Sunday, 19 May 2019

Boozy Pelargonium scented strawberry confiture

Its hard to believe I know, and our our guests are always surprised too,to find that strawberries are at their peak here in the Algarve in March.They are now coming to an end and I am happy that I had put my preserving pan to good use while they were in season.But jam or confiture? that was the question.
In a classic jam, the fruit is diced small and partially mashed before cooking, and the suspending syrup is thick and opaque. Confitures and preserves are kissing cousins: whole or elegantly sliced fruit suspended in syrup is a confiture, which comes from the French verb confire, meaning “to preserve.” In confitures, the fruit is shown to great advantage, glistening in a clear gel; the texture tends to be looser than that of jam.So here it is, an oh so easy confiture recipe just in time for picnics,Wimbledon and the Holidays! ...You never know when a bit of boozy strawbery confiture could come in handy.More on that story later,Kirsty.
Boozy Pelargonium scented strawberry confiture 
Makes 2 x 450g jars
Adding scented pelargonium (geranium) leaves to the jam, as the Greeks often do, enhances the flavour. If you can't find them, adding black pepper is a delicious alternative – it cuts the sweetness of the jam.
  • 900g fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 4 scented pelargonium leaves, or a good grinding of black pepper
  • 250ml Vodka
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 900g granulated sugar, warmed in the oven
Place a saucer in the fridge, ready for when you come to test for setting point later on.
Put the strawberries and pelargonium leaves (or pepper) into a large glass bowl starting and finishing with a layer of sugar, heavy-based, stainless steel pan and use a potato-masher to squash the fruit slightly. Don't push too hard - you just want some of the fruit to release a little juice, not to be completely flattened.Pour over the vodka,cover with a clean cloth and leave to stand overnight.
The next day,drain the fruit sugar and liquid into a preserving pan.Add the lemon juice and bring to the boil and boil rapidly for a few minutes or until it reaches 116ºC (240ªF) on a sugar thermometer.Add the strawberries and lemon juice.Bring the boil and boil for 18-20 minutes or until setting point is reached 104-105°C. Remove the leaves.
Pull the pan off the heat and test for setting point. Take the saucer from the fridge and place a teaspoonful of the jam on it. When cool, it should wrinkle when you push it with your finger.
Cool slightly and pour into dry, warm, sterilised jars (you can sterilise them in a very hot dishwasher, or boil them in a pan of water for 10 minutes). Cover with a wax disc, then seal and label with the date. This jam will last for several years. Once opened, store in the fridge.
A WORD OF WARNING
Don't make strawberry jam in huge batches; it's harder to get it to set, and with endless boiling you lose the freshness of the flavour.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Let them eat hake. Pan-fried fresh hake fillet topped with squid and a vibrant, zesty gremolata crumb

You really can have your hake and eat it! When in Portugal just ask for pescada and if you pop across the border, the order of the day would be Merluza.
Mild, sweet and sustainable, this underrated fish that’s so big in Spain and Portugal deserves pride of place on your dinner table.
Hake always reminds me of an undervalued and misunderstood European pop star who tops the charts in Japan or Azerbaijan but remains relatively unknown in their home country.Perhaps this is why while living in England hake passed me by, it never made an appearance forefront of the fishmongers slab.
 It’s a shame because now I have discovered it properly, it is truly a fine white fish and one the Spanish and Portuguese go mad for. If truth be known these two countries snap up tonnes of the Uk´s supplies of finest hake, for which they are willing to pay much higher prices than they command on the domestic market.Not for much longer I hear you say. Why, I wonder, is a fish revered in one European country yet largely ignored in the others? The question arises whether there is enough hake in European waters to satisfy this enormous demand.
The mild, flaky flesh cooks to a moist and meaty texture with tender flakes that are deliciously sweet and clean-tasting. Line-caught or fish caught by gillnet are best, as trawled fish can be flabby and difficult to fillet without falling apart.
They are usually best cut into steaks or cooked on the bone. Tail pieces can be a bit tricky as they don’t keep their shape well and are hard to turn over when frying. However, the fish can be poached,steamed, baked or fried and lends itself beautifully to baking en papillote (wrapped in greaseproof paper parcels). It also combines beautifully with other fish in mousses and fishcakes.
Chef Nathan Outlaw suggests that hake make the best fish fingers when they’re coated in flour, egg and Japanese panko breadcrumbs, while Jamie Oliver pairs crispy hake fillets with soft braised artichokes, peas and bacon. At Moro in central London you will find a popular Spanish favourite Merluza en salsa verde (hake in a green parsley sauce, often with clams).Another one of the great stars of the northern Spanish cookbook is merluza à la Gallega (poached hake with boiled onions and potatoes served with a sweet pepper sauce), along with merluza à la sidra (hake cooked in cider). In Cadiz, a local speciality is caldillo de perro (dog soup), which traditionally combines hake with bitter Seville oranges.In Portugal, filetes de pescada (hake fillets) are first marinated in lemon juice, garlic and salt before being fried in a light batter, while pescada com todos (hake ‘with everything’) includes just about every ingredient in season, from greens to carrots, onions, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar.
My dish today is a pan-fried fresh hake fillet topped with calamari rings and a vibrant, zesty scintilla of gremolata crumb with fresh chilli.
And now a word about Gremolata.
Gremolata is one of those things where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.Yet, using just three common ingredients you have in your kitchen, garlic, lemon and parsley, and simply finely chopping them together, it becomes your secret ingredient. Sprinkled over any number of dishes, it will make every mouthful pop with its fresh flavours. A few twists of freshly ground black pepper and your mouth will think it had gone to umami never-never land. Sprinkle it over grilled or roasted vegetables, baked or grilled fish, chicken, or lamb. 
Garlic Since the garlic is raw, you want it as fresh as possible. Old garlic will be yellow and sticky, often with a green shoot growing out, and it will smell strongly and slightly acrid. Fresh garlic will be white, plump, and while its scent will be unmistakably garlicky, it will still smell fresh. If you only have older garlic, remove the green stem and blanch it for a few minutes in boiling water to remove some of the acrid taste.
Lemon Use organic if at all possible, since you will only be using the zest. (The zest-free lemon will keep a few days which leaves you plenty of time to do something with the juice.) The lemon zest adds acid, zippiness and brightness.
Parsley Use flat leaf parsley if available, and wash it well. Most importantly, be sure it is completely dry before you start chopping it. If possible wash and dry it a few hours before you use it and then wrap it in a towel to absorb the last few drops of water. If the stems are thin and subtle, don’t worry to much about including them. If the stems are thick and tough, you’ll want to pluck the leaves. Chop the parsley as finely as possible. Parsley adds a clean, fresh, herbal note. 
TO MAKE THE GREMOLATA
Makes about 1/3 cup
1 small bunch parsley, washed and dried (enough to make 1 cup loosely-packed)
1 clove garlic, papery skin removed
2 organic lemons, washed and dried
 
