Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The new tortilla -Cauli Gosh!!

Tortilla-esque cauliflower cake
It seems there is currently an Ottolenghi epidemic and I for sure have succumbed to it. Everybody´s talkin´ Ottolenghi, and everybody´s doin´ the Ottolenghi.There´s no hokey pokey and thats what it´s all about. This is great because when I came to make his cauliflower cake,  ( one I had bookmarked earlier), I discovered others around the globe were blogging their version of this recipe, so I could compare notes. Each week I am champing at the bit for his saturday Guardian column,The New Vegetarian, almost 100% of his culinary column inches are about what I want to eat, maybe not on a saturday night but then I can bookmark it for later in the week. I am not a vegetarian and neither is Yotam Ottolenghi, but this is flagship modern vegetarian nosh. Cauliflower cake  is a  part of his ongoing campaign to give cauliflower, which he considers as versatile as the beloved potato, “some well-earned glory”. Ah, cauliflower is the new potato, and this is the new tortilla, lets find out. Here’s red onion plentiful parmesan  and signature Ottolenghi cleverness, like a springform lined with black sesame seeds, a bit of turmeric, minced rosemary and a big handful of basil. Showcase food that can only be described as clever, innovative, and a fantastic fusion of the unexpected. So how did I get on with this recipe? I worked hand in glove with a tried and  tested version from Smitten Kitchen NYC. I have to say I´m smitten with her pictures. I had changes to make like SK, but I did decide to go ahead with the full quantity of olive oil specified, even though it seemed excessive. It wasn´t at all, and I am  glad I did. However I had to agree that in this present economic climate, with the price of Parmesan what it is,  220g was definitely excessive. I plumped for 150g and made it up of 2 parts cheddar and 1 part parmesan. One other innovation .... I am not a great fan of sesame seeds, and  black onion seeds left me with a feeling of poppy cake, so I decided to line the sides of the loose bottomed tart with flaked almonds, which with cauliflower I think makes a great parnership.
Like his Surprise Tatin, now my favourite vegetarian recipe of all time, it needs to rest until the next day to enjoy its special moment. They both slice better and hold their shape when sliced cold.
With very little change, except substituting the goats cheese for Brie on some rare occasions, I have adapted this recipe into my own repertoire and  Casa Rosada´s vegetarian visitors are left wanting second helpings. Cauliflower cake will now join the ranking in second place.
If you haven´t already caught the fever, don’t worry, he’s got two  original cookbooks. For starters, Chargrilled broccoli with chilli and garlic, anyone?)
I carefully lifted my cauliflower cake from the oven after 45 minutes and - Cauli Gosh!!!
Get the bug guys, this is the way forward. Deeeelisssh!!!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Giving thanks

Yesterday´s lunch was inspired by a Food Network thanksgiving challenge. Thanksgiving chefs went head to head to produce a three course family thanksgiving dinner. One of the side dishes stuck in my memory.

It must have been the flavour combinations. The dish - Quince Dauphinoise. Quince,cream and potato, not for me - too rich, too much cholestrol, but I liked the basic idea. My first thoughts on the subject were to incorporate it into a main course and eliminate the cream. My dish became Roast loin of pork with quince, ginger, thyme and onion. I enjoyed the result immensely but for some it was too sweet. Many tagine recipes include quince with meat and Moroccan spices. My creation was more Persian. I am going to cook this again, but next time I am going to add Ras al hanout (posh spice post 30 october) at the beginning when I fry the vegetables.

Roast loin of pork with Quince ginger thyme and onion
Serves 2 with a little left over,but if you were cooking for 4 or more 
this would be a perfect dish for doubling or trebling the ingredients
Serve it with celeriac and potato cooked in equal quantities then mashed together 
A great winter warmer to share with mates.

500g piece of pork loin
olive oil
2 medium onions
small bunch of thyme
50g fresh ginger
2 medium sized quinces
350ml white wine

