Saturday, 25 April 2015

Flor de sal, thyme and olive oil crackers


No kitchen should be without the heady, aromatic flavour of thyme, A delicate looking herb with a penetrating fragrance,whether used by the pinch or by the bunch, fresh thyme infuses any dish with unparalleled aroma and flavour.
Thyme is usually cooked with food rather than thrown in at the end.When cooked in stews and casseroles the leaves fall away from the branches infusing the stock and then the branches are removed at the end of cooking. I use both the fresh and dried varieties in marinades,dressings and even to infuse syrup for puddings.
Thyme has what I could only describe as a vigorous flavour,almost peppery in character,and therefore is for foods that can carry strong flavours.It is one of the essential ingredients of Herbes de provence along with rosemary, bay and savory and is also always included in bouquet garni for stock and soup making.
 Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial.  It tolerates drought well.The Casa Rosada garden is dotted with different varieties of thyme and so with a bit of thyme management the kitchen here is never without  both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavourful, but also less convenient.Thyme waits for no one,its storage life is less than a week.
 So bearing that in mind who would have thought that I would see the day I made my own homemade crackers.Inspired by Ottolenghi and finding another use for a windfall sack of dried thyme that recently came my way,there was no thyme like a present so I catapulted his basic recipe into something a little more aromatic. His recipe was for olive oil crackers, but the first batch I made were very bland so I upped the game with thyme and Flor de sal mediterranica, a Flor de sal with olives and chilli.What a difference some seasoning makes,now we were talking crackers.There is only one problem,they are so delicate that they can break,but this is half the fun of it as you spread lashings of soft cheese on them.they are rustic, elegant and very unusual.They are so damn easy to make and I swear once you´ve tried them you will never need to buy crackers ever again.Serve them straight from the oven, as crisp as crisp can be.


Flor de sal, thyme and olive oil crackers

Makes 24
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
115ml water
25ml olive oil,plus extra for brushing
1/2 tsp Flor de sal
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked picante paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
Generous sprinklings of Flor de sal mediterranica 
In a large bowl,mix together all the ingredients except the flor de sal to form a soft dough.You can do this by hand or in a processor fitted with a dough hook Work the dough until you get a firm consistency,then cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7.Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface or board.Have a bowl of flour ready at your side for dusting.Use a large sharp knife to cut  off wanut sized pieces (roughly 15g each) from the dough. Roll out each piece as thinly as possible with arolling pin,dusting with plenty of flour as you go.They should end up looking like long oval tongues,almost paper thin.
Place the crackers on a tray lined with baking parchment.Brush them with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle generously with Flor de sal. Bake for about 6 minutes,until crisp and golden.

Adapted from Ottolenghi ("Ottolenghi the cookbook")





Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The true Bhajia, Lap-top dinner or Goan wedding starter?

