I started working when I was 14 years old. I spent my weekends rolling ice cream and selling pies, lollies and newspapers in my local dairy (aka deli/corner store for those of you who don't understand kiwi :-)) I saved every penny I earned and in my second-to-last year of high school I'd saved enough cash to buy a second hand Minolta that I'd had my eye on for some time. I felt so grown up. It had an actual lens, it was big and proper looking and whats more, it took amazing photos. I quickly became the member of our family who was always guaranteed to be taking photos of everyone at gatherings and also the one who spent a huge proportion of her meager wages on film and developing. I took photos of everything and everyone and even though I never felt I knew a great deal about the technical side of photography, I enjoyed taking photos and saving memories. That camera went places too, it was with me when I visited Fiji, Australia (numerous times), India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It also captured treasured moments when Ada was born and for a few years after that too. I was a latecomer to the digital world and didn't fully embrace the technology until I started this blog (3 1/2 years ago now). I felt like I'd always had a certain eye for portraits and landscapes from all the years spent with my Minolta around my neck, but food photography threw me. I felt like a fish out of water. All of a sudden I had to think about aperture, white balance and actual compositions. I would flick through magazines knowing exactly how I wanted my photos to look but never quite knew how it was that I could achieve it.
For a long time I kinda liked my photos, but I never felt happy with them. When Harper Collins approached me about doing a book, I told them the name of the photographer I wanted to take all the photos for it. I had no plans of taking them myself and had no faith in my own abilities, but thankfully they did. After months of taking up to 600+ photos a day, I finally feel like I've got to a place where I am happy, about 99% of the time.
Why am I mention all of this you ask? Well, I've got some super exciting news to share today that has put the biggest of big smiles on my face. I love hearing that people like my recipes don't get me wrong, but given the fact that photography is something I've taught myself and is something that has caused many, many sleepless nights with worry over the time that I was writing and shooting my book, I'm pretty stoked to say that I've won not one, but two awards for my photos in the last month! The first was the photography competition at EDB13, the Australian Food Bloggers conference, for my photo 'Spices', which was judged by some pretty amazing photographers. And today I can happily share that all my pleas for votes recently in the Nourish Summer Cover competition have paid off! Look...
flourless rhubarb + lemon cake
When baking I use unrefined raw sugar that I've blended in my upright blender until powdered. You can also use caster sugar if preferred.
250g rhubarb (about 4 decent stalks/2 cups finely sliced), sliced into 1cm pieces
2 1/2 cups (275g) almond meal (ground almonds)
150g soft butter
3/4 cup (150g) blended unrefined raw sugar* see headnotes
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
the finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
4 free-range eggs, at room temperature
blended unrefined raw sugar or pure icing sugar (confectioners), to dust, optional
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line the base and sides of a 9 inch/23cm cake tin with baking paper.
Combine the rhubarb and almond meal in a large bowl, mixing well to evenly coat the rhubarb in almond meal (this will prevent the rhubarb from sinking to the bottom of the cake during cooking).
In another bowl combine soft butter, sugar and extract and beat with an electric beater or wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add zest and one egg at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the wet mixture to the almond meal and stir to combine. Pour into the cake tin, smooth off the top with a spatula and bake for 60-65 minutes or until golden and a skewer comes out clean when pressed into the centre of the cake. Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes before removing the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool. Serve dusted with icing sugar. Will keep 3 days airtight, or refrigerated for longer.