Thursday, 4 February 2016

All about Eve and the Alcobaça apple

Eve´s pudding it was called, and every time my mother made it I would ask her who Eve was? "Eve's pudding is so named as the recipe uses apples" was one of her answers.This never satisfied my inquisitiveness. I had read in my children´s book about Adam and Eve and their sin and it would say that Adam and Eve ate an"apple" The Bible says fruit, but it never says there was an apple, but it really doesn't matter. The original sin was disobedience to God's command, and it leaves ground open for debate as to whether Eve´s Pudding was a biblical reference or whether there was a real latterday Eve who baked a cake which this was named after.Any way it´s all very British and as always nanny knows best.This is one of those puddings that take you back to the days when the cure for all ills came smothered in cream.Warm, milky rice pudding and a blob of red jam was as effective an ointment for a bad time as tea-tree cream was for a cut finger.I remember bland apple sponge from school dinners,but this was not one of those.
Eve´s pudding is one of those "lost nursery recipes that more than deserves a place in the twenty first century.Eve's pudding is a type of traditional British pudding now made from apples and Victoria sponge cake mixture. The apples are allowed to stew at the bottom of the baking dish while the cake mixture cooks on top.So still not having ascertained who the author of this pudding was, another question arises as to whether it is a cake or a pudding? Whatever you decide about Eves "pudding," it will fill every remaining crevice with sweet nannying stodge.The recipe I sourced said "sharp cooking apples".One would be hard pressed in Portugal to find what I assume the recipe meant to be Bramley apples.What I sourced however,in Lidl was some lovely Granny Smith apples from Alcobaça in the centre of Portugal.This reinforced for me the importance attached by Lidl to sourcing Portuguese products.
Apple growing in Alcobaça dates back to 1154, when Claraval monks settled in this region. The Alcobaça apple is famous for its sweetness, perfume and colour. Nowadays, you can find several varieties of this apple: Royal Gala, Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Casanova, Alcobaça, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Reineta Parda.The Alcobaça apple is produced in a small area formerly part the Estramadura region, which is characterized by a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. The apple has been classified PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) since 1994.
 

Eve´s pudding

750g sharp cooking apples
3-4 tbsp golden caster sugar
dash of cinnamon
dash of ground cloves

150g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
2 large eggs
80g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
80g ground almonds

Pre-heat oven to 180c /gas 4
Peel, core and cut the apples into rough chunks.Toss them in the sugar, cinnamon and cloves then put them in a pan with 3tbsp sugar and 2tbsp water.Bring to the boil,then lower the heat and let them cook for 10 minutes or so until they are soft but still retain their shape.
Meanwhile,cut the butter into pieces and put it the food processor with the sugar.Beat until light and fluffy,then break the eggs ,beat them lightly and add them to the butter and sugar.If they curdle briefly,add a tablespoon of the flour.
Mix the flour and baking powder together. Add the grated zest of the lemon and orange, flour and ground almonds to the mixture and continue mixing on a low speed till all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and you have a soft,smooth texture.
Pile the warm cooked apples into a deep pie dish or loose bottomed cake tin then smooth the cake mixture over the top. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen and bubbling at the sides.
If you are not convinced about Eve´s pudding,try my more contemporary recipe for Granny Smith apple cake

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Jamón it up for the weekend, uma reinvenção frances

We're Jamón,............. Hope you like Jamón, too.
Bread, butter,salt meat and cheese.What more could a man ask for breakfast? I just crave these combinations of flavours in the morning.The Portuguese do it so well with so many variations on this theme.
 Tosta mista
I first sampled the tosta mista on holiday in Tavira in 1995. I have never looked back but have now added to my favourites folio the Folhada mista.
Folhada mista is  basically a variation on the same theme but wrapped up in pastry as opposed to toasted.The thespian has a sweeter preference for his breakfast and something french in origin, the pain au chocolat.So when I return from walking the dog and a quick pop into the shops, I very often return with a sweet and savoury alternative for our two breakfasts.I have often made french toast or when in Portugal ,rabanadas, but it is not the same as a good old bit of fried bread, ham, cheese and a dousing of egg and milk.
There is also a renowned Portuguese toasted sandwich called The Francesinha,which I am determined to make one day soon (watch this space) as I have never been in the mood to eat it in a restaurant due to its over-indulgent nature, but am nevertheless curious to play around with it at home and possibly tame the beast a little.The Francesinha (meaning ''Little French woman'' in Portuguese) is Portugal's decadent answer to the croque-madame. It's a huge meat-filled monster, topped with egg and cheese, smothered in a beer and port wine based gravy, and always served with French fries.The only token gesture to France is that this sort of toast was invented back in the 60's by a Portuguese emigrant who had just returned from France and decided to adapt a very well-known french recipe - the Croque-Madame.The actual recipe for a Francesinha bears little resemblance to the actual Croque-Madame and has become enormously famous, especially in Porto.In the meanwhile I have made a twist on French toast which is exactly what you need to get your weekend started on the right foot.Well I dont know about you,but it´s certainly what I enjoy on a wintry Sunday morning with coffee and the papers. I have called my rolled up reincarnation the Francesinho ( "little frenchman")so not to be confused with that little french woman "Francesinha."
The classic melting cheeses here are Gruyere and Emmental but there are so many others that will work well, giving you a voluptuous melting toastie.I used Emmental but Provolone,Cheddar or one of those gooey Italian cheeses like Fontina or Taleggio might have been my first choice if I had access to them.Taleggio is the creamier of the two, but Fontina melts brilliantly and has a bit of a clout to it. 
The belter of the 'melters' has to be Camembert. Cut into thick slices, it oozes rather than melts and becomes quite sublime.

