#5 A Simplicious Challenge: Food photography waste and a crockery addiction

The Simplicious Challenge: I’m cooking all 306 recipes from Sarah Wilson’s book Simplicious, to see the impact it has on the way I buy, cook, consume and waste food. Read the first post here, if you missed it.

While I’ve been busier than usual taking photos of my food over the last month (honestly, even writing that makes me cringe!) due to this challenge and the new round of the IQS 8 Week Program; I’ve started paying more attention to the way I use food just in the act of photographing it.

I’ve noticed on Instagram that there is a tendency to overfill jars and bowls, dripping fillings and sauces onto tables, to portray a sense of indulgence. Especially smoothies! They look gorgeous, of course. But I always wonder if they lick the table afterwards. And what they do with all the extra garnishes, that have been purchased just for garnishing, that have been scattered around the place. Do they scoop them up and eat them? My smoothies tend to be neat and tidy – much more boring. Mainly because I am generally a neat and tidy person (though not boring, I hope).

My photography ‘style’ – and I use that term loosely, since I actually know very little about photography and basically just feel like I’m faking it – has always been fairly simple. This is not through any artistic or creative intention on my part. It’s because when I take the photos, which I do in ‘real’ time, i.e. just before I eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner – there is usually a hungry male growling in the near vicinity. Or worse, a hungry male in the form of a toddler, who wants to squish his dirty fingers into the food. I have to be quick. I usually run outside, slap down the food, often just on a piece of white paper; spend a couple of minutes taking photos, and then dash it back inside for the meal. This need for speed has naturally resulted in a style that usually isn’t heavy on garnishes, and so what I photograph, I eat.

Although my photography style may be generally virtuous and waste-free (not to mention self-righteous!?), I did become aware, last year, that I was developing an addiction: to RAMEKINS. I found myself frequently loitering around the homeware sections of department stores, especially ones in basements, absorbed in and comparing random plates, bowls, ramekins, tiny bowls, and more tiny bowls. And then hiding my purchases in the cupboard when I got home, so my husband didn’t see that I had bought YET MORE RAMEKINS. I wasn’t even buying them to eat from, necessarily! My primary purpose was for photos, and hardly any of them have been used for that anyway. When we moved house last year, I counted them. I have over 40 small decorative bowls and ramekins, some which have been bought for me over the years, and some I have bought myself. Plus a collection of mismatched plates, jars and serving bowls. These do not include the regular crockery sets we ‘actually’ use on an every-day basis, nor the additional ‘fancy’ crockery sets I have been given or inherited over the years. It made me feel a little ill.

So at the start of this year, I committed to no longer buying any more ‘props’ for food styling – even though it means I overuse my poor blue tea-towel (see below!), and my ‘nice’ glasses feature in nearly every smoothie shot. But I’ve decided to get over it. Next, I will need to confront the idea of donating some of it, because I really don’t need as much as I have.

This is personal growth at its deepest. 😉

The blue tea-towel:

The food:

I made 20 recipes from Simplicious in February (no wonder my feet hurt from standing up in the kitchen all the time!).

  • Whipped Coconut Frosting (p 56): I could eat this just by the spoonful – a coconut icing made using only coconut cream and a little rice malt syrup. I used this in my:
  • Red Velvet Crunch Bowl (p 72): A delicious chocolate-y, fruity smoothie with hidden beetroot.
  • Cauli Popcorn (p 100): I used leftover cauliflower from an IQS 8 Week Program dish to make these little popcorn-like snacks with a touch of spice. The cheesy variation sounds delicious too.
  • Roast Lamb Shoulder (p 220): This recipe uses a slow-cooker rather than the oven, which I love – no supervision, no heat in the kitchen, and pull-apart meat. The slow-cooked lamb made:
  • Shredded Lamb (p 220): Some portions have gone into the freezer for future cooking, and the remainder made:
  • Greek Lamb Salad (p 221): A lovely summer salad with baby spinach, olives, feta, red onion and tomatoes. We served this with:
  • Quick Zucchini Tzatziki (p 188): I love tzatziki and wouldn’t have otherwise thought to use zucchini over cucumber.
Greek Lamb Salad from Simplicious (p 220-221)

