Recent Work: Gourmet Burger Kitchen

I loved working on this project with my team. Aliaa my fabulous food stylist used her unending energy and fabulous eye to grill up these fabulous burgers for me to shoot. Selva worked his magic with problem solving and his indefatigable attitude. Together we produced the following images for Gourmet Burger Kitchen Dubai who have just launched their new menu. I’ve also included some fun behind the scenes shots. I apologise in advance for drool on keyboards.

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Habanero Burger The Grateful Photographer

Burger Amelia Johnson Photography

Burger 2 Amelia Johnson Photography

Sweet Potato Fries Amelia Johnson Photography

Texas BBQ Burger Amelia Johnson Photography

Aliaa styling our first burger:

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If you’re now fasmished there are branches of GBK in the Marina and DIFC, both in Dubai.

A Postcard to myself: from Oslo

This is a rather self-indulgent post, to allow me to remember a wonderful weekend with some of my favourite people in the world. It wasn’t the weekend of partying it might have been just 5 years ago. It was quiet, and peaceful, nourishing, indulgent and slow. I travelled to Oslo, with my best friend Reema, to stay with my second cousin, and close friend, Mary-Ann and her wonderful family. They’ve been living in Oslo for 5 years as expats from Perth. Mary Ann is 8 months pregnant and we were all recovering from a busy year. It wasn’t my first time, and so we spent time bundled up, strolling through the Scandinavian streets and parks, catching up, counselling, encouraging and laughing. We drank too much glühwein, ate elk burgers and meandered through Christmas markets. We had a fantastic Spanish meal, drank an obscene amount of coffee, and played with Xavier and his toys. A wonderful weekend that made me so grateful for my incredible girlfriends.

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Grannie Dunning’s Lemon Curd

Grannie Dunning's Lemon Curd

I feel like I’m committing family treachery by sharing this recipe. The photo above is from my Grandmother’s recipe book. Which means it came from her Paternal Grandmother, which makes me the fifth generation to make this incredible recipe, and now I’m sharing it with you.

It’s funny the things we remember about people from our childhood. I remember Grandma always got up at 5am. I’ve no idea why, she didn’t work, but she got up at 5am and she would always have finished her toast with lemon curd before I came down for breakfast. This to me, aged 5 and a half, was a significant characteristic of my Grandmother. I didn’t know anyone else who would get up so ridiculously early. Now as an adult, I can better understand why she’d like to start her day at 5am. Have a couple of hours to herself before anyone else woke up. Potter around in the garden without anyone interfering, listen to the radio, catch up with her reading, and eat her toast in peace. I love having people to stay, but the only thing I don’t like is having my morning routine disturbed. In the morning I get up and put the kettle on, water my plants, make breakfast and catch up on my emails.  Beware the guest that tries to chatter with me about the day’s activities before my morning coffee!

This recipe is divine. I have been known to swirl it through crème fraîche, add meringues and freeze it. You know you want to. Otherwise, simply spread on a slice of toast you will wonder why you EVER bought lemon curd from the store. There is no comparison.

In case you can’t read my Grandmother’s writing here’s the recipe!

Grannie Dunning’s Lemon Curd

Ingredients

Juice and grated rind of 4 lemons

175g butter

250g caster sugar

4 eggs

Method

Using a double boiler, or a bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, melt the butter together with the juice and rind of the lemons. Dissolve the sugar in the mixture over the water.

Remove from the water and leave to cool for 10 minutes. (If you don’t leave it cool the eggs will scramble! Yuck!)

Beat the eggs together. Place the bowl of lemon mixture back over the boiling water and add the eggs, stirring constantly.

Keep stirring until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Pour into sterilised jars and keep refrigerated.

 

Canadian Blueberry Muffins

It’s 8 o’clock on a hot, Canadian, Tuesday morning in August 1999 and I’m 17 years old. My host family are sat around the breakfast table eating blueberry topped cereal. Would I like some?  Blueberries? On my cereal? Absolutlely! I don’t think I’d ever seen a blueberry before, other than perhaps one or two tucked away under some banana in a fruit salad. We were on a school field hockey tour to British Columbia, and I was eating blueberries for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea.

Following the expansion of global fruit distributors, and my move to the desert, blueberries are now a regular guest in our fridge, but what follows is the very first recipe that got me hooked. This recipe reminds me of hockey matches, incredible scenery, playing ‘mafia’, the beach, and some of the most welcoming and hospitable people I’ve ever met. It smells of Vancouver Island’s bear inhabited forests and West Vancouver’s beaches. Most of all though, it reminds me of a particularly generous host-mother turning up at our minibus as we were about to depart with a BUCKET of these muffins, stuffed full of more blueberries than I thought possible. 14 of us hungry hockey players demolished them in a matter of minutes.

Turn on your oven and dig out the blueberries (frozen works too). These uncomplicated, fresh blueberry muffins are perfect for entertaining a crowd.

I wish I could remember the hockey-mum that gave me this recipe but I can’t. Instead I’ll dedicate it to all the mums in BC that were so kind to us in the summer of ’99.

