Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Dias medievais 2014


There's always something going on in Castro Marim to keep you entertained!- you may be recumbent and relaxez-vous on a sun lounger in the Casa Rosada garden, nodding off on your CJ Sansom...but only a stones throw away there will be hunchbacks for real and you might find something close to Dark Fire within the confines of the castle.It is hard to escape the lepers,soothsayers and mountebanks purveying strange medicinal compounds,purges and herbal teas, trying to convince you of their curative powers.

 Yes, with just under ten days to go, its all going to be  kicking off in the streets and travessas of Castro Marim.Its Medieval myth and mystery -Dias Medievais."The skies are clear, happy times, happy nights and happy days are here again"!
There are silky pink and orange banners-the colours of a desert sunset-streamed from poles around the castle.It makes it feel medieval, but not in the granite-dark,ominous medieval Game of Thrones way-a more ethereal and misty like faerie scene more reminiscent of The Hobbit when Celeborn and Galadriel are courting.On the streets the women love their tight hold- me- up push-me-out corsets, mandarin collars and leather embellished frocks belted in tightly
with a girdle or two.It is a picture of medieval haute couture and femininity.Balmainesque tunics,and Oscar worthy beaded Lacroix gowns jostle you and fight for your attention against more modern hoodies and Henleys.The luxurious fur trims and chandelier earrings, crystal and pearl necklaces are enough to make any queen jealous.The catwalk is ready for hennins and wimples, creating a visual cacophony good enough for Gaultier or perfection for Philip Treacy.Looking down from above its like a sea of iced gems melding with Tiffany cream wafers and there is nothing gender specific about it all. Its time for the medieval queens to come out of their closets and sport their finery.

Where´s the food and what will they be eating you say? Over the coming week I will be presenting some posts of opulent and exotic feasting,taking you back to the days of Runcible peas and Blawmanger.Food worthy of sultans and the richness of the Ottoman Empire.Soups of the kings and puddings of the princesses......what moor could you ask for?




Monday, 18 August 2014

Pudim Queijo com imprevisto Português

Pudim Queijo de Ilha com alho frances, ervilhas

I got my inspiration for this dish from a plate Chef Marco created at Cha com agua Salgada.The source of my recipe is a very old English dish and one of my all time favourites from my dear mother´s repertoire.It is similar to a soufflé but quicker to prepare, and if made correctly, better behaved. Precise timing is not important.Elizabeth David cites it as being devised in the days when coal burning kitchen ranges were so temperamental,and when hot dishes were subject to long journeys from basement country house kitchens to the lord and lady of the manor´s private parts.My oven is certainly temperamental and like a fallen soufflé this dish has never let me down.The ingredients are simple and so is the preparation.All in all this is a quick and appetising supper dish designed for modern living.The original recipe demands a strong flavoured English Cheese such as Cheddar, Cheshire,Double Gloucester,Leicester,Wensleydale or Lancashire.Dont even think about using processed cheese,it will simply have no flavour.I however replaced the English cheese with Queijo de Ilha from the Açores.In essence similar to cheddar.

Eu tenho a minha inspiração para este prato de uma prato Chef Marco criado em Cha com Agua Salgada.A minha fonte de receita é um prato Inglês muito antiga e um da minha favorita de todos os tempo de reperetoire a minha querida mãe.É semelhante a um suflê, mas mais rápido de preparar e, se feito corretamente mais comportados.O tempo preciso não é importante.Elizabeth David cita-o como sendo elaborados nos dias em fogões de queima de carvão eram tão temperamental, e quando os pratos quentes estavam sujeitos a longas jornadas de porão cozinhas casa de campo para o senhor e senhora da mansão do privado peças.

Meu forno é certamente temperamental e, como um suflê colapsado este prato nunca falhado-me.Os ingredientes são simples e por isso é a preparation.All em todos um prato da ceia puro projetado para living.The moderno receita original exige um forte sabor Queijo Inglês como como Cheddar, Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Leicester, Wensleydale ou Lancashire.Dont sequer pensar em usar queijo processado, ele simplesmente não terá flavour.I substituiu o queijo Inglês com queijo de Ilha da essência Açores.In semelhante ao cheddar.

