Friday, 25 September 2020

Pride,a deeper love

Dear diary
: and just when this little guest house was starting out on the long road to recovery and begin to see enquiries and bookings start to come in again,we find ourselves back to square one and the inability to generate that all important revenue to catch up with all those deferred debts and payment plans.What a short season it was, just 11 days taking in four guests
with 4 deferrals to next year.
First came Brexit, then lockdown, then  quarantine and now its make your mind up time. Every two weeks its tease tease tease.You´re  happy when we´re on our knees Johnson, one day it's fine and next it's bleak.Well, come on and let us know. Should we  stay or should we go? With all this instability, people are either postponing or cancelling their trips.The last unexpected reprieve did nothing to restore the confidence of either holidaymakers or the tourism industry. Stranded holidaymakers left at the mercy of those big tall terrible giants in the sky, like British Airways charging them an appalling ninefold on the price of a ticket to return before quarantine set in. The damage had already been done.
"tudo azul"
 
This, "is it on is it off" situation every two weeks finally stopped people gambling  on travelling even if the odds seem favourable. If the Uk government  wanted to allow international travel to resume while prioritising public health, a major reassessment of their approach was needed.
  Until there is some sort of testing in place you might as well forget it. It just isn’t working for Portugal, and it certainly isn´t working much anywhere else. 
In the new dawn of travel, with Johnson having mis-fired the starting gun too many times by mistake, you are all more than ready for a taste of adventure, something exotic or merely different. We are ready too. The East Algarve awaits you, a SAFE and sound destination. It provides that rare thing of being not so far away but with beaches that rival the Caribbean..Just an hour or two from Brexit torn Britain but much further afield mentally. Casa Rosada is that shangri-la you´ve been so yearning for. The East Algarve is foreign, but at the same time feels so familiar. Just as an Englishman might say everything is rosy, here in the Algarve we say "Tudo azul" ( literally the sky is blue) which makes everything alright, and that an Algarve blue sky is something unforgettable.Time here moves slowly, steeped as it is in history. Our idiosyncratic collection of Portuguese knick knacks and artefacts sit silently watching while others more practical are put to good use.

 Memories of past generations and the unrelenting summers bring with them heat that sears everything into clear relief. It is also a world that has no place for formality. There is zero reason to dress up.This is one of those places that is unabashedly come-as-you-are. Stylish travel inspiration,we call it.
"I know the difference between expensive travel and affordable luxury"

Here at casa rosada we have been missing our guests.That hubbub of people coming and going from their rooms, the clinking of glasses as they enjoy a glass of wine or two on one of our terraces. People returning from the beach sunsoaked and ready for a nap. Does any anyone still have a nap? Lounging in their caftans and planning a lunch, another long exhausting day, another holiday, I´ll drink to that. Lets toast to that invincible bunch. Will that be a Pink port and tonic sir/ madam?
From morning through noon ,from twilight to to sundown we take pride in what we do, putting years of practice to the test to ensure our guests receive the best possible service.Throughout the meandering old schoolhouse evidence of our deep love for everything Portuguese is evident.I was even told across the dinner table with Portuguese friends recently that I "have a Portuguese soul"
Waking up swathed in soft 400 thread count Portuguese bed linen, you already have something to look forward to - breakfast in your own secluded area of the garden.But first, morning ablutions are not complete without the fragrant Claus Porto guest soap in each bathroom.(soap houses in Portugal are up there with some of the best in the world).

Once ensconced at your table, your breakfast cups and cereal bowls show our support for the fine Portuguese craftsmanship and the whimsy that is Bordalo Pinheiro. Home made yoghurt is served in miniature glass milk bottles from Depósito da Marinha Grande in Lisbon. Should you require a bica Sir ? it may well be served in one of our Cinema Português cups from the collaboration of Vista Alegre and designer Catarina Pestana. Breakfast is the time for you to quietly peruse guide books and maps and seek our advice and share some of our well kept secrets on helping you plan your day. Maybe a leisurely drive along the banks of the Guadiana river,a shopping trip to Tavira stopping off on your return for a relaxed waterfront lunch of seafood delicacies beside the  lagoon at the little village of Fabrica. If the tide is in your favour perhaps a refreshing dip in the warm waters of the lagoon. Finish off with a sundowner, taking in the spectacular panorama at Guarita terrace, Praia Verde.

If you ordered dinner, chef will have discussed a menu and your dietary requirements at breakfast, and been to the local market while you were out to assemble the mise en place. Time for that well earned nap, a refreshing shower and a transformation from resort wear to casual chic or wherever the mood takes you.Perhaps its time to show off your new Louboutins or Jimmy Choos.

