Friday, 31 December 2010

Out with the old in with the new

It s that time of year when one should acknowledge and credit the best of the past year.

Recipe book of the year
Plenty -Yotam Ottolenghi

Favourite blog post of 2010
The singing Grocery list- The David Blahg
Try "Do-re-Mi" and "I want it Now"

Restaurant of the year
Amore Vero, Tavira
Shallot, potato and goat cheese tatin
Yotam Ottolenghi
Cauliflower cake- 
Yotam Ottolenghi

Best Advertising campaign for a food product
Albert Bartlett Rooster potato advert featuring Marcia cross ( Bree van de Kamp )


JOE GAZZANO Traditional shop owner
   ROSE GRAYOne of the most influential modern British restaurateurs and chefs who co-founded the iconic River Cafe in London

Created a "revolutionary" diet that sanctioned the consumption of foods like foie gras, chocolate, cheese and champagne, while dismissing the weight-loss benefits of exercise; perhaps unsurprisingly, the Montignac method proved immensely popular and made him a wealthy man.

Sue Miles, one of the central figures of the London counter-culture of the 1960s and a leading influence on the British "restaurant revolution." Founder of Food for thought, Neal Street, London.




Thursday, 30 December 2010

Nuts about aperitif

Spiced nuts
A favourite Casa Rosada nibble and the perfect accompaniment to an aperitif.

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon  chilli flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
350g( 11oz) mixed nuts. pecans,cashews,peanuts, macadamias, brazils

Preheat the oven to 160C(315F). Place all the spices in a spice grinder or blender and grind to a fine powder.Transfer this spice blend to a large bowl and mix thoroughly with the brown sugar nuts and 2 teaspoons of sea salt. add the Olive oil, mix well and place on a large roasting tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally,  until the nuts have coloured a little.Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Makes 350g(11oz)but the quantity can be doubled,if you planning a party.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

All them yesterdays, tomorrows panettones

A large slice of Italian heaven on a Portuguese plate !!!!
Have you got some panettone  or pan d´oro left over from Christmas? These two Italian Christmas breads make a perfect pudding from left overs. - Zucotto. In Italy during the Christmas season this is a traditional dessert.I have been lucky enough to find these Italian cakes readily available here in Portugal. Most good supermarkets stock them around Christmas time. In case you are wondering what the difference is - Panettone has dry fruits and pand´oro is a plain sponge.The recipe calls for candied fruits so if you are not partial to dried fruits, I suggest you opt for the plain sponge version. It is a bit of a faff to assemble, but then again there is no cooking involved, and after all the efforts you´ve put in to get your families fed this Christmas, you´ll like the sound of that.The end result is more than worth the effort. It is a perfect post Christmas dessert or finale to a New Year´s day lunch. 

Panettone Pudding
serves 6 
1 kg ( 4x 250g tubs ) ricotta
140g caster sugar
70g candied fruits, finely chopped
40g flaked almonds
50g chocolate chips
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
600g panettone, cut into 2 round discs and the rest lengthways into slices 2.5cm thick
175ml dessert licore. I used Casa Rosada´s own Licore de Laranja Sevilha
extra cocoa powder for dusting
You will also need
1 pudding basin or bowl 15cm in diameter

Mix together half the ricotta with 70g of sugar until creamy. Fold in35g of the candied fruit, 20g of the flaked almonds and 25g of the chocolate chips. Mix together thoroughly. Set aside. Mix the remaining ricotta with the remaining sugar and the cocoa powder until creamy. Stir in the remaining candied fruit, flaked almonds and chocolate chips, Set aside.Line the pudding basin or bowl with cling film, leaving generous excess around the edges.Line the bowl with slices of panettone and sprinkle with the licore. Fill with the white ricotta mixture, which should half fill the bowl. Take one of the round panettone slices and place over the top, pressing down gently.Drizzle over a little more licore. Fill with the chocolate ricotta mixture and cover with the other round panettone slice.Bring up the overlap of cling film and place a weight on top. a plate and a kilo bag of sugar should do the trick. Leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, longer if possible.
take out of the fridge, lift off the weight and remove the cling film over the top. Turn upside down on a plate and very carefully remove the bowl and peel off the cling film. Dust all over with sieved cocoa powder. A Scrumptious slice of Italy in the Algarve.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Left over to your imagination

If all you´ve got in the fridge is leftovers, don´t worry, here are some cunning culinary ways to turn them into a sizzling supper, succulent snacks, souper soup, sizzling stir fry and an unusual appetiser or canape. So don´t allow that lovely home made cranberry sauce to sit in the fridge for another year. Some post-Christmas meals can even turn out tastier than the Christmas dinner itself.Here is how Iused up our left overs.

