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Helene Dujardin
Senior Editor

Helene Dujardin

Chanterelles & Lobster Risotto

Chanterelles & Lobster Risotto

Traveling so much these past few months has sort of turned into an amusing social study of myself and my fellow travelers. Nothing like getting stuck a airport to reflect, notice, smile or get a few eye rolls going. I have noticed that my patience has no limits going somewhere. As if I were not really in a rush to leave home and slowly making my way to my new destination. On the other hand, that same patience runs thin when I am getting home. I want to be home and I can’t wait to be there. The time in between? The time I am working, shooting or teaching? I love it! I get fully immersed into it and don’t see it go by.

I just got back from shooting a first set if pictures for Le Cordon Bleu’s upcoming cookbook this past Sunday and I am writing this post from the airport. Yep, a short 48 hours home and I am heading to New Hampshire to teach a couple of workshops. After that, I will be heading to Birmingham with a first load of boxes to find a house (leads look good) , then it’s back to shoot Le Cordon Bleu for another week. From there, I will fly directly back to Birmingham for my first day at Oxmoor House.


I thrive on busy. I can even thrive on crazy. This is a bit insane. But, we are aware this is only temporary insanity and that a certain discomfort must take place. All these years of working toward a goal…not about to let a little crazy get in the way…! I smile thinking that one of the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu nicknamed me Le Courant D’Air….The Draft. Too bad it does not come with flying superpowers…


I think the trick to it all, beside hard work, is also to be organized. Bill and I took a big calendar and started mapping routes, airplane rides, car rides, days in, days out, hangouts with friends, dinners, dates…everything went in. I started making a separate map. I know that when I get home, he is super happy to have me back in the kitchen humming and cooking something simple and comforting. Something that tells him that I know I am gone often lately and that I appreciate his mending the fort. So, while at airports or on airplanes, I map out meals. The ones I am going to leave for him for while I am gone, and the ones I will make the day I get home.

Arborio Rice

This risotto came out of a combined desire for the comfort of slow cooked rice and the need to use up the chanterelles I could not resist getting at the farmers market. The lobster? A couple of extra tails from a shoot which were the perfect little something to say you’re special. It turned out to be the perfect way for us to reconnect in the midst of the hustle and bustle.

A comforting dish, a glass of wine and a good conversation. My idea of a lovely time.

Chanterelles & Lobster Risotto

Chanterelles and Lobster Risotto

Notes: I like to stop adding all the liquid before the end as I like my risotto on the drier side, meaning not as creamy as you would usually see it. I really like the firm bite that it provides by doing so while respecting the cooking method of traditional risotto. If you like it creamy smooth, add all the liquid, if not stop before adding the last cup or so of liquid.

Serves 4

2 medium lobster tails
4 1/2 cups seafood stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound chanterelles, scrubbed clean and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
fresh chives

Fill a large stockpot with water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil for 8 to 10 minutes or until their flesh turns white. Remove from the water, drain and let cool for about 15 minutes. With kitchen sheers, cut the shells open lenghthwise and remove the flesh. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
In a medium saucepan, bring the seafood stock to a boil and keep to a low simmer.
In the meantime, heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushroom and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Add the white wine and rice and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup of stock and cook until the liquid is absorbed again. Keep adding the stock to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is cooked but still a little firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. I don’t like mine gooey or too creamy so I stop a little before and keep it on the drier side.
Stir in the lobster tails and cook for just a minute. Serve into big bowls and garnish with fresh chopped chives.

Fig & Goat Cheese Tartelettes

Fig & Goat Cheese Tarts

Thank you all so much for the well wishes and congratulations. I am really excited about the beautiful work to be done ahead with wonderful food and prop stylists working by my side. Right now, things are a severe blur. I am shooting a cookbook away from home for two weeks, while completing another assignment and looking for a place to live in Birmingham. I have never embraced technology as much as I have in the past month.


It’s both fascinating, life saving and a tad exhausting at the same time. However, the pure joy of logging online after a heavy day at work and read that Charleston friends have bought a house while my favorite food stylist has gotten engaged makes me realize that I will always be close to the things that matter. In that regard, I love you Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more than ever Skype which has been crucial for Bill and I to plan our next everything for the three months ahead.