Chop the parsley until it is the texture you want it.I prefer a more rustic chopped gremolata as a general rule.First grate the garlic with a microplane over the parsley followed by the lemon.The order is not essential but by grating the garlic first the lemon then deodorizes the microplane for you.Set aside for the flavours to meld until you are ready to serve it. 
You can substitute other ingredients.Parsley, garlic, and lemon make up the classic gremolata, but you can certainly switch things around to suit your dish. The garlic can be replaced with shallots, for instance, or the lemon with another citrus such as lime. Consider a mandarin orange and mint version, for example, or coriander, lime and shallot. Or mix in a few fresh herbs or a small amount of red chilli finely chopped without the seeds.I added dried toasted breadcrumbs to my gremolata.
FOR THE CALAMARI RINGS
Place calamari rings, 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil, 1 tbsp of the gremolata,1/2 red chilli deseeded, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to coat .
Marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat remaining oil in a frying pan until very hot.
Remove calamari from marinade, drain well and fry in hot oil for 2 minutes. Add reserved marinade and and mix well. 

FOR THE HAKE 
Heat a large non-stick pan with a dash of oil over a medium heat
Make sure the skin of your hake is completely dry
Season the fillet of hake with salt and place in the pan, skin-side down
Leave the hake fillet for about 3–4 minutes until the skin has become crisp, then turn over and cook for a further minute
To check the fish is cooked insert a metal skewer into the thickest part of the fish, it should go through easily and be warm to the touch
To assemble the dish spoon a generous portion of steamed spinach onto the middle of the plate.Place the hake on top of the wilted spinach and spoon some calamari rings over the fish.Finish by scattering the dish with your gremolata crumb.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Thai tuna burgers with wasabi lime coconut coleslaw

Sometimes a beef burger can be too heavy, but seafood is the perfect alternative. When you think about a juicy burger, chances are you’re thinking of one that’s made with beef. But while there’s a time and place for those juicy gourmet burgers, sometimes you want something a little different. Luckily, you can make a patty out of almost anything.Salmon burgers I have to say "don´t impress me much."
If you're after healthy but delicious then these tuna burgers are quick, tasty and perfect for a barbecue; and food always tastes better when you have made it yourself.
As a mouthwatering alternative to the beefburger, the tuna burger has a lot going for it. You still get a nice chunky bunful to sink your teeth into, but with the added advantage of it being all round healthier and better for you.Tuna is high in vitamin B12, which stimulates the brain's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you relax.
 These offbeat tuna burgers were loosely inspired by a Thai fried white fish patty called tort man pla. The mayo is inspired by something we ate at LPA the other week. Use best-quality tuna so you can serve the burgers medium rare.The fresh cool coleslaw balances the rich meatiness of the tuna.
Thai tuna burgers with wasabi lime coconut coleslaw
To give this recipe your own unique twist, you can always add more or different ingredients to the tuna mix.
Makes 4 
FOR THE BURGER
600g (1.25lbs)best quality tuna steak   
1 tsp sesame oil 
tbsp soya sauce
tbsp Thai fish sauce(nam pla)
heaped tsp sriracha sauce or chilli sauce
heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
tsp ground cumin
2tsp fresh ginger,grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
tsp piri piri flakes
tbsp sunflower or nut oil
Roughly chop the tuna and put in a food processor.Pulse until fairly fine.
In a large mixing bowl combine the tuna with the rest of the ingredients until well amalgamated.With the help of a pastry cutter form into four equal 9cm patties.Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until ready to cook.

Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over a medium heat.Cook patties to medium rare,about 2 minutes per side.Spread mayonnaise on cut sides of each burger bun.Divide burgers and slaw among bottom halves of buns.Sandwich with top halves

FOR THE COLESLAW
1/2 cup radishes(3-4) grated
1/2 cup carrot grated
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 spring onion shredded
Mix carrot,radish,spring onion and cabbage in a medium bowl

FOR THE WASABI LIME COCONUT MAYONNAISE
Tbsp home made mayonnaise
dsp wasabi paste
dsp coconut oil
Tbsp dessicated coconut
juice and zest of 1 lime
Put all ingredients in a small food processor and blitz.Adjust to taste and achieve desired texture by adding more coconut oil if necessary.You should be looking for a dropping consistency.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Tasting time is here again,the skies above are clear again

The scene is set,the tables are dressed

A taster of what´s to come
Friday night saw the presentation of the new seasons menu at Cha com Agua Salgada when we embarked on an adventure in experiencing some delicious and inventive new dishes Chef Marco had created for us to try and give an opinion on.
Sandra Gomes, Paolo Esteves and Chef Marco Jacó have built up something so solid here in the East Algarve, and every time we visit it just gets better and better.This is their eleventh year and I have a premonition that this could be one of the finest menus they have presented to us so far.We were served the first four offerings with our sangria of Rozes porto branco extra seco before we were seated.The evening kicked off with a pea and parmesan cappucino with crunchy Algarvian "chouriço".I am a firm believer that a dish as described on paper should deliver on the flavours it conveys and if this was the most serious of pea intensity I might ever of experienced.This was truly flavourlicious.Hats off to "Tea with salty water" guys.Give me a moment.
Chef Marco was clearly on a roll already and we waited with unintentionally punished palates for what was to follow.Some black Iberican pork "paiola" followed, supported by some foraged country flavours.Then came sautéed sea scallops sitting proudly on a sweet and sour  sweet potato concoction,which I did not feel did any justice to the beautifully tanned scallop and its nestling companion, a bolinho of port wine butter.

 Sea scallop with port wine butter, black Iberican pork "paiola" 
and smoked swordfish bruschetta

The smoked swordfish bruschetta with creamy cheese,chives,cornichons and rocket triggered the first of the many times throughout the evening that I would say "I will definitely be returning for all of this".We sat down to a grilled grouper fillet with a delicious chickpea puree and steamed broccoli that so worked.


grouper fillet,chickpea puree and steamed broccoli

Two examples of quaity meat were put before us towards the end of the 10 course degustation.The grilled, matured ribeye steak with an interesting twist on dauphinoise, introducing bacon, was five star ,as was the Duck breast with  a gorgonzola puree that finished the plate off perfectly.The pineapple chunks were a statement in themselves but totally unnecessary.Sorry but I dont do fruit with savoury,but thats just me.Duck a lórange,fie.


Duck breast with grilled pineapple chunks and gorgonzola purée

The repeated message that came across quite clearly with practically every course was that if you have the finest ingredients they will shine through without too much interference from what ever else is on the plate. I have to say for one who is not a"pudding person" the pudding that shone for me was the combined textures of a maracuja( passion fruit) mousse,chocolate and a coconut ice cream.Genius on a plate.

Maracuja mousse,chocolate and a coconut ice cream

"Please sir, may I have some more".I am just going to have to be patient and wait till this fantastic menu is launched in June.Thank you,as always, from all of us to Paolo, Sandra and of course Marco and the team.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

"This calls for some tonic wine and a sponge finger"