 Not for Arachnophobics 
I have recently been thumbing through Indian  cook books researching menus for a wedding we will be catering next year.The bride to be is of Goan Irish descent.While thumbing through starters I unearthed Bhajias.
Now I have never attempted to make these even though they have always been a much-loved favourite, but how surprised was I when I saw how they should be properly made.  
This is probably the most popular of all Indian snacks and the most commonly found throughout India.They are just one variety of the wider pakora family often made with aubergine, potato, spinach, plantain, paneer or cauliflower.In the UK,a nation never renowned for its subtle taste, the pungent onion "bhajji" reigns supreme as the king of pakoras.It is also the most misunderstood and incorrectly made.It is very simple and quick to make, and if done properly, the results will astound you.The correct term is Bhajia which simply means fritter.Like many adopted British dishes the bhajias you see in shops and even restaurants throughout the UK do not always represent the true bhajia the Indians know and love.They should not be the size of a tennis ball for starters.They should be flatter and not really have any shape at all. I had an expat craving recently and I thought I would give the true recipe a whirl.I was amazed.I imagine that what I made was  similar to those made in Indian homes.I hope so anyway.If the wedding couple decide on these as a possible canapé option I will have to ensure against arachnophobic guests having panic attacks and screaming on the dance floor.
Kaanda Bhajia 
2 medium onions
2 green chillies, finely minced
1 level tsp chilli powder
2tbsp coriander,chopped
1 tsp cumin, crushed coarsely
1/2 tsp Ajwain (lovage),crushed also known as thymol or carom seeds
(I used dried thyme)
1/2 tsp turmeriuc
1/2 tsp lemon juice
6- 7 tbsp chickpea flour
salt to taste
Sunflower to deep fry
Two tbsp water
Slit the onions in half,remove the root stubs and slice them as finely as you can.
Place in a deep bowl and add the green chillies,chilli powder, coriander,cumin,ajwain or thyme,turmeric and lemon juice.Seive the chickpea flour with the salt.
Heat the oil in saucepan deep enough to hold oil for deep frying or a deep fat fryer.
Mix the chickpea flour slowly into the onions and rub it with your fingers,until the mix is firm and sticky.Add the water and mix for afurther 1~2 minutes.Check for salt it is likely you will need to add some at this point.
Keep a strainer ready over a bowl for draining the bhajias when ready.
With your already messy fingers put small dollops of the batter into the oil to fry.
Do not put too many in the oil together when frying or else you will have soggy bhajias.
Each bhajia should be no bigger than a small fritter,approximately 2.5cm.
Do not keep the oil too hot.The fritter should fry slowly so that it gets crisp and golden.If the oil is too hot the bhajias will fry too fast and remain raw and gooey inside.If you then try to refry,they will burn,remain soggy and taste bitter.
On the other hand,if you want to serve them later,you can half fry and remove them.Fry when you are ready in hot oil this time.If the oil is not hot when refrying,the bhajias will absorb too much oil.
Serve the bhajias with any chutney of your choice.


Friday, 10 April 2015

Do yourself some favas- Broad bean and smoky bacon soup


Spring is finally with us and seeing over-filled boxes of broad beans in the market made me want to rush home and make a fresh green soup.The marriage of beans and bacon has a long history, so I thought I would include smoky bacon in the equation.When I sieved the soup at the end of cooking I found I was left with a lot of tasty residue in my sieve.The consistency was similar to hummus and I thought it would be fun to add a little lemon juice,olive oil and mint and serve it up as a bright fresh tasting variation on that theme.A great sort of springtime hummus.Friends around the table can dip into and spread it on crostini as they lunch in the springtime sunshine around the garden table,while they wash it down with a chilled glass of Alvarinho wine.
The most frugal cooks choose only the best looking beans with an eye to making soup,not just from the beans but from the pods too.The Portuguese way of harvesting is to leave the pods on the plant to reach maturity, when the pods become quite hard and very shiny. This morning in the market there was a hive of activity as  a huddle of ladies mucked together to help our favourite  stall holder, Dona Isabel Domingues, pod the boxes of beans into bowls, ready to be bagged up for those cooks who have more generous purses and and dont want the task of freeing the beans from their pods.
 I love observing this fuss around the market stalls at this time of year when the broad beans are new in the market. I actually enjoy podding ,be it peas or favas, I even find the process quite therapeutic.

Broad bean(fava) and smoky bacon soup
Serves 6-8
1 large onion, diced
1 leek,washed and chopped
2 sticks of celery,peeled and chopped
50g butter
100g smoked bacon, finely diced (optional)
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
500g fresh or frozen peas
250g fresh broad beans,blanched and skinned
100ml double cream
Over a low heat,soften the onion,leek and celery in the butter for 5 minutes.Add the bacon,if using,and the herbs.Cook for 10 minutes,stirring occasionally.
Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil,then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.Skim off any residue that comes to the surface.Add the peas and the broad beans,bring the liquid to the boil,then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for five more minutes.
take the pan off the hob and purée the soup in a blender.Rinse the pan and pass the blended soup through a sieve back into the pan.Return to the hob and bring back to the boil.Immediately stir in the double cream.Remove from the heat,season and serve in warm bowls.            

