Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dear Diary- what a busy day!!!

We have just had a visit from Charles Metcalfe and Kathryn McWhirter, co-authors of The Wine and food Lovers guide to Portugal They publish it themselves and are currently travelling for the next update, which is due to be translated into Brazilian Portuguese.
Incidentally you can read Charles regularly in ‘Blue Wine’ (if you speak Portuguese!)
Unfortunately Casa Rosada could not accomodate them at such short notice for an overnight stay, so we were also not able to wine and dine them.They dropped by for morning coffee and an informal chat round the kitchen table.I unfortunately had to join  them late having been on airport courier duties, buzzing Andrew's parents back to Faro airport, and taking the chance of a once in a while shop at the Waitrose of the Algarve, Appolonia in Almancil, the service town for Quinta de Largo, home town for Footballers Wives. My mission on this occasion was to stock up with Asian ingredients for my store cupboard, still unavailable down our end of the East Algarve.( Coconut cream sachets, bottles of coconut milk, light muscovado sugar, Udon Noodles, Sesame oil, Nam pla, kikkoman soya sauce, preserved ginger ).
The day also saw a new influx of guests and dinner had to be cooked for 5, including us.
I opted for -

a large platter of tapas: 
Muxama, pequillo peppers, home made chicken liver pate
fresh local goats cheese with honey and almonds, figs and green olive tapenade, pipas and bread

Stir fried chilli and lemongrass tenderloin of pork
with a salad of ginger noodles

tarte au citron 

And with my pantry freshly stocked with pan Asian goodies it brings me to tonights dinner.
Guests have gone out and we are going to sit down with our friend Cate to a Thai green chicken curry.
Yum Yum -or as they say in Thailand

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Fish of the day

I ventured to the market this morning to buy fish for our honeymoon guests from Sarajevo. I found myself standing next to Pedro the chef from our favourite restaurant Dom Petisco. After digesting, cogitating and deliberating, he pointed me in the direction of these smiling little chappies, Bicas.
They are of the sea bream family. I explained to him what I was cooking and he talked me through all the options. Every story has a moral, and this one is that I learned all about a new fish to add to my repertoire and in return Pedro got a lunch reservation in his restaurant from me, and.....
.....Antonio the fish man got a sale from both of us!!!!!

Friday, 24 September 2010

An artesan art

Andalucia, is the home of flamenco and Tapas, of sherry, bodegas and bullfights. This is the Spain of castanets and flounced skirts. If you are wearing a thong and have sand in your fish and chips, you are most certainly in the wrong place. 
O cozinheiro finds the real Andalucia in the heart of Ayamonte.

When in Andalucia I shop as the Andalucians used to shop. Abaceria ( grocery ) Orta, established 1863, is pure buried treasure. You could walk the length of Calle Lusitania in Ayamonte and not even notice it. Its discreet facade with a window stacked with old tuna cans, hides some inner secrets and hidden delicacies. Pata Negra ham, Pate de jabugo (wild boar ) with Pedro Ximenez sherry, tins of artesan smoked Pequillo peppers, small boxes of Saffron,and Tortas de aceite, thin round olive oil wafers served at Casa Rosada as an accompaniment to ice cream, which I have re christened sweet Spanish poppadom. This old fashioned delicatessen with its fitted floor to ceiling wooden shelves is pure refreshment and I will cover that in a second instalment of this post. What does O cozinheiro suggest you do with a tin of Pequillo peppers? What slips out of the tin are long red satin gloves that bring the temptress out in you. They remind me of the red Balenciaga slippers adorning the popes feet on his recent travels. I feel a recipe coming on. Smoked red peppers and tuna are a match made in heaven and adding these two to some buttery mashed potato that has had some fried onion cut through it is celestial comfort food.

Take each pepper and with your finger prise the the glove shaped pepper open,
carefully fill it with a pre-prepared mixture of mashed potato, fried onion and tinned tuna.
Press the filling carefully right to the bottom of the pepper, I use the handle end of a small wooden spoon. Do not overfill it, and then lay them side by side in a ceramic oven proof dish,
cover with foil and bake until heated through 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and a simple supper awaits you.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Finger on the pulse or hands alone?

I have been noticing how many hits this blog has been getting but very few of you have actually become followers - 18 in total, and even less of you leave comments. If you enjoy this blog please vote for it where it says rate this blog. I would love to get some feedback, and also some inter action. What would you like to see more or less of in the content of this blog? More recipes, less comment,foodie reportage. O cozinheiro would like to hear from you. To start the ball rolling todays post encourages discussion and comment so without further ado -

"Shall we have a heated debate?"