Canadian Blueberry Muffins

Makes 20 large muffins

Ingredients

110g butter

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

240g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup of milk

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen, if using canned rinse first)

2 tsp sugar for topping

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat well.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk and vanilla.

Gently stir in the blueberries.

Put in paper lined muffin cups (I often use cupcake cases which make smaller muffins).

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Learn from my mistakes! This mixture can’t hold more than 2 cups of blueberries!

All-Things-Good-For-You Cinnamon Granola Crunch

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Sometimes you need to refuel the tank with the extra good stuff. And here it is. This granola really packs a punch. Good oils, vitamins, minerals, more vitamins, more minerals. Top it off with low-fat yoghurt, fresh fruit or milk and you’ve got a tasty breakfast or dessert. When I have friends coming for brunch I always make a big jar of this for the table.

My one disclaimer at this point is that it can be quite pricey to make- all those nuts and dried fruit. Remember you can adjust your fruit, nuts and seeds to the proportions that you want, as long as you keep the weight about the same, relative to the liquid you add. You can either buy mixed bags of nuts and fruit, or make your own combo. What do you add to your granola?

All-Things-Good-For-You Cinnamon Granola Crunch

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

125ml maple syrup

2 tablespoons honey

2 fresh vanilla pods (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)

300g rolled oats

75g mixed seeds

40g walnuts

40g chopped almonds

100g dried berries (raisins, cranberries, sultanas, apricots, dates)

50g desiccated coconut

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tsp salt

Method

Heat the oven to 150 degrees C. Mix together all the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Add the seeds from the center of the vanilla pod.

Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the coconut and dried fruit.

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Spread the mixture evenly over the trays and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir through the coconut and dried fruit. Bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Leave to cool. Once cooled, put in an airtight container. Will keep very well- up to 3 months.

Four Minute Magic Pizza

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Four Minutes to make a decadent tasting but healthy, filling, nutritious meal? Can’t be done? Let me show you how.

Back when I was working in an office this meal became a regular answer to the question ‘What’s for dinner?’ It uses mostly store cupboard ingredients and less than 5 minutes prep. We coined the word magic pizza and it stuck. Seems magic to me- from fridge to plate in less than ten minutes.

The trick is to use Lebanese flatbread as the base of the pizza. This crisps up really nicely in the oven, and is very thin so you don’t feel stuffed full of carbs. Add some pizza sauce from a jar (the fewer ingredients on the jar the better), and then any ingredients you have in your fridge. A lot of the time we reduce the calories by leaving off the cheese, but of course a nice mozzarella, or goats cheese turns this into a treat.

Last night’s magic pizza was fig, mushroom and thyme. A fab combination. The sweetness of the fig was offset beautifully by the cheese and mushroom, and the hints of thyme made it taste really fresh. I suggest you add things like thyme after you’ve cooked the pizza, but it’s really up to you.

Stuck for topping ideas? Most veggies will work well on a pizza- some of them may need fry or bake before you add them, if cooking times necessitate. Anchovies, fresh pineapple, any herb, cold meats, chicken…. really anything you have in the fridge.

What’s your favourite pizza topping?

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Fig, Mushroom and Thyme Magic Pizza

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 medium Lebanese flatbread

2 tbsp pizza sauce (from a jar, I like American Garden’s)

1/2 fig, sliced

3 mushrooms, sliced

3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

3 sprigs thyme

salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature.

Assemble your pizza using the ingredients above.

Cook in your oven on a pizza tray or a thin baking tray until the edges of the flatbread are golden brown and your toppings are turning brown. This takes about 4 minutes, but will vary depending on your oven. Keep checking it.

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Get Planting! The Easiest Way to Grow Tomatoes

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We have some pretty good weather for growing tomatoes in the UAE, as evidenced by the plethora of local tomatoes in the supermarket. I know very little about growing vegetables on a large scale, but it seems to me that the UAE tomato industry is in the early stages of growth and is just figuring out how it can produce tastier tomatoes, on a larger scale, to a demanding audience. We certainly have the sunshine, maybe they’re just figuring out the technology. The little I do know tells me that you can’t test the value of a seed, or a growing method without allowing nature to take its sweet time growing the plant, the flower and then the fruit. I guess it’ll be a few years til we see really delicious locally produced tomatoes in the supermarket but in the meantime grow your own!

It’s really not too hard- you just need to get started at the right time of year (September to November, not March when the temperatures are searing, as my husband once did), buy some decent sizes pots and good soil, and then some tasty tomatoes from the market. It’s not too late to start right now though. Plant them this week and they’ll do great.

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Firstly, I could launch into a list of suitable items you could recycle and use as a pot, but let’s face it, we live in the Middle East and not many people have old wine barrels or beautiful vintage trunks lying around. I bought some plastic planters from Carrefour, and some pretty ceramic pots from Dubai Garden Centre. Both have lasted me 3 years and still look in very good condition. I scrubbed them out with some washing up liquid in September before adding new soil to get rid of any diseases that may have been festering. I doubt there were any though as they’d been outside in 50 degree heat all summer (yes, you can put your plates outside to warm or fry eggs on cars at this temperature).The general rule, for your pots- the bigger the better. I think my largest is 45cm across and I wish I had bought bigger. Cherry toms will need smaller containers than beefsteaks.