Its dinner time and time to order a bottle of wine, and maitre d will help you choose from our small but carefully selected  list of Portuguese wines ,which include innovative wines created by Rui Virginia´s Quinta do barranco longo label.We have a range of Douro wines and Soalheiro is always a popular choice.
Our love of Portuguese products will become evident again throughout your dinner. Your dinner selection may well be served on another fine example of Vista Alegre. We will give you the chance to sample local artesan Flor de sal (Portuguese artesan product of the year 2019) harvested and hand collected a stones throw from our home by our friend Jorge Raiado of salmarim.
Take the chance to reserve a trip down to the salinas to meet Jorge and take a tour of the salt pans.The dinner you have chosen to experience will encompass many elements of traditional Portuguese cuisine, allowing our own modern spin on things A bit like the wines, Portuguese olive oil is one of the country’s best-kept secrets, but once tasted it is never forgotten. Our salads just aren’t the same without it.
The backbone of the Portuguese is their heritage, and a rich vein to tap into while visiting us here at casa rosada. From the epic 16th-century poem, The Luisads by Camões, celebrating the discovery of a sea route to India, to the haunting melody of Fado brought into the twenty first century by Mariza.
Given the punishment the pandemic has put on us we need you to help us bring back health and prosperity, not only to casa rosada, but to all those favourite local restaurants that need the business to get back on track. 

até já

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Taking the heat off summer, porridge for a temperate climate

Hands up who starts their day with a bowl of porridge.I for one, but I tell you, when the weather was hot this summer, I craved fresh, cooling foods and the last thing on my mind was getting up in the morning and stirring a pan of oats and milk over the stovetop.I endeavoured to search for all the ways to avoid heating up the kitchen/ house, not only at breakfast but throughout the day. Starting with breakfast plan your day to encompass salads, wraps, snacks and cold desserts. Well let me tell you my newly discovered start to the day, I think maybe here to stay, well at least till the colder weather comes. Its what I now call summer porridge.If you are oatmeal obsessed like me this is a great way of getting your oats   ( pardon the euphemism chaps) but with a twist. If you’ve never had overnight oatmeal, its basically a no-cook method of making porridge. So, instead of cooking oatmeal on the stovetop , you soak the raw oats with milk. That soaking process allows the oats to absorb the liquid and soften them enough to eat uncooked. You only need to let the oats soak and rest in the fridge for 2 hours. But, it’s ideal if you soak it overnight…hence the name overnight oats!The next morning you have a ready-to-eat, delicious, creamy bowl or jar of “oatmeal.” The consistency is like a porridge or pudding. It makes for an easy convenient breakfast that has a more dense and creamy texture than warm oatmeal.What I love most is how overnight oats seem to keep the integrity of the oat intact, helping to avoid that gummy texture that cooked versions sometimes take on. They’re simple to prepare  and perfect for when you need a make-ahead breakfast.  After a little testing, I’m happy to report that the simple, straight-forward method truly yields great results! I even tried partially cooking the oats with warm almond milk before refrigerating, but much preferred this completely raw version.I now  use the following base formula for making perfect overnight oats:

1/2 cup Dairy-Free Milk  + 1/2 cup Rolled Oats + 1 teaspoon honey = Perfect Overnight Oats

You can play with formula as needed, adding more dairy-free milk ( I used rice milk but you could use full fat dairy milk if you want) for wetter oats, or adding greek yoghurt (or oats) for thicker, more creamier oats.Add sunflower seeds, chia seeds or dried fruits for texture. I even added peanut butter to this version for flavour and a protein boost! -an acquired taste and not for everyone I truly understand.
To make your overnight oats, simply add these ingredients to a small jar or bowl with your preferred sweetener ( maple syrup or honey).
Give the mixture a few stirs to make sure the oats have been fully immersed in the milk. Then, cover and leave in the refrigerator overnight to let the oats soften allow the flavours to meld.In the morning you can top your oats with seasonal fruits and /or nuts.Don´t be tempted to add the nuts to the mix the night before,there is nothing worse than a soggy nut.