Is time worth more than small pleasures that pass us by? The crunch of fresh celery against a steel blade, the pungent tear inducing aroma of hand chopped onions. These are fabulous sensations that I feel give a dimension to food prep.
Certain rules must be observed - we know basil must be torn not chopped otherwise it will bruise.
A happy medium can be achieved between hands-on cooking and labour saving devices, We should definitely take advantage of modern batterie de cuisine but at the same time be flexible about how we use it. Do what is doable. If you have just 20 minutes to cook and you want to be a dinner party pro, enlist the help of a processor.
If you have 3 hours use a knife and get chopping!!
Ah ha there is a third option. This involves hands assisted by machine.
When I make aioli, I use a pestle and mortar to grind the garlic cloves to a paste with the sea salt before folding it through the processor prepared mayonnaise.

Here are some examples of food preparation using an appliance to do half the work either before or after our hands do the other half.

Pestos, relish, aioli,
some tart fillings, some cake mixes,
particularly useful for those amongst us who are not good pastry makers
blending soups and sauces

I prepare all my salad dressings using the processor method. There are two reasons for this.The speed with which the job is accomplished and secondly I defy anyone to achieve the rich velvety quality of the emulsified dressings that the processor produces, by enduringly handling a whisk or beater. I am sorry my arthritic wrists just aren't strong enough for the task involved!!!

Here is a plugged and an unplugged menu

I am not providing the complete recipes for all the items on these menus as they are just
illustrating a point in the plugged vs. un-plugged debate.

Blender gazpacho
Bruschetta with tuna pate
Thai Pork Burgers with chilli relish and potato wedges
Tarte au Citron

All the ingredients for the gazpacho are blended in the processor.
The original method of preparation would of course have used a pestle and mortar!!

All the ingredients for the tuna pate is blended in the processor

The Fresh herbs and seasonings for the burger are all processed
before being incorporated into the mincemeat by hand and then formed by hand into burgers

The pastry for the tart is entirely processed before being chilled.
The eggs sugar and lemon zest are beaten in the processor before having the cream and lemon juice added and then poured into the blind baked pastry case

Fay Presto, you are now a dinner party pro without any effort
in an approximate timescale of 30 minutes.


Carpaccio of Thai marinated beef

Cardamom yoghurt baked chicken
Churrimbhoy salad with cumin croutons
Peaches poached in vanilla and almond licore

The whole essence of hand crafted food is encompassed in the carpaccio of beef, where an extremely sharp knife is essential for thinly slicing the meat.

The spices for the cardamom chicken are hand ground in a pestle and mortar before being blended with the yoghurt to make the marinade for the chicken to rest in.

The croutons for the salad, after being cubed by hand are tossed in the cumin seeds and oil before being baked on an oven tray.

The peaches are carefully peeled by hand after being poached and having their stones removed,the poaching stock is then reduced to make a light syrup to pour over the peaches before serving.

Beating, blending, chipping, chopping creaming, crumbing, grating, kneading, mincing, mixing, pureeing, shredding, slicing, whisking.

Time -saving or artesan chopping and chatting the choice is yours!!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Changing Portugal an occasional observation

Driving into the Portuguese serra, modern urbanisations give way to poor rural. Just like Christopher Columbus left Spain in search of the land of opportunity, neglected farmhouses and for sale signs testify that the local Algarvian youth is taking its chances in the cities.EU regeneration grants have helped stabilise unemployment and enterprising firms have invested in polytunnels to provide northern Europe with supermarket friendly winter strawberries, out of season asparagus and roses for Christmas.
But this is not enough- sustainable farming is sadly being erased.

That the Algarve makes its living from fishing is apparent, and my walks with the dog on local beaches witness a younger generation showing a reassuring interest in keeping this age old supply chain alive, but EU health and safety directives are doing their damnedest to ensure fresh daily catches are not sold direct, and must be subject to processing and certifications.
My daily visits to the market make me wonder how long traditional working markets will last. It is the older generation that bring their fresh grown produce into town and man the market stalls. There is no evidence of their offspring showing a desire to keep generations of farming alive. Even in Portugal the daily shop with your basket in the market is giving way to a weekly visit to the supermarket.The German manufactured ready meal is fast becoming a replacement for culinary heritage and slow cooking.How long will it be before I will no longer be able to buy a still warm egg from a smallholders tin bucket, and the stomachs of Algarve fine diners will solely be fuelled by cash and carries

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Cookery day goes live

We launched the Casa Rosada cookery day last week.
To whet your appetites here is a little taster of part of the first Casa Rosada cookery day. It was a tremendous success, with lots of support from local farmers, traders and stallholders in the local market.
We all had a great time!!!!

