Photography: Nino Franco Photo Contest

... and the winner is ...

Photography: Heather Gill

A Chef, A Photographer. A Storyteller.

Comfort Food Contest Winner

A Comforting Italian Trifle

Photography: Stuart Ovenden

"It's all about the details!"

Welcome Back Bord Bia - Irish Food Bord

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Welcome to From Plate to Page

Are you:

  • a food blogger who has been blogging for a while and feels stuck in a creative rut?

  • happy with your writing but feel your photography needs work - or vice versa?

  • tired of attending traditional format conferences where you are one of dozens of bloggers simply listening and taking notes ?

If so, then From Plate to Page is what you need!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Alumni Christmas Traditions


We rounded up our Plate to Page alumni from Weimar, Tuscany and Somerset and asked them all to share their favorite Christmas traditions, recipes and memories with us to celebrate Christmas 2012.

Our first workshop was back in Spring 2011 and it’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of planning our fourth one in Ireland next Spring. The talented, beautiful and generous people we have met through these workshops has been something the four of us cherish the most. Often they come as strangers but within the span of 3 days we leave as friends.

It has been important for us for stay in touch with them even after we said our goodbyes, often sad and tearful, and beyond the duty of the workshop. We like to “keep an eye” on how they progress and develop and cheer loudly at new successes, achievements and new feats they take on. It touches us when we receive heartfelt emails with moving words thanking us for being their inspiration … truth is they are our inspiration just as much.

We present some of our gorgeous alumni and their sensational seasonal treats and traditions.
From Jamie, Ilva, Jeanne and myself - have yourself a Merry Christmas, cherish your family and loved ones and hold them a little closer. May you have a fantastic start to the New Year and wish you a joyous, healthy and successful 2013.

Weimar


Simone of Junglefrog Cooking teases with her Christmas pavlova

Pavlova with pomegranate
My mum was never a cook and hated cooking so most of our Christmas meals would always be the same; fondue with the family. Dessert bought in the supermarket. And that would be it. Not the best in terms of culinary delights I would say!
So when I went to live on my own I had to start from scratch in learning what to make for Christmas and the traditions we now have, really have nothing to do with the way it was when I was growing up.
I think one of my all time favorite Christmas dishes is this Christmas pavlova. It's very easy to make and looks so festive! I've never had anyone complain that I made it again...

Arthi of Debug Cooking presents her Double Chocolate Christmas Fruit Cake

 
The best thing about any festive occasion is family/friends get together. Since I live abroad away from my beloved family every year we try to spend Christmas with friends. Each of us make a dish and gather around eating and drinking all day, playing games, watching some good old movies. Since I am the official baker, I bake batches of traditional fruit cake, along with festive favourites like panettone or stollen, christmas pudding, steamed ginger pudding. We usually go to the late night mass and then have panettone and mulled wine and
chat around the tree opening gifts.
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine shares her Poached apple with frangipane cream

image
The tradition in my family is to try something totally new and different, to experiment.  Half of the fun of the holidays is cooking, and I've always enjoyed the times when I've been able to cook with my family.  My mom, dad and I dream up creations, hunt down recipes, and experiment in the kitchen.  This particular recipe was my first time ever poaching fruit, and was a resounding success for dessert on Christmas day.

Jasmine of Labna shares her Christmukkah cookies with the recipe here.

At this time of the year, my family starts to exhibit the most bizarre behaviours: my mother and I test doughnuts recipes and fry latkes for Chanukkah, but at the same time we whip up Christmas cookies for all of our relatives and friends, which will be carefully wrapped to make cute, homemade Christmas presents.
My mother was born Christian and she still cherishes Christmas very much, while my father is Jewish, so I was brought up in the Jewish faith, but still like "all things Christian" a lot. Being a family with mixed origins and faiths is quite weird: in December, we do our very best to celebrate both Christian and Jewish holidays, so we end up doing "Christmukkah", which basically means eight days of presents (Chanukkah), followed by one day of many, many presents (Christmas).
It feels a little strange but... an occasion for presents, family gatherings and good food is always welcome, isn't it?
Today, I share with you a simple recipe for cookies, which in Italian we call "pasta frolla": these treats will go perfectly well in any cookie box, either in the shape of a Christmas tree or a dreidel spinning top.

