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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Beetroot Wafers and Manual Photography

Paper thin see-through beetroot wafers
I have always had a thing for photography. I even used to go around Jordan taking pictures when I was younger, and found the country to be very rich in photogenic opportunities. From markets, to the streets, the old town... all full of picture perfect moments that are big on the human aspect. Silent as they may appear, you can really tell loud stories with just the pictures! Photography is a beautiful hobby.

I also love to draw. I have always been drawn to facial portraits and landscapes, so whenever I drew I drew people, especially those who are older and have defining lines of experience all over their faces. In photography, I always took close ups of faces I found to tell some story, and always were on the look out for landscapes that evoke a narrative of sorts. You can say that photography has always been a hobby of mine!

But, I can never claim that I am a master photographer. It is always a case of hit or miss. The photo either works fantastically or it flops majorly. But the photos were always mine, and to me each one meant something. I had never taken a photo that I desperately needed to be picturesque magazine quality. So they were all perfect, to me!

Gently release these ever so fragile wafers by sliding the spatula underneath them
Up until I started with food photography!
That story is very different. Photographing food is hard, as there is a million things that come to play and determine the outcome. From the light, to the styling, to the actual condition of the food... it is all important to master! And I am a long way from mastering all these things! Cooking and understanding food is one thing, but taking a good photo of that food is a totally different story! Just because the food tastes phenomenal, looks beautiful, does not necessarily mean it is photogenic!! It is totally the work of the photographer to bring out the beauty within that food. Kind of like a green model, whose new to the scene, if the photographer and art directors are really good they can ease her into bringing out her beauty and capturing the right shot!

I have a fabulous relationship with my food, but I am more like a mother than a photographer, I send my food to 'Time Out', when it does not cooperate!!  lol

To show you how thin these wafers are
Ironically, it is only with food photography that I desperately need the photo to be great. I mean, I need that photo to tell you how good the food is, in order for you to try it! In a blog, photography is one main element that needs to be as good as the food. Actually, I have seen, many times, photos of food that were in fact so much better than the taste of that pictured recipe! But it is one of those things were: "who cares about the literature when the illustration does all the work"!! So I have been working on those skills (don't judge! Still work in progress) and have been frustrated in miles, and happy in baby steps, but hopefully getting there :) One major leap I have made, is changing the mode of my camera from fully automatic to fully manual! Yes, I have taken the plunge in the deep, but to my surprise, I discovered that automatic was actually the obstacle standing in my way. I have noticed that all my photos have improved tremendously, just by changing that setting! I still miss many times, especially that at my home, there is very poor light and lots of harsh shadows from all the high rise buildings. But hey, I can say that I am doing way better on that front!!

I have chosen to share this story with you here, because the day I changed my life to manual, was the very day I made these delicious beetroot wafers that I am sharing with you in this post. These were my first manual food photos :)

Stack them, place a dip next to them and munch away
Beetroot wafers are seriously amazing! They are snappy, crunchy, with loads of reddish to purplish earth tones that are on the sweeter side. They are paper thin, so can be used as base, or stacked with filling, used for dipping, as topping to deserts, or to simply brighten up a food and bring in warm colours for an otherwise dull and cold picture! They can even be crushed up and used to top a dessert, a soup, or even a salad. They can give you a crunch to your salad, to your cupcake frosting or be used in the making of cheesecake bases!! Beetroots are super foods that are very good for you as well! So if that is not amazing I don't know what is!

Don't have to be uniformly shaped
When it comes to preparing food and presentation we tend to take the easy route out! But with these wafers you open doors that are not so common, and unleash a delicious creativity that is worthy of notice amongst your friends and guests. These wafers are a perfect base for canapes. Instead of the old fashioned blinis, bread slices... go for beetroot wafers. They add a new layer to the flavour, look good and less common. Make them in mini squares and top them with Ceviche, Smoked Salmon, Cream and Caviar, Confit de canard...etc even the simple tomato bruschetta will be transformed over a wafer! You can also top these mini wafer bases with rolled mini cheese balls (any flavour).
Not only for canapes, as you can use these wafers instead of breads, crisps or sticks to serve with dips. Beetroot wafers go very well with a Hummus dip, eggplant caviar, 7 layer Mexican dip...etc.  You do not even have to make them in mini squares or rounds, you can simply make a large sheet and break it into pieces for dipping. There really is no limit to their use, so this is one recipe worth having and perfecting as you will be using it lots once you get the hang of it. Like with anything great, this requires a bit of work, and some practice to perfect, but nothing overly complicated or difficult. Just a matter of getting the hang of it.

Before jumping into the recipe, it is worth noting that you are not limitted to beetroots in this preparation, as any root vegetable will work, and each type will lend you its own flavour and colour. Like carrots, will produce a beautiful light and vibrant orange wafer, with its own flavour. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnip... and one of my most favourite ones is horseradish! Yes! Think horseradish wafers topped with Tuna or Salmon Sashimi to name a couple!!

So let's get vegetable wafering...

Beetroot Wafers
You Need
500g beetroots, peeled cubed and steamed until tender
120g caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 250F. Line flat cookie sheets with baking paper and set aside.
Place the steamed and still hot beetroots in a large bowl with the sugar.

Blend using an immersion blender until super smooth and no lumps remain. (do not use the regular blender as it will over liquidize the beets)

Using a melon baller, scoop out leveled scoops of the beetroot puree and drop over the lined baking sheet, as in photo 1. Make sure the drops are well spaced as it will get very tricky to spread the puree if they are closely spaced.

Using a small offset spatula, slightly and gently spread the puree into a square shape as seen in photo above. This is the same technique used for spreading frosting over cake (side to side movement, then gently slide out without pulling). Using the spatula push the sides in a little bit to create an even line for all the square sides. The puree should be spread very thinly (literally paper thin), almost see through as above. The size of the square depends on the use, but mainly mini squares is what we are after.
Repeat until the whole quantity is finished.

Bake in preheated oven for  1 hour, or until totally crisp. Remove from the oven, then while still hot, carefully release them by gently sliding the spatula underneath each wafer (they are ever so fragile, so be very careful or they will break). Transfer released wafer to a wire rack and leave to completely cool.

Once cooled place in an airtight container till ready to serve. Top with desired topping right before serving. You can store them in an airtight container for up to 2 days. If you store them for longer they become soft, chewy and stale.

Thank you for dropping by, hope you have enjoyed this post, and that it inspired you to take a more creative route for serving food. There are a million ways to include texture, flavour and colour and they do not have to always be so traditional!  check out one of my favourite recipes: Foie Gras Bonbons on Beetroot Wafers
Also check out this post on making Fruit Wafers