Greek Lamb Salad from Simplicious (p 220-221) with Quick Zucchini Tzatziki

  • Vegan Whatchagot Quiche (p 260): An egg-less veggie quiche made using chia seeds as a bind. I used the leftover cauliflower to make:
  • Cauliflower Rice (p 22): In the freezer and ready for future dishes!
  • Bacon Bits (p 44): An intriguing way to cook and freeze bacon – which renders the fat perfectly and results in crispy bacon bits. Admittedly not much of mine made it to the freezer, as I over-indulged a bit… I also used this in:
  • The BLAT (p 75): A savoury yoghurt with bacon bits, ‘leaves’ (I used basil and baby spinach), avocado and tomato. Very nice for breakfast or lunch.
  • Allergy-free bread (p 113): A dense, savoury loaf which I topped with hummus, baby spinach, tomatoes and olives; and had for lunch with:
  • Summer Peach and Basil Colada (p 345): My new favourite kombucha flavour! This is beautiful as a summer drink, especially when combined with soda water. I also used my kombucha to make:
  • The Cultured Mule (p 310): A kombucha cocktail (that does my head in a bit, I must admit) – I used bacardi instead of vodka – because I drank all the vodka last month! This one is for those who like strong drinks!
  • Lamb Roast for Two (p 240): Except we had ours for four – an easy throw-together and chuck in the oven family dish. We served it with:
  • Minted Pea Pistou (p 240): I like this take on pistou that includes even more veg! I had the leftover pistou drizzled over corn fritters for breakfast.
  • Blueberry, Basil and Mozzarella Toastie (p 87): An unusual, but very tasty toastie combination. I added baby spinach as well.
  • Australiana Mango Flat White (p 327): The mango variation of the ‘pumpkin spice-a-chino’, which made for a lovely, light jelly dessert with late-season mango.
  • Activated Groaties (p 27): Gently dried in the oven during the day, I used these to make:
  • Golden Happy Times (p 296): A take on the popular ice-cream, which I was surprised to find I enjoyed – the use of almond butter in the ‘ice-cream’ mix gave it a lovely caramel flavour, and the kids were very excited by their treat!

Golden Happy Times Ice-cream from Simplicious (p 296)

That’s 78 recipes down, and 228 recipes to go! Even though I’m dreading Canberra winter, I’m kind of looking forward to the weather changing over the next few months, so I can start to try out some of the Autumnal dishes from Simplicious. Like everything pumpkin related…

Read the previous post here – #4: A Simplicious Challenge: Dipping into offal and fermented sardines.

Read the next post here – #6: A Simplicious Challenge: Let the lady bleed in peace!

9 Comments

  1. Gary Lum says:

    I agree on the food wastage Erin. I eat everything. I try not to waste. On the props though, I really enjoy walking through shops and looking at new plates. I have way too many for someone who lives alone 😃

  2. unmomentoperme says:

    Erin thanks a lot for doing this challenge. I have the simplicious book and i really love it. However iv just moved from brussels to rome and i have two children under two so much and all as I’d love to try the recipes in the book I sometimes just cant summon the mental energy (or find the ingredients) to do so. But looking at your summary on these posts I can choose one or two that seem to be worth the effort knowing that you (a normal person with a normal life) have tried them. For example I wasnt sure if the red velvet crunch bowl was worth the hassle of trying to find beetroots (not that common here in Italy) but now I think I’ll give it a go.
    Thanks a lot for the inspiration to get out of my comfortable cycle of child minding and housework from time to time!

    • Erin says:

      Hi there! Thanks so much for the feedback (and I’m completely jealous of your European lifestyle!). I completely relate to the cycle of child-minding and housework. :-/ Two children under two sounds very busy!

      I found that the easiest thing to do was to pick a ‘basic’ or two each week, and then go from there. I’ve also started to ‘map’ the book, so it’s easier to tell which basics make which recipes (e.g. a list of all the recipes that use parcooked beetroot), which I’m happy to send you if you like?

      Best wishes with it – and I hope you’re settling in to your new home ok!

      Erin 🙂

  3. shae says:

    i made the ‘happy times’ ice creams – the ice cream part was nice but the chocolate/groaties part was so fiddly and really not worth it in my opinion!

    • Erin says:

      The ice-cream was delicious hey! I found it quite easy to do the chocolate coating by putting the melted chocolate in a narrow mug (rather than a bowl), if that makes sense? I’m always happy to add chocolate to anything 😉

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