifully detailed and enlargeable but needed lots of light. If you were shooting say, Herman’s Hermits at an indoor ‘gig’, you’d use a fast film, which needed less light but looked ‘grainier’ when enlarged. To do both you’d have to swap film or have two cameras.
With digital cameras you can just find the ISO setting/button and increase the ISO until you get the exposure right. ISO 200 is the standard slow and ISO 1600 is fast.
The trade off is there’s more noise and grain but if you’ve got a good new camera or a digital SLR, the pictures are large enough to not worry about grain too much. If you do want to take the perfect shot that’ll be 6 feet high in MOMA, you’re not going to do it with a flash on top of your camera anyway, so use ISO.
Do I need to tell you you need to have the right thing in focus? No. But if you’re not aware that your camera has a grid of focus sensors and you can choose which one to use, then you are now. There are other ways but journey of self discovery begins now.
To summarise: Depth of field can be used to emphasise parts of a photo and this can be exploited by using your aperture setting.
The insouciant face, the hitting-the-ton lean, and drop earrings with a party dress make this so full of win that you may need to consider buying a bigger win bag.
Feel free to write an appropriate piece of short fiction in the comments.
Back to Balingup again – lovely local food region and gateway to more lovely local food regions. Apparently it was once its own shire and duchy or something but anyway it does have a neat old town hall – the greater hall and the lesser hall. The greater for badminton and the lesser, well I got to use it.
I’d agreed to do a dinner of 50 or so while Doris (not to be confused with Japanese art noise stoner rock exponents, Boris) – one half of which is food writer/editor Jane Cornes – played an acoustic set. Once again our Southern foresty/valley region placed inordinate faith in my cooking skills and Katrina Lane of Taste of Balingup went one step further to get me back a second time. Fool me twice etc
Basic principles. We had lovely local lambs from Emu Park Lamb for killing and butchering. There were two long tables. I didn’t want to do a spit and I didn’t want to do platings and thought it would be nicer if people shared everything because that’s how I like eating. So I settled on doing the lamb three ways. One in the hope of being able to say ‘doing the lamb three ways was a pretty romantic night in Kojonup’ but also it’d offer a variety of flavours and interest and get the best out of each cut. There’s an excellent pig farmer nearby so I thought I’d do a pork terrine for entree so I could have everything good to go in advance and be nice and local in my produce use.
Anyway a lot was done but the fave of an evening where a lot of plates came back empty and I saw nothing of the lamb shoulder, the overall winner was the terrine. I kind of suspected this as when I tasted it for the first time, I asked that all guests be notified of the need for a spare set of underwear.
Appley Pork Terrine with Figs and Walnuts
3 kilos of pork – coarsely minced
3 kilos of pork belly – skinned and boned
1 kilo of duck livers
4 granny smith apples, peeled and grated
1 cup of chopped dried figs
1 cup of chopped walnuts
150ml calvados (or brandy) – to marinate the figs and walnuts in.
400ml of single cream
salt, pepper, bunch of thyme leaves
1kg of prosciutto – sliced at a thickness just above breaking into bits.
Pork was from Killara Pork in Boyup Brook. Butcher, Steve at Boyanup Meat Supply, did the mincing. I left the pork belly to myself and indulged in my seventh favourite thing in the world – reducing bits of meat to little chunks with a couple of cleavers. Clean and very finely chop the liver – to a paste.
Then just mix everything together. You can taste and adjust your mix by frying up little bits of it. Remember, it’ll be served cold, which dulls the flavours so increase the seasoning accordingly. In this terrine the liver compensates magnificently – it’s rich enough in flavour so that when the terrine is cold, you still get that punchy ‘mugh‘ you get from hot food. The lighter pork /appley flavours float on this like the synthesiser wash and horn section over the bass in The Slab
Wasn’t that great?
Once you’re happy with your mix, line loaf tins with greaseproof paper and then strips of the prosciutto. Fill with filling and fold over the prosciutto. Given it’s smaller than bacon, you will need to double up with coverage.
Pace in a water bath up two thirds up the sides and cook for at 180C for two hours. Meanwhile cut out little bits of cardboard the size of the top of your loaf tins and cover with foil – you may have seen these on Dr Who as the baddies. Take the tins out, allow to cool a little, drain off excess juices, put the ‘galagons’ on top of your terrine and then a heavy weight like a can of chick peas on top and put in the fridge.
I’ve got three days in the fridge for this somewhere and I think that would be optimal for slicing density. However, this stayed in for a day and was fine and cohesive when sliced and served.
Rhubarb and Orange Jam: This recipe plus half a dozen star anise.
Candied Walnuts: this recipe. But very sweet so a light sprinkling of salt at the end (taste) made them more savoury, completely magnificent, and brought out the chilli and orange notes.
