Out from the Fog

6 Nov

Recently,  Vancouver was covered in a blanket of fog. It made me very nostalgic, reminded me of my time in Ireland. Here in Vancouver fog does happen, but not that often.

Misty Tree

It stayed for about a week and so I enjoyed many early mornings in the still and calm. The thing that struck me most, was how quiet the city became. The fog seemed to suck all the noise of the city into its folds and hold it there breathless.

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One one morning when I was out at Vanier Park, the fog was moving quite a lot and the light was changing fast. I took this shot at about 8:45. I like how mysterious it is.

KitsilanoFog_© 2013 Helena McMurdo

By 5 minutes past nine, the fog burned off for just a brief moment and I shot this with just a peek of the city.

Kits Point

Finally, the last few ones have been big ones for me as I finally launched my online food photography portfolio. It’s been an interesting journey to work through the images and to decide what I would include. I think I’ve managed to put together a collection that best represents my food photography style. I hope you’ll check it out.

I’m also working on a new look for this blog. When I started this blog 3 years ago, I didn’t know where it would take me. It’s been a very eye-opening journey and I’ve been fortunate through this blog to be led in paths I didn’t even imagine. So now I feel the time is right for a bit of a revamp. I’ll keep you updated and hope to reveal something soon.

All the best to you until then.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

12 Oct

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Or at least to my fellow Canadians. Yes, we do it a month earlier than our friends in the US.  Maybe it’s because we just can’t wait to get into the cranberry sauce. Our family recipe contains just two ingredients: sugar and cranberries, (and it is very good) but for a change I thought I’d add some orange zest and cinnamon with very pleasing results.

CranberrySauce Mise © 2013 Helena McMurdo

684 g cranberries (about the equivalent of 3,  4 oz bags)

345 grams (1.5 cups) sugar

Zest of 2 oranges and the juice of 1

2 small cinnamon sticks
Wash the cranberries thoroughly and then put them in a large pan along with the other ingredients. Heat on high until the mixture begins to foam and the cranberries have popped open.  That’s it. You are done. In our family we often make this on the day of the meal, (yep we are that organized!) so we just refrigerate it until we need it. Inevitably someone forgets to take it out of the fridge and actually put it on the table….but that’s another story. If you want to can some, to keep for later, keep the mixture warm and pour into scalded jars, then process in a boiling water bath for about 15 minutes if you are at sea level, (20 mins for other climes). This recipe makes two 500ml jars. One for this weekend and one to give away or to save for Christmas.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Pear & Chocolate Almond Tart

20 Sep

I like dessert. I just do. In fact dinner doesn’t seem finished until I’ve had it. Even if it’s just a square of chocolate. Lately with all the fresh summer fruit that’s around, I’ve been keeping some individual tart shells in the freezer so that I can experiment with different flavours and have dessert at a moment’s notice.

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The inspiration for this tart comes from some lovely Bosc pears that I collected for another project – a canned Pear and Vanilla preserve.  I had one lonely pear left and with it, was able to make these two lovely tarts.

The addition of chocolate seemed an appropriate nod to my almost namesake dessert Poire Belle Hélène. (When is chocolate NOT appropriate?)

These little tarts are rich and tasty and seem to be just perfect for the cooler weather.

Here’s what you do for 4 tarts. (I halved the recipe to make 2)

Pastry

200 g (1 1/2 cups + 2 TBSP) all-purpose flour

50 g  (1/3 cup) ground almonds

75 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar

160g (11 TBSP) salted butter at room temperature, cubed

1 egg yolk

Rub together with your fingertips, the flour sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk and work through together with your hands. Turn out on to a floured surface and work it together into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest. When the time has elapsed take the dough out of the fridge and wait for 10 minutes before rolling it out. I roll it between two sheets of parchment paper and then mark a circle around the tin and then use a palette knife to separate the pastry from the parchment, finally using the parchment to flip it into the tin. Line the individual tart shells. You can make the pastry in advance and freeze in the individual tart shells or freeze any extra pastry that you have. If you are working from frozen, take the shells out of the freezer about 1/2 an hour before you want to use them. If you are working from fresh, refrigerate the pastry shells while you make the filing.

Filling

56 g  (1/4 cup) butter

70 g (1/2 cup) powdered sugar

85 g ( 3/4 cup) almond flour/meal

1 TBSP all-purpose flour

1 egg

50 g chocolate (70% cocoa)

2 small Bosc pears

25 g  (1/8 cup) granulated sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Slice the pears in half lengthwise and remove the core from each half with a melon-baller or spoon.  Now slice finely lengthwise, keeping the slices together and place on a plate. Squeeze some lemon juice over the slices to keep from browning while you make the rest of the filling.