Fig & Goat Cheese Tarts

It makes my head hurts at time. I admit I am looking forward to the dust settling some and unplugging for a weekend. Soon I hope. A craving. A quiet day. No buzz, notifications or replies, follows and so forth. Finding that balance again. A day fit for baking I think. That day will come again when I find myself settled in our new home, wherever it will be, baking and cooking dinner with new friends.


I see a day made for tarts and tagine. The process. The hand feel. The motion. The wait. All punctuated by a chat and a glass of wine. Or a sit down and a cup of tea. It does not really matter at this point. I would be happy either way. As long as I feel the minutes go by ever so slowly.

I am not complaining a bit about the speed of things right now. I am embracing everything. I am also dreaming about the moments ahead. I dream them sweet. Sweet as Fig and Goat Cheese Tartelettes.

Fig & Goat Cheese Tarts

Again…thank you all so much for your sweet words about my last post. Your support would give anyone a skip in their step. It did for me. Thank you.
Fig and Goat Cheese Tartelettes.

Makes 8

For the pastry crust:
I used this one from my friend Jeanne at The Art of Gluten Free Baking but I also recommend this one from Holly Herrick if you are not gluten free.

Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Roll the dough in between sheets of parchment paper if you are using the gluten free one or on a well floured countertop is using the regular one. Cut the dough the fit eight 4-inch tart rings or shells. Fill the shells with dried beans or pie weights and bake until the shells are completely cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool about 20-30 minutes before filling again. You may turn the oven off at this point and turn it back when you are ready to fill the shells.

For the filling:
6 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoon sugar
juice and zest of one small lemon
1 large egg (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest, egg and cream and whisk again until fully incorporated. . Divide among the tart shells and bake at 350F for about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes.

Remaining ingredients:
8 to 10 small figs, quartered, (your choice of variety)
2 to 4 tablespoons honey

When you are ready to serve, place the quartered figs on top of the tarts and drizzle with honey…as much or as little as you like…!

A Little … Well ok…Big Announcement

Big News...

I have been toying with how to break the news to you… Late at night, I would design some cute picture involving the husband and the pups, just the pups, just the husband but of course, I always ran out of time. It’s been a whirlwind since May. Workshops, cookbook shoots, some editorial shoots. Lots of travel. Lots of packing and unpacking.

Well…there will be one more big swoop of packing. But not a couple of suitcases. A few many boxes actually.

We are moving! To Birmingham, Alabama…!

No, Bill did not take a job there. I did.

I am completely stocked and thrilled to announce that I am the new Senior Photographer for Oxmoor House, cookbook publisher of titles such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, Health, Sunset.

Now can I do this? : !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Never mind…I just did!!!!! (and more)

If you know me well, you know that I am right now smiling wide but quietly while inside, I am jumping up and down like a crazy woman. I get to photograph all sorts of cookbooks throughout the week. Different titles, styles, authors, recipes. A dream.

Oxmoor House emailed and asked me if I would consider coming down for a test shoot for the position. I flew to Birmingham, test shot for two days with super nice, creative and dedicated art director, food stylists, prop stylists, photographers, etc…. My excitement and desire to be part of the team grew stronger. But I knew I had to put this in the back of my head. There was Ireland coming up, then Seattle, a couple of cookbooks and editorials to be photographed. More workshops.

Then finally last week, I heard the news that I had gotten the job. I called my parents and told them the news. My mom asked "is that good?". I laughed so hard. Nerves. "Yes, mom. It’s really good." For the first time, it hit me. The reality of the future ahead.

So yes, we are relocating. We are both super excited, not only about the job but about the possibilities ahead. New places to see, new friends to be made. New favorite hang outs to find.

It’s all good…

I hope you are smiling along with us. I will continue to blog, but bear with me as I make the transition to another rhythm and city. It might take me a few days to get my bearings when it happens next months.

A huge "Thank You" to Matt, Clare, Tami, Anita and Laura. You guys know why and how much you mean to me. Love you bundles.

Blueberry & Key Limes Tea Cakes – Going Back To The Essentials

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes

It’s been a week clearly balanced with working and nesting. I am heading out of town next week again to shoot Le Cordon Bleu cookbook and have been spending a good portion of my free time baking, cooking, preserving, etc.. I clearly manifested an intense homemaking phase which I believe to be only normal since I am incessantly on the go this summer.


