Sunday, 19 August 2018

A summer leftover, Chocolate muffin double almond trifle

    Defy me if I´m wrong but who doesn’t like a celebration with chocolate? Everyone likes celebrations, right? We can celebrate any event special for us, it doesn’t have to be a national or universal occasion. The most important occasion for some people to celebrate is their birthdays, while others think that their anniversary is as important. So maybe it’s not right to put them in order according to their degree of importance. Celebration is good when you experience something meaningful for you. Personally, I don’t have many special days to celebrate. I just don’t like to limit celebrations to specific dates. You might think I’m a bit weird, but I don’t care about even my own birthday. Well, that is not entirely tue, I do like receiving presents or being together with my family or friends, but not on an arranged day. If someone wants to make a person happy,they don’t need a specific day, they can do it on any ordinary day when that person least expects it! For me, this is the real way of surprising someone.Casa rosada was asked to make a surprise birthday breakfast for our guests this week.
     I thought I must make something sweet for her. She must love chocolate, so it had to be something with chocolate! Ottolenghi´s Chocolate almond cup cakes I thought, topped with some brightly coloured chocolate beads that I had bought from the cake decorating shop festooned with a colourful array of iced gem biscuits.
    Anyway to cut a long story short I slightly over filled my muffin cups and the filling spilled over and bequeathed me with some lovely chocolate trimmings which along with a couple of mutant muffins would go to make the base of a summer chocolate trifle.
    Trifle is a great dessert and a way to use leftover cakes, brownies or muffins! As you all know wasting food is my biggest bugbear and I always try to find new ways to use up leftover foods. Since two of us can’t finish cakes, there are always some leftover cakes in our house. This makes things a lot easier. When you need to make something sweet in a quick way, it’s great to know that you have some leftover cake.
    Leftover Chocolate muffin double amarguinha trifle
     I used my standard trifle recipe (Nigel Slater)but instead of amaretti cookies I used leftover chocolate muffins.The muffins already had almond licore (amarguinha) in them, so I soaked the  crumbled muffins in a few tablespoons more.The almond is technically the hard-shelled fruit of the almond tree, itself a member of the prunus family. This category of stone fruit encompasses trees and shrubs that produce edible fruit like apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines.My choice of fruit in the trifle was
    therefore guided by this in order to give the trifle a kind of double almond hit.

    455g/1lb apricots
    2 cups of leftover chocolate muffins
    6 tablespoons amarguinha,amaretto or other good quality almond liqueur
    500g peaches or plums
    250g mascarpone
    2 free range eggs, separated
    60g/2oz caster sugar
    230g/8oz crême fraiche or thick double cream 


    Halve the apricots, remove the stones and place the halves in a shallow pan of simmering water and cook for 4-5 minutes,until the tip of a knife will slide through them effortlessly. Drain and allow the fruit to cool.
    Place the crumbled muffins in the bottom of a large glass bowl.Sprinkle over the almond liqueur.Purée half the apricots in a blender and rub through a sieve. Pour the apricot purée over the amaretti biscuits.
    Scatter the remaining apricots and the rest of the fruit over the purée. Beat the mascarpone and the egg yolks in a bowl till creamy, beat in the sugar, then beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in gently.
    Place the trifle in the fridge for at least 4 hours for the flavours to blend together. Spread the crême fraiche or cream over the top of the trifle.

    Friday, 17 August 2018

    Espetadas de puntillitas de ayamonte

    When you're at the fish market visiting a peixeiro (fishmonger) you trust,don’t pass up the opportunity to buy some fresh fish, caught that morning! I was lucky enough while in the local supermarket this morning to stumble upon some local baby squid from just across the river in Ayamonte.How excited was I? Puntillitas are an Andalucian speciality.I already had a dish in mind and was going to buy some baby squid on my next visit to the market in Vila real de Santo Antonio.This however was too good an opportunity to be missed. Knowing their provenance and where they were caught,these were an extremely local speciality. They are a type of seafood that are characterized by their tenderness (if preserved and cooked as they should be) and richness in protein.Great when eaten in seafood salads or stews.In Ayamonte, where they come from, the tapas bars specialize in chocos, calamares,chipirones, puntillitas, pijotas, acedías and a whole assortment of fried fish tapas.Here  you will find puntillitas fritas...delicious but because they are fried bear in mind that the calorie count will inevitably rise.My idea was to prepare them in a more Portuguese and somewhat healthier style. I was going to grill them as posh kebabs with Chouriço and a lemon, coriander and anchovy olive oil, but still do them a bit of Spanish justice by serving lashings of smoked paprika aioli alongside.A few new potatoes in parsley butter would not go amiss either.
    Espetadas de puntillitas de ayamonte
    con chouriço e olio de limão,anchoas e coentros
    Serves 2 (or 4 as a starter )
    600g Puntillitas (baby squid)
    150g Chouriço
    2 tbsp butter
    2 garlic cloves,roughly chopped

