Wednesday, March 09, 2011

When your cooking doesn't look as pretty as the picture...

Sometimes, I wish I was one of those bloggers who had the ability (and the equipment) to take amazing food photographs.

Heck, I'd settle for decent ones.

But, as I do most of my cooking in the evening (and, I'm not about to stop that any time soon), I work under artificial light. And artificial light is not photograph friendly.

And no, I'm not about to build a light box any time soon. That kind of nonsense would just take up too much room in our apartment, but I'll confess to a twinge of jealousy for those people who do have the room and inclination to undertake a blogging project like that.

So, I'm always in awe of what other bloggers can do. So many have the art of food styling down... and, as we all know, we eat with our eyes first.

Most of the time, I tell myself that the photos don't matter, that the food tastes great and that's the most important thing. But, every once and a while, I'll cook something that looks so far removed from its original source that I'm embarrassed to share it.

First off, go check out the lovely blog Indian Simmer here and here.

Don't worry, I'll still be here when you come back.

You done? See how she makes very simple, homey things look amazing?

Alright, here's how those two recipes turned out for me.

Mmm. Brown sludge with a side of mustardy-brown... erm... bits. Nowhere nearly as attractive.

And that's where I get really frustrated, because all three recipes found on this plate were delicious, in spite of the picture. Today, I'm going to share one of the three recipes with you. Stay tuned tomorrow for one other recipe, and please trust me when I ask you to try this out.

Indian Lentil and Bean Simmer

(heavily adapted from Indian Simmer)


3/4 cup dried cranberry beans
2 cups red lentils
2-3 tbsp French lentils (they don't fall apart)
1 tsp tumeric
10 peppercorns
4 whole cloves
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 inch ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp hot curry powder (more if you like it spicy)
1 tbsp coriander powder
2/3 cup whole fat coconut milk
salt to taste
palmful of cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)


1. Soak the cranberry beans over night. You'll watch them grow (like magic!) over that time frame. See?

2. Place beans in a pot of cold water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until beans are just tender. They don't need to be completely cooked, as you'll be adding them to the lentils in the next step. Drain and set aside. You'll notice that the beans have changed once again! The colour changes drastically.

It's disappointing to lose that pretty colour, isn't it?
3. Rinse lentils and add to a large pot (and I do mean large), add in beans. Cover mixture with water (water level should be about an inch above lentil/bean mixture) - this is between 6-8 cups. Add the tumeric, salt, peppercorns and cloves. Heat over high until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, thick and lentils have fallen apart. This will take about an hour, and you want to make sure the consistency isn't watery!

4. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add bay leaves and onions to oil and sauté until onion is translucent. Stir in garlic and ginger and continue sautéing until everything is golden. Add tomato paste, curry powder and coriander. Stir in coconut milk.

5. Pour onion mixture into lentil mixture, add additional salt to taste. I added close to another teaspoon. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.


Ringy said...

For what it's worth, it looks delicious to me. Maybe a couple of chutneys on the side would help brighten up your picture a bit?

Alyson said...

Thanks Ringy!

Alas, no chutney! And, the last jar I had was an amazing apple-raisin one that would have also been brown.

janet said...

I find soupy things hard to photograph as well... I hope the recipe does the talking, then!

This sounds like a great recipe - 3 kinds of legumes! - wahoo!

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