Saturday, 19 September 2020

It takes two to Do Pyaza

      Photo: Bob Peters / Flickr
 Today I am so in love with the red – orangish color of this curry which looks like the perfect Indian Curry with lots of spices and flavours. Unfortunately we had some difficulties photographing the dish I cooked, so casa rosada can not take credit for the picture this time,instead I have shared a picture from The spruce eats, a website I refer to on many occasions.I find it very informative and highly recommend it . A subtle "curd" in this recipe cuts down the heat of red chili and makes this curry spicy but in a very subtle manner. My preference is to avoid watery eyes and runny noses while eating any curry, so for me this is a perfect chicken curry recipe .North-Indian cuisine offers a bevy of chicken curry dishes. Chicken do pyaza with tons of flavours and a creamy gravy is well worth a try. As the name of the dish suggests, two kinds of onions are added to the cooking.Do pyaza is a Persian word meaning (having) two onions. There are many stories related to the do pyaza curries, but there are two reasons why such recipes are named Do Pyaza.These dishes are prepared with large quantities of onions, added twice in a single preparation. One at the time of preparing curry paste and other just before the recipe is cooked.Even though I love some of the more classic curries like Rogan Josh, Murgh madami, Chicken Korma or tikka masala, sometimes I crave a change. This recipe doesn't require hours of marination. About 35-40 mins are enough to infuse flavours in the chicken and make it juicy and succulent. You begin by marinating the chicken with ginger, garlic paste, salt and red chilli powder, and keep aside while you prepare the rest of the recipe.While your chicken is marinating, prepare garam masala with green cardamom powder, black cardamom powder, cinnamon powder, clove powder and mace powder. Make a "curd" mix with turmeric powder red chilli powder and water.Start cooking by sauteing chopped onions and tomato puree. Add the "curd" mix to give a creaminess coupled with a sourness. Add the marinated chicken, prepared garam masala and large raw onion chunks. Add cream or greek yoghurt mixed with mint leaves, coriander leaves and kasuri methi for a fresh herby flavour. Let it all cook and you're done.


 

What would I drink with this? A good swiggable Oaked Rosé with a garnet hue would partner this curry perfectly.

Touriga Nacional e Aragonez

11,50 €

 

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Buy, shop, spend, eat, and enjoy local

                                            Same price better taste, better value

                   front   Well known international brand supermarket  €1.49  500g 

                         back   Local independent supermarket    €1.49   1.200kg

Supporting your local retailers helps communities to grow and thrive.This is particularly relevant in the current pandemic. By shopping at locally-owned businesses rather than international retailers, we consumers can have a truly positive impact on our country’s economy, people and environment.
Now, it’s easy to talk the talk and say we support local businesses. But are we really putting our money where our mouth is? In the picture above the larger bunch of grapes at the back was almost 3 times the weight of the punnet at the front and yet the same price.The larger bunch was locally grown just a few kilometres  outside our town.       The locally grown bunch had twice the flavour sweetness and quality of the supermarket bunch.I know which I would choose don´t you?, it goes without saying.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Late summer,a pudding for all seasons

A summation of summer

Why, you say, am I posting this wonderful recipe in mid September when it should have been at the end of June? Well I will tell you why. Firstly I've always been intrigued by this archetypal dessert. Secondly in a long suffering nod to climate change and a homage to the Englishman´s stubborn love of stodge, this pudding can adapt beautifully to the change of weather and the seasons. Did mushy peas ever taste sweeter out of season than accompanying a plate of chips at the Flora Tea Rooms on a windswept beach in Dunwich, UK? I rest my case.

England bestowed the designation "summer pudding" upon this determinedly solid dessert at a time when soft fruits were only available in the summer months. I have never been a great exponent of  frozen foods when one can source fresh, but in these days of high tech white goods these fruits of our labour can now be picked when in season and frozen until ready to be used for an "autumn pudding". I do recall my mother having actually served a "summer pudding" on Christmas Day to a family not so partial to that other quintessential English classic, the "Christmas pudding". Of course, I can’t begin to make something without first doing a bit of research.  All recipes, no matter the country or the culture, originated out of necessity …. using what was in season, as well as using up items that might already be in the kitchen (before they go bad).  It seems to me this recipe originated for both those reasons.  The ingredients are very simple, seasonal berries, stale bread and some sugar for sweetening.(To digress briefly, bread puddings have been around for almost as long as stale bread but, according to the invaluable Oxford Companion to Food, this particular cold confection first pops up in the 19th century, when they were popular at pastry-phobic health farms – under the strikingly unappealing name, hydropathic puddings. Suddenly, "summer" seems a little more apt, doesn't it? ) Because it was deemed “healthy”, it was routinely served to patients in nursing homes and hospitals, as well as to those staying in “health spas” wanting to shed a few pounds.  Is it healthier than other desserts?  I’ll leave that for you to decide. However this old-fashioned and peculiarly British pleasure – a solid lump of stodge designed to be enjoyed when berries are at their world-class peak, can, when well chilled and sodden with wine-dark fruit juices, be a surprisingly refreshing repast, and exhilaratingly thrifty as well – the perfect home for that stale loaf and those end of season over-ripe berries going cheap at your local Lidl.This pudding is all about the fruit. The bread exists merely to give structure to the fruit. Much of the success or otherwise of the final pudding is to do with the quality and structural integrity of the bread  As we drift into the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness, a good autumn version can be made with the addition of apples. Yes my dear mother taught me that by introducing them into the equation they added a bit of texture to what its critics might term "an inverted pyramid of piffle". Blackberries, damson, plums, and elderberries too bring a bit of autumnal feeling to the table. A little port, sangria  or red wine in the simmering helps to ensure the optimum amount of extra juice.I even remember once using a cheap Pandoro instead of bread. Slice the top off, invert in the bottom of the bowl and then arrange slices of the ridged cake sides around the bowl sides. The vanilla in the pandoro adds to the flavour of the pudding.Before I forget I must also mention two glorious savoury versions with tomatoes,basil and beetroot that the Two Fat Ladies and Sophie Grigson created respectively.I want to use the "heart" emoji here, but the interface of this apparently "world beating" blog wont allow me.