    FOR THE LEMON,ANCHOVY AND CORIANDER OIL

    Handful coriander leaves
    juice of half a lemon
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1/2 tsp salt
    2large anchovy fillets in oil ,drained


    To prepare the squid:
    Firmly pull the head and innards from the body and wash the body well. Cut off the heads just below the eyes,leaving the tentacles in one piece,and discard the head.pull out the transparent quill,rinse the tube and peel off the outer membrane.cut the chouriço into about 8 chunks.Thread the pieces of squid (body and tentacles)( I tucked the tentacles inside the tubes because they were so small)and chouriço alternately onto the skewers.heat the butter and garlic in a small pan.Sizzle just until the garlic is starting to crisp up but not yet turning golden.Remove from the heat immediately as the garlic will carry on simmering in the butter as it cools.

    To make the lemon anchovy and coriander oil:
    Pulse the coriander with the lemon juice,oil, salt and anchovies i a blender until you have chunky flecks of green sauce.

    Preheat the grill.Brush the skewers with the garlic butter and grill until charred here and there(probably more noticeable on the chouriço), brushing occasionally with the butter.Take great care not to overcook - the squid must be cooked through but still tender.Serve the skewers with the lemon coriander oil.

    Wednesday, 15 August 2018

    Cerveja e tremoços, beer and lupins

    With  temperatures soaring high this summer, it's good to hear that beer, peanuts and lupins are good for health, provided they are consumed in moderate amounts and that you dont have an allergy.
    With these temperatures, the preferred drink is always water but, though you might not know it, the best exceptions are not soft drinks, but beer and red wine, which surprisingly have some beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase levels of good cholesterol. Beer and red wine apparently are the two alcoholic beverages with the highest health potential.... and lupini beans are the perfect snack when it is hot.
    Beer has always occupied a very important place in my life, coming a close second to water and tea. I have never really been one for soft drinks, so if I feel like drinking something fresh, I drink beer (at breakfast is an exception but I have witnessed others partaking).It is usually accompanied by good conversation and a gathering of friends.For me beer represents relaxation. The light side of Portuguese life. It accompanies snails or prawns, lupini beans, peanuts or octopus and egg salads. It goes well with everything and everyone.
    The first time I encountered these yellow beans in a local café with a beer, I did not know what they were. In the meantime I learned to appreciate these "Petiscos" (Portuguese for "tasty little bites") as a delicious snack, especially since I found out how healthy they are!
    Lupini beans are the yellow legume seeds of Lupinus genus plants,belonging to the same plant family as peanuts, grow all over Europe and are a common snack food in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. The Lupini bean is a member of the pea-family. They are power-packed beans full of protein (almost as much as soy beans), fibre, and are low in oil and starch and because of that weight loss is commonly associated with eating Lupini beans. They are full of the amino acid arginine which also helps lower blood pressure, lowers cholesterol and trigs, and lowers blood sugar levels. Lupini beans also act as a pro-biotic. Be careful though, if you suffer from peanut allergy! In that case you should avoid eating Lupini beans.But how do you eat these Tremoços, as the Portuguese call them?
    The outer skin is thick and not something you want to try and chew, although our guests often place the whole thing in the mouth just as we did the first time!
    The thing to do is nip the corner of the skin with the teeth before squeezing the soft bean from inside, or pull a tiny corner off and squeeze the bean out with the fingers as we used to before being taught the correct way by a Portuguese friend. The bite and squeeze method certainly results in less of the tasty beans bouncing over the floor of the bar.
    Here at casa rosada we enjoy placing a bowl of these tasty little yellow beans in front of guests who have not visited Portugal before.
     Available in tubs, jars and huge vacuum seal packets, these lupini beans have become part of our life since we moved to Portugal. In fact I think I may have to pop to the kitchen and restock the bowl next to me,that I have just demolished while writing this post.Woops ,I think it was meant for our guests upstairs in the garden.