HOW I DID IT
I got my slices of bread,cut off the crusts and rolled them really flat with a rolling pin.
Keep the crusts because I am going to tell you how to do something witty with them in a future post.Lay some smoky cured jamon, presunto or prosciutto on each slice and trim it to fit exactly.Lay strip of the cheese of your choice to cover the ham.You could grate the cheese if you preferred.Carefully roll the bread slices up into cigar shapes and put them seam side down on a plate.In a shallow dish beat an egg together with some milk,salt and pepper. Melt some butter in frying pan large enough to accomodate all your slices.This is more economical than normal square french toast as you can cook all your little french men together rather than in batches.Dip, not bathe, each rolled up piece in the egg wash
and then fry them seam side down in the melting butter turning them two or three times so that all sides get evenly browned.Remove them from the pan with tongs and eat the straight away and then you´ll be ready to make more!!Simple as.....
enjoy your fast and fabulous breakfast.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Cozido,to every family and nation a stew

Ensopado de borrego Irlandes
Every culture has a tradition of a boiled meat dish.Each nation across Europe has adapted the technique of boiling meat to their own style.These recipes have developed over time but always followed the same  principle.The end result however encompasses completely different flavours.Most commonly eaten during winter these hearty dishes help fend off  cold and wet climates.
You might ask, am I taking you back to  the Middle ages? Traditions, in fact often date back as far as the thirteenth century.Boiling meat was a great improvement on roasting, as it meant one owned a pot,which implied there was a home or a hearth, and perhaps, though I shouldn´t say it, a wife to go with it.
From land to table, cooking and eating create a sense of community, a sense of belonging and most importantly a sense of family and friends. In Portugal, life still centres a lot around the table. Food and meals are still the cornerstone of every family and social event. You cannot have a social or family gathering without food.Portuguese cooking is about embracing both past and future, both tradition and change….it is not only about heritage, but about building a lasting memory….about how modern Portuguese cooking remains very Portuguese.When you ask a tourist about the most memorable attraction in Portugal, he or she will most likely mention food, before anything else.
Although modern life has changed many Portuguese culinary traditions, the fact is that they are still quite traditional when it comes to cooking… and eating.
The Mediterranean diet is still the basis of eating habits and there are a set of skills and practices that remain untouched and close to ancient traditions. These intangible treasures that every family and community hold should be safeguarded and proudly passed on to future generations.They are a way of upholding family values and family heritage….a way of creating memories and food is no doubt one of the most precious Portuguese treasures.Ancient recipes that were traditionally reserved for festive occasions and down-to-earth recipes made by the poor communities are now making their way into the modern Portuguese kitchen.
More and more, Portuguese cooking is taking cues from the past and drawing reference from  its traditional homestyle cooking. Modern appliances and techniques have only taken the art of cooking to perfection, for the ingredients remain simple and undergo very little processing. So basically, What you see is what you ….get…