A watering can is useful, but at a stretch you could use a cup. I have a trowel but more often than not use an old spoon.

Ok, so here goes- my so-easy-kids-could-do-it, method for growing tomatoes.

Choose your favourite tasting tomato from the supermarket. What the heck- splash out, hedge your bets, and choose a couple. You can assume that a locally produced tomato will have more chance of success than another.

Fill your container with soil and soak through. It should be damp to touch. Put the container in partial shade. 4-6 hours a day should be plenty in this region. You can always move it if need be.

Take your first tomato and put a hole in it with your thumb. Then bury it in the soil about 3cm deep. You’re done!

Monitor the soil to ensure it’s always damp to touch. You don’t want to over water it as the roots may rot but tomatoes are thirsty. 1 really good watering every 2 days should suffice but it will depend on the position of your pots and how big they are. The bigger the pots, the less frequently they need to be watered.

You will need to thin your tomatoes out once they start coming through. Weed out the weaker, straggly looking plants and keep the healthiest. Don be tempted to keep more than will fit in the pot, this will just result in weaker plants which don’t produce much fruit. 1 plant per 45cm pot is about right.

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Steak your tomatoes using anything you can find once they start to look like they can’t hold themselves. I am still experimenting but Ace Hardware has some good options.

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You should expect to see fruit after about 60 days. It’ll take another whopping 60 days for that fruit to grow and turn red! You’ll need patience!

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Good luck!! Let me know if you have any questions!

Freshly Squeezed: Lemon and Mint Cordial

Amelia Johnson Food Photographer Dubai

Did anyone else spend their childhood destroying their Mum’s kitchen? Broken eggs on the floor? Failed doughnut batter on the surfaces? Hot sticky lemonade puddles on the kitchen table? Well that was me. And then my Mum would come in and ask me, what was I doing? And why had I started the recipe when I didn’t have all the ingredients in the house? And did I realise I would need to wait 8 hours whilst the batter rested? Sorry Mum but not much has changed…

Attempting to recreate my Grandfather’s old fashioned lemonade was a favourite. Not that it was homemade at his house, but it tasted like it was. He always gave it to me and my brother in jeweled tin cups, accompanied by cheesy crackers.

This time I think I’ve nailed it. And there’s a cheeky adult spin to it if you fancy too, with the addition of a spirit or two. This is a great cordial to keep in your fridge for a hot sticky Saturday afternoon. Add ice, lemon, mint and it’s perfect for the kids. Add some amaretto or vodka and enjoy as a sundowner.

Finally here’s the best tip you’re going to hear all week. Possibly all month. When you need fresh lemon juice, but your lemons seem a bit dry, pop the lemon in the microwave for 30 seconds. Soon enough you’ll have an incredibly juicy lemon, burnt fingers (if you’re not careful), and a bowl full of juice.

What was your favourite childhood recipe?

Food Photographer Dubai Amelia Johnson Photography

Adapted from What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn

Lemon and Mint Cordial

Ingredients

4 cups of castor sugar

Finely grated zest of 5 lemons

Juice of 7 lemons

Lemon slices to serve

Mint to garnish

Soda water

Optional extras: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, vodka, amaretto, gin. My brother and I did a comprehensive tasting test on your behalf. Amaretto was my favourite, where my brother preferred the vodka.

Method

Put the sugar and 2 cups of water in a saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook over a high heat for approx 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir through the lemon zest and juice.

Cover and place in the fridge for 5 hours or until cool.

Once you’re ready to drink it, build your drink in a tall glass. Add ice, lemon and mint. Pour over five parts soda water for one part cordial. Mix very well.

Add extras as you wish.

Recent Work: Atom/ Milano Coffee House

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There’s a new brand in town, and there are plans for it to be BIG. Milano opened their first branch in Abu Dhabi’s Bawabat Al Sharq mall at the beginning of October, and they asked me to come in and shoot their new menus and collateral.

Atom are a super agency to work with. They knew exactly what they wanted and gave me a really clear brief. Even better they did a super job of briefing our fantastic Chef, Mohamed, who pulled out all the stops to give us luxurious, colourful, playful food.

Be sure to check them out next time you’re in Abu Dhbai.

Cali SandwichAmelia Johnson Photography

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Pizza with Pizzaro

Pizzaro is a new local chain of restaurants here in the UAE. And boy do they know something about pizza.

Italian Chef, Vicenzo is at the helm of this team, who knead and grate and chop all in the name of fresh, traditional Italian pizza.

Last week I shot their take-away menu for 2013 with a great team. Can’t wait to see it pushed under our front door! Coming soon to a road near you… Pizzaro are planning on opening 15 new restaurants next year.

We shot this tasty tasty vegetarian pizza and then I ordered it for lunch. The perks of being a Food Photog: getting to see all the dishes before I decide what to order!

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