   "Oh, I am pleased, this calls for some tonic wine and a sponge finger" .
                                      Yes Mrs O. I should jolly well think it does".
Cake Yes. Cake, we all like a bit of cake, don’t we? I know I do. I love, I do I love a bit of cake. I do. I just like cake. I’m one of those people. I come home and all I want, I just love cake. I just love cake, I just love a bit of cake. CAKE. I love a bit of cake I. Cake. Lovely. Oh My God, Is That Chocolate Cake? Give It To Me Right Now Cake. Or The Nothing Is Ever Going To Be Okay Again If I Don’t Have Chocolate Cake Cake. Or The I Want Marjorie Dawes Chocolate Cake Cake. Really, I tried to come up with a less cumbersome title, but “chocolate cake with chocolate frosting” doesn’t convey the urgency with which "I want cake and I want it right now "requires. The cake in question required sponge fingers and I had a packet  coming up to their "use by date", magdalenas left over from my last trip to Alimentación Orta in Ayamonte.What I did not realise was what defines a sponge finger.To the best of my knowledge a sponge finger was what I knew from childhood as a "Lyons" trifle sponge,very similar to a magdalena. How wrong could I be, a sponge finger apparently is what I was brought up to call a boudoir biscuit or ladyfinger.
Ladyfingers, sometimes known by their Italian name savoiardi,, sponge fingers in  English, or as Boudoir in French, are low density, dry, egg-based, sweet sponge biscuits roughly shaped like a large finger.
Having a passion for everything Italian I was also au fait with the name savoiardi,but how come these biscuits bear no physical resemblance to anything at all sponge like. They are  crisp, dry and crunchy,where as magdalena sponges are soft moist and crumbly.well I know where my preference lies.
In Portugal they are biscoitos de champanhe ("champagne biscuits") or palitos la reine.
In the UK sponge-fingers are called "boudoir biscuits", "baby biscuits",or "boudoir fingers"
In France: boudoirs or biscuits à la cuillère ("spoon cookies/biscuits") 
and in Italy: Savoiardi. 
For me there seems to be an orthographic uncertainty that has beset this expression in that one other type of food has shared the same name ,bhindi or Okra.Well its hardly a wonder i can´t tell a sponge finger from a so called lady finger.
 So without any further ado,I thought stop meddlin Madeleine and lets get baking.The recipe also embraced almonds, perfect and very Algarvian,Moorish too.
I followed the recipe using my magdalenas,and as it turned out it just might be the best chocolate cake I had ever made from scratch. 
Its a week later and I have made it again following the same recipe but using so called lady fingers and the verdict was.....Not much in it but the version with the magdalenas seemed slightly lighter and wetter.The latter with the lady fingers had some texture to it as the biscuits dont crumb fully.The choice is yours.

6 sponge fingers
300g quality dark chocolate,in small pieces
150g butter
165g caster sugar
4 eggs
125g ground almonds
3 tbsp orange liqueur
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.Grease a30 x 20cm baking tin and line with baking paper.Crumble the sponge fingers and spread a tablespoon on the bottom of the tin.Melt the chocolate in a small bowlover a large pan of boiling water.In a bowl,whisk together the butter and the caster sugar with an electric whisk to a creamy consistency.Add the eggs one by one,before adding the rest of the crumbled biscuits,along with the ground almonds,the melted chocolate and the liqueur.Mix well.Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 40 minutes.once baked,leave to cool completely in the tin.       
FOR THE ICING
40g dark chocolate,in small pieces
30ml whipping cream
10g unsalted butter
1 tbsp almond liqueur 
While the cake is in the oven,start making the icing.It will take time to set and become spreadable.Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.Pour in the cream and using a rubber spatula, stir well until all the chocolate has melted.Add the butter and almond liqueur and beat until smooth.Leave at room tempearture until the cake has cooled down and the icing has started to set.You want to catch it at the point when it spreads easily but isn´t hard.Do not try and rush it by by refrigerating!spoon a generous amount of icing on top of the cake and shape with a palate knife.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Tonkatsu Pork with Asian Slaw

Tonkatsu is one of the most beloved “western style” Japanese foods.It is a pork steak breaded with flour, egg, and Panko (bread crumbs), then deep fried.  It’s not the healthiest food, but rather comfort food. It elevates plain pork chops from dry, lean cuts of meat to a juicy, crispy dinner you never forget. 
Tonkatsu sauce is a thick and fruity brown sauce used in Japan as a topping for katsu dishes like tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), chicken katsu, and korokke (potato croquette); as a dipping sauce for kushikatsu (deep fried skewered foods); or as an ingredient to make yakisoba (fried noodles). Based on Western Worcestershire sauce, tonkatsu sauce is also called “usuta sauce” when it has a thin, more liquid texture, or “chuno” sauce when it has a medium-thick texture.
TONKATSU SAUCE
1 Tablespoon mirin or sweet sherry
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
pinch of sugar
pinch garlic powder

In a small bowl,bring all of the ingredients together and mix well.Serve with tonkatsu, chicken katsu,korokke, or even dip your fries in it!

FOR THE PORK
2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
3/4 cup crispy bread crumbs
4  (3/4-inch) boneless pork loin  (1 lb), trimmed
1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
Cooked white rice, if desired
In small bowl, mix Sauce ingredients; set aside.
In large bowl, mix Slaw ingredients; set aside.
Place flour in medium bowl. In another medium bowl, beat egg. Place bread crumbs in shallow bowl or pie plate.
Dip pork chops into flour; shake off any excess flour. Dip pork into egg mixture, then dredge in bread crumbs. Discard any remaining flour, egg mixture and bread crumbs.
In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Reduce heat to medium. Cook pork chops in oil 4 to 7 minutes, turning once, until breading is golden brown and meat thermometer inserted in center reads at least 145°F. Serve pork with sauce, slaw and rice, if desired.