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/ gas mark 6.Season the pork all over with salt and pepper. Put a roasting tray over a fairly high heat and pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, sear and seal the pork on all sides.
Lift out and set aside. Peel the onions, halve them and cut them into thick slices. Put them in a mixing bowl. Pull the leaves from the thyme and add them to the onions. Peel the ginger and cut it into thin strips. Core, peel and roughly chop the quinces, toss them in with the onions, thyme,ginger and a little olive oi, salt and pepper. Tip into the roasting tray and let them soften over a moderate heat, until the onions start to turn a golden colour.Lay the pork back in the pan resting it on top of the vegetables.Roast for 25 minutes.
Check the pork for doneness., then lift it out onto a wooden board to rest. Cover it lightly with foil and leave in a warm place. Put the roasting tray, together with the quince and onions over a moderate heat and pour in the wine. Bring to the boil, then let it reduce by about half till you have a fruity gravy. Stir occasionally to scrape up any pan scrapings from the tin. Slice the pork, arrange on two warm plates surrounded by the quince and onions. Serve with the mash and pour the rest of the pan juices over the pork.
And, as the French would say,  "C´est succulent"


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Doing myself a fava

Favas in portuguese, Broad beans in English. They are the perfect crop for a lazy gardener like me.Plant them in November, ignore them for four months, and let the rains look after them before returning to them when they start providing beans as the temperature starts to warm up in March-April.The bonus of planting broad beans is the magnificent sweet and pungent scent they give, cheering up a cloudy winters day.
Heavy rains are forecast for tonight so I have just returned from the kitchen garden where I have been dibbing, Wimoweh Dibboweh De-Dibboweh.Dibboweh ... and with 3 or 4 rows planted - all thats left to do now is kneel down and start praying for a good crop- Our Fava who art......

Saturday, 27 November 2010

David or Goliath?- when two tribes go to war

The Lambasting and slaying of David.
Elizabeth David, deity, diva or devil?

It is the year 1950. David's first book French provincial cooking has been published. The first of many that laid the battlefield open for her enemies. She was an easy target, arrogant, female, posh, well travelled, a sharp character, bossy and a bit of a vamp