Melt the chocolate slowly over a double-boiler while you make the filling (or cheat like I did and do it in the microwave.)

To make the filling, combine the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the  flour and almond flour followed by the egg and the almond extract.

Divide the filling between the tart shells and spread evenly into each. Divide the chocolate between the shells, dropping it in spoonfulls over the filling. Run a knife through the chocolate to mix it slightly into the filling. Now place your pears, keeping the fine slices together in the centre of the tart shell and press down slightly so that the filling squeezes up around the sides and the slices separate ever so slightly. Combine the granulated sugar and cinammon and sprinkle over the pears.

Bake in a 325 oven for 50 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned and the almond filling springs back when touched.

Now taste it. You’re welcome!

Pimientos de Padrón

17 Sep

Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non – Galician Saying

Translation: Some are hot. Some are not.

I love these. Perhaps I’m biased. They are pretty much considered the national dish from the land of my birth. That’s Galicia – in the northwest of Spain. Notice the quote? Not quite Spanish is it? Yep, that’s Galego. Named for the town of Padrón, most of these tiny peppers are sweet and mild. The odd one is not. It’s hot. Very hot. There may be tears. Consider yourselves warned.

On a recent trip to Galicia, I ate these little beauties almost every day. Next to jamón, they are probably my favourite local thing. At a bar in the spa town of Caldas de Reis, after arriving a little too late for lunch we were offered a lovely plate of these and a massive mountain of bread. A satisfying meal with an element of gambling thrown in. What is not to love? At the time it was early spring, when typically the peppers contain less of the spicy compound capsaicin, and we were hard pressed to find a hot one among the batch we ate. Even though we had no “winners”, they were delicious nonetheless.

Pimientos del Padrón y Pan ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Up until recently, it was hard to find these outside of Spain. Lately I’ve seen them regularly in blog posts from New York and yearn for them wistfully. I chanced upon some in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago at Toro Bravo. I saw them in Seattle for sale. But I had never seen them in Vancouver.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across them at the Trout Lake Farmer’s market. The lovely people from Klippers Organics of Cawston BC had a load of them. And I am told, they are the only ones growing them in Canada. Fill me up. I was a pretty happy girl leaving the market with my peppers in tow.

Pimientos de Padrón ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Fry them quickly in olive oil, toss them with some sea salt. Nothing more is required.

Fried Pimientos de Padrón ©2013 Helena McMurdo

Pimientos de Padrón with Maldon ©2013 Helena McMurdo

It’s September or maybe it’s the way they are grown here but I found the majority of these were hot and yes there were some tense moments. But they were good. So good. When can I get more?

Client Work: Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery

12 Sep

I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to work with B3 Communications recently and to style and shoot some work for Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery. They are such fun to work with and we had a great collaboration.

Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery is a local bakery specializing in gluten-free products. They have developed a special gluten-free baking mix which takes the hassle of making gluten-free treats at home. Used just like flour, it can be substituted cup for cup in any of your favourite recipes with really great results.

We wanted to capture the beauty and simplicity of the ingredient, so we selected a very simple tone-on-tone colour palette that reflected the contemporary sophistication of the brand while acknowledging it’s traditional roots.

Here are my favourite images from the shoot of Cloud 9 Baking Mix and Cloud 9 Gluten-Free Bread.

Cloud9 SpecialtyBakery_©2013 Helena McMurdo

If you are interested in gluten-free baking please check out Cloud 9 Specialty Bakery.

If you are interested in my food styling and photographic work and would like to know more about working with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch below or at helena@myendlesspicnic.com

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Wordless Wednesday: Granville Island

28 Aug

Granville Island

Blueberry Apricot Custard Crumble Tarts

11 Aug

So I’m sitting here writing this and there is literally sweat pouring down my temples and I’m wondering who in their right mind would attempt to bake anything on a day such as this. I arose early and was actually glad to see a cloudy sky thinking…ahhh some coolness.  This combined with an unexpected and very welcome gift of local blueberries on Friday night and the presence of a couple of apricots on my counter which in the words of my mother ‘needed eating’ sparked the idea.  Add to this the fact that I knew that way back, in the depths of my freezer,  were two beautiful previously prepped tart shells and we now had the perfect storm of conditions for my baking madness. So the oven was already preheating by the time I realized this was not going to be the cool day I had imagined. Oh well suck it up. I love it when conditions and and ingredients spring up to magically provide a recipe so here’s what I came up with. Blueberry and Apricot Custard Crumble Tarts. A mouthful, you say? Yes it is. And you will like it.