    Saturday, 11 August 2018

    Talking tonnato.Cold roast swordfish with caper tuna and sundried tomato mayonnaise

    Talking Italian, everybody´s talking tonnato.Chefs are taking creative liberties with the dish and, more specifically, its fish-enriched condiment. Like other sauces — bagna cauda, chimichurri or romesco, to name recent examples — it appears to be having its "meme moment". Where before people bastardized Caesar dressing, now they tonnatize with gay abandon. It has been swooshed onto seared swordfish and raw tuna.They say "Italians do it better", but this is a classic case of chefs trying to prove them wrong, and "we can do it better".Lately, the thing to do is to pair it with vegetables,"you say tomato I say tonnato" Thomasina Miers, bless her cotton socks, has taken this route with her recipe for  green bean and new potato ‘tonnato’ salad, a version loaded with vegetables, for the summer.
    Tradition be damned, unabashed classicists seem less than thrilled with the "very strange things" being done to the iconic Italian dish. They are using the word tonnato for anything that's a mayonnaise with tuna in it. . . . This is a prime example of a recipe losing its meaning, so where does it come from and how has it been led astray?
    If Anna Del Conte is to be believed (and why should Britain's Italian-born maestra of her native cuisine not be?),Milan is the owner of the original recipe.Not only does that city prefer heavy cream to eggs in its sauce, but this style of tonnato also was the first. "In the Milanese version, known as vitel toné," she wrote in "Gastronomy of Italy" (1987), "when cooked, the meat is carved and coated with a sauce made with mashed preserved tuna, anchovy fillets and capers diluted with the pureed cooking juices, lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of cream. The Piedmontese version, influenced by nearby France, is made with mayonnaise instead of cream." The other distinguishing difference, she added, is that while in Piedmont the dish is always served cold, in Milan, it's eaten hot.Perhaps the riffs started in 1954, when Elizabeth David wrote "Italian Food" she edited out the anchovies, and, an was an early advocate for repurposing the sauce.Her "Tunny Fish Mayonnaise" was "excellent for all kinds of cold dishes, particularly chicken or hard-boiled eggs, for sandwiches or for filling raw tomatoes for an hors d'oeuvre."
    The River cafes Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, who often consulted David's recipes to develop their own, turned to Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cook Book" (1976) for their vitello tonnato. Unlike Rogers, a stickler for the traditional pairing of veal with the sauce, Hazan, who acknowledged that meat's superior flavour and texture, offered less-expensive turkey breast and pork loin as more than acceptable alternatives. And with regards to method,while Hazan, the legendary cookbook author from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, blends her tuna into the sauce in a food processor, at the River Cafe, they stir the fish into their mayonnaise. 
    More recently Porcini mushrooms and garlic have been putting in an appearance, and potatoes  deployed as a thickening agent. The resulting sauce in whatever form has also been going down first on the plate rather than being poured over the top as was the norm.The tonnato was now becoming the underdog being used as a fixing point
    for whatever chefs decided to throw on top.So however tonnato is made and applied,I´ll let you decide.Comedian Peter Kay might have been heard to say "fish and meat,you dirty b.....d".I have taken the veal out of the equation altogether and  and gone for a purely fish dish.......
    Cold roast swordfish with caper tuna
    and sundried tomato mayonnaise
    Swordfish is the kind of fish you want to have around in the summertime. Set aside some time to make a proper summer lunch and the rewards are many. Here, the sauce gives a boost of flavour to mild, meaty swordfish.It's perfect in summer for a buffet, served with tiny new potatoes and a lemony, green salad.
    1kg piece of swordfish, skin on
    2 cloves garlic, cut into slivers
    110 ml dry white wine
    2 tbsp olive oil
    black pepper
    chopped parsley, for sprinkling


    For the caper, tuna and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise:
    8 tbsp mayonnaise
    1 1/2 tbsp capers
    3 tinned anchovies, finely diced
    100 g tinned tuna
    2 tbsp sun-dried tomato purée
    black pepper
    squeeze of lemon juice


    Preheat the oven to 190ºC/gas 5.
    Cut small slits in the swordfish and push in the garlic slivers.
    Place the swordfish skin side up in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish. Pour over the wine, drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
    Roast the swordfish, basting often, for 40-45 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool, basting now and then with its cooking juices.
    Meanwhile, mix together the mayonnaise, capers, diced anchovy fillets, tuna and sun-dried tomato puree. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and mix in a squeeze of lemon juice.
    To serve, slice the swordfish as thinly as possible,as you would if it was veal, discard the skin and arrange the slices on a dish.
    Spread the fish with the mayonnaise and scatter with parsley. Serve. 