For more pictures recipes and the full story of the day

Thursday, 16 September 2010

green tomatoes at the....

Fried green tomatoes inspired Fannie Flagg to write her classic 1987 novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. `Daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth served up fried green tomatoes with a good barbecue, good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.....Our kitchen can serve up all of those, bar the occasional, god help us, murder!!!!
At this time of year, as summer draws to a close, the tomatoes are slowing up in their ripening process, and are ready to hit the preserving pan, to provide an ever popular breakfast jam, a slightly more unusual relish and of courseour own fried green tomatoes.

GreenTomato and Orange Jam
4 large sweet oranges
2 lemons
1kg( 2lb ) green tomatoes
750ml ( 1.25 pints ) water
1 kg ( 2lb ) preserving or granulated sugar
1.5 tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed

1. Cut the oranges into slices and remove the pips.
Squeeze the juice from the lemons and reserve the pips.
Tie all the pips into a piece of muslin.
2. Put the tomatoes and oranges through the food processor
until they are finely chopped.
3. Place the chopped tomato and orange in a preserving pan with the water and muslin bag. Bring to the boil,then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the orange peel is soft.
4. Add the sugar and the lemon juice to the pan, stirring
until the sugar has dissolved
5. Bring to the boil and boil over a medium heat,stirring occasionally, for 30-35 minutes, or until it is thick enough for a wooden spoon drawn through the centre to leave a clear channel.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the jam to settle for a few minutes. Skim if necessary, then remove the muslin bag and stir in the crushed coriander seeds. Ladle the jam into sterilized jars and seal.

Stephanie Alexander´s Green Tomato Relish
1.5kg green tomatoes
2 large onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground turmeric
100ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
100g sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour

Thinly slice the tomatoes and onions, then put all the ingredients except the cornflour
into a preserving pan.Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook, uncovered,
for 1 1/4 hours. Mix the cornflour to a cream with a little water. Remove a ladleful
of hot liquid from the pot and add to the cornflour cream.Stir, then
quickly return
the mixture to the pot, giving it a good stir so that the liquid thickens evenly.
Cook for 15 minutes, then spoon into hot sterilised jars and seal at once.
Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Casa Rosada´s fried green tomatoes
Dip thickly sliced green tomatoes into lightly whisked egg and then polenta.
Fry in olive oil until golden and crunchy.
Great with anchovies or as an accompaniment
to barbecued meats or sausages and bacon at breakfast. Yum.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Signature tuna and crispy crackers

The Arabs developed the technique and the peoples of southern Iberia have adopted it. Muxama de atum, Musama , Mojama and Mosciame, according to where you live, has become a signature to fine dining the world over.

So lean and full of flavour, like Serrano ham, it is no wonder it sometimes gets called ham of the sea. Just served as tapas with a drizzle of olive oil and chopped tomatoes,as the Spanish do it, its concentrated taste can overwhelm at first and make your beer taste of tuna - not a good thing, but persevere and before long you will have an "Atum heart mother"

This tuna, is fished in the Azores and then cured under the signature of Senor Damaso and his family in Vila Real de St. Antonio.
The word means dry in Arabic and the process involves preservation in salt, followed by drying.The process is followed according to Arab heritage, with a small change. It is the same recipe that Phoenicians and Romans used for over 2000 years, to make their mosciame.
Muxama in the past was air dried and made in the summer when the weather is dry. Today, with state of the art technology and hygienic conditions the technique can be applied indoors.
The tuna are placed , covered in containers of salt for 24 hours.
They are then washed and dried in a humidity of 60 percent, and a temperature of 14 º C.

It makes perfect and uniform drying conditions, and can slightly reduce the percentage of salt, because salt with controlled humidity will have less water content.
After 10 or 12 days depending on the thickness, the muxama is ready to consume.
It is used as an appetizer, cut into thin slices. It has a strong but pleasant taste. Best sliced super thin and served with olive oil and fresh parsley.

If you are dining at Casa Rosada, here in El-al gharb you will find it served as a starter for two Iberian style on Reganas!
Reganas What? Crunchy munchy dippy doo dahs all the way from Spanish Spain. Crispy crackers baked for a right proper mouthy crunch. Snap a bit off, get munching and pass it on. Saude!