Pudim de Queijo Ingles tradiçional
Eggs for dinner. Or lunch, or brunch. My cute, puffy little baked omelet soufflés are perfect any time of day.
Although omelet soufflés sound fancy, I love that making them is as simple as cracking some eggs and adding a filling of some sort (for me, the filling is always a vegetable combination.) All you have to do is cook whatever you’ll be using for your filling first, and when done, add the eggs. Actually, you don’t even need to add any filling if you don’t want, but the filling just makes it taste much better and offers a veggie boost too.
Here, for the filling, I use a gourmet mushroom blend, leeks and petite organic peas. Of course there are endless variations on fillings for baked omelet soufflés and you can get quite creative, but it is best to veer on the side of simple and not add more than three ingredients.
I’m never in the mood to shell fresh peas and there is absolutely no advantage to buying fresh peas ready shelled so you might as well just get frozen peas, but do look for organic petite peas because they just taste so much better. Also, it is important when adding any filling to your baked omelet soufflés that you keep the concept of “teeny-tiny” in mind. You don’t want to add big chunks of vegetables or whatever into a delicate and elegant baked omelet soufflé.  You’ll see for the leeks I go so far as to shred them in the food processor, this is not an optional step. It really does make a difference because yes, I have tried to get away with just finely chopping the leeks and it doesn’t work.
Most importantly, for the eggs, be sure to buy the absolute best. That means you want to look for pastured eggs from hens that lived outdoors and had access to fresh pasture.
And finally, don’t fret over whether your baked omelet soufflé rises “just so”, just remember, no matter what happens to an egg dish you can always claim it was intentional.
- See more at: http://www.cleancuisineandmore.com/baked-omelet-souffles/#sthash.Lu5Ln3FD.dpuf

Pudim de Queijo
Serves 3 or can be cut up when cool into picnic portions

You will need a soufflé dish 900ml(1.5 pint) capacity
180g (6oz) Queijo da Ilha,grated (don´t use processed cheese)
2 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
300ml(1/2 pint cold milk
1/2 cup frozen peas defrosted
1 small leek,finely sliced into rings
2 large or 3 medium sized eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon 
plenty of freshly milled pepper, flor de sal and cayenne

Put the breadcrumbs into the dish.There is no need to butter the dish.Pour the milk over the breadcrumbs.Stir in the grated cheese and the seasonings.Not too much salt but the amount depends on the saltiness of the cheese used so taste as you go.You can put this aside now while you sautée the leeks slowly in butter until soft.Stir in the peas.When cool add to the bread and cheese mixture.
Separate the eggs,beat the yolks thoroughly and stir them into the cheese mixture.Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.Stir a spoonful or two into the mixture,then tip in the rest,lifting and folding with a metal spatula or spoon,as lightly and quickly as possible.
Put straight into the middle of an oven pre-heated to 180C /350F /Gas mark 4 and cook for 25-30 minutes.The top of the pudding should be well risen,golden and spongey.Leave it for 5 minutes or so before serving.By that time the inside should be rather like a creamy custard. 
Pantry note
The main ingredients of this dish-breadcrumbs,cheese,milk and seasonings can all be mixed in the dish well ahead of cooking time.Only the eggs need to be added before cooking time.

