It’s not often that I get out of work early enough to make it to a blogger event and I was pretty stoked that the stars aligned so I could make it out Shepherds Bush this past Monday evening for a food styling masterclass hosted by Microsoft Devices and Leith’s School of Food and Wine. The masterclass was pretty full on – first we’d get a crash course in cooking a three course then we’d attempt it ourselves, thankfully in teams otherwise I might still be there. For each course, the lovely Jess Mills from Leiths would guide us in styling the dish. And Microsoft Devices (who apparently have bought Nokia at some point) had provided two types of phones. I got my hands on the 1520 which is a “phablet” and I’ll do my best to give a bit of a critique later on. You’ve never seen bloggers act like kids in a candy store until you give them some new tech and let them loose.
The menu set to us by our Leith’s instructors included a spinach, mango, and goats cheese salad, rack of lamb with a mustard and herb crust, and a passion fruit and papaya pavlova for dessert. Check out the photos below to see our epic creations
I opted to try trimming the rack of lamb given I’ve always wanted to do a butchery course and basically get these skills. In theory, it’s quite straightforward – cut out the layer of bone covering the core of meat, trim away any sinew, and then scrape the bones clean. Simples. The first two bits are pretty easy and appealed to my detail orientated mind – I daresay I spent a bit longer than necessary getting every little bit of sinew. It’s the last step that’s a killer as you really have to dig in and take out everything or it will burn and coat your bones in oily ash.
After an age (and some help from our expert butchery instructor), the two racks were done, crust was on, and the lamb headed into the oven. We spent some time artfully plating some of the salad and then piled in the rest of the prepped ingredients into a big sharing bowl and dug in. The food was delicious with the ripe sweet mango pairing nicely with the salty bacon lardons and crunchy fresh spinach coated in a tangy vinaigrette. I love mango so this salad was perfect and I probably ate more salad that night than I’ve ever had for a meal.
About an hour later the lamb was cooked and rested so we carefully carved it into chops and plated it with some tomato salsa. The lamb was perfect with tender juicy meat and a slightly spicy crust. I wasn’t too keen on the tomato salsa – it didn’t add much in my opinion and what fat remained on the lamb had rendered away so the acidity wasn’t required. Still, it made for a prettier dish which was the main focus on the night.
Finally, the pavlova for dessert was a work of art with Jo creating a beautiful scene on a marble board. Obviously the instructors agreed as she won best plated dish and was awarded a Leith’s Cookery Bible. Not going to lie, I was a tad jealous at that but it was a well deserved win. Plus I got the eat it!
All in all, an excellent night. It was great to meet some bloggers who previously were just a website I followed and also to meet someone that followed me! I learned that when plating a dish, it’s important to not only consider the arrangement of color, but also to add layers of height to the dish as well as use odd numbers of main ingredients as the eye finds odd numbers unusual and therefore pleasing.
So a quick review of the Nokia 1520 before I sign off. The phone has so mega screen real estate which is both a blessing and a curse. I imagine it would be great to watch movies or read books – basically everything you’d normally use a tablet for – and it’s just small enough to fit in a jeans front pocket for a guy (the girls were having a bit more trouble with that). However, the size makes it hard to handle, particularly with one hand, and I was constantly concerned about dropping it. I found it light enough to manage but it’s still a heavier option than any typical smartphone on the market. The camera was pretty stellar and I understand the low light options to be spot on – it also lets you change a range of options that I normally associate with actual cameras (ISO, brightness, types of colors, etc) but I’m not cameraphile so can’t comment on how good these settings are. In the end, it’s not enough to make me leave Apple but I can see it being a good proposition for people looking for a small tablet that makes calls rather than anyone wanting a bit more out of their phone.