A late summer pudding

Put the strawberries,raspberries redcurrants damsons, plums, blackberries, apples, blueberries or whatever fruit you are using, and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Heat gently and briefly - no more than 3-4 minutes - until the fruit begins to bleed and the sugar is dissolved. The fruit must not lose its shape or start to cook.
Line a 1-litre pudding basin with slices of day-old good white bread. Make sure there are no gaps.Taking some of the cooking juices from the fruit generously paint the bread lining the bowl.  Using a perforated spoon, pile in the fruit, reserving some of the juice left in the saucepan. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of reserved fruit juices over the pudding then add a top layer of bread.
Cover with a plate that just fits, weigh it down, and put the basin in the fridge overnight.
Just before serving turn out the pudding/s onto a plate with a decent-sized rim.
Taking more of the reserved juice, brush it over the pudding to cover any white gaps that might have escaped the steeping.

Arrange any leftover fruit artistically on top; a few mint leaves also look nice, if you have some to hand.The sodding planet is burning up, Australia and now California, so please forgive me for I´m still fannying about with pudding garnishes. Dont you forget to serve it with the obligatory dollop of thick, ivory cream.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Cant skip hope

When the Covid scenario engulfed us, Portugal was already one of the most approached destinations by international travellers. With 4 of the 21 safest destinations for this summer; The Algarve, Alentejo Madeira and the Azores being selected by the "European Best Destinations for summer 2020" within Europe. Three Portuguese beaches were among 10 selected as the  safest in Europe.
During the pandemic and confinement we needed to take a break, stand back and dream of the great days to come and face this pandemic together. Turismo de Portugal launched the initiative  #CantSkipHope (above) that significantly reached over 1.8 million people in over 90 countries. It is also translated into more than 12 languages, most of the translations were done by the users that wanted to share this inspirational message with the world.
According to Forwardkeys and The travel Outlook for Europe, Lisbon WAS one of the top 3 inbound destination cities for international travellers in October, November and December when accounting for tickets issued as of August 10. The World’s Best Destination continues to be authentic, diverse, attractive, inclusive and safe. Portugal continues to maintain their purpose and undertaking, namely to welcome all visitors and ensure that they can travel around the country safely and confidently. 

It’s time to say #CantSkipHope... Start planning now.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Romano pepper and shell fish soup with basil coriander gremolata croutes

Red Romano peppers also known as Ramiro peppers and Sweet Pointed peppers are native to the Mediterranean region, specifically Italy and Spain, and have been cultivated for hundreds of years in warm, temperate climates. The variety was created through selective breeding of original pepper varieties introduced from the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries. Today Red Romano peppers are still widely popular in the Mediterranean and can be found in restaurants, local markets, and home gardens throughout Italy and Spain, being widely used in both fresh and cooked applications, especially for roasting and stuffing.When I am lucky enough to find them here in the Algarve I drop everything I had planned to be cooking in favour of them.
Rich seafood soups are a Mediterranean specialty, made with fish and shellfish that are readily available and inexpensive. They typically include fish heads that add flavour, and the cheeks, which are considered a delicacy. I consider myself pretty adventurous in the kitchen and I have cooked fish heads (possibly only once) but I don’t feel the need to do that again.
What better way then to celebrate the end of summer and seasonal produce than a rich unctuous seafood and shellfish soup, made with romano peppers, halibut, berbigao (baby clams), cod cheeks and prawns. Serve this with some crusty croutes and you have yourself a complete meal. 
The result is a brick red broth coloured by red roasted peppers, thick with cod cheeks and clams. With  some gremolata topped croutes, it forms a deliciously perfect late summer supper.The cod cheeks were cheap and sustainable, but also held their firm texture well. Each clam was a tiny treat to be picked up, the shells holding not only the little clam, but a delicious piscine puddle of sauce.
How to make a different version of the traditional Gremolata recipe?
Stranger things have happened but I found my herb cache sans parsley, so I had to find another way to make a gremolata that respected the spirit of the recipe, but with herbs that I love and had available! This is the recipe I came up with. I hope you will like it.

