Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

One weekend last month, my sister (@pearlsa) and I drove down to Seattle to attend a food styling and photography class with Aran Goyoaga and Leela Cyd.

Aran is a freelance food stylist, photographer, and writer; she’s the author of award winning blog Cannelle et Vanille

Leela is multi-talented food, travel and lifestyle photographer and writer whose work has appeared numerous editorial and commercial publications, she’s working on her first cookbook, and also authors the outstanding blog Tea Cup Tea

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle
Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Aran and Leela are seriously talented, and it was such a delight and honour to be able to take a class with them, especially since this was my first ever food photography class and it was fittingly an introductory course.

We gathered, about fifteen of us excited students, at Aran’s beautiful studio in Belltown, eager to learn.

The day started off with an overview of creative and technical process of styling and photographing food; we watched Aran style the beautiful mackerel she’d gotten from the market as she talked us through her styling process and gave us some great simple yet effective styling tips.

We also got to watch Leela’s approach as she took photos, demonstrating through her workflow how to create wonderful stories with photography.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

We had a spectacular lunch of creamy cauliflower soup and a wonderful roasted beet, citrus and greens salad.

Afterwards, we were let loose in the gorgeous studio to style and photograph our own creations using seasonal produce they’d gotten from the market, the incredible assortment of props, and a little guidance and direction from Aran and Leela. It was an amazingly fun exercise.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle
Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

It was a perfectly spent day, meeting people who are that passionate about food and photography is so inspiring, and to be able to learn from them was such an amazing experience.

I came away invigorated; the workshop made me assess the kind of food photographer I wanted to be, and I gained a little insight into the business of food photography.

Thank you Aran and Leela for bring such wonderful and kind instructors.

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle
Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle Food Styling and Photography Workshop in Seattle

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and beans; it sounds so exotic now, almost foreign, yet it used to be my favourite food not too long ago.

This beloved Ghanaian food of fried plantains and stewed beans holds a special place in my heart – sold by street vendors and a staple in homes, it’s one of the few meals I actually looked forward to eating when I was a child.

A dish so good it’s named twice – we call it ‘red red’, for the red palm oil and tomatoes that turns the bean stew red, and the golden red hue of the plantains when fried, or in this case, baked.

There are countless similar versions of this plantain and beans cooking in West African kitchens and all over the world.
Over here in our part of the globe, we typically wait for warmer weather when the plantains ripen better and sweeter just like back home.

Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans
Plantain and Beans

I should mention that this is really my sister’s dish, she diligently chooses the finest looking plantains, let it ripen further and spend days planning this meal – I’m always super nice to her in the days leading up to ‘plantain and beans’

I should also mention that this recipe isn’t wholly plant based; apologies to my vegan buddies – although it can be easily be made vegan by swapping out the anchovies for mustard seeds, cumin and harissa to give the palm oil a flavour boost, and you probably won’t miss the smoked salmon if you omit it.

We’re planning on a solely plant-based version this summer, so stay tuned.

Plantain and Beans
Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans

Like most Ghanaian dishes, there’s versatility to this plantain and beans, it can be tweaked and adapted to suit countless tastes and preferences.

My aunt S. cooks her beans very soft till they’re almost falling apart, then she sautés onions in palm oil and adds the beans to the oil with a little salt and let it simmer while she fries her plantains – simple, hearty and delicious.

We’ve been frying our plantains in the oven for a few years now, and it works superbly, yielding deliciously sweet plantains to go with the stewed beans.

I love this dish, it’s comforting and tastes like home, a meal for sharing with loved ones.
It’s the type of meal that is so much better with good company and good wine, perhaps an Argentinian Malbec.

Plantain and Beans Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Plantain and Beans

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

We’ve had a couple of really, really wonderful sun-filled days; I think if I don’t document them somehow, it’ll feel like they never happened when I’m back to trudging through puddles in my rain boots a week from now.

I’m talking tank-tops and flip-flop weather; it is as if we skipped spring and headed straight for summer. I even stopped taking my Vitamin D pills for fear I’d overdose.

Unfortunately, my week was inundated with mostly ‘stuff’ that didn’t include spending my free time outdoors – from the mounting pile of laundry to filing tax adjustments with the CRA and a million other tedious little tasks in between.