FOR THE ASIAN SLAW
Carrots
Chinese leaf or any other green cabbage
Shallots
Spring onions
Shred the cabbage.slice shallots and spring onions,grate carrots
Mix together the sesame oil, garlic, sugar, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and ketchup.
Combine mayonnaise mixture, cabbage, carrot,shallot and spring onion.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Spring on the plate.A bruschetta of spring vegetables

Dear diary:back from the market and I am sitting at the kitchen table podding favas.Some might say its time intensive, but the benefits that are gained from podding your stress away outweighs everything.I Look forward to it as a relaxing, meditative pause in my day and twenty minutes later, with a bowl of vibrant green pulses, I´m half way to preparing  dinner.The challenge of preparing spring vegetables is in preserving their fragile colour, texture and sweetness. The best approach I think is to sautée them gently with onion, garlic and olive oil; the vegetables cook gradually in the water they render. Since the cooking time for each one varies, simply add the next vegetable when the previous one has lost some of its crunch but is not softened to the core; the flavours will remain distinct yet also blend harmoniously.Spring vegetables are most flavourful when served lukewarm.
 This simple, spring-forward appetizer is all about using the stellar spring ingredients available in the East Algarve.....any of the following can make up a delicious topping for a bruschetta..Fava beans, asparagus, haricots verts,baby leeks,courgettes,asparagus,peas, spring onions and new season garlic.A drizzle of honey over the top makes a perfect dressing.Beyond delicious I would say.

Bruschetta of spring vegetables

FOR THE FAVA BEAN AND MINT PURÈE
500 g new season fresh broad beans (podded weight)
3 tablespoons requeijao or creme fraiche
1 Small green chilli, chopped
about 12 fresh mint leaves, picked and chopped
a few pinches of hot chilli (optional) 
juice ½ a lemon
1 level tsp of fine sea salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper 

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the favas and cook until tender. Drain and refresh in iced water.remove shells Blitz the favas, Requeijao or crème fraîche and a little seasoning together in a food processor.

FOR THE VEGETABLES
Choose your combination of vegetables from what is seasonally available and soften them lightly with shallot and olive oil.They really dont need much cooking.Leeks,spring onions and celery should be finely shredded.Asparagus and haricots verts can be steamed or boiled separately and then used as a topping.The same goes if using peas and when cooking the favas keep some back for garnish also.

TO ASSEMBLE THE BRUSCHETTA
Cut a generous slice of artesan bread or rustic baguette, drizzle with olive oil, rub  all over with raw garlic,especially the crusty edges. Spread a generous layer of the fava purèe all over the bruschetta then layer your softened vegetables over the top.finish with peas, favas and finally spears of asparagus.Drizzle with honey(optional)

    Friday, 3 May 2019

    A influencia da minha mae, empada de legumes e borrego

     
                                                                                                         PHOTOS:Jane Bryan,Instagram hoxnejb

    I wonder what it would be like if I did not enjoy cooking and eating. The answer is obvious, I certainly would not be such a happy or motivated person. It is something that gives me immense pleasure, to have been blessed with sensitive taste buds and to enjoy eating. To be able to separate each ingredient, feel its texture, experience the sweet and salty, the bitter or the acid. I have my favourite ingredients, the ones I could not do without, those I use repeatedly  which are what I call my  store cuboard staples,and those that I dislike or have an allergy to which I can count on one hand.My mother taught me not to be a fussy eater. I will search far and wide if necessary to find that perfect ingredient or to forage a rare herb ,or purchase a particular spice or seasoning. I always like to experiment, try recipes from other cuisines, from other countries, from other cultures. and for that there are books that pile up on my bookshelves, the recipes that are being marked with post it stickers and waiting in line patiently for the day they will come to fruition. However, I will never lose that matriarchal influence. It was with her that my love of cooking was born, the typical dishes cooked on her Raeburn or Calor gas stove.I find it reassuring that I still cook today with bottled gas,here in Portugal.She was the mother of leftovers and thereby became the mother of invention.I think she would be proud of this pie that I have created from Easter leftovers.It can of course be made from scratch with newly purchased ingredients. No matter from where I source recipes, my mothers influence will always remain,whether it be using a preserving pan to make marmalade or using a heavy weight over a cast iron pan to make a pressed foccacia or pan bagna sandwich.
    So here we are half way through spring,the days are longer,bringing more light and the birds have started singing again as the sun comes up.The temperatures are now more pleasant, the rain has abated and a whole selection of new fruits and vegetables have begun to sprout and make an appearance on the market stalls.So I´ve been thinking its time for a spring pie, new seasons lamb lamb and a suggestion of vegetables  would bring the smells of spring to the kitchen.Imagine a crisp pastry box stuffed with the goodness of slow cooked tender paschal borrego,the vegetables nicely seasoned with a nod to the Algarves Moorish connection in the form of harissa ,almonds and curd cheese.The vegetables I have chosen can be changed to those of your own discretion,but please I implore you not to forego the butternut squash,to my mind the making of this dish.I have also used a hot water crust pastry here.Most commonly associated with pork pies, hot water crust pastry is perfect for shaping into pie cases because the high quantity of water present makes it hard and strong. The pastry is baked until rich brown in colour and stands up well to wet and heavy fillings. Hot water crust pastry requires the fat to be ‘hot’ when added, rather than chilled as is needed for most other kinds of pastry.