Eggs for dinner. Or lunch, or brunch. My cute, puffy little baked omelet soufflés are perfect any time of day.
Although omelet soufflés sound fancy, I love that making them is as simple as cracking some eggs and adding a filling of some sort (for me, the filling is always a vegetable combination.) All you have to do is cook whatever you’ll be using for your filling first, and when done, add the eggs. Actually, you don’t even need to add any filling if you don’t want, but the filling just makes it taste much better and offers a veggie boost too.
Here, for the filling, I use a gourmet mushroom blend, leeks and petite organic peas. Of course there are endless variations on fillings for baked omelet soufflés and you can get quite creative, but it is best to veer on the side of simple and not add more than three ingredients.
I’m never in the mood to shell fresh peas and there is absolutely no advantage to buying fresh peas ready shelled so you might as well just get frozen peas, but do look for organic petite peas because they just taste so much better. Also, it is important when adding any filling to your baked omelet soufflés that you keep the concept of “teeny-tiny” in mind. You don’t want to add big chunks of vegetables or whatever into a delicate and elegant baked omelet soufflé.  You’ll see for the leeks I go so far as to shred them in the food processor, this is not an optional step. It really does make a difference because yes, I have tried to get away with just finely chopping the leeks and it doesn’t work.
Most importantly, for the eggs, be sure to buy the absolute best. That means you want to look for pastured eggs from hens that lived outdoors and had access to fresh pasture.
And finally, don’t fret over whether your baked omelet soufflé rises “just so”, just remember, no matter what happens to an egg dish you can always claim it was intentional.
- See more at: http://www.cleancuisineandmore.com/baked-omelet-souffles/#sthash.MwSujgb6.dpuf
Eggs for dinner. Or lunch, or brunch. My cute, puffy little baked omelet soufflés are perfect any time of day.
Although omelet soufflés sound fancy, I love that making them is as simple as cracking some eggs and adding a filling of some sort (for me, the filling is always a vegetable combination.) All you have to do is cook whatever you’ll be using for your filling first, and when done, add the eggs. Actually, you don’t even need to add any filling if you don’t want, but the filling just makes it taste much better and offers a veggie boost too.
Here, for the filling, I use a gourmet mushroom blend, leeks and petite organic peas. Of course there are endless variations on fillings for baked omelet soufflés and you can get quite creative, but it is best to veer on the side of simple and not add more than three ingredients.
I’m never in the mood to shell fresh peas and there is absolutely no advantage to buying fresh peas ready shelled so you might as well just get frozen peas, but do look for organic petite peas because they just taste so much better. Also, it is important when adding any filling to your baked omelet soufflés that you keep the concept of “teeny-tiny” in mind. You don’t want to add big chunks of vegetables or whatever into a delicate and elegant baked omelet soufflé.  You’ll see for the leeks I go so far as to shred them in the food processor, this is not an optional step. It really does make a difference because yes, I have tried to get away with just finely chopping the leeks and it doesn’t work.
Most importantly, for the eggs, be sure to buy the absolute best. That means you want to look for pastured eggs from hens that lived outdoors and had access to fresh pasture.
And finally, don’t fret over whether your baked omelet soufflé rises “just so”, just remember, no matter what happens to an egg dish you can always claim it was intentional.
- See more at: http://www.cleancuisineandmore.com/baked-omelet-souffles/#sthash.MwSujgb6.dpuf

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tarte esmigalhada,uma aventura amorosa com Reina Claudia


Who said you can´t serve the British crumble (Brown Betty to you Americans) abroad in the summertime.The humble crumble lends itself to the vast range of soft summer fruits to be found here in the Algarve .Peaches, nectarines, pears,plums and how can I let August go by without having an amorous affair with Claudia, my favourite green plum, the Reina Claudia( greengage).The weather is hot but I can see nothing wrong in serving a cool summer crumble on a sultry summer evening in the garden.And obviously my first choice of fruit was soft poached greengages in an almond syrup.100% algarve,Almond liqueur,greengages and a crumbly topping of lightly toasted Algarvian almonds.
 Don´t tell me you have never crept to the fridge in the middle of the night and helped yourself to some delicious cold left over crumble and enjoyed it so much you returned for some more.Well there you go, served chilled or at room temperature, dolled up up with some lavender or thyme creme fraiche, here is a pudding that can take  time to improve its flavour by chilling and waiting, and meanwhile I will keep you waiting for a series of savoury crumbles that I intend to make in the colder months.

Individual Greengage Crumbles
Makes 4 servings
400g firm but ripe greengages
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
100g golden caster sugar
75g unsalted butter
175g plain flour
1 tsp ginger syrup
1 soup spoon Portuguese almond liqueur such as Amarguinha ( Amaretto could be an alternative)
50g light muscavado sugar
50g lightly roasted almonds,coarsely chopped
 Pre-heat the oven to 200Cfan/180C /gas 6
Put the prepared greengages,lemon zest and caster sugar into a pan,cover and cook over amedium heat for 5- 6 minutes or until he fruit is just tender. Tip the fruit into a sieve set over a bowl and leave to drain and cool slightly.
Rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the caster sugar.Place 4 lightly greased 10cm  metal pastry cutters onto a greased baking tray and spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each.Press it down lightly with the back of a spoon to make a base,then divide the cooked fruit between the four pastry cutters.Sprinkle with the almond liqueur. Save the syrup for later.
Stir the rest of the muscavado sugar and the almonds into the remaining crumble mixture.Spoon evenly over the top of the fruit,then bake the crumbles in the oven until golden and the juices from the fruit are bubbling through the topping.Allow to cool to room temperature or chill completely.
When ready to serve carefully lift the crumbles onto serving plates and gently lift off the pastry cutters.Serve with creme fraiche and the reserved fruit syrup.

