Thursday, 29 December 2011

All about Eve

Orange Prosecco cocktails and  Green olive Portuguese petiscos

Fasten your seat belts it´s gonna be a bumpy night.New Years Eve always is, but if you are doing the hosting, the last thing you need is a bumpy ride. Good hosts keep glasses full and appetites satiated without breaking into a sweat, so don your black tie or little black dress and pinny and get ready to expect the unexpected.

Start as you mean to go on...with
Orange Prosecco cocktails 
and  Green olive Portuguese petiscos
serves 8

160ml Orange licore,Grand Marnier or orange Curaçao
if you prefer lemon you can substitute Limoncello
1 tray of ice cubes frozen with a small slice of orange or lemon in each cube
Bottle prosecco

Pour 20ml Orange Licore into 8 Champagne flutes, 
add 2-3 ice cubes and top with prosecco

120g parmesan,finely grated
150g(1 cup) plain flour
150g chilled butter chopped
Pinch dried chilli flakes
30 pimento-stuffed green queen-sized olives
Rosemary sprigs and papa de milho (polenta) to garnish

Process the parmesan,flour butter and chilli in a food processor until mixture comes together.Shape1/2 tablespoons of the mixture into balls,make indents in the centres and place the olives in the hollows.Press the dough over the olives to cover, stick rosemary sprigs in the tops and scatter with papa de milho (polenta). Freeze for 2 hours until ready to bake.Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC. Place the prepared olives on a paper-lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool

Be the toast of the town....with these
Smoked fish fairy toasts
Very finely slice day old bread and put on a baking tray to dry out.Keep the oven on a very low heat and keep checking to ensure the bread does not burn.While the bread is toasting beat one teaspoon of sugar in a bowl with 1 level teaspoon Dijon mustard. Add 6ml of white wine vinegar 125ml extra virgin olive oil a pinch of sea salt and chopped coriander or dill.Beat together well into a thick gloopy dressing.spread a little dressing on each piece of toast and top with a slither of smoked salmon.Teaspoon a little more dressing over the salmon and serve.Top with sprigs of coriander or dill.

Make sure your dinner jacket fits the occasion....with these
Small jacket potatoes and assorted fillings

Small Cara or Estima potatoes,washed 

Pre-heat oven to 220ºC.Place potatoes in a bowl,sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water,then season generously with sea salt and plce on a baking tray.bake for 45 minutes  to 1 hour or until centres are very soft and skins browned and crisp. While hot, cut a slit in the top of each potato and squeeze slightly to open.Top each with a heaped teaspoon of a selected filling.

Egg and Avocado
2 soft boiled eggs,finely chopped
2 ripe avocados mashed
lime juice
Flor de sal
ground black pepper
Scoop the flesh from the avocados into a bowl add plentiful Flor de sal and mash with a fork adding enough lime juice to give you a thick dropping consistency.Add the boiled eggs and stir to mix.Taste and add pepper and more flor de sal until the mix has a salty taste.

Waldorf salad
According to the American Century Cookbook, the first Waldorf Salad was created in New York City in 1893, by the maître d'hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria. The original recipe consisted only of diced red-skinned apples, celery, and mayonnaise, with chopped walnuts later added. An alternative to using mayonnaise is to make this classic with yoghurt.

Chilli Con carne
This Heston Blumenthal take on chilli  has now become my all time favourite,original,sublime a little time consuming but makes loads to allow a quantity to be put in the freezer for further enjoyment. The butter is to die for.

Other suggestions..
Tuna lime coriander
Cranberry and Brie
Chopped Pequillo peppers and tuna

The chilli and Waldorf salad can be made in sufficient quantities to be main dishes
as well as topping for the potatoes.For the chilli give your guests tortilla wrapas and sour cream or creme fraiche.Keep the chilli on the cooker on a low light

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Remains of the day

Left over porchetta layered in between slices of rustic country bread

'Please sir will you leave a bit for tomorrow, ?'
Even as I tucked into my Christmas roast,I was already looking forward to the leftovers.Sometimes I can barely wait for Christmas lunch, or any lunch for that matter, to finish so as I can look forward to getting my creative head and hands on the leftovers.Surprisingly, so often the cold cuts taste better than what was hot from the oven the day before.
Sandwiches come first, of course; barely have we finished the main meal before we are slicing thick, thick slices of mighty white,with meat sliced as thin as leaves, piled high in layers, so it looks overfilled and meltingly tender. Pickles are not an option, they are the requirement. Their vinegary tartness the essentiality to cut through the possible blandness of the filling.Onion marmalade, green tomato relish, or tomato and ginger chutney will lift the sandwich to higher ground. Home made tracklements  should not be shy on spice, and set your sandwich alight.

Turkey, pork, chicken or beef sandwiches-choice of bread is of the essence here.

Use yesterdays leftovers to make delicious and easy baked potato toppings for lunch today!

Turkey and cranberry sauce

Chippolata and crispy bacon

Creamy bread sauce and stuffing

Christmas cake/ Christmas pudding ice cream
Crumble up left over Christmas pudding or fruit cake and mix it into any flavoured ice cream.Line a loaf pan with foil and fill with the ice cream mixture pressing it down with a spatula and spreading the top
till it is even and smooth.line the top with more foil and freeze,When ready to serve turn out onto a plate and carefully peel the foil away.With a wet knife cut into thick slices.

