5 Minutes With... / Rukmini Iyer / Food Stylist & Home Economist

This month we spent five minutes catching up with the talented home economist and food stylist Rukmini Iyer to discuss all things food and photography! RI3 © Simon Brown

- Can you tell us a little about yourself Rukmini? Well, I work in London as a food stylist/home economist, and recipe writer – which I absolutely love, because I get to be around and talk about food all day. When I’m not working, I still do quite lot of cooking for friends and family, and grow herbs and vegetables - with varying levels of success (this year the pheasants ate all my brassicas, alas.)

- How did you get into the food industry? I had a very lucky start into the food industry – Tom Kitchin very kindly offered me a job in the pastry section at The Kitchin after I’d finished a stage there. I’d only just finished my cookery diploma at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, so it was just incredible – and a bit overwhelming - to go into a Michelin starred kitchen as my first restaurant job. I really loved it and learned so much, but knew food styling was what I wanted to get into eventually. So I wrote to some food stylists who were kind enough to take me on as an assistant on work experience, and since then it’s just taken off.

- You’ve appeared as a contestant on MasterChef, can you tell us a little about your experience on the show? Appearing on MasterChef was probably the most surreal thing I’ve ever done! When you arrive on set, you can’t quite believe that you’re actually there - you sort of feel like you’re inside the television. If you’re me, anyway. And then you realise you have to cook something – and cook it perfectly – with cameras pointing at you! Terrifying. The crew and production team were really lovely and encouraging though, and that really helped me a lot.

Gizzie Erskine © Pal Hansen

- You gave up a career in Law in order to pursue your dreams, any regrets? None whatsoever. I only wish I’d changed career sooner.

- Who would be your dream photographer to work with? Now that would be telling! All the photographers I’ve worked with so far have been brilliant – I’m always floored by how effortlessly they take such beautiful food photographs. I couldn’t name a favourite!

- Do you have any tips on food trends for the summer? We’re hearing a lot about chia seeds! I have to admit I am not a massive fan of chia seeds… But I’d back fennel any day - for summer, it’s so lovey thinly sliced or shaved into salads, or baked into a gratin with beetroot, goats cheese, crème fraiche and hazelnuts, or finely chopped and sautéed and mixed into pork meatballs – I put it in everything!

- What is your favourite type of cuisine? I could pick a different favourite for every day of the week – I’ll eat pretty much everything. My mum’s cashew nut pilau for comfort food, Japanese if I’m feeling adventurous, tapas over drinks out, Thai for chilli heat, big, Middle Eastern style salads for dinner parties, fresh, seasonal British produce cooked simply for weeknight dinners – I could go on, but should probably stop there….

- You’ve shot with our lovely LPA Futures Holly Pickering, how was it working with her? Holly is so lovely and such a brilliant photographer! I really enjoyed working with her. Our shoot was so much fun, and I was amazed at how beautiful she made my food look through the lens. We definitely shared an aesthetic on how we wanted the photographs to look too, which made it a really good match. I’m very much looking forward to collaborating with Holly again.

RI4 © Holly Pickering

- Where do you go in London to seek inspiration for your work? I know it’s a bit touristy nowadays, but I still love going to Borough Market, where I make a beeline for Turnips, the fruit and vegetable shop. They’ve got so much incredible stuff; it’s wonderful to be able to browse and pick up beautiful, fresh produce, and feel inspired to take it home and make something wonderful. That - and the little section in Waitrose where they sell chipotle chillies and pomegranate molasses, which I have to veto myself from visiting when I’m in the shop, or I’d just go mad and fill an entire trolley.

- What can’t you leave the house without? My speed peeler and my knife roll. Although that means I’m forever in fear that a policeman will stop me and think I’m up to something incredibly dodgy.

- Have you got any restaurant tips for us Londoners? Downstairs at Terroirs, off the Strand, is my new favourite – but I think it’s been around for quite a while! Arbutus is lovely for a more formal meal too – but Dinner by Heston was definitely the best meal I’ve ever had out.

RI2 © Simon Brown

- We love your recipes on your tumblr page – can you give us a nice simple one to follow? Thank you, and of course! Here’s one of my favourite summer drinks – passionfruit lemonade. Enjoy!

Passionfruit Lemonade

-100g caster sugar -70ml water -3-4 lemons -5 passionfruit -400ml mineral water -Small pinch sea salt flakes -Fresh mint to garnish

1. Place 100g sugar in a small saucepan, along with the zest of one lemon. Pour over 70ml water, then stir gently on a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil, then remove the syrup from the heat and set aside to cool. 2. Juice the lemons over a sieve to catch the pips. You should have around 160-170ml of lemon juice. Halve the passionfruit, and scoop the seeds out into a sieve set over a bowl. Scrape the juice through the sieve using a spatula, leaving the seeds behind. 3. Sieve the sugar syrup into the lemon juice, then add the passionfruit juice and a very small pinch of salt. Stir in 400ml cold mineral water, adding a little more if needed to taste. Chill well in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving over ice, garnished with fresh mint leaves.

Thanks Rukmini!