    Wednesday, 8 August 2018

    Besotted by locals- "Uma Tasca em Familia"

    The East Algarve, ( the old, real part of Portugal ) is impressively managing to establish itself on the international culinary scene, and despite the area continuing to increase in popularity for visitors, local restaurants remain proud to showcase the very best traditional regional dishes to devoted foodies. Salty or spicy grilled meats, fuss free seafood and hearty family stews await hungry travellers in the Algarve.Alongside sun-drenched beaches and historical villages, the East Algarve  is packed with choices for anyone with a passion for simple, lovingly prepared local food.
    But for food lovers looking to delve deeper into the culinary delights of the region, dining with the locals is a foolproof way to ensure you are sampling some of the best dishes south eastern Portugal serves up. From beach bars to remote hilltop restaurants, here is how to eat inexpensive but delicious food while rubbing shoulders with Algarvians.A fine example of where travellers, expats,nomads, wanderers, ramblers and locals alike is found just 500 yards from our house.A Tasca Medieval is a traditional tavern with a more than welcoming pleasant and informal atmosphere.The friendliness and professionalism in the reception you are given are a constant.The cook ,her husband, their son and her dog are what make this place somewhere to nurture, Ligia,Antonio, Gonçalo and Milka are the role model family business, exhibiting great service, especially when compared to some other restaurants on the Algarve coastline.Donna Ligia is an excellent cook with a contagious smile that you just can´t but love. A truly lovely family, good home made food and that one unforgettable starter that they always remember I like so I dont even have to order it, I have christened it Salada Ligia.
    On our last visit I quietly whispered across the table to the thespian that our Pork secretos were missing their signature fried egg sitting atop. Not to be outdone in his professionalism, in a matter of minutes Gonçalo, Ligia´s son appeared bearing a platter with two of the most perfectly fried eggs I have ever seen.Given the incredibly busy nature of the restaurant his friendliness is exceptional.



    This is a fabulous restaurant which is well used by locals for their lunch.
    I have noticed recently some of Ligia´s lunchtime specials " polvo lagereiro" "Lingua de vaca no forno", to mention just two of my Portuguese all time favourites. Service aside,this brings me to "THE cataplana".This can be pre-ordered but if you dont know or forget or just decide on a whim that you "feel like cataplana tonight"you will be told that it will be a 40 minute wait.Well whats 40 minutes when you are out of an evening? Whilst you wait there are plenty of other delicious distractions in the form of fresh bread and butter,sardine paste,grilled morcela sausage and of course Salada Ligia,a delicious dish of queijo fresco (fresh goat's or sheep's cheese) covered by sliced tomatoes and garnished with dried oregano and olive oil.Oh how time flies when you are enjoying yourselves.This more than keeps me happy while I wait and the Thespian pops out for a fag break.Well there should be a fanfare of trumpets to announce the arrival of the cataplana,a huge sharing dish full of prawns, langoustines, crab claws, green lipped mussels,clams, crayfish,tomato, onion, green pepper in a delicious broth - FAN-bloody TASTIC!For small eaters,myself excluded, the dish that is portioned for two to share has the possibility of stretching to three...No sir, not while I'm around, Demons are prowling everywhere nowadays,I'll send them howling, I don't care..." Obviously this is a fiddly dish to eat and I have omitted the first part of the ritual which is the applying of the bib so you don´t get bits of seafood dripping down the front of your new Dona Karan.Delicious and at €25 for two people is a steal. Much better value than the more popular hot spots along the coast where you can expect to pay double that.
     I love you guys and I can't praise you enough!The cooking of the dishes they serve and the wine list are at the level of many good restaurants in the capital.This is traditional food extremely well made with emphasis on regional products. The price is spot on.We are so proud to have you here in Castro Marim,"My friends" Keep us a table Antonio,we know you are now so busy mas não estamos acostumados a fazer uma reserva!!! 

    Monday, 6 August 2018

    A "first course" in Spanish - tapas

    You maybe short of time, and maybe a little short on cooking skills. But as summer yawns into August, there's no need to shy away from the kitchen. Instead, simplify.The desire to not turn on your oven combined with the plethora of summer produce means that cooking becomes less of a worry. In fact, it's a fun and inspirational challenge to see just how long you can go without turning your kitchen into a sauna in the middle of August.
    The main goal of summer cooking is simple: Buy all the fresh produce and try to not turn on the oven. At all. If you must, boil some pasta or sauté some prawns with garlic on the hob, but that hot box called "THE OVEN" should remain off as much as possible. How do you cope? I hear you say.There are outdoor grills, barbecues,but the bulk of your efforts should concentrate on assembly, which is basically cooking without the heat.

