Thursday, 12 September 2019

Thou shalt not mix fish and cheese,nonna says.

 A fish-focused pasta with cheese would have many an Italian nonna rising from their graves to deliver a hefty slap on the wrist.
 If the idea of combining seafood and cheese is such a widely-accepted global phenomenon, why is the concept so distasteful to so many Italian home cooks? And, hey, let’s not just point fingers at Italians here. A lot of people all over the world have adopted this notion, if for no other reason than that they’ve heard it from their mothers.
 Italian culinary doctrine – a constitution held up by Italian home matriarchs where infractions can be punishable by no supper or death – is very clear on the subject.Cheese and seafood shall not be mixed. Ever? Yet, if you stumble around France long enough you’re bound to find someone who prepares mussels in an earthy blue cheese broth spiked with white wine and garlic. In Chile, you’ll find both millennials and retirees ordering plates of Machas à La Parmesana, clams baked in wine, butter, and a mild-tasting Chilean version of Parmesan. And who can forget social gatherings in the nineties where no party was without oyster dip packed with enough cream cheese to send a marathon runner into cardiac arrest?
When it comes to eating seafood, people seem to have a lot of stigmas: they won't eat fish with red wine, they won't eat it raw, or they won't eat it at all. They don't like the texture --- it's too rubbery -- or they don't like the smell -- it's too fishy!
Fish and cheese is a no-no, right? Wrong. Seafood can absolutely be eaten with cheese -- in fact, you might be surprised how often the pairing comes ups.
So how come two great Italian incarnations sneaked  through? Caesar salad brings together anchovies and parmesan cheese, and many many pizzas are topped with anchovies, smoked salmon, sometimes tuna and customary mozzarella.I even unearthed a pizza pescatore which incorporated prawns, squid,and mussels along with mozzarella in the topping.
Parmesan is essential to any risotto regardless of seafood.I also very often stir through mascarpone at the end of cooking.
 A creamy, buttery  seafood mornay would be unthinkable without the inclusion of a cheesy bechamel made with gruyére, emmenthal or any other Swiss cheese.
 There's no official legislation outlawing the presence of fish and cheese on the same plate, but for many Italians — and those of us who would wish to remain in their gastronomic good graces — there is no greater offence. To finish a fish-focused pasta with cheese in the sauce would have many an Italian nonna rising from their graves to deliver a hefty slap on the wrist.Don’t ever disrespect tradition.Nonna knows best. She learned the recipes from her nonna, who learned from her nonna, who learned from her nonna and so on and so forth.
 So where did this commandment originate?
As always,rules are there to be broken. No one is saying that you shouldn’t pair fish and cheese. Rather,we should become enthusiastic advocates for smartly coupling seafood and dairy, and in the hands of a skilled chef, recipes combining the two can raise the roof, elevating both ingredients to new heights. When used correctly, cheese can enhance the flavours of many seafood dishes.It seems old customs like this are falling by the wayside as chefs have become more creative with the blending of flavours.
Don’t believe the stigma- fish and cheese can go together quite well.I for one would like to destroy this stigma once and for all:I feel a Cod and Prawn Lasagne with Ricotta and Mozzarella  coming on.Delicious bubbling layers of fish sauce pasta sheets and creamy spinach filling.
Recipe from Ocado Life magazine
Cod and Prawn Lasagne with Ricotta and Mozzarella

250g lasagne sheets
690g passata 
400g skinless cod fillet, cut into bite-sized chunks
350g large prawns, halved
450g spinach
250g ricotta
200g mozzarella
30g parmesan, finely grated
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped - or 1/2 tbsp dried.

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and cook for 10 mins, until soft.
Meanwhile, wash the spinach and wilt in a saucepan – press out excess water in a colander afterwards.
Finely chop the spinach and place in a bowl with the ricotta and nutmeg, mix well and season to taste.
Add the oregano to the softened onions, cooking briefly before pouring in the passata. Simmer for 10 mins, until thickened, season and mix in the fish and prawns.
Place a layer of lasagne sheets in a large baking dish (about 34 x 24cm), and top with half the fish sauce.
Cover with lasagne, then all of the spinach mixture and another layer of lasagne.
Top with the rest of the fish and a final layer of pasta. Tear and scatter the mozzarella over the top with the parmesan.
Bake for 30-35 mins, until the top is golden, and serve with a green side salad.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