Brussel leaves with white bean and horseradish puree (above)
250g of cooked cannelini or white beans
2 teaspoons creamed horseradish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Blanched brussel sprout leaves

Blanch the Brussel leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds.Whizz beans in the food processor with two heaped teaspoons of creamed horseradish, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the juice and zest of 1 lime.Spoon into the poached brussel sprout leaves and serve as a canapes

Bubble and squeak Migas, Alentejo style 
Bubble and squeak should be on everyone's radar come Christmas time - This simple dish is perfect for using up leftover mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts,turnip tops, cabbage,even parsnip, stale bread and white beans. Top with poached eggs for a scrumptious lunch.My version is a fusion of very traditional British with very traditional Portuguese.
1 tablespoon duck fat, goose fat or butter
4 rashers of streaky bacon chopped
left over chourico chopped
1 onion finely sliced
6 cooked Brussel sprouts or left over boiled cabbage, shredded
6 Raw Brussel sprouts with all the leaves separated and shredded coarsely
Handful of raw chinese leaves
400g left over mashed potatoes
Left over cooked parsnip mashed

Melt the fat in a non-stick pan, allow it to get nice and hot, then add the bacon. As it begins to brown, add the onion and garlic. Next, add the sliced sprouts or cabbage and let it colour slightly. All this will take 5-6 mins.Add the Chourico and finally the potato. Work everything together in the pan and push it down so that the migas covers the base of the pan - mould the migas into a tortilla like shape. Allow the mixture to catch slightly on the base of the pan before turning it over by inverting it on a plate slightly smaller than the pan than then and doing the same again. It's the bits of potato that catch in the pan that define the term 'bubble and squeak', so be brave and let the mixture colour. Cut into wedges and serve.

Quick Duck Stir-fry with everything
serves 2, but double or treble the quantities if you need to

With Christmas day falling on a Saturday this year, this made a perfect Monday supper.Just throw everything in the wok for a tasty meal that´s ready in twenty minutes.This makes a delicious supper using any left over roast meat, duck, turkey, beef, pork.Vary the vegetables according to what you have left in your fridge.
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium red chilli de-seeded and finely chopped
2 nuggets of stem ginger finely chopped
1 large spring onion sliced thinly
1/2 leek cut into thin rings
1 small parsnip grated
small florets of cauliflower
handful of Brussel sprout leaves
large handful of shredded chinese leaf
1 small red pepper cut into matchsticks
Your quantity of left over meat
Left over gravy and scrapings from your roast
soya sauce
stem ginger syrup
pinch of garam masala
Chopped fresh coriander leaves for garnish
Heat the peanut oil in the wok, when it is hot,toss in the first seven ingredients,mix well and when taking on some colour, throw in the brussel leaves, cabbage and red pepper.Add the left over meat and continue cooking til heated through. Continue frying for another few minutes, then toss in some soya sauce,left over gravy, ginger syrup and the garam masala. mix well and stir for another minute or so. Serve immediately in bowls.Sprinkle with coriander garnish

Brandade and white bean soup
serves 4
If you haven´t made brandade but have leftover salt cod, make the brandade 
following the recipe from my previous post

175g (6oz )dried haricot or small white beans 
1 quantity of left over brandade of salt cod
1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil
chopped flat leaf parsley
Cover the dried beans with plenty of cold water and leave them to soak overnight.The next day, drain the beans and put them in a saucepan with 900ml (1.5 pints) water. bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, until they are soft and just starting to break apart.Drain and reserve the cooking liquor.Put the brandade mixture together with the cooked beans into a processor and blend together until smooth. with the machine still running add the reserved cooking liquor and some milk gradually until a you have obtained a good consistency.Return the mixture to the pan and heat through. Ladle the soup into 4 warmed bowls. drizzle over the olive oil and garnish with a little chopped parsley.