60 years on, it is now the year 2010. The Philistine army had gathered for war against David. The two armies faced each other, camped for battle on opposite sides of a steep valley. A Philistine giant measuring over nine feet tall and wearing full armour came out each day for forty days, mocking and challenging the Foodistas to fight his cause. His name was Hereward, more commonly known to some as Hayward. Chef Ramsay, the then king of west end dining, Oliver and the whole army were terrified of this modern Goliath. It was all very Wareing. This Darth invader, Hereward blogged in defence of the  British nation, whose gastronomic reputation was under fire. Outside influences on "our cuisine" were being promoted as negative and this was David's fault. "Who has the right to defy the culinary tradition of England?" These were dishes of which no-one in Britain had heard of. David turned in her grave hearing Hayward "word of mouthing" his daily defiance and could feel the great fear stirred within the cooks of England. When the giant criticized, insulted and threatened, David didn't stop or even waver. Everyone else cowered in fear, but David ran to the battle,knowing that action needed to be taken. David did the right thing in spite of discouraging insults and fearful threats.  David responded "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy God´s culinary army. Her exhortations to her troops were often amusing - unless you are able to keep your own hens and cultivate a comprehensive herb garden, her insistence that one's omelette must be made using only new-laid eggs, or that one must have just the right variety of fennel were simply not practical for the conscientous objectors.
No war grave was left unturned - Mrs Beeton stirred too - look at the spices she was citing in her recipes. Everyday food items had been imported for centurys...
 If only David  had been alive to volunteer to fight Goliath. It might have taken some persuasion but King Hale and Queen Jill Norman would have agreed to let David fight against the giant.This is how the battle scene might have looked. Dressed in  simple tunic, carrying a shepherd's staff, slingshots and a pouch full of stones, David approached Goliath. The giant cursed, hurling threats and insults.
To David´s loyal troops her food literature was considered a canon. Cannon to left of them cannon to the right of them, into the valley of death rode the 600, to the enemy her writings were cannon fodder, they were regarded as expendable in the face of artillery fire.
David chose not to wear the King's armour because it felt cumbersome and unfamiliar. David was comfortable in a pair of  simple slingshots, a weapon she became skilled at using. Voices rang in her head "God will use the unique skills he's already placed in your hands, so don't worry about "wearing the King's armor." Just be yourself and use the familiar gifts and talents God has given you. He will work miracles through you".
Should up and coming young chefs need to know who warrior David was, no it wouldn´t make a blind bit of difference or hamper development and progress in the ranks of modern kitchens.The fact is that her books and approach are important in how food writing has got to 'now'. It is a recognised practice for people coming up in any profession to jump over the shoulders of giants, emulate others in their field in order to get ahead faster and forge their own path. Young cooks don't need to know who she was.What is more important is that today, her allies,culinary officers General Slater, Lt. col F-Whittingstall and Major  Hopkinson acknowledge her influence. The David camp was not known for its military precision. Novices may find the recipes difficult to deal with at times, as she  perhaps expected a degree of confidence and common sense (even intelligence!) from her readers. What is wrong with old time measuring with tumblers and liqueur glasses, who measures things so precisely in their culinary work. Back at home rationing had been enforced David so understood what this was like. she taught a whole generation to  make Cheese pudding ( "Is there a nutmeg in the house" ) as a frugal supper dish. Something my dear mother proffered us as children growing up in the 50´s, and something I still make today. Elizabeth David's contribution to postwar British culture is hard to estimate.
So what legacy has this battle left us with. The general vapidity of telly cookery. Its all aboard the Nigella Express, armed with journals busting at the seams with the ridiculous concept of  `fashionable food.´ Don´t get me wrong The Domestic goddess had her place in 'How to Eat', when she was a food-writer rather than a 'lifestyle' brand. This is something David never aspired to. She was never  a "celebrity" - her only branding was  Divertimenti. David wanted a shop where the staff would know about what they were selling, and where all the beautiful batterie de cuisine that she herself would use could be found. Little did she know that her first small premises would, by 2010 have blossomed into culinary Aladdins caves, with cookery schools attached.
She was refreshingly down-to-earth in her approach to cooking equipment -  David wrote in a magazine article about her ideal kitchen (this is also reproduced in 'Is there a Nutmeg...' that she would be perfectly happy with the very ordinary Cannon gas cooker from her actual kitchen in London (should  there not be a blue plaque on her house?).
Her books are dated I have to say, but surely we  find it interesting to know the history behind a dish before we cook it. Cassoulet( French Provincial Cooking p.448), Les queues de boeuf des vignerones ( a story in itself)( French Provincial Cooking p.404), cheese pudding( Is there a Nutmeg...p.131), I have already mentioned, peperonata ( Italian Food p.247), boef daube( French Provincial Cooking p.392). The basis of her approach was a genuine love of food and an intellectual interest in how and why it was prepared. For Elizabeth David, food and living were inseparable, her recipes are a diary. In order to understand her you need to read one or both of the biographies: "Elizabeth David" Lisa Chaney, questionable, and Artemis Coopers "Writing at the kitchen Table"- the authorised biography, to form a true and unbiased profile of David.Her scholarly work on British cooking should also be remembered - although her projected series of books in this field was never completed, the anthology 'Is there a Nutmeg in the House?' contains many articles and pamphlets that resulted from her researches, including numerous very practical recipes.
Meanwhile on the other side of Europe Matthew held Fort, while eating up Italy. The tactics here are the same that should be applied to the David camp, manual versus novel. Their books should be read twice, first as a novel and then again as a cookery book.
David's faith  caused her to look at the giant from a different perspective. Hayward was merely a mortal man defying an all-powerful God. David looked at the battle from an other´s point of view. If we look at giant problems and impossible situations from an others perspective, we realize that we will be supported.. When we put things in proper perspective, we see more clearly and we can fight more effectively. She travelled researched accurately and brought the Mediterranean home to us. We should count ourselves lucky.Surely the most exciting thing about all this is how national cuisines have been influenced not only by external influences but also by wars, travellers and migratory patterns.

God bless you La David!!!

And oh dear poor old Jonathan Meades is now being vilified by his critics for living in France!!!! 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Expat cravings part 2- from the stove to the microchip

Computer assisted cooking? What am I on about you say. We all acknowledge how in some ways technology has made our lives easier. Small disagreements over the dinner table can now be resolved by Googling. A recipe can be sourced in a matter of minutes, with 1001 options to choose from, and my latest enlightenment is that I can cook a recipe from a step by step online video and not only that, I can freeze frame it at any stage I want.How fantastic is that? I  put this to the test recently when I had an expat craving for a Melton Mowbray pork pie.I am lucky enough to have our computer located at the end of the kitchen area, so this was going to make the exercise easy.If your main computer is not located in close proximity of your kitchen, and you have wireless,a lappy type top on the kitchen table should suffice. 
I have to say I am obsessive when it comes to pork pies. Back in Blighty a trip to Sainsbury´s was never complete without a crusty bake pork pie. Own label or bespoke didn´t matter, but by the time I arrived at the check out all that remained was the wrapper. The cashier always looked at me askance.I have searched the length and breadth of the Algarve in vain,it seems to be one of the only foreign food products that is not available here.
So I decided to tackle my craving head on with the challenge of making one myself. My starting point was obviously my library of recipe books, but when this didn´t provide an answer I Googled "Melton Mowbray pork pie." This was the answer "Videojug" A ten minute film of how to make a Melton Mowbray pork pie. It was the most authentic recipe I had found, so I decided to give it a whirl. Making something as fiddly as this is really helped by having visual back up, and with the option of being able to print out the recipe too.
Well say no more, tried and tested, and approved. I am not only going to make this again for Christmas but also try some other "Videojug" options. I think " How to massage the female chest part 1" might put me off my Spag bol, but I think a visual lesson in how to make a beef wellington in 3 mins 52 is very tempting.
If you try it, good luck!!!
                              