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I recently made a lovely lemon tart using a pâte sablée from one of my favourite books Classic Artisan Baking by Julian Day. This has become my new very favourite pastry. It is rich and buttery and almondy and well, it’s just perfect. And it freezes very well so when I had some leftovers I immediately pressed them into two tart shells for future use and popped them in the freezer…where I found them today.

The other gift that allowed this to happen today was a crumble mixture that I also keep on standby in the freezer. I inevitably have too much of it whenever I make it and the first time this happened I froze it. It happened by accident the first time but the results were so good that I admit that now I make it in advance and always have some on stand by. I mean who knows when you could be called upon to provide a crumble at a moment’s notice.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Finally, this dessert makes use of a custard filling which I think is one of the loveliest parts of this dessert. It gives it a kind of bread-puddingy-ness (Yes, of course it’s a word).

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Blueberry Apricot Custard Crumble Tarts

For 4 tarts you will need:

Pastry

4  (4 inch) tart shells lined with your favourite pastry. I used pâte sablée from Classic Artisan Baking.  Before discovering this pastry I had no qualms of buying store-bought pastry (shock-horror!)  from people who were far better at pastry making than I was.  I like a sablée pastry for the almond flour which gives it such a richness.

You will need to follow the directions for your pastry and blind bake it. Usually this involves covering the shells with parchment or foil  and filling with baking beans before baking for about 15-20 minutes. (Depending on your pastry). Remove the beans and parchment and bake for another 5 minutes or so to slightly brown the pastry.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Custard Filling

1 egg

1/4 cup / 6o ml whipping cream

1 TBSP sugar

pinch of cinnamon

dash of vanilla or almond extract

Lightly beat the egg, add the cream and other ingredients, whisk and then set aside until needed.

Crumb Topping 

(makes more than enough to save for later)

1 cup / 227 grams sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 lb / 113 grams cold butter

1/4 cups / 156 grams all-purpose flour

Combine first three ingredients cutting in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the flour and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture has the texture of fine breadcrumbs.  Set aside until ready to use. Freeze what you don’t use to for the crumbles of your future. (Just top your fruit with the mixture and you are good to go).

Fruit Filling

about 1  cup of blueberries

3 apricots, sliced

To assemble:

Once cool, fill the tart shells with a single layer of blueberries, then arrange the apricots on top to your liking. I used 5 apricot slices per tart but you could use more. Then fill in the holes/gaps with more blueberries.  Depending on how sweet your fruit is, you may want to sprinkle some sugar on the fruit at this stage. Taste it and make a call. Now pour the custard mixture over the tarts until the level of custard is just shy of the top of the pastry case. (Stir the custard before pouring as it may have settled). Finally sprinkle some of the crumble mixture on top. Really this part is up to you depending on how much crumble you prefer but I used about 2 TBSP per tart.

Bake at 350 until the crumb topping is golden brown and the custard and fruit juices are bubbling up through the top of the crumb.

Eat and enjoy while mopping the sweat from your brow and thinking how very clever you are!

Wordless Wednesday: Meyer Lemons

7 Aug

ImageMe

Quote

Show a little love

19 Jul

Do you follow a bunch of different blogs? Up until very recently I found it difficult to keep track of the many blogs and feeds I  follow. I had a sort of haphazard system but never really committed to one reader. Well I just discovered Bloglovin’ and yep I’m in love. This reader just seems to get me. It is a really easy way to see all the blogs you love (including this one) and is easily installed on all your devices including iPhone and iPad. You can download the app here. You just add the blogs you want to see and they are right there for you once you open the app. And of course – you can follow myendlesspicnic by clicking the Bloglovin’ button in the sidebar.  Check it out and let me know what you think. Are there other readers that you use? Which do you like best?

Cut out Heart Shape Cookies

Porto or is it Oporto?

16 Jul

I wanted to share some images that I made while I was in Porto – a quick trip I made during my days in Galicia to visit my good Irish friends O & J. So Porto / Oporto. What’s with that? In English and in Spanish it’s called Oporto and in Portuguese it’s Porto. Somehow this seems strange. I mean wouldn’t Porto have worked for all of us? Ok. I’l stop that rant, because that’s pretty much all I could possibly complain about in this lovely city. It’s so gorgeous, it’s ridiculous. It’s crumbly and old and bright and colourful all at once. And the food isn’t bad either. My two new favourite things are included in the photos below.

One. Pasteis de Nata. Custard tarts that are everywhere. We had them everyday! And now I’ve developed an addiction. How can I make these? Anyone?
Two.Pataniscas de Bacalao. These are yummy cod fritters that seem to be a cross between a fishcake and an onion bhajii. Seriously good.
And of course, we must not forget Port. or as the Portuguese call it Vino Porto. But that’s a whole other story. Enjoy!
PortoCollage ©2013 Helena McMurdo
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