Turkey, yoghurt and spring onion wrap
Left over chicken works equally well if not better. Per portion:
1 tortilla wrap
1/2 cup shredded chicken
2 spring onions finely sliced
1 clove garlic crushed
3 dessert spoons thick yoghurt
half a cup of chopped mint
half a cup of chopped coriander
Squeeze of lemon juice 
 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
Spoon into wrap and roll up. Serve cut diagonally in two pieces 

Monday, 27 December 2010

A cure for everything

Curing is the ultimate slow food experience
Earlier this year I was given a book from a friend who knows I like a challenge. I have been desperate to tackle one  of these recipes ever since the book arrived. While the thespian has this year decided he wants to cure his own ham,for my project I have decided on Gravadlax. Dill flavoured gravadlax is the classic version, but the author suggests one might try personalizing the recipe.
Step 1 - the raw cure
I very much liked the sound of this, and as dill is very hard to find in the Algarve I decided on a Thai style gravadlax with ginger and coriander dressing.

You Will need:
2 matching salmon fillets
1.5 level tablespoons sea salt
1.5 level tablespoons white sugar
2.5cm piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
2 sticks lemongrass sliced very finely
1 teaspoon crushed dried kaffir lime leaves
grated rind of 2 limes
1 teaspoon crushed black pepprcorns
1 medium red chilli deseeded and finely chopped 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves   

The finished cure with sauce

For the Dressing:
1 large egg yolk
1level teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 level teaspoon caster sugar
125ml peanut oil
1cm piece root ginger peeled and grated
Juice of 1 lime
! tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
Flor de sal, black pepper

Get your fishmonger to cut two matching fillets, one from each side of the same fish. It´s best if they can be cut square for reasons of neatness and economy. In order to kill any parasites in the fish, freeze it for 24 hours and then defrost in the fridge. Combine together all the curing ingredients and lay the two salmon fillets skin side down on a sheet of cling film. Spread a thick layer of the dry cure mixture (sugar and salt ) on the flesh side of each fillet, making sure it is all covered. Add a layer of the rest of the cure pressing it on vigorously.Turn over one fillet and fit it on top of the other, cut side to cut side. Wrap the whole sandwich tightly in several layers of cling film, and put it in a shallow dish or tray. Weigh the fish down, first with a board then with heavy weights. Store in the refrigerator and leave to marinate for a minimum of two days and maximum of five, turning the fish each day. The longer you leave it the more robust the texture will be. Unwrap the cured fish, pat it dry and scrape off most of the cure. Lay it skin side down and cut thin slices diagonally across the fish.

* Watch this space to see how the thespian´s ham cure turns out.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Beautiful Bombons

Its the final touch.Putting on the hat.... then
Hats Off
here they come those beautiful...

.....nature never fashioned
a bombon so fair

no rose can compare
nothing respectable
half so delectable... the best you´ll agree
I hope Stephen Sondheim loves Truffles as much as I do.For garnish I topped them with crystallised violets and roses.

Beautiful bombons

250g ( 8 oz ) Dark Chocolate (use your favourite)at least 85%
100g (2.5oz) Creme Fraiche
4 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup good quality ( Green and Blacks )unsweetened cocoa powder

Break chocolate into pieces and put into a  bowl over a saucepan of simmering water
´banho-maria´ style.When the chocolate has melted, fold in the creme fraiche, orange rind and cardamom. Stir well, then place in he refrigerator for 30 minutes or until set.
Place the cocoa powder on a flat plate or shallow bowl. Drop a teaspoon at a time of the chocolate mixture onto the cocoa. Toss to cover the chocolate with the cocoa, then roll the chocolate into a ball in the palm of your hand, Making sure your hand is COLD, covering the outside with more cocoa. When all the truffles have been rolled place them in small sweet cases and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Top each one with a crystallised violets or rose - EH - VOILA!!! you have some brilliant Boxing day Bom bons

If you would like to fill them with something like a hazelnut,a piece of crystalised ginger, marinated cherry or whatever just do that before rolling them.There you go try it,your gonna love it.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Thursday, 23 December 2010

O Verdadeiro Espirito do Natal...

...THE TRUE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS -Um Brinde Muito Especial, 
Casa Rosada raises a toast to fine dining in The Algarve.