For approx. 50 cookies you'll need
200 g white flour
100 g sugar
100 g butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
few tbsp milk
few drops of vanilla extract
In a large bowl, sift together flour and sugar then, using a fork, make a well in the center and add all the other ingredients, blending everything with your hands to form a thick dough.
Gather the dough into a ball, wrap the ball in cling film and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 mins; in the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface or between two sheets of wax paper and cut out the cookies with the cookie cutters of your choice.
Nicely arrange the cookies on a baking pan lined with wax paper then transfer the pan inside the oven.
Bake the cookies for 10/15 mins, until golden and easily removed from the wax paper surface.
Eat the cookies straight away or store them in a tin box.

Tuscany

Kate of Serendipity indulges in Chocolate and Pepper Cookie Towers

 
I have the Christmas Factory in full swing. This year, I’m making cards and cookies. We’re giving our neighbors cookie towers, with two or three different kinds of cookies. Don’t tell them!
Halyey of Delectable Diaries has a video post to share her divine and healthy Festive Pumpkin Pie. Don’t miss it …. yes she is just as adorable in real life as she is on that video.

Olivia takes us to Malta and serves us her imbuljuta


During this time of year, chestnuts become a must in our kitchen to make Dad's favourite Christmastime treat - the imbuljuta. Whole chestnuts bob up and down in this warm chocolate soup which is traditionally served after the midnight mass on Christmas eve or on New Year's eve. It reminds me so much of the cosy childhood nights my brother and I spent together watching a Christmas movie, just before getting ready for bed and wait for Father Christmas, who, in the meantime, was probably eating his favourite imbuljuta. Il-Milied it-tajjeb (Merry Christmas in Maltese)

Denise of TLT - The Little Things treats us with mini pavlovas


TLT pavlovas copy
These two-bite pavlovas have been part of many festive desserts I have made over the last few years. I usually bake them a day in advance, when there is plenty of time to keep precise track of oven times and to do multiple taste tests (absolutely necessary, of course!). They are very easy to prepare, look pretty and are light as a feather. Crunchy on the outside and a bit gooey inside, exactly the way pavlovas should be.

Somerset

Djanira of Sunshine Table serves Ma Evan’s Nut Roast
I’ve been vegetarian for over twenty years so I’ve never eaten turkey. That doesn’t stop me enjoying a traditional roast, instead of the meat I opt for a nut roast. Today I’m sharing my mother in law’s recipe for nut roast. It’s a lot more moist than other nut roasts I’ve tried and its a huge family favourite (including the carnivores who cut big fat slices to go with their roast turkey).

Friday, 14 December 2012

Dianne Jacob: Will Write for Food!

"Will Write for Food should be mandatory reading 
for everyone who aspires to be a food writer." 

Any food blogger worth their salt knows who Dianne Jacob is. Writer, coach, editor, blogger, speaker and teacher, Dianne has become something of a guru with a huge following of both amateurs and professionals seeking her advice and guidance on everything from writing to getting published. Her book, Will Write For Food, contains a wealth of information for both bloggers and professionals and her blog has become an extension of the book, the place for healthy and fascinating debate on a world of food writing-related topics. Plate to Page had the good fortune to sit down with her and ask her a few questions. We are thrilled to have Dianne as our guest as she takes the time to give us an inside look at her career and shares some valuable insight and advice.

 Photo courtesy of Dianne Jacob

P2P: How did you get started? Tell us a bit about the evolution of your career...

DJ: I started writing stories and poetry when I was young because my dad, a frustrated writer, gave me and my sister writing assignments. In my 20s I went to journalism school and worked as an editor, writer and reporter at newspapers and magazines.

My second job out of journalism school was to become the editor of a restaurant magazine in a big city. I visited restaurants, interviewed chefs and wrote features. From there I worked on other kinds of publications but I did restaurant reviewing on the side. Once I became self-employed in 1996, I decided to start freelancing again, and that the subject had to be food, my primary obsession. I wrote columns, features, how-to pieces, interviews, essays and recipes. As I had always enjoyed working with writers, I added that to the mix, as a teacher and coach. I started building a business that specialized in food writing. I wanted to keep working with writers, because at that point, I had worked mostly as an editor for a few decades and I loved the editing process and helping writers shape stories.

