What to Expect from a Day at River Cottage: Friends, Making Butter, Eating Flowers & Using Tampons to Get Better Food Photos

Being invited to brilliant events is really one my favourite perks of blogging. Sally, Lindy and the team at Foodies100 have outdone themselves again: this time, they organised a VIP day at River Cottage for a select group of bloggers passionate about food. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

After a good night’s sleep at Prestoller House and the best cooked breakfast you could imagine, my friend Vicki picked me up and we made our way to River Cottage HQ in Rosie, her funky VW campervan.

Our day of blogging Started with an incredibly bumpy tractor ride, before coffee and a quick briefing in a yurt (I want one!). River Cottage HQ is a popular venue, and it is busy all year round, with all sorts of courses usually aimed at the general public, from butchery to bee keeping, gluten-free cooking and many more.

After a quick catch-up with Julie, Charlotte, Sarah and Nova, my group started in the kitchen.
It was hands-on straight away, with blackberry picking.

Picking Blackberries

My lovely friend Sarah and I had decided to be each other’s photographer for the day, so I snapped away.

Sarah

We then made butter, with 500ml double cream. Nothing else! (Mind. Blown)

All we had to do was whip cream vigorously until it formed peaks.

Vicki

We then worked the whipped cream with a spatula until it started to split and a watery texture started coming out.

Making Butter

To quote Vicki, “It looks disgusting. It’s like scrambled egg!”

I made butter!

We then squeezed the watery liquid with our hands (buttermilk). We got about 200ml buttermilk.

Freshly Made Butter

We refrigerated our butter and later rinsed it in water to get rid of excess buttermilk before we flavoured it and shaped it. You could use anything you fancy to add flavours and texture to your butter, from salt to herbs, to edible flowers like nasturtiums.

The buttermilk and blackberries were then used to make a delicious sourdough loaf flavoured with goats’ cheese, herbs and honey.

Sourdough

The following session was a food styling workshop with bubbly and incredibly talented photographer Lucy.

Here are the 5 tips I picked up:

  • Get lots of cookbooks with a distinctive food style, for inspiration.
  • Shooting photos tethered (with a cable connected to a computer) is a way to take less photos, get as good a shot as you can the first time and therefore rely less on post editing.
  • When setting up your shoot, take 3 different landscape hero shots for Twitter (one to publish in the morning, one after the school run and once in the evening for Americans coming home from work). Have another couple of shots for Instagram (square), some for Pinterest (landscape / long pins). You will need different angles for different platforms.
  • The magic angle for food photography is 45 degrees.
  • Autumn is here and we will probably all have more and more soup recipes. Do not worry about keeping your soup warm for the shoot. Wait for this tip, it is rather unconventional… place your plate of soup where you want it, and to create the impression steam is coming out of it, use a tampon dipped in boiling water. It will hold the steam for a few minutes. Simply hide it behind the plate of soup and shoot away!

Tomatoes

 

Lunch kicked off with a quick word by Lindy then the head chef at River Cottage told us about the food we were going to be served.

Lindy

The slow-cooked meat we were about to be served came from a cow slaughtered just five weeks ago.

lunch

It came with ratatouille, leeks, divine sweetcorn roasted in golden margarine, thyme, rapeseed oil and garlic. The Ciabbata-like bread we were served with it had just come out of the oven. Dessert was damsons foraged from the area with fennel meringue and freshly churned ice cream infused with coffee bean, vanilla and salt caramel.

The last session of the day for my group was a tour of the farm.
The farm itself is 90 acres. Everything produced on the farm (300 varieties of fruit and veg!) stays there and it is certified organic. They always try to grow with the environment rather than fighting against it. Their main job is looking after the soil.

We then had a networking session so we could chat and take a few photos before leaving the farm.

Here I am with Victoria!

Mel & Victoria

What a day!