WOW! Forgive us for celebrating, but we´re definitely in a party mood. We are looking forward to enjoying our festive fare.We want our cracker of a Christmas to go off with a bang. The emphasis is on fresh, local seasonal ingredients. Straightforward preparation with maximum taste and flavour.
Christmas is the most important of all religious and secular celebrations in Portugal It is a big family occasion with Christmas Eve supper being the focal point. Bacalhau (salt cod )is the main dish of this feast, supported by octopus rice and pataniscas de bacalhau ( salted cod cakes ).Turkey and all the trimmings however is the standard for  Christmas day lunch, probably following on from soup. The Christmas Eve dinner at Casa Rosada has become a tradition, and will be a classic salmon and prawn fish pie. For Christmas Day lunch we will be having a fish starter of Thai style Gravadlax followed by Duck with potato stuffing and goose fat roasted potatoes, gingered parsnips, Osso Bucco of carrots and stir fried sprouts with Chourico and almonds.
We basked in beautiful clear blue skies today, so we were able to get out and shop,for the  fresh ingredients... and the odd last minute treat.One stop choc-o shop!!! The range of gorgeous fresh seasonal vegetables were mostly from Spain, but to be quite honest that is not too many food miles on our clock, Casa Rosada is only five minutes from the border, and what we clocked up on the veg we saved on our bird, a beautiful 2 kilo duck from a quinta in St. Estevao, just 26 kilometres from here. Down the aisles of the supermarket Apolonia the party season was in full swing,and with the wide range of global booze pouring off the shelves there wont be a dry throat in the house this Christmas.

Here is a sneak preview of some food highlights that will be on offer at Casa Rosada over the festive season

Christmas Eve:

Foie gras
Salmon and prawn fish pie

Christmas Day

Thai style gravadlax with ginger and coriander dressing

Roast Duck stuffed with potatoes, roast potatoes and Madeira gravy
Gingered parsnips
Stir fried Brussels sprouts with chourico and almonds
Osso bucco of carrots

Zucotto di panettone- panettone pudding

Boxing Day

Piquillo peppers stuffed with Brandade of salt cod
Charcuterie, pickles, chutneys
Cheeseboard with quince cheese
Curried parsnip soup

New years day

Portuguese Mary´s
Muxama Sushi
Tomato Chilli and lemongrass broth
Home cured ham
Scotch eggs

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

I can see clearly now

".......But isn't she lovely made from love"
......the rain has gone. - well temporarily.This morning we were graced with a few hours break  from the incessant rain. The sky was blue and I managed to get from the house to the kitchen garden without getting drenched.While I was there I noticed my prayers have been answered.My two daily "our favas" and "Hello Dollies" had paid off.This is one of the broad bean seeds I planted reaching out for some sunshine.In actual fact the entire crop is now bursting forth.Roll on spring....Perhaps Cinderella can finally escape from the kitchen and get to Apolonia to polish off her christmas food shopping?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Brussels takes centre stage

Couve-de-bruxelas. you either love them or you hate them. They have become a bit of an understudy these days,waiting in the wings while the other vegetables hog the spotlight but like it or not, this jaded family favourite is here to stay. A sprout is for life not just for Christmas. So whatcha gonna do ´bout it? Re-cast them alongside some upbeat flavours and ingredients, and they´ll take centre stage again. You can steam them, boil them,poach them, roast them or saute them. You can serve them whole, sliced,shredded or even raw. You can add so many things to them to make them interesting and each time you can try something new. You really can't go wrong.Pretty fab sprouts.
Here are my hot tips for Oscar winning Brussels.


Brussels Sprouts with chestnuts    (serves 8-10)

Best supporting dish

1 kg brussels sprouts (cleaned, trimmed and halved)


500g chestnuts


100g unsalted butter


50g toasted white breadcrumbs

Boil the sprouts in salted water for 10 minutes.(they should retain a little bite) Warm the chestnuts in a pan of hot stock or water.Drain. Melt the butter in a large pan, then toss through the sprouts and chestnuts until they are well coated. Season, then stir through the breadcrumbs and serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Cranberries and Pecans    (serves 4)

Best ingredient combination in a supporting role

 2 slices bacon, pancetta or toucinho (cut into 1/2 inch slices)


1 shallot (diced)


500g brussels sprouts (cleaned, quartered, blanched and drained)

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

2 tablespoons pecans (chopped)

1. Cook the bacon in a pan and set aside reserving 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
2. Add the shallots to the pan and cook in the bacon grease and saute until, tender about 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the brussels sprouts to the pan, season with salt and pepper, toss in the fat and saute for a minute.
3. Remove from heat and mix in the cranberries and pecans.