Variation on a theme,
Individual peach almond and nectarine Crumbles
Almonds, nectarines and peaches are often grafted on the same tree in Portugal, (and this is where the fun starts) the label says one thing but what matures on the tree is something else. I thought I would play the game and pair almonds and nectarines for my second crumble. Beautiful fleshy nectarines and peaches reduced in a syrup of golden caster sugar and amarguinha (portuguese almond licore)
Use the same ingredients as above minus the ginger syrup and repacing the greengages with sliced nectarines and peaches.Follow the same method.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bife ganso completo temperado em especiarias aromaticos ( Cold spiced beef fillet)

Roast beef is a classic favourite – but try it spiced and served cold with a Ginger and Noodle Salad. This semi-cured beef fillet is marinated in an aromatic spice mixture-ideal for invigorating jaded palates.The beef needs to be the same thickness throughout. If you have a tail-end piece of fillet, turn the tail end underneath to create an even thickness and tie to secure. Marinating the meat for 36 hours in this mixture is the secret.It draws out moisture from the beef and adds fragrant flavours. The final texture of the beef is very moist but dense. It is just what the doctor ordered at this time of year.Whether part of a  tapas or as a push the cow out starter for two, this is light refreshing summer food..... and if you have too much you can invite your friends round for a beef sandwich with some wasabi or horseradish.

Cold spiced beef fillet
125g light brown mascavado sugar
85g coarse Flor de sal
1 teaspoon ground star anise*
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
75ml good quality soya sauce (Kikkoman)
75ml sesame oil
1 red chilli finely sliced
300g Bife ganso completo or Angus Fillet Beef
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Mix the sugar,salt star anise, ginger,garlic,lemon zest,red chilli,soya sauce and sesame oil in a dish just large enough to fit the beef.Add the beef,thoroughly coating it in the marinade.Cover and place in the fridge.
After 12 hours,turn the meat,rubbing it all over with the marinade.Leave to marinade for at least 24 hours and up to a maximum of 36.Then rinse under a cold tap and pat dry.
heat the sunflower oil in a non-stick frying pan.As soon as it is hot, add the beef and colour on all sides.Continue to fry for about 5 minutes, turning regularly, then remove. Once cold, cover and chill until needed.
*If you can´t find any ground star anise,grind some in a clean coffee blender.

Serving suggestion: with ginger noodle,rocket, or oriental green bean salad



Monday, 11 August 2014

Sopa gelada com crouton quente (Chilled soup and a warm crouton)


Oh dear, how terribly Elizabeth David I am becoming in my titles!!-Chilled soup and a warm crouton,"An omelette and a glass of wine" and all that.On my day of culinary experimentation I stumbled across an article on the internet entitled "31 Healthier Baked Versions Of Fried Foods"- "Once-baked is the new twice-fried" it continued.I recently ventured into the realm of baked versus fried with my oven baked doughnut and here they were again, along with some other exciting prospects.Oooh I sayy..... Gwyneth Paltrow´s baked fries and who would have thought of toasting ravioli.I liked the sound of  all this and combed all 31 recipes before deciding to try out "oven baked goats cheese." Well I dont know about "onced baked", but after my first attempt "twice shy" I decided to double dip.Having ended up with a non-stick silicone mat coated in cheesy goaty goo and breadcrumbs, resembling a tray of cheesy florentines, I learnt very quickly that these nourishing little nuggets needed a stronger seal of egg and breadcrumbs around them than them what wrote recipe suggested.
Having perfected the method I have now served them up to guests in two different ways.Firstly as a warm canapé with a glass of wine and more recently as warm croutons on the side of a bowl of chilled beetroot gazpacho.These were both received with an acknowledgement of clean plates all round.My next variation is going to be to serve them as warm nuggets on top of a roasted beetroot salad.The permutations of how this recipe could be served are endless.