Comments

  1. 24/09/2015 / 8:15 am

    Such a lovely recount of the day Mel! I’ve not even looked at my photos yet >_< Fab to see you again – and the sweetcorn truly was divine!! xx

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:46 pm

      It was! I’m so glad I asked how they’d cooked it. x

  2. 24/09/2015 / 12:09 pm

    Omg your day sounds absolutely amazing!! What a brilliant idea about making butter, I may try that at the weekend with the children, they’d love it!
    But the food you talked about eating is mouthwatering; I’m having cheese and olives for lunch and it now feels woefully inadequate!!
    Really lovely post and glad you had an amazing day xx

    • 24/09/2015 / 8:52 pm

      It was my idea of the perfect day! The only thing that could have made it better would have been a day of cooking with the kids there. x

  3. Victoria Welton
    24/09/2015 / 1:37 pm

    What a truly, truly lovely and memorable day – we both look tired but happy at the end there! This is a great write-up Mel. I am just editing my photos and then mine will be up shortly – I don’t think I have ever wanted to share an event as quickly as this one! Great to see you again x

    • 24/09/2015 / 8:50 pm

      Same here! It usually takes me days (OK, weeks!) before I post anything about an event, but I was inspired yesterday night. x

  4. 24/09/2015 / 1:43 pm

    What a fab day – Sadly just too far for me to join you. Am loving all the pictures & how magic it is to make butter x

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:54 pm

      It would be lovely to meet you at one of the blogger’s get togethers, Helen! Have you applied for the next London one? x

  5. 24/09/2015 / 1:44 pm

    I didn’t want to read this, but couldn’t wait to at the same time! I’ll be eternally gutted that I missed out, it sounds like you had an absolutely awesome day. Love your tips hon, and although I can’t see myself dipping tampons into boiling water, I will definitely start plugging the camera into the laptop as I’m snapping food.

    So looking forward to seeing you at the weekend xxx

    • 24/09/2015 / 11:16 pm

      I simply cannot wait to try the tampon thing. So odd yet so ‘out there!’
      It seems to be the thing to do. I looked on google (as you do, ‘tampons for food photography’) and found quite a few people recommending it. You learn every day!

  6. 24/09/2015 / 1:49 pm

    Looking lovely ladies! A food photographer told me the tampon tip years ago, I’ve never been able to quite bring myself to do it…

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:43 pm

      It’s such a brilliant (and odd) tip I really want to try it now! Guess who’ll be making soup in the next couple of days…

  7. 24/09/2015 / 1:51 pm

    Absolutely love this post and loved spending the day with you. What an amazing adventure. Loved it! See you tomorrow too – what a treat! PS Would you mind emailing me a photo of me if you have a moment please? xx

    • 24/09/2015 / 11:13 pm

      Hey sweetie, I just emailed you the photos (I had loads of you… stalker alert!).

  8. 24/09/2015 / 2:13 pm

    Oh, this is such a fab post, I might share it rather than write my own 😉 You’ve captured the day perfectly!

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:42 pm

      Sorry lovely! If you write about our brilliant day, would you mind tagging me on Twitter so I don’t miss it?

  9. 24/09/2015 / 5:37 pm

    Brilliant day and a brilliant review of the day. How do you manage to fit writing it up so soon??!!

    • 24/09/2015 / 8:56 pm

      I was all on my own yesterday from 6 p.m. and my dinner was the bread we’d made followed by a lot of chocolate! I just started looking at my photos and then I was desperate to write about the day. x

  10. 24/09/2015 / 10:21 pm

    It sounds like a fantastic day, I wish I could have been there. I was watching all the food coming through on Instagram. Thanks for sharing those great tips.

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:54 pm

      My pleasure, lovely!

  11. 25/09/2015 / 9:53 am

    You must have had so much fun making butter! My grandma used to make it, but so long ago I can barely remember now. I can only imagine how delicious that butter must have tasted. What a wonderful day! It is incredible how many opportunities blogging brings.
    I like the photo of blackberry picking.
    PS: you are so photogenic!

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:41 pm

      Thanks Alida, you’re too kind. I’m not sure about being photogenic…
      Making butter is so quick and simple I will be making it again with the kids so they know exactly how it’s made.
      Love blogging!

  12. 25/09/2015 / 2:12 pm

    It’s either bodybuilding or butter making that will give you great arm muscles 😉 I was in your group too – and still we never talked! haha! One day 😉

    • 25/09/2015 / 11:53 pm

      Can’t believe we didn’t recognise each other! Next time we must have a good chat!

  13. 26/09/2015 / 4:39 pm

    Very jealous here now! Sounds like an amazing day. Fennel meringues? Wow!

    • 02/10/2015 / 11:54 pm

      It was incredible from start to finish!

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