    "making cold soup is not cooking,it is responding appropriately to seasonal circumstances

    For example, last night's dinner involved the following: A platter of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella , avocado, drizzled with home made Asian style pesto and then strewn with herbs and salt,Try a simple crisp green salad with shaved radishes, raw carrots and beetroot;Stir fried prawns and garlic; Iberican ham,boquerones; figs, soft fresh goats cheese and pistachios  and a loaf of crusty bread, a nice cheese, and a decent bottle of rosé. There you have it — some pretty delicious dinners with just the tiniest bit of applied heat.
    Dont chastise yourself this is not "lazy cooking," it is responding appropriately to seasonal circumstances. In other words, this is smart cooking, this is inspired cooking, this is living-in-the-moment cooking. No apologies necessary. If the cultural identity of a country is wrapped up in its food, it's fair to say tapas is more than just a pre-dinner snack.Take a lesson from the Spanish and make a delicious spread of simple appetisers Tapas is fast, easy, tasty as hell and made for sharing. Plus, it's gastronomy's most social food, made for those slow lunches that roll into the night, and into the third bottle of wine.What better when demanding friends need to be fed, you wont have to be a slave to the oven night after night.
    In principle tapas is a slice of bread topped with any ingredients, served hot or cold, and eaten with fingers or a fork. It's something to be done before a meal, but then tapas can often replace a meal. The point of tapas is that you're not locked into a formal meal. There's very little commitment in sampling tapa. The only thing universally agreed on is how it's eaten:invariably with a drink.Here are 6 of my favourites.......

    Gazpacho shots,why not have 3 shots at it?
    Three super cool soups for a hot sultry summer meal.Traditional recipes for making samorejo and ajo blanco came from Elizabeth Luards book "The food of Spain and Portugal. "The beetroot gazpacho is a casa rosada signature dish.

    Honey glazed Chouriço pinchos with garlic  ( pictured above)
    250 g semi-cured whole iberico chorizo
    2 cloves garlic
    4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
    1 tablespoon runny honey

    Slice the chorizo into 2cm rounds. Put into asmall frying pan with a splash of olive oil and toss occasionally until golden and crisp.Lightly bash 2 unpeeled cloves of garlic with the heel of your hand or the bottom of a saucepan and add to the pan.Carefully drain away most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon of it behind. Add the sherry vinegar and runny honey and leave to reduce down to a really sticky glaze. Keep an eye on it, giving the pan a shake every so often so it doesn’t catch.

    Pimientos Piquillos Rellenos 
    piquillo peppers stuffed with just about anything
    A "tapa" that is light and easy - and no cooking involved! A great dish for the summer or any time you want to prepare an appetizer quickly. Mix tuna with a bit of green onions, black olives and parsley, then stuff into roasted red peppers and serve.Any of your favourite dips would suffice as alternatives.Pea mousse LPA shown below.

    Pan con tomate (Spanish toast)
    All you need for this simple Spanish snack is good-quality olive oil, bread, garlic, a ripe tomato, and a sprinkle of sea salt.Only 5 ingredients, only 5 minutes to prepare
    1 (6") piece of baguette, halved lengthwise

    1 clove garlic

    2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

    1 very ripe large tomato

    Coarse sea salt, to taste
    Toast bread on a griddle until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Rub garlic over cut surface of bread and drizzle with oil.Put a box grater into a large bowl and grate tomato over largest holes, discarding skin. Spoon grated tomato onto toast and sprinkle with sea salt.

    Gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns)
    One of the most common "tapas" of Spain, this dish is quick, easy and full of garlic flavour.No recipe needed 



    Figs in a blanket
    Prosciutto wrapped around fresh figs? Mascarpone cheese and Dijon mustard stuffed  figs,wrapped  in an extremely thin slice of presunto serrano and then finished with a topping of coarsely chopped pistachio
    Pairing the fresh, savoury flavour of prosciutto with sweet rich figs and then stuffing them with this Dijon mustard-based cream creates a contrast to the lightly vinegared mustard and naturally sweet mascarpone.Topping the figs with coarsely chopped pistachios gives the dish a nutty salty finish.YUM!!!!!

    Wednesday, 1 August 2018

    Pudding basins in Summer?

    As deliciously retro as Fanny Craddock would have presented it!!!!!