 Cozido portugues tipico

The traditional Portuguese stew, known as cozido is allegedly attributed to Jews. It was the Sephardic Jewish people who were responsible  for introducing and spreading the concept of boiled meat that influenced the Iberican cuisine. That's because on Shabbat - the day of rest in Judaism - they could not,  among other things, light a fire and cook. So they cooked meats and vegetables in the same pot the day before, for consumption after sunset.A true Portuguese cozido is a unique combination of beef, pork, chicken and sausages generously cooked with cabbage, carrots and potatoes.Since the origins of this dish are humble (this is a rustic recipe meant to use up the cheaper cuts of meat) it contains ingredients that might be unsavoury to more  refined palates, such as pig’s snout, pig’s feet, pig’s ear and blood sausage.
Some aficionados of cozido prefer the meat less tender while others prefer it falling off the bone. Traditionally a well plated dish will consist of some quantity of one of everything mentioned below albeit in a smaller cut up portion.
If all the various cuts of meat are not available or some of them disgust you don’t worry, all you need to maintain the spirit of the dish is to have a sampling of all the meats (pork, beef, chicken)  sausage and the vegetables.
I have give no quantities below as this is a guide for you to choose from and will also vary by how many people you are serving.
stewing steak (in one piece)
pork ribs
pork hock,
pork snout
pork tail
pork ear
pork neck bones
chicken
morcela sausage (a Portuguese blood sausage)
chouriço
salpicao sausage (a Portugese sausage)
farinheira
( a Portuguese smoked sausage made mainly from wheat flour, pork fat and seasonings (white wine, paprika, salt and pepper). Its original recipe did not contain pork fat; it was invented by the Jews during the 15th century to deceive the Portuguese Inquisition by making them believe that they were converted to Christianity by showing they were eating pork).
lean unsmoked bacon toucinho, pancetta etc
turnips
potatoes
white cabbage quartered
carrots, scraped
greens
rice (optional)


Place all the meat except for the sausages in boiling water with enough to cover all and allow it to  cook at a low boil. Add salt to taste. As each item of meat cooks, remove it from the broth into a separate dish and keep warm.
Different meats will cook differently so check your meat periodically for your desired tenderness.
When all the meat has cooked thoroughly place the white cabbage, potatoes, carrots and turnips in the broth and cook.  Remove vegetables as they are cooked and set aside with the meat.
Once again note that vegetables may cook at varying rates so check periodically. Add greens and boil until tender and cooked.  Finally add the sausages and boil until cooked being careful to watch the farinheira as it can explode.
When the sausages are close to being fully cooked gently place the meat back into the broth pot, along with vegetables so that all the ingredients can come up to temperature. Place the vegetables last into the pot.
To plate the dish place the cabbage on a platter. Slice the beef, pork, chicken and sausages into manageable 2-3 inch  pieces and place on top leaving the bone in pieces a little bigger so as to not distort the natural shape of the meat.
Garnish the dish with the remaining vegetables around the platter and top with slices of sausage.
Some like to reserve some of the broth and cook some rice in it.  To do so take some broth out before adding all the ingredients back into the pot to reheat.  Remember that liquid to rice ratios are: 1 quantity or rice to 2 of liquid.

European variations on the the theme of boiled meat
Cocido montañés
En españa Cocido montañés is a hot and heavy dish whose origin was in the 17th century.It was cooked to stave off the cold and wet climate in the Cantabrian mountains. It is usually served as a starter course (no really), but may also be the main course of the meal.
 Bollito Misto 
In Italy Bollito Misto is served in restaurants like a ritual.Silver carts with compartments for each cut of meat,belly,cheek ,tail, tongue,head and cotechino,parade up and down dining rooms the length and breadth of the country.The crowning glory,however is how it is served.A plethora of sauces may be served.emerald green salsa verde,red and yellow pepperonata and candied fruit mostarda which bring festivity and flavour to what might be a rather anaemic looking plate of meat.

                         Massimo Bottura´s thoroughly modern take on Bollito Misto 




Pot-au-feu (French pronunciation: ​[pɔ.to.fø] "pot on the fire") is a French beef stew. According to the chef Raymond Blanc, pot-au-feu is "the quintessence of French family cuisine, it is the most celebrated dish in France. It honours the tables of the rich and poor alike.

 Estufado rabo de boi à Minha Maneira
This is my idea of boiled meat, a good old unctuous oxtail stew.I prefer to keep different types of meat separate and not mix them in the same dish.The trick with this classic one-pot is to using a cheaper cut of meat, which means you’ll skimp on price but not quality.What´s your favourite recipe for boiled meat and are you of the "use it all mindset"?
 Most families will tell you that the topic of conversation at lunch will be: what´s for dinner? Now why does that remind me of my father-in -law?


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Seville orange curd syllabub

Britain has long standing links with southern Spain and Portugal through the sherry and port trade, so the word and the preserve probably made their way here by the same route. - See more at: http://greedygardener.co.uk/post/17085022376/seville-oranges#sthash.w55UtKKC.dpuf

The Seville orange harvest and consequential marmalade season comes but once a year, and If you don´t want to lose most of your weekend spending hours in a steamy kitchen, tying the pips in muslin bags, there are plenty of other options for the use of Seville oranges than just making marmalade.