Cold play porchetta
A domestic take on the classic Italian marketplace or street food, Porchetta is actually roast suckling pig served up in sandwiches. Thickly sliced rolled belly pork  served up in rustic country bread is an equally delicious sandwich, hot or cold. Gennaro Contaldo also recommends eating the dish cold. This is JUST gorgeous! Much better cold than hot. He says it’ll keep for up to a week in the fridge. Yesterday morning we removed the joint from the fridge. It was much easier to slice a lot thinner and had the consistency of pressed ham. The aromatic flavour was glorious. I preferred eating it cold – while hot you really were aware of the amount of fat you were eating whereas cold it had a much more delicate taste and was not so filling.
Given that streaky bacon is made with pork belly we fried a few slices in a nonstick pan (no need for oil), and ate it on rustic baguette with poached eggs. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Turn those leftover vegetables into heartwarming soups
Make a hearty Turkey stock with your left over carcass,  vegetables and herbs and use it as a base for soups.
I made a  contemporary curried parsnip and carrot soup loosely based on my  mother´s Curried parsnip soup

Roasted onion and garlic soup

...and of course not forgetting that classic solution, curry

Turkey curry- every which way, with coconut cream, citrus flavours.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

....and a partridge in a pear tree

On the first day of Christmas...........

 A todos, votos de um Feliz  Natal
e um próspero 2012
Muit obrigado por o vossos apoio

Feliz natal
Feliz navidad
Bo nada
vrolijk Kerstfeest
joyeux Noël
buon Natale
God jul
Glaedelig jul
Fruhliche Weihnachten

......and a partridge in a pear tree

Saturday, 24 December 2011

"twas the night before Christmas"

The Christmas Eve page from my kitchen scrapbook
Christmas dinner on Christmas eve is a tradition that is fast catching on,on all sides of the globe-and for good reason.To detach this huge performance from the present unwrapping mayhem makes perfect sense.Tonight it was time to get my "bible" out and cook our traditional Casa Rosada Christmas Eve dinner of salmon and prawn fish pie.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Inside or out ? - Get stuffing

Times were when cooks used to do the stuffing inside of the turkeys. The theory was that the stuffing flavoured the turkey. OK, I  accept that, but I was too young back then to do it myself. But my mother´s stuffing always turned out well, was cooked through and very yummy. I was always one for following mother´s method but I wouldn't do it her way now.
I have been watching a lot of TV cooks recently in the run up to Christmas showing great ways to cook the stuffing outside.Whats more, if stuffing is cooked on its own it can become the side attraction to many main dishes other than the turkey, or a dish in its own write.So what better than a Sierra Rica chestnut, fig and sausage stuffing. In an ideal world this recipe uses Organic chestnuts from a farm in Aracena not far from Seville in southwestern Andalucia.

This is a deliciously different stuffing for Christmas.It can be cooked on its own in a dish.If you want to cook it inside the bird, stuff the neck end(not the cavity and roast at 190C/fan170C/gas 5 for 20 minutes per 500g.

225 g Pork sausage meat
3 large shallots chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
Vegetable or chicken stock
170g dried figs,chopped
3 tbsp brandy
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
400g Sierra Rica cooked organic chestnuts or near substitute
cut into quarters
160g coarse breadcrumbs
To cook in its own dish....
Heat the oven to 180C7fan 160C/gas 4 and oil or butter a medium baking tin or dish.
Cook the sausage meat in a large frying pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes until browned and cooked through, breaking it into small pieces with a fork.Add the shallots and celery and cook for a further 5 minutes.Make up 150ml of stock. Add half to the pan with the figs, brandy and thyme. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and cook for 5 minutes until the figs are tender.Combine the chestnuts, breadcrumbs and sausage mixture in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining stock and season with salt and pepper.Transfer the stuffing to the baking tin and cover with foil.bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, until the top of the stuffing begins to brown.Serves 6

Juggling birds.potatoes and stuffing in the oven can be difficult, but here is a solution where you have your stuffing and the added bonus of an extra side dish, and........ you can make these up to two days before then re-heat them when you want them.

Sausage,fig and chestnut stuffed baked onions, 
with tangerine

6 red onions peeled but kept whole
Juice of 5 tangerines, clementines or mandarins
stuffing as above

Heat the oven to 190C/ fan 170C/gas 5. Stand the onions in a roasting tin, pour around the citrus juice, season, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour or until just tender.
Turn the oven up to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6 Remove the cores from the onions, save the cores and use for gravy.Pack the hollowed onions with the stuffing.dab each with butter or a little olive oil and roast uncovered for 30 minutes until crisped on top. They´ll keep for up to two days and re-heat when you want them.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Brussell Hearty

Eat your greens was mother´s mantra- Oh how we hated Brussel sprouts when we were kids.Tables have turned and I have become a Brussel sprout fanatic. I am having a sprout epiphany, bit previous I know.
I was scarred by a childhood in which the same named bitter tasting vegetables were boiled to within an inch of their lives, leaving them as discoloured corpses and discharging putrid water when prodded. Tables have turned and I now love these couvinhos, miniaturised cabbages. Its simply amazing what you can do with a cabbagette.
Finely shred them as you would a cabbage, toss in hot butter with pancetta and chilli, or shred in salad with carrots and chinese leaf or toss them in a nutmeg butter.For more ideas see Brussels takes centre stage

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It´s my party....