Broad bean and coriander hummus

There has always been a strong affiliation in the Algarve between broad beans and coriander
With the residue I had left from sieving the soup I made a spring hummus.Putting the residue in a processor I added olive oil,a large handful of fresh coriander and lemon juice,seasoned with salt and pepper.I then blitzed it until I reached an almost smooth purée,but retaining a little of the coarse texture.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Far from penance - Chocolate olive oil cake

 it's like a fudgy brownie

In one of my recent blog posts I told you in no uncertain terms that I no longer give up chocolate for Lent.Forty days and forty nights without chocolate,chance would be a fine thing. In another recent post, I enthused about olive oil cakes and looked forward to experimenting with a Chocolate olive oil cake.Well here it is, and how far from penitence could it be? Lent is all but over but this is still sheer indulgence, as if chocolate never was? It's like a fudgy brownie, and talking of chocolate,surprise surprise this is a Nigella recipe. I seems it has been chopped and changed and messed around in order to accomodate  coeliacs and gluten free diets alike,but at the end of the day you´re going to be well pushed to find a better and more adaptable recipe.Knees up right proper moshing,here is the be-all and end-all chocolate olive oil cake recipe.The gluten free version is slightly heavier with the almonds - though not in a bad way - so if you want a lighter crumb, rather than a boom squish interior, and are not making the cake for the gluten-intolerant, then replace the 150g ground almonds / 1½ cups almond meal with 125g plain flour / ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour.To make it more of an occasion, serve it still warm from the oven with some fresh strawberries or raspberries and an indulgent dollop of cardamom requeijao cream.Alternatively serve it with a scoop of home made mascarpone ice cream.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
    2/3 cup regular olive oil, plus more for greasing cake pan
    6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 cup boiling water
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups almond meal or 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    Pinch of salt
    1 cup superfine sugar
    3 large eggs

      Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch springform cake pan with a little oil and line base of pan with parchment paper.
      Sift cocoa powder into a bowl and whisk in boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, still runny (but only just) paste. Whisk in vanilla extract and set aside to let cool.
      In a small bowl, combine almond meal (or flour) with baking soda and a pinch of salt.
      Put sugar, olive oil and eggs into bowl of a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment (or use other bowl and whisk). Beat vigorously until mixture is pale-primrose, aerated, thickened and creamy, about 3 minutes.
      Turn down mixer speed a little and beat in cocoa mixture. Slowly add almond-meal mixture.
      Turn off mixer. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir a little with a spatula. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake until sides of cake are set and very center, on top, still looks slightly damp, 40 to 45 minutes. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
      Let cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Ease sides of cake with a small metal spatula and spring cake out of pan. Leave to cool completely or serve warm with ice cream.

      Thursday, 12 March 2015

      Lemon olive oil cake with cardamom requeijao cream

       
      What is the secret ingredient for a tender moist cake?- an olive oil batter is the answer.A high quality olive oil keeps a cake moist and adds another dimension of fruitiness.Olive oil cakes are a very Mediterranean thing.Portugal, Spain Italy and Greece, are all countries where olive oil reigns supreme, even in desserts, all those lovely moist orange and lemon polenta cakes.You must be thinking, don’t these cakes taste like olive oil? No, they don’t, nor would you want them to, that is not the point.I use extra-virgin oil - and there is never an olivey taste to the cake, although I could easily detect it in the sticky residue that was left in the pan. Ever since David Leite´s "The new Portuguese Table" came out in 2009 I have been serving our breakfast guests a Portuguese Orange olive oil cake.This has become a much requested staple,and is even cited in Alastair Sawdays special places to stay. 5 years on and I have now discovered George Mendes Lemon olive oil cake which is a lot simpler to make and equally tasty. Orange or lemon, who´s going to be served up on the casa rosada breakfast table? Two Portuguese boys who have grown up and brought their culinary heritage to the United States. Let the battle begin.I have come to olive oil cakes by default.They are great for guests who genuinely can not eat wheat or dairy( a majority of cakes include butter in the ingredients). Olive oil doesn’t help with leavening, but it does supply moistness. In cakes using butter and shortening, the fat is usually creamed with sugar to aerate the batter. But oil doesn’t hold air bubbles the way a solid fat will, so olive oil cakes get almost all their leavening from other sources like baking soda, or whipped egg whites. Obviously I have to replace the flour in any recipe with ground almonds or polenta, and I now make these cakes all the time as a preference for ourselves, even though our life and diet are not so unfairly constrained by these inflicting dietary requirements.I can not wait to try out a chocolate olive oil cake.I can hear the thespian salivating in the wings as I write this.What really makes this recipe is the cardamom requeijao cream,It´s well Dench.

