As a photographer I’ve taken part in a few food photography projects, which are all really fun to work on. They let me play with daylight (or when I’m stuck for that in Scotland’s winter, some small day light studio gear). I absolutely hate seeing pictures from camera phones of food. Even food from a gastro pub can be full of colour with amazing presentation, but phones ALWAYS make it look like a sun-bleached photo from a 70’s chippy. It’s so unappetizing; your eyes didn’t see that on a plate or menu, or you would NEVER have ordered it. So why do you think I want to on Instagram or Facebook?
Any way when Eva Kourova asked if I wanted to take on a slightly different angle with food I knew I could have some fun. As part of an alternative Robert Burn’s celebration she asked me to explore the world of food utensils. We use things from a host of differing cultures and origins which now seem so native in our kitchen we often forget they would once have been wildly foreign, or would they? Do some cultures just share the need for the same basic things? Well I found it to be a combination of both, for example: the humble garlic press, pestle and mortar and knife seem to be fairly universal regardless of place on the earth or century. These are things that have been used in North and South America prior to European invasion as well as Europe itself, Africa etc, you get the picture. While other items have a very specific regional or cultural origin.
Photographing the utensils could have been a bit dull, so this was to be another chance to make and eat some great food to fully show the particular utensils importance to these dishes. It also gave me the chance to make some dishes that I had on my list of things to do for sometime, like Haggis. Which is fairly labour intensive but the yield is high. It’s also something that everyone will want out of your freezer!
This also gave us the chance to engage with people and ask for things of interest they may have lying around in their kitchen.
Ashet pie tin with mussels
In Scotland a large, shallow, oval dish used for serving food taken from French for plate, ‘assiette’. According to legend, mussels have been cultivated in Europe since 1235 when Patrick Walton, an Irish sailor shipwrecked on the French coast, hung up nets in order to catch fish and found that mussels attaching themselves to the poles supporting the nets. He got the idea to align poles to collect the little blighters and so invented the first mussel beds.
Haggis and meat grinder
Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach. Once cooled finely chop the meat and organs or run them through a meat grinder.
The exact historical origins of this great national dish appear to have been lost in the mists of time. Some claim that the dish originates from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers. Others have speculated that the first haggis was carried to Scotland aboard a Viking longboat.
Bamboo dumpling steamer
Used prevalently in Asian culture, bamboo steamers possess a few unique characteristics designed to produce a more flavorful, evenly cooked meal, while retaining the natural characteristics of the food as well as preserving essential vitamins and minerals that could otherwise be lost by other cooking methods. Bamboo steamers come in a variety of sizes, and are traditionally constructed of a circular frame, with a slotted bottom and a domed lid. The lid and slotted bottom work together effectively to keep steam trapped and free-flowing throughout the steamer.
From the time of the ancient Ethiopians, back in 800 A.D., people have been grinding coffee beans into powder to enjoy the delicious drink they discovered. As far as coffee grinders, back in this time in Ethiopia, the good old mortar and pestle were the go-to coffee grinders of choice. The first spice grinder was invented in the fifteenth century by either the Turks or the Persians. These fancy spice grinders were, at some point, deemed to be appropriate for grinding coffee as well as spices, as spices and coffee beans are comparable in many ways for grinding purposes. Nowadays, coffee is more than popular: it’s ubiquitous. No other beverage is as revered or respected. It can be seen in offices, during commutes, and on kitchen counter tops worldwide.
Mortar and pestle
A mortar and pestle is a device used since ancient times to prepare ingredients or substances by crushing and grinding them into a fine paste or powder. The mortar is a bowl, typically made of hard wood, ceramic or stone. The pestle is a heavy and blunt club-shaped object, the end of which is used for crushing and grinding. The substance to be ground is placed in the mortar and ground, crushed or mixed using a pestle. Mortars and pestles have been used in cooking up to the present day and were used by pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztec and Maya, other Native American nations, Japan, Southeast Asia, Malay and Indonesia as well as Pakistan and India.
Staub is a brand of enameled cast iron cookware and bakeware that was originally headquartered in Turckheim, Alsace, France. The first piece, a cocotte (Dutch oven), was designed by Francis Staub in 1974. Pieces are manufactured with cast iron covered with double-glazed enamel. The enamel coating makes the cookware rustproof, and enables for easy cleaning. Staub’s cocottes have nubs on the interior of the lids, which enables condensation to collect and drip down to baste foods uniformly as they are cooking.