Goats cheese croutons,nuggets or balls


10 ounce goat cheese log, make sure this is very cold
2 whole eggs, beaten
2 cups home made breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, set aside.Slice the log into 24 pieces and using your hands roll each piece into a ball. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl. Fill a plate or shallow bowl with the breadcrumbs. Dip the goat cheese ball in the egg wash first. Roll it around so it is completely covered. Then drop them into the  breadcrumbs. Toss the breadcrumbs onto the ball and gently roll to coat. Place back on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all 24 ball are coated.place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for an hour  and then repeat the process to ensure your balls are completely sealed.
Place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and crisp. Allow the balls to set for 5-10 minutes before serving. They are very delicate and crumble easily, but the taste is fantastic!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

O descanso em Porto -Dia 3 éclairs e uma casa de chá extraordinária






















Day 3: There are cafés everywhere in Porto, from little old coffee shops to grand, ornate, historic belle epoque cafés like Café Guarany or Café Majestic.Others a little more modern and even more that are contemporary but have maintained a strong tradition.  
Another successful recommendation from our hotel reception desk led us to breakfast at
Leitaria da Quinta do Paço.Their reputation was as a  dairy, producing milk and manufacturing related products.Despite its modern make over,this tradition has been retained.This coffee shop is speckled with memories of the former dairy in the form of vintage photos on one side, and with artisan food products for sale on the other.
Forget Paris,France,this is Porto,Portugal This is the place where your taste buds will surrender to a multitudinous choice of éclairs. Dark chocolate, lemon, red fruits, caramel, classic or white chocolate are just some of the options. With or without whipped cream,normal size or mini ones, these pieces of heaven have followed the same recipe since 1920.
an oasis of calm in the middle of Porto

Our mission for day 3 was not to binge on eclairs but to spend some time meandering in the peace and tranquility of Serralves.Fundação Serralves is to Porto what Fundação Gulbenkian is to Lisbon.
Serralves is  one of the most important cultural institutions  in Portugal. It includes a Contemporary Art Museum, a Park and a Villa, each one an example of contemporary architecture, Modernism, Art Deco architecture and landscape gardening.We passed on the contemporary art and concentrated our interests on the gardens and villa,and as usual wherever we travel food is only a stone´s throw away and what we stumbled on was a step back in time.After a long and rather tiresome bus journey from the centre of Porto what more could one ask for than cold beer and wisteria. The peace and quiet of the Serralves tea house nestling under a wisteria covered pergola beside an old tennis court was the most tranquil setting for a glass of wine and a chilled cucumber soup.
Surrounded by green and dappled shade this "Tea House" is a place where time stands still and you feel like staying. What was offered on the menu here was beyond the call of a tea house.Understandably when new management took over in 2012 they called in the expert creative skills of chef Jorge Peres (head chef at Archive) as a consultant.It shows...
Steamed shrimp dumplings with soy sauce, sandwich of magret of duck with arugula and wild berry compote,salad of cold fish,cod sea bass fava beans and corgete.Cured sardines bruschetta and boquerones and olives on toast are some of the major options for snacking on throughout the day.The refreshments on offer far outshone scones and cake,there were interesting teas and infusions including possibly one of the most unique teas in the world the"O Porto Wine Touch"a black tea with raisins and port wine.the whole experience was too short and left me speechless.Next time I will return with a good book and another notebook to fill.There´s hurly and there´s burly and then there´s the Casa de Chá de Serralves but this special place is where one can leave the tumult behind and put your world to rights.
It takes great generosity to produce three-star food like this and serve it with such modesty in attitude and price. When the maîtresse ´d came to our table,she didn't brag about complex preparations or rare ingredients. Instead, she asked us: how did you like the food? We loved it!