Britain has long standing links with southern Spain and Portugal through the sherry and port trade, so the word and the preserve probably made their way here by the same route. - See more at: http://greedygardener.co.uk/post/17085022376/seville-oranges#sthash.w55UtKKC.dpuf
Britain has long standing links with Andalucia and Portugal through the sherry and port trade and also through the export of these tarter-than-tart exotic oranges.
Cultivated in Andalucía since the 12th century, Seville is still packed with orange groves, but most of the fruit is now shipped to the UK to be turned into marmalade. There´s even a saying that Sevillanos are so astonished the British actually want to use their bitter oranges to make marmalade, that they reckon the pith is secretly used to make gunpowder.
An apocryphal story tells that James Keiller bought a ship load of oranges from a ship that had sought harbour from a winter storm. The ship had started its journey in Seville but the delay caused by the storm had made the oranges less fresh than they ought to have been. The bargain gave Keiller's wife, Janet, the opportunity to manufacture a large quantity of marmalade.The true story is more prosaic; in reality, the Keillers adapted an existing recipe for manufacture, by adding the characteristic rind suspended in the preserve.Using this link between the Iberican peninsular and the United Kingdom I have an excuse for introducing an old English dessert but giving it a modern twist with these wonderful oranges.
Syllabub is an English dessert described by the Oxford English Dictionary as  

"a drink or dish made of milk or cream, curdled by the admixture of wine, cider, or other acid, and often sweetened and flavoured." 

As I understand it my modern interpretation of this definition is, that as long as my cream has been curdled in some way by the addition of acid, in this case Seville oranges, I can call it a syllabub.
Syllabub. The origins of the name are speculative, but it's so much fun to say out loud, isn't it? It Rolls around your tongue and then just pops right out. A multi-syllabic party in your mouth!  I am not sure whether to believe the story that this dessert was originally made by milking a cow directly into a bowl of sweetened wine, sherry or cider, as some early recipes suggest (you can trace the recipe back to the Tudors),I like the tale enough to at least mull it over.
There are two basic forms of Syllabub, one in which the sweetened wine/fruit juice is whipped into heavy cream in such a way as to remain consolidated, and one in which the liquid drains out of the mixture leaving the wine in the bottom of the glass and the thick cream on top. For this latter method, there were special Syllabub drinking vessels with a spout from which one could drink the liquid and use a spoon for the creamy froth on top.
Seville orange curd syllabub
This simple pudding or breakfast dish  makes for a much more relaxed and easy method of using Seville oranges than the 2 day process of making marmalade.
Makes 4 portions
200ml double cream
175g thick Greek yoghurt
175g Seville orange curd
Zest of 1 Seville orange
80-100g amaretti, roughly crushed
Whisk the cream gently into soft, rather than pointy, peaks. Fold in the yoghurt, then the orange curd. Gently mix in the amaretti and zest. Spoon into little bowls, or teacups, cover tightly with clingfilm. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to firm up.
Serve well chilled with a glass of Oloroso sherry and a few extra amaretti on the side.

Seville Orange Curd
Grated zest of 2 Seville oranges
1/cup of squeezed bitter orange juice, strained ( about 3 oranges)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large free range eggs plus 1 egg yolk
250g (8oz9 unsalted butter

Put the sugar in a medium bowl and grate the orange zest into it.
Rub the zest into the sugar vigorously with your fingers.
Strain the orange juice into a medium sized pan
Add the eggs, extra egg yolk, butter and zested sugar mix.
Set a pan over a medium to low flame and cook, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. The temperature is crucial and you must not let the mixture boil.Be sure to keep whisking all over the pan especially around the edges.At the first sign of of a boil, remove from the heat and keep whisking. Pour into a sterilised jar and put in the fridge to set and chill.Pour immediately into warm, *sterilised jars and seal. Use within three or four weeks, and keep in the fridge once opened.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Putting on the Ritz,with a little bit of history

Having sexed up the Waldorf I am now putting on the Ritz. Here at Casa Rosada we enjoy a wintertime fireside treat.Once the sun has gone down behind the castle, work is considered done for the day.The days are getting longer I know, but on a cold cloudy day 5.30 is twilight time, so we pull up a chair and enjoy a slice of cake by the fire.Envious I think you are.Well why not come and join us for a slice of home made cake, and if its not the Portuguese winter sun you are looking for,we will give you a sunshine cake on your plate for a spring or summer breakfast.Well if you cant afford the Ritz, then I say why not bring the razzle dazzle home with you.
This is the kind of recipe that keeps getting handed down. It's that GOOD and perfectly classic,that I haven´t meddled with the recipe.The franchises like the Four Seasons and
Ritz that have now absorbed most of the original Ritz hotels are probably the reason for the demise of this cake and it is now up to individuals like myself to continue its legacy.