I feel I won’t be touching ground for a while and spending time in the kitchen, mixing, kneading, chopping, gives me time to think, make plans, draw list, organize thoughts and priorities. Some good music in the background and the undivided attention of the pups and I spent a couple of days stocking the fridge and freezer with some good meals and treats for Bill to enjoy while I’m away.


I like to believe a sweet treat once in a while makes the distance a little more bearable (and thank you Skype inventor!). He also gets invited left and right everytime I go away, no matter how stocked up the fridge is. His parents, the neighbors, our close friends…They all seem to take pity on him! At least, I know he never arrives empty handed to a dinner…

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes

These little tea cakes may be the most simple things to bake but there is value in the essentials, the basics. I know that I can freeze plenty for us to have one morning over brunch, to keep in the fridge for a little four o’clock pick me up with a cup of tea. I can pack a couple in his bag before he heads to work in the morning. They are full of good nutrients, blueberries, coconut sugar, whole grains and the addition of Key limes provides just the right amount of pop from the limes.

Nothing like a good basic tea cake fresh out of the oven to make you feel like the chaos around you can indeed slow down…even if only for a few minutes.

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes:

Makes 24 muffin size tea cakes.

2 cups Jeanne’s gluten free flour mix (or cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest and juice of 6 Key limes (or 1 lime)
1 cup (2 sticks – 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
4 large eggs
2 cups blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350F and line the inside of 24 muffin cups with cupcake or muffin liners. Grease with some melted butter or cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
In another large bowl or container, combine the milk, vanilla extracts, zest and juice from the Key limes (the milk will curdle but do not worry – it’s normal).
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and coconut sugar until smooth and creamy (medium high for about 3 minutes). Beat in the eggs, on slow speed, one at a time until everything looks well combined. The mixture won’t be smooth but make sure all the eggs look mixed in.
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture alternately with milk mixture in 3 additions, just until the batter comes together. Fold in blueberries with a spatula and give the batter another 10-12 strokes to finish mixing it all together. Divide the batter equally among the muffin tins.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out free of raw batter.

Food Photography Workshop In Seattle – A Recap!

Seattle Workshop 2012

I finally sifted through all the pictures I took at the workshop Clare, Becky and I taught last weekend in Seattle and as usual, it was pretty hard deciding which ones to post and which ones to archive. So many good moments! It was intense. Attendees were focused, diligent and really really fun to hang out with.

Teaching with Clare was as much fun and excellent as the first time we did it together in Charleston this past May. We are really excited to be doing more workshops together in November and throughout 2013 when our schedules allow it.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Kuddos to Becky who not only led the food styling portions of each day and photo shoot but also prepared us the best lunches and a fabulous Vietnamese focused feast for our farewell dinner the last day. Loved meeting Marc who came to help Becky in the kitchen throughout the weekend. Those two kept the kitchen firing great dishes and great jokes. (Above set up by Tina Jeffers

Seattle Workshop 2012

Hard at work at the studio…

Seattle Workshop 2012

Gorgeous foods displayed for each shoot assignment quickly became the best snacks and lunches…

Seattle Workshop 2012

One assigned shoot was to create a picnic scene in the park and Becky worked on a gorgeous picnic basket set up to give students some inspiration.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Marc and Becky…

Seattle Workshop 2012

A trail of photographers' set up at Volunteer Park.

Seattle Workshop 2012

These sandwiches were so tempting…

Seattle Workshop 2012

Another location shoot assignment was held at Poppy restaurant. Chef and owner Jerry Traunfeld graciously led us meander throughout the kitchen and dining room as they were setting up for a busy Saturday night.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

Loved the decor and feel of the restaurant. Wide open, with lots of gorgeous light and lots of opportunities for one’s photographic eye to be inspired.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

What is a trip to Seattle without good coffee?…!

Seattle Workshop 2012

I could eat this dungeness crab, nasturtium, avocado and shiso salad everyday. Simple, refreshing and clean. To the point.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

Squash blossom fritters with walnut feta filling and red pepper sauce.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

Thalis are one of the specialties at Poppy. The various ones offered by Jerry and his staff are a true work of art for all senses.

