Professional Practice~Advanced Studio 2~ Proposals~ Jamie Holman~Jo Neil


  • 01 ~ Friendship Feast Project 
  • 02 ~ Research: Jamie Oliver (research for the refugee cookbook)
  • 03 ~ The First Meeting (with the refugees)
  • 04 ~ Photo Inspiration: Robert Capa
  • 05 ~ Friendship Feast Continued…
  • 06 ~ Inspiration for the cookbook
  • 07 ~ Inspiration for the cookbook
  • 08 ~ Sample Menu fromSarah
  • 09 ~ Sample Menu from Shamima
  • 10 ~ Studio Portraits (refugees)
  • 11 ~ Friendship Feast Celebration
  • 12 ~ What Else Have I Been Up To? (brief mention of studio work for final exhibition project)
  • 13 ~ Lee Walsh: The Green Chair
  • 14 ~ Further Research: Irish Museum of Modern Art (brief mention with some of my photographs for inspiration)
  • 15 ~ Advanced Studio 2 (Brief)
  • 16 ~ Other Work (my work)
  • 17 ~ Professional Practice Assessment ~ Liasing with Amy at the news desk @ Lancashire Evening Telegraph
  • 18 ~ Pdf Link: Email to Amy @ Lancashire Telegraph
  • 19 ~ Other Work (my work)
  • 20 ~ Corona Virus Pandemic
  • 21a ~ Lockdown Zoom Meetings | Guest Artists | Planning a group exhibition
  • 21b ~ Zoom Meetings with Tutors and Group Meetings regarding planning our online exhibition
  • 22 ~ Advanced Studio 2: Proposals ~ Pdf Link responding to open calls, Application for a Masters degree studying at Berlin University of the Arts
  • 23 ~ Advanced Studio 2: Proposals ~ responding to open calls: 24 ~ John Moore’s Painting Prize 2020
  • 24 ~ Advanced Studio 2: Proposals ~ Responding to open calls: LensCulture Critic’s Choice 2020 Entry
  • 25 ~ Advanced Studio 2: Proposals ~ Group Instagram Page
  • 26 ~ Advanced Studio 2 Proposals: Responding to open calls: Email to Amy @ Lancashire Evening telegraph
  • 27 ~ Lockdown Blues
  • 28 ~ Artist Inspiration ~ Vivian Maier
  • 29 ~ “Empty Streets” Photography Lockdown Project, responding to the Pandemic
  • 30 ~ “Empty Streets” Photography Lockdown Project, responding to the pandemic
  • 31 ~ Lockdown Painting Project ~ Gerhard Richter Inspired
  • 32 ~ Zoom Meeting with Alex Zawadzki
  • 33 ~ Professional Practice Assessment: A critique of an exhibition you have seen in the last 6 months
  • 34 ~ PDF Link ~ Critique of an on-line exhibition (David Hockney)
  • 35 ~ Advanced Studio 2 Practice ~ pdf Link PROPOSAL for LIVE EXHIBITION
  • 36 ~ Advanced Studio 2 Practice ~ pdf Link Proposal for on-line exhibition
  • 37 ~ Professional Practice ~ LIFE AFTER UNIVERSITY

1:        Friendship Feast  Project


Above: Group Photograph at the Celebration, M.E.A


Above: Guests are arriving as we lay the starters on the tables, M.E.A 

Valerie Todd <>

Thu 10/17/2019 2:54 PM

Hi Michelle,

You will be able to come and introduce yourself but you may not be able to stay with your nieces because it is a kitchen with sharp knives and hot products, so it would most probably breach the health and safety regulations. It is not our space so we need to adhere to their regulations for insurance purposes.

See you tomorrow,


Above: Correspondence between Val and I concerning the project.


I was asked by tutor Jamie Holman if I would like to take part in a photography project which involved taking photographs of a group of Refugee Women who were making a cookery book. The project was to get them involved within the community and to give them the skills in which to do that. In the past I have been a part of a group of asian women who practice Sufism.

Above Left: Me wearing a headscarf as a mark of respect.

Above Right: Pictured with two of the girls. Blackburn, M.E.A

I went on a weekly basis with my niece, who converted to Muslim. This is how I became involved with the girls. We would meet up at each others’ houses, cook, sing and pray and eat together. Sadly, I am not a part of this anymore.

So, when my tutor asked if I would like to be involved with the refugee project I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to get started. Besides myself, there was Shamima, Sarah and Faye who were part of the team. It was their job to befriend the girls and help them with buying ingredients etc… Nudrat organised the project and secured the kitchen space each week.

2:             Research: JAMIE OLIVER 

(Research for the Refugee Cookbook)

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Above: Chef, Jamie Oliver, The Naked Chef.

I remember when Jamie Oliver hit the screens some twenty years ago. My dad said to me “Have you watched that chef on the tv, he’s only young but he’s really good”, my dad said “It makes you want to go out and buy a pasta making machine”

So I watched him and continued watching him every week his show was aired. He was young, fresh and hip and he was a breath of fresh air. He was cute too, with his shaggy hair and the way he slid down his circular stairway bannister to answer the door. I bought his cookery books and I still use them today. Even as he was starting out, the filming took place in his super hip pad, his kitchen was spacious and he had the right equipment. As he became more famous, his shows are much more grand. However, we didn’t have this for the refugee ladies. We were lucky to get the use of a kitchen space at Wesley Hall which is a few minutes walk from our University. The kitchen was drab and there are unsightly stickers all over the doors.