"not a tomato and egg sandwich"

an ode to late summer tomatoes
There is something magical about mayonnaise....when you look at the ingredients before making it:egg yolks,olive oil,lemon juice or wine vinegar,salt and pepper...a little dijon mustard and out of that amalgamation comes on of the greatest cold sauces ever, a flavour without which summer would be incomplete. Purists claim that true mayonnaise must be made by hand in a stone mortar with a wooden spoon.This is time consuming and the mayonnaise is prone to separation during the early stages.True food processor mayonnaise is a poor imitation of the real thing, but mayonnaise made using a hand-held electric whisk or a food mixer is excellent, and I would challenge anybody to tell the difference between one made in minutes using a whisk and one made by hand.I accept that,given the time,there is an almost sensuous pleasure to be had from making mayonnaise the old-fashioned way.It is an elemental process which is deeply satisfying. However I have never had that half an hour needed to indulge myself in this way.
More often than not I make a sandwich for our lunch.But in this hot weather I often feel the call for a simple salad, and sometimes when I want a break from leaf greens, this is the sort of recipe I hanker for,a nearly end of summer but not quite autumn yet dish. It is basically a deconstructed egg mayo and tomato sandwich. I call it  "not a tomato and egg sandwich".All the makings of a sandwich, but just not one.It is missing the sandwich part of the equation and so becomes a salad.Something else that differentiates this tomato salad from all the others  I make is that there is absolutely no olive oil being drizzled. Just big dollops of luscious home made mayonnaise. This salad is all about the  unique texture and taste sensation that happens when you combine tomatoes and egg with home made mayonnaise. Just boil some eggs for six minutes, slice the tomatoes in thick slices, and spoon on dollops of home made mayonnaise.Just to show it was a deconstructed sandwich I served it with bread too.Well after all, that is what we do in Portugal. There is always bread on the table. 
 "not a tomato and egg sandwich"
2 x medium sized eggs
1 tsp flor de sal
1/2 tsp ground pepper
300 ml /1/2 pt sunflower oil
2 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
300 ml /1/2 pt olive oil
Separate the eggs* and put the yolks into a bowl with the salt and full speed,beat the yolks and begin adding the sunflower oil a few drops at a time, until it starts to thicken.Start to pour the oil in a thin stream until all the sunflower oil is incorporated.The mixture will now be very thick,so beat in the mustard and half the lemon juice before adding the olive oil.if it is still too thick,add the rest of the lemon juice and some boiled water, a tablespoon at a time.When you have incorporated all the oil,taste and add more salt and pepper if needed The final mayonnaise should have a dropping consistency.
*for a less rich mayonnaise do not separate the eggs and use the whites also

Monday, 2 September 2019

Dealing with the "F" word

Food in your salad drawer freezing? 
Waste no want not, make freezer burn summer soup.
Can you believe it? I’ve been cursed with freezer burn again.  And it’s all the fault of my stupid fridge instead of my stupid self.You see, we have one of those refrigerators with the freezer on the bottom*, that were tout la rage about 10 years ago.You know … the kind you have to press your face onto the kitchen floor to get the ice cube tray out of.  Yes …. one of those.Well the other problem with having the freezer directly below the fridge is that everything in the salad drawer tends to freeze very easily and without warning.We've all had the misfortune of opening the fridge to find our precious Cos lettuce that we drove all the way to Spain to purchase has been frozen. It could be fruit, vegetables, meat, or even dairy,accidental fridge freezing is not disastrous,but very very annoying.  
I am sure you have heard rumours that once vegetables are freezer burned they are no good and should be thrown out. This is not true. While they may look and taste a little “different”,the FSIS (food safety and inspection site) states that freezer burned vegetables are not dangerous. So, all is not lost! Here is one way to save your freezer burnt salad and eliminate food waste in your kitchen. Using freezer burned vegetables is just like using any frozen vegetables. 
Why is this little oxymoronic food term important? Many of us are eating fresh, sustainable food these days and such foods do not have the shelf life of processed foods. This means that we all need to know how to store “real food” (as opposed to processed food) to retain maximum flavour, texture, and all of those important nutrients. Storage know-how is especially apropos this time of year, when fresh produce is so bountiful that you might be wondering, what the heck do I do with all of these um vegetables?