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Burnt Brûlé !!

This would have done the job better- Casa Rosada stock picture!!

What a "chefe"(Portuguese: head, chief, boss) never wants to happen. Nor anyone for that matter.You may recall I blogged back in October about our impending inclusion in a Tyler Brûlé publication Monocle. Casa Rosada returned from a long weekend in Lisbon to find courtesy copies of Monocle December / January issue on our doormat.We were so honoured that Monocle would even consider us in their publication  I said that we are the poor cousins. For sure, they made us look like a slum. What went wrong I do not know, but a top photographer was commissioned to come all the away down from Lisbon and spent a whole day here. He must have had something in the bag but what went to print was a picture of  a shabby unused door in  the side alley, a picture of the reception area that was wrongly captioned as a bedroom and a half decent picture of mein hosts. Once burnt twice shy. A bitter pill to swallow for two previous professional magazine stalwarts that would have never have allowed this to go to print.With the pudding burnt, Casa Rosada will think twice before saying yes next time, and ensure final say on picture selection.

Have some madeira m´dear

a favourite dessert tipple at Casa Rosada
"Last year I was given a decanter for Christmas, very nice thing, cut glass, came from the Portobello Road. I keep Madeira in it, a wine of which I am particularly fond, to the despair of the port wine trade". Flanders and Swann said it but no doubt Armstrong and Miller will revive it.
Their foul-mouthed Flanders and Swann spoof, Brabbins and Fyffe,  sing of sordid goings-on with a quavering innocence.This could be right up their street, maybe the Christmas special - watch this space.

'Have some Madeira, m'dear!
You really have nothing to fear;
I'm not trying to tempt you-that wouldn't be right.
You shouldn't drink spirits at this time of night;
Have some Madeira, m'dear!
It's very much nicer than Beer;
I don't care for Sherry, one cannot drink Stout,
And Port is a wine I can well do without;
It's simply a case of Chacun a son GOUT!
Have some Madeira, m'dear!'

Like port, it can be drunk as a dessert wine or in its dry styles such as Sercial,instead of a sherry before dinner.My father used to regale me with a story about a glass of Madeira and a biscuit at eleven in the morning with his bank manager at Glyn Mills & Co. I personally have never had such an enlightened bank manager, or if I did I was never aware. I did not fall into the category of customers to whom bank mangers proffered glasses of Madeira. However having said that, a glass of Madeira Meio doce with a dry Maria biscuit ( more of that story later Kirsty ) either mid morning or late afternoon could become a very happy institution.
I think it is a much forgotten and underrated tipple. Delicious whether dry or sweet, very agreeable to the palate, never harsh and has a flavour all of its own. It is also very comforting to the stomach, or at least to mine.
Our chosen label here at Casa Rosada is Henriques and Henriques, makers of the aperitif Ribeiro Seco.All in all the perfect accompaniment to Algarve fine dining.
 ....Have some madeira, m'dear, the words seemed to ring in her ear
Until the next morning, she woke up in bed
With a smile on her lips and an ache in her head
And a beard in her ear 'ole that tickled and said
Have some madeira, m'dear

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

O descanso em Lisboa


Central hall of the Mercado de ribeiro
A long weekend in Lisbon.
Come Rain, come Obama, 
come clouds, come Cameron, 
come Sarkhozy, come sunshine,come Merkel....
The NATO circus did not prevent us 
from reaching our own favourite summit 
of The Bairro Alto.