 a little bit ritzy
The Ritz hotel in London however still serves this cake (see above) and the Ritz Madrid and the Paris Ritz still remain in the César Ritz group.Thankfully there are still the boulevards and the cafés in Paris, and the sense that things will continue, just as they always have done, so should this cake.The Ritz in Paris is a destination where a high  tea is still served  in the perfect European tradition.A little bit of history: tea at the Bar Vendôme at the Ritz was the first occasion where it was socially acceptable for a woman to be in public without her husband.Fascinating! so while in Paris every woman must experience afternoon tea.
A little bit of history: tea at The Bar Vendôme at The Ritz was the first occasion in France where it was socially acceptable for a woman to be in public without her husband. Fascinating! - See more at: http://mybeautifulparis.com/do/tea/#sthash.YcbgzOkw.dpuf
A little bit of history: tea at The Bar Vendôme at The Ritz was the first occasion in France where it was socially acceptable for a woman to be in public without her husband. Fascinating! - See more at: http://mybeautifulparis.com/do/tea/#sthash.YcbgzOkw.dpuf
A little bit of history: tea at The Bar Vendôme at The Ritz was the first occasion in France where it was socially acceptable for a woman to be in public without her husband. Fascinating!
- See more at: http://mybeautifulparis.com/do/tea/#sthash.iEeFWlnz.dpuf
The famous Ritz Carlton Hotel 
1920's Tea Room Lemon Pound Cake
Preheat oven to 350F
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder 

3/4 tsp salt
3 cups sugar 

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening, room temperature
5 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
6 Tbsp lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Grease and flour one large Bundt pan.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well blended after each one.
Add dry ingredients in three additions to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Mix in lemon juice and zest.
Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.



 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

uma previsão do tempo nevoeiro, a sopa de fiambre com ervilhas verdes secas

 All good things must come to an end, in this case the Thespian´s Christmas ham.This year it was a revelation in deliciousness. We had plentiful cold cuts and many a ham and egg collation but my attempt at Nasi Goreng was a disaster. It was all about the shrimp paste.Thank you Richard Turner of The Guardian, sadly we won´t be using your recipe again.The moment you throw just a teaspoonful of it in the pan it is guaranteed to clear any kitchen.What was that foul smell that was permeating the kitchen? Had something unspeakably horrible died in the larder or had I forgotten about a hard-boiled egg that might have rolled under the cooker before Christmas? You can´t quite locate the source,holding your nose as you search,you open the windows,put on the extractor fan and leave the house in the hope the odour may have dissipated on your return.
The big question here is why do I keep anything that smells so repellent in my larder.Time again for that annual pantrification folks.How time flies when you are enjoying yourself!! What other little nasties are lurking in my little shop of horrors?
Well with every permutation of glazed ham recipes
tried and tested its time for soup and one soup in particular ,"London Particular"  named after the thick blankets of yellow fog or `peasoupers´ that used to engulf London back in the day.I always feel a tingle when I make this soup, as I if I am being  transported back to that London smog with gaslight barely illuminating tarts with cigarettes leaning underneath them.
Barely a winter goes by without me making at least one batch of this fortifying broth.
Making homemade bone broth is arguably one of the most important techniques a Traditional Cook must incorporate into the kitchen routine on a very frequent basis.
Looking at a bone, you might think it has nothing to offer in terms of nutrition. Lick it, and it has an unpleasantly sandpapery texture. Bite into it, and all you get is a sore tooth. It looks so dead; what kind of useful nutrients could possibly be in there?
The answer: just about everything. Bones are a perfect example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. Locked away inside that hard shell is a wealth of essential nutrients – anti-inflammatory and gut-healing proteins, healthy fats, and a wealth of minerals just waiting to be used. Wild animals the world over know this: they’ll go straight for the bones every time they make a kill. Unlike dogs or vultures though, human beings aren’t built to crack open the bones with our bare teeth. Instead, we have to make our oversized primate brains earn their keep by cooking the bones to get at the goodness inside.
The old song – “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones” – really got it all wrong. Bones aren’t dry at all; prepared properly, they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. And the price is right, too: think of how many bones we all throw out every week. Using those bones saves you a considerable amount of money, because it stretches a leg of lamb, a shoulder of pork or a roast chicken carcass into not one, but two high-quality sources of protein and fat. All the gristly, unattractive odd bits get a new way to be useful, and you save significantly on you weekly food bill.
So without further ado, add crunch to your lunch with this easy peasy Martha Stewart soup that features split peas, ham, and my addition of homemade cumin spiced croutons. Use leftover ham to make split pea soup prep even easier.Thanks Martha for this great recipe and for once your ingredients are not for 100 portions!! Well the book was called "Martha Entertains"