3:              THE FIRST MEETING

(First meeting with the refugees)

I went along to the first meeting with the girls where they cooked pizza and lasagne. This was just to ease them in and allow them to meet each other.

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Above Slideshow: Getting to know each other.

Michelle Ayers

Fri 10/25/2019 8:39 PM

Hi Val.

I have attached some of the photographs I took last week at Wesley Hall.

They were taken using a Fisheye lens which ‘bends’ the lines. The Fisheye

is good for getting everything in the picture, but going forward I shall be

using my 24-70 mm lens.

I have taken the most of these photographs without looking through the lens.

You will see that I am a huge fan of blur in my images, the most of these photo’s

are mainly to show the ‘feel’ of how the ladies work together…

I shall be looking forward to meeting up with them and the Blackburn College girls

for coffee etc…

There is a meet up on Wednesday, but I shall be returning from Berlin that day

with my autistic niece, whom I shall have with me until Thursday night, Friday morning.

I haven’t edited the photographs too much, although they needed the temperature

reducing, due to the kitchen cupboards appearing quite ‘Orange’.

I hope you like the photographs and these probably will not be used in the book.

Kind Regards

Michelle Elaine Ayers

Above: Email correspondence between tutors and I.


Above: Working as a team, M.E.A


Above: Working as a team, M.E.A

The brief for my part was to go along each week and take photographs of the girls cooking their dish. Each week, the girls took turns in cooking their favourite dish from home. I was told that afterwards, I was to make Fifteen copies of a cookbook to give the girls and a copy each for the volunteers. I was told that it was up to me, on how the book was made and what photographs went into the book. The first time I went to the first Friendship Meeting, I used a 15mm lens which enabled me to take photographs of the whole kitchen. (see above)

As you can see from the above two photographs, space was very limited and the kitchen was far far from ideal! For a professional cookbook, a ‘front facing’ kitchen would be used so that the chef is looking into the camera. Here, I was just getting photographs of a lot of people’s backs. The cupboards were an awful orange colour and the lighting was awful. Even if I had wanted to, the kitchen was much too small for any kind of studio lighting and it would have been an health and safety hazard. This made getting any decent photographs very difficult indeed.


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Above Sideshow: Batoul Zahri, Week One, M.E.A

Sadly, I missed the first week due to a family emergency, so I was invited to Batoul’s house to photograph her re-making the recipe. The slideshow above is just a small selection of photographs I took that day. The lighting was quite good as her kitchen had beautiful light streaming in through the window. From start to finish it took a good two hours as the lamb needed to stew and the couscous needed to be cooked three times and between each cooking, the grains needed to be carefully separated as you can see in the slideshow above. Sarah, one of the girls from our college who was helping took some photographs on her mobile phone for the week I missed. However, I wanted to do the shoot with Batoul because I have my own photographic style and I wanted the photo’s to be consistent throughout the book.

As you can see I wrote in the email above that I was concerned about the kitchen and the orange pine cupboards that they didn’t photograph well. I have cropped the photographs every week in order to take out as much of the background as possible. I shall include photographs throughout to show what the situation was like.


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Above Slideshow: Sonia Asim, Week Two, M.E.A

Above: Photographs of Fruit Salad and Spinach and Nut Salad, M.E.A


Because the kitchen was so small, I constantly had someone walking in front of the camera and it caused me to regularly miss my shot. There were more than Ten people in the kitchen at any one time.


Above: Crowded Kitchen, M.E.A

I want to add these photographs as I go along to remind the viewer what the exact situation was like. As you can see the kitchen gets a bit crowded.


Above: The ladies are talking and getting to know each other, M.E.A


Above: The ladies prepare the fruit salad, M.E.A

These photographs won’t be used in the book. I took them to show how it was. It was quite difficult sometimes getting good images as empty packages would be in the way or tins of food so I would try and crop these out as best I could. The ladies did work well as a team and in the beginning they were a little bit quiet, but as time went on, this changed dramatically and it shows in the photographs I took. For me, it was a pleasure taking part in the project. I won’t lie, it was quite stressful sometimes. The sessions were to last from 12.30-2.30pm but every week we went over our time and we weren’t finishing until 4.30pm as the dishes took quite a long time to cook. EACH recipe served Fifteen people, so there were a lot of ingredients and preparation needed as everything was made from fresh.


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Above Slideshow: Atiya Farhad, Week Three, M.E.A

Michelle Ayers

Fri 11/15/2019 7:09 PM

Above: Email correspondence between tutors and I.

Above: Fruit Salad, M.E.A

As I said in the email (above) to Tutors, I really wasn’t happy with the photographs as they were too orange. I also mentioned in the email above that the dessert photographs weren’t suitable to go into the book as they looked awful! They tasted really delicious, but they looked like I’m sorry to say, but they looked like Nappy Poop! For Week Three’s shoot I took an LED light with me that I used handheld in one hand with my camera in the other! It wasn’t easy, it was quite difficult handling the two as my camera is really heavy. I wanted to focus on the lady who’s turn it was to cook their recipe as this meant a lot to them and you could see that it meant a lot to them. The photography shoots were very tiring and with so many people in a small space you usually left with a migraine!