Seattle Workshop 2012

In the garden…

Seattle Workshop 2012

A sweet thali for two: ice cream choice, cocoa-nib anise shortbread, nutter-butter squares, pâtes de fruit, pimentón chocolate caramels, sabayon and raspberries.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

The last day of the workshop ended by a fabulous dinner. We set out the tables with props used everyday on shoots, plates, glassware, silverware and linens. A little whimsy is always a good thing.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

I got busy eating so this is the only picture from the delicious dishes Becky and Marc prepared for us.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

Thank you to all the attendees for making this workshop special to us as we were sharing and guiding. Thank you Seattle for always making me right at home whenever I visit!

Nectarine And Pomegranate Tarte

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

Back from Seattle after an amazing workshop and visit with dear friends. I love that the city is becoming like a second home away from home where I can visit and enjoy a great support system of friends and fellow photographers. There is always work associated with a trip to Seattle but it downright feels like a vacay-workathon for me. Yes, it’s work chilling and sipping wine too you know…!


I have yet to go through all my pics from the workshop and our visit there. So much done and so much left to see! It was Bill’s first time in Seattle and he absolutely loved it. The weather was a wonderful reprieve from our scorching hot days. A light breeze and 80F days felt like Spring and absolutely delicious.

We love hanging out with friends who love their city as much as we love ours. It was a treat to spend some time with Jeanne again. She gives the best hugs. Seriously. We were honored to have dinner at Sitka and Spruce with Anita and her husband who flew from San Francisco for the weekend. They never miss an opportunity to visit their old stomping grounds and I was thrilled to finally introduce them to Bill after all these years.

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

Once again… lots of good times, good wines, good sun, good talks and sunshine. I love how each workshop teaches me "more and better" as I like to say. More about myself so I can always work toward being a better person. Every trip, anywhere, I try not to sweat the small stuff and focus on the bigger picture. Sometimes it is just me and my work, others and the moment, sometimes it is our couple.

A constant work on improving. With taking stance and remaining silent. Much like this tart I want to share with you today. Everytime, with time and experience, it turns out a little bit better. A little bit stronger and definitely a keeper. Until the ext one…


Nectarines in South Carolina right now are as good as the best natural candy you can imagine. Juicy, fragrant. Wonderfully soft and simply at their best. I usually cut up about a pound worth and store it in the fridge so we can have a refreshing treat anytime we get a whiff of that hot humid air.

I got a bigger appetite than the number of days we would be home so I decided to use some of the nectarines I had (over) bought in a tart and take it to my in-laws who were dog(s) sitting for us. As well as watching over the fish. Always seem to forget mentioning Elliot.

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

I made a regular pie crust (not gluten free) but the mix I usually use (my friend Jeanne’s) works perfectly well with this. I must tell you soon about this Brazil nut crust I tried on Clare and Becky last week though. I want to tweak it one more time first… Bear with me!

In the meantime, I am leaving you with this super simple, yet delicious Nectarine and Pomegranate Tarte. Yes. I know. Pomegranate are not in season in the US at the moment. See, I love pomegranate so much, that once Winter rolls around, I freeze enough pomegranate seeds to last us through Springs and Summer. We use them all the time in refreshing salads, as sprinkles on desserts and so forth. Here, they were in perfect tandem with the sweet ripe nectarines.

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

Nectarines and Pomegranate Tarte:

Makes one 9 to 10-inch tart:

For the crust:

2 tablespoons (20gr) slivered almonds
1/2 (60gr) cup powdered sugar, unsifted, divided
1/2 stick (57gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (90gr) all purpose flour or Jeanne’s gluten free all-purpose flour mix

For the filling:
4 to 6 just ripe nectarines, peeled, halved, pitted and sliced thin
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped almonds
2 to 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (fresh or frozen)

Place almonds and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, ground nuts and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar and flour and mix well. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water to help the dough come together if necessary. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thick round.
Place in a 9-inch tart pan, trim the edges. Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes up to 2 hours. (you can even freeze the dough in the tart pan at this point and let thaw in the fridge overnight when you are ready).

Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle shelf.
Layer the nectarines in the shell, overlapping each other until the whole tarte area is covered. Drizzle with the honey and almonds.
Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes until the tarte is golden.
Remove from the heat and right before serving, sprinkle the top with the pomegranate seeds.