Polenta with fig and caramelised onion jam and goats cheese

 “There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl's complexion.”- be warned.....

Breakfast at Tiffanys or Cocktails at home.You don´t have to be Holly Golightly but it´s your party so you must enjoy yourself. Forget fiddly finicky food and go for anything that can be prepared with very little effort, preferably in advance, and replenished with ease. Puttting  out dishes of food that can be assembled by your guests is always a good wheeze. Polenta is always a good bet as it can be prepared well in advance, taken from the fridge, warmed through and then topped with with various chutneys, relishes and marmalades and finished off with fresh or melted goats cheese, pequillo peppers or such like. Dips are simple to prepare and even easier to serve. Place trays wherever guests are likely to linger. These can be as exotic or as simple as you want them to be and if you make sufficiently large quantities there will always be plentiful refills for the stragglers like Ginny Comelately.You don´t want to be the one in the kitchen garnishing canapés or assembling fiddly hors  d´ oeuvres when everyone else is having fun sharing the hot gossip and relishing another reputation gone.....

It is of course quite normal to be getting yourself into a bit of a pickle this time of year, so pickle yourself pink with a relish you will soon realise, you cant do without this season of entertaining.

Red onion marmalade with thyme
It looks a lot like Christmas it tastes a lot like Christmas.It smells a lot like Christmas and its even the colour of Christmas.A great accompaniment to roast beef and many a cold cut the day after, and the days after that.
350g (12 oz)red onions very finely chopped
25g (1/2 oz ) butter
1Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1cup (250ml) red wine vinegar
1/2 cup golden granulated sugar
Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan.Stir in the chopped onions and thyme.Allow them to soften on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.Add the vinegar and sugar.Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to lowest.Cook Slowly uncovered for 50 minutes  to 1 hour.

Monday, 19 December 2011

by invitation only...

As the festive season beckons like a glittering prize, the invitations have been sent sent out and accepted with glee.Turn up the music and revel in the party spirit. Drink champagne,eat with relish and bring joy to the world.Most of all, enjoy the fruits of all your weeks of preparation.It would be a shame to be unduly insular in your Christmas celebrations, that  doesn´t mean you have to abandon family tradition. Instead, tap into the increasingly eclectic, international character of modern culture by picking and mixing seasonal treats from all over Europe and beyond.  
Casa Rosada is ready and this Christmas we are  "doing the continental."
Breakfast, Classic American - Eggs Benedict
In the "Talk of the Town" column of The New Yorker in 1942,Lemuel Benedict,a retired Wall Street stock broker,claimed that he had wandered into the Waldorf  in 1894 to find a cure for his morning hangover,ordered "buttered toast poached eggs,crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise. "OscarTschirky, famed maître d´hotel, was so impressed with the dish that he put it on the breakfast and brunch menus but substituted ham for the bacon and a toasted English muffin for the toast.For Casa Rosada  Iberican jamon and muffin salgados.

Pre-lunch aperitif 
Croft pink port on ice with tonic

Starter: Fusion
Potted prawns with ginger and coriander

Main course
I´m normally a stuffing and potatoes chappy, but this year we will be giving a beautiful cut of traditionally reared Portuguese belly pork the Italian treatment, along with some modern takes on Yule Britannia side orders.The pork is rolled and stuffed so no worries about the stuffing, and of course roast potatoes will be part of the accompaniments.

porchétta [por'ketta] n. roasted pork with crispy skin, highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary and wild fennel seeds. Typical plate of the Roman cuisine. Slow cooked.Celebratory dish.
Porchetta is a traditional street food of Central Italy. Sold from a cart or a truck, it is a whole roast pig boned out and stuffed a with  mixed with herbs then slow roasted in a wood oven. It is sliced to order and served in a sandwich as a quick treat at the market or at a fair.

5kg/11lb piece of pork belly- ask the butcher to remove the ribs and trim off the excess fat 25g/1oz coarse salt 
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
large bunch fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds (if you are lucky enough to find wild fennel, use it
instead, finely chopped - its flavour is unique)
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil 
6 tbsp runny honey 
freshly ground black pepper 
Preheat the oven to 230C/445F/Gas 8. Lay the pork belly skin-side down onto a clean flat surface.Sprinkle the salt and coarsely ground black pepper over it, rubbing them well into the meat with your finger.Leave to rest for ten minutes so the salt and pepper settle well into the meat. Then sprinkle the herbs, fennel seeds and garlic evenly over it.Next tie up the meat. You will need ten pieces of string, each about 30cm/12 inches long. Carefully roll the meat up width-ways and tie it very tightly with string in the middle of the joint. Then tie at either end about 1cm/½ inch from the edge and keep tying along the joint until you have used up all the string. The filling should be well wrapped, if any excess filling escapes from the sides, push it in.With your hands, massage one tablespoon of the olive oil all over the joint. Then rub the remaining salt and some more black pepper over it.Grease a large roasting tin with the remaining olive oil and place the pork in it.Roast for ten minutes, then turn it over. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 150C/300F/Gas 2 and cover the meat with aluminium foil. (If you like the crackling very crisp, don't bother with the foil, but remember that the porchetta needs to be sliced thinly and crispy crackling will make this difficult.)Roast for three hours.Remove the joint from the oven and coat with honey, drizzling some of the juices from the roasting tin all over it too. Insert a fork in either side of the joint and lift it on to a wooden board. If you are serving the porchetta immediately, place the roasting tin on the hob and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the caramelised bits from the base of the tin, until the juices from the meat reduce and thicken slightly. Slice the joint thinly and serve with the sauce. Alternatively, leave the meat to cool and slice when needed. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Back to Portugal for