    Lamb and vegetable pie
    ( when moussaka meets a Moroccan shepherd)

    Empada de legumes e borrego
    (um encontro de moussaka e um empada de pastor marroquino)


























    TO MAKE THE PASTRY
    Mix the water in a pan, add the butter and stir until it melts,
Add the flour, salt and slightly beaten egg. Knead well until all the ingredients are well attached, the dough takes off from the fingers and is able to form a ball. Reserve.

    Cut butternut squash and carrot into 1cm cubes, arrange in a baking tray drizzle with 2 soup spoons of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and Ras El Hanout and bake for 30 minutes.Reserve.

    Chop the onions and celery finely.With the lamb, sautée in a frying pan with a soup spoon of olive oil for 10 to 12 minutes until soft.
In the same frying pan, add the leek and the the chopped garlic cloves.Add the lamb,season with salt and saute for another 8 minutes until the leek is tender. Add the red wine,thyme and a soup spoon of Worcester sauce and stir to mix and the wine is reduced.Cut the mushrooms into quarters and place them in the same skillet with more oil if needed, season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and all the liquid has evaporated.Add the tomato purée, then season. Simmer gently for 15 minutes until the mixture has reduced.In the same pan add the reserved butternut squash and carrot mix.Mix everything together till well combined. Season with salt, add the requeijao and stir for 2 minutes.

    Divide the dough into three parts keeping one third aside. Form a ball with the other two parts and roll out on a floured surface, enough to line a rectangular shaped loaf pan 24 x 12cms. Line the pan taking care not to cut the excess off.
spread the mixture over the pastry and with the back of a tablespoon press lightly.
Roll out the remaining dough, to a sufficient size to cover the top of the pie and bit more.
Lightly wet the excess pastry on the edge of the shape, all the way around (the water will serve as a "glue").
Put the dough on top, covering the whole shape and with your fingers press it firmly, joining the two doughs and sealing the pie. Cut off excess and set aside. With your fingers make a wavy effect all around and with the remains of the dough make small "leaves" of dough. and position them, gluing them to the surface with water.
With a funnel make a small hole in the center of the pie. This will allow the steam to come out during cooking, preventing the dough from splitting.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the pastry takes on golden colour.
Carefully remove the pie from the pan and brush all over with the beaten egg.
Return to the oven for another 10 minutes. 