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup & Cauliflower Prosciutto Flatbread

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Barely home from Washington, D.C that we are repacking and heading out tomorrow (insanely early) morning for Seattle. Yep. It’s the Summer of packed crazy but absolutely delicious adventures. And yes also to the fact that I will probably end up using (or abusing) every superlative adjectives I know along the way.

Going to Seattle for work is about as stressful as a week by a blue lagoon. Whether it is for a shoot or in this instance a workshop I am teaching with Clare Barboza and Becky Selengut, I can tell you that the conversations, good meals and bottomless glasses of wine make up for the brain power exhaustion and relative dépaysement. I am ok with being tired, being away and making a little home away from home, mentally and physically. The people, the jobs, the things I learn, the things I pass on. It keeps me energized.

Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread

If asked, I doubt that my fridge and pantry would agree to my definition of a life well balanced. We have kept the minimum of supplies around to avoid any spoilage and waste. Nothing irks me more than wasting food because of ill planning or "voir plus grand que son estomac" (seeing larger than one’s appetite). I do leave a few things for the house sitters to nibble on but not enough to warrant big trips to the grocery store.

A miscalculation of the meals we would eat at home this weekend created a surplus of vegetables and a quick scramble to use them in interesting ways while keeping up with the semi plan we have going on. I have no idea how my two cucumbers turned into four from grocery list to grocery cart but I was very glad they did after taking the first couple of sips from the Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup they contributed to.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Refreshing, creamy and light, this soup is going to be on heavy rotation as soon as we come back from Seattle. I have a real fondness for chilled cucumber soup. Or rather a fond nostalgia for the dish. When I first moved Charleston, my roomate at the time took me to a (now closed) French inspired bistro on Market street that served one of the best Cucumber Dill Yogurt soup I had ever had. Wait, the only had I had ever had so far!

I tried many times to recreate the soup but there was always something missing. Probably the moment more than the recipe and ingredients. I decided that rather than driving my senses crazy, I’d make a completely different version. One we could equally love and come back to. After a few tries, this is the one we settled on. The base rarely varies but the toppings change depending on what’s around. Crumbled feta, sliced beets, radishes, herbs, a drizzle of truffle or avocado oil, lemon zest,… the possibilities are indeed endless.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup With Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread

I admit, I would have never thought about putting cauliflower on flatbread had it not been for the Winter issue of Donna Hay magazine a couple of months ago. I read over the recipe, bookmarked it in a far corner of my brain, bought cauliflower and prosciutto and went about my business. And completely forgot about it all. Until yesterday that I was making dinner and the common "oops…not enough days, too many recipes to try" moment took place.

I took the elements of the original recipe, minus the cheese, and turned them in a crispy thin flatbread that was the perfect match to grilled shrimp and a big fennel, arugula salad with crunchy leftover cauliflower. Simple, light and one more way to sneak in vegetables into the meal. Made me want to try the cheesy version when we get back in town next week.

Off to (re) pack!

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup:

Makes enough for 4 as a main course

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 1 to 1/2 pounds)
1/2 medium avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 cups sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon each lemon verbena and lemon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings options: (as many or as little as you desire)
fresh herbs
sliced beets or radishes
feta or goat cheese
shaved parmesan

Place all the ingredients for the soup in a blender or food processor and puree until super smooth. I use my Blendtec which makes it extremely smooth in no time. Depending on how silky you want your soup to be, you might have to pass it through a sieve a couple of times.
Refrigerate for about a couple of hours and serve cold.


Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread:

Serves 6 to 8

Pizza dough for one 16-inch pizza stone (I use half the recipe of my favorite pizza crust here)
For a gluten free crust, see here
1 to 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced cauliflower
4 oz finely chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400F.
With your hands, stretch your dough to a large circle, about one inch wider than the surface of your stone.
Sprinkle the cornmeal over the surface of the stone (do not worry about heating it up as if making pizza). Place your dough over it and form a border with the extra inch of your dough.
Scatter evenly the cauliflower, prosciutto and parmesan over it. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown.
Let cool slightly and eat!