Split pea soup with ham
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped medium onion
4 carrots, thinly sliced
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups home made chicken broth
1 bag (16 ounces) green split peas, picked over and rinsed
Ham bone plus 2 cups left over ham cut into 1/2-inch cubes


    In a heavy casserole with a lid, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 8 minutes.
    Add broth, split peas, ham bone, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and partially cover; simmer until peas are soft, 30 to 45 minutes.
    Meanwhile,make cumin croutons:
    1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
    1 heaped teaspoon whole cumin
    4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    100g white bread cut into 3cm cubes

    Pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F/ gas mark 5. Toss the bread cubes around in a bowl with the cumin, a bit of salt and half the olive oil.Spread over a baking tray and bake in the oven, turning occasionally for 20 minutes until golden brown.
    Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
    Remove and discard bone from soup. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender (don't overfill); return to pot. Add ham cubes, and simmer until heated through. If necessary, thin with water. Add salt, pepper, to taste. Serve topped with the croutons.

      Tuesday, 12 January 2016

      Shangri-la,the Algarvian Orient

      Praia Verde (1969 Citroen DS - immortalised by Alain Delon)

      The advert says "ssshhh secret places, dont tell anyone, sssshhh its secret".The independent traveler always wants to be the first to discover their own secret place and keep it to themselves. so that if and when they return they will find it still remains unspoilt and not have fallen foul to the hand of mass tourism.In the 1980´s The "east" Algarve was always our secret place. We returned to holiday each year and nothing ever changed very much.The region remained resistent to and untouched by development mainly due to the fact that the coastal area east of Faro stretching to Vila Real de Santo Antonio is the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.The Ria Formosa lagoon is a system of barrier islands that communicates with the sea through six inlets. Five of these inlets are natural and have mobility characteristics.Is it still a best kept secret? Yes in many ways, and in other ways what change there is  has been for the good.Casa Rosada is ten years old this year. Some recent guests described us as Shangri-la.This expression has now become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly the mythical utopia immortalized in the 1933 novel ´Lost Horizon`. Shangri-la is a permanently happy land,isolated from the outside world.In the novel the people who live there are almost immortal, living a life of longevity and only very slowly aging in appearance.Although I come from a family where longevity prevails we can not possibly keep up appearances but Casa Rosada can claim to possessing highly desirable or near perfect qualities.We want to make our guests feel they were coming home.
      The word also evokes the imagery of exoticism of the Orient.Exoticism, by one definition, is "the charm of the unfamiliar"and this is exactly what the Casa Rosada is, the easternmost Bed and Breakfast in the Algarve. Just three hours flying time from the UK or Ireland and you feel you are worlds away,waking up the next day in the "Algarvian Orient."
      I can never decide whether it is the weather, the opportunity for the unconventionality or  an escape from the rat race that drives the British to live abroad. Today so many of us have moved abroad that Chianti has become Chiantishire, and one is hard pushed to find an Italian there.While in Spain whole areas have become ghettos, affection has gone while xenophobia often remains. Here in Portugal Algarve became ALLGARVE for a while.An absolutely disgraceful and disrespectful excuse for a gimmick to manage events for Algarve tourism.A survey completed by travellers at Faro airport seemed oblivious to this and showed that 86 percent of the foreigners who holidayed in the Algarve  and participated in the survey left the region unaware of the existence of the Allgarve programme.Only 9 visitors were interested in the events anyway.
      The study further questioned 767 residents and non residents in the region, of whom only 32 percent knew about the programme.Thankfully there was opposition and it is no more.As fast as the large letters spelling out the word appeared on billboards or by roadsides the second L was defaced to spell out the original Algarve.
      So what do you come to the Algarve for? Gastronomy and beaches were the biggest response from the survey. But it seems everyone else comes here for this too, so if you are in the promoted areas of tourism don´t be surprised to find yourself in the company of non-native speakers.And, more importantly, non-native eaters and drinkers. Nowhere in the country is there more evidence of a bland internationalisation of local food, all done to please money spending visitors.Its tragic.So to discover regionally specific dishes that have avoided  tourist influence you´ll need to get off the beaten track, heading to the far East, the North, the far West and other unspoilt areas of the region.If you venture inland where other tourists and their requests for toasted sandwiches and chicken piri piri rarely venture,you will find the real Algarve.
      So is the best kept secret still there? Yes,but you need to check it out and avoid the hotspots.The "orient" that is Castro Marim is so far from "Little Britain" and expatriotism that you might be forgiven for forgetting karaoke hen nights and Brits behaving badly.You never see anyone lying in the gutter here at 10.30 in the morning.Here in the "Algarvian orient" the difference is between oversubscribed and undersubscribed.If where you eat doesn´t matter as long as you can eat and drink this will not be the place for you.The difference between now and then is there are now more distinctive restaurants, purveying interesting menus that delve deep into the regions gastronomic wealth.What luring estate agents were reprimanded for naming "The Spanish Algarve" is only 5 minutes away.We prefer to call it Andalucia and enjoy the ranges of tapas and alimentation on offer there.
      98 percent of visitors passing through Faro airport said they would recommend the Algarve as a holiday destination, and 96 percent said they would come back. That is to me almost all of them.Even sunshine on a rainy day is not a bad thing.Try and put what I am saying to the test, you will only regret it if you don´t.Book now by 31st January and get 2015 prices.





