A few weeks ago, the lovely people at John Lewis invited me to my first barbecue of the year. What a night! As I arrived at The Loft, I was handed a glass of bubbly: always a great way to start an evening if you want my opinion! The table was already laid with colourful plates, pretty bowls and vibrant cutlery in an impressive barn-like dining room: I had just walked into a blogger’s dream room!
Less than a minute after my arrival, I spotted my friend Julie, Claire and a few other familiar faces, so I knew straight away it would be a great night. Lovely Laura from ‘What’s Hot?’ took this photo of Julie and I.
Although I was wearing jeans that are on their last legs and my £7 jumper from Tesco (bargain!), I felt really comfortable and almost trendy with my Liberty-print shoes from Cienta, a cute mustard bag gifted by Hotter and the gorgeous cashmere mix pashmina Tolly McRae sent me recently.
The evening kicked off with a BBQ masterclass held by food writer and chef Ed Smith of Rocket and Squash, who basically advised us to char everything. Let’s be honest here: I was skeptical.
However, after peeling the layers of charred onions, butternut squash, beetroot and other vegetables, what was left inside was full of flavours and quite simply delicious: I was sold!
Ed shared some of his recipes with us. I absolutely loved his beetroot and onion salad with goat’s cheese. Another recipe I will definitely be making soon is Ed’s romesco sauce, made with charred red peppers almonds and Sherry vinegar. That was quite something! You can find the recipe on page 106 of Ed’s cookbook, On the Side: A sourcebook of inspiring side dishes. As soon as I tried my first spoonful of the rich, nutty sauce, I could see myself using it in a lot of different ways: as a no-tomato pasta sauce, on a pizza as a substitute for tomato sauce, as a dip, as a rich sauce accompany meat skewers, diluted in almond milk to make a rich, creamy soup…
After the demonstration, we were put into teams and Ed challenged us to come up with our own recipes and test drive some of John Lewis’ best BBQs. We went for something simple and safe: chorizo and cod kebabs served with a side salad.
Chorizo & Cod Kebabs
- 1 Chorizo sausage , sliced
- 2 skinless cod or haddock fillets , cubed
- 1 pepper , diced
- 1 red onion , sliced
- 1 courgette , diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Drizzle all ingredients in olive oil and toss them slightly so they are evenly coated.
- Push all ingredients onto skewers, alternating them to form a pattern.
- Place on to the hot barbecue for 3 minutes.
- Turn the skewers over for a further 3 minutes.
- Serve on a bed of lettuce.
When the kebabs were ready to go on the BBQ, I abandoned my team as I had spotted our food photographer for the evening and his assistant who were setting up. Charlie Richards regularly photographs food for the Waitrose magazine, so it was a brilliant opportunity to spy on a master at work.
It all started with a white tablecloth, a few foam boards, a single light, a camera, a tripod and a computer.
Charlie’s first job was with Waitrose 14 years ago. It was fascinating to observe someone who knows what they’re doing as they are doing it, from a blank canvas to a set of beautifully staged photographs. As dishes were brought to him, Charlie would create a story around the plate before him. He would accessorise it, pair it with wine, a napkin, embellish it with flowers or create some contrast with vibrant cutlery.
It was a real honour to be able to watch the though-processes of someone who takes photos of food day after day.
Here are 3 tips Charlie gave us that night:
- If you have the right light, you don’t need an expensive camera
- Use a tripod
- Set your lens to manual focus (now I’ll have to keep practising before I can pull off that one!)
Once all dishes had been photographed, we all sat down for dinner, and there was a lot of scrumptious food there!
I went home full and relaxed after such a good night.
Disclosure: I was compensated to attend the event, but all opinions and photos are my own. I also added a link to Ed’s cookbook on Amazon. As I am an affiliate, if you click on the link and end up making purchases, I might get a few pennies.