A Little (!) Travel Post – Scotland & Ireland

Be ready for a massive picture post. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, workshop, people, food. It’s all here…

I thought about breaking it into several installments but I can’t. I am afraid my heart will sink everytime I look at the pictures of our trip. I had such an amazing time, seen so many beautiful sights and met so many incredible folks. I miss it all and yet, I am completely and utterly happy thrilled to be back, full on work and ready for the next chapter, whatever it may be.

On the road to Stonefield Castle - Scotland

We started the trip by landing at 7am in Glasgow. In our rental car by 8am, we proceeded toward the Mull Of Kintyre via Loch Lomond National Park. Let’s just say that with no sleep and driving on the other side for the first time in over 20 years, the first 10 minutes of the trip felt right out of a video game. A video game gone wrong that is. With cars zooming towards you, on roads barely narrow enough for two, a stone wall or a cliff on your side, depending.

I have to tell you that none of it actually mattered. Every "oh shoot!" moment was followed by a "We are in Scotland! Dude! Nothing matters! We are in Scotland"…Yep, we could have totaled the car and gotten off the road, we still would have jumped screaming at the top of our lungs "Look at this! Wow!!".

That’s pretty much the feeling and phrase that accompanied us throughout the trip. The opportunity to teach at Belle Isle and take a few days off before hand to trace back Bill’s ancestors was something I will always be grateful for.

Oban - Scotland

We took the road to the Mull of Kintyre and stopped at Oban for lunch, Scotch and to stretch our legs, keep awake and energized. Still going strong, we headed for our evening lodging, Stonefield Castle. We were trying to be as close as possible to Castle Sween, an ancestral family stronghold for Bill and while looking at hotels in the area, Stonefield, overlooking the sea, was equal to a hotel in town. You can guess what I picked. Yes. Our first night of the trip was at this incredibly beautiful and serene castle.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

We crashed on the fluffy pillows as soon as we got to our room for a restorative power nap. Rested, we were ready to head out and explore our surroundings, the woods and forest around us. Beauty everywhere. We will be back and for a longer stay for sure. Everyone at the hotel was wonderful and the food was outstanding. I ate it. I did not photograph it.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Seems like a food photographer on vacation shoots just about everything. Except food. I shot flowers. And meadows. And flowers. All the little wild flowers that never get the chance to grow in hot and hotter South Carolina. you bet I had my fill in Scotland and Ireland.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

The shores at Stonefield Castle.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Walking around Stonefield.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

Flowers everywhere. Lush and gorgeous flora.

Tree of Bouees - Stonefield Castle, Scotland

Bouees on a tree. Straight out of a Tim Burton’s movie.

Stonefield Castle - Scotland

On the road to Castle Sween - Scotland

The next morning, we starting making our way to Castle Sween and a quite a few photo opportunities unraveled before our eyes. We spent half an hour with these horses. Every time we motioned away, they would come closer and wait for us to scratch their heads a little more.

Near Castle Sween - Scotland


Castle Sween - Scotland

Unexpected on an almost deserted road.

Near Castle Sween - Scotland

The area around Castle Sween is tranquil and lush. Green grass and low forestry.

Castle Sween - Scotland

Castle Sween. Bill got quiet and reverend. I could tell that a part of him was unsettled and curious. Sad too. So much he only knew from records and old letters. I also could feel that the bigger part of him felt home. It was truly magical to experience that moment of finding one roots with him.

View from Castle Sween - Scotland

The view commanding Castle Sween. Yes. Nothing to squint about…

Near Giant's Causeway

Later that day we hopped on a plane to Belfast, got another rental car and started our way up the Northern coast as soon as we landed. We spent the night in the little village of Cushendall and after a local pub owner shortened our route by sending us on ferry roads and adding bridges to an otherwise silent map, we made way toward the Giant’s Causeway. A good walk later, we headed out to Fanad’s Head…another ancestral ground for Bill.

Coast of Ireland

At Giant's Causeway

At Giant's Causeway

At Giant's Causeway

On the road to Fanad's Head - N.Ireland

I seem to have an afinity for telephone booths….On our way to Fanad’s Head. Still making our way through ancestral grounds and towns. After a night at Downing’s Bay, we made our way down to Donegal. We were on a mission to find Castle Doe. Another family castle. Puts my French falconer ancestral roots to shame…!