Brussels Sprouts braised with ginger and orange   (serves 6-8) 

Best new taste sensation

a little dried chilli can be added when you are cooking the garlic and ginger

30g butter

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

500g brussels sprouts washed and trimmed

juice and zest of 1 orange

1tbsp red wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger,and fry gently for 3-4 minutes until pale golden. add the brussels sprouts and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat them in the melted butter. Add the orange juice, its zest and the red wine vinegar. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the sprouts are soft. Remove the sprouts, then reduce the sauce for about 3 minutes, or until syrupy. Pour the sauce over the sprouts and serve.

Brussels Sprouts with Chourico and almonds    (serves 4) 

Perfect casting, my favourite for an oscar nomination 


750g brussels sprouts, trimmed

1 garlic clove, crushed


70g sliced chourico, cut into strips


olive oil 


3 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted till golden

  1. Steam the sprouts until just tender, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Fry the garlic and chorizo in 2 tbsp oil for a few minutes until crisp.
  3. Stir through the sprouts then put in a warm dish and sprinkle with the almonds.

    Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with toasted almonds and Pecorino 
    makes 6 side servings

    Best adaptation of a recipe

    750g( 1.5 lb) Brussels sprouts

    1 grated raw carrot (optional )

    1 cup flaked almonds (4 oz), lightly toasted 

    2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano 

    zest of one large orange

    1/4 cup olive oil

    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    Holding each Brussels sprout by stem end, cut into very thin shavings.
    alternatively grate each sprout on a cheese grater or micro plane.
    Toss in a bowl to separate layers.Add carrot, if using.

    Lightly crush almonds with your hands and add to Brussels sprouts along with cheese, oil, and lemon juice, then toss to combine. Scatter the orange zest over the top. Season with a little salt and plentiful pepper.

    And don´t forget to bubble and squeak
    if you have left overs.

    Finally did you know how Brussels sprouts grow?
    It comes as a surprise to some.

    O cozinheiro likes this
    Heston Says: Try separating all the leaves from the sprouts and stir fry them adding whatever extras take your fancy.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Talking Turkey in portuguese- Peru

You are so bootiful!!
Why Peru? the clue to the origin of the Portuguese name for Turkey came from the Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century, who  brought the first turkeys back to the Iberian peninsula from South America.The turkey in Portugal, as in many countries, now takes an important role in Christmas fare.

Compared to goose, duck and other game birds, turkey lacks flavour and therefore needs all the help it can get to overcome this problem. Its really up to the cook to bring out the best of the flavour. Keeping the turkey moist as it cooks is the sure way to to make it appetizing - so STUFF IT!!Stuffing gives this bland and tasteless bird its flavour. Introduce taste elements to suit yourself. Sweet, sour, salty or bitter. For sweetness use dried fruits such as apricots or prunes, and nuts such as chestnuts, almonds, pistachios or cashews. For sharpness use redcurrants, cranberries, lemon zest and juice, oranges or white wine.For salty and savoury add onion, mushrooms, celery or soya sauce. For more bitterness try mustard or herbs such as sage, thyme or marjoram. Red berries are bittersweet too.

Peru recheado de Natal (stuffed turkey for Christmas)  
Serves 8 to 10

1 medium sized turkey
150ml white wine
1 large orange, very finely sliced
1 large lemon, very finely sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lard
1 teaspoon paprika
110g fatty bacon, minced
salt and pepper

The Portuguese solution to counteract the dry and bland taste is  to steep it in a special marinade, the day before cooking. Prepare the Turkey, then put it in a large basin or bucket with some cold water to cover it, salt and sliced fruits. Turn it around from time to time. The following day take the turkey out of the marinade and put it somewhere to drain, while you prepare your stuffing.
Portuguese style stuffing


450g lean minced pork and veal
60g lean bacon minced
1 large slice white bread
1 small onion chopped
1tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lard
2 sprigs parsley chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper


1 medium onion
450g floury potatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1tablespoon lard
turkey giblets
2 medium eggs
2 sprigs parsley chopped
8-10 black olives stoned
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

For the breast end stuffing, fry the onion in the fats, until transparent. Add to the minced meat, mix in the fresh breadcrumbs, then add the other ingredients. combine this mixture, season and stuff the breast end of the bird and secure with a needle and string if necessary. Now prepare the tail end stuffing. Fry the onion in the fats and add the giblets, well cleaned and cut into quite small pieces. Add a little stock and allow to cook gently until tender.reduce the gravy if too liquid. meanwhile cook and mash the potatoes and combine with the eggs, olives and parsley. When the giblets are ready, mix them with the potato, check the seasoning and stuff the cavity, again securing with string. Make a paste with the lard, butter, bacon, paprika and seasoning and spread all over the turkey.Put in the oven 160C for about 31/2 hours for a 4.5kg turkey. basting every so often with the wine and its juices.