Pickled Caulifower: This Delia recipe. It’s awesome because she presses her pickles like the Japanese, which makes for crunchy. Mine’s quite different – just cauliflower and finely sliced onion. Apple cider. No idea what golden caster sugar is so just caster sugar. Garlic and a couple of teaspoons of sumac. Only kept it for 5 days rather than a month or so but kept it nice and sharp – there was plenty of sweet to counteract.
Other Things for Mains
Won’t bore you with too much detail but – Marinated lamb rack with mushrooms and Lamb Shoulder with Juniper Berries – it’s a Marcella Hazan recipe that’s a lamb shoulder with a soffritto with a tablespoon or two of juniper berries and some rosemary, a couple of glasses of dry white wine and then cooked in a casserole dish at 130C for 5 hours with gradually increasing lid openings to reduce as you go along – or added wine if you get a bit carried away. And a Deboned Leg of Lamb Rubbed with Sumac - nothing tricky if I recall correctly, just a lovely leg of deboned lamb rubbed down and marinated with olive oil and a few tablespoons of sumac.
There was also the bulgur for the Lamb with sumac – boiled in vegetable stock and then sauteed sliced leek and finely diced zucchini stirred through. A radish, broadbean and green tahini salad and a mixed herb salad - both from the Ottolenghi cookbook I’ve been borrowing heavily from. The vegetables and green were all brought from just down the road at Newies in Kirup and they’re produce is always very special – not many places will pop out the back to pick more basil for you. Katrina made roasted artichokes, which were brought in by the grower, and dutifully went through the not fun process of prepping them while I made sure various things weren’t burning. Oh and lots of carrots for some reason. Many of them heirloom – slow roasted with honey nd served with yoghurt and sesame seed.
Yes well it went very well. I got it out with some excellent help from my ace team of helpers. My only meltdown was a sense of humour blackout that lasted an hour and the only technical fault was a cooler than expected oven, which slowed the ribs down. The music was fun and delightful. The crowd a good one and perhaps the hi-light was David from Emu Park thanking me for cooking his lamb and getting it right. Easy to do, it was great lamb and when you have good produce, you let it speak. Once (before?) dessert – the frangipane tart with maple syrup double cream and fresh berries – was done, the calvados came out and more fun was had.
Should be close to 60 by now but possibly tickets left for a night of food and music. Music mercifully not by me. Should have put this here earlier but since a third of my readers live in Guam and another third live in Philadelphia, PA – moot. Details at Taste of Balingup
Imagine, imagine if you knew someone who said ‘Man, there’s nothing better after a tough day than unwinding with some pasta.’ And then you go back to their place and they’re eating spaghetti out of a can. Imagine if you knew somebody who bought the loveliest free-ranging hen, proceeded to cook it up with Chicken Tonight and then say ‘ahhh that’s great chicken.’ What would you think of that person?
And yet millions of people across this country do just the same thing every time they have a gin and tonic. $70 bottles of fine gin topped with the metallic swill of worker-hating Schweppes.
It was precisely this sad state that sent me via local superstar food photographer Jess ‘Electric’ Shaver to Jeffrey ‘Change From Your Breakfast Strudel’ Morgenthaler’s How to Make Your Own Tonic Water. I just slavishly follow the instructions, only really unnecessarily adding a few dried juniper berries and removed the sediment via the gelatine and freeze method in a coffee plunger – it’s kept its rusty cinchona hue but the cloudiness is gone.
To the untrained eye this may look like a Harley Sportster 883 but closer inspection shows the distinctive parallel twin of a Triumph. Rider has awesome boots and mad skills at knowing the bike goes where you look.
In Italy, a bowl was something special. Often given at special occasions such as weddings or christenings, they would become part of the family. Each scrape of the spoon; another mark on life to be noted and remembered. Una ciotola è come amici – pochi ma ben scelti. As bowls were few, dishes tended to very simple affairs – a lasagne, for example, would be a simple combination of ragu and white sauce. A salad – some lettuce with ripe tomatoes.
In today’s industrialised society, we have lots of bowls. So why not celebrate by using a shitload of ingredients and and a whole cupboardful of the hemispherical fuckers?
Tadah! The multi ingredient lasagne for hungry pre-Blackwood Marathoners.
My lasagne had the following:
- silverbeet steamed and then lightly tossed in a pan with chopped walnuts
- tomato sauce. Quarter two kilos of ripe tomatoes place in a roasting tin with half a head of garlic cloves, olive oil and salt. Roast at 150C until soft. Breakup in a frypan and run through a colander. Return to the frypan to mix through a couple of tablespoon of tomato paste and to cook down to the right consistency.
- smoked chicken breast, sliced. This is what helps to bring the chicken flavours up in the mix rather than just sit there like sauce-coated chewable protein chunks.