      Saturday, 9 January 2016

      Couve Bruxelas pesto( Brussels sprout pesto)

      You love ´em or you hate ´em. I just love these barbie sized brassicas and consequently end up buying far too many of them.A little goes along way with a sprout,I have to say.
      Even if the Festive period is over, the noble-blooded brussels sprout is still available in the market. I'm convinced the smaller the tastier, so I always prefer to buy the very tiny ones. The maddest left-over idea of making pesto with them came to me I know not how. It was quite obvious to me however to give it a try even if I wasn´t believing something wonderful and fresh would come out of it.Surprise surprise!!! The pesto itself was absolutely gorgeous! It's so easy to make and as soon as I tasted it I knew how I was going to apply it, a creamy pasta dish with crispy bacon. Pesto need not be a summer thing.



      Tagliatelle with brussels sprouts pesto and crispy bacon
      Guaranteed to turn many a sprout hater into a sprout lover. Lure them in first with the promise of the cream and the crispy bacon

      FOR THE PESTO
      250g Brussels sprouts
      50g Parmesan cheese,grated
      25g blanched almonds
      Extra virgin olive oil
      tsp Flor de sal
      Blanch the sprouts in boiling water for  3 minutes.remove and run under  cold water.
      Cut the sprouts in half dig out the stalks and the halve each piece again.
      Put all the ingredients in the processor until you achieve a thick and creamy consistency,adding more oil as you require.Set aside in a glass jar until you are ready to use.You will have more than enough pesto for at least four portions of tagliatelle.

      100g Tagliatelle per person
      100g Bacon or pancetta diced
      1/2 red onion chopped
      spoonful creme fraiche
      extra parmesan cheese for topping
      parsley for garnish
      Fry the panncetta in some butter and oil until crispy,introduce the chopped onion and continue cooking until the onion is golden.While the onion is cooking,boil enough  Tagliatelle for the number of portions you require, according to instructions.Drain the pasta leaving alittle bit wet and return to the pan,toss through the Brussels sprouts pesto and thin with creme fraiche.Toss in the bacon and onion and mix thoroughly before serving.Garnish with extra parmesan and parsley.

      Packing a healthy sandwich that’s also exciting to eat isn’t always easy. It’s not rocket salad (we know peanut butter, celery and cream cheese is a doddle ), but the minute you add Brussels sprout pesto, sliced ham or homemade condiments to a sandwich, lunch can get infinitely more appealing.

      Monday, 4 January 2016

      Food predictions 2016 full of eastern Promise


                                                               Praise the Lard: Lard is back! - Apparently?
                                                               (I was never aware it went away.)
      Given the prevalence of pork meat it has always been around in Portugal and Spain.Some cakes also include lard and are all the better for it.Lard is the second most popular cooking fat in Portugal,after olive oil,as far as traditional dishes are concerned.
      If not rendering your own, try and buy banha de porco preto,rendered from the black pig.
      At the beginning of each new year I like to get myself in tune with how food fads and taste trends are moving.Whats in and whats out? Whats been quietly brewing and is now falling off the shelves. We can now be ready and prepared to make our very own home made versions.I enjoy what the predators are predicting.I dont mean predators do I? I mean forecasters.It's also about predicting when new trends will fail and which will be forgotten.... "This season, maroon is back with a right vengeance                                                           eyes  are popping out while lips are receding".

      Die hard
      Hear us out, kale stand fasts. Whether you like it or not the fad is over. Grelos (turnip greens) Watercress, Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard, beet greens and spinach have all knocked kale off the top spot. So let’s move on and experiment with some different leafy greens this year,shall we?