1 lemon ( zest)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup home made breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 tsp flor de sal and pepper
      If you have a food processor, pulse the garlic until minced then add the basil and lemon zest and pulse until finely chopped. If you do not just mince everything by hand  first separately and then together.
      Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toss to evenly coat in olive oil. Cook over med-low heat, tossing frequently until golden brown, about 5 minutes. When just about done mix in the parmesan and a dash of salt and pepper.
      Let breadcrumbs cool on a paper towel lined plate.
      Mix everything together just before eating - once mixed the gremolata should be stored in the fridge and will keep 3-4 days. To re-toast the gremolata, heat up a little extra olive oil in a pan and cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes.
      Cut remaining garlic clove in half and rub the cut sides on the toasts. Spread the gremolata on the toasts.
      THE TRICK
      You can make this a day or two in advance - once you have toasted and cooled the breadcrumbs keep them in an airtight container on the counter and keep the basil lemon mixture in the fridge, mix everything together just before eating.
      Roughly tear a couple of thick slices of bread into bite-sized pieces, fry them for a minute or two in shallow olive oil, then set aside on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and offer them at the table, together with a bowl of garlicky alioli. Serves 4
      Romano peppers 5, large
      olive oil 5 tbsp
      garlic 1 head
      prawns 12 large, shell on
      leek 1, medium
      1 stick celery
      bay leaves 3
      black peppercorns 10
      parsley stalks 15g
      cod cheeks 500g
      clams 500g
      halibut 250g

      For the alioli:
      roasted garlic half from above
      egg yolk 1
      groundnut or vegetable oil 200ml
      olive oil 150ml

      To serve:
      fried croûtes see recipe introduction

      Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Lay the peppers in a roasting tin, pour over the olive oil, then turn the peppers so they are evenly coated. Tuck the whole head of garlic among them, then bake for about 45 minutes until the peppers have softened and collapsed.
      Peel the prawns and remove their heads, then put the shells and heads into a medium-sized saucepan. Trim and roughly chop the leek (I leave all but the very tips of the leaves on) then add it to the prawn shells with the bay leaves, peppercorns and the parsley stalks. Set the prawns aside. Pour a litre of water into the pan, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered by a lid, for 40-50 minutes, to make a stock.
      Remove the garlic from the roasting tin. Peel the cloves, squeezing the creamy flesh out of its skin. Set half aside.
      Make the aioli: crush the remaining roasted garlic to a paste, then add a pinch of salt and an egg yolk. Beat in groundnut or vegetable oil, slowly at first, a few drops at a time, then introduce the olive oil. It is ready when thick enough to spread with a knife.
      Sieve the stock, discarding the shells, vegetables and aromatics. Next, pour the stock into a blender, (taking care not to fill it more than half-way), add the peppers and the reserved half of garlic, then blend to a smooth, thin purée. You will find you probably need to do this in two batches.
      Pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then add the cod cheeks prawns and halibut, lower the heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes until the cheeks are tender. Meanwhile, wash the clams in cold running water and check each one for any cracks in the shell, discarding any that are open or refuse to close when tapped on the side of the sink. Be scrupulous about this. Add the clams to the soup, cover with a lid and leave for 5-6 minutes until the clams have opened.
      Serve with the croûtes and alioli.