      Olive oil cake with cardamom requeijao cream

      1 cup(250ml) fruity olive oil
      1 cup (250ml)full fat milk
      3 large eggs
      2tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
      12/3 cups(355g) sugar
      21/2 cups (385g) all purpose flour
      11/2 tsp flor de sal
      1tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp baking soda
      Pre-heat the oven to 150C(300F).Lightly grease a 13 x 9inch (33 x 23cm) cake pan with oil
      or cooking spray.Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease again.
      In a medium bowl,whisk together the oil, milk,and eggs until smooth.
      In a large bowl,rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingertips.Whisk in the flour,salt,baking powder and baking soda.Continue whisking while adding the wet ingredients in a slow steady stream.Whisk just until smooth and well combined,then pour into the prepared pan.
      Bake,rotating the pan halfway through,until the top is golden brown and springs back when gently pressed with your fingertip,about 30 minutes.
      let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.Cut into pieces to serve.Can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

      FOR THE CARDAMOM REQUEIJAO CREAM
      3/4 (180ml) heavy cream or mascarpone
      5 whole green cardamom pods,lightly crushed
      2 large egg yolks
      2tbsp sugar,plus more to taste
      3/4 cup(165g) requeijao or ricotta
      2 cups (300g) small or quartered strawberries
      toasted slithered almonds,for serving
      In a medium saucepan,combine the cream and cardamom.Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, then remove from the heat,cover,and allow to steep for 30 minutes.Pick out and discard the cardamom.Bring the cream back to a simmer over a medium heat.
      In a medium bowl,whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until well combined.Continue to whisk while adding the simmered cream in a slow steady stream.Return the mixture to the saucepan and and whisk over a low heat until thickened,with fine bubbles.You should have a thick curd like custard registering 85F / 30C on a sugar thermometer.Remove from the heat,then whisk in the cheese until smooth.Refrigerate until set.
      While cream mixture chills,prepare the strawberries with sugar to taste and a splash of water.Heat over a medium heat until just warm,about two minutes.remove from the heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature,serve the strawberries and chilled cream alongside the cake and sprinkle with the almonds.

      Saturday, 7 March 2015

      Uma sopa de amêndoa, alho e couve-flor com um charuto anchova


      The Casa Rosada tasting menu changes with the seasons and if we know in advance a little about the likes and dislikes of the particular guests, I can tune it accordingly. I have recently added two items to the menu that I thought would be well suited to the tail end of winter and the first glimmer of spring.The first is inspired by a Spanish White Almond Gazpacho. For a long time I have  wanted to experiment with a warm version of this soup without losing the traditional Spanish feel of the main ingredients.I kept the bread as this would be a good thickening agent but decided to infuse it with cauliflower.With the help of a little manchego cheese I managed to achieve a savoury, creamy and slightly sweet soup. I wanted it to feel like a thick warm almond milk but with some other Spanish flavours.
      Garlic almond and cauliflower soup
      2 1⁄2 cups water, for blending
      1 slice day-old white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
      2 ounces blanched almonds (should be about 1/2 cup volume)
      2 garlic cloves, fresh, skinned, roughly chopped
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
      1 teaspoon salt

      Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend thoroughly.Taste and season, adjusting as needed (vinegar, sugar, more salt, etc.) set aside. 

