Shooting my debut cookery book...

Ever since I was in my single-digits, transforming the kitchen into a bomb-site of experimentation, it was my dream to invent tasty recipes and bring them to life.  A few years on (plus some… (but less about that)) I am currently half-way through my debut Caribbean cookbook’s recipe shoot and what an experience it has been! 

Speed demon Poppy attacking the okra

Speed demon Poppy attacking the okra

Firstly, I feel quite redundant, almost a nuisance, as I watch the wonderful food stylists, Lucy and Poppy, with wand-like utensils, sauté, whisk and chop away in the kitchen magic-ing up my creations.  (Secretly, it is quite nice to be out of the kitchen … makes a change from the norm!).

I am truly besotted with the bleached azure blue boards, whitewashed wood, plates that look like they have stories to tell and other marvellous props that the incredible Pene has conjured up for the shoot.  Now, when I look inside my own humble kitchen cupboard it feels incredibly sober and lacking in colour.  It really is all about mis-matching crockery and I am seriously contemplating ‘nabbing’ a few items that I’ve particularly fallen in love with, (shh, don’t tell Pene).

Some of Pene's beautiful props

Some of Pene's beautiful props

My obsession with pineapple plates continue ... determined that this gem features somewhere...

My obsession with pineapple plates continue ... determined that this gem features somewhere...

We tend to get about seven to eight shots in a nine-hour day.  And that is before photo editing.  I know that sounds like so little, but the amount of work that goes into making each photograph look mouth-wateringly scrumptious, have-to-cook-right-away perfection is immense.  I tell you, it is an art, nay, a skill to make plates of food look beautifully natural.  A lot of love goes into the ‘natural’ placing of the fried egg on top of the gorgeously, but oh so simply plated and prepped corned beef and cabbage, the grains of rice underneath placed exactly in an inexact manner.  Then let’s not forget the lighting, saturation, balance, focus and all those other sophisticated words that come into actually capturing the look and story of each dish with a click of a button.  And that is simplifying things immensely!  Watching food photographer extraordinaire Kris and his wonderful assistant Faith in action is mesmerising and seeing the shot, even in it’s unedited form is incredible and makes me smile every time.  Dreams become realised!

Lucy 'natural-ising' while Kris sets up the Jerk Pulled Pork and Salted Watermelon Salad shot

Lucy 'natural-ising' while Kris sets up the Jerk Pulled Pork and Salted Watermelon Salad shot

Kris reviewing the Banana Tarte Tatin

Kris reviewing the Banana Tarte Tatin

The most difficult part of this process, for me, was shooting the cover.  I won’t divulge much as hopefully it will speak for itself, but thanks Poppy for making me laugh (mostly at myself) all the way through! 

It has been marvellous starting the shoot in the height of Summer (shorts, flip-flops and sweat) and finishing in deep Winter (boots, umbrellas and chills, yes, I admit that I’m being a touch melodramatic, it is only mid October but I am a creature of the warmth and it’s pretty cold in my books!). 

The cincher for me is really that, after testing my recipes tens of times, feeding friends, family and myself the same revolving menu for months and months, I look at the finished shots, in all their glorious, comforting, sunshine-drenched simplicity, salivate and decide that I am going straight home to make them for dinner that night.  Result!

Caribbean Modern: Recipes from the Rum Island, published by Headline, will be out in June 2015

Curried Duck and Buss Up Shut composite

Curried Duck and Buss Up Shut composite