      Friday, 4 September 2020

      Rupert and the giant heirloom tomato


      Douro is synonymous with grapes and wine but there is another fruit that threatens the hegemonic popularity of these Douro symbols: the tomato. The Douro with a lot of sun exposure and great thermal capacities provides the perfect growing conditions for the tomato, allowing it to develop certain characteristics such as flavour and juiciness.
      Anyone who likes tomatoes seriously knows that the Tomate Coração de Boi (beef heart) variant of the fruit is the king with an unbeatable flavour. Now is the best time to enjoy it. Because even though we eat (bad) tomatoes all year round, the truth is that this is a fruit like any other,that has a season.
      Named for its shape and size,it is very fleshy and has few seeds, and has very thin skin, which makes it fragile and difficult to transport.It demands a lot of light,therefore  it finds in the Douro a privileged 'terroir' for its cultivation.
      This huge, delightful, big-flavoured, full figured, luscious, ruby-red ambrosial and glorious fruit is hugely popular in the heirloom tomato world and comes to us from the fertile fields bordering the banks of the river Douro.To me, one of the best tasting tomatoes in existence.These big hearty tomatoes are heavy-in-the-hand and grow in clusters of 3 or 4, each weighing 10 oz. to 2 lbs. and have the depth of flavour and fragrance we would hope for in our own tomato gardens.Sweet,rich and meaty with silky texture and incredible layers of flavours,I am tasting one as I write this. Just a few seeds,lightly acid,delicately perfumed,This tomato is fabulous,really weighty,full of juice and I didn´t even slice it.It could almost be a mini pumpkin. I´m eating it as I would an apple,juice running down my neck and dripping onto my T shirt and my arms.I´m having to watch out for the keyboard.This giant tomato is an indeterminated variety of Italian heritage which has been part of the history of the Douro for generations.It´s relative is the traditional tomato of Italian gardens.

      To highlight the immense flavours and showcase the vital statistics of this heirloom,I set about reinventing a traditional Spanish dish.Paamb tomàquet, or Pan con tomate, is a traditional food of Catalan, Valencian, Aragonese, Balearic and Murcian cuisines in Spain. It is considered a staple of Catalan cuisine and identity. It is a traditional national dish of Spain, so I must be wary of being a Meddling Madeleine or else I will end up with a Jamie Oliver "Paellagate" scenario, or being accused of siding with the underdog no onionist tortilla brigade.As a culinary heretic,I would probably be punished under the infamously brutal Spanish gastronomic inquisition.
      Pan con tomate is traditionally a humble dish, a way to make a single tomato and some old bread serve a family for lunch. Outside of Spain it becomes a posh name for tomatoes on toast.First of all I will give you the authentic way of making it in Catalonia.Please correct me if I am wrong my Catalonian friends.

      1. Grate the tomatoes on a box grater. Using a microplane, grate the garlic onto the tomatoes. Season with kosher salt, the olive oil and the vinegar, and stir lightly to combine.
      2. Toast or grill the bread until it is lightly charred.
      3. Place a heaping tablespoon of the grated tomato mixture onto the bread, then wipe most of it off with the spoon. Drizzle with olive oil again, add
      the sea salt, serve immediately.


      Now for my "all new" 
      "posh tomatoes on toast"


      1 coraçao de boi (beefsteak) tomato
      Rustic artesan bread 
      2 cloves garlic
      Small tin of cured anchovies
      generous bunch of basil leaves
      Aged balsamic vinegar (Belazu)
      Extra virgin olive oil
      I large garlic clove cut in half lengthways


      Remove the core and seeds from the tomato
      Cut the tomato into medium sized chunks
      Place the tomato chunks in a medium sized bowl
      Chop as many anchovies as you deem fit
      for your particular palate
      Add them to the tomatoes

      add the two garlic cloves crushed
      Tear the basil leaves and add them to the tomatoes and anchovies
      Drizzle the mixture with a generous libation of olive oil and balsami

      ( as you would a salsa )
      Leave to marinade for 10 to 15 minutes

      When ready to serve
                     Toast or grill the bread until it is lightly charred
                      Rub the toast all over with the cut garlic
                            ( as you would a bruschetta )
                      Cover the toast with a generous serving of tomato mixture
                      Scatter a carpeting of Marcona almonds on top as garnish

      Sunday, 30 August 2020

      The Portobello mushroom "bap," the ultimate breadless burger

       Portobello mushroom veggie burger with bacon and cheese,
      unctuous and succulent

      "I’ve had to knock bread on the head". How many times have I heard this plight. While many people are  unable to properly digest gluten, causing them an allergy or intolerance, many people who have no trouble with it are opting for a more gluten free based diet as a result of the many health benefits. A gluten-free diet has been shown to improve digestion, increase energy levels, reducing chronic inflammation and more.
      No bread? No problem!There are other options...enter the Portobello mushroom
      The other day,standing over a smoking hot grill sipping wine with one hand and flipping Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with the other, it felt as if whatever else happened that day, life was going to be ok.This way with the portobello mushroom is a kind of one size fits all concept.You can make it meaty, veggie, vegan or fine tune it to whatever the mood takes you.
      One of the things I love most about portobello mushrooms is their “meaty” factor. I realize that probably sounds a bit odd because after all I am talking about a vegetable, but in kingdom veg, portobello mushrooms are especially fleshy and nutritious, especially when grilled.
      Portobello mushrooms dry roasted for 15 minutes are good, but I prefer them grilled which may be messier to eat but gives them a certain succulence and unctuousness. With their concave bottoms they make the perfect vehicle to carry a filling; better than bread, in fact. Beware, though: mushroom selection is all important. I went at first for big, rounded ones. With a burger between the two of them, stalks (obviously) having been removed, it looked magnificent, but I would have needed Spielberg killer jaws to get my mouth around it. With mushrooms of this shape it’s better to carefully cut through it to create two more manageable slices. Or you can just go for bigger, flatter portobellos, which somehow aren’t quite as attractive to look at, but do the sandwich job terribly well.
      The key to mushroom bap success is to enhance their flavour with a marinade that plays up the portobellos’ earthy and (to use a phrase that’s both super foodie and super accurate) umami factor.