The first thing on my mind when I arrive in a city is FOOD!!! My priority is always to visit the local markets, padarias, confeiterias,mercearias and check out the restaurants.
Buy lettuce!
Drawing of a figure walking to the right,
back slightly turned toward us. Staff in the left hand.
Bright red shorts, tightened below the knees. 
Light Brown coat with collar and pockets.
Cuffs with a button. White stockings and black shoes.
Hat, Donkey with wood side baskets carrying lettuce.
Photography Andrew j Roberts
Hotel As Janelas verdes
Inter city travel Alpha Pendular
transportes regiao de Lisboa



Fresh water! Milk!
On entering the loggia of the Mercado ribeiro one is not only impressed by the tile panels but by a series of characterful faded photographic reproductions  of engravings from a series by M.Godilho, entitled Os Vendilhoes, 1809.These are accompanied by very detailed captions that read like the credits in a fashion magazine -
Buy Lettuce! Milk! Cabbage!Fresh water! 
Varina ( fish seller) waiting for the fish to arrive.As one passes through the main hall and on through the floral hall,I become aware that the final hall is not fully subscribed to its quota of stalls.Even in the capital the municipal market is diminishing. A sign of the times. 
To be armed with a list of recommendations is always a good thing, but to discover your own special places is much more rewarding.Andrew checked out Trip advisor and I emailed David Leite before we left to get his list of recommendations.Sadly things have ( not surprisingly ) changed since your time there David.We looked forward to a dinner of Alentejan delicias at a charcutaria, one of your choices. Your recommendation was reinforced by us by an amazingly well written online review by James Martin.So what has happened? Our order had been taken when the waiter cunningly put two tasty looking couverts ( non- obligatory purchase amuse bouche).Normal procedure sees the couvert being served as an appetiser while you select from the menu. Huh, we were off to a bad start. Water was not put on the table but our glasses were regularly topped up regardless and we were obviously charged for all the bottles he had poured!!! Having eaten the delicious warm octopus salad and broad beans peppers and sweet potato, we then moved on to our starters of chourico and scrambled egg. Oh dear we´d misunderstood the translation. A very tasty breakfast or lunch dish, but not for dinner after one had already eaten two large starters. Our two main courses, loin of pork with clams and lamb chops with potatoes in a clear broth, were nothing to write to the Alentejo about!! What was the damage? €95 and we had been charged for a third main course!!! Inexcusable !! They weren´t exactly rushed off their feet, with only two other diners in the house.With a €15 adjustment to our bill we adeusinho´d off into the night and there will be no second visit.One restaurant name had stuck in our memory, Number 8 of 478 on Trip advisor, Flor de Laranja.  
After a very disappointing first dinner, the thought of a traditional Moroccan meal in our already favoured quarter of the city, Bairro Alto, by far outweighed any appetite for regional or typical Portuguese cuisine. What a discovery, at the top of a steep street we opened the door of number 206 Rua de Rosa, went down 3 steps into a small room ( 6 tables, 20 covers ) and were given an exceptionally warm welcome by Rabea. Chicken briouats sprinkled with confectioners sugar and meat rolls were our chosen starters, followed by a delicious lamb and artichoke tagine with plentiful peas and a sizzling spicy prawn dish.Rabea had 12 diners including ourselves and was completely hands on. Cooking all the food herself, serving it, and still having time for pleasantries with all her customers. We were the last to leave, and Rabea gave us two fantastic recommendations that we would never have found. A restaurant in a moorish palace,-the Casa de Alentejo just blew us away.- a hidden jewel, a Rhiad in the centre of Lisbon!! Her second pointer was to Pavilhao Chines.Once an old grocery store, this 1900s style bar/restaurant beckoned your curiosity to knock on the door and be met with a kitsch interior. This city reminded me so much of bygone Paris.I even saw an original art nouveau sign outside Picoas Metro station, on the linha amarela. 


Interior, Casa de Alentejo


Original art nouveau metro sign,Picoas









Parisian, Moroccan
and Chinese influences
in the heart of Lisbon

Pavilhao Chines










Choosing from a menu was not often easy.....
...nor so watching the world go by on Rossio.
















Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Spamalot- long ago in days of yore

O cozinheiro and his merry maid Mariana on a recent crusade to Mertola Castle
It's true! It's true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year. ( ticks the right box)

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot. ( not the case I´m afraid )
And there's a legal limit to the snow here ( no snow since 1950 )
In Spamalot.
The winter is forbidden till December  ( absolutely )
And exits March the second on the dot. ( on the dot )
By order, summer lingers through September ( lingers longer these days )
In Spamalot.