I started working with writers as a freelance editor and began teaching food writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. My work expanded to working on book proposals, book manuscripts, and even coaching authors through the publishing process.

 Photo courtesy of Trevor Hart Photography

I wear lots of hats: coach, editor, blogger, speaker and teacher. I love the variety. Each satisfies me in its own way. I find it satisfying to help writers reach their goals, and when they get a blog started or a book deal or a freelance article published, it's gratifying. I also love the intellectual challenge of editing a piece to make it tighter and clearer. For fun, blogging is a joy. It connects me with a big community of thoughtful writers from around the world, and together we work through trends, ethical dilemmas, recipe writing, and career issues. I also love social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook for that reason.

P2P: Talk us through your book, Will Write for Food... 


DJ: The person who hired me to teach food writing said that I should have a book to boost my credibility. It was one of those slap-yourself-on-the-forehead moments, because there was no book on food writing then. Luckily, I knew a literary agent and she loved the idea. I had just a few months to write the first edition, which came out in 2005. I updated the second edition in 2010.

The book's staying power has been thrilling, and I never get tired of hearing that someone has just bought my book, or receiving emails that the book has helped them. Regarding teaching and speaking at food blogging conferences, I love to speak because those who attend are my target audience. I know what they're going through with their blogs and how they can move forward. I feel very lucky right now to have so many opportunities to travel and teach, many of them that have come from food bloggers themselves.

P2P: What has changed in the food writing profession over the past few years and how do you think it will evolve from here?

DJ: Food bloggers have gained credibility as successful freelance writers, book authors and self-publishers. At first, the publishing world didn't want to accept them because most started as hobbyists, but eventually food bloggers grew too powerful - and too talented - to ignore.

I'd like food blogging to evolve into a reasonable way to enable bloggers to make a living from it. Right now that is only possible for a select few.

P2P: What are one or two things you have learned along the way that are indispensable to the food writer - or a cookbook author, for that matter, seeing as you coach authors?

DJ: I used to think that food writing was all about describing food. Now I think it is all about the ability to tell a story, to understand what surrounds the food and gives it meaning. Writing this way draws readers in because it causes an emotional response.

P2P: Do you have any advice for those wishing to become professional food writers?

DJ: Oh yes, I have advice almost every week on my blog! There is paid work as a food stylist, food photographer, and marketer. What's harder is to get paid to write, although freelance opportunities do exist. It's a question of finding the right publication for your story, and pitching a story that is appropriate for the publication.

Then there's writing cookbooks, if you have a good idea and a big enough platform.

Follow Dianne on Twitter at @diannej and on Facebook at Will Write For Food

Friday, 7 December 2012

And the winner is ... a COMFORTING ITALIAN TRIFLE

Comfort was allowed to come to them rare, welcome, unsought; a gift like joy. 
- Ursula K. LeGuin 

A very Wise Plate to Page student once quite astutely remarked that our workshop was “all work and no shop”. So when we found ourselves with one complete Somerset workshop goodie bag on our hands (thank you, generous sponsors!) and decided that we wanted to offer this amazing collection of delectable treats, fabulous utensils and great cookbooks to one lucky food blogger, we decided to hold a little competition to get everyone working. Reminiscent of a workshop session, we asked each of you to write and shoot a piece on the theme Comfort Food.

After much deliberation, reading, re-reading, looking and analyzing, the four of us have selected a winner of the Comfort Food competition.  And the winner is... [drum roll] Alessio Fangano of Recipe Taster, who created not only a recipe but a mood of comfort with his words and pictures. Alessio is the happy recipient of a Plate to Page Somerset goodie bag which he will shortly be receiving in the mail. A hearty congratulations, Alessio, from the Plate to Page team!

There were also two runners-up: Eva of Food Vegetarisch with Sticky Toffee Pudding and our Plate to Page Somerset participant Alexandra of Strudel and Cream with Eton Mess. Congratulations to all of you and a huge thank you to all who participated. We loved reading through all of your luscious posts!

And here is Alessio’s beautiful winning post Comforting Italian Trifle, gorgeously illustrated with his photos and, of course, followed by his recipe:

COMFORTING ITALIAN TRIFLE


Comfort.