and to curl up on the Spanish sofa with....
Home made


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Come on get ´appy

The new cook´n app for Mac and PC

As you already know there is nothing tweet about me. Call me old-fashioned, but one of the things I dislike about Facebook is that the term ‘friend’ has now become a verb. Apparently, using the correct word, ‘befriend’, is hopelessly uncool, because whenever I make one of my "facebook" observations in public, people tend to roll their eyes. Technically speaking, even the term ‘Facebook’ is not entirely accurate. If it’s a facebook,therefore real human faces should be required in profiles, and they should be the actual faces of the actual members at their actual current ages, not pictures of pets, boats, cars, your new baby a silhouette or cartoon images of your face.What you sign up for is not what you get. Rant over, if I joined the 21st century, kicking and screaming, and signed up as a cyberdolt, it would take me at least three weeks to figure it all out. But good news. I have just learnt what an "app" is - Application software, also known as an application or a so called "app". ( why does everything have to get abbreviated, in the twitter generation?  -  haven´t I just answered my own question?) This  piece of computer software is designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. Nothing wrong with that, and what has grabbed my interest is that the digital revolution has hit the kitchen big time. But can a recipe on a smartphone ever replace a battered, beloved hardback? Yes I think so but then again I am not kindly fond of the Kindle and all these "apps" are now quickly changing our reading habits.
As a result of the wide popularity of tablet computers such as the iPad, these more than user friendly programmes are now trying to change our cooking habits, forcing our well thumbed cookery books to remain on the shelf. Most of these cooking apps now offer alternative ways of seeing each recipe, including access to thousands of recipes via the internet, all at the touch of the keyboard button.To quote food journalist Jay Rayner, the printed page still delivers something that will never be replaced.

"A cooking app is a brilliant thing, until you have to turn the page with hands caked in dough. A stained cookery-book page is a mark of commitment; a stained smartphone is a trip back to the shop," he suggests.
Nevertheless for my stocking thriller this year all I want for Christmas is a snappy app.
Better get a smart phone first.Better had.Be warned a frozen Blackberry could ruin your whole Christmas, but a chocolate orange now you´re talkin´

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Breast in show

How many times are people disappointed in the aftermath of their turkey dinner? The biggest grouch is always the fact that the meat was too dry. Secondly the size of the damn bird - it´s too darn big. What are we going to do with the massive amounts of left over meat? Turkey sandwiches, yes then curtains please, lets call it a day.The biggest problem with cooking turkey is that unless it is cooked properly it dries out. Here is the answer to both those problems. Last year in passing I mentioned two factors in my turkey post

"The Portuguese solution to counteract the dry and bland taste is  to steep it in a special marinade, the day before cooking".

"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"
So this year good old Yotam Ottolenghi to the rescue.Marinate 24 hours in advance and then an hour and half´s cooking with 15 minutes resting time and you have the most tender succulent meat with an unusual and piquant sauce. This means the Christmas bird gracing your  table will be juicier and better than Beyonce Knowles. Now that is a star act to follow.

Marinated turkey breast with cumin,coriander,white wine
serves 4-6
4tbsp mint leaves
4 tbsp parsley leaves
4tbsp coriander leaves
1 garlic clove,peeled
60ml lemon juice
60ml olive oil
125ml white wine
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Flor de sal
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 small organic or free-range turkey breast ( about 1Kg )
Put all the ingredients except the turkey breast in a food processor or blender and process for 1-2 minutes to get a smooth marinade. Put the turkey in a non-metallic container and pour the marinade over it. Massage the marinade into the meat, cover the container and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Make sure the turkey is completely immersed in the sauce.
Pre-heat the oven to 220ºC/Gas mark 7. Remove the turkey from the marinade,keeping the marinade for later, and put it on a roasting tray.Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200ºC/Gas mark 6. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature again to 180ºc/Gas mark 4.Cook until the turkey is done- another 30-45 minutes.To check, stick a small knife all the way into the centre;it should come out hot.if the meat goes dark before it is ready, cover it with foil.
To prepare the sauce, heat up the turkey marinade in a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes, until reduced by about half.Taste and season with some more salt and pepper.
Remove the Turkey from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes,Slice it thinly and serve with the warm sauce.
To serve cold,leave the meat to cool completely and then slice. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce once it is cold and serve on the side.
If you do not have Turkey for Christmas but love the tradition of turkey sandwiches this is a perfect option.

All I would suggest when I cook it again:
Double the suggested  measure of Cumin
Cook it for half an hour at the starting temperature of 220, skipping the reduction to 200 F. This might help with a better browning.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Bundles of goodness

Roasted vegetables wrapped in bacon

The perfect side order to Christmas Dinner
The main part of this dish can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge overnight.