    Monday, 29 April 2019

    Muitas coisas dependem no almoço, much depends on lunch

    Much depends on lunch.Whether it be a business lunch,a liquid lunch,a picnic lunch,an office lunch, a pack lunch,whatever happened to the pack lunch? Let´s talk lunch,even better lets do lunch.
    There is a time around midday or a little after,maybe 1o´clock, when in a quiet village, life almost ceases to exist.No one is seen on the streets.Front doors are closed.This is the luncheon hour.It is a time of day which has little or nothing to do with its bastard sister lunch.Lunch is an event.Lunch is for businessmen- and can sometimes be entirely liquid.Lunch is for those ladies of Manhattan or Knightsbridge who´ve just been to the gym and then to a fitting and so decide to ignore all calorie counting,picking on frivolités in favour of destroying yet another reputation over lunch.Normally the lunch is in a high-class restaurant,and probably has been put in the diary some days or weeks in advance of the event.A less grand affair could be partaken in a department store as a break in a shopping trip.I remember well being taken by my mother and my aunt for the table d'hôte lunch in the pleasant ambience of the John Lewis Brasserie, where mothers with small children, families, friends, parents, grand-parents, visitors from further afield, and, perhaps occasionally, students escaping from their studies, could enjoy one of the essentials of good living - good food and drink! My  lunch-time treat always included a very grown up  glass of ginger beer, excellent crisply battered fish and chips, accompanied by really good sauce tartare and minted peas, with half a fresh lemon, all served efficiently and correctly.Those were the days.At the other end of the lunch scale there is another type of repast more often than not taken on the hop.The lunch break. There is no event as such, it is just a necessary break in the day for some nourishment or consummation of victuals.
     This type of lunch is a for office workers popping out to British Home Stores ( another one dropped dead on British high Street )for a cheese and pickle sandwich.Other collations might be purchased from the snack bar round the corner and weather permitting, consumed  on ones lap on a park bench near to the office.If the weather was too wet or cold, lunch might be consumed at ones desk in the office,not one to be encouraged I might add.For sightseers burgers and chips or a slice of tray baked pizza, oh so italiano. For sportsman,for shop assistants,shift workers,travellers,motorists  it is more often known as the "lunch break"  and for the traveller often includes a "comfort stop." Luncheon is a very different affair. Luncheon is the silent pause that separates the morning from the afternoon.It is almost a religiously observed cessation of activity and may in many countries be followed by a"nap" The nap is a snooze (catnap)and has nothing whatsoever to do with the continental siesta. An altogether grander and more elaborate affair which purely on the evidence of my nosy neighbour observations may often accomodate an indulgence in marital or extramarital liaisons.
    Back from lunch, and a particular lunch that has crossed the barriers of time and gained a place in history.Anyone who still subscribes to the old trope that English food is terrible or boring is woefully out of touch. And it’s not that it just magically got better a decade or so ago. It’s always been great,with thanks to splendid traditions like The Ploughmans Lunch. Originally a British farm worker's packed lunch was composed of crumbly, cloth-bound cheddar, strong pickles and tough bread.The ploughman's was promoted as a quick, easy pub meal in the late 1950s as part of a campaign to get Britons to eat more cheese. With the rise of gastro pubs, casual eating, shared platters, micro breweries and craft beer its ideal companion, the ploughman's is being put to work once again.
    Without knowing it, we all probably have a ploughman's lunch regularly. It's basically a deconstructed cheese sandwich: a hunk of cheese, a knob of rustic bread, sometimes some greens, sometimes some meat, a tangy pickle of sorts or some kind chutney-like condiment, and an apple.
    The ploughmans lunch is often taken as an example par excellence of the hijacking and perversion of a traditional food.What, it is asked, could a ploughman find less satisfying after a back-breaking morning in the fields than an exiguous piece of tasteless, unidentifiable cheese,a flaccid roll,a couple of limp lettuce leaves, and not even a fine tracklement but a dollop of commercial pickle?
    The ploughmans, as it is often abbreviated,was quick to arrange and serve making it easy for publicans to satisfy the growing demand for pub grub that was a tad more adventurous than a packet of Smiths Crisps, and it had the added advantage for the marketing men of conjuring up a nostalgic vision of simple hearty country fare.The basic ingredients cheese, bread, and pickle have remained the same, although what a Victorian farm labourer would have thought about some of the mass produced abominations sold under the name of the ploughman´s lunch is nobody´s business.Items  about as demure as an inflight airline salad or pate in plastic pot with a tear off lid, which is now often substituted for the cheese.The ploughmans has now become pretty universal with many countries throughout Europe emulating in their own way a truly English classic.

    Ploughmans lunch
    lanche de pão, queijo e picles
    A good farmhouse cheddar  is the heart and soul of it
    300g wedge cloth-bound cheddar
    6 thick slices rare roast beef or leg ham or even cured ox tongue
    4 salad radishes
    4 pickled onions, gherkin, cornichon, etc
    2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
    Sea salt and black pepper
    Celery stalks and leaves
    Crusty bread
    Fruit chutney or piccalilli
    Just plonk it all on a big wooden sharing board, scatter sea salt and pepper over the eggs, and sit down and eat.
    Feel free to add watercress, fresh tomatoes, Branston Pickle, horseradish, hot mustard, Scotch eggs, cultured butter, pastrami, blue cheese, apples.

    European variations on the theme
    For French, and more specifically a cheese from the Auvergne  Cantal or Salers. Cornichons for pickles, a mesclun or potato salad with a simple dijon vinaigrette, some walnut bread, an Anjou pear (just to keep it French), and a normandy cider.

    For  Italian try some aged pecorino, pickled peperoncini, olives, ciabatta or pugliese for bread,Bresaola and robbiola cheese, some cantaloupe melon, and a classic Italian beer like a Peroni or Moretti.

    For Portuguese,try a queijo fresco or queijo Azeitao with marmelada, figs,almonds,pao regional,tomatoes and a Rocha pear

    For Spanish. Idiazabal, that smokey, gamey sheep milk cheese from the Basque country makes perfect sense in this application, or a strong, spicy cabrales alongside some 
    Cecina and Jamon with pipas, galletas or picos, a peach,caperberries, and some aged chorizo.

    Thursday, 25 April 2019

    What to cook with leftover lamb?