I noticed while shopping in my butchers in the days running up to Christmas that many Portuguese households get their butcher to joint the turkey. They opt just for a quarter joint or breast portions. This is such a great idea and avoids one having to think up the usual "101 ways with left over turkey" for days after the Christmas blow out

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas cookies

Sugar and spice and all things nice, its never too late to bake a Christmas cake...It has been raining for two days and this has given me some time to do some christmas baking.While cracking eggs, chopping nuts and candied fruits my thoughts turned to the origins of all these delicious cakes and cookies.How come I was cooking all these foreign delicacies in The Algarve.I started to look for a justification. The original Panforte is undisputably Sienese, but its close friend the Florentine could apparently be Austrian or even French.I dont know which panforte I was making,white, black, Margherita or Panpepato(the old name meaning "peppered bread") I was sort of making it up as I went along., but I did use white pepper among my spices? Panforte or Panforte de Sienna is the most usual name meaning “Strong Bread”.The history of panforte is murky, though everyone seems to agree that it is an old recipe, dating back to the Middle Ages. It is said that panforte was carried by soldiers on the crusades.Following my heart, ( O cozinheiro Coeur de Lion ), I reminded myself of the crusades. a subject I have recently been reading about in the late Martin Page´s fascinating book The first Global village
Panforte was apparently the crusades siege food, ingredients included honey from Spain and oriental spices, proof of the crusaders trade routes and spice trails across the world.Panpepato is an ancient confection rich with history. Born from the wise hands of apothecaries within monasteries and convents,similar to the monasterial and conventual tradition in Portugal and Spain. It became a delicacy sought after by young damsels and valiant knights.It is not a bread,it is a not overly sweet, very spiced, tender and flat. Is it a cake? is it a pie?- No its the older cousin of the power bar, me thinks.At the time of the Medici it was said, in fact, that the “peppered bread” gave strength and vigor in encounters of arms and love, so there you have it.Next into the oven went Florentines. Chewy chocolate biscuits with a difference, the festive fruits and spices make these a great standby for when friends drop in over Christmas.So why Florentine biscuits?  Some say the biscuits are actually Austrian in origin. Another story has it that a master confectioner created them at Versailles, in the kitchens of King Louis XIV of France, in honour of the Medicis of Florence when they visited.God rest those merry gentlemen,the Florentines were coming.                         
Lorenzo de Medici,anonymous portrait

makes 24 biscuits

8oz butter
8oz sugar
8oz plain flour
8 teaspoons honey
6 oz dried mixed fruit,6 oz glace cherries
6oz chopped almonds
200g melted chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 180C / 350F/ gas 4
Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a heavy pan.
Remove from the heat and add the flour, fruit, cherries and almonds. Mix until smooth.
Place "dollops" of the mixture on a non-stick baking tray ( 12 to a tray )and press down lightly with your finger. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden around the edges. The edges may need pulling in during cooking if they are spreading too much on the tray. Leave for 5 minutes then remove carefully to wire racks to cool.When cold spread melted chocolate thinly on the flat side and leave to set.

Pearl of Christmas wisdom:
Cut the florentines into quarters or eighths for artesan petits fours

How I interpreted Panforte
175g / 6 oz / 1 cup Hazelnuts
75g / 3oz / 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
225g / 8oz /1.5 cups mixed candied fruits and peel and diced 
1 tablespoon mixed ground spices 
(coriander, cloves, nutmeg, ginger)
3 good pinches ground white pepper
75g / 3oz / 1/2 cup plain flour
6 tablespoons honey
100g / generous cup caster sugar
icing sugar for dusting