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland

At Castle Doe. Old stone. New life. Color.

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland

Castle Doe. There was silence around us. Except for the winds and the legends.

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland

Castle Doe - Donegal, Ireland.

After our stop at Castle Doe. It was time to head out to Belle Isle Estate for my workshop. We quickly got settled into our cottage and grabbed our gear for a little walk. The estate is gorgeous and the surrounding grounds lush and bountiful. The cottages were super cozy with all the amenities one can think of. We vowed to come back with my parents and rent a couple of them for an extended stay. So much to see and do in the area. Fermanagh is really a beautiful county.

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

A little peek at the Castle at Belle Isle.

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

Reminded me of The Princess Bride. I know…

Belle Isle Garden & Orchard - N.Ireland

Beautiful fruits and veggies are grown at Belle Isle and used at the cookery school where the workshop was help. Apples, redcurrants, blueberries, salads, herbs, peas, etc… Cows, sheep and hens can be seen and heard as well.

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

View looking out from the castle at Belle Isle. Not too bad…

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

Belle Isle Garden - N.Ireland

The walled garden at Belle Isle. Push the door opened and be mesmerized.

Belle Isle Orchard - N.Ireland

Belle Isle Gardens - N.Ireland

Belle Isle Garden - N.Ireland

Belle Isle Food Photo Workshop

Finally, it was time to meet up with everyone and start the second part of our trip. The workshop. The group of attendees gathered was absolutely delightful and hard working. I say that of every workshop I teach. I know. But it’s true everytime. I am also very appreciative of the non negotiating trust they bestow on me to guide them right from the get go. I know exactly what’s going on in their mind and I have no doubt that each day will be better and more fun than the one before.

Belle Isle Castle Food Photo Workshop - Northern Ireland

Leona and Victoria. Fearless and talented.

Among the group we had a wide array of cultures and places represented. Ireland, Tel-Aviv, Dubai, Australia, San Francisco, Denmark, The Netherlands, Japan, Vienna. I was honored for the miles and hours everyone put in to come learn and play. Huge props to Corrie and her staff at Belle Isle Cookery School for feeding us and providing us with all the necessary foods and ingredients for the shoots we were practicing throughout the weekends. Thank you also to Charles and Fiona, the caretakers of the castle for their generosity and great disposition throughout the weekend.


Idan. Intense. And cute as a button…

Belle Isle Food Photo Workshop

Berries from the garden.

Belle Isle Cookery School - N.Ireland

Lettuces and chives in the garden.

Belle Isle Castle - N.Ireland

Dana & Elizabeth

Dana and Elizabeth. Focused. Determined.


After knowing them for the past five years online, I finally got to meet Simone of Jungle Frog Cooking and Pernille. Simone, a professional food photographer herself, it was a treat to have her attend and soak in the atmosphere as we all did that weekend. Pernille works as an art director at her company and I had to smile at how much I could anticipate her reactions. It was nice to show other aspects of food photography to the attendees and why the eyes of an art director pushes a photographer that extra step further toward hard work well done.

Belle Isle Food Photo Workshop

It was an amazing trip. The scenery. The adventures. The people. The food. The time off spent with my husband. He’s my compass. I’m the navigator. We keep each other good.

I am off to Washington D.C in the morning for a few days and the recipe posts will resume as soon as get back.

Heirloom Tomato Tarts & Panzanella Salad

Tomato Tarts & Panzanella Salad

All packed and ready to go! I think. First stop Scotland for a couple of short days. Then we will head over to Ireland and backroad our way to Belle Isle Cookery School for the 4-day workshop I am teaching there. To say that I am excited would be the understatement of the year. I have not been to that part of the world yet.

House sitter all set up. Dog sitter already thrown in the middle of a creek chase by Bailey. Raincoats. Rain boots. Layers. Maps and big giddy smiles. Yep. I think we are about ready. Oh and Elliott, our 6 year old beta fish (so not joking) also found a temporary pad with friends, becoming their kids' first official visiting pet. Everyone is pretty much set.

Panzanella In The Making

It’s been such a long time we went abroad together. And the first real time off we have in a completely uncommon, unknown and foreign (to us) location. Pretty cool. We have been pouring over Google Earth for so many months checking the scenery and trying to figure out where his ancestors had lived that I am about as ready as can be to check things out.

