We are bread lovers. From our daily loaf of sourdough to the stuffed picnic bread we make on special occasions and everything in between.
I first made flat breads after my friend Joslyn shared her recipe a few years ago along with the instruction to roll the bread out on a board scattered with za’atar. Not only did she awaken my interest in flat breads but she also hooked me up with my first bag of za’atar.
Za’atar is an amazing herb and spice mix used across the Middle East. While the mix varies depending on who is mixing it you will normally find thyme, sumac and sesame seeds along with other spices. It is great in a whole range of dishes not least as a topping for pitta.
I tend to make pitta when we are eating falafel and we have time to spare on the preparation side or conversely when we have run out of bread for lunch boxes and we need some quickly. It’s all about perspective! Lately we’ve been having turkey burgers in hot pitta pockets – let me know if you’d like the recipe!
I was recently sent a pot of za’atar and a selection of flavoured oils by Terra Rossa who specialise in Arabian foods. As soon as I saw it I knew that they would go really well together so I made a simple dinner party starter of za’atar rolled pitta and added the oils for dipping. Really easy and delicious.
Easy Pitta Bread with Za’atar
1 tsp / 7g packet dried yeast
300ml luke warm water
560g strong white bread flour (with wholemeal you might need a touch more water on hand)
Pinch of salt
A big glug of olive oil
- Mix the yeast into the water with a fork and set aside until it froths up a little.
- Put the dry ingredients, flour and salt, into a large mixing bowl then add the yeast mixture and olive oil.
- Bring the mixture together with a fork or your fingers and when it forms a dough knead it together until you have a silky dough.
- Put it back in the bowl and leave it to prove for half an hour to forty five minutes depending on the air temperature.
- Once it has risen divide the dough into ten equal balls.
- Flour your work surface and cover a side plate with the za’atar.
- Roll each ball lightly in the za’atar before rolling out flat. I tend to cook each pitta once it’s rolled to keep things moving along.
- Heat your largest frying or griddle pan over a medium flame.
- Lay your rolled out dough in the pan and allow to cook for a minute or two – little blisters will appear on the surface. Flip it over and cook for 30 seconds to a minute before flipping it back to the original side. At this point your pitta should puff up with air (this is totally my favourite bit).
- Whip the pitta off the heat and lay on a wooden board. To make life easier I often run a knife into them at this point if I’m going to use them as pitta pockets.
New Year’s Eve, The Fourth of July, Guy Fawkes Night and Diwali are nights I look forward to with child-like glee for the fireworks alone. For years my efforts with photographing fireworks fell far short of the experience itself so this year I decided to get serious and came away with some fantastic shots.
Despite having the appearance of fancy photography these photos were surprisingly easy to achieve. A little thought and prep beforehand and you will capture magical pictures.
- Clean your lens!
- Charge batteries and carry a spare for your remote.
- Camera settings – get familiar with what your camera can and can’t do. Work out which settings will work best for you before you are out in the dark.
- Practice has to be your number one most useful tool in every situation. If you’re unfamiliar with your kit or the setting have a couple of dry runs so you know you’ll be ready on the night. Even if you don’t have time before the display remember you can adjust and experiment during the fireworks – there is normally enough time.
- Make sure you have your kit ready in advance.
- Camera and wide-angle lens – you’ll want to capture as much sky as possible so a wide-angle (smaller mm/zoomed out) will help you achieve that.
- Tripod – in order to get sharp pictures you need a stable base and a tripod is a necessity.
- Remote control – no 100% necessary but really useful. I use a Hahnel Giga T Pro wireless remote control. If you don’t have a remote set your camera on a 2 second shutter delay to minimise the impact of movement from the camera.
- Timer – if you are using bulb mode then use a timer to keep track of the exposure length.
- Neutral Density Filter – these cut out light without changing colours meaning you can achieve the same exposure with slower shutter speeds. By increasing the amount of time you have your shutter open for you can have more explosions in one picture.
- Black cloth – or similar. If you want to take really long exposures then this will help you eliminate excess light between fireworks.
- A torch – really useful to be able to light your equipment up while your set it up in the dark.
Where to stand:
- This will have a big impact on your composition. In these pictures I was stood at the front of the crowd which gave me a clear shot but it meant I was too close to get enough space around the fireworks.
- Check the wind direction and get up-wind of the launch site or as near as possible. The smoke will catch light so you don’t want it between you and the fireworks. You can see in the bottom picture that by the end of the display there is quite a lot of smoke in the air.
- It’s not always easy to know where the fireworks are going to go off so being further back allows you to make smaller adjustments with the tripod than if you were close to the action. If you are able to talk to the organisers beforehand find out how the display will play out. For this shoot the majority of fireworks exploded in the same spot in the sky meaning I didn’t need to go over 30 seconds to capture my shots. If it had been spread out then I’d have been able to use exposures of 30 – 60 seconds.
