A Day Well Spent at Sara’s Organic Farm

The Art and Science of Food Styling: The All Natural Creative Food Workshop
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Ever wondered how to take yummy, drool-worthy pictures of food like the ones routinely splattered across Instagram and on various food blogs? Apparently, there’s a whole art, nay science to it. Few weeks ago saw The Daily Crisp’s team attending the “All Creative Natural Food Workshop,” designed and lead by recipe developer and director of the food studio Granville St. Egypt, Sarah Khodeir, in partnership with Sara’s Organic Food. The workshop was an outdoor event held at Desert Lake Farms, where Sara’s Organic Food products are sourced. The main participants in the workshop were; health and wellness coach, Dana Dinnawi of Empowered Health and Wellness, and professional photographer, Malak Yassin, of Glow Photography.

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The workshop encompassed 3 parts: After the initial gathering, the workshop began with a walking tour of the farm, where the event was held with Sara Kristina-Hannig Nour, the manager of the farm. She Showed us the various produce grown; from arugula, kale, and different fruits, to peppers (green, red, yellow) and aubergines to mint and an assortment of other herbs grown.

Everything was organic, from the fertilizers used (compost made up primarily of manure and any type of waste, including food scraps) to a system of pest management known as intercropping, whereby different types of crops are grown together to ward off or “protect” each other from pests. Even the animals on the farm (rescued horses and donkeys as well as the chickens) are fed food scraps. Nothing goes to waste. It is truly a closed loop or zero waste environment. Crops are irrigated by drip irrigation that is fed by underground aquifers. Furthermore, there are no heavy machinery, everything was done by hand, making it extremely labour intensive.

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Neat rows of cabbage

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Peppery arugula that we were invited to pick off and eat

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Green peppers not for the faint of heart (or stomach)

After the walking tour, we all gathered in the main space and sat yoga-style where everyone introduced themselves. Dinnawi, who is an acclaimed health and wellness coach, proceeded to give a very informative talk about natural and healthy eating; from the dangers of gluten and dairy products to the long-term physiological benefits of eating healthy and organic food and how easy it is to transition to a healthy lifestyle (with a plethora of alternatives now available in the market) and passing it on to our children through practicing what we preach.

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Gathering space with a children’s play area in the background, complete with a sandbox and Indian tepees

After the lecture by Dinnawi, we got into the real nitty gritty of the workshop: the food preparation, styling and photography section. Khodeir introduced us to the concepts of food styling, and showed us various tips and tricks used to make incredibly beautiful and larger than life pictures of food that are real works of art. And just like any art medium, various tools of the trade are used for styling food that are downright surgical; from tweezers used to pick up and manipulate very fine particles of food into colorful arrangements, to Vaseline used to glue together burgers that have fallen apart and a spray bottle used to spritz up salads.

Yassin, the resident photographer, then gave a talk on the importance of using the prime lens and manual mode in our cameras, while paying attention to the aperture and ISO levels (a revelation for this newbie photographer, who always depended on the auto mode) and the importance of natural light and diffusing harsh light. Sarah even showed me some useful tricks to take beautiful pictures with our phone camera.

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Dana Dinnawi giving a very informative lecture on the dangers of processed food and the myriad of benefits derived from adopting a sustainable and healthy lifestyle

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We also gathered around this table right here for obvious reasons…

The first recipe created and used for our food styling was ‘oven roasted aubergine’, topped with a hummus (with a secret ingredient) that has truly changed our view of what hummus should taste like. We were given the roasted aubergines, ready made hummus and asked to style it. We barely managed to style our aubergines and take pictures of it before we scarfed them down (even though we were promised a full course meal at the end of the workshop that included all the food we created). They were that delicious. The next 2 recipes, “Samar’s red cabbage salad” and “mom’s rice pudding,” were equally divine and looked perfect in the pictures we took.

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Future food stylists hard at work

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Sarah showing us how to make the perfect roasted aubergines

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One of many attempts to style and take the perfect food picture. Not too shabby….

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Making use of natural light and props to create the perfect picture

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Mom’s Rice Pudding…another revelatory dish

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A  gluten-free, sugar-free pumpkin pie that we were shown how to make but didn’t style

At the end of the workshop, we were invited to indulge in all the food on the menu: roasted aubergines, red cabbage salad, chilli chicken skewers, a sweet potato mash to die for, rice pudding and the Pumpkin pie that turned out to be incredible. Even though we sat and ate to our heart’s content, pilgrim-style at a long, narrow rustic-looking table, we never got the heavy feeling of eating too much. The food was light, but delicious and filling. Most of the ingredients were sourced from the farm, making it a real farm to table dinner. And we munched away, knowing we were filling our bellies with organic healthy goodness. After dinner and socializing a bit with the other participants, we gathered around a fire pit where we ended a truly magical day with exquisite dairy-free pumpkin spice latte.

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Beautiful spread

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Farm to table dinner in the glow of sunset

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Nothing says fall like drinking pumpkin spice latte around a bonfire

All in all, the workshop was extremely well-organized with one session flowing seamlessly into the next. Not to mention, the very hands-on and interactive approach made it very easy for participants to ask questions and learn, not just from the instructors, but also from each other. The star of the event, however, was the location, itself. Our senses were delighted with such open space, nothing intrusive, like heavy machinery or tall buildings, and interrupted views for miles on end. Stepping away from the rushed pace of Cairo, one also got the sense of time passing slowly, minute by minute, hour by hour. We all came away with the knowledge that sustainable living and healthy eating go hand in hand, and are of paramount importance to feeling physically and emotionally balanced, making our bodies incredibly resilient. For as we come from nature, and are nourished by it, everything goes back into it, so that nothing goes to waste, and both our bodies and the environment that sustains it, thrive.

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Happy campers

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Sara’s Organic Food baskets that we were invited to pick up as a gift on our way out, featuring an assortment of organic fruits and vegetables grown at the farm. Those baskets are also available for delivery. Check out www.sarasorganicfood.com for detail on how to order.

Feature Photo Credits: Sara’s Organic Food

Asil Rashid is a Sudanese-born Canadian, who’s lived most of her life in Dubai, U.A.E. Having worked as an environmental and sustainability consultant for most of her professional career, she has always maintained a love of writing. After getting married and moving to Cairo, a couple of years ago, she started a blog ( www.thebountifulnow.com) to chronicle her experience of living in Egypt, as well as her travels around and outside of Egypt and the numerous recipes she’s created. Early this year, she became a mother to a beautiful baby girl and, having always been interested in health and wellness, cooking and making things in her kitchen from scratch, she decided to work as a contributor writer for The Daily Crisp as a way to indulge her many passions. Asil is also an avid gardener, a lover of Italian food and a PADI Open Water certified diver.

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