Roast vegetable and bacon bundles
( Makes 8 bundles )
6 parsnips cut into thick batons
6 carrots cut into thick batons
I tablespoon of honey or maple syrup
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
small bunch of thyme
8 thin slices Presunto Serrano or streaky bacon
Olive oil

Heat the oven to200C /fan 180C /gas 6.
Simmer the vegetables until al dente about 5 to 6 minutes
Drain, then toss in a pan over a low heat with the honey and sherry vinegar
until glazed and caramelised.Season.
( Up to this stage can be made and stored in the fridge oivernight )
Make up into bundles, add a sprig or two of thyme to each bundle 
and wrap with  the ham or bacon.
Lay the bundles on a baking tray, brush with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Putting on the glitz

At this time of year its all about dressing up. Not just  making yourself look fabulous, but pulling out all the culinary stops to dress up the food.It only takes a few extra special ingredients and very little money to turn the everyday into the out-of-this-world.Bedeck and Bedazzle, your mission is to be the new Carrie Bradshaw of Christmas domesticity - A reyt bobby dazzler. This is a quaint coloquial term from Lancashire in the Northwest of England pertaining to someone who looks good, or is well presented, and is often said to someone who is "dressed to impress" for an event or party. The Christmas table should glitter and sparkle, candles should be lit and the best china brought out.The table certainly requires a cloth and for me family heirloom linen takes some beating. The combination of rough linen with fine china and glass gives a sense of occasion.As an alternative to the more usual starched  cloth,one of our favourite table coverings is an old french linen sheet. It is one of our prized posessions
In these hard times of Merkhelozy austerity we can´t deny we are all short of a penny, a euro, a dollar or a pound, so mixing sparkly vintage with modern chic is the crise way to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a lovely time to bring out any china or glass passed down your family which might be lurking in the backs of cupboards.It may seem rather dated or unfashionable to you, but please take another look.Fashion changes so regularly that without it journalists would be devoid of any new products for their "shopping pages". What seems old-ladyish one year can look great the next.Of course its all about how you use it. Old pieces need to be mixed with modern in order for Victoria to meet the Noughties.If you´re lucky enough to have inherited or acquired older pieces,mix and match them. It all reflects the sentiment of Christmas past and present.The Casa Rosada Christmas table will represent my grandmother´s china, and Peking Glass that my mother bartered for in a Shanghai market while stopping off while travelling on a troop ship in World War Two. It will sit alongside some modern trinkets we have picked up while on our own travels in more recent years.The Casa Rosada lunch will be a more intimate affair.No guests just the two of us.The whole Christmas thing is s geared towards the large family gathering that lunch for two can easily get forgotten, or even worse looked upon as being a trifle sad.Well Bah humbug it is quite the opposite.The smaller the party the more luxurious it can afford to be and perhaps more civilised.You can do precisely as you like, Drink more expensive wine and indulge in delicacies that would have been beyond budget were you entertaining on a larger scale.

For putting on more Glitz....

Glasses are good to use for several reasons, they are small, which makes them easy to make arrangements in,even for the most cack-handed. They can play host to a scented tea light, but be careful not to crack the glass.You can see over them which is important when dressing a table.What´s more they dont take many flowers so are cheap.

So you want your guests to be saying about you things like "Ohh arn't you a bobby dazzler" or or about your turkey "My, that bird's a reet bobby dazzler!"
Candles make everything sparkly and jewelley, especially Joe Malone,  sorry Portugal she´s not here yet.

Smart tumblers can double up as vases for the Christmas table. 

Try mimosa flowers in a purple vase.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A town called ´granate

Pomegranates  banked with roses symbolised the alliance of Spain and England, when Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon and Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit by the Moors. The Arabs built a pomegranate town? Worcester Pearmain I can understand - but can you imagine a town in South Africa  being named Golden Delicious? The pomegranate is very much a fruit of the old world, a fruit that keeps well without losing its juiciness. I always associate it,not because of Claudia Roden, with North African and Moroccan meals.Blood red seeds garnishing lapis blue bowls abundant with cous cous or as a garnet coloured gravy awash roast pork on plates of enamelled bronze.From late Autumn towards Christmas,they bring an aura of a thousand and one nights, making a cameo appearance in the greengrocers of the dullest towns of remote rural England.
I have to confess to passing the pomegranate by when I lived in England.Who bought them? I though they were they just for seasonal decoration like their cousins twice removed,the gourds. How changed is my opinion now, being confronted with a mass of savoury and sweet Iberian solutions to how to deal with this precious fruit. My latest discovery is a pairing of pomegranate with pork fillet.( sorry no picture, the thespian´s camera just could not do justice to this one, no matter how hard we tried)
Solomillo con salsa de granadas is originally a Mallorcan Pork dish with a gravy made of ruby pomegranate seeds served with a side dish of thickly sliced potatoes fried gently in Banha de porco( Pork dripping ).