      THE TRICK
      To make a delicious base for your burger to rest on....
      First of all remove the stalks and set aside on a chopping board.With a small spoon lightly scrape around the underside of the caps to remove the gills.Chop the stalks finely and add the gills that you have scraped off.Add a handful of chopped parsley and two cloves of garlic crushed.Transfer this mixture to a small frying pan.Melt a small mixture of butter and olive oil and gently sauteée until the mixture softens and combines.Set aside.When ready to assemble spread the mixture over the bottom half of the mushroom and then top with your own choice of burger and topping.

      SEASONING THE MUSHROOM
      • Balsamic Vinegar. Tang. Depth of flavour. Delicious.
      • Soy Sauce. That umami something
      • Garlic and speasonings. First, garlic powder. Because 1) minced garlic can burn and 2) sometimes I’m too lazy to mince garlic. Second, black pepper. Not enough to make these grilled portobello mushrooms spicy. Just enough to wake up their flavour and make you wonder why you can’t stop eating them. Third, cayenne. Optional but encouraged.
      YOUR OPTIONS
       2 Portobello mushroom  halves

      Beef, pork or veggie burger
      Cheese
      Bacon
      parsley
      garlic
      mustard
      parmesan gruyere mozzarella provolone,flamengo* taleggio
      tomato

      *I used Queijo Flamengo - Portugal’s "everyday cheese" used for tosta mistas and sandwiches. Flamengo means Flemish in Portuguese, and has nothing to do with the bird Flamingo. It is a near as damn it copy of the Dutch Edam cheese and the most popular style bought in supermarkets around the country is packaged slices. It can be sold "em barra" - as a block cheese.

      Wednesday, 26 August 2020

      The Decameron;a tale for our time?

      ( Recipe below )
      Alas our "world beating" trip back to the Middle Ages which strives, every year, for greater historical rigour will not for obvious reasons be happening this year. Every year,at this time in August to tie in with the "Dias Medievais" I celebrate through this blog, in one way or another, the medieval transformation of the town.I thought it appropriate this year to relive a celebrated medieval yarn. 
      What better time then than the absence of Castro Marim´s Dias Medievais to remember a medieval masterpiece, Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron.A fictional account of a group of young Florentines who flee the city and spend ten days in a deserted villa in hopes of escaping the plague that tore through Europe in the late 1300s.Beyond the obvious similarities of the book’s protagonists escaping to a villa and the  proletariat holing up in their homes,could the recent spike in interest in the Decameron be tied to the spread of the pandemic? These stories, though fictional, give us a window into medieval life during the Black Death – and how some of the same fissures opened up between the rich and the poor.Boccaccio describes the rich secluding themselves at home, where they enjoy quality wines and provisions, music and other entertainment. The very wealthiest – whom Boccaccio describes as “ruthless” – deserted their neighborhoods altogether, retreating to comfortable estates in the countryside, “as though the plague was meant to attack only those remaining within their city walls.”
      Meanwhile, the middle class or poor, forced to stay at home, “caught the plague by the thousand right there in their own neighborhood, day after day” and swiftly passed away. Servants dutifully attended to the sick in wealthy households, often succumbing to the illness themselves. Many, unable to leave Florence and convinced of their imminent death, decided to simply drink and party away their final days in nihilistic revelries, while in rural areas, labourers died “like brute beasts rather than human beings; night and day, with never a doctor to attend them.”
      The coronavirus can infect anyone, but recent press coverage has shown that your social and economic status can play a big role, with a combination of job security, access to health care and mobility widening the gap in infection and mortality rates between rich and poor.The wealthy work remotely and flee to resorts or their second homes, while the urban poor are packed into small apartments and compelled to go to work, not go to work, and even if they can´t go to work, they have to go to work.
      Human nature changed drastically according to Boccaccio. Every person for himself, became the order of the day. Families and friends abandoned each other, priests or pall bearers decamped as soon as they were able to “flop” bodies into the nearest open hole. People who had been much loved and respected died, without tears shed for them, candles lit for them, and with minimal last rites. Money or property was taken over by enterprising doctors and lawyers, or anyone who happened to be still around: the venial sin of gluttony was the order of the day.Any of this sound familiar?
      “The Decameron” raises the questions: How do the rich relate to the poor during times of widespread suffering? What is the value of a life?
      In our own pandemic, with millions unemployed due to a virus that has killed thousands, these issues are strikingly relevant.
       Undoubtedly. Boccaccio's masterpiece is often quoted or described in relation to its temporal setting, the time of the great plague (a different disease, of course, though, coincidentally also originated in the "Far East") that wiped out half the population of 14th-century Florence.
      A kind of Arabian nights for the plague era, this literary masterpiece  may hold the recipe to defy these troubled times. Boccaccio's collection of 100 stories based around this group of Florentine youths and told over 10 days is set against the backdrop of a crisis that puts today's problems in perspective: the black death.He paints a picture of a society on the brink of absolute disappearance - would everyone in Florence die? Everyone in Europe?
      This horror, though, is only the book’s frame. This group of wealthy young nobles, seven women and three men, flee the plague-ridden city for a country estate, where they occupy themselves at “tables covered with the whitest of cloths” and picnic in idyllic glades. The aristocrats eat “dishes, daintily prepared,” and drink “the finest wines,”
      The Decameron makes endless reference to the "good food" the characters are eating but is frustratingly silent on specifically what those foods are.
                                                                                            Photo:Barnaby Hall