4:     Photo Inspiration: Robert Capa

I’m a visual artist and I have my own photography style. I like to use a lot of blur in my work. This mostly comes from my admiration for Robert Capa, a war photojournalist who’s book, ‘Slightly Out of Focus’, is one of my favourite photo books. His photographs were out of focus because he was running alongside the soldiers on the frontline and in this photograph below, he was holding his camera up out of the water.

Above: Robert Capa, Slightly Out of Focus.

It is because of photographer’s like Capa, that paved the way for future artists. Because he did it, it makes it ok for us to do it too. A lot of my work involves Out of Focus photographs. I wanted this to be a feature in the cookbook. As I looked through various cookbooks, there are blurred photographs featured. I also at times heavily cropped my photographs because the walls and kitchen cupboards and drawers were covered in stickers and notices.

5:        Friendship Feast Continued



Above: Safety notices cover the walls, M.E.A

Here, you can see the wall is covered with health and safety notices and various certificates which doesn’t look good when you are trying to make a cookbook with the recipes written out posh like you would expect from a fancy upmarket restaurant.


Above: Out of Focus, M.E.A

Sadly, because of the various notices on the walls, I didn’t think it would look good featured in a cookery book. In this photograph, Batoul is mostly sharp whilst the background is blurred. I tend to favour images like this and even the fact that the photo is blurred, the notices on the wall are unsightly.


Above: Bottom Shelf, Milk jugs and sugar bowls, M.E.A

These stickers are on all of the cupboard doors and drawers. Again, not an ideal setting for a cookbook. I found myself having to crop images to try and take them out of the picture.

6:         Inspiration For The Book

Above: Jamie Oliver.

I have taken photographs from some of the pages from Jamie Oliver cookery books I own. It show you him doing the shopping, planting herbs and with with his staff in the kitchen. This is what I wanted for my cookbook. Photographs of the ladies having fun together and capturing the moment. The photographs are set out different in his books also, some are blurred, close-ups, one big photo lots of little photo’s, colour and black and white photographs.

Above: Jamie Oliver, The Return of the Naked Chef.

Here is a variety of photographs from his book, the fruit cobbler photograph is very interesting. It starts with the frozen fruits, then whilst the fruits are cooking in the pan and the final photo is the end result. I have photographs of raw meat being washed and prepared in the kitchen and I wanted to incorporate them into the Friendship Feast cookbook. The photograph on the right is blurred and sharp which is what I am looking for with my pictures.


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Above Slideshow: Nabila & Tabinda Khavas, Week Four, M.E.A

Michelle Ayers

Mon 12/16/2019 9:38 PM

Hi Val/Jamie
These are the photographs from week four. There’s a couple of beauties here. I adore this mother and daughter duo, they’re lovely. I shall do some research in the New Year, I saw an interesting cook book in the little coffee shop in town. I’ll probably take a few pics with my mobile for inspiration. I’ll do some research, I’ll look at a variety of cookbooks, especially ‘The Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver’, when he was just starting out and young and hip.
P.s. Trust me to know what photographs will look good and what won’t. When I’m there, I literally can ‘see’ the scene in photographs. Which is the same when I’m working on location. I see everything in ‘images’. The last two times, I have worked in Manual, so I haven’t used LED light, the photographs will be more crisp, the only downside is being able to do the settings quickly. So some might be underexposed and some overexposed (slightly dark or slightly light) but I think it’s a better way for me to work.
Anyway, I’ll see you in the New Year, wishing you both a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Michelle Elaine Ayers

Above: Email correspondence between tutors and I.

7:       Inspiration For The Book

My initial idea was to have a cookbook/art book which isn’t unusual really, especially when you look at Jamie Oliver’s books for example. The photographs in his books are hip and fresh and very much like looking at a photo book with recipes as a bonus. I wanted the reader/viewer to see the relationship between the women evolve through the weeks. Which is evident and clear in my photographs as the weeks went on. It was a joy to see and it was a joy for me to edit and work on those pictures. We are steering away from the political side, which I still find very interesting, as a Visual Artist myself, and focussing more on the friendship and relationship between the women involved and watching that transpire is very beautiful for me. As I said in the email above, I did look at some Jamie Oliver cookbooks for ideas even though the ideas I had originally were pretty strong and I guess I was looking for confirmation really, Yes, this is allowed. You can have blurred photographs in a cook book, you can have pictures of people laughing together and working, cleaning, having a chat, making tea or washing the dishes. it’s ok to have different sized photographs and mix colour with black and white. Grainy photographs, out of focus, reflections, cropped, uncropped, totally blurred…. I wanted it to be different.

Above: Jamie Oliver

The photo’s above shows how he incorporates a mosaic of pictures, different sizes some are only thumbnails but I like the layout. It’s also a way of getting as many pictures in the book to show the viewer/reader the journey he took to get there. I especially like the black and white photograph of Jamie with his long time friend Genaro who no doubt taught him a lot, especially about making fresh pasta. It show that there are no rules. There is no rule book that says what you can and cannot do.