Solomillo con salsa de granadas
serves 4
2 pomegranates
50g( 13/4 oz) lard
4 solomillos ( pork fillets)
1 onion chopped
100ml( 31/2 oz) fino or dry sherry
100ml( 31/2 oz) meat stock
salt and pepper
Cut the pomegranates in quarters and with a knife loosen the seeds from the membrane.Reserve a handful of seeds for garnish.Heat the lard in a pan and brown the pork fillets with the chopped onion.Add the pomegranate seeds to the meat with the sherry,stock,salt and pepper.Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the meat and keep warm. Continue cooking the sauce for a further 15 minutes until reduced.Strain the sauce and serve it over the meat.Garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds.Serve with fried potatoes

Monday, 12 December 2011

Its gonna be a cold cold Christmas

 Bolo Rei ice cream cake
Bolo Rei, the King's Cake, is a traditional Portuguese sweet bread with nuts and crystallized (candied) fruit, eaten at Christmas time and especially on 6 January, Kings' Day.The Bolo Rei must not be missing from the Portuguese Christmas.There used to be a tradition of placing a broad bean and a coin (or small trinket) in the Bolo Rei but this was banned in cakes sold commercially some years ago due to incidents of choking! Legend has it that the Three Kings, as they followed the Star of Bethlehem on their way to greet baby Jesus, could not agree amongst themselves which would be the first to give their gift to Jesus. On their travels they met a baker who gave them a loaf of bread with a broad bean hidden inside it. He told them that the one who ended up with the slice of bread with the bean should give baby Jesus the present first and they accepted this idea as a means of resolving their dispute.This tradition survives today and the coin or trinket in the cake represents good luck.
I´ve taken roughly the same ingredients of a traditional Bolo Rei but deconstructed it,and created an ice cream cake.I have kept its distinctive shape, baked in the shape of a crown or ring but given it a lighter taste and more modern look that is still in keeping with the overall feel of the original.The traditional cake usually contains small trinkets (a little heart, a tiny porcelain baby Jesus, an owl, or something wrapped up in paper or even a one euro coin or the dried broad bean.
My recipe is easier to make than the cake, which is very time consuming.I had to take several issues into account before I found my final solution.The first impression of a dish is always created by its visual appeal.An ice cream is a very different texture to a baked cake. The flavours and the texture of the food on the plate had to be considered in the creative mix to produce the overall look of the dish.I had to think about how it was going to be served.
Its gonna be a cold cold Christmas but this Bolo Rei is going to be your star turn,and whoever finds the bean is crowned King of the party and must promise to make the cake the following year. At adult parties, the person who finds the bean is expected to pay for the King´s cake for the following year.

Bolo Rei Gelado
500ml (2 cups ) cream
170g icing sugar
55g toasted almonds
55g glace cherries
55g candied peel
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sultanas
1 Desertspoon Maciera (Portuguese brandy)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1teaspoon almond essence
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 large tablespoon cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons hot water
2 egg whites

Chop all the dried fruit and add the mixed spice. Pour over the brandy and leave to stand overnight.Whip the cream and add half the icing sugar. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and add the rest of the sugar.Beat again. Gently blend the cream and egg white mixtures together.Add the fruit and almonds followed by the cocoa powder dissolved in the hot water.Line a ring mould or small bundt pan with foil.Pour in the mixture and press flat. Cover with foil and freeze.Turn out onto a plate and decorate with candied fruit garnish.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

with love from Portugal...

Claus Porto sampler pack of guest soaps

.... or from anywhere else for that matter. Us expats scatter the globe, and in the season of goodwill we need to think about the folks back home, now is the time to think about two way family favourites.Things the family have enjoyed when they visited the country you are now resident in.Send them packing and here´s hoping they will be reciprocating with care packages of well timed expat cravings.
Sturdy packaging is a must at this time of year if you have friends and family scattered all over the world. Lightweight, non-breakable gifts make the most sense, but bubble wrap, foam containers and boxes designed for posting everything from bottles of wine and posters to CD´s are available from your local Correio or post office.Papelaria and art shops are another good source of different sized and coloured or patterned cartons,too. Food is always popular with those living away from their family, but not all foodstuffs will resist the rigours and time of travel, no matter how well wrapped they are. Instead of sending fragile individual packets of biscuits to cousin Maud living in France, look for sturdy tins of quality biscuits or buy a stainless steel tin and fill it with fun-sized packs of her favourite Chocolates and biscuits.Tea and coffee weigh next to nothing and more often than not. particularly at this time of the year,come in decorative tins and soft packaging which is perfect for posting.Seeds of thought sown, here are some more specific suggestions for lightweight presents.

Muxama- Dry cured tuna. 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 chopped tomatoes and rocket.As done for a summer starter and tapa at Casa Rosada, 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"well maybe she will be after she´s enjoyed this delicacy,
Atum Damaso in Vila Real de Santo Antonio will cut, slice and hermetically seal the quantity you need  with use by date and date of packing.

Pata negra, Belota. Top of the range quality cured hams from Iberia. Acorn fed in field to gold star in store. Wouldn´t you just want to wake up on Christmas morning and have this treat to accompany scrambled eggs and a glass of Buck´s fizz for your Christmas day breakfast. Suppliers in Ayamonte will slice and hermetically seal your order while you pootle off for a Pedro Ximenez and plancha of Manchego tapa. Can´t be bad.

Cork caddy 300g card packag
The best the Algarve can produce, and not yet available outside Portugal or online so this present is extra special and will leave recipients asking questions and gagging for more. But be careful, otherwise you will have friends relations and cousin Maud from France begging you for a holiday in your Algarve home. well maybe not Cousin Maud because she will be snotty about claiming that Flor de sal should be of the French variety.Oh well who cares, she needs a gift.