      ¿Por Qué No? - The demise of the spiralizer
      By design, trends are doomed to surge, succeed, and die sad lonely deaths — particularly in the realms of health and fitness, where everyone is looking for the next quick fix.
      Last years "must have" fast becomes this year´s "don´t want." (Remember how everyone was obsessed with spiralizers). Devastated by the demise of yet another spiralizer? How much can one woman take?! How many gift wrapped boxes when opened this Christmas contained spiralizers? Yet another gimmicky gadget that will go to the back of the cupboard unused,and surface again in a few years time at a car boot sale or flea market stall.

      Burned
      Smoke and fire are showing up everywhere on menus it seems: in charred or roasted vegetable sides; in desserts with charred fruits or burnt-sugar toppings; in cocktails featuring smoked salt, smoked ice or smoky syrups.Blackened this and blackened that, the  Masterchef finalists nearly set the television alight when they travelled through Europe to Sweden to cook on open fires without either gas or electricity.I would have kept that on the back burner myself.

      "woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting"- Chaucer

      The Sriracha Effect continues: The hot sauce from Thailand continues to grow in popularity, but will the “effect” be that us cooks and chefs will continue to search for the next hot ethnic flavour in the strive to find lightning in a bottle again.Having learned that Sriracha sauce can add instant ethnic cachet to something as straightforward as a sandwich, chefs are now scouting the world for other assertive flavourings to employ in similar ways. Likely bets: ghost pepper from India; sambal from Southeast Asia; gochujang from Korea; harissa, sumac and dukka from North Africa.Or will it be.....good old piri piri from Portugal that will upset Giles Coren this time.
       
      Bye-bye, Sriracha. Hello, harissa
      A few years ago, it was the unpronounceable hot sauce that you might only find in downtown Bangkok. Now, without looking for it one finds it in one´s cheese melt of a lunch time.The foodie forecasters are saying the next sauce to experience a sriracha-like rise is Harissa, the spicy and aromatic chilli paste that's a widely used staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking and as common as ketchup in Tunisia.Like sriracha, harissa is also versatile and can work in a wide variety of applications.
      Move over cheese sriracha melt with a side order of sriracha potato chips and get ready for the chicken harissa melt with some honey glazed sweet potato chips— maybe not this year, but some day soon.

      The elevation of peasant fare.
      Meatballs and sausages are proliferating—traditional, ethnic or nouveau, shaped from many types and combinations of meats. Likewise on the rise are multi-ethnic dumplings, from pierogis to bao buns and kachoris. Escargot is back, too. People are eating snails again everywhere. Guess what? Chefs are using them to dress up their peasant food.

      Trash to treasure.
      Rising prices for expensive cuts of meat and fish is raising the profiles of under-utilized stewing cuts, organ meats and "trash" species of fish—I have always been a fan of the"use it all" mindset. How about a veggie burger made with carrot pulp from the juicer?

      Fill the Greek
      Greek yoghurt has been popular for quite some time, and manufacturers are now getting creative with flavours. Trends include mixing fruit with savoury twists like ginger and orange, feta and watermelon, as well as olive oil, seeds and spices. I believe there is even a sriracha mango concotion on the market. Last years vanilla is this years Seville orange and amaretti. Greek yoghurt is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with protein, probiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria, Vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. New flavours will make this healthy food even more versatile. Dips with crudités.Use it as a sauce,marinade or baste for chicken or fish.

      Flying down to Rio
      With the Olympic and Paralympic Games to deliver in 2016, Brazilian fare is set to become very popular. This will be a year to savour for Brazil.Think barbecued meats, caipirinhas, lots of rice and fruit.Bring on the brigadeiro,moqueca, coxinhas, pao de queijo.....
      Lots more on those stories later.

      From sparkling mocktails to Prosecco, we will all be enjoying our bubbles in 2016.

      Votos de um Feliz Bom ano novo a todos!!!!

      Thursday, 31 December 2015

      A língua de gato,Um novo bolacha seco salgada


      Has the cat got your tongue? It is an expression we use in England about someone who remains silent when they are expected to speak.When you serve up these savoury beauties I guarantee that the cat will have all your guests tongues.They will be at a loss for words and be gagging for more.
      I have made these on many an occasion,but only realised this time how much they might be related to the French classic, langue de chat.My version is loosely inspired by an original Ottolenghi recipe, but by the time I have 'deliberated, cogitated and digested' his recipe, it bears little resemblance to the original.Ones first reaction to these "crackers" is one of surprise but served with dips and cheese they become quite an addictive snack.Beware they are very fragile,so handle them carefully.,or you´ll be crying out Oh crumbs.

      Flor de sal, thyme and olive oil crackers
      Makes 32

      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 walnut sized pieces (roughly 15g each) from the dough. Roll out each piece as thinly as possible with a rolling 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.