Friday, July 31, 2009

Taste of childhood: peaches

The variety of peaches or any other fruit you can get on local markets seems to get bigger and bigger. Not only yellow and white fleshed peaches, but also all different shapes like what is called here in Germany "vineyard peaches":

Vineyard Peaches
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

This more flat shaped peaches have a thicker peel. I haven't seen them the last years, but now they seem to be almost anywhere. While I was walking over the market last week, I saw a more orange to yellow colored peach variety with a very intense flavor. It reminded me at once to the flavor of peaches known in my childhood. Very sweet, very fruity. I have bought some and immediately after coming home I have to test them. And the flavor was just as I remember it from my childhood. Even the little bitterness of the peel was there. I love this taste and I hope that these peaches will become so popular as the vineyard peaches are nore.

© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Soon after these photos were made, I made peach jam out of these wonderful peaches.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summerly Berries: Raspberry Muffins

Summerly Berries
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

I found some wonderful looking raspberries in a local store and I couldn't resist to get some for a sweet snack: a basic raspberry muffin recipe with a twist. I added freshly grated ginger. The fresh spicy note of the ginger complements the sweetness of the berries so well.

Raspberry Muffins
(for 12 muffins)

about 250 g raspberries
150 g all purpose flour
80 g finely grated almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
100 g sugar
1 egg
250 g buttermilk
1/2 teasponn freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon melted butter
dash of salt
powder sugar

Pre-heat oven to 175°C and prepare your muffin tray (grease it or line them with muffin papers).

Clean the raspberries, if necessary, but try to keep them dry and the brries intact. If you are lucky, you don't need them to clean at all.

Combine flour, finely grated almonds and baking powder. Set aside.

Mix egg and buttermilk. Add sugar, ginger and salt, mix well. Add melted butter and mix for about one minute. It should have a creamy texture.

Fold in the flour mixture until combined. Don't over mix.

Fill the muffin pans by using 2/3 of the dough. Arrange the raspberries onto the dough. Cover the raspberries with the rest of the dough. Put into the oven and let bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until muffins are golden.

Let cool in pans for a few minutes. Then take the muffins out of pans and let cool completly on a cooling rack.

Dust the muffins generously with powder sugar.

If you like, serve the muffins with some whipping cream or a vanilla sauce. As a snack I prefer them just dusted with powder sugar and a cup of coffee.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Have strawberry jam all year around

Strawberries are my favorite fruit for making jam. I always have strawwberry jam in the house all year around. From a simple strawberry jam, over different varieties with vanilla, basil, lime & bay leaf and others. You can combine strawberry with other fruit like rhurbarb too.

Making jam the lazy man's way is to use commercial gelling sugar containing all required ingredients from sugar, acidifier, gelling ingredients. It is making jam easy and some products are giving you the chance to cut down sugar to 1/2 or 1/3. If you like your jam real sweet you can use the "classic" 1-to-1-ratio (like I did it here).

Here is a very basic strawberry jam recipe.

Strawberry Jam
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

1000 g hulled strawberries
1000 g 1:1 Gelling Sugar* (lazy man's way making jam)
2 tablespoons lime juice

* I'm using a commercial gelling sugar which contains the neccessary acidifier, pectin, gelling ingredients.


  1. In a large pot mix half of the hulled strawberries and Gelling Sugar. Add lime juice. Mix until you have a smooth puree.
  2. Cut the rest of the strawberries into pieces (as large as you like them) and add them to the strawberry puree. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile sterilze your jars. I fill them once or twice with boiling water and pour out the boiling water immediately before I fill in the jam. Have enough jars at hand and prepared.
  4. Bring the strawberries mixture to a boil stirring all the time. Let cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Then remove from heat.
  5. Fill into prepared twist off preserving jars and close jars. Let stand for 1 minute and then turn up side down. Let stand for 10 minutes and turn over again. Let cool completely.

Strawberry Jam ideas
In my photo set Jams, Bread, Rolls & Breakfast you will find more photos for strawberry jams like this one for strawberry-basil jam

Strawberry Basil Jam (1/3)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Add 3-4 tablespoons fresh basil (chopped) immediatley before cooking to the strawberry mixture.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blueberry Jam

Summer Time is jam making time. For a few years I make my own jams now. One of my favorite is blueberry jam flavored with fresh grated ginger and fresh sage leaves. The ginger adds a nice fresh taste to the jam while the sage leaves are emphasizing the herbal notes of the blueberry well.

