I’m going to try to keep the superlatives in check with this post, but please forgive me if a few (too many) slip through. Last week, in collaboration with photographer Luisa Brimble, stylist Stephanie Stamatis and my amazing Mum artist Annie Herron, we hosted first Local is Lovely workshop.
The venue was our family home, Kimbri. And at this point I want to say thank you times a million to Mum and Dad for allowing us access to such a wonderful place. This is where Mum hosts her regular residential art classes and her woodshed studio morphed perfectly into a makeshift photography studio!
Over two days our 16 students learnt everything from photography basics to practical styling and shooting to photo editing. We did some floristry, we visited a local farm and learnt about shooting on location, we painted with watercolours, we pickled, we rolled pasta, we ate together and we talked, and talked. And talked.
Some of us shared rooms and as I wandered around well after dinner that night, turning lights off and bedding down the house, there were pockets everywhere of chattering and muffled laughter. It was like one-big creative slumber party. Everyone contributed and everyone I hope, took away loads of inspiration, knowledge and content.
Our teachers; Luisa Brimble and Stephanie Stamatis were so very generous with the knowledge they shared, relaxed in the manner they did so and just loads of fun. Our students quickly formed into a cohesive group, so much so, that by the second afternoon we were all reluctant to burst our little creative bubble and pack up to head home.
The food we shared between 'classes' was simple, fresh and seasonal. It was fuss-free but hopefully tasty, and I'd done as much prep in advance as possible, to avoid getting stuck in the kitchen and missing any of the workshops. That said, I couldn't have done any of it without the help of my clever, funny friend Willa Arantz. Willa and her husband own Racine Restaurant and Racine Bakery in Orange and she came with bread, charcuterie and lots of great kitchen chat. She is also an artist herself and took naturally to the photography and styling classes. Thank you Willa! For lunch on the first day we had warm slabs of the below zucchini gallette and a few people asked for the recipe. Here it is below.
Zucchini and lemon gallette
This is a really easy and tasty recipe that can be adapted to suit whatever vegetables are in season or your fridge. Tomatoes are great here, as are roasted root vegetables, squash and asparagus. Serves 4-6.
1 x roll puff pastry, thawed (I love using Careme puff, it's a bit more expensive than other pre-made brands but so worth it.)
1 x brown onion, finely diced
1/3 cup white wine
250g creme fraiche
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp thyme leaves
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 zucchini, very thinly sliced (I use a mandolin. With trepidation)
1 egg, beaten
Zest of one lemon, to garnish (optional)
Roll out your thawed pastry on a work surface lightly dusted with flour. You want it to be a rectangular shape, about 30x20cm. Place pastry on a baking tray lined with paper, score a 2cm border around the edges and pop in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
Cook the onions in the butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and let bubble away until the liquid reduces by half. In a separate bowl, whisk together the creme fraiche, eggs, parmesan, thyme and lemon zest and juice. Add the onion mixture and stir well. Keep this mixture in the fridge until needed. Preheat oven to 200C.
To assemble, spread creme fraiche mixture over the base of the pastry. Fold in the edges and pinch together so they stay, then layer the top with your sliced zucchini. Brush the pastry edges with the beaten egg and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.
Sprinkle over the extra lemon zest and serve warm.
Straight after lunch we were treated to the most gorgeous floristry demonstration by Amelia of the Flower Era. Amelia gave us some great ideas for putting together foraged bouquets and arrangements for styled shoots and/or our kitchen table. She used flowers from Mum's garden and also a bunch of beautiful peonies from Sarah at our local peony farm, Summer Hill.
Then it was back to the woolshed/studio for a little more practical shooting before our field trip to Fabrice Rolando's market garden. Fabrice was a natural with all those cameras and Luisa gave everyone practical tips on shooting lifestyle scenes, dealing with harsh sunlight and capturing natural portraits. We had afternoon tea (iced chai tea and friands - both of which I completely forgot to photograph!) and then drove back through the valley, home to Kimbri for dinner. Some of our students had spent very little time, if any in the Australian countryside (we even had one participant all the way from Hong Kong, on her first visit to Australia!), so this drive through beautiful bushland with Blue Mountain escarpments behind us was just magic.
That night we cooked lemon tarragon chicken, crispy potatoes and asparagus in the wood-fired oven and sat around the fire pit for a while chatting before calling it a (really great) day.
This was the first of what I hope will be many more Local is Lovely workshops and Luisa, Stephanie and I are in the process of finalising a few dates for Autumn 2015. They will be announced soon right here! Thanks. Sophie