      In one of the stories involving the bumbling Calandrino, his pals Bruno and Buffalmacco tell him a tall tale about a mountain “made entirely of Parmesan cheese, on whose slopes there were people who spent their whole time making gnocchi and ravioli, which they cooked in chicken broth and then cast it to the four winds.” For the broth, to do this properly one  needs to  embark upon clarifying a chicken consommé with a “raft” of egg whites. (Much easier said than done; plus, it creates a really noxious pan residue).In the absence of a mountain of parmesan the recipe that follows here is for ravioli in a simple chicken broth.
      Ravioli en brodo
      makes 1.5 -2 litres/3-4 pints/1 2/3 -2 3/4 quarts

      1.5kg /31/4 lb assorted beef,veal and chicken cut into large pieces
      1 onion,halved and stuck with 3 cloves
      1 or 2 carrots,cut into pieces
      2 celery stalks, cut into pieces
      1 fennel stalk or or a few feathery fennel tops
      1 leek cut into pieces
      a handful of mushroom peelings or stalks
      6 parsley stalks
      1 bay leaf
      1 garlic clove, peeled
      1 ripe fresh tomato,quartered
      6 peppercorns
      1 tsp salt

      Put all the ingredients in a stock pot.A about 3 litres/5pints /3172 quqrts cold water,or enough to cover everything,and bring to the boil.The water must be cold to start with,so that the meat and vegetables can slowly release their juices.Set the lid very slightly askew for the steam to escape and turn the heat down to the minimum for the stock to simmer.The best stock is made from liq+uid that cooks at 80ºC/175º F,rather than 100ºC/210F(boiling point.using a slotted spoon,skim off the scum that comes to the surface during the first 15 minutes of cooking.Cook for about 3 hours.
      Strain the stock through a large sieve strainer lined with muslin or cheesecloth.Leave to cool and then put in the refrigerator.Remove any fat that has solidified on the surface.When there are only a few specks of fat left,heat the stock and drag apiece of kitchen paper(paper towel) across the surface,the fat will stick to the paper.
      taste the stock.if it is too mild,reduce over a high heat until the required taste is obtained.Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and keep in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

      Today, many people under lockdown have become Covid bakers or quarantine cooks. Food shopping restrictions and fears of food shortages have contributed to a burst of pantry related recipes that require minimal or staple ingredients.
      New kinds of online community cookbooks share comfort foods to get us through lockdown, expanding the shape of thriving food blogger or online recipe sharing communities.
       Our reaction to COVID-19 is still in the process of being written down.Like such masterpieces as The Decameron,The Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman Recipes informed us of what it was like to be isloated in plague-like conditions through literature.Todays modern equivalent, food photography and online podcasts, will contribute to a political and cultural record of responses to isolation and uncertainty.
      These responses can be powerful. Like the recipe books, COVID cooks and bakers bring us back to our roots. They build global communities, crossing national boundaries and reminding us of our collective strength. We can draw on these skills in the future.