In short, there's simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here
In Spamalot. (10,443 British residents( and still rising) can´t be wrong)
They come for the restaurants, the great food,fine dining and miles of sandy beaches. Toss in a relatively low cost of living, and Al- gharb makes a warm, attractive long stay and holiday destination.A military stronghold since the time of the crusades, the upstanding town of Castro Marim has a castle a fort, a nature reserve and Casa Rosada, the perfect hostelry for an overnight stay. We like al-gharb a lot.
( we are a spam free zone )

Monday, 15 November 2010

Credit -where credit´s due!!!

 My breakfast this morning. 
After walking the dog on the beach, I came home made a slice of toast and spread the newly made pumkin jam on it. 
Oh My!! No going back,all credit, I have to make more. 
I haven´t yet discovered what it´s shelf life is 
but I am going to need grams and grams of this 
to fuel my winter breakfasts.Yes thats how good it was, and I need to share the experience with up and coming Casa Rosada customers and as they say at the pictures......

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A bottle of Versatil and a home cured olive


Manel, our lunch companion
Last Thursday we took another trip to the beautiful town of Mertola.We lunched again at Terra Utopica, the Mediterranean themed restaurant. The weather was clement enough this time to allow us to eat on the roof terrace. As we sat down I sighed "Oh for an Olive" and lo and behold these delicious home cured cracked olives were put before me with a delicious bottle of Alentejan vinho branco,Versatil, that we had not tasted before. Made with the Arinto grape, definitely one to put in ones back head.We were joined for lunch by Manel. a feisty little companion. I suspect the secret of this restaurant is in its meat menu, so I look forward to an overnight stay in Mertola at Casa das Janelas Verdes, with dinner at Terra Utopica. Drink and no drive is always a good option. 

The doors of Casa das janelas verdes welcome



Think Quince

Quince tatin as served at Casa Rosada
There is a certain voluptuousness to a quince, comparable to a character in a Beryl Cook painting.Pure beauty with generous bulges and an unforgettable perfume. Estate agent speak says, always put a pan of these beholden beauties on to boil an hour before potential buyers are coming to view your house.Before you can say Zoopla, your house is sold. So beautiful is the smell of a ripe quince that I always keep a couple in the fruit bowl from now until Christmas, replacing them only as I use them.The best thing about the quince is that she has a good shelf life. The perfume of the cooked fruit imparts a unique scent to any dish it becomes part of.Think pink! think pink! if you want that quel-que chose. Red is dead, blue is through, Green's obscene, brown's taboo. And there is not the slightest excuse for plum or puce or chartreuse. Think pink! forget that Dior says black and rust. The colour it takes on when cooked is like a piece of soft pink carnelian jewellery beckoning to you from the window of Van Cleef and Arpels. Boil them for 20 minutes in water and sugar and they take on a wonderful ruby rose complexion.A colour that could never be matched by any Christian Lacroix beautician on the beauty playgrounds of Selfridges or Bloomingdales.

Quince Tatin
You will need a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin for 6-8 generous portions

FOR THE QUINCES
juice of one lemon
2 medium sized quinces
2 tablespoons of sugar

FOR THE CAKE
Grated zest of of a lemon
100g of unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g plain flour,sieved
100g papa de milho,polenta or cornmeal

Grate the zest from the lemon and set aside for the cake. Squeeze the lemon juice into 300ml of water in a saucepan. peel, core and quarter the quinces, putting them into the water as you go to stop them browning.Add the sugar, place the pan on a medium heat and bring to a rolling boil for about 5 minutes.Reduce the heat and allow the fruit to simmer until it has turned pale pink and has tenderized.This should take 10-15 minutes,depending on the ripeness of the fruit.Leave the quinces to cool in the juice, then drain and strain them. If you want to, reduce the juice by about half to use as a syrup. It will be slightly sharp and rosy pink. When the quinces are cool, pre-heat the oven to 180C /350F7 gas mark 4. Grease the tin and and line with baking parchment, then arrange the quince quarters over the base.
Cream the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one. Fold in the flour and polenta followed by the lemon zest. Spoon the mixture into the tin on top of the fruit and bake for 45 minutes. Test with a skewer and if it comes out clean its cooked.
To serve, turn out upside down so the fruit is on top and remove the parchment carefully.
If you have made the syrup from the poaching juices, this is delicious poured over the top.
- Tuck in with abandon, spooning quenelles of creme fraiche onto the beauty. S´wonderful!!!!.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