Our other way of serving this noble tuna is a forged version of Giorgio Locatellis signature.

Giorgio Locatelli´s salad of green beans mosciame and sundried tomato vinaigrette at casa rosada

12o g muxama per person, finely sliced
( outside southern Europe it should be available in good Spanish and Italian delis)
150g fine green beans per person cooked al dente and cooled
handful of sundried tomatoes in olive oil
one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of red or white wine vinegar

First make the tomato vinaigrette by blending the tomatoes with the oil, then combining them with the wine vinegar. Toss the beans in the dressing and put in a heap in the centre of each plate. lay the slices of muxama on top. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and dribble more dressing round the plate.

NOTE: although similar to the well known Italian Bottarga, Bottarga is fish roe, this is dried tuna fillets.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Upper crust

Baking or roasting fish in salt is as old as, well, salt. The technique is dramatic in presentation as well as results. Yes, do try this at home.

There are all sorts of elegant ways to prepare fish,baked with tomatoes, pan fried, breaded, grilled, but if the fish is absolutely top quality and very fresh, one of the nicest ways to cook it is in salt: the salt seals it, keeping the juices from escaping as it cooks, while the skin keeps the salt from penetrating the fish. The result is extraordinarily tasty and tender.
Baking in salt is not difficult. Here in the Algarve it is commonplace in beach restaurants to see a waiter working table-side. The salt crust is cracked and removed with a flourish. Inside the white crust lies perfectly cooked, moist and fragrant fish, awaiting the diner´s delectation. Baking fish (or vegetables, even other meats) in a salt crust creates a sort of oven within an oven. The salt seals in moisture essentially steaming the fish inside. Because the salt absorbs the moisture, the texture of the fish ultimately is more like roasted than steamed fish.

Potatoes cooked in a salt crust
  • 2 kg ( 4pounds) medium-small potatoes
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 pounds coarse salt
Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F . Scrub the potatoes but don´t peel them. make sure they are completely dry. Place the rosemary over the bottom of an ovenproof dish and add the potatoes in a single layer. Pack the potatoes together closely and pour over just enough salt to cover them. Do not shake the dish, you do not want too much salt under the potatoes. Bake for about 45 min, or until they are tender to a knife point. Brush off the salt, split in two and serve immediately with lashings of really good Extra virgin olive oil.
Slow cooking gives the best results, but the potatoes can be cooked at higher temperature (max 230 C/450 F ) for a shorter time. They keep warm for a long time under the salt crust, so you can prepare them up to one hour in advance.

Sea Bream baked in a salt crust

1 x 450g sea bream
1kg /2lb 3oz coarse sea salt
3 sprigs rosemary

Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F Gas mark 6
Get your fish monger to scale and gut the fish
  1. Place a layer of sea salt in the bottom of a roasting tin large enough to hold the fish comfortably.

  2. Dry the scaled, gutted fish with kitchen paper. Stuff the body cavity with fresh rosemary sprigs.

  3. Lay the fish on top of the salt, then cover the fish with the remaining sea salt. The fish should be completely enclosed by the salt. Sprinkle a bit of water on top of the salt (this will help it to form a crust).

  4. Place the roasting pan in the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Break the salt crust with a palette knife. Using a pastry brush, remove the salt crystals from the surface of the fish and from around the fish.

  6. Using a fish slice, carefully remove the fish from the salt and place onto a serving plate. Carefully remove the fish skin and fins.

  7. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

They feel like chicken tonight!!

Here is one I cooked earlier!!!
Our latest guests phoned in advance of their arrival to ask if they could book for dinner on their first night. No problem. One other couple staying in the house have been opting for dinner every night, so there are four for dinner tonight. Being Sunday, and fish not being available, I ran some options by them and they said they felt like Chicken Tonight. What could be simpler than this tasty and succulent one pot supper. This morning I made a marinade and this evening all I had to do was prep the vegetables and add them to the chicken.Chuck it all in a roasting tray and 45 minutes later Bobs your uncle and chicken´s your dinner!!!

Free range chicken with butternut squash garlic and rosemary

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon rich soya sauce
1 tablespoon honey
dried chilli flakes to your taste
1 chicken jointed into 8 pieces, get your butcher to do this for you.
1 butternut squash ( approx 1kg before peeling and deseeding )cut into 1.5cm cubes
1 red onion peeled and cut into eight segments
1 whole bulb of garlic, broken into cloves but not peeled
sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 6.
Make your marinade by mixing the first 5 ingredients in a bowl
Toss the chicken pieces in the marinade and put in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Bung the whole caboodle into a roasting tray.
Season generously with salt and pepper
and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the chicken is cooked
and the butternut squash is tender.