I have no idea of what we will actually find, see and who we will end up meeting along the way. And we are completely open to that. I have learned to just learn and get familiar with things as much as possible and let thing unfold the way they do. There will always be something to come out of it, an improvement to be made, a lesson to be learned, another place to discover.

Panzanella Salad

That’s pretty much the motus operandi I have had these last few days as I was trying to empty out the fridge before our departure. Grab a few ingredients and spices agreeing with our taste buds, toss them up together and see where that gets us. Adjust attitude seasoning and keep going until dinner comes together.

And well…With an small peleton of heirloom tomates leading the race (yes, I may have the Tour De France playing in the background of my studio), we ended up with Heirloom Tomato and Rosemary Tarts one evening, accompanied by a few big spoonfuls of panzanella salad. And yes, tarts again. One of the easiest thing to do to clean out a fridge before a trip.


There are as many ways to make a tomato tart as there are cooks out there. And wait until you taste the quintessential Southern tomato pie. Oh dear. And well, there are as many versions of the panzanella salad as there are people having an opinion about it. That diversity is one of the many reasons why I love reading stories and anecdotes behind recipes. It’s also one of the reasons that make me grab my camera to make an imprint of the moment and tell another story. Or the same one, with a different look.

Traveling is very much the same. You see the same things as the many people around you. With a different look. For all of us.

Have a fantastic weekend! I will try to post some pics and updates as the trip unfolds but if you want first hand thoughts and pictures, best is to read my Twitter feed, @helenedujardin or check my Instagram shots at helenedujardin.

Tomato Tarts

All pictures © Helene Dujardin Photography.
Heirloom Tomatoes Tartlets:

Makes eight 4-inch tartlets or one regular tart

For the crust:

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour or Jeanne’s all purpose gluten free mix
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, kept very cold
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2-3 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
6 to 8 heirloom tomatoes
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
pinch of salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Prepare the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, (or follow the same instructions if doing by hand), pulse together the flour until incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until the butter resembles small peas and is evenly incorporated. Add the salt and pulse on more time. Gradually, stream in the cold water until the flour just comes together. Turn the mixture out onto your work surface and form into a 2-inch thick, round disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before rolling out.

Flour your working surface with tapioca flour (if gluten free) or regular flour and start rolling out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick adding more flour as you feel the dough starts to stick. You can also roll it out in between two sheets of plastic wrap of parchment paper, especially with working with the gluten free version. Cut eight 5-inch rounds of dough and place them inside eight 3 to 4-inch tartlet pans. Place a small piece of parchment paper inside each of them, fill with dried beans and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F (both convection and not) and position a rack in the middle.
Place the tart shells on a baking sheet and bake the tartlets for about 15 minutes (with the dried beans inside). Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes and remove the beans and parchment paper.

Prepare filling:
Slice the tomatoes and lay them flat on a couple of sheets of paper towels to soak up some of their juices.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk until well incorporated. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk again.
Divide the mixture in between all the cooled tart shells and arrange the tomato slices over the top.
Bake at 350F for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the center is barely set.

Panzanella Salad:
Not so much a recipe but more a big toss up according to your own appetite.
( for recipes, here is a good start)
Mine goes something like this:
some leftover bread
plenty of tomatoes
some anchovies
some olives
lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper
freshly chopped basil
fresh arugula
fresh minced garlic

Toss all the ingredients together and let sit for about an hour so the bread gets a good soaking…

An Anniversary: The Other Half Of The Team…


No recipes today. No profound thoughts about life and/or culinaria. Tonight’s dinner consists of a big antipasti platter and a few glasses of Prosecco.

I just wanted to take a moment and formerly introduce, on our 14th anniversary, the other half of the team, my husband William, a.k.a Bill, a.k.a Junior, a.k.a Billy…

Happy Anniversary Babe!

We are both working tonight but that did not prevent us from exchanging a propos cheesy cards.
Mine read I was fearless. His read he was extraordinary. I can’t wait to live the new adventures of the next 14 years.


Thank you to my dear friend Tanya of Tanya Boggs Photography for taking a few portrait shots with us last month. The firsts since we got married! She is one super talented photographer.