An autumn windfall-part two

A busy afternoon in the kitchen. My box scheme challenge continues. P-pick up a pumpkin.... and make????  What do you do with a pumpkin that weighs over 8 kg?!!!! The saving grace, pumpkins and other squash can hang around and wait for you and dont start turning mouldy as soon as your back is turned. As opposed to pears who "are bastards" as any Izzard will tell you.
From a recipe inspired by Patience Gray in her heart warming book, Honey from the Weed, I decided to make pumpkin soup, and wait for it Jorge,the marmelade was missing in part 1 so here it is. I am not going to get into the controversy that these kind of books are currently fueling among UK food journalists, but this is a truly passionate autobiographical cookery book. Evocative of  Mediterranean days of yore, Gray brings us, like her contemporary Elizabeth David a sort of Mediterranean odyssey that combines learning, wide reading, folklore and cookery. She gathered the recipes from Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades ( Naxos) and Apulia, where she settled in 1970 with her lover the sculptor Norman Mommens.

Zuppa Di Zucca Invernale - pumpkin soup
Gray uses a winter pumpkin that has a gnarled greenish yellow exterior and hour-glass form, much cultivated in Italy, Greece and Catalonia. The Portuguese winter pumpkin as you can see in picture,part 1 of this blog is more squat and segmented.The inside however is identical, a wonderful orange colour, fine grained and not fibrous, so I knew all was well before I started. But I still had kilos of pumpkin left. Gray resourcefully, (like it ) suggests two more uses for the rest, an unusual preserve and a winter pumpkin salad. I feel part 3 coming up!!!

1 kilo pumpkin
olive oil
1 onion
2 large potatoes
1leek
a branch of thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
300g cooked chickpeas
salt and pepper
chopped parsley
large knob of butter 
juice of a lemon 

Peel the pumpkin with a sharp knife, cut it into segments about 2.5cm (1in thick ), and then into neat cubes. Discard the seeds and fibres. Put some olive oil in the bottom of a pot, slice up the onion and simmer without browning. Peel and dice the potatoes,slice the leek. Put all the vegetables into the pot with the onions and sweat for a few minutes, add the thyme and enough hot water to cover ( I used chicken stock ) Season with ginger and add the chickpeas and salt and pepper. In an hour the pumkin will have melted into a creamy mush. Add the butter and parsley and allow to cool slightly. Add the lemon juice
and blitz the soup in a processor. Enjoy the softer than satin orange velvety sensation.

Doce de abobora 
( Pumpkin Jam)
This is an excellent jam, very useful for filling tarts and cakes or simply on its own as a dessert, with creme fraiche cut through it and topped with toasted almonds.
1lb (450g) cooked pumpkin
1lb (450g ) granulated sugar 
(The Portuguese prefer their sweet things, very sweet, I used half this amount)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Peel and clean the pumpkin and cook in water until tender, adding just a pinch of salt. Place it in a sieve to drain it as much as possible while pressing it lightly to extract the liquid trapped inside.Blitz in processor until you have a very smooth puree. Mix with the sugar and boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Pour into a sterilized jar and keep in the fridge.I am looking forward to spreading this on some toast tomorrow morning for breakfast.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Stocking up?

Christmas is coming and this old goose is getting fat.Whether using Grandmother´s, mother´s or somebody else's recipe,It´s never tw'early to think about making the Christmas cake.  My mother's recipe has long since disappeared and I have always made this rich dark fruit cake, from the writings of the late Michael Smith.It should be left for at least a month for its flavours to fully mature.This cake is good at any time of the year. Got a wedding in 2011 anybody? Dare I suggest you try eating fingers of it, as they do in Yorkshire, with a sliver of Wensleydale or Cheshire. or any other crumbly cheese for that matter.

RICH DARK FRUIT CAKE
Preparation time30 minutes ( plus overnight optional)
Cooking - 3- 31/2 hours
serves 30-40 ( get you Martha Stewart!!!!)

12oz/ 340g self-raising flour
1 dessertspoon mixed spice ( mace, cinnamon and ground cloves )
1/4 teaspoon salt
8oz/230g currants
3oz / 85g sultanas
8oz/230g seedless muscatel raisins,chopped
6oz/ 170g glace cherries, halved
4oz/110g glace apricots, roughly chopped
4oz/ 110g  stoned prunes, soaked overnight in rum and chopped
6oz/170g blanched almonds roughly crushed
4oz/110g mixed candied peel
10oz/280g moist brown sugar
5 large eggs beaten
4 Tablespoons treacle
Juice and grated zest of 1 large lemon
Light rum or brandy 