Freezer burn summer soup
12 oz (350 g) potatoes, peeled and finely diced
4 or 5 spring onions, finely chopped (including the green parts)
1 small lettuce (approx 8 oz, 225 g in weight),, washed, patted dry and shredded
½ medium cucumber, chopped (no need to peel) 
6 oz (175 g) frozen peas
3 oz (75 g) butter
1½ pints (850 ml)chicken or vegetable stock
Approx. 2 tablespoons single cream (optional)
snipped fresh chives, to garnish
salt and freshly milled black pepper

First of all, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter gently, then add the potatoes, spring onions, lettuce and cucumber.Stir everything round in the butter then, keeping the heat very low, put a lid on and let everything sweat for 10 minutes. Now pour in the stock, stir, add some salt and freshly milled black pepper and bring to the boil.Add the frozen peas, then reduce the heat to low, put the lid on and let it simmer gently for another 20 minutes.
Leave the soup to cool a little, then puree the whole lot in a blender. If you need to do this in two batches, it is helpful to have a bowl to hand to put the first batch in.Transfer to a bowl and leave in the refrigerator until completely chilled. Just before serving stir through the cream,if using, until blended.
Garnish with the freshly snipped chives stirred in at the last moment or sprinkle a few into each bowl.
*Refrigerators with top freezers use 10 to 25 percent less energy than ones with bottom freezers.
A top-freezer is the traditional option. It’s also the cheaper option and the more energy-efficient option. The main drawback? It won’t win you any design awards and you’ll have to face the risk of a shower of ice cubes tumbling out and hitting you in the face as you stretch up toopen the ice compartment

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Under wraps,wrap party

Homemade Fresh Summer Rolls with Easy Peasy Peanut Dipping Sauce
I think that Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls are one of those things that people love but always assume are just too fiddly or too hard to make. To dispel that myth, let me tell you – I am not into fiddly. That’s why you’ll never see fancy decorated cakes on this blog. I simply don’t have the patience or co-ordination for fiddly dishes – sweet or savoury. Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls are packed with bright, fresh flavours and served with an insanely addictive Vietnamese Peanut Dipping Sauce that takes a minute to make. So let's keep this one under wraps until we've practiced and perfected it sufficiently. These spring rolls are a refreshing change from the usual fried variety. They are great as a cool summertime appetizer, and are delicious dipped in one or both of the sauces. Even the hardest of hard-core carnivores devour these as enthusiastically as they would a rack of ribs.They truly are that good.Vietnamese food is my idea of the ultimate “accidentally healthy” food.There are a handful of deep fried recipes,but generally, most Vietnamese dishes are really fresh, full of bright flavours, pretty colours and loaded with herbs and salads, with just a bit of protein. Dressings and sauces are refreshingly light and devoid of oil, unlike basically every Western dressing.
Oh! And before I forget – THE PEANUT SAUCE! This peanut sauce is essential!! This is a Vietnamese Peanut Dipping Sauce. The 2 key ingredients are peanut butter and hoisin sauce which is thinned out with either milk or water (I used milk for colour, using water, the sauce is darker).
Why not try filling them with plump, sweet prawns, avocado and a sprig of purple basil and slithers of fresh mango. Vary the filling combinations according to what’s seasonal or to your personal preferences.These wraps also make ideal summer canapés
7 - 14 sheets of 22cm/8.5" round rice paper 
2 cooked chicken breasts,skinned and shredded
2 cups finely shredded chinese cabbage
1 cup grated carrot
172 cup freshly chopped mint leaves
fresh coriander leaves
crispy fried shallots
dry roasted peanuts

2 fresh chillies,seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp nam pla ,fish sauce
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 spring onions finely sliced

Vietnamese Peanut Dipping Sauce
1 tbsp peanut butter, preferably smooth (crunchy is ok too)
2 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar (or lime juice)
1/3 cup milk (any fat %) (or water) 1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp crushed chilli, samba oelak or other chilli paste, adjust to taste (optional)

ORIGINAL PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE: The one I have provided in the recipe is more authentic and akin to what you get at Vietnamese restaurants .But here is the original one.

½ cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis, it's thick like syrup)
2 small garlic cloves (or 1 large), minced
1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp lime juice

Combine the Peanut Dipping Sauce ingredientsin a saucepan Mix  until smooth. Set aside to cool. Adjust sour with vinegar, salt with salt and spiciness to taste. Thickness can be adjusted with milk or water once cooled.
Fill a large bowl with warm water. The bowl doesn't need to be large enough to fit the whole rice paper in one go.
Place rice papers one at a time into the warm water. Note which side is the smooth side - this is supposed to be the outside of the spring roll. Submerge the rice paper into the water for 2 seconds. If your bowl isn't large enough to fit the whole rice paper in one go, that's fine, just rotate it and count 2 seconds for each section you submerge into the water.
On the top part of the rice paper, place a spoonful of the filling as you would make a tortilla wrap
Fold the left and right edges of the rice paper in, then starting from the bottom, roll up very tightly. Then keep rolling firmly. The rice paper is sticky, it will seal itself.
Serve immediately with the peanut dipping sauce.

Milk doesn't add flavour to the sauce, it just makes it a lighter colour so you know it's a peanut sauce. This is the colour of the sauce at most Vietnamese restaurants. So you can use water if you prefer, but the sauce will be a darker brown.
The secret to success here is not to leave the wrappers in the water bath too long, they will continue to soften after you have dipped them in the water.

STORAGE: Some recipes will tell you that you can make rice paper rolls the day before and you can keep them moist with a damp paper towel. Firstly, I find that the rice paper rolls smelt of towel and secondly, they didn't hold up well at all. My rule of thumb is 6 hours (max 8) - you can make them up to 6 hours ahead, tightly wrap each one in cling wrap as soon as you make them and refrigerate. Don't just put them on a plate and put cling wrap on the plate, you should roll up each on in cling wrap (you should be able to fit 2 per piece of cling wrap - wrap one first, then place another next to it and roll up with the remaining cling wrap).

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Midnight at the oasis - Moroccan chicken curry

Fruity and spicy, colourful and traditional...medievalicious
The core elements of meat, fruit and spices, and occasionally nuts, are central to many of the dishes from Morocco.Moroccan cuisine is typically a mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines with slight European and sub-Saharan influences, all of which are represented in Castro Marim´s Dias Medievais XX11edição, which kicks off here tonight.

 I therefore feel it has a place to be served here in El al Gharb tonight. Renowned for its tagine,that conical shaped cooking vessel,one does not think about curry as one of Morocco´s dishes.In fact, many Moroccan spices are the same as those commonly used in the Indian kitchen. Spices play an important role in Moroccan cooking. However, for those of us used to the Indian masalas, the cuisine is not spicy at all, though there are many different notes in a single dish. Common herbs are fresh coriander and parsley. In my dreams it transported me to the fragrance of beautiful nights in Marrakech.I have never actually been to Morocco so I hope they do have fragrant nights, otherwise my allusion is somewhat prosaic.But what I produced was big mood, as they say on social media these days.It really rocked the Berber boat.Its midnight at the oasis and you´ve put your camel to bed, so here is a suggestion if you are in the mood for rustling up something for a sultry night. 
A warm Moroccan chicken curry  serves 2

1 preserved lemon

1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
dessert spoon runny honey

1 medium onion sliced 

1 garlic clove sliced
handful of coriander stalks
1-14½ ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup water
10g french beans or runner beans
1 small green pepper,cut into thin strips 
1 small chicken breast per person 
1 heaped teaspoon good quality Moroccan curry powder
1/2 tsp ras al hanout

First make the spice paste.Remove the flesh from the lemon and discard.Chop the rest of the lemon and the other four ingredients blitz to a thick paste in a food processor
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and green pepper. Cover and cook until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and coriander stalks, stir and cook for 1 minute.Stir in the spice paste,and mix well.
Add curry powder and Ras al Hanout, stir and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add tomatoes, a little water and some lemon juice; bring to a gentle boil. Arrange the chicken in the pan in a single layer, spoon some sauce over the chicken. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender, about 15 more minutes.
Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes for young, smaller green beans, 3 minutes for larger green beans. Remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking.
Add blanched green beans around the chicken, spoon some sauce over, simmer uncovered for 10 minutes to blend flavors and heat through. Season to taste with more lemon juice, if desired, and salt and pepper. Transfer chicken to large shallow bowl or rimmed platter. Sprinkle with almonds and cilantro. Excellent served with couscous or rice to soak up all the delicious sauce.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Grilled Hanger Steak with beetroot carrot and apple kimchi