        Friendship Feast Continued



Above: Majhbeen holds a knife, M.E.A

This is the visual artist side of me coming to the forefront. I saw Majhbeen with the knife and instantly snapped away. I won’t be using this image in the cookbook for obvious reasons but you could tell a few stories with this image, taken out of context. The photographs I took are true and tell a story. It is a celebration of different cultures, women from all walks of life and different countries coming together as one and working together to produce something amazing.

“P.s. Trust me to know what photographs will look good and what won’t.” M.E.A

I quoted this in the email above. On that particular day, I had two colleagues telling me to take a photo of this and take a photo of that etc…

Above: Photograph of the oven, Raw file, M.E.A

I was asked to take a photograph of the bread cooking in the oven. I knew that I couldn’t do that because of the reflection in the oven door, but I took the photo anyway just to show why I took photographs of some things, and not others. I wrote, please trust me to know what photographs to take. I see things in front of me unfold and I know what looks good and if it’s worth pressing the shutter or not. I think also, that as a professional artist, I know what I do and this is probably why I work for myself. I like to take my own images and edit my own images in Lightroom. As serious artists, we know what we do. It’s like telling David Hockney how he must paint his painting.

For food photography, you need a whole load of professional equipment and in the little kitchen we had available, it was just me and my Canon 5DS. You cannot eat the food that they use in the professional food photographs as they do all sorts to it to make it look good for the picture. Adding dyes to enhance colour or adding a browning substance to raw meat to make it look like it’s just come out of the oven.

You also have to take into account, that the photographs taken for a professional cook book are taken in a studio and each dish is set up professionally with studio lights. I was taking photographs whilst they were cooking and I only have seconds to get the shot as it is happening. The ladies were each working fast as they were on a set time scale so I had to be quick and work fast in order to keep up.;

What do I need for food photography?

Here are a few tools to help you get started in food photography.

  • 1 – Camera Bodies. *Always be on the look out for good used or open box deals.
  • 2 – Macro Lens. …
  • 3 – Tripod w/ Lateral Arm. …
  • 4 – Reflector. …
  • 5 – Bounce Card. …
  • 6 – Scrim Fabric. …
  • 7 – Lighting. …
  • 8 – Tethering Cable.

I would like to add here, that year three photography students were asked if they wanted to do the project and nobody took up the offer. I threw myself feet first into the project and I thought to myself, well, I’m good with people, I’ll treat it like I do when I’m out on a location shoot. Anything crops up along the way, then I’ll deal with it. The biggest problems were the lighting and the size of the kitchen.


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Above Slideshow: Aurora Alija, Week Five, M.E.A

Michelle Ayers

Fri 1/24/2020 9:07 PM
Hi Val/Jamie
These are the photographs from Week 5.
The group has bonded as the weeks go on and now we’re starting to see the difference in the photographs. There’s lots of laughter and I love it. It’s so good editing the photographs and seeing the smiles on their faces and the bonding.

Above: Email correspondence between tutors and I.

I think Aurora’s week was the best as this is when they started to bond well and everyone loved getting involved making the bread. It was plain to see that the whole group love making bread and they each made their own shapes. Batoul made some asian style paratha bread from the dough and we were all able to taste it. There was a lot of laughter that particular week and nobody really took notice of myself and the camera. You can see sometimes that a lot of the ladies were conscious of the camera and posed a lot, but those weren’t the photographs I was looking for. I wanted them in their natural state. I’m personally not a fan of posed photographs. This is probably why I hate studio photography so much. Although you can say it’s easy work and it pays the bills, I prefer doing it the hard way. I often get myself into trouble whilst documenting the streets. I think I knew very early on what I wanted to do and the kind of photographs I wanted to make. I’m very much a people person and I like being out on the streets doing documentary style photography. So when I was offered this project you can imagine it was quite a challenge. I particularly liked the camaraderie between Aurora and Nabila who were doubled over in stitches at whatever they were talking about. I liked the idea of putting the photographs in the book in sequence of events. It allows the viewer/reader to put themselves there, in the kitchen and experience what we all experienced. It’s a cook book but it’s also a visual diary, it’s a story. I want the viewer to not only enjoy making the delicious recipes each lady made each week, but I want them to enjoy the photographs and their journey too.


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Above Slideshow: Majhbeen Ahzadi, Christmas Special, Week Six, M.E.A

Michelle Ayers

Fri 1/24/2020 9:54 PM
Hi Val/Jamie
These are week 6.
I’ll edit some more over the weekend and send them to you as soon as possible. There’s lots of laughter again. They are all getting along brilliantly.

Above: Email correspondence between tutors and I.