Blueberry Jam
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

1000 g blueberries
1000 g 1:1 Gelling Sugar
30 medium sized sage leaves
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
4 tablespoons lime juice

Note on Gelling Sugar: I'm using a commercial gelling sugar which contains the neccessary acidifier, pectin, gelling ingredients. It is foolproof. And I'm just too lazy to do this completely from scratch.

You can half the ingredients if you like and actually I often made this with just 500 g blueberries, because they can be expensive.


  1. In a large pot mix blueberries and Gelling Sugar. Add lime juice and the freshly grated ginger. Prick the berries with a fork, but don't mash them. Let stand this mixture for 1 hour, mixing from time to time and pricking more berries if needed. The sugar will not dissolved completely during that time.
  2. Meanwhile sterilze your jars. I fill them onece or twice with boiling water and pour out the boiling water immediately before I fill in the jam. This would 1500 mL of jam. So have enough jars at hand and prepared.
  3. Add the fresh sage leaves to the blueberries and bring to a boil stirring all the time. Let cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Then remove from heat and remove sage leaves.
  4. Fill into prepared twist off preserving jars and close jars. Let stand for 1 minute and then turn up side down. Let stand for 10 minutes and turn over again. Let cool completely.

present and past
Because blueberry jam is one of my favorite jams, you won't be surprised that I have already photographed the jam in the past. The photo at the beginning was done very recently. I browsed through my older shots and this one was done in 2007.

Blueberry Jam (1/3)
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Strawberry Mousse

This strawberry mousse is an easy summerly dessert for strawberry lovers. Serve the mousse with a simple strawberry sauce and garnish it with some mint leaves. In the directions I'm a bit vague on the gelatin. There are different gelatins available. So just follow the package directions.

Strawberry Dessert
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

300g strawberries (hulled)
140g powdered sugar
200g yogurt (10% fat)
6 sheets unflavored gelatin (or gelatin for 0.5 liter fluid)
2 Tablespoons water
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
peel of 1/2 lemon (grated)
250 mL whipping cream


  1. Prepare gelatin according to package directions.
  2. Put strawberries in a blender and add lemon peel, lemon juice and powdered sugar. Blend until smooth. Fold in yogurt by hand until mixed well.
  3. Dissolve the prepared gelatin in 2 tablespoons warm water. Mix gelatin into the strawberry mixture by hand until well blended. Put into the refrigerator.
  4. Whip whipping cream.
  5. When the strawberry mixture is starting to set and has the same consistency as the whipping cream, fold in the whipping cream carefully.
  6. Put the mousse into the refrigerator and let set for about 4 hours until mousse is ready to serve.

Serve it with a simple strawberry sauce. To make the sauce puree fresh strawberries. Sweeten the puree with powdered sugar to your liking. Add some lemon juice for a fresh note.

Grilled Lamb Cutlets

I like to grill because carcoal is giving a certain flavor. Maybe not neccessarily to the food, but sure the smell of it fills the air in summer. Grilled lamb cutlets have the advantage, that they are smaller in size than any other meat. So you can eat more of them or eat different things. The mediterranean marinade is adding a wonderful flavore to the lamb. You will always have some marinade left. I drizzle some of the grilled cutlets.

© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

1 - 2 garlic cloves
2 rosemary sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
1 chilli pepper
olive oil
salt and pepper
10 Lamb cutlets

Note on amounts: you can take a bit more or less of the herbs, if you like. The amount of chilli peppers depends on how hot they are and how hot you like it. I used a medium sized chilli.


  1. Chop the leaves of the herbs as small as you like them. Half the chilli lenghtwise and remove the seeds. Cut the chilli into small pieces. slice the garlic cloves or just cut them lengthwise.
  2. Mix everything with about 100 mL olive oil. Add the cultes and cover them with olive oil mixture. Put the cutlest in a bowl (or suited container), add the mixture and enough oilive oil to cover the cutlets. Use a conatiner as samll as possible.
  3. Let the cutlets marinade for a few hours or over night.
  4. Pre-heat the grill.
  5. Remove cutlets from marinade and let marinade drip off. Put them on the hot grill and grill them a few minutes on each side. Depending on how thick they are, it will take about 3 to 4 minutes from each side.
  6. Serve the cutlets hot with salt and pepper. If you like you can drizzle some of the oil marinade over them.