Lombelo, Bife de cabide, solomillo de pulmón,all of the above. This is my Go-To Cut of meat this summer. If you like Rib Eye as much as i do but are looking for something more affordable, this marbled cut is a great alternative to rely on for the grilling and salad season.
My favoured cut has always been the  Rib Eye.There's a reason it's so popular: it's large, marbled and versatile. But because Rib Eyes are so well-liked, they can also be expensive.
Hanger steak has a beefy flavour like a Rib Eye, but it’s more cost-effective and a little bit different and it actually cooks quicker. It comes from the front of the cow, where the meat literally "hangs off the cow's diaphragm, hence the name."
The big difference between the hanger steak and the Rib Eye isn't flavour, but its texture, and here's where the crucial distinction in cooking comes in. Though my preference is to cook Rib Eyes rare, hanger steak benefits from longer cooking, so cook them medium rare. The heat helps all the tissue break down and you’ll end up with a more tender piece of meat.
Cold spiced beef fillet
125g light brown mascavado sugar
85g coarse Flor de sal
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
75ml good quality soya sauce (Kikkoman)
75ml sesame oil
1 red chilli finely sliced
300g hanger steak (lombelo) in one piece
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

Mix the sugar,salt star anise, ginger,garlic,lemon zest,red chilli,soya sauce and sesame oil in a dish just large enough to fit the beef.Add the beef,thoroughly coating it in the marinade.Cover and place in the fridge.
After 12 hours,turn the meat,rubbing it all over with the marinade.Leave to marinade for at least 24 hours and up to a maximum of 36.Then rinse under a cold tap and pat dry.
heat the sunflower oil in a non-stick frying pan.As soon as it is hot, add the beef and colour on all sides.Continue to fry for about 5 minutes, turning regularly, then remove. Once cold, cover and chill until needed.
Beetroot carrot and apple kimchi
1kg large carrots peeled
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Flor de sal
2 small garlic cloves finely chopped

1 small Granny Smith apple,grated
1 cup cabbage kimchi with juices, chopped  
Freshly grated raw beetroot 

Freshly ground black pepperCut the carrots into 7.5cm (3 inch) batons.Halve the lower ends lengthways, then cut the thicker upper parts in quarters lengthways. put them all in a large shallow roasting tray and toss them well with the olive oil,orange juice and flor de sal.Roast for about 45 minutes at 200C for about 45 minutes,turning occasionally until tender and patched with brown but still retaining some texture.While the carrots are roasting, grate the beetroot. Turn the carrots out into a mixing bowl and allow to cool completely.
When ready to serve toss the carrot,cabbage kimchi,apple and herbs with the dressing in a mixing bowl.Toss the grated beetroot in another bowl and then carefully compose the salad on a serving dish