I have added 80 photographs to the slideshow above as this was the Christmas Celebrations. There were lots of laughter around the table as everyone pulled the Christmas crackers and lots of bad joke telling, as you often get inside them! But you can see in the photographs that they all enjoyed the day. Sitting down to eat was a big part and this is what Muslims typically do on a regular basis. I have Kurdish and Syrian friends who I have cooked for and we typically sit on the floor. We lay all of the food out on the floor and sit, talk and eat. They will cook meals for each other and send leftover food to each others’ houses, this is what they do. I have had Kurdish friends cook meals for me also and it is through this that I learnt how to cook rice and curries, properly. I can cook a curry dish better than you can get at any Indian restaurant. Although Kurdish prefer their food with no spices and quite bland. It was interesting for me seeing the ladies cooking food from different cultures and each Town or City has their own take on how a dish should be cooked. Most will make biryani for example but each is done different. Not only have I enjoyed working on the project, but I have learnt so much about cooking andI’m able to do this at home. For our Christmas dinner, which I spent in Berlin, I cooked Chicken Biryani for a small group of guests and it was delicious. My friends, Lili and Ananas particularly enjoyed learning making a new dish and I also made the Yogurt sauce that Asians serve with the dish. Which is plain yogurt, coriander, garlic and chilli, with a little water. I am sure that the people who buy the book will enjoy it as much as I did.


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Above Slideshow: Week Seven, Asarum Begum, M.E.A

We are on week seven already and in the photographs you can see the girls laughing and chatting, sitting around the table. They have become good friends and really close. It was a shame that they were on a two hour time frame because they never really had the chance to cook their recipe how they would have liked. A two hour time slot wasn’t long enough as the whole menu needed to be prepped from scratch, the vegetables needed peeling and chopping, the meat needed to be cooked for a certain amount of time. I know when I make a chicken curry from scratch it takes two hours for the meat to cook and the gravy to reduce. The biggest problem was the cooker. It was an electric cooker and because they were cooking for over fifteen people, they were using very large pots and pans and the cooker wasn’t big enough to accommodate all of the pans. Also, we couldn’t get the correct heat for frying the onions and various vegetables… In an ideal world, we really needed a good quality gas range cooker. So each week the girls were deflated and were quite upset really because they wanted to do the best that they could. The cooker was the main reason why they went over their time by two hours each week. I wasn’t getting home until after 5pm and after the photo session, I needed to go and sit down in a coffee shop for a coffee to sort of chill out. Also, the knives we had available were not much use and were blunt so this took time preparing the vegetables. They really had to make do with what they had. Sometimes it was heartbreaking having to tell them that they needed to dish up even though their dish wasn’t quite finished because we were going too much over time.

Week Eight

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Above Slideshow: Week Eight, Fozia Aftab, M.E.A



Batoul Zahri
Couscous with 7 vegetables And
Fresh Mint Tea
Cooked: Friday 1st November 2019Recipe: Couscous and 7 vegetablesDari fine couscous
Lamb shoulder meat ( BIG CHUNKS) Carrots
Courgettes (BIG)
Turnips (MEDIUM)
Bunch of coriander
Parsley bundle
Seasonal Pumpkins (MEDIUM) White Cabbage (sweet pointed) Onions (BIG – thinly sliced)
Tinned tomatoes (400g)
Chillies (2 RED 2 GREEN)
Crushed turmeric powder
Ground Ginger powder
Black pepper
Salt to taste
Fresh mint tea leaves bundle
Sweet potatoes (BIG)
Chick-peas tins (drained)FRESH MINT TEAFresh mint tea bundles Ahmed Tea grains Sugar


3kg 1.5kg x5

x5 x1 x1 x3 x1 x5 x2

x4 2tbspoons 2tbspoons 1tablespoon

x2 x8 x2

x2 4tea spoons 2tbl spoons

3tbl spoons

Boiled water

1 ltr

STEP 1 – Prepare Vegetables


➢ Peel the carrots and trim both ends
➢ Cut in half
➢ Slice each half-length wise
➢ Cut along the edges of the carrot core and remove it ➢ Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into quarters

➢ Peel the turnips and cut into quarters
➢ Trim both ends of the courgette
➢ Cut in half and then slice each half-length wise
➢ Cut the cabbage into quarters, trim the hard end and remove the outer leaves ➢ Remove pumpkin seeds (cut in half) the cut into big chunks
➢ Chilli pepper


STEP 2 – Prepare Meat

  • ➢ Beef/Lamb (WASH THOROUGHLY)
  • ➢ Chopped/sliced onions
  • ➢ Tomatoes
  • ➢ Fresh parsley
  • ➢ Chickpeas (drained) FOR SPICES:
  • ➢ Saffron
  • ➢ Ground ginger
  • ➢ Turmeric
  • ➢ Black pepper
  • ➢ Salt
  • ➢ Olive oil


1⁄2 cup

  • ➢ In the bottom of the bottom of the couscous pot, combine the meat, olive oil, saffron, turmeric, ground ginger, black pepper and salt.
  • ➢ Add the chopped onion and mix. Brown the onions for a few minutes
  • ➢ Add tomatoes and mix
  • ➢ Add fresh herbs; coriander and parsley
  • ➢ Cover the meat with water
  • ➢ Drain the chickpeas and add to rest of the ingredients
  • ➢ Cover the pot the pot and let the meat cook for 20 minutes