      Good knob of butter
      1 small cauliflower,finely chopped, white florets only
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      250ml vegetable stock (or a good cube)
      150ml milk
      Salt and freshly ground white pepper
      50g grated manchego


      Gently heat the butter and olive oil in a pan and with the lid on gently sautée the cauliflower, for 4-5 minutes.
      Add the stock and milk. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes, with a lid on, or until the cauliflower is soft.Stir in the first seven ingredients that you have previously blended and set aside.
      Blend the mixture in a liquidiser with the cheese until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve and season again if necessary. You can add a little more cheese for added flavour if you wish.If the mixture appears too thick,dilute gradually with extra milk until you reach the consistency of thick milk.Return to the pan and heat gently,stirring constantly,over medium low heat.Serve immediately with garlic croutons and garnished with slivers of toasted almonds.


      My second innovation to the tasting menu was an anchovy cigar. We were recently served up an amuse bouche in a restaurant and were told it was an anchovy cigar.It was a grissini with a marinated, salted anchovy wrapped around the bottom third.It was very tasty but I thought a lot more "cigar" was needed to honour it with the title of an "anchovy cigar."I cast my mind back to the allumettes aux anchois my mother used to make as little tit bits to serve up with a drink when friends popped round.She rolled anchovy in very thin brown bread and that was it.Nowadays the norm for this recipe is filo or puff pastry,but I thought I would return to the brown bread idea and then throw in some more sympathetic companions like garlic, capers, parmesan and breadcrumbs and you have a more tasty cigar than tobacco could ever fulfill.

      An Anchovy cigar
      serves 4
      1 loaf thinly sliced brown bread, crusts removed
      2 tins of anchovy fillets
      salt and pepper
      extra virgin olive oil
      plentiful lemon juice
      100g toasted breadcrumbs
      50g parmesan, grated
      50g chopped capers
      chopped parsley
      2 garlic cloves chopped

      Mix together in a bowl the toasted breadcrumbs, anchovies,grated parmesan,chopped capers,parsley and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
      With a rolling pin,roll the bread slices out until they become thin and malleable sheets.
      spoon a line of the anchovy breadcrumb mix breadcrumb along the back third of each slice.Carefully roll the bread slices up rolling away from you until you have a tight cylinder.Sprinkle a little water just along the edge and press together well to seal the cigar.Tuck each end in and if necessary trim with a knife.Set aside.When ready to serve, lay the cigars,sealed edge downwards, on a baking tray lined with parchment.Brush a light coating of extra virgin olive oil on the cigars.Bake in a medium oven180C for about twenty minutes or until the bread becomes crisp.The timing here will depend on the freshness of the bread.Try and use the freshest bread possible. serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.

      Monday, 2 March 2015

      Arroz de pato,unexpected ratings( avaliaçãos inesperados)

      Croquetas arroz de pato, 2015

      "Sex and the kitchen- Beef encounter"
        The funny thing about writing a blog is that one never knows how popular a recipes will be. Often I think I have a real winner, but resulting statistics show no one really seems to appreciate it on the same level as I do. Then I post something rather simple and everyone goes nuts about it. Strange? You can imagine then, that when I posted Arroz de pato com imprevisto (a diferença) - Duck rice with a twist I was shocked by the response it got,and continues to get. Although I was pretty confident that I had a winning recipe, I never expected the recognition it got. After checking up on it today, the post has had over 6,000 hits.It has been top of the ratings for over two years now, and is 4,500 hits ahead of its closest competitor. How naive I was not to realise that putting the word sex in a blog title would dramatically affect the search engines results. "Sex and the kitchen- Beef encounter" comes in at all time number two.What is it that grabs the reader or puts them off? Is it in the title? Is the picture aspirational? In the case of "Sugar and spice and belly pork is nice" I think the picture probably contributed to its poor rating of only 34 views in the past year.It is extremely difficult to make cooked meat look appetising in a photograph,but I thought this was an innovative blog post and I am going to give it a re-run with a new picture and see what  reaction it gets second time round.
       Imagine the joy I got last October when my
      Gin and tonic jelly post got 354 hits on our facebook page in just one day and the reader who took their own initiative with the list of ingredients.I tagged lemon and lime wedges onto the bottom of the ingredients listing but omitted to tell the reader what to do with them as regards the recipe.She served the jelly up on the wedges.Not what I had originally intended but what a brilliant idea.That is the sort of feedback that makes it all worthwhile.Its three years now since I posted Arroz de pato com imprevisto (a diferença) - Duck rice with a twist. It is not a recipe I make very often to be honest, mainly because it is difficult to make in a small quantity.Anyway last weekend I decided to make it again for old times sake.As usual I was left with serious leftovers.I decided therefore to honour its third anniversary by giving you a recipe for using its leftovers.Croquetas, arroz de pato.I hope you like it? Serve these as starter portions or as part of a tapas.I served them with my own sweet and sour sauce. I haven´t included a recipe for this as some prefer more sweet than sour and others more sour than sweet.Here are some pointers..Seville oranges,mandarins, soya sauce, sweet sherry, sherry vinegar, honey,tomato sauce or ketchup,chilli flakes and don´t forget the corn starch.