Serve Immediately on large plates, and watch the Wow factor.

Sea salt´s finest flower

Our guests here at
Casa Rosada inevitably ask us on the last day of their holiday where they can get the Castro Marim Flor de sal. We now have a supplier, Salmarim, and are selling a range of five different aromatised salts, Natural, Aromatica, Azeitona, Pimentao and Limao.

Hand harvested here in the Portuguese salt marshes of Castro Marim Natural Reserve, this sea salt is unpurified and truly organic, Its attractive packaging makes it a perfect small gift, and doubles up as a perfect addition to any dinner table. Just remove the lid and the inner sleeve tip the salt out of its plastic bag into the bottom half of the box and
you have a decorative salt cellar.

Chef Henrique Mouro suggests:

Natural - vegetable salads fresh cheese or chocolate
Limao, with capers and lemon. -fish smoked salmon and cooked vegetables
Azeitona with olives and chilli - pastas and risottos
Pimentao with garlic sweet paprika and laurel - meat game and grilled shrimp dishes
Aromatica with parsley and marjoram - salads

Use moderately....... but with pleasure!

Friday, 3 September 2010

How d´ya like your eggs in the morning?

Bed, breakfast, brunch and beyond....
Casa Rosada does not offer a cooked breakfast option, but when there is an occasion we put on a celebratory brunch, Algarve style. Usually a variation on the theme of eggs. One has to ask the question - How d´ya like your eggs in the morning?

Over under sideways down? on the sunny side? - up or down? Over easy? Benedict, Arnold Bennett? Gordon Bennett!!! poached, fried, scrambled, en cocotte?- every which way here are
suggestions from Casa Rosada´s breakfast table

1. Egg and avocado on toast with capers and rocket

1 egg per serving plus one extra
1 ripe avocado
Lemon juice
Sea salt
Small wild rocket leaves

Soft boil the eggs - 5 minutes. Remove from pan, run under cold water and leave to cool completely.
Mash the avocado with a fork in a bowl. Shell the eggs. Chop the extra boiled egg and mix it into the avocado. Stir in lemon juice to your liking and sea salt to taste. I like this concoction on the salty side, it gives it a kick, and if you are looking for that kick start in the morning here it is. If you want a richer mix cut some aioli through the mix at this point. Make some traditional slices of Bruschetta, rubbing the edges with raw garlic before toasting and drizzling all over with extra virgin olive oil.Pile the rocket leaves on top of the bruschetta and weigh it down with spoonfuls of the avocado and egg mix.Top with the soft boiled egg cut in half and scatter capers over the top. Serve immediately.
The second two speak for themselves, but the Casa Rosada tip for knees up moshin scrambly eggs is to use a frying pan and lots of butter and no milk, and of course the freshest, free range eggs you can lay your hands on . I buy our eggs from a women who has a stall in the local market and keeps her eggs in a tin bucket under the counter. Sometimes the eggs are still warm from the chickens when I buy them. Her hens roam freely, eating corn meal and the windfall apples from the trees above.
2. Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

3.Presunto Serrano and scrambled eggs

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Sealed and delivered, pittlin made easy

2kg large tomatoes cored
273 cup (160ml) olive oil
10 cloves garlic peeled
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
10 small fresh red chillies stems removed
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
3/4 cup (180ml) red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 1/4
cups palm sugar, chopped, I used light muscovado
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander and roots

Today I needed to come to terms with a mounting spread of tomatoes on our kitchen work table.

Not much time for pittlin so must source quick and easy recipe. I beat my bottom with The Australian Womans Weekly "pickles and chutneys" and found `chilli coriander jam.´A perfect recipe for a cook with many other chores to complete. Hey, it said a processor can be used too, another time saving device. Lets get cookin.

Rub the tomatoes with olive oil. Place in a roasting pan and cook in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until soft but not coloured.

or process garlic, ginger, chillies and seeds until chopped and well combined. Transfer to a large heavy based saucepan, and add tomatoes, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and turmeric.

uncovered, about 2 hours or until thick.

or process, in batches, until combined but still textured. Return to heat for 5 minutes until hot, stir in coriander. Spoon into hot sterilised jars. Seal while hot.

about 1.5 litres ( 6 cups )
Storage; in cool dry place for up to 6 months
store in refrigerator after opening