Thankfully I had pesto so dinners weren’t too much of a chore; I love pesto for this, I can quickly toss a spoonful with pasta, potatoes, couscous, quinoa… whatever, and hey presto, dinner is ready!

Whenever I’m making pesto, I make sure to double the recipe and freeze some for later, and boy, does it ever come in handy.

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

It took me a while to come around to making this marcona almond and mint pesto; I’ve become quite enamoured with these almonds in recent years, I went from not knowing they existed to wanting to put them in everything.

I get like that with certain foods sometimes, I discovered green raisins at the nut store last week and I’m having a moment with it also, I want to make soda bread with them badly.

I already love almonds in pesto, they impart a nutty savoury taste and make the sauce really shine.

Marcona almonds are a special kind of almonds, delicate and sweeter, they have a more buttery flavour than regular almonds. It’s my favourite nut to snack on at the moment.

Mint and marcona almonds make a wonderful pairing in this pesto, the buttery sweet flavours of the almonds compliments the mint’s refreshing and bright essences, and a nice fruity extra-virgin olive oil rounds out the pesto beautifully.

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto
Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

Marcona Almond and Mint Pesto

Forbidden Rice Porridge

Forbidden Rice Porridge

I’m a ‘porridge girl’, I love all manner of porridges; give me grain or seed and I’ll figure out a way to turn it into breakfast come morning; it’s not like it’s a hard task – all I need is a pot and some water

Porridge is comforting, filling and oh so familiar; I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t a part of my life.

In recent years I’ve been looking beyond the traditional corn and oat cereals I grew up with, I’ve experimented with a handful of grains and seeds like buckwheat, amaranth, polenta, cracked wheat, wheat berries, millet, quinoa, bulgur…

I like simple foods that pack a flavour punch, the porridges I make are usually creamy and pudding-like, when topped with fruit, nuts and more nut-milk goodness, it’s almost like having dessert for breakfast.

Forbidden Rice Porridge

I’ve been itching to try this forbidden rice porridge ever since I saw it here, then I saw it again recently, and like fate, it was topped with passion fruit and mango – guess what I had languishing on my counter? Passion fruit and mangoes!

The porridge sounded lovely, like something I’d wake up early on a weekend morning for. I’ve always thought black rice would be wonderful in dessert or pudding-like recipes with it’s naturally sweet and nutty aromatic flavours.

Rice porridge isn’t new to me; there was ‘rice water’ when I was a kid, it’s white rice cooked in plenty of water until almost mushy and the water turns thick and glutinous, it’s a popular breakfast food in Ghana.

I love, love this porridge, it’s rich creamy texture, the sweet nutty flavour and it’s so fragrant – there’s a bit of nutmeg and vanilla in this recipe to compliment the natural aroma of the rice.

It does transport you to tropical locales; fields of rice and coconut trees on deserted beaches with the bluest waters.

This porridge can be made overnight in a slow-cooker, use your favourite fruits and/or nuts, I’d even try dollop of whipped coconut cream for more coconut-ey creamy goodness.

Forbidden Rice Porridge

Forbidden Rice Porridge

Breakfast – Mother’s Day

Breakfast - Mother's Day

My favourite childhood memories are of my mom making us breakfast; fermented corn-dough porridge (koko), thick creamy oatmeal, fried egg sandwiches with hot cocoa and crepe-like pancakes on special occasions.

Food has always been an integral part of our family; from when we struggled to grow enough to when we ate in abundance – we’ve always come together around food and my mom is continually the tie that binds us.

So it’s no surprise that our Mother’s Day usually involves food…

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My mom doesn’t cook much anymore, we still share curious conversations around food; rare plants and spices from her childhood and new-to-her fruits, vegetables, pastries etc. she wants to try

We love surprising mom with brunch on Mother’s Day; sometimes we manage catch her for a quick breakfast before she sets off to church, then there was the fabulous frittata and gari, she still talks about it to this day.

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We made her matcha waffles today, the smell of matcha, she says reminds her of a farm under the hot sun after the rain.

This was last year’s spread; we cheated a little, with scones from a local bakery and those Italian shortbread cookies she loves, with coffee and fruit – modest and easy to put together yet she loved it just as if we’d spent the morning baking the scones and cookies ourselves.

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Mother’s Day is low-key around here, as it should be, filled with love and thoughtful gestures, with a slight hopefulness that everyday would be like this.

Hope your Mother’s Day was special too.

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