Step 3 – Prepare Couscous

  • ➢ Place 2 packets of couscous in a large plate (preferably the traditional morocco plate called gasaa)
  • ➢ Add some cold water and work the couscous – lifts the grains, rub them, give them some love and make sure they are all coated with water
  • ➢ Place the couscous top over a plate to minimise kitchen mess
  • ➢ Then transfer the couscous into the couscous topStep 4 – Steam Couscous ROUND 1
  • ➢ After cooking the meat for 20 minutes, place the couscous top over the couscous bottom
  • ➢ Seal both pots with a cheesecloth or foil, this way you don’t lose any steam.
  • ➢ After 5 minutes or so, you will notice steam rising from the couscous
  • ➢ Now start your timer and let the couscous steam for 15 minutesTIMES UP!!
  • ➢ Empty the couscous in the large plate and gently break the couscous grains with a fork – don’t want any lumps
  • ➢ Add some vegetable/olive oil and continue fluffing the couscous
  • ➢ Add a large pinch of salt and mix
  • ➢ Now add a little bit of water, and continue fluffingLET THE COUSCOUS REST WHILE YOU START COOKING THE VEGGIES!!STEP 5 – Cook Root Vegetables➢ Cooke the root vegetables first; carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips (these require more cooking time)➢ Place them with the meat and add boiling water to cover it all (Don’t fill to the top or it will ruin the couscous)Step 6 – Steam Couscous ROUND 2➢ Transfer the couscous in the couscous top and place it back over the meat ➢ Seal both pots
    ➢ After 5 minutes or so you will see steam rising form the couscous
    ➢ Now start you timer again and let the couscous steam for 15 minutesTIMES UP!!➢ Empty the couscous in a large plate and fluff
    ➢ Add a little bit of water and gently break all the lumps with a forkLET THE COUSCOUS REST FOR 5 MINUTES WHILE YOU ARE COOKING THE OTHER VEGETABLESStep 7 – Cook the other vegetables➢ First, check on the root vegetables
    ➢ If any veg require more cooking time allow this
    ➢ Any vegetables that are cooked remove them from the pot and place them in a plate ➢ Add the other vegetables; courgettes, cabbage and pumpkin

Step 8 – Steam Couscous ROUND 3

  • ➢ Transfer the couscous in the couscous pot and place it back over the meat
  • ➢ Seal both pots again
  • ➢ Let the couscous steam for 15 minutes or until doneEMPTY THE COUSCOUS IN THE LARGE PLATE AND FLUFF AGAIN WITH OLIVE OILStep 9 – Steam Couscous ROUND 3➢ Check the veggies and remove the one that are ready out of the pot ➢ Remove the herbs and discard
    ➢ Check on the meat.. cooked?
    ➢ Taste your sauce and adjust your seasoning; salt and pepper➢ Time for all the veggies to come back to the pot Step 10 – Plate couscous➢ First place the couscous in a dome shape
    ➢ Pour some of the broth over the couscous grains
    ➢ Place the meat in the centre
    ➢ Arrange the veggies around and on top of the couscousIn a separate bowl, pour the broth and serve on the side


➢ Boil 1 litre of water
➢ Add fresh mint leaves
➢ Add sugar and salt
➢ Leave for 2 minutes and serve



I copied the menu from Sarah and pasted it to show you just how long the menu was. Although it is nicely set out, It isn’t suitable to put into print in a book.

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Above: Screenshots of Sarah’s menu, M.E.A

As you can see, it is far too long. It is impossible to have so much space in between as it will not work in a book. I think about what I would be thinking if it were I reading this menu in a book and I would think it’s far too long and I wouldn’t be bothered to read it. Below, I have set it out a much simpler version which is easy to follow. For the refugee cookbook, we are not looking to copy that of a Michelin star restaurant. Our book is reality. We have ten refugee women working in a kitchen space and for them, this is heaven and far from what they are used to. They thought it was wonderful to be in such a spacious kitchen however the reality is, it is what it is. You cannot make a Michelin star cookbook out of something which is clearly not. I have looked through various cookbooks and the recipe layout is fairly simple and usually takes up a page.

BELOW: How I re-wrote Sarah’s menu to fit a page of the cookbook.

Batoul Zahri
 Couscous and 7 Vegetables

2kg Dari fine cousous – 3kg Lamb Shoulder cut into large chunks 1.5kg Carrots 5 Large courgettes – 5 Medium turnips – 1 Bunch coriander – 1 Bunch parsley 3 Medium seasonal pumpkins – 1 Sweetheart cabbage – 5 Large onions, thinly sliced 2x400g Tinned tomatoes – 2 Red and 2 Green chillies – 1 Tablespoon black pepper2 Tablespoons turmeric powder – 2 Tablespoons ground ginger – Salt to taste1 Bunch fresh mint – 8 Large sweet potatoes – 2 Tins chickpeas (drained) – 1⁄2 Cup olive oil – 4 Teaspoons Ahmed tea grains – 2 Tablespoons sugar – Pinch of saffron

Step 1 Prepare Vegetables

Peel and cut the carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, cabbage into quarters, cut the courgettes into quarters, cut the pumpkin into large chunks, add the chillies whole. In the bottom of a couscous pot, or a large pot, combine the meat, olive oil, saffron, turmeric, ground ginger, salt and pepper to taste. Add the onions, stir, and let brown for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and stir, add the coriander and parsley, the drained chickpeas and chillies cover the meat with water. Cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes.

