Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Nan Khatai (Cardamom Flavoured Indian Biscuits) & Exercises in Food Photography 1 - Aperture and DoF.

Nan Khatai is a popular delicate and melt-in-mouth Indian cookie, similar version of the shortbreads. This is my mother’s recipe that she’s been baking ever since I remember. Instead of butter or the regular ghee, my mother’s recipe uses pure vegetable Ghee, which comes in the famous brand label – Dalda in India. Here we get brands like Aseel, etc which you may substitute with. You may also real ghee like RKG, but it would give a different taste as ghee is one key ingredient that contributes to most of the flavour. So, the kind of shortening you use, decides the flavour and taste of your Nan khatai. The unique and distinct flavour of my mom’s nan khatai comes from the vegetable ghee that she uses. 

Every food blogger would want to present his/her food beautifully to make the food more appealing. So, if anyone of you wants to improve your photography skills or learn something extra, Aparna of Mydiversekitchen is doing little exercises on food photography every month. Apart from the great tutorials she has written on photogrphy, this is one great idea that could be useful for anyone who wishes to learn more on food photography or improve their photography skills. Check out the link here.

Her first exercise is based on Aperture and depth of field(DoF). In the exercise, she asks to shoot two pictures with same composition and setting but at different aperture settings to show the depth of field (DoF).

I don’t own a 50mm lens, but a wide angle lens. I use 18-200mm lens for photos and the maximum aperture it provides is f/3.5-f/6.3. I shoot my pictures in manual mode, and usually at 50mm focal length and above else I would have lot of cropping to do to avoid the unwanted bits.

Below is a diptych of one set of pictures that I shot for this project. The picture on the left is shot at f/5, shutter speed 1/15 sec, ISO 100 and picture on the right is shot at f/8, shutter speed 1/8 sec, ISO 100. Unlike 50mm, f/1.2 lens, the depth of field is not as shallow when you shoot in 18-200mm f/3.5 – f/6.3 lens, which means you will not get the background as blurry as you would get with f/1.2 lens. The photo is shot next to a large French door, with light coming from the right and a reflector placed on the left to reflect the light back to the food and to mellow down the shadow.

Left Image: f/5, shutter speed 1/15 sec, ISO 100.   Right Image: f/8, shutter speed 1/8 sec, ISO 100

But still, when you shoot the pictures at a significantly different aperture, you will be able to make out the amount of blurriness in both the pictures. You could see that the background is more blurred in the first one than the second one. The greater the aperture, blurrier the pictures will be. The aperture used in the first picture is 5 and the aperture used in the second picture is 8. Shutter speeds is adjusted accordingly to get the correct exposure – brightness.

When I asked my mom for the recipe, she told me the amount of ghee and sugar that she use, and then she told me to add enough flour to get a nice soft dough and nuts as per my wish! Typical of her when she gives me the recipes. She gives me just rough measures for her recipes and I can't believe she din't even have proper measurement for her regular cookie as well!! So I added flour little by little until I got a nice, soft dough. 

Nan Khatai (Cardamom Flavoured Indian Biscuits)
Makes around 20-22 small cookies
Recipe Courtesy: My mom

½ cup Vegetable ghee like Dalda, Aseel etc
½ cup sugar
a pinch od salt
2 tbsp Cashew nuts
1 cup plain flour
¼ tsp powdered cardamom

1. Powder sugar in a grinder to fine. Chop cashew nuts. Mix cardamom powder and salt with flour and sift once.
2. Cream ghee and powdered sugar until creamy.
3. Add flour in three parts and mix with a spoon.
4. Add chopped nuts and mix well using hands to bring the mixture together.
5. Make around 20 small balls of the dough and place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper spaced apart. Gently press the balls.
6. Bake them for 15 minutes at 180ÂșC. It doesn’t have to colour.

1. Regular ghee can be used instead of vegetable ghee.
2. You can omit nuts or use any kind of nuts.
3. You can double the amount easily and use little bit of extra flour to avoid sticking.

     This post also goes to Kerala Kitchen event hosted by Jehanne who blogs at the cookingdoctor.

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