Friday, 1 August 2014

uma refeição estival para os todos gostos


Antipasto, which literally means "before the meal," is one of those contributions for sharing.Similar to French hors d'oeuvres,Spanish tapas, Portuguese petiscos or couvert, it’s a beloved combination of small bites of tasty food, usually accompanied by wine and meant to stimulate the appetite before digging into the main meal.
It need not be the appetiser it can be adapted to make an imaginative main course for sharing round the table.For groups of friends who are holidaying together this summer,wherever you are in the world this can be turned into a perfect self catering option.
How can a little or no-cook dinner,particularly in summer or when on holiday, not appeal to most people? The thought of returning home from a day at the beach or a hard day at the office and have to put a meal together, be it for your family or group of friends, can be a daunting task.Even the shopping can be a fun exercise if some or all of the recipients are involved.Once home, all that has to be done is boil a pot of pasta,season it and assemble an attractive large platter of optional add-ons.
Whether at home or on holiday, this new twist to an antipasto platter is something that carnivores, fish and chipocrites, veggies and gluten intolerants can share and share alike.
When it's done correctly  this concept will bring a relaxed spirit and friendly, casual conversation to your meal.No matter what the occasion or time of day, serving antipasto is the perfect way to slow things down and savour great food.From cured meats to anchovies there is something to please everyone.Whats more it encourages experimentation.You might build up a combination of elements on your plate that just dont work together as a taste sensation and that is all part of the fun. The main thing about this style of eating is that each person round the table can create their own variation of the same core dish- Pasta.One word of warning, don´t be tempted to cook the pasta with a tomato sauce-that is so not the point and will destroy the concept. 
Antipasto plates are simply colourful offerings of raw or grilled vegetables—think artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or pickled garlic—salty olives, rustic artisan breads, natural deli meats, small bites of seafood delicacies and rich cheeses.
With antipasto, it’s always best to keep things simple. Narrow your choices down to two or three items, then incorporate a few fresh, seasonal vegetables and you’re set. Try these simple ideas on for size:
  • Jarred marinated artichoke hearts
  • Jarred pequillo peppers
  • Sliced tomatoes marinated in an Italian dressing, cherry tomatoes, green olives
  • Minty peas and broad beans
  • Thinly sliced  salami and soft fresh creamy goats cheese
  • Torn up presunto serrano or prosciutto
  • Home cured sundried tomatoes
  • Sardines and anchovies or boquerones
  • Olives, capers, cornichons
  • Pine nuts served with fresh figs in season
  • Homemade sundried tomato pesto tomato relish,green olive tapenade
  • Tapenade of olives, sundried tomatoes and basil
  • Cooked prawns and other shell fish,smoked salmon
  • Home grilled and roasted vegetables fresh mozzarella
  • Avocado and handfuls of fresh rocket basil and parsley
  • Chouriços
The fragrance and appearance of the food that you serve is important, so blending flavors, aromas and colours will make for the most interesting antipasto plates.
"Bom apetite" as they say in Portugal

Monday, 28 July 2014

Acompanhamentos-side dishes

With no guests in the house for a day, it was time for a day of recipe development and culinary experimentation.I love this kind of day when there is no pressure other than to have come up with some new ideas for dishes by the end of the day.One of the things I find most difficult if it is not a composite dish, is to decide what vegetables, salad or accompaniments to serve with fish or meat.The main object of my experiments on this occasion therefore was to create some new dishes that would accompany some of our main plates.I cast my memory back to a dish my mother used to serve as a supper dish.It was a courgette gratinée.Light and fresh and summery.I thought that perhaps if I made this in a different guise it could be served on the side.I decided to make it in ramekin sized portions.This kind of dish is what the Italians call Sformato. First of all the ingredients needed a minor update to make it worthy of the twenty-tens. Courgettes,no problem,but perhaps a different cheese-Ricotta or Reqeijao were the obvious choices.My mother´s method of cooking the dish was in a baking dish or quiche pan.My method was to cover the ramekins with foil and cook bain-marie style.Success came not in the way I had intended but we ended up with a delicious starter and new vegetarian item.

Courgette flan(sformato) with ricotta
Serves 2 or makes 5 x 200ml ( 6oz ) ramekins
2 medium Courgettes (about 500g/ 1lb)
1 large shallot finely chopped
125g ricotta or requeijao
2 whole eggs beaten
85g (3oz) Parmesan 
Dry roasted breadcrumbs or Panko
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 325F / 170C. Butter five 6-ounce ramekins and dust them with a thin layer of parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs. Set the prepared ramekins in a large baking dish. In a skillet  (on low heat) gently cook the shallot in some butter and oil till soft.Cut the courgettes into chunks and blanch in salted water for 5 minutes.Drain and add to the onion and leave to cool.In a blender, blitz the courgette and onion add the eggs, ricotta and the remaining parmesan to obtain a cream.Season with salt and pepper.Pour the sformato mixture into the prepared ramekins and cover each with foil. Carefully pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.Bake the sformati for about 45 minute to 1 hour, until just set. Transfer the ramekins to a work surface; let stand for 5 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the ramekins and invert the sformati onto plates. 