Guest soaps - Perfect for the entertainer.Mama would love to add a dash of elegance and charm to every room in her house, just like she experienced when she stayed with you on her summer holidays.She´ll love this set of pretty pastel soaps wrapped in a sweet little gifty-boo box.With over 20 years experience in manufacturing soap and smellies, Claus Porto sure know their stuff.This sampler box of their best soap tablets make the perfect host / hostess gift.3 pastilles of each fragrance: Cerina (brise marine),Lilane (Lavender),Deco(lime Basil),Aguia(Veytiver)and Condessa(wild pansy)

Some of these suppliers have online ordering and delivery and others have Overseas outlet,so check online for shipping details and delivery charges and times, before you shop and post.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A piece of cake

This is for those of you that missed Stir-up Sunday and didn´t get to make the wish.Don´t worry, all is not lost and you still shall have Christmas cake and go to the ball.Going all-out is going to be a piece of cake this festive season.If you have not made the cake yet and you don´t want a huge cake to the tune of Martha Stewart catering proportions then here is your solution...... individual Christmas cakes in bite size portions, into the oven and out of the oven in a matter of minutes.The downside of this particular recipe is that the prep work is more labour intensive due to the fact that it is necessary to chop all the ingredients smaller in order to get a happy balance of all the ingredients in each little cake.Here is your last call to stir it, and make little muffin type Christmas cakes.

Christmas cake muffins
230g Muscatel raisins
125g sultanas, halved
230g currants
170g glacé cherries, chopped
110g  dried apricots,chopped
110g stoned dried prunes,chopped
125g candied mixed peel,chopped
170g blanched almonds, chopped
160g chopped dates
11/3 cups (101/2 fl oz) brandy
325g (111/2 oz) unsalted butter
11/4  cups brown sugar 
4 eggs
21/4 cups plain( all purpose) flour 
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda ( baking powder)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup (2fl oz) brandy,extra 
Place all the dried fruits and brandy in a saucepan over a low heat.Cook stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until all the brandy has been absorbed.Set aside to cool.
Pre-heat the oven to 140C(280F).Place the butter and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy.Add the eggs gradually and beat well.Place the butter mixture,fruit mixture,flour, bicarbonate of soda,cinnamon and allspice in a large mixing bowl and mix well to combine.Spoon the mixture into 12 x 1 cup (8fl oz) capacity greased muffin tins.Do not overfill the muffin tins.Bake for 35 minutes or until firm to the touch.Remove from the oven, pour over the extra brandy and cool completely in the tins.
When the cakes are cool you can apply marzipan followed by icing or you could just ice star shapes or the like onto the tops.Whatever you decide, have fun and enjoy the preparations for the festive fun to come.   
Makes 12.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A shop is for life not just for Christmas

In England we have a saying " A dog is for life not just for Christmas". The inference being that a lot of puppies are given as surprise presents at Christmas only to be abandoned as unwanted on the streets in the New Year. Nowhere are there more stray and abandoned dogs as here on the streets in Portugal. On a quiet Lisbon back street in the very stroll-worthy neighbourhood of Chiado, the fashionable shopping quarter of Lisbon, we found not an abandoned dog but a converted soap factory.What was to greet us when we crossed the threshold was truly a revelation. Stepping back in time from the modern world outside we wandered through a Santa´s grotto of Portuguese retro. One room after another filled with glass panelled cabinets full of gorgeousness. At times you feel as if you are browsing  Portugal´s near equivalent of the Robert Opie Collection. Within five minutes I was speechless. As I passed by one cabinet I was overcome by the heady aroma of soaps by Claus Porto in art deco boxes. I was breathless and ready to Plotz.

Tricana branded canned fish
 I have always loved beautiful packaging and everything retro, and if you covet anything "old fashioned", you'll find it here at A Vida  Portuguesa.Run by Portuguese Journalist Caterina Portas, she opened Lisbon's A Vida Portuguesa shop in 2007. It is as if she has created a museum in which she curates more than 1000 products made by Portuguese manufacturers who've deliberately resisted globalization. In many cases apparently, she had to hunt down brands that were near extinction.Her cornucopia allows you explore display after display of unique items—from tea and toothpaste to fabric and tambourines—that are all handmade, Portuguese-crafted or have been around forever. It successfully celebrates something that small-batch and one -off producers and locavores work to champion.Alongside slow food we now have slow
Self-adhesive labels
Surprisingly her surname is synonymous with another Portas, Mary, renowned for innovation and make overs on the British high street.This project is absolutely the  opposite of cheaper, faster internet shopping and ship-it-to-your-door retail. This is no abandoned pooch but the most gorgeous and unusual of general stores and is here to stay for ever.I implore you if you haven´t already,to boogie on down there and ensure bygones live on.