1.Pre-heat oven to 180C / 350F/ gas 4. Grease a shallow 20cm round cake tin with butter and line the bottom with non-stick baking parchment.
2.Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Remove and set aside.When cool rub the hazelnuts with with a clean tea towel to get the skin off. Coarsely chop all the nuts. 
Lower the oven temperature to 150F /300F gas mark 2.
3.In a large mixing bowl, combine the candied fruits and peel, spices, pepper and flour.
toss together well with a wooden spoon.
4.In a small heavy based pan, stir together the honey and sugar, and bring to the boil.Cook the mixture until it reaches 138C / 280F on a sugar thermometer or when a small ball forms when pressed between the fingertips in iced water. Take care when doing this.
Use a teaspoon to remove a little mixture from the pan for testing.
5.Immediately pour the sugar syrup onto the dry ingredients and stir well until evenly coated.Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.Dip a spoon or spatula into water  and use the back of it to press the mixture flat in the tin.
6.Cut four sheets of newspaper into 25cm / 10in. squares. place the newspaper pad on a baking sheet. This acts as insulation to prevent the base of the Panforte from burning.
Place the cake on the middle of the newspaper and bake for 30-40 minutes.
The cake wont colour or seem very firm after baking. Trust me it will harden as it cools, so don´t be tempted to put it back in the oven.Cool completely in the tin until firm. Remove gently from the tin and remove the baking paper. Store in asealed container for at least a day before eating.Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A toast to Christmas

Is panettone the new fruit cake? Panettone is one of my all time favourite seasonal store cupboard essentials. The aroma of  freshly toasted panettone UMM- HMMMMMMMMMMM!!
Here is a new take for a fast and easy Christmas dessert. My inspiration is  the tradition of the Italian Christmas dinner, at the end of which panettone is served with dried fruit,tangerines and oranges. The same elements are here in this recipe, but I have used  traditional Portuguese ingredients. Ameixas d´ Elvas ( Elvas plums ) tangerines,dried strawberries and dried cranberries.I have taken the orange element and transposed it into a supporting dollop of Mascarpone cream.

Toasted panettone with Elvas plums and orange mascarpone cream

1 Panettone cut into round slices, 1 per guest
2 Tangerines, segmented
Dried crystallised strawberries
1 90g packet Dried cranberries
1 Crystallized Elvas plum per serving

150g Mascarpone
1tablespoon icing sugar
Juice and zest of 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon Casa Rosada Licore Laranja Sevilha
or any orange flavoured liqueur

In a bowl mix all the ingredients for the orange mascarpone cream
Toast your panettone slices under the grill, top with the fruit leaving 
a small space to finish with a dollop of the cream

Friday, 17 December 2010

Pig on a stick, the perfect petisco

Petisco is to Portugal, what canape is to Christmas with cocktails. Wherever you are celebrating this year, what do you most like thrust in your face foodwise at a festa?
The Iceland Christmas ad this year has to be the strangest marketing ever. What ever were they thinking? "Real nuns", sorry that should read "Mums", dressed up as fin de siecle prostitutes, being wrangled by Jason Donovan prancing around in suspenders as a mustachioed ringmaster (ooh- er Mrs), in a hysterical celebration of beef n Yorkshire pud canapes.I thought my mum was a ´Real Mum`, but we never witnessed any of this malarkey back in the 50´s. A coincidence too, that to star in an Iceland ad, you need to have had an experience of  "cold turkey"?  Well,on with the blog.The other advert that has grabbed my attention is the Marks and Spencer new party food TV ad. In my former life I used to feed the mouths of supermarket food stylists on photo shoots. It was never a season away before word of my salad, soup and sandwich lunch items had got back to a head office somewhere and the odd facsimile appeared on the shelf of chill cabinets.One canape in this advert has inspired me,and with belly pork being so cheap and plentiful here in Portugal its now time for the oven gloves to go on and to get my own back.Tender slow-cooked pork belly squares ´get everyone talking´ says Caroline Quentin, and I want to get my guests tongue wagging about my home made version of this innovative nibble.
And with a little help you CAN be the hostess with the mostest.

Pig on a stick with honey and tomato glaze
makes 24 canapes

500g belly pork in thick rashers (approx. 4 rashers)
1kg tomatoes
bay leaves 
soya sauce
Bring  a pan of water to a rolling boil and submerge the belly pork in it.This will get rid of a lot of the fat and soften what is left.Lower the heat and maintain a light simmer for 11/2 - 2 hours. Test for tenderness.Drain the pork and dry on kitchen towel. While the pork is cooking prepare the glaze.Cut your pork into bite sized cubes, not too large to fit on a cocktail stick.Skewer the cubes of pork one cube per stick and paint them all over with the glaze. Preheat your grill.Turn the skewers frequently basting them with more glaze until they have a sticky slightly caramelised coating with some charred patches. Place on little gem leaves and pass them around your guests,providing them with cocktail napkins in case of drips. 
This is a melting moment, that will have your taste buds jingling all the way.