My second experiment was spot on and sort of like superior baked beans cooked in an Italian style,simmered rather than baked, in a tomato sauce flavoured with browned garlic, a little sugar to caramelise the sauce and sage.
The final dish was exactly what I had imagined and could easily be eaten on its own with slices of country bread or perhaps even a salad.But my original intention was to find a dish that would go beautifully with pork dishes or chops.We tested it with saltimbocca of pork and the result was more than harmonious.If you don´t have the time or will to cook the the beans from dry,you can substitute canellini or haricot beans from a jar or tin.

Feijão branco com molho tomate e salvia
( white beans in tomato and sage sauce)
serves 4
250g dried white haricot or cannelini beans soaked overnight 
or 500g(1lb 2oz) of ready cooked beans
3 garlic cloves,finely chopped
6 fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus a little bit extra for serving
350g812oz9 very ripe,soft tomatoes,puréed in the liquidizer or processor then sieved,or 300g (11oz) passata
teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drain the soaked beans,if using,then place in a pan with enough water to cover generously.Don´t be tempted to add any salt..Bring to the boil.,then boil hard for 10 minutes.reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender-anything from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the age ofthe beans,adding more water if needed.
Fry the garlic and sage leaves gently in the oil. When the garlic is golden brown,add the beans and season generously.Add the sieved tomatoes,or passata,the tomato purée and about 1 teaspoon of caster sugar,if necessary. Simmer gently for a further 20 minutes,stirring occasionally to prevent catching.Check and adjust the seasoning before serving.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ameijoas Bulhoao Pato - poetry and ocean

Eating en famille alfresco or entre amigos em restaurante, summer is the time for sharing a big plate of food.If tapas isn't your bag perhaps paella is.Here in the Algarve a big old plate of clams is perfect for sharing.Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, the Algarve’s signature dish, gets my vote for one of the 7 wonders of Portuguese gastronomy.Fresh clams are cooked with garlic, coriander, onion and locally produced white wine and olive oil. This dish is usually served with lashings of crusty white bread to mop up the broth with.This is perfect finger food.Pick up a clam,slurp it out of its shell and then use the shell to scoop up a glug of broth.Delicious.
 Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato. The name is synonymous with Portuguese cuisine.It is not a type of mollusc. Rather, it is a method of preparation, or a recipe.The dish, like so many other famous national dishes – Chateaubriand and Tournedos Rossini, was named in honour of a literary figure, the Nineteenth-century Portuguese poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato.
The English writer Arnold Bennett was so delighted with the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan omelette that chefs at the Savoy Hotel in London created for him, he insisted on it being made wherever he travelled. And at the Savoy, Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard British signature dish to this day. Its not surprising therefore that Bulhão Pato ironically became more famous for this clam recipe that the Portuguese named after him than for his poetry.
It's a classic that can be found all over Portugal.It is simple, quick, and easy to make at home and so so so delicious.Imagine you're sitting in a beach bar on a beautiful coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You have sand in your toes, a caipirinha in your hand, you can smell the salt and you can taste the sea.
Order clams Bulhão Pato at an ocean-side restaurant and you will understand why Bulhão Pato thought they were pure poetry.

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
A perfectly light supper for two, or a seriously impressive starter for four 
2 kg clams pre-washed clams*
6 fat cloves garlic peeled but kept whole
a few tablespoons of olive oil
250ml ( 1/2 pint ) water
125 ml lemon juice
glass of white wine
salt and pepper
Large handful  of chopped fresh coentros (coriander)*

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and let the garlic take colour in it.Add the water,lemon juice and wine followed by the washed clams.Season with a little pepper and add the coriander. Keep on a high heat a with a lid,shaking the pan vigorously until the clams are open (3-5 minutes).Bring to the table with a basket of crusty white bread to mop up the wonderful juices that they have been steeped in.

*Prepare the clams well in advance.They need to stand in salted water for 2-3 hours.After a first wash use 5-6 tablespoons of salt for each 1.2 litres (2 pints) of water for soaking. After soaking wash again in plentiful water to remove all the sand the clams have discharged.

*Coentros(coriander) is well known as an ingredient in Asian and Mexican cuisines, but it's also a staple in Portuguese cooking.