- To be in complete control you’ll want to use your manual settings. With a DSLR this will allow your to control the whole picture, with a point and shoot you might not be able to control settings such as ISO – check out your manual to find out what you can do.
- Aperture: you want your aperture in the mid-ranges around f/10-16. You can experiment with larger and smaller apertures but the mid ranges will give you good sharp trails.
- Shutter Speed: this is what you’ll most likely be adjusting throughout the display. The first shots will have the clearest skies as there will be little smoke so you can use longer exposures without much need for editing out smoke. The general rule of thumb is the longer you have your shutter open for the more fireworks you will capture. Want just one firework? Set your shutter for 4 – 7 seconds. If you’re looking to capture several fireworks then a shutter speed of 10 – 30 seconds or more is what you’ll need. I’ve used a neutral density filter to allow me to have my shutter open about three times as long as without the filter.
- ISO: I set mine to 200 so it was more sensitive to light but not so high that it created any noise/grain as I wanted these pictures to look sharp.
- White Balance: I left this on auto.
- Focus: Set your camera to manual focus and leave it on infinity. You do not want your camera to be trying to seek focus during the show!
These pictures were shot in RAW and edited with Adobe Lightroom. It gives me more flexibility on colour and range when editing. I tend to make my adjustments by eye aiming for a photo that reproduces what I saw. The adjustments I have made are global:
- Contrast +5, whites +19, blacks -10, clarity+30, vibrance +25 and saturation +10.
- For the later photographs which suffered from smoke I changed to: contrast +17, whites +38 and blacks -81
If you’re not editing RAW files but shooting in JPEG then a great piece of free software is Picmonkey where you can achieve similar adjustments with the exposure, colour and sharpen tools.
Fireworks are such a thrilling event and getting the photography mix right will heighten the excitement. If you’re well prepared you’ll be able to create some awesome shots and no doubt be impatient for the next display to do it all over again.
Kit: Canon 500D, 18-55mm kit lens at 18mm, 0.9 neutral density filter, tripod and remote shutter release.
Settings for all shots: f14, 15 – 20 second shutter and ISO 200.
Anyone who has a conversation with me soon realises that my passion lies in the online world and the way it brings people together. Sometimes this borders on the obsessive but I really do believe that it is the greatest tool for living our authentic lives within communities of like-minded peers.
When you send something out into the world like my last post it can be with trepidation. Standing up and telling people that you do not accept the body shame they want to heap on you, makes you incredibly vulnerable. Save for one spiteful voice telling me I should expect to be critisised and should not be happy as a fat woman (I know, she didn’t even read it) every person who chose to engage with me was incredibly supportive. So supportive, in fact, that I felt overwhelmed.
I am thankful to every one of you who commented, emailed and connected with me through social media. It is moments like these which reinforce the wonder of the our online community.
Thank you for your support and kindness. Thank you for spending time in my world and thank you for changing my world. It really is wonderful to know you.
This evening I got an email from a TV company asking me to spread the word and even apply to be in a TV show about weight loss.
There are so many ways in which this pisses me off and it got me thinking about the ways in which people have tried to tell me that my body is not acceptable recently.
When you go through the world fat you get used to people treating you differently, assuming you’re stupid and being openly disgusted by you. By the time I was six I had already been conditioned to loathe myself and was regularly harassed at school for my body. Those scars set hard and I can’t tell you how long it takes for those words to truly be meaningless.
A few weeks ago I was abused and harassed on a train by a man who thought his opinion of my body counted for something. I can’t go into details as it is now a matter for the police but what I can tell you is that he is not the first and will not be the last.
That night I was shaky and furious but I was not shamed. And nor will I be.
Image Xanthe Berkeley for Blogtacular.
The default position for anyone who is over their ideal weight is that they must DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. And do you know what? It is none of anyone’s business except mine what I do with my body or how I live.
Do you think I don’t know about the health risks? Are you under the misapprehension that I am stupid and unable to understand how weight loss works? Well let me advise you that I do not need your opinion or not-so-subtle suggestions on how I should treat my body. If you have never walked in my shoes don’t presume to tell me what I ought to do or how I should act.
I will continue to live how I choose without imposing my views on your body – because I get that those impulses are about me and not you. How about you pay me the same courtesy?
Because I don’t know about you but I am feeling a serious fuck this attitude. I do not have the time or inclination to deal with prejudice about my body. We should not have to put up with people telling us how we should look, what we should wear, how we must behave.
I have spent too much of my life apologising for who I am and how I look. No more. I know what I’m worth even if other people are yet to catch up. I am over making excuses for who I am and how I look.
So excuse me if I don’t give what you say any heed, if I call out your prejudice or ignore your email about a weight loss show. This is me: I’m fat and unapologetic. Get over it.