Monday, 19 August 2019

"Time to eat" beetroot tagliatelle

Eat your heart out Instagram, WOW the colour!
 By default the other night I found myself watching the Nadiya Hussain series "Time to eat". As with all cookery shows these days it was about "watch the programme,now buy the book". This was a programme about quick and easy, short cut recipes for "time poor" people.So how is it that "we" somehow don't have time to cook, but we can always find time to binge-watch endless episodes of cookery shows like this?
Cooking's not even all that time consuming anyway. I cook from scratch every night and most things only take half an hour - and some of that time is just waiting for water to boil or sauce to reduce.But somehow this kind of TV programme works because it is not about food or time-saving at all. It is about putting our feet up, glass of wine in hand for half an hour, wallowing in Nadiya’s rather sweet child like innocence.She is a bright and engaging presenter producing ice cream carton loads of natural charm all served up with large portions of spontaneous banter,the key to which is revealed when she looks up from frying her egg rolls at us and asks “Can you smell that?!” then catches herself. “No, you can’t smell that. I can, though!" Very few presenters can manage to master the art  of this one to one style of broadcasting. Ok some her recipes are a bit bonkers. Haddock and marmalade? No thank you,but when I look at my own personal style of cooking,I tend to err on the side of quirky too.
Beetroot is a no-brainer for me, it tastes fantastic even when it´s simply roasted or cooked or pre-cooked and vacuum packed from the supermarket as in this recipe.
Isn't it time to take a break from roasted beetroot with goat cheese? I think so.It is so yesterday.There are so many other things you can do with this wonderful root vegetable.
This is a classic pairing: the earthiness of the beets and the saltiness of the feta marry quite well with fresh basil, mint or coriander, Nadiya specified dill but I wasn´t keen so I substituted.
All you need for this is a blender,smoothie maker or food processor - whatever you use to make mush - it will work,and the only cooking is the pasta.This tastes delicious,but eat your heart out Instagram, WOW the colour! This recipe will give you two portions of glorious beetroot sauce; but if you just want to make a single batch halve the ingredients listed in purple.
Nadiya Hussains beetroot tagliatelle
with an o cozinheiro twist
Serves 5
500g tagliatelle
600g cooked beetroot,drained
100ml olive oil
1 tsp flor de sal
4 cloves garlic
1 large red chilli ( de-seeded if you want it less spicy)
200g feta cheese
20g fresh basil,mint or coriander or a mix of all three, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
Chives and extra olive oil,(optional) for serving 
Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the packet
Meanwhile make the sauce.Put the beetroot into a blender and add the olive oil,salt, garlic and chilli
and blend to a smooth paste.
Put half the sauce into a frezable container:now you have an extra batch of sauce ready for another meal.Crumble the feta cheese into a bowl.Chop the mint and basil and add to the cheese,then drizzle over the lemon juice and mix,
Once the pasta is cooked to your liking ( We like it al dente ),drain and put back into the pan.Pour in all that beautiful beetroot sauce and mix through.I cant help but be mesmerized by nature when the colour mixes with the pasta,staining it bright pink.Tip out onto a serving dish and sprinkle over the feat and dill mix,Drizzle with a little extra olive oil before serving.
The frozen sauce will keep for up to 6 months

Thursday, 15 August 2019

How about some limoncello? keep it cool with a soothing summer snifter

 Pure bottled sunshine
The months between June and September tend to be our most social ones, punctuated by barbecues,eating alfresco, and glasses of pink port on the patio. These are evenings when we want to encourage our guests to have one for the road, to hang around just a little longer and enjoy those precious few moments when the heat finally dissipates. 
How about some limoncello?
There are many legends and stories on the origin of this liqueur; some say the limoncello is as ancient as lemon cultivation itself. Others say that it was used by fishermen and farmers to fight off the cold of the morning. Some others say that the recipe originated in a monastery. We’ll probably never know the truth, but what is certain is that today limoncello is an international success, which is exported by many Italian companies that follow the original recipe using only lemons from Capri, Sorrento or the Amalfitana coast. Peel from lemons, picked no more than 48 hours before, are cut by hand and left to marinate in a solution of alcohol, water and sugar. The jugs are well covered and kept at room temperature so that the blend can marinate and gain the lemon taste and yellow colour. After resting for a month, the preparation continues by adding a pan of boiled water and sugar and then by leaving it to cool with some more alcohol. After 40 more days of resting, the infusion is filtered and bottled. Limoncello is stored in the freezer and is an excellent digestif, at the end of meals it’s become a social ritual as much as coffee.If you grow lemons it is a great way to make use of an excess harvest and for the price of a bottle of vodka it is astoundingly easy to make yourself,following the original recipe.I had this notion that limoncello must be a closely guarded secret , kept by a sect of weathered Italian Nonnos. Well, as it turns out,how wrong could I be.All you need to make truly incredible limoncello are some good lemons, a bottle of stiff vodka, and just a little patience.
The lemons may not be from the Amalfi coast but there is nothing wrong with a good Algarvian lemon.There is also an Alentejan version,Limontejo, should you be visting the area.So if you can’t make it to Palermo this summer, never fear Limoncello is here: It is cheap and easy to make at home, requiring only organic lemons, high-proof vodka, and sugar. Best of all, by making your own you can balance the limoncello to your liking, reducing the sugar content for a more tart sipper or upping it for something a little sweeter, and adding water if you want to reduce the alcohol. 