      Croquetas, arroz de pato
      1 quantity of left over risotto
      plain flour for dusting
      2 eggs beaten
      breadcrumbs for coating
      sunflower oil for deep frying


      Take a little of the duck rice and form it into a ball, roughly the same size as a golf ball.You will find it easier if you wet your hands with cold water. Dust with a little flour,then coat with beaten egg and finally coat in the breadcrumbs.Repeat the process for each ball.
      Heat some oil in a large deep saucepan or in a deep fat fryer.Add the duck rice balls balls a few at a time and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot or cold.

      Friday, 27 February 2015

      Tarte de amêndoa,uma delicia para fim de semana

      I have always had a soft spot for a Portuguese almond tart, but never ever been able to replicate the one I had at a Portuguese cafe in Bloomsbury in London.Well now I think I´ve found a pretty close match for that memory. I´ll let you know in an hour or two when I´ve "deliberated, cogitated and digested."

      Portuguese almond tart
      Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Grease the hollows of the fluted edge especially well, as the topping part of the tart will stick.

      FOR THE BASE
      125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
      200g (1 cup) sugar
      2 eggs
      Splash (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1/2 large plump vanilla bean
      Pinch salt
      200g (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour

      Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Blend in salt and flour. Spread evenly over bottom of tart pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool out of the oven for about 30 minutes. Increase oven temp to 400°.

      FOR THE TOPPING
      125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
      60g (1/4 cup) heavy cream
      150g (3/4 cup) sugar
      200g (2 cups sliced almonds)

      Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in cream. Blend in almonds. Spread evenly over top of cooled baked cake. Bake for 20 minutes or until topping is bubbling and browned. Cool completely before serving, but serve at room temperature.

      THE VERDICT
      If you like your desserts sweet but not cloying,this is one for you.It has a buttery almond filling and a crunchy, nutty, caramelised topping.My only suggestion might be to use a slightly smaller and deeper tart pan, then each slice you serve would have more depth to it.

      Thursday, 26 February 2015

      Vegetable crumble-food for thought?