Sushi is a Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice combined with other ingredients, raw uncooked seafood, vegetables and sometimes tropical fruits. Ingredients and forms of sushi presentation vary widely, but the ingredient which all sushi have in common is rice. Sushi can be prepared with either brown or white rice. It is often prepared with raw seafood, but some common varieties of sushi use cooked ingredients or are vegetarian. Sushi is often served with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce. Popular garnishes are often made using daikon. The history of sushi in Japan began around the 8th century. The original type of sushi was first developed in Southeast Asia as a means of preserving fish in fermented rice. In the Muromachi period, people began to eat the rice as well as the fish.
The Chinese have been wielding chopsticks since at least 1200 B.C., and by A.D. 500 the slender batons had swept the Asian continent from Vietnam to Japan. The fabled ruins of Yin, in Henan province, provided not only the earliest examples of Chinese writing but also the first known chopsticks—bronze sets found in tombs at the site. Capable of reaching deep into boiling pots of water or oil, early chopsticks were used mainly for cooking. It wasn’t until A.D. 400 that people began eating with the utensils.
A garlic press is a kitchen utensil to crush garlic cloves efficiently by forcing them through a grid of small holes, usually with some type of piston. Garlic presses present a convenient alternative to mincing garlic with a knife. Garlic crushed by a press is generally believed to have a different flavor from minced garlic as more of the garlic’s strong flavor compounds are liberated. Pressed garlic has a lighter, more delicate flavor than minced garlic because it excludes the bitter center stem. A good garlic press can break down cloves more finely and evenly than an average cook using a knife, which means better distribution of garlic flavor throughout any given dish.
Chapatti Tawa basket
Chapatti (alternatively Chapatti, Chapatti or Chapatti) is an unleavened flatbread (also known as roti) from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is a common staple in South Asia as well as amongst South Asian expatriates throughout the world. Chapattis were also introduced to other parts of the world by South Asian immigrants, particularly by Indian merchants to Central Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Caribbean islands.
Kahwah (qehwa, kehwa or kahwa) is a traditional green tea preparation consumed in Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, some regions of Central Asia as well as the Kashmir Valley. In Pakistan, it is made in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and north Punjab regions. It is a popular breakfast beverage among Kashmiris, generally accompanied with special Kashmiri baked items like girda. Kashmiri Pandit migrants living in the North Indian plains, particularly in the urban agglomeration of Delhi, have also contributed to the tea’s popularity among non-Kashmiris. Even though exact origins of kahwa are still unclear, most Kashmiris believe that the aromatic traditional drink kahwa dates back to times immemorial and has been a part of local consumption for ages.
Bulgarian stew pot
The colorful plates, pots, and serving dishes are sold in the markets at very reasonable prices. Restaurants offering traditional Bulgarian food set their tables with the ceramics as part of their standard décor and many Bulgarians use the ceramic ware in their homes. The important thing to remember about using Bulgarian ceramic cooking pots is that they need to be put into the oven while the oven is still cold. The pot warms up with the oven. Otherwise, the ceramic would crack.
The traditional tajine pot is made of pottery, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides and a large cone- or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom.
Tajine is traditionally cooked over hot charcoal leaving an adequate space between the coals and the tajine pot to avoid having the temperature rise too fast. Large bricks of charcoal are purchased specifically for their ability to stay hot for hours. Smaller pieces of charcoal are reserved for cooking brochettes (barbecue) and other grilled meats. Other methods are to use a tajine in a slow oven or on a gas or electric stove top, on lowest heat necessary to keep the stew simmering gently. A diffuser – a circular piece of aluminium placed between the tajine and burner – is used to evenly distribute the stove’s heat. European manufacturers have created tajines with heavy cast-iron bottoms that can be heated on a cooking stove to a high temperature. This permits the browning of meat and vegetables before cooking.
The word is from French ramequin, originally a cheese- or meat-based dish baked in a small mold. The French word comes from early modern Flemish rammeken, which meant ‘toast’ or ‘roasted minced meat’, itself apparently from ram ‘battering ram’ + -kin ‘diminutive’, but it is unclear why.
Ramekins are commonly used for preparing and serving individual portions of a variety of dishes such as crème brûlée, French onion soup, molten chocolate cake, moin moin, cheese or egg dishes, poi, potted shrimps, ice cream, soufflé, baked cocottes, crumbles, or scallops, or used to serve side garnishes andcondiments alongside an entrée.
Ramekins are often built to withstand high temperatures, as they are frequently used in ovens, or in the case of crème brûlée, exposed to the flame of a cooking torch.
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