    Using up any leftovers from Easter – or last week's roast lamb – couldn't be easier. Try whizzing it up for a shepherd's pie, in a pilaf, or, for showing off a bit, make a moussaka.We had so much lamb left over from the main event that I tried all of them.Eyebrows might be raised at the mention of leftover lamb, but I am sure that a lot of us have found ourselves left with a plethora of the stuff the Easter lunch was made of.
    Lamb leftovers are slightly trickier to use up than beef or chicken. The meat is very fatty, which makes it unctuous and flavoursome when hot, but too greasy to nibble as a cold snack or use in sandwiches and salads. Instead, your best bet is to recook it and turn it into something new.My obvious go to solution for left over lamb is always to make a Rogan Josh  and I have just found a brilliant no frills, no fuss new recipe that will now replace my usual one.This recipe minimises a lot of the "faff" involved in making a curry.Lets face up to the fact no one wants to slave over a hot stove at the end of a long day.This Lamb Rogan Josh Curry is pretty special in the way that you make up the curry paste,you can make it two or three days in advance then use it when ever you like.
    The Lamb Rogan Josh Curry paste will last a few days in the fridge, but make sure to sterilise your jar first.You can also freeze it in an ice cube tray, and just take them out of the freezer when ever you like.

    For the Curry Paste
    2 large onions
    2 cloves Garlic minced
    2 cm Piece of ginger minced
    1 Chilli chopped
    2 tbsp Paprika
    1.5 tbsp Garam Masala
    1 tbsp Ground Cumin
    1 tbsp Ground Coriander
    2 tsp Turmeric
    1 tsp Smoked Paprika
    3 tbsp Tomato Puree
    80 g Red Pepper from a jar in brine!
    pinch Salt and Pepper

    For the Curry
    500 g Lean Diced Lamb
    2 tbsp Greek Yoghurt to marinade the lamb
    2 tbsp Curry paste to marinade the lamb
    1 tin Chopped Tomatoes
    1 Beef Stock Cube
    4 tbsp Curry paste to make the curry
    2 tbsp Greek Yoghurt to finish the curry

    Fry the onion, ginger and chilli until brown.
    Place the fried onions, garlic and chilli into a food processor along with all of the Curry Paste ingredients and blitz until smooth.Place the curry paste in a sterilised jar. The mix will last a few days. You can also freeze it into ice cube trays.
    To Make The Curry
    Place the lamb into a non reactive bowl along with 2 tbsp of the curry paste. Add 2 tbsp of greek yoghurt  and some salt and pepper.
    Mix well, then cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
    Fry off 4 tbsp of the Curry Paste for a few minutes until it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan
    Add the tinned tomatoes, and stock cube (just crumble it in). Fry until the mixture starts to boil
    Add the lamb and a little water to the pan. Bring to a boil, then place a lid on the pan and simmer until heated through.
    Remove from the heat, and add 2 tbsp of fat free yogurt, and a small bunch of roughly chopped coriander - stir well. Then serve!
    Shepherds pie
    The classic British method for using up lamb is, of course, the shepherd's pie, which is all about simple, savoury flavours. Fry some chopped onion, leek and carrot. Add finely chopped or minced lamb (you can whizz it in the food processor), cover with stock (made from a cube is fine if you don't have fresh) and simmer until tender. Top with mashed potato and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes.

     Individual moussaka with a simple Greek salad
    The classic Greek method for using up lamb is, of course,Moussaka.In this instance I have replaced the customary aubergine with chayote,how they make it in Brazil.I have put a further spin on the recipe by giving an alternative which is making individual starer sized portions.
    serves 2 for a main plate or 4 individual starters

    4 tbsp olive oil
    2 Chayote, boiled then sliced 
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
    1.5 tsp Ras al hanout
    1 tsp dried oregano
    500g left over minced lamb
    2 tbsp tomato purée, mixed with 150ml water
    Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

    For the bechamel:
    500ml milk
    60g butter
    60g plain flour
    2 eggs, beaten
    Nutmeg, for grating


    Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Boil the chayote unpeeled in salted water until tender, testing them after 30 minutes.Run them under the cold tap to cool them then cut them into 0.5cm slices.Set aside.
    Meanwhile, put 2 tbsp olive oil into a large frying pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic,Ras-al-hanout and oregano and cook for a further couple of minutes, then stir in the lamb. Turn up the heat slightly, and brown the lamb well, cooking until the mixture is quite dry. Stir in the tomato purée and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down low and cook covered for 15-20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season and stir in the parsley.
    To make the bechamel. Warm the milk, and melt the butter in another saucepan. Stir the flour into the butter and cook for a couple of minutes, then gradually whisk in the hot milk. Cook until you have a thick sauce. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then beat in the eggs, salt to taste and generous nutmeg.
    Arrange a layer of the chayote slices on the base of a greased oven dish, and top with half the meat. Repeat these layers, then finish off with a layer of chayote, and top with the sauce. Bake for about 45 minutes until well browned, and then leave to cool for ten minutes before serving.

    For individual starter portions:
    Choose 4 x 7cm  pastry cutters and put them on 4 sheets of cooking foil large enough to form a base under the cutter and then wrap around the outside of the cutter to a height of  the depth of the cutter and half again. Cut 8 previously boiled slices of chayote. Lay a slice of chayote on the bottom of each cutter top with a generous layer of meat filling and press down, cover with a second slice of chayote.Top with bechamel sauce and cook as above.