      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.O3Xhqpir.dpuf
      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.O3Xhqpir.dpufI don´t know why I thought
      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.O3Xhqpir.dpuf
      My post student days in London were the heydays of healthy wholesome eating.De rigeur was khaki, beige and army surplus sweaters as was dictated to us by Liz Tilberis´s innovative "More dash than cash" pages in Vogue.Tilberis introduced the notion of affordable style.She searched high and low for unexpected fashionable finds that wouldn´t make a hole in our aspirational pockets.
      she introduced the notion of affordable style. She searched high and low for unexpected fashionable finds that wouldn’t break the bank. - See more at: http://www.fashionschooldaily.com/index.php/2012/08/02/that-gal-is-liz-tilberis/#sthash.mszZuqBG.dpuf
      she introduced the notion of affordable style. She searched high and low for unexpected fashionable finds that wouldn’t break the bank. - See more at: http://www.fashionschooldaily.com/index.php/2012/08/02/that-gal-is-liz-tilberis/#sthash.mszZuqBG.dpuf
      Kitted out in our hearty oatmeal and mossy coloured fern flecked woolies we were not only ensured of being well insulated against the chill of our poorly heated apartments, but also of being perfectly co-ordinated with the earthy glaze of the Leach pottery soup bowls we fashionably supped from.And if we still felt the chill after imbibing a worthy leek and potato soup, there was always a lentil and cheese bake and a wholesome slice of banana bread. 
       Fashionable wholefood restaurants like Cranks,(purveyors of the best ever homity pie) were all the rage.Establishments such as this made their regular customers aware of the connection between healthy eating and uncomfortable seating. We squatted on stools at cramped tables in basements, dazzled by the stripped pine that surrounded us.Sadly this era, a way of life, a civilisation and so much more, has gone.Only Food For Thought and Neals Yard bakery remain as a reminder of wholefood days gone by.
      The queues out the door of the former come lunchtime were a good yard stick of the popularity of a long-standing vegetarian cafe and restaurant.
      Food for Thought was, and I believe still is, a Covent Garden institution. This basement vegetarian restaurant has been on Neal Street since 1974 and still has a well-deserved reputation for making it possible to enjoy delicious vegetarian food at edible prices.Not that I miss this retro lifestyle choice,but I have to admit I do occasionally get a pining for it.
       Back then, in the days before Pret-a-Whatever this was my preferred break from the humdrum of the magazine art room and a welcome escape from wantonly inhaling the vapours of cow gum.
      Fashions change and it was au reservoir to cranky eating habits and Hola to politically incorrect Nando´s.Cranks was sold to Nando's Grocery Ltd in 2001. An era, a way of life, a civilisation and so much more, was over. Cook in sauces and piri piri chicken were to be the next big thing.No use for office lunches but I have to say these cook in sauces were tasty, and a divine saviour by way of enabling a meal to be cobbled together in minutes.This was just what one needed after being pushed busy-wise till some ungodly hour of the day when one was unleashed from office toil to go home. 
      Cranks and crankiness wasn't something we only went out to do. We were cranky in the privacy of our own homes, too.Last week I thought I would return to that crankiness and try to recreate some of that wonder of sustainable living and self sufficiency.Yes It can be recreated in even the smallest of tiny domestic kitchens.I had a burning desire to return to the days of carrot cake and tray bakes.
      Who could have thought a serious meat eater like me would have considered cooking vegetables with a crumble topping? Or perhaps a nut roast - its density akin to a plywood block or reconstituted sawdust.
      Having been one who enjoyed this guilty culinary pleasure I don´t know why I thought crumbles have to be sweet. Less bother than a pie, vegetable crumble is a great way to use up what you have in the fridge, cupboard or freezer! You can change the filling with the seasons making green and summery fillings in the spring and summer and filling it with heartier root vegetables in the winter. 
      It was wholemeal all the way for me. There was no stopping me now.The thespian,never one to look forward to a plate of greens, was not convinced.My inspiration came from Portugal´s most prolific food and travel blog author and recipe developer,Isabel Zibaia Rafael .When she stayed at Casa Rosada for last year´s bloggers weekend she gave us a copy of her book Cozinha par dias felizes and I was taken with one particular recipe, pumpkin and roasted beetroot salad with Feta cheese and cous cous. I had a large butternut squash to hand,a block of feta in the fridge and decided that along with some almonds these would be the core ingredients for a savoury crumble.
      Butternut squash crumble
      Serves 8 portions
      As regards how you portion this for cooking is entirely up to you.The quantities are easily changeable from a 4 pint/1.8 litre baking dish to smaller individual ramekins or for starter portions or make ahead portions to keep in the freezer.Just adjust quantities and cooking times accordingly.

      1.5kg butternut squash,peeled and cut into 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes.