    Summer pudding is an English classic – and this savoury take makes a succulent, refreshing alternative to sugary berries. Serve this cold after putting it in the fridge overnight. Eat with a green salad and any other summery accompaniments you fancy – boiled eggs and olives are both good.Now regarded as a traditional,almost quintessential midsummer dessert,summer is not summer without making a summer pudding.The correct fruits that go to make a true British summer pudding are hard to find here in the Algarve.The strawberry season is over by the end of June and that just leaves us with raspberries and blueberries,the latter of which are not a traditional ingredient of this summer concoction.My mother sometimes cheated and bulked up with tinned fruits but I am not going down that road.
     So warm summer days and the nostalgic sweet and melting nostalgic taste of an old-fashioned  summer pudding.But hey-ho the taste of savoury bread puddings too are much loved and not forgotten.In the absence of black and red juicy fruits my thoughts,alongside a couple of British culinary doyennes, turn to luscious summer tomatoes,red peppers and black olives to make a vegetarian alternative.You dont need to be a vegetarian to love this one.I modelled mine on a mutant of that famous and much loved Italian putanesca sauce,and a traditional ratatouille.Jennifer Patterson( much revered half of the two fat ladies) thought this up while daydreaming over that splendid Italian peasant dish Panzanella.Sophie Grigson considered it the perfect dish for a lazy summer lunch.I was just daydreaming.
    Savoury summer pudding
    Two essentials.You must find really good sweet tomatoes,not those tasteless Dutch ones.Second, the bread you choose to line the pudding basin must be thinly sliced otherwise the wonderful red juices wont seep through and stain the bread.
    2 red onions
    2 cloves garlic
    1 large red pepper
    1 orange pepper
    1kg fresh vine ripened tomatoes
    2 tbsp concentrated tomato purée
    50g capers,rinsed and drained
    1 mild fresh chilli deseeded and chopped
    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    celery salt and pepper to taste

    Monday, 30 July 2018

    If you hurry you´ll be late


    "Salt, sand and sitting around eating sardines and custard tarts: in the Eastern Algarve you will find yourself exhausted by doing absolutely nothing. Not a bad way to appreciate the good life".Take it from one who knows

    Amid the sunscreen-smeared hullabaloo that is August, the question arises: Is there an alternative Algarve? A less-trod Algarve? An Algarve where a bit of serenity and the flavour of the past have been preserved? Lush valleys, meandering hillsides and hilltop villages offering some of the most  under valued and understated countryside.
    the answer is yes,the East Algarve.
    Portugal’s Algarve is almost too popular these days, so one needs to head to its little-visited eastern end? Here the long white beaches are secluded and the towns and villages are sleepier, but do not worry there’s no shortage of gelados and pastry shops.Like France and Spain, Portugal’s beach-filled southern coastline has long been considered the country’s summer playground. And while the west side has enjoyed the lion’s share of the tourist trade since the early 70s, the east side, stretching from  Faro to the Spanish border, is far more relaxing and way way cooler.
    This is where the smarter Europeans, mainly the Italians and French,(before prime minister António Costa bows to Macron´s request and pulls the plug on their golden card, Portugal’s ‘non- habitual resident’ tax regime ) are buying (and renting out) their summer properties, and where hip expats are opening boutique hotels and hot restaurants. The sleepiness of the tiny towns and empty beaches weeds out the people who can’t sit in a chair for more than 10 minutes. The common denominator here, for both locals and tourists, is an innate ability to appreciate  a life less ordinary.

    Sun, sea, authentic experiences, small miracles of gastronomy,for me this is the essence of The East Algarve summer.Day after day one culinary treat follows another. The East Algarve summer is full of buzzing markets overflowing with flavours and aromas; wild greens,buxom beef steak tomatoes, fragrant fruits, legumes, vegetables, cheese, warm bread, extra virgin olive oil, fresh fish and seafood, homemade produce. Every corner of the East Algarve has its own gastro-microclimate. Every village and town,a recipe and a story to tell. Whether you are walking along the beach with a slice of juicy watermelon, or indulging in a gourmet meal made with local produce, whether you’re dipping a slice of bread into pure olive oil or eating an oyster straight from the sea or demolishing a dessert of smoky carob ice cream with a reverence for Algarvian flavours,the delicious flavours will delight your taste buds.

    Must have local specialities
    Amêijoas – Ria  formosa clams
    Raia alhada-Olhao
    Octopus salad Santa Luzia,the 'capital of octopus'
    'Bife atum Tavira'
    Estupeta Vila Real de santo Antonio
    “Estupeta” is a particularly interesting local speciality of raw tuna, thinly sliced and served with salad. The best choice of tuna dishes is available in restaurants in Vila Real de Santo António and Monte Gordo and especially in August when the annual “Rota de Atum”or tuna gastronomic festival celebrates the region’s much-loved fish.