Step 2 Prepare Couscous

Place the couscous onto a large plate (preferably the traditional morocco plate called Gasaa), add some cold water and rinse under the tap (see photograph) then work the couscous with your fingers and rub gently to make sure all of the grains are covered with water. Put the couscous into the couscous top.

Step 3 Steam Couscous (round one)

After cooking the meat for 20 minutes, place the couscous top over the couscous bottom and seal both pots with cheesecloth or foil to keep in the steam. After five minutes or so, you will notice steam rising from the couscous, at this point, set timer and steam for fifteen minutes. Empty the couscous onto the large plate and gently break the grains with a fork to get rid of all of the lumps. Add some olive oil and continue to fluff the couscous. Add salt to taste and mix, then add a little water and continue to fluff the couscous. Leave the couscous to rest whilst you start cooking the vegetables. First place the carrots, sweet potatoes and turnips with the meat and add boiling water to cover, but don’t fill it to the top (this will ruin the couscous). Transfer the couscous back into the couscous top and place it back over the meat and seal both pots. After five minutes, set timer and steam for another fifteen minutes. Empty the couscous onto the large plate and fluff with a fork. Add a little water and continue to fluff gently with a fork. Let the couscous rest whilst you continue with the rest of the vegetables.

Step 4 Cook Rest of the Vegetables

First, check the root vegetables, any vegetables that are cooked remove them and set aside. Add the courgettes, cabbage and pumpkin. Transfer the couscous back into the couscous top and place over the meat and seal with foil. Leave the couscous to steam for 15 minutes. Empty the couscous onto the large plate, drizzle with olive oil and continue to fluff again with a fork. Taste the sauce and add seasoning if needed. Check the meat is cooked, then remove the herbs and discard. Add the couscous into a dome shaped pot and pour some of the broth over the couscous. Place the meat in the centre and arrange the vegetables around the dish.

Step 5 Fresh Mint Tea

Boil 1 litre of water, add the fresh mint leaves, add sugar to taste, leave for 2 minutes and serve.

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Above: Screenshot of the recipe I re-wrote, M.E.A

As you can see from my version of the menu, I have had to re-write the whole menu and cut it down so it will fit on a full page. I have made it as simple as possible so the viewer/reader can follow it more easily.

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Above: Screenshot of my computer screen, M.E.A

As you can see on my computer screen, I have lots of files on my desktop, all of them directly connected to the Friendship Feast Project. It is very time consuming. A photographer’s work is never done once the shoot has finished. We have to go over the photographs we took and edit them in Lightroom. Alone, this can take several more hours. Everything has to be put in a file on my external, which in this case is Tyrion 4TB. (top right corner) You can see that I have three externals altogether in which my work is stored. On each of these are thousands of images, over three years of work. I only started using externals just a bit over three years ago. I used to store my photographs on USB sticks which is not ideal and you should always back up your work on an external and regularly update it!. Once I have finished writing this part of my blog, I shall store all of these files away and clear the desktop ready for the next topic.

9:        Below: Shamima’s Menu

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Above: Screenshot of Shamima’s Menu, M.E.A

Sarah and Shamima were helping out each week by taking the girls food shopping and taking the shopping back to university to store overnight in the fridge ready for the next day. Sarah and Sham put the girls at ease and befriended them and were available for the girls to talk to if they needed. each week, Sarah and Sham took turns in following the girls and writing down step by step what ingredients were used and the method etc… As you can see from the screenshots above, both Sarah and Sham have written the menu completely different to one another! I wasn’t able to use their written menu in the book as it needs to be the same format throughout the book. I had also been busy painting a series of paintings for my final degree show, I was working as many days as I could, and taking the Friday off in order to photograph the refugee girls. I was going into university at around 2pm and often working until 8-9pm in order to get my paintings finished. I did not have time to modify either Sarah or Shamima’s recipe so each matched as I had other things to do besides this project. I thought that the simplest way was for me to write my own version of the recipe so it fit the format of the book.

Week Nine

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Above Slideshow: Nasreen Tehrani, Week Nine, M.E.A

The whole group were looking forward to Nasreen’s lamb kebabs. How she cooked it was totally unexpected and they were delicious. This recipe was one of my favourites as it was so easy to do. I enjoy working these photographs and looking back at them puts a huge smile on my face. Cooking the kebabs in a frying pan on the hob is a brilliant idea, and is better than anything you could get at a takeaway. The kebabs HAD to be perfect so Nasreen made a few extra to make sure that each dish had a perfect kebab! The women really do take pride in their cooking. For me, the weeks weren’t easy. It was a constant battle trying to get the perfect angle and because the cooker was installed the way it was, it was extremely difficult getting in to take a photograph. Especially when there were two or three women stood around the cooker. Quite often I would get a perfect shot, only for someone to stand in the way of the camera it was frustrating at times. There was one of the girls (Sarah) who didn’t want to be in the photographs but always insisted on being in the forefront of what was happening. This made my job very difficult and she thought I was being mean when I asked Val if she could ask her to stand away from the camera. It stopped me from being able to use some really good photographs I had taken. On a few I was able to crop Sarah out of the image, but in the most, I just wasn’t able to use the photograph which was a shame because I would have used them for the book.