      3-4 large shallots thinly sliced
      2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
      2oz(50g) bacon/pancetta chopped( vegetarians omit)
      2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
      1 teaspoon dried sage
      1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds 
      2-3 dried red chillies crumbled
      1/2 cup vegetable stock
      Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper
       

      TOPPING
      3/4 cup (95g flour)
      soup spoon finely ground almonds
      1/3 cup sliced or flaked almonds
      1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
      1 teaspoon fresh thyme
      1 teaspoon Flor de sal and pepper
      1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces  

      Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Butter a large baking dish or 8 ramekins.Bash the coriander seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar. Sauté the shallots,garlic,bacon,if using. Add the cubes of squash and continue cooking until it begins to soften(about 15minutes) sprinkle over the crushed chilli and coriander.Add the herbs,stock and seasoning and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.Pour the mixture into your baking dish or ramekins.Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.While this is cooking make your topping.In a medium bowl bring together the flour,ground almonds,sugar if using,thyme,Flor de sal and pepper.Add the pieces of butter and bring the mixture together with your fingers until you have a consistency that resembles bread crumbs.Stir in the flaked and sliced almonds. Remove the dish or ramekins from the oven,remove the foil covering and scatter the crumble over the top.Bake 45 minutes until golden brown.






      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.FglceRaf.dpuf
      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.L492k6Az.dpuf
      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.L492k6Az.dpuf
      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.NoweR8fC.dpuf
      I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at: http://mattbites.com/2010/10/11/vegetable-crumble/#sthash.NoweR8fC.dpuf

      Saturday, 21 February 2015

      Bolos lêvedos de São Miguel

      This is more like an English muffin than an American muffin


      In the great, wide world of breakfast breads, the English muffin is a well-known favourite. On sandwiches, under Eggs Benedict, or on their own, English muffins are a classic choice for breakfasts on the hop as well as leisurely Sunday brunches. English muffins may have cornered the breakfast market,but they're not the only "European muffin" out there, and they may not be the best either. The Portuguese muffin can one-up and out-do its English counterpart any morning of the week.
      For those who aren't familiar with the Portuguese muffin, it is slightly sweeter and slightly larger than an English muffin. You don't pull it apart like you would an English muffin -- instead, you cut it in half with a knife, as you would a bagel. The cross-section is smoother, with fewer "nooks and crannies" than an English muffin.
      The dough for Portuguese muffins consists of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, whole milk, yeast and water.
       Also known as Portuguese sweet muffins, Portuguese sweet bread, Portuguese pancakes, or Bolo Levedo, these muffins are sturdier than English muffins and don't crumble as easily, which makes them great for sandwiches, toasties or instead of burger buns.
      I could quite happily eat these muffins for breakfast and again for lunch, and I have no shame.My favourite employment of Bolo levedos is for eggs Benedict (above).
      So when I saw a recipe for these online I decided to experiment with making them in my own kitchen. I have never even thought that bread could be baked bread in a dry frying pan.We were beyond excited when they came out just like the picture that had inspired me. Its almost magical watching the frying pan as these squashed dough balls slowly transform themselves into the sort of muffin we all know and enjoy
      .
      Bolos lêvedos de São Miguel                                                              Makes 8 or 9 muffins
      500-550 g all purpose flour
      125 g butter (preferably Azorean!) softened
      125 g Sugar 

      20 g of baker's yeast
      200ml milk
      Zest of 1 lemon
      2 eggs

      In a bowl, pour in the warm milk, then the sugar and the crumbled yeast. Add the beaten eggs and then the softened butter. Add the lemon zest. Finally, sift in 500 g of flour.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Watch the kneading, it is likely you will have to add a little more flour, but do so using a tablespoon at a time testing the mass little by little (I added about 50g more, ie about 4 tablespoons).
      Cover dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 11/2 hours.
      Divide dough into about 8 or 9 pieces, and shape them into flat round cakes about 1/2 inch thick. 
      In a dry ungreased nonstick frying pan, cook the flattened dough balls on a low heat, one side and then the other. Caution: keep the flame low.Set aside to cool on a wire rack.