- similar amounts of raw chicken - thighs or breasts or both. Cubed and then lightly browned and cooked with 8 sage leaves.
- eggplant. Sliced into cm slices, lain in a roasting tray coated in olive oil. Drizzle a bit of the olive oil on top and allow to soften in the oven at the same time as the tomatoes.
- broccolini, asaparagus, and something that looks a lot like broccolini but is purple. Steamed and chopped.
- white sauce.
- button mushrooms. Sliced and cooked in butter.
- mozarella, parmesan, and butter on the top with white sauce.
Layer as you see fit. I actually can’t remember what went with what and the more I try, the more confused I become. I think the smoked chicken went with the mushrooms and the eggplant and some white sauce. And the chicken with silverbeet. I hate doing white sauce. For one, it takes forever. For two, it doesn’t help with cooking through the butter and flour if you don’t turn the hotplate on. For three, it makes me think of a thousand failed Home Ec assignments – really, it’s like walking on the bones of the dead. Beautiful fresh pasta was very nicely hand made for me – class.
Our crack team ‘The Mescaleros’ went on to rag tag glory of 23rd out of 84 horseless competitors. I reached my own personal cycling leg goal of a time somewhere between 40-50 minutes, not having a myocardial infarction and heatstroke, and not being overtaken by a mountainbike. Other features included swimmer getting lost, our paddler having his boat the wrong way, and our runner wearing a heavier t-shirt than perhaps he could have worn given the hot weather (that’s not all that interesting but I had to round it out a bit).
Lasagne was great. All possible nutritional bases covered and a lovely mix of meaty, crunchy, earthy, cheesey, fresh and acid tomatoey. Sure it’s a lot of faffing around but friends are worth it. Rhubarb clafoutis for dessert.
Day two in Melbourne and I’ve yet to have a $1.50 single origin long mac administered by staff so skilful they also performed risky laser eye surgery from a pop-up food truck owned by the short one in Master Chef with a ‘free range egg’ on a Belgian quinoa brioche. In fact, my afternoon breakfast, or ‘brinner’ as they say, came to:
d) so embarrassingly cheap that when I looked through the curtains and saw their small child that probably lived a small little old terrace house with just one bathroom and a garden that barely doubled as an outdoor entertaining area, that I chucked a handfulful of mining $50s at them and hurried away, ashamed and embarrassed.
It was tasty though and savoury crumpets is something I shall take back with me and ask for at every opportunity and roll my eyeballs derisively and say ‘uh Perth’ when they say they don’t have it.
Anyway ‘voulez vous couchez avec mois‘ – the more things change, the more they stay the same. I was here a long eight years ago doing a marathon, this time I’m doing a 210km ride. I’ll always associate Melbourne with shopping, eating and fucking myself up so badly I can’t walk for a day or two.
More reports of men with heads in their chest and a mystical Pony Fish Island no doubt.
It was with some sadness that Cardinal Martini passed away the other month. He was, as they say, one of the good ones. His conversations with Umberto Eco Belief or non-Belief? on religion and agnosticism were the kind of grown-up dialogue we could best hope for:
Thoughtful responsible believers and nonbelievers adhere to a profound sense of hūmus. of humanity, although they don’t necessarily give it the same name, there are more important things than names, and when defending or promoting essential human values it’s not always worthwhile to quibble over a quaestio de nomine, over semantics.
Admittedly he’s not wildly radical in the bigger scheme of things – just few considered variations on the big no-no’s which inevitably involve sex and sexuality and basically leaving a note saying ‘not 1812 guys’. But reading this particular Boney M fan I found that not only was Cardinal Martini a ‘heretic’, he was also ‘a modernist’, ‘a Mason’ and a Gnostic. Combine this with his last written pieces being a very jazz albumy “Conversazioni Notturne A Gerusalemme” then we’re looking at such a triumph of mid-century smoothism that, after a few of these modest tribute drinks, you’ll be making love in a Mies chair.
Vodka because its pure and uncorrupted. Martini Bianco (obviously). Whiskey as used in a smokey martini – because he was remarkably close to getting the papal smoke over reactionary benchwarmer Ratzinger. As his middle name was Maria and the role of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism a hint of virgin mary. Dangerously chthonic celery and fruits of the New World tomato with a dash of hot sauce on them (in this instance Sam Ward of El Publico’s very good hot sauce).
Cardinal Martini Martini
- Two measures of vodka
- Splash of Martini Bianco
- Splash of Laphroaig
Add a dab of tabasco or similar to a cherry tomato and small piece of celery at the end of a toothpick.
Chill your martini glasses. Shake the mix with ice. Pour, add your tomato and celery and drink thoughtfully with someone you disagree with.
Notes: And success. The boozy kick of a martini but wrapped in whisky – you’ll need some fine tuning for balance. Hot sauce adds the nices of kicky finishes. A regular no doubt.