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Above Slideshow: Abeer Abdul-Hanan, Week Ten, M.E.A

After week seven I didn’t send the following photographs from weeks 8, 9 and 10 as I was really busy with university work. I did email Val and Jamie the photographs I took of the girls in the studio however. Sending the photographs every week was very time consuming and I was only able to upload one photograph at a time. This is because the files are very large and there’s a limit of how big a file you can send. Since I had over one hundred photographs to send each week you can appreciate how much time this takes. By this point, I thought that the tutors had a very good idea of the kind of photographs I was taking and I informed them that I would put all of the photographs I had taken on the project and transfer them onto a USB stick each for tutors val and Jamie.

Below: PDF, sample of how I want the book to look

Batoul Zahri


This is an example of how I want the book to look. Some things need to be moved around and I need to do this in square format which is the format I have decided on for the book. I will probably have this printed in a soft copy as it makes it easy for the reader to carry it around. Since the Pandemic everything has been put on hold but after our hand in date on 5th June I intend on getting the book ready to be proof read and ready for print.

10:        Studio Portraits

I began taking studio portraits of the women and I had managed to get seven portrait sessions done. But with the holidays and I was sick for five weeks and then came the corona virus I haven’t been able to finish all of the portrait sessions. I have three left to do and I’m not sure I will be able to get them finished due to the lockdown. I did ask in our WhatsApp Friendship Feast Group if any of the three remaining women would like to have their portraits taken outside, following social distancing rules, but I think they are too embarrassed. Nabila and Tabinda were very embarrassed about meeting me in the Beacon Centre and asked couldI take their photographs in the car park! They did eventually come to the studio and once they were there, they really enjoyed posing for the photographs.


Above: Nabila and Tabinda posing in front of my painting, M.E.A


Above: Nabila and Tabinda posing in front of my painting, M.E.A


Above: Nabila helps Tabinda with her dress, M.E.A

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Above: Nabila and Tabinda posing for the photoshoot, M.E.A

They were shy at first, but once they stepped foot in the studio they became at ease and really enjoyed the shoot. They were doing lots of poses and mother and daughter helped each other with their dresses to make sure each looked ‘just right’. They insisted on having their photographs taken in front of my painting so they could show their friends. They were a joy to work with and I adore this mother and daughter duo.

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Above Slideshow: Studio portraits of the women, some with their children, M.E.A

The studio sessions went really well and it allowed me to show them what I do in the studio at university. Alongside the refugee project, I have also been taking photographs and painting. The refugee project takes up a whole day for the shoot and then another day editing the photographs. It was a fabulous experience for me and I’m thankful I was asked to do the photography. I love all of the ladies who were involved with the project and once the lockdown is over, we can meet up again for coffee. The biggest task now is to create the cookbook. Which I am finding out it isn’t very easy especially when I have no experience whatsoever about making a book or publishing etc…


Jamie Holman <>
Fri 2/7/2020 8:55 AM
Michelle Ayers;
Michelle this is great work – and you are going above and beyond (as I knew you would) – great that you brought the community into college, and thank you for the generous time you are giving the project. 
These are the times when Im delighted to recommend fine art students to colleagues and commissioners. You always deliver, and to such a high standard.
Well done

Above: Email correspondence between tutors and I


Michelle Ayers
Fri 1/31/2020 6:41 PM
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Hi Val. Hi Jamie.
The pics of the hall. I shall upload this weeks pics over the weekend.
I love these photographs, it’s been good fun. 
I have worked all of the photographs up to week 8. I’ll work this week’s over the weekend.
Val, I shall need to sort out with Sham and Sara maybe next week or the week after
about the recipes. I haven’t received all of the emails etc…
I could do with them sending them to my g-mail address really as PDF’s. 
But I need to talk about Sara’s recipe as I’m sorry, but it’s a bit ridiculous and 
you’ll see why when I talk it through with you. I’ll print the last one she sent
me out so I can simplify it as there’s a lot in there that doesn’t need to be in.
People buying the book will get a bit confused and bored having to read through 600
words just for the ingredients and Cooking Instructions. We would need about two plus pages
in the book just for the recipes and cooking instructions alone, so it needs simplifying a lot…
P.S I have arranged with three of the girls that I shall be taking their portraits in the studio 
Thursday 6th February. Jamie, do you have a black backdrop I can use? It doesn’t matter
if not, I shall just buy a black flat sheet and staple it to the wall…. 
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Michelle Ayers
Tue 2/11/2020 6:41 PMValerie Todd;
Hi Val/Jamie
The portrait I took of Batoul… I’m not so sure about them. Maybe I’ll play around with them a bit more in LightRoom.
Above: Correspondence between tutors and I

11:       Friendship Feast Celebration

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Above Slideshow: Celebration, M.E.A
Michelle Ayers
Tue 2/18/2020 7:49 PM
Hi Val/Jamie
These are the photographs I took at the Celebration.  Most of the photographs may appear ‘curved’ because I used a fisheye lens to enable me to get everything in the picture.

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Above Slideshow: The women accepting their Friendship Feast certificates, M.E.A


Above: Sarah, receiving her Friendship Feast certificate, M.E.A