Sunday, 20 July 2014

A popular beet combo


No doubt many of us have had our appreciation of beetroot tainted by the sliced, tinned variety or the vinegary pickled memory of school dinners, but fresh beetroot is easy and convenient to prepare. The rule is not to overcook it.The way to get the best mileage out of your beetroot is to roast it.There's nothing quite like roast beetroot - slightly caramelised and with a rich earthy flavour, it's delicious.
The flavour of beetroot is a mixture of sweetness - from its relatively high sugar content - and a pleasant bitterness derived from its ancestor, the wild sea beet. When these two characteristics are in perfect balance and the beetroot is cooked neither too little nor too much, this is one of the most delicious vegetables, and I´m campaigning for you to eat more of it before the food police are back on our case hauling us over for consuming too much "natural" sugar. Here are my unbeatable "Fab Four" recipes.

Three Cheese and caramelised beetroot pasta
Raw grated beetroot sandwich with parsley and Presunto Serrano
Beetroot and fresh goats cheese stack
Beetroot gazpacho

Beetroot and fresh goats cheese stack (above)

Per portion
3 round slices of freshly roasted beetroot
2 rounds of fresh Goats cheese or feta
Assorted salad leaves and herbs
Salad dressing of your choice
chopped walnuts (optional)

Take a pastry cutter the size of your cheese and cut rounds of beetroot to the same size.
Assemble the stacks in the middle of each plate starting with a base of beetroot and then alternating the cheese with the beetroot ending with a final top slice of beetroot.scatter some salad leaves, sprigs of coriander and /or mint around the stack and some chopped walnuts if using.

Beetroot gazpacho


3 medium-sized beetroots
3 tomatoes skinned and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
150g/ 5oz onions peeled and thinly sliced
1clove of garlic peeled and crushed
6 desertspoons of good quality sherry vinegar
Valdespino, Lustau or Pedro Ximenez
salt and pepper
1 large handful fresh coriander
150ml / 5fl oz hot chicken stock
Flat leaf parsley


Wash and trim the beetroots. leaving the roots intact so the colour doesn´t bleed. Bake them in individual foil parcels in a medium oven until cooked, pierce with a skewer after 45 minutes. Skin and slice them thinly as soon as they´re cool enough to handle. Chop the tomatoes coarsely.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic gently until softened but not coloured. Pour over the vinegar, and add the tomato,beetroot slices and seasoning.Cook with a lid on very gently for an hour. Check the moisture level from time to time. Liquidize, or blitz in a food processor with the fresh coriander, diluting the mixture with tomato passata or tomato puree as you go until you reach your desired consistency.Chill overnight and serve in bowls or glasses with ice cubes and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.



Raw grated beetroot sandwich 
with parsley and Presunto Serrano
This is one of the popular items I created back in the days of "panini etc" when I was the
sandwich man.
Slice a baguette or bread roll of your choice in half lengthways.Drizzle the insides of both slices with extra virgin olive oil.Lay slices of Presunto or prosciutto on the bottom slice. In a bowl toss generous amounts of grated beetroot and flat leaf parsley with vinaigrette then layer on top of the meat.Eat straight away.


Three Cheese,sage and caramelised beetroot pasta
I have been making this for years now but cant remember where the recipe originated.No amount of googling or combing the bookshelves has produced a result but I suspect its creator might have been Donna Hay.Please forgive me whoever you are if I am wrong,but thank you for this stunning and ingenious recipe.


Serves 4
6 small beetroot (750g approx) peeled and cut into small chunks
6 cloves garlic,left whole and unpeeled
1/2 cup sage leaves
1 tablespoon muscavado sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
400g farfalle(bow)pasta or penne
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese,ricotta or requeijao
120g Goats cheese(chevre) 

Pre-heat the oven to 180C(355F).Put the beetroot,garlic,sage,sugar,olive oil,salt and pepper in a baking dish and toss to coat.roast for 30-35 minutes or until the beetroot is tender and caramelised.Remove the garlic and mash it using the back of a teaspoon to form a smooth paste.Discard the skins.Set aside and keep warm.Cook thepasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente.Drain and return the pasta to the pan.tir in the parmesan,mascarpone,goats cheese,beetroot mixture,garlic paste and check the seasoning.Toss well to combine.



Beetroot goes with
Extra virgin olive oil; butter; sesame oil; vinegar; soy; anchovies;prosciutto; pancetta; bacon; sausages; duck; venison; chicken; quail; celery; carrot; garlic( especially roast garlic); parsley; thyme; sage; celeriac; onion.Feta, mascarpone, requeijoao, yoghurt.

Choose beetroot that is firm and preferably with its top leaves looking fresh and crisp. Generally, the larger the beetroot the more flavour it has, though if it gets too big it can be woody and tough.