What is comfort to our eyes? The feeling of home? A completely relaxed body? Or conversely a hyperactive session of our favorite sport? A visit to a museum can be comforting to many, but just because we stand still for hours in front of a magnificent piece of art it doesn't mean that our mind isn't going 100 miles an hour. Generally we tend to associate the word comfort with something soft, fluffy, enveloping and translating this abstract and deep feeling into food is quite an interesting endeavor.

Certain ingredients can, by themselves, elicit such an emotional response so much so that we may find ourselves savoring luscious sour cream by the spoonful directly from the tub in these deep moments of need. The texture of fatty rich food makes us melt into expressions of pure enjoyment, probably an instinctual response to the fact that we are well provided for the cold season.


When it comes to tastes and flavors we tend to affirm our personality more clearly in the realm of comfort food.
Chocolate can be the universal answer to the need of comfort food for its peculiar textural properties, but what do you go for black, milk or white chocolate (to use a broad classification)?
Do you find the pleasing pain-sensation elicited by chilies to be your ideal comfy pillow? Or is it the umami filled taste of seared beef?
Comforting flavors are deeply cultural and rooted in personal history. So what do you offer somebody if you want them to feel at home? A warm bowl of Pho? A platter of artisanal cheeses with their promise of a sensorial firework? And what about a slice of your grandmother's buttery apple cake still warm from the oven? A simple loaf of hearty country bread might be all that is needed to bring a smile to many other afflicted souls.



Why am I talking about this today? First of all cause I feel the need for some comforting today (nasty anonymous comments to your efforts can really dampen your enthusiasm) but most importantly because a group of dear friends have launched a giveaway with the theme of comfort food. Who are these dear friends of mine? Jamie, Jeanne, Ilva and Meeta from From Plate to Page, the European leading Photography & Writing workshop for food-bloggers.

Comfort food is very important when organizing a workshop among total strangers. This kind of meal tend to lower our guard, softening each other edges and doubts they make social interaction easier and more natural.


What I propose you as my comfort food today is a dish that I created for my last cooking class: An Italian Christmas. With the cold season I think that we all would love some buttery softness to comfort our shivering bodies and my Italian Christmas trifle might just be what you need.

Made with the omnipresent Italian Christmas cakes Pandoro and Panettone, this no-cook dessert brings together different traditions of the boot shaped country with the light touch of Southern ricotta cheese and the decadent aroma of Tuscan Vin Santo wine.

With its simple richness, this dessert lends itself greatly to be served on an elegant dinner layered inside pretty historiated glasses. As such I am finally able to join my friend Simone's monthly event revolving around food-styling. This month, the creator of Junglefrog Cooking, has concentrate her monthly food-styling challenge around food or drink in a glass. Do you have any of your beautiful creation that fits these requirements? Join us!

Italian Christmas trifle with Ricotta cream and Mandarin Ingredients
(serve 4-5):

For the mandarin segments:

4 mandarins
3 tablespoons Vin Santo wine or other dessert wine
1-2 tablespoons sugar or to taste

For the ricotta cream:

250g ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons cream
30g sugar or to taste
Little dusting of cinnamon
1 mini Pandoro cake
1 mini Panettone cake

Method:

Let's start by marinating the mandarin segments. Grate the mandarin peel into a bowl and using a knife, peel the fruits exposing their flesh. Cut the mandarin segment out of their skin and let them fall into the same bowl with the mandarin zest. Once you will have cut all the fruit segments out of their white skins, squeeze what has left in your hands into the bowl to recover some of the mandarin juice juice.
Add the Vin Santo wine and the sugar to the mandarin segments, stir gently and set aside until ready to assemble the dessert.
To prepare the ricotta cream, simply combine the ricotta with the cream, the sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl.
To assemble the dessert, cut the Pandoro and Panettone cake in slices and tear them into big chunks. In a big serving bowl or singular portion glasses, put together the dessert by alternating layers of the Pandoro-Panettone cake pieces with the marinated mandarin segments and the ricotta cream.
Be sure to moisten each layer of cake with a little of the mandarin marinating liquid before adding the ricotta cream. If you run out of marinating liquid mix some orange juice with a little Vin Santo and use that as moistening liquid.