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark3 ( 160ºC, 325ºF )
Sieve together the flour, spice and salt. In a large bowl mix together the fruits, nuts, peel and spiced flour coating all the fruits with the flour.In a second bowl cream the butter and sugar until quite light in colour. Beat in the eggs then the treacle, lemon juice and zest.
Combine the two mixtures in one bowl. Mix well, adding enough rum or brandy to arrive at a soft dropping consistency. 
Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 7-8lb ( 3.2 - 3.6 kg ) square or round cake tin ( about 9in/23cm  square or 10in/25.5 cm in diameter and 31/2in/9cm deep)with double buttered paper. Fill with mixture and level the top. bake for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to gas mark 1 (140ºC, 275ºF ) for a further 2-21/2 hours.Test with a skewer to see when the cake is done. Leave to cool. Store for at least a month, spiking it with rum and or brandy once a week. 

Cover with home made almond paste and royal icing if you like.Decorate the top with a snowman, Father Christmas, reindeer, Christmas tree,baubles, whatever. Its extra work but its camp, its naff and so old fashioned,  I lurve it!!!
 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Life is a minestrone

Our last guests of the season  checked out this morning. The weather has turned cold and some rain showers have manifested themselves. Time to light the first fire of the year, turn the clock back to 1975 and get inspired by an old 10cc classic.

"Life is a minestrone
Served up with parmesan cheese
Death is a cold Lasagne
Suspended in deep freeze "

I make a hearty main course soup for lunch!!!

SOPA DE MINESTRONE,

1/4 cup olive oil
60g unsalted butter
4 carrots peeled and finely diced
4 celery stalks, finely diced
3 medium onions, finely minced
800g tin  Cirio chopped tomatoes or 12 large, ripe, fresh Roma or San Marzano tomatoes,
peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
6 basil leaves (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy nonreactive pan. Cook the carrots, celery, and onions for about 20 minutes, or until very tender. As a time saving device I chop these 3 ingredients 
in the food processor all together. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up a bit with a wooden spoon, and continue cooking over a moderate heat for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil, if using, and season with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls with grated parmesan and good crusty bread.

COOKING TIP
Please forgive the fact that I have posted this tip before on a previous blog, but it  is particularly relevant to this recipe.
When using tinned tomatoes ( Cirio only please ) and the recipe requires chopped tomatoes, but you only have the whole peeled variety on your larder shelf, don´t despair. Open the tin, insert a pair of long culinary scissors into the tin and cut the tomatoes vigorously.
Turn the contents out into your cooking vessel and Pronto - chopped tomatoes!!!
and you´ve saved money too. Tinned chopped tomatoes are dearer.

....AND ONE FOR THE PALATE
When making this soup, if you have a piece of parmesan rind in the fridge add this to the soup when you are cooking it and discard before serving....a taste sensation.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Port authority

SERVING PORT
 A solemn warning
At the dinner table port must always be served clockwise, from right to left.
Never pass the port to your right or across the table unless you make the circuit first. For them that´s superstitious say that the Devil himself lurks at your right shoulder and if you should forget, he will pass his hand over the port and then goodness knows what will happen to you, your family and your dependents.

SO BE WARNED!!!!!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

An autumn windfall-part one

Yesterday our friend and neighbour, Jorge, dropped by with this bountiful harvest of seasonal organic vegetables. It was like receiving a box scheme delivery. "Let the battle begin" -the challenge of finding recipes to utilise the produce began.  Last night I started with some of the sweet potatoes and set about making a sweet potato and ginger soup. A starter item for the Casa Rosada guests who had booked in for dinner.

Sweet Potato and ginger soup
1kg sweet potato ( approx. 3 medium sized sweet potatoes)
1large onion
200g unsalted butter
thumb sized piece of fresh ginger finely chopped
1 litre of good quality vegetable stock ( marigold bouillon)
up to 700ml full fat milk
small bunch of coriander including stalks
salt and cayenne pepper
grating of nutmeg

Peel the potatoes and chop it into dice, halve the onion and slice thinly.
Take a heavy bottomed casserole large enough to hold all the ingredients and sweat the onion, coriander stalks and ginger in the butter, with a grating of nutmeg, for 10 minutes. Add seasoning, the sweet potato  and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Remove from the heat, add some extra coriander, liquidise and pass through a fine meshed sieve. This liquid will need thinning with the milk. Add enough slowly until you obtain  your desired consistency. Be sure that you are not diluting the flavour too much. Serve garnished with a coriander sprig in each bowl.