Rua Anchieta 11
Lisbon, Portugal
Tel: 213 465 073

Monday, 5 December 2011

An inspired combination

Since bread is such an important part of life in Portugal, it seems only natural to team it up with sweet ingredients as well as savoury ones. Bread and chocolate is a time honoured tradition, so why not give it an added dimension by toasting the bread under the grill and then adding olive oil followed by chocolate.What have you got?- a cracking Christmassy crostini to accompany your morning bica or a sinful late night snack.Its all about fun and fancy so don´t take it too seriously.The marriage of warm,crispy-edged bread and the contrasting flavours of peppery olive oil,bittersweet chocolate and briny sea salt - temptation on toast. The point where they merge- the barely sweet chocolate, strong as black coffee,melting into the warm bread is sublime. These dainty little morsels are amazingly simple to prepare and taste absolutely extraordinary,but budget is of the essence if you are going to do this justice.The chocolate must be very dark, bittersweet, and world-class. Look for names like Green and Blacks, Valronha or Gourmet Godiva and even names you can´t pronounce. Labels with percentage symbols are always a good sign (the higher %, the better for this).For the bread, you're going to want to find your own favourite baker´s baguette. The extra virgin olive oil should be robust, peppery, and of the highest quality. Lastly, the salt must absolutely be the crystallized, flaky Castro Marim Flor de sal.Once all these ingredients are assembled, the actual procedure is quite simple, and produces an impressive result.

Pao com Chocolate e Sal citrina
1 baguette sliced on the diagonal in equal thicknesses
bittersweet chocolate
extra virgin olive oil
Coarse Flor de sal, Salmarim
Zest of 1 orange

Cut a large top quality baguette on the diagonal into slices of equal thickness. Put on a baking tray and toast under the grill until lightly toasted and golden around the edges. Turn over the slices and repeat.
Take the tray from under the grill and turn the grill off. Drizzle the slices well with the olive oil. place a piece of chocolate into the middle of each slice and return to the oven until the chocolate is molten.Sprinkle each crostini with Lemon flor de sal and orange zest.

Two warnings
1. wait until the crostini cools a little, or the chocolate,hot as molten lava,will burn your tongue.
2. you may well have become addicted.

The quantities of the chocolate and olive oil and salt are an approximation.This is a spontaneous urge to satisfy a craving, so exactness should not be a worry.

"Where would we be without salt" James Beard

Saturday, 3 December 2011

`Twas three weeks before Christmas....

......and people all around are wondering what to get their foodie friend this Christmas
what would you like to receive.....? here is Casa Rosada´s sometimes tongue in cheek selection of 12 last minute gift ideas from Portugal and Spain for foodie peeps in your life.

For the rich list
Thermomix also called "the Bimby"

The present for the cook with more money than sense

who wants to kill real cooking and hand it over to a robot.
The ultimate present for the supergirl who has everything.
prices from around €1,500

Noe Pedro Ximenez  Muy viejo
For the Oenophile in your life

Nectar of the gods from Gonzalez Byass
Prices vary but average around €55

When Its the thought that counts.....
Croft Pink
Give someone their very own pink Christmas moment.
a refreshing alternative on this years seasonal cocktail trolley. 
Serve with a dash of tonic and ice
Risca grande 
Portugal´s only award winning organic Extra Virgin Olive oil
Try drizzling it over a chocolate crostini, toss it on that seasonal side salad or just dunk some bread in it

Bordallo Pinheiro coffee cup and saucer 
from Laranja range   
Bring another dimension to someone´s table with these gorgeous breakfast cups.
Coffee will never taste the same again.
Cup  €17.00 Saucer €15.00 A Vida Portuguesa, Lisboa
Nicola Gourmet Coffee 1kg bag €10.36,Continente

Quinta do encontro bruto 2006
The perfect choice for some Christmas bubbly
Average price €6.50


Salmarim Cork tea caddy of flor de sal   
Bring two Portuguese heirlooms, cork and salt to someone this Christmas. This beautiful caddy brimmeth over with "Probably the best Flor de sal in the world" 
Cork container €17.50   cardboard pack €6.95

Stocking Fillers

Alvear Pedro Ximenez Sherry vinegar
A dry sherry-like vinegar made of a product that is a step above the base used for other sherry vinegars.Sherry vinegar is our favorite kind of wine vinegar - tart and mellow, not too acidic but perfectly balanced for most any use.  And having both sweet and dry to choose from...well, that's icing on the cake.  Average €17 -online price

Saloio olive - 500ml can 
The "robust" olive oil of Portugal. The Portuguese do not, as is done elsewhere, rush the olives from tree to press. Their December harvests are merry and casual affairs, festas with friends and neighbors gathering in the orchards to beat the branches with sticks and rain the olives down upon the ground, where they are left to age for two to ten days. This intensifies the olive flavor, as does running the pressed oil off into hot water, producing a more delicate oil. 
€6.50 from range A Vida Portuguesa.Lisboa

Elvas plums in syrup     
These are the original sugar plums after which The Nutcracker's sweet fairy was named. They are, in fact, greengages, grown by nuns  in the Elvas region of Alentejo Average price around €5


Turron de guirlache
Casa Rosada´s favourite is the brittle Turrón de guirlache.It is now a regional speciality of Aragon,  Catalonia and Valencia.If you have not had time to make your own gift this is as good as  home- made.€1.99

O cozinheiro´s best online buy
'A bendy, silicone, heat-resistant spatula – not the most romantic gift but neither is five euros. And if any of your guests needs a post-pudding spanking, you’re sorted.'

Happy Hunting!!!