    Estopeta de atum  500g de atum escuro de barrica,da parte do lombo  ( 500g tuna.The dark brown part of the tuna loin) I large onion 2 firm tomatoes 1 green or red pepper or both 2 medium boiled eggs Olives Juice of I lemon 300ml extra virgin olive oil 125 ml white wine vinegar salt and pepper to taste lettuce leaves Clean the tuna and soak it overnight in cold water. Change the water once or twice. After soaking, cut into small pieces of around 2 cm.Wash them again in cold water and squeeze well.
    Peel and slice the onion into little dice, do the same to the pepper (green or red) and clean 1 tomato, cut it into little cubes also.
    In a bowl, pour all the ingredients, ie, tuna, onions, peppers and tomatoes, season to taste with salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar and mix.
    In a salad bowl or platter, place a few lettuce leaves, cleaned, and on top, place the tuna mixture in a pile or as desired. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze over the tuna.Keep the estopeta chilled in the fridge for a good two hours before serving.
    Garnish around with slices of the other half of the lemon, another tomato, egg, olives and, if desired, onion rings.


    .....And when all is said and done and you are eager to take home those flavours, pop in to Ex Libris Gourmet,my favourite deli stuffed to the rafters with beautifully packaged sweet tomato jams, exotic liquors, tinned sardines,artisan flor de sal, wines and olive oils. “The concept is food and design,” Owner Tiago Centeno, who is yet another refugee from the rat race. After 10 years in the Portuguese military,he and his wife moved to Tavira “because it’s more quiet and peaceful” than other parts of the region.I rest my case.

    Wednesday, 25 July 2018

    Not just plain ol' couscous

    Because it’s convenient and goes well with everything, couscous is a staple that I always keep on hand in my pantry.I have long been a fan of cous cous as it cooks quicker than you have time to blink. In its plain state, however, it can be a tad underwhelming, like polenta, unless you have lots of sauce or juices to pour over it to spice it up.Couscous pairs beautifully with a number of flavours in a main dish or as a side,accordingly I serve it in different guises to many of our guests,and the response  is  always "I love cous cous"
    And who is of the school of thought that couscous is actually just another form of pasta?  
    Some foodies consider this grain product to be a type of pasta, but the similarity is ostensible — couscous is made of crushed durum wheat semolina, not the ground type used for pasta. That couscous is less refined is good news for health-conscious cooks.The traditional way of making couscous is a pretty cool process. Instead of combining the semolina with water and egg to make into a dough as one would for pasta, couscous is produced by moistening the semolina with a little water or oil between your hands until it crumbles into tiny granules or pearls.
    Couscous is a treasured staple food in the Middle East. When it is bejewelled, say, with pomegranate seeds and almonds, and presented with tagines and other accompaniments, it does indeed look a feast fit for a sultan. But couscous does not need to be complicated. In fact, at its simplest, it is much quicker to prepare than pasta or rice. 
    I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t have a couscoussiére in my batterie de cuisine.
     I don't think a couscousiere is an essential tool for anyone, to be perfectly honest, it is more of a Moroccan kitchen contraption than an essential awesome culinary indulgence.It's a rather large piece of kitchen bling,that does have multi tasking going for it.The upper steaming portion is just perfect for steaming anything you want to be flavoured by what is being cooked in the lower portion.Meat, Fish, vegetables, or Cha siu bao, if the mood took you! If you have a small kitchen and want to make authentic couscous whats wrong with just using a metal colander that fits snugly inside a large pan. Don't worry about the holes being too big. You will lose a couple couses, but what the heck,why not do what I have always done.

    Smoked Paprika, Almond and Herb Couscous
     This side dish is so smoky and fragrant, you may find yourself like me pushing aside the main course so that you can focus your attention on it. Smoked paprika not only lends its intense flavour to the couscous, but it also adds a glorious colour, creating the most beautiful auburn hue. Toasted sliced almonds add textural crunch to the dish (something I find that is all too often missing in plain ol' couscous), and a slew of chopped fresh parsley brings its pop of green freshness to the equation. Enjoy this as a bed for pork tenderloin roast chicken, grilled steak, or even just a pile of juicy roasted vegetables for a simple, satisfying meal.Dont be surprised when I say I would be happy to to eat bowl of it all on its own.
    Serves 6 to 8 portions as a side dish
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    2/3 cup sliced almonds
    1 heaped teaspoon smoked paprika
    250ml cup vegetable stock
    150g (5oz) couscous
    3/4 teaspoon Flor de sal
    2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
    Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or casserole until shimmering. Add the garlic and almonds and sauté until the garlic is fragrant and the nuts are lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Add the paprika and sauté for 10 seconds more.
    Add the stock, stir to combine, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat and immediately stir in the couscous and salt. Cover and let stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Uncover the couscous and fluff with a fork. Mix in the parsley and serve.
    • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


    Monday, 23 July 2018

    Is it a pudding? Is it a tart? No its a Shrewsbury Pudding Tart

     No kidding,no instagram filters,just beetroot

    Here´s one for you if you are adventurous, love beetroot and have a sweet tooth.It has a history too.This recipe was conceived 156 years ago in 1862 by a rather eccentric cook,Georgiana Hill, not to be confused with the Georgiana Hill (8 December 1858 – 29 March 1924), who was a British social historian, journalist, and women's rights activist. My mischievous nature and affiliation with all things eccentric drew me to it.You can see where I am going.It is quite amazing where the internet can take you and what you can come across.God forbid I should have got caught caught up in a porn cycle, easier said than done.As is my wont in many a discussion to come up with non sequiturs this perhaps is a classic example.I was actually looking for information about the history of "the summer pudding" and somehow  digressed to a "Shrewsbury tart",something I had previously not heard of,all to my advantage I would say,my sweet tooth was appeased.
     I am a sucker for beetroot,love to rise to a new challenge and was driven to distraction by the crazy colour.Is it a pudding? Is it a tart?, no its The Shrewsbury Pudding Tart.Well that´s what its called now, as the recipe has been tweaked slightly over time and baked in a pastry case for ease of serving. The original method was for a buttered-and-breadcrumbed bowl.The flavour is very light and delicate, the lemon counteracting a lot of the beetroot’s sweetness.Having tasted the batter before it went in the oven I see no reason, with a bit more tweaking, why the pastry shell could not be abandoned and the filling served in glasses as a thoroughly modern mousse (more on that story later,Kirsty ).
    This recipe comes from a book originally published in 1862 as Everybody’s Pudding Book,to be re-published by Macmillan in August this year, with the new title of A Year of Victorian Puddings.It is a complete collection of seasonal, traditional English puddings for every day of the year.For those who love their puddings and want to try their hand at some history of traditional recipes that have long deserved a revival such as this one, this cookbook is as relevant today as it was in the Victorian era.
    Georgiana 'Browning' Hill was the author of a number of cookery books in the late 1800s, which include "How to Cook Game in a Hundred and twenty four dishes", "The gourmet's guide to rabbit cooking, by an old epicure", published in 1859, The Breakfast Book, published in 1865 and How to Cook Apples, also published in 1865. Her early cookbooks offered simple food for the middle classes and sold in very large numbers at six pence each. She enjoyed success with her later titles which became more adventurous, with recipes from Spain and France, and were aimed at more serious gourmets. The dates of her birth and death are unknown.The recipes are accompanied by  the author’s no-nonsense and often amusing advice on seasonal ingredients and the appropriateness of puddings for certain occasions.
    In both cases, Hill shows herself to be a skilled cook, who also expected skill of those she addressed, as in her recipe for ‘Pommes Farcies’ where she instructs that the apples are to be baked for half an hour ‘in a gay oven.’ I had never thought of my oven as being gender specific LGBT.These are recipes which were to be followed by cooks comfortable with the basics of the kitchen, and who had the confidence to follow instructions which left much to the discretion of the cook. 
    The Shrewsbury Pudding Tart
    1 x 24cm blind-baked sweet pastry shell

    225g cooked beetroot

    115g unsalted butter – melted
    150g icing sugar
    zest of 1 lemon
    juice of 2 lemons
    3 large eggs
    60ml brandy
    150-250g fresh white breadcrumbs
      Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
      Puree the beetroot until smooth.
      Add the butter, sugar, lemon, eggs and brandy and whisk thoroughly.
      Add in the breadcrumbs BUT not all at once. You want them to absorb a lot of the moisture in the filling, which will vary depending on the freshness of the eggs and the moisture in the beetroot. You might not need all of them.The lemons I used were particularly large and therefor e produced more juice,therefore I used all the required breadcrumbs plus a tad more The texture should be similar to a sponge cake mix, but still pourable.
      Add the filling to the pie shell and place the tin on a baking sheet.
      Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set. Turn the baking sheet around after 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
      Cool on a wire rack.