Monday, 12 August 2019

Using your noodle Basil-Cashew-Lime noodles with pork and green beans

It was not long ago that I learnt the magic of soaked cashews. Briefly soaking cashews in hot water softens them enough that you can blend them into a creamy sauce.Well summer is basil season, and by adding some basil, lime and mint to the mix you can achieve a gorgeously fresh green-hued sauce for noodles. Top those noodles with pan-seared pork and green runner beans and you have a nutritious bowlful of summery supper.

Basil-Cashew-Lime noodles with pork and green beans
1 cup salted, roasted cashews, divided
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more
2 1/2 tsp. light brown sugar, divided
2 large boneless pork loin chops (about 1 1/4 lb. total)
8 oz. udon noodles
2 cups basil leaves
2 small serrano chiles, seeds removed
1 Tbsp. finely grated lime zest
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. green beans, trimmed, halved crosswise
1 cup mint leaves
Lime wedges (for serving)

Place 3/4 cup cashews in a blender and cover with 3/4 cup boiling water. Let soak 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix turmeric, pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. brown sugar in a small bowl; set aside.
Working one at a time, place pork chop flat on a work surface. First, butterfly the pork chop so that it’s thinner, which will reduce cooking time and create more surface area for seasoning. Using a sharp knife and starting from an outside edge, slice three-quarters of the way through the centre of chop, as though you’re slicing a bagel in half, then open it up like a book. Place butterflied chop between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or inside a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag and pound to 1/4" thin. Repeat with remaining chop. Rub chops with turmeric mixture and let sit 10 minutes.
Cook noodles according to package directions. Run under cold water to stop the cooking, then transfer to a large bowl.
Add basil, chillies, lime zest and juice, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar and 3/4 tsp. salt to cashews and cashew soaking water in blender and purée until smooth and creamy. Pour sauce over noodles and toss to combine.
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over high until shimmering. Cook chops one at a time until browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Slice into 1/2"-thick strips.
While pork rests, cook green beans in same skillet over high heat, stirring often, until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
Divide noodle mixture among bowls. Arrange pork and green beans over. Top with mint and remaining 1/4 cup cashews. Serve with lime wedges alongside.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Hey Pesto!

A traditional Italian favourite,the original basil pesto has inspired countless variations that feature such fragrant herbs as rocket,garlic-chives,oregano,dill,sage,thyme and tarragon.The famous pesto alla genovese is without doubt one of the classic  sauce recipes of Italian cooking.Its true home, however,is in Liguria,where the ingredients needed can be obtained all the year round.In summer when basil is in season and abundant,it´s worth not only making pesto freshly,but making a quantity large enough to freeze.Make the sauce in the food processor up to the end of the first step,and freeze it without the cheese and butter in it.Add the cheese and butter when it is thawed,just before using.
 Nowadays we find ourselves throwing caution to the wind with innovative combinations such as ginger, mint, basil and coriander, sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic,fava bean and rocket and pestos made with both black and green olives.The traditional pine nut too is often now traded in favour of more exotic nuts like pistachio,marcona almond,walnut and dry roasted peanuts.I bet the queen of Italian gastronomy Marcella Hazan is turning in her grave at the very thought of a beetroot and lemon pesto.And it is she that I turned to seek advice on how to make the best home made pesto.I am so glad I did because having pestle and mortared my way through the process over the years I suddenly found new tips that proved more than worthwhile.If you are using the processor method she suggests washing the basil before you blitz it and then only process the garlic and pine nuts with it, saving the cheese element to be stirred through with a wooden spoon only when you are ready to use it.It is well worth the slight effort to do it by hand to obtain the notably superior texture it produces.When the cheese has been evenly amalgamated with the other ingredients she mixes in softened butter,distributing it evenly into the sauce.This dramatically lifts the dish to a level I have never tasted before.When spooning the pesto over the pasta,she dilutes it slightly with a tablespoon or two of the hot water in which the pasta has been cooked.The late Antonio Carluccio applies the same method,perhaps it was a generational thing?
 Trofie is the traditional pasta to serve with pesto,but fusilli works just as well.Pesto should always be used raw, at room temperature,and never warmed up. 
For the `improved´pesto sauce
 100g /3.5 oz fresh basil leaves
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
50g / 2oz freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 tbsp freshly grated romano cheese
45g / 1.5 oz butter softened to room temperature