Food Photography

Home made ricotta gnocchi

I know it's warming up here in Australia, so let's just pretend for a bit that we are in the middle of a blistery cold winters day.

A hot chocolate under a warm blanket to start proceedings

Home made ricotta

Home made gnocchi

Ricotta gnocchi with rich tomato sauce and lashings of finely grated parmesan, eaten under a warm blanket

Slow living at it's best

Once you know how easy it is to make Ricotta Gnocchi, you will add it to your favourite weekend meals.  It is way easier than you might think, and results in a light pillowy gnocchi that is definitely worth it. Plus it is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon. Make it with family or friends to make it even more enjoyable.

HOMEMADE RICOTTA (You can use store ricotta for this recipe you may just need to adjust the amount of flour you use in the gnocchi recipe)


This is a quick and simple way to have fresh ricotta in full supply on an ongoing basis.  If you have milk in the fridge, there is no need to race to the shop for store bought ricotta. Ricotta is made a little differently commercially, however, this make at home version is brilliant, and able to be enjoyed in the same ways of the store bought variety, without the extra additives.

Use the best quality milk you can afford, preferably full fat.  It doesn’t work well with milk that is pasteurised/heated to high temperatures like long life UHT milk.

The process involves heating milk, adding vinegar and draining.  That is it.  The draining process is the only process where you need to think about how you would like your end result.  If you drain for a short amount of time (15 minutes), you get a wet ricotta, whereas if you drain for longer (30 minutes) you get a more firm version.  Great for cheesecakes.  If it is drained even longer you can get what is called Paneer, which is a very firm version and can be moulded and sliced. I would encourage you to play around with the process. Trial and error will help you with what version you prefer.

INGREDIENTS 1 litre of full-fat milk
1/3 cup cream
1/2 tsp of sea salt
2 tbsp or 40ml of white vinegar

Line a sieve with a muslin cloth, over a large bowl.  This will be used to drain the ricotta once it has separated.
Combine milk, cream and salt in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Slowly heat the milk until it is just starting to simmer. Stir to combine.
Add vinegar and stir slowly to mix through.
Milk will start to separate and curds will begin to form.  Once this starts you can turn off the heat.
Allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes.
Using a large spoon gently scoop the curds from saucepan and place in the muslin-lined sieve to drain.
Drain for 15 minutes or to desired consistency.

Yields approximately 1 cup
Ricotta can be eaten immediately or stored in the fridge in airtight container for up to 3 days.
The cream is included for a lovely soft ricotta, however, can be omitted for a different texture.
Sieve - a strainer with wire or plastic mesh
Muslin - a lightweight cotton cloth with a plain weave that allows liquid to pass through but retains solid material.  Any lightweight cotton cloth with a loose weave can be used. You may need to double it over if the ricotta drains too quickly. Ensure it is clean and washed after purchase.
Curds - the milk separates into curds and whey when the vinegar is added.  Curds are the solid component.

 

GNOCCHI
250 grams of ricotta (if you have a wet ricotta you may need to drain the excess moisture to create a firmer ricotta or you will need more flour)
1 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
11/2 - 2 cups of plain or all purpose flour
2 whole eggs
1/4 tsp of sea salt
Semolina flour for dusting (or plain flour)
1/4 tsp salt in boiling water

Gently combine ricotta, parmesan, 1 and 1/2 cups of the flour, eggs and salt. Bring it all together to form a ball.  You are looking for a dough that just comes together and is not too sticky to roll.  If you need to, add more flour, 1 spoon at a time until you get the desired result. The dough should be really light. You can add more flour than the recipe indicates if you need, to get it to this point.  
Line a tray with baking paper and sprinkle withsemolina flour. This is where you will place your gnocchi once ready.
Flour a surface with some plain flour for rolling your dough.
Divide dough into 6 sections.
With your hands, roll each section into a log about the diameter of your thumb.
Cut with a knife or pizza cutter sections of the dough about 2 cm long.  
Place pieces on prepared tray and dust with extra semolina flour.  This keeps them separated.
Once all prices are ready, and you are ready to cook, fill a saucepan with water, add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and bring to the boil.
Once boiling, add in gnocchi.  Do not overcrowd - you may need to cook in batches.
Once gnocchi rise to the surface they are cooked and can be removed.  This only takes a couple of minutes, if that.
Drain and serve with your favourite pasta sauce.

Notes: this recipe is highly depending on the type of ricotta you use and the size of your eggs. If you use a wet ricotta and large eggs then you may need more flour.  Just remember you are aiming for a dough that is not too sticky so that you can roll it out easily. It should still feel quite light.
If you are preparing earlier, then cover gnocchi with a tea towel or plastic wrap for a couple of hours
Gnocchi can be frozen for later use.

 

ROASTED GARLIC AND ONION PASTA SAUCE

1 onion peeled and halved
1 bulb of garlic, whole or 8-10 cloves (not peeled)
1 tbsp or 20ml of Olive Oil
1 tsp or 5 grams of Sea Salt
700ml passata
1 cup (250mls) of good quality liquid chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 Handful of fresh basil
Parmesan cheese grated
Salt and Cracked Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 150C/300F
Line a small baking tray with baking paper
Place onion halves on baking tray with garlic and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt
Roast for 1 hour
In the meantime, pour passata and stock,  1/2 teaspoon of salt into an oven proof dish and place in the oven for 1 hour (cooks at the same time as the garlic and onion are roasting)
The tomato sauce will start to caramelise on top so stir every 20 minutes.  This mixes this flavour through and creates a new layer to caramelise.
After 1 hour, remove roasted onion, garlic and the tomato sauce from oven.
Chop off the top of the head of garlic and squeeze roasted garlic into the tomato sauce.
Combine all sauce, onion, garlic and 1/2 cup of parmesan in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.
Salt to taste
Rip basil into pieces and mix through sauce just before serving
Serve over pasta of choice and sprinkle parmesan on top with freshly cracked pepper
Enjoy

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Wedding & Engagement Cake | Brisbane Food Photography

 
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Naked Cakes are certainly popular at the moment and I am definitely a fan of them too. I love that you can add so many elements to them and make them unique in their own right. Cakes have certainly changed since I was married and for the better, I think. I mean, hello, Swiss Buttercream! If you have never tried a cake with Swiss Buttercream you do not know what you are missing. If you are like me, you have only ever tried the American Buttercream which is basically icing sugar and butter. Swiss Buttercream, has this melt in your mouth, silk or satin texture that is to die for. There is no going back either. 

This cake below was made by Holly from Holly Eloise Cake Artist, who is as lovely as her cakes. If you are in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast or surrounds and would like a modern fresh feel to your wedding or engagement cake then I highly recommend you check her out. This particular cake had a pistachio and cardamon crumble in between some of the layers and was sprinkled with a gold dust ( as you can see in one of the shots), and iced with a vanilla swiss buttercream. Holly has so so many different ideas for cakes, the varieties are endless!

 

I have some information about the photography process below but if that doesn't interest you then skip ahead to the images!

Alright, I will stop talking about the cake and get onto the photography now. Holly wanted to go for a dark moody style, which I absolutely love, and really is my go to style for shooting food. I just feel like it adds so much to the feel of the image. So that is the first shot I set up. I am using Studio Strobes for most of my food images now as I love the control that it gives me. I don't have to worry about the time of day for shooting or the using higher ISO or the sun going in and out behind the clouds. As you can tell from the image, I have my light to camera left. I then used black cards to remove the light from the areas I didn't want it to hit. There can be a lot of fiddling around with where to place these cards, it really is just a matter of trial and error.

 

For the second set up, I still had the light to camera left, however, I changed the background to a lighter colour, and I had a bounce card to camera right to lighten the shadows. I find it amazing how with the same ingredient and just a few changes you get a completely different look.

Styling the image is something I don't really think about too much ahead of time. I have been told I should, however, I don't really profess to be a stylist. Styling food does seem to keep landing in my lap, and I tend to be getting by. I must say though that I am always open to working with other stylists, that is for sure. For this shot, I knew what colour flowers Holly was going to go with for the cake, so immediately the vintage look came to my mind. Having cups with similar colours was a bonus. Being able to use a lot of my Mum's pieces that she has given me was an extra bonus. As you can see we changed the props when we changed the style of image we were going for. Anyway, I will stop talking, I hope you enjoy and don't get too hungry! 

And on to the second version..........