There are many things I love about our Local is Lovely Pracshops, of which we’ve run six since last November. There’s the chance to collaborate with creative whirlwinds like Luisa Brimble, stylist Stephanie Stamatis, artist Annie Herron and writer Megan Trousdale to share their incredible knowledge. The opportunity to meet a new group of awesome students and get to know their blogs and creative spaces each time, and two full days taking pretty pictures and hanging out with people who don’t mind if you stand on the table taking photos before lunch and totally get it when you wax on (and on) about hashtags and filters. And lets not forget the flowers! Florist Amelia Toohey of The Flower Era has been a special guest at a few of our workshops and last week she pulled out all the stops.
But possibly more than all of that, I love that these Pracshops allow us such a unique chance to celebrate some of the amazing produce and producers we can source right here in this region. I stood back during one of our practical shooting sessions last week and watched 15 people from all over Australia intently photographing scene after scene starring fresh, raw produce, locally made cheeses, laid eggs and baked goods and that got me a bit excited. Because food photography and styling really must start with great raw ingredients and I was really proud that the Central West of NSW had put on such a show.
Second Mouse Cheese – Orange-based Kai Woltman handmakes each small batch of Second Mouse Cheese with care, love and the precision that can only come from being a Scientifically-minded German cheesemaker. His Roboos Blue was a big hit on our cheese boards throughout the workshop (see below).
Dougal Munro’s edible flowers – Dougal Munro, a past workshop student and local grower of many good things (garlic, spuds, raspberries, orchard fruit and more) provided three tubs of the most beautiful, delicate edible flowers (pictured below) for this last workshop and they were stars of dish and screen. We served them atop meringues piled with rhubarb compote set in puddles of thin custard, tossed them through a salad of butter lettuce to complement the paddock paella we shared for lunch on day 1 and tossed them about food photography scenes with happy abandon.
Mandagery Creek Venison – Oh look, that’s us! Our beautiful venison found it’s way into the Pracshop menu in the form of our new, delicious salami which was a star of our lunch on day two.
Fresh produce – Most of our fruit, vegetable and herbs came from either local store The Agrestic Grocer (pears, apples, blood oranges and nuts) and First Farm Organics in Hartley, just at the foot of the Blue Mountains. Organic grower Fabrice Rolando grows open pollinated heirloom vegetables, berries, fruits and flowers to order and everything that comes from his farm is just-picked-fresh and tastes like he’s turned the flavour dial way way up.
Eggs – we shot huge double-yolker chicken eggs from Orange’s Hillside Harvest, tiny blue quail eggs and duck eggs sourced from the Lithgow Valley by butcher Paul Kingston (Lithgow Valley Free Range Meats) then baked or blew them (Mum is using the quail eggs for a nest sculpture in progress and they look so beautiful).
Rhubarb and almond cake
This was morning tea on day one and is one of my favourite things to bake. Essentially just an adaptation of this lemon and almond loaf but with orange zest instead of lemon and lots of rhubarb pressed into the batter before baking, it’s an absolute winner for morning tea.
200g unsalted butter, softened
Zest and juice of 3 oranges
1 cup (200g), loosely packed light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup (50g) gluten-free flour
1 cup (125g) almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 bunch rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5cm bars.
3 tbsp demerera sugar
Preheat oven to 160C and grease and line a loaf tin (about 25x11X7cm) or 24cm cake tin. Combine the butter, zest and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Now sift together the flour, almond meal and baking powder and fold through the batter. Finally fold in the orange juice (don’t worry if the mixture looks like it’s curdling a little). Spoon batter into the cake tin and smooth the top. Place the rhubarb pieces over the top of the batter then sprinkle with the sugar and place in the oven for 45 minutes or until the cake feels springy to touch and has begun to pull away from the tin’s sides. Let cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or double cream.
Lunch was a simple paella cooked over a fire in the paddock just beyond our studio (loosely based on this version which was based on this one!). Then we returned to a truly delightful hour of floristry and ‘florography’ with Amelia Toohey and Luisa Brimble. These two showed us how to shoot flowers; hands arranging flowers and big overhead table scenes. It was the best. Then it was back to the studio where Luisa and Stephanie showed us how they work together to create and shoot scenes, followed by a good afternoon session of shooting ourselves, under the helpful, watchful guidance of these industry leaders. What a day!
Another thing I love about our Pracshops is how easy it is to bring 15 strangers together under one roof, many of them sharing a room, and how quickly we all find common ground and strike up easy conversations and ultimately new friendships.
Absolutely none of the above would be at all possible if we didn’t have access to the wonderful venue that is Kimbri Farm, where my Mum, artist Annie Herron teaches 5-day residential art classes every Autumn and Spring. I do the cooking for these classes and they are always a wonderful experience see here for dates and more information.
And speaking of dates, we are currently finalising five new workshops for 2016 and will be announcing dates and opening bookings within the next month. Hope to see you at Rydal next year!