The breakfast shot

Breakfast with strawberry jams
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

The final shot
I did the shooting "Breakfast with strawberry jams" a while ago. Above you see the final shot of this series. The idea behind this was to give a certain feeling of a sunday morning. You know breakfast table is ready, everyone has it own favorites, one likes coffee, the other one orange juice. One likes this jam, the other that. And in the midst of the breakfast table there is a chaotic mix of everything. And did you notice, that also for the table ware everyone has a favorite one. So, I wanted to create a a "typical" breakfast scenery, most of us will know, but giving focus on food. So, only jams are used (with exception of the egg).

This kind of photo can be very busy looking. So, I reduced the busyness. The dominating background color is blue (table ware, napkin, backdrop). I used only red jams. So I just have a few "repeated" colors, which are dominating

At next I repeated elements, although they are a bit different. You see the crumbs of bread below the right plate are repeated by eggs shell crumbs on left side. Basil leaves are repeated by strawberry leaf on far right. Toast is repeated by bread roll. A sliced strawberry in upper right is repeated by strawberry with bite off. You will find many of the repetitions. So there is no single / stand alone element. Everything has a counterpart.

I used the bird's eye view to remove "perspective". Perspective would have been to dynamic here for me. And the graphical layout is balancing the differences in the elements even more. And so did lighting. Around the scenery I placed several bounces to get a balanced light.

And so the photo doesn't look too overcrowded. Everyone finds something familiar or well known in this photo (except for those of you who don't have or like sunday breakfast). What might have otherwise been too busy are becoming more of little details, which makes the photo interesting, Yes, this photo was arranged.

Almost ready for...
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

The Layout & compositional idea
Above is a photo of the basic composition. For this composition I used lines and circles. The main lines are already there. Plates line in a diagonal position. And the vertical line of cup and glass. A problem from the startd: the plate in upper right is dominating over the plate in lower left. I started with this simple setting and developed the idea from here on.

Lines: diagonal line of plates and its counterpart made by basket and bowl with strawberries (with glass and jar in between). A strong vertical line of cup and glass slightly off center only to keep balance. And my favorite line: a horizontal wave line from sugar bowl on left, over salt shaker, egg, jar, spoon in jar, glass, again jar and the strawberry leaf on right. The spoons and knives are all using the diagonal orientation. These lines build a mesh, a structure for the elements.

Circles: the major element is in this composition the circle or dot.

The problem: the dominating plate in upper right. To break this, I used partner elements for the other plate: a colorful blue napkin. And the egg, which has no obvious counterpart in the photo. If you take a look at the pre-shot. The dominance is no longer there.

But such a photo needs something, you like to look at. Little details. I wanted hidden details, you have to explore. And every time you come back you should discover something new. You may wonder, if there is something not arranged: no. Every single detail is where I want it to be. And I checked it over and over again. Should the plate slightly cover the napkin? Should the spoons at the cup and the egg spoon have exactly the same direction? This kind of image is like a puzzle and the arrangement needs much much more time than the shooting. So, with so much time put into the arrangement, you will do shoot more than just one.

Orange Juice and Strawberries
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

The glass is such a lovely and strong element, that I wanted to use it. This is maybe a strange composition, because I have the glass almost dead center. This composition is anchored by the glass, everything else is placed around. It is in the center of every line in this photo: a horizontal line from one jar to the other, in the strong ascending diagonal line from lower left to upper right, and in the line from cup to bowl. And with that I have switched the focus to the orange juice, which is the dominating element here. And the brightness let fade out the blue to almost white. I used the blow out effect to reduce the meaning of the plate in upper right. And I used less fill light to get some shadows.

Strawberry Jams
© All rights reserved, Thorsten Kraska, 2009

Another view on it
In this outtake I do not only change to the potrait format, but I get closer to focus on the jam jars. The spoons are used to get the viewer's attention directed into the jars. Plates in front and back are cropped hard to make them less important. The strawberries are used as a reference of what the jams are made of. Main viweieng line is from the bowl in lower left over the two jars into the background.

If you like this, you may like this one too: