Monday, 31 January 2011

Bitter Sweet

The first act sees me up a ladder picking my fruit
Bitter Sweet,originally an operetta in three acts. I have dedicated my annual revival, inspired by the bitter orange from Seville,to the maestro himself, Noel Coward.
To prepare for the new production I am required to scale a ladder and pick some fruit.

Act 1    Seville orange curd
Act 2    Seville Orange marmalade
Act 3    Seville orange chutney

My fruit is ready for the preserving pan


Seville orange curd
(coalho de laranja sevillana)
This is a favourite of guests at the Casa Rosada breakfast table. 
I serve it cut through my home made yoghurt alongside 
fresh fruits and crunchy nut cereal.

Grated zest of 2 Seville oranges
1/cup of squeezed bitter orange juice, strained ( about 3 oranges)
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large free range eggs plus 1 egg yolk
250g (8oz9 unsalted butter

Put the sugar in a medium bowl and grate the orange zest into it.
Rub the zest into the sugar vigorously with your fingers.
Strain the orange juice into a medium sized pan
Add the eggs, extra egg yolk, butter and zested sugar mix.
Set a pan over a medium to low flame and cook, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. The temperature is crucial and you must not let the mixture boil.Be sure to keep whisking all over the pan especially around the edges.At the first sign of of a boil, remove from the heat and keep whisking. Pour into a sterilised jar and put in the fridge to set and chill.Pour immediately into warm, *sterilised jars and seal. Use within three or four weeks, and keep in the fridge once opened.

Seville orange marmalade
( geleia de laranja com sementes de coentros )
An invigorating and popular way to start the day at Casa Rosada, its combination of sweet and tart kick-starting the tastebuds and lifting the mood over the Portuguese morning papers.
The Portuguese word for quince, marmelo, gave its name to marmelada, a thick, sweet quince paste. In England, "marmalades" were made from all kinds of fruit, from pears to plums and gooseberries. By the 18th century, softer orange marmalades were being made in Scotland's private houses, and this led in turn to its latter day incarnation. Rather than serving it as a sweet ending to a meal, they served it at breakfast as a conserve.

1kilo (2lb) Seville oranges
2 lemons
2 litres (3.5pints) water
1.5 kg (3lb) preserving / granulated sugar
3 tablespoons coriander seeds crushed
75ml whisky (optional)

Cut all the citrus fruit in half, remove and reserve all the pips. Slice the fruit thinly. tie all the pips in a piece of muslin. Put the fruit and muslin bag in a large glass bowl with the water. Cover and leave overnight.
The next day transfer the citrus fruit and water to a preserving pan. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour, or until the orange rind is soft and the mixture has reduced by half.
Add the sugar to the pan. Slowly return the pan to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Skim well then stir in the crushed coriander seeds.Boil the mixture rapidly for 15 minutes, or until setting point.Remove the pan from the heat and leave to settle for a few minutes. Stir in the whisky if using. Ladle into hot *sterilised jars and seal.

Cooking time: 1.5 - 2 hours     Makes: 2kg    Shelf life: 2 years

Ruth Watson´s Seville orange chutney
(conserva picante de laranja sevillana)
This is delicious with fish. Two rotten jobs to start, then the rest is a doddle.
3 Seville oranges
2 small red onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 large cooking apples, peeled cored and roughly chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1heaped teaspoon white mustard seeds
Thumb sized knob of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
50ml balsamic vinegar
100ml red wine vinegar
225g (6oz )white sugar

First remove the zest from the oranges (a knife may be more useful than a zester to tackle the bumpy Seville skins ).Chop roughly and put into a fairly large mixing bowl. Quarter the oranges and remove (discard) the 10 zillion pips. With a small sharp knife, carefully tease the pip-free segments from the pith, trying to retain as much juice as possible.( I found the best way was to do this over a sieve sitting on a mixing bowl). Put these messy looking segments into the bowl with the rind and roughly tear them apart. now add the onion, apple, lemon juice, mustard seeds, ginger and some salt. Mix everything together thoroughly.
Put a large saucepan on a medium heat, pour in the vinegars and stir in the sugar. bring the contents gently to the boil, stirring at the beginning until the sugar has dissolved.Tip in the orange mixture and stir again.Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the oranges gently for about 90 minutes. uncovered. The oranges should have reduced to a thick, shiny marmalade coloured gloop. Remove the pan from the heat, leave the chutney to cool for 15 minutes, then pour it very carefully( it will be very hot) into *sterilised jars. seal immediately. 
Try to resist using the chutney for at least 3 days while it matures.
It will stay fine for months.

*Sterilised jars- Before putting foods into jars to be sealed and stored, the jars need to be sterilised. Sterilise the jars by by thoroughly washing in hot water. Let them dry naturally. Do not dry them with a tea towel. Place the jars on a baking tray in a preheated oven 100C (200F) for thirty minutes. Remove the jars from the oven, allow to cool, then fill as the recipe requires and seal.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Flippin egg!!- o pequeno almoço em chavena

Eça de Queiroz ( one of Portugal´s most celebrated writers) must have been fond of eggs cooked with that smoked sausage so loved by the Portuguese, Chouriço. In several of his bestsellers he mentions this popular dish as a delight of his heroes. `Gonçalo started off by having a plateful of eggs with chouriço....´in The remarkable House of Ramires. In The Capital this combination crops up again `Rabeca ordered Marquitas... to prepare a lovely fry-up of eggs and chouriço....´And in The City and the mountains: `Jacinto had dined on eggs and chouriço. really sublime.´Call it what you will, cappucino of baked eggs, total breakfast in a cup, the reality is a twist of oeufs en cocotte. I occasionally get a request from guests who want some eggs with their breakfast. I usually give them a soft boiled egg and toast, but I have decided to expand this option and offer them a cooked breakfast in a cup. My basic is a knob of butter slivers of bacon, cream, parmesan or cheddar cheese and two free range eggs baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes. The options are endless, with the possible addition of sausage, chouriço, mushrooms, spinach, eggs florentine.

Ovos com Chouriço
2 eggs beaten, per person
5cm (2in) chouriço, per person
oil(or butter) for frying
The dish is a rich tasting but very simple omelette.
Make sure you buy chouriço that is the `eating raw´ kind.

Put the fat in the frying pan and add the chouriço, finely sliced and skinned. fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the beaten eggs and combine the lot. Make the omelette flat, turning it carefully with a spatula, or fold it, according to your preference

O meu pequeno amoço em chavena
serves 4
25g unsalted butter
75g cheddar or parmesan (optional)
8 eggs
80g button mushrooms ( or ceps, if you want extravagance)
roughly chopped and fried in butter or oil
150g bacon, slightly fried and broken into slivers
1 handful of parsley(optional)
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons double cream
Pre-heat the oven to 200C /400F/gas mark6
Butter the inside of four cappucino cups, mugs or large ramekins and sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
layer the other ingredients as follows: mushroom, bacon, parsley, if using, cream and finally crack two eggs per portion on top. place the cups in a bain marie, cover loosely with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes- they´re done when the egg whites are set.For a slight golden glaze, finish under a hot grill for a moment

Friday, 28 January 2011

Citrus hit- like a right lemon

Bottled lemons not to be confused with preserved lemons
Back in October 2010 I posted the first of what was intended to be several posts under the label "The Moroccan Kitchen." Well I´ve taken my time, being sidetracked along the way, but here is the second instalment - Preserved lemons. The Casa Rosada lemon tree has been less than fruitful these past few months. It has now come into its own and providing me with all the lemons the kitchen needs. Today I´ve busied myself bottlin booty. I started with bottled lemons, a way of infusing oil with a lovely taste and aroma.After two months you can remove the lemons, dice them and add to salads,soups or stews.Select smaller lemons, as they will be easier to fit into jars.Wash and dry the lemons.Put the lemons into jars and fill with enough olive oil to cover them completely. Keep them submerged the whole time they are `pickling.´Leave them for two months before using.
TROUBLESHOOTER: Watch out for bubbles that sometimes form when lemons have been in oil for a week or so- this is just the air coming out as they start the `pickling ´process. If this happens you must let the air out every day or two to avoid the fizzing that may occur when you do eventually get around to opening them.Store the jars in a cool place and only use the best unblemished lemons.

Preserved Lemons
8 unwaxed lemons
50-75g (2-3oz) 
coarse sea salt
2 bay leaves optional

Sterilize a 1litre (13/4 pint) jar and allow to cool, covered with a clean tea towel. when you are ready to go, sprinkle a heaped tablespoonful of the salt over the base of the jar.

Take a lemon and with a sharp knife, make two cuts through the lemon at right angles,keeping the lemon intact. Start from the stem end and finish about 1 cm (1/2in)short of the other end.Open the fruit out a little and sprinkle the insides with a generous helping of salt, then re-shape the lemon. Pack it down firmly in the preserving jar. Sprinkle with more salt.

Repeat with another four lemons, pressing each one down firmly, so that they all squish into the jar, releasing some of their juice under the pressure of your hand.

Now add the juice of the remaining 3 lemons, and enough water to cover the semi-quartered salted lemons completely. If you are using the bay leaves tuck them down the sides of the jar. Now cut two lengths of strong wooden skewer slightly longer than the diameter of the opening of the jar.Using patience, and a little brute force( but not too much or you will snap the wood9, push them down under the rim of the jar, at right angles to each other, so that they force the lemons to remain submerged in the lemon juice and water.Seal the jar tightly and leave for 1 month before using.

When you need a lemon for a recipe, remove it from the lemon brine with a wooden spoon( not a metal one, which would discolour and taint the remaining lemons).Separate the quarters, cut away the the inner pulp and discard.Cut the peel into strips, or as described in the recipe. The brine is excellent too in salad dressings or marinades, particularly for fish.

Next month, when my lemons are ready, I will post a recipe for the most renowned Moroccan dish containing preserved lemons, Djej Makali ( Tagine of chicken, preserved lemons and olives).By this time I will have returned from my up and coming trip to London with a tagine, or two under my arm.I have travelled the length and breadth of Portugal, and can I find a decent tagine shop, can I heck.The Moroccan influence in Casa Rosada will then be all set to kick in.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tudo acaba em pizza

Pizza Biqueirao, A river cafe receita transformed
Today, we’re going to learn a handy phrase: tudo acaba em pizza.
A rough English equivalent would be “All’s well that ends well,” though it means that no matter how good or how bad something may turn out, everything works out in the end and goes back to the way things were. Keep in mind that this may not mean that everything works out for everyone involved, but means that things end up back to normal.
This expression has a very interesting history. Initially, the expression was tudo acaba em samba. But that changed in the 1960s. There was a political dispute in the city of Palmeiras, and the journalist who covered the scandal went to Palmeiras to try to make peace and work things out. Both sides wound up conciliating at a pizza restaurant and making peace over pizza. Thus emerged the new expression, which was first used to refer to political scandals and accusations, but is now used for any circumstance. 
Although associated with Italy, pizza has a big following in Portugal.There´s something about pizza that lifts the spirit, and this is exactly what is needed after the excess of the holiday season.Stop harbouring base thoughts, work your fingers into a ball of silken dough, get kneading and you are on the way to a crusty creation. In less than 10 minutes you have knocked up a pizza dough, as soft as a baby´s bottom. Simplicity itself.Now for the the topping.I have several favourites, including variations on the tomato sauce for the base. My pizza toppings always include some good old Portuguese tastes combined with a splash of Spain, an inkling of Italy, a dash of whopping good dough, a sprinkling of our own herb garden and to top it off, just the right amount of an appropriate  aromatised Flor de sal.All in all My Portugal personified or if you prefer try Pizza à Portuguesa.

A slightly top heavy Pizza à Portuguesa

Pizza biqueirao com alecrim (top picture)
an idea inspired by Ruth and Rose, River Cafe

500g plain, strong flour
1 sachet of dried yeast
10g salt
350ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil 
In a bowl, mix together the flour,yeast, salt and water to form a sticky dough. Mix in the oil. turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and silky ( 7-8 minutes )When the dough feels elastic, shape into a ball, put back in the bowl and leave to rise in a warm palce covered with a clean cloth, until doubled in size ( 1-2 hours).Pre-heat the oven and pizza stone or substitute to as high as it will go. Roll out dough into 2 x 5mm thick rounds or alternatively freeze 1/2 the dough for a later date.
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g(2oz) butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1tin anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons frsh rosemary, finely chopped
1x800g ( 1.755g ) tin peeled tomatoes
150ml (5 fl oz) double cream
120g (4.5oz) parmesan freshly grated
Melt the oil and butter together in a large pan, and fry the garlic gently until light brown. add the anchovies and rosemary and then mash them into the oil, almost to a paste. the anchovies do not need to cook, they just melt; this only takes a few seconds.
Add the tomatoes to the paste and stir to break them up.Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have become a sauce, about 30-45 minutes. Finally add the cream and bring to the boil stirring, then add the Parmesan.Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, top with extra anchovy, black olives capers and fresh torn rocket leaves or wild rocket.

and for the Portuguese incarnation try this.......
David Leites Pizza à Portuguesa /Portuguese Pizza

Join the nouvel upper crust and get kneading now. It´s a doddle.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Looking for a safe, nutritious way to take the edge off your appetite? Half an hour before meals, stop, press some fresh orange juice and drink a glass. On a recent study in the U.S. thirty minutes after they drank a variety of different beverages,volunteers were told to eat until they were full. Those  who had drunk fruit juice ate less fat and 20 to 30% fewer calories overall. The result of this study shows that Fructose, the sugar contained in fruit, works as a natural appetite suppressant.I have adopted this as a routine. Try it.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Sunday Tubby Sunday with coincidental yoghurt

Chicken with cumin cardamom, yoghurt and black pepper
Sunday morning and I feel sluggish, after a night out with friends at a local hostelry renowned for the quality of its meat and the skill and panache of Ze its chef owner. It is grey and drizzly outside and the temperature has dropped again. Its going to be 7º and it doesn´t feel far off that at the moment. The windchill factor isn´t helping with a cold North easterly wind blowing at 37km/h.I need some food that will warm the inner soul.I have read the Observer online and now I am going to tackle the Portuguese stack of newspaper sections and magazines in the form of the Expresso.This is one way I I have found of getting to grips with the Portuguese language. I latch onto news items or lifestyle pieces that I am familiar with and then with the dictionary as back up, my Portuguese moves a little further forward. Watching the televison news in Portuguese is another great way to learn, and also watching movies in their original language but following the Portuguese sub-titles.Oh well I think its a day for curling up by the fire with the papers,and being mindful of my own middle page spread.
I noticed Nigel Slater has written in the Observer a similar spiced yoghurt recipe for pork fillets. Our two recipes follow the same principal, and draw their influences from the Indian subcontinent. Mine is of Goan origin, with a couple of my own alterations to the original.

Frango Elaichi Jirey Mirey malai masala
This is a Goan Speciality and a real tongue tingler. Jirey means cumin, Mirey means black peppercorns and Elaichi is Caradamom. Malai means cream and this is exactly how the meat turns out too, rich and creamy.This is so easy, and all the better for being prepared in advance.You won´t be pushed busywise until the last minute activity which involves nothing more than putting the dish in the oven and chopping the garnish and herbs for the rice. A real winner on the healthy eating front.This kind of dish is really going to help me with my fitness programme.

4 large,free range chicken breasts
250ml home made or good quality Bio yoghurt

For the masala
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 heaped teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons flor de sal
thumb-sized piece of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
a cinnamon stick
large bunch of coriander and mint leaves
Put the whole peppercorns,the cardamom cuminand coriander seeds in apestle and mortar and grind them to a fine powder. The true goan tradition would have specified roasting the spices first, but I have taken a short cut at no expense to the finished dish.Put the water into a food processor, then add the salt, the peeled and choppped ginger, peeled garlic, the cayenne, vinegar and finally the ground spices. Blitz to a smoothish paste.
Put the yoghurt in a bowl large enough to take the chicken breasts and stir in the spice paste. Add the chicken breasts and make sure the masala covers it completely. Break the cinnamon stick in half and and add it to the masala. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinade for a minimum of 2 hours, but ideally overnight.Set the oven to 220C / gas mark 9. Transfer the chicken and masala to a shallow oven proof dish. Bake for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the yoghurt has a golden dark brown crust. Scatter with
leaves and mix the rest of the leaves into an accompanying rice dish.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Waist disposal....

The starting point- an overweight fat git - Ohhhhh cozinheiro!!!!! 
...Who you gonna call - fat busters
When you look at yourself naked in the mirror and what looks back at you is an image not far removed from the famous 1991 Vanity Fair cover of a naked and pregnant Demi Moore, It´s time to start looking at your lifsetyle.I am overcome by the fear of fat and I don´t even have the privilege of being pregnant.The excesses of Christmas bingeing have taken their toll on my figure.I have to act fast on changing my diet and starting a vigorous exercise programme.
First and foremost a little knowledge, patience and some commonsense needs to be applied to my regime.The bad news is my belly´s looking more like like a large laundry bag than a washboard, and I need to lose enough girth to get into those favourite Ted Baker Chinos again.I have to burn off excess middle body fat.No diet known to man will blast fat off a particular body part. A million sit-ups and crunches are not going to give me abs like giant raviolis, if the rest of my body looks like a stuffed canneloni. - Aerobic exercise is the answer, not something I´ve ever been very good at. The good news is, its possible.All it takes is some time, discipline, of which I have very little, hard work, not bad on that front and, most importantly an entirely new approach to eating.I have created a regime for myself which involves an aerobic exercise routine, 5 days a week.My plan is to target the `Pot´ belly- the most noticeable sign of someone´s lack of fitness.Many are proud of it; saying it took many years of of over indulgence to get it that way. A minority these days!!! The health of the body is related to the healthy functioning of the digestive system and its efficiency. Maintaining a correct weight matched to your height is also essential.Flat and trim abdominals give an athletic appearance and a certain sporty look. It´s also nice to know that you can again fit into last year´s trousers or skirt.To get rid of the `pot´ belly I am going to concentrate on what goes into my my stock `pot.´I am planning some nutritious healthy option meals for the next couple of months that hopefully will help with fat loss and at the same time compliment the exercise programme that I intend to put myself through.I will be charting my progress through the blog and will be posting exercise regimes with accompanying recipes for everbody to share. 
I will of course report all hiccups along the line and confess to any unnecessary indulgences.......No more Demi Moore. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

Flab-freeze diet

How to cut off cold weather cooped up hunger cravings.
Life's not fair, is it? Some of us drink champagne in the fast lane, and some of us eat our sandwiches by the loose chippings on the A597.Some of us flab out while others get away flab free.
How do you make up for the wintertime slowdown of fibre-filling fruits and vegetables in your diet? Develop a winter salad habit like this one I´ve created. An all star superfood salad of fibre-rich puy lentils, onions, nuts,cured meats and high nutrient baby spinach.You´ll be strong to the "finich" cause you eats all your spinach!!!
In the winter months temperatures dip, daytime light hours change and our eating "clocks" switch automatically to heartier meals. Its not surprising that the chilly months come with all sorts of built-in hunger turn-ons that you don´t find in the summer. This explains why diet loyalties slip in the  winter stretch. We could argue that our bodies need an extra layer of thermal padding to withstand the cold, and I am not talking Damart thermolactyls here. We don´t want this extra layer to turn into layers of permanent fat that we can find difficult to get rid of. We have to be careful that the more susceptible we are to winter´s tradition steeped hunger triggers, the higher the odds are in Spring flab´s favour.Getting your brain in touch with the things that flick on your appetite switch is half the battle. For example, cooped up winter nights tend to encourage lingering around the dinner table socially.This is inviting fat trouble. Keep food platters off the table and while away the evening toying with a grape or clementine segment - I don´t think so, but we know it makes sense.That old devil called temptation is always the uninvited guest at that table,and you have to better his conversation.The winter signals to me a powerful desire to bake.I have to temper this craving for cake and cookies.I have taught myself to sacrifice that slather of butter with that lovely artesan portuguese bread, and replaced it with a slither of cheese and a glass of juice. You don´t need butter with cheese.The idea is not to deny yourself these pleasures, but to work with the cues that are affecting your desire to eat.Night time temperatures have taken a sudden dip in the Algarve at the moment so this nourishing warm winter salad will help us make it through, and avoid us having to put our hands in our muffs.

A Warm salad of puy lentils, nuts, spinach, bacon and linguica
with a red chilli coriander and garlic cream dressing
serves 2
120g puy lentils
2 small red onions, cut into six pieces
2 heads of garlic
2 large tomatoes, sliced in half
2 Portuguese linguica sausages, finely sliced
150 g bacon in small thin slices
3 handfuls of baby spinach
2 spring onions
a handful of shelled pistachios and toasted almonds

roasted garlic cloves as above
juice of 1 lemon
a handful of coriander leaves
1 medium red chilli
extra virgin olive oil

Put the onions, garlic and tomatoes on a baking tray with a generous libation of extra virgin olive oil.Bake at 180C /gas 4 for 1 hour. The garlic must be soft enough to squash between your fingers and the onions should be starting to show sign of sticky caramelization.When the garlic cloves are cool enough put them in the blender. Pour in the lemon juice, a red chilli chopped and deseeded, olive oil and coriander leaves.Blitz until you have a bright dressing the consistency of double cream. Put the lentils in a pan and add just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. The lentils should be cooked but still have a little bite to them.Drain and keep warm.In a roasting tray warm through the nuts in the oven.Gently fry the bacon until crispy, add the linguica and cook until the juices start running, Throw in the spring onion followed by the spinach and cook until the spinach starts to wilt. At this point toss in the lentils  and stir to mix.Serve immediately in two bowls and arrange the roasted onions warmed nuts and tomatoes on top. Pour over the dressing.
Substitute Feta cheese for the bacon and sausage, but do not cook it add it in at the final stage.If you prefer you can substiute different nuts for a slightly different flavour. hazelnuts and walnuts would work equally well.For those with nut allergies omit the nuts.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

‘Oh, we must have a quiche! Such fun!’

The new quiche combo, Paio,eggs, bacon,peas and herbs
Don´t be embarrassed,Quiche Lorraine is back in fashion. The culinary answer to Brentford Nylons, the poplin shirt accesorized with a Tootal tie, 70´s fashion at its lowest.A reminder of the age when eyes were popping out and lips were receeding, and so forget Lorraine and enter paio, its time to re-invent Quiche.Retro dining is back but with fresh and unexpected new ingredients.
Eça de Queiroz(hailed as  one of the best Portuguese writers of all time)was partial to the combination of eggs cooked with Paio (smoked sausage).
`What a nuisance! I arrived from Paris with this voracious appetite and forgot to ask for a big platter of peas and paio for dinner!´ Eça de Queiroz,The Maias (Os Maias)
I am putting myself through a crash course in Portuguese literature at the moment and am currently working my way through some of the novels of Queiroz.Expect a lot of quotes over the coming months as these books are full of characters who enjoy their food.-Such fun!
The two core ingredients of Quiche Lorraine are obviously smoked meat and eggs, whatever happens after that is up to the individual and whether it remains quiche or becomes bacon and egg pie or sausage and egg flan.Veggies put their mark on quiche by removing the meat entirely.Can I have a pea please Bob?

Quiche com Ervilhas e paio
Quiche with smoked sausage and peas 

250g /8oz home made or pre- prepared low fat short crust pastry  
( masa quebrada sem gorduras)
6 eggs
1cup(8fl oz) milk
175g (6oz) good quality paio, Smoked sausage of the alentejan black pig,
skin removed and chopped
(chopped cooked smoked ham or bacon can be substituted)
1/3 cup grated queijo sao Jorge, queijo da ilha 
( matured cheddar can be substituted )
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped thyme or parsley
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
cracked black pepper
Enough thin slices of bacon,rind removed, to cover the top of the quiche

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to 3mm (1/8in) thick. Place the pastry in a 25cm (10in) quiche pan or pie dish and trim the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork. and line with non-stick baking parchment. Fill the shell with baking weights or beans and and bake at 180C (350F) for 5 minutes. Remove weights and paper and cook for a further 5 minutes.(this process keeps the pastry crisp when adding wet ingredients to the shell).Place the eggs and milk in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the paio, cheese, chives, thyme, mustard and pepper. Mix to combine.Pour the mixture into the pastry shell, top with the rindless bacon rashers and bake at 160C (315F) for 35-45 minutes or until the pie is set. Serve in hot or cold edges with a cherry tomato and new potato salad.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Of rice and men

Healthy option kicked in last night. The men of Casa Rosada chose Risotto for dinner.The thespian cooks up a mean risotto and none better than my favourite, his butternut squash.Pumpkin is eaten all the year round in Portugal,as is aboborinha ( butternut squash). 

The Portuguese have never adopted risotto as such, but they have many risotto- esque dishes such as seafood rice.The closest Portuguese equivalent to risotto that I have found is Pato com arroz (Duck with rice) in which the duck is cooked in water and then the resulting stock is drained off to cook the rice. Halfway through the cooking, the rice is transferred to an ovenproof dish and with the addition of butter is finished in the oven. The pre-cooked duck is then shredded and added to the rice.The dish is then returned to the oven.A combination of traditional and oven cooked risotto.If cooked properly this dish is delicious..
`Refogado´ is to the Portuguese what `Soffrito´ is to the Italians. Onions are fried together with olive oil, or some other fat, over a very low flame until they are soft and translucent - and this is the basic procedure for countless dishes. This mixture with the addition of garlic and tomato, as well as parsley makes up the mixture for `refogar´- the frying process.A soffrito is the classic Italian base for risotto,but to make a Portuguese risotto I prepare a refogado. The flavour  can be altered by adding different types of onion or herbs. For soup bases I use finely chopped coriander stalks, or for a sweeter flavour,. parsley stalks, carrots and celery. The flavours are gently coaxed from the vegetables allowing them to blend and form a base for whatever dish you are preparing.

 The Thespian´s butternut squash risotto
( serves 2 )

3 large shallots peeled and  finely chopped
2 garlic cloves grated with a microplane
75g / 3oz unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
250g /  8oz of butternut squash,peeled de seeded and diced
175g /6 oz Arborio Rice
750 ml (1.5 pints) home made vegetable stock or Marigold Bouillon
6 sage leaves finely chopped
small handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons grated parmesan 
Fry the garlic in the butter and oil until coloured. add the shallot and squash, and cook gently so that the latter softens,add the rice and sage and stir to coat in the squash mixture. Add ladlefuls of stock one at a time, stirring continuously until it is all used up and the rice is creamy. This should take 18-20 minutes.Stir in some salt and pepper, the parsley 2 tablespoons of butter and Parmesan.

FOR A RICH FINISH- add a tablespoon of mascarpone at the final stage.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Back to my roots

Even though I am now resident in Portugal, I often hark back to my roots and a trip down nostalgia lane. Recently while researching a new batch of recipes, I unearthed some old classics that brought back fond memories of my mother. A cook not  known for her lack of restraint when it came to recipes with double cream, butter and cheese.The recipes in question co-incidentally involved parsnips, somewhat of an expat craving here in the Algarve, but nevertheless not impossible to source.My first recipe is "Parsnips Molly Parkin,"I used to cook this dish in my student days from a recipe in the Readers Digest Cookery Year. This book, a culinary bible of its time, was given to me by my mother as a parting gift when I went to college. Her thinking was to encourage me to look after my appetite while away from home.I hope I am not the only person who fondly remembers Parsnips Molly Parkin. The recipe sounds somewhat unlikely, as it involves layering browned parsnips and tomatoes with brown sugar and cream, and baking it slowly till the sliced roots have softened and the cream is a rich, sweet sauce A dish invented for the writer and broadcaster, Parkin hated parsnips but combining their sweetness with acidic tomatoes, grated gruyere, cream, and finished with a breadcrumb topping, made it acceptable. If we are talking healthy new year eating resolutions this recipe has to be re-defined, so out with the cream, and replace it with creme fraiche, reduce the quantity of butter, substitute Emmenthal for the Gruyere, and the sugar can be ditched as the parsnips should have their own certain sweetness. Forget the breadcrumb topping. So we now have a variation on an old British classic that has almost been forgotten and we have a dish less in fat,with more natural flavour and less calorific.

How to bake a "Thoroughly modern Molly"
2 large parsnips
2 large beef tomatoes
1oz butter
2 tablespoons of mild olive oil
80 ml creme fraiche
salt and pepper
Emmenthal cheese
  • Peel, top and tail the parsnips, discard peelings.
  • With a peeler take fine strips of the parsnips until you reach the woody core.
  • Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan and fry the fine strips on parsnip until it almost turns to mush.
  • Slice the tomatoes into thin slices.
  • Parsnip layer: Place a third of the parsnips in an ovenproof dish.
  • Season: Sprinkle with a little salt, and a good amount of pepper.
  • If the parsnips are sweet (generally in the depths of winter after the first frosts) omit the sugar
  • Creme fraiche: pour over a third of the creme fraiche
  • Tomatoes: layer a third of the tomatoes on top.
  • Make a second and third layer of parsnip, seasoning, creme fraiche and tomatoes ending with tomatoes on top.
  • grate some emmenthal on top.
Bake for 30 to 40 mins at a medium heat (if using a high bake for less and let rest for 10 mins it stays super hot for a while).
My second recipe is my mother´s own recipe for curried parsnip soup.Here is a a page from my foodie scrapbook with the recipe in her own handwriting.What a fantastic heirloom, and a reminder of childhood times back home in blighty.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Culture shock

Top of the morning
Today I found myself sitting at the computer going back to my former vocation as a graphic designer.
Father Christmas brought me a new gadget to add to my batterie de cuisine. Alongside my "Brenda"(blender, more on that story later, Kirsty) I now have a "Barbarella". I never thought I would see the day that I would be making high quality home made yoghurt, but lets never look a gift horse in the mouth, and this Ariete Yogurella is going to change the face of the coming season´s breakfast table here at Casa Rosada. What our guests will be served will be a 100% home made yoghurt started from a top quality algarvian live bulgaric lactobacillus."Oooohhh I say said Mrs Sykes." We have called the Yoghurt `Bom Dia´(Good Morning)and we will be offering home made toppings of Seville orange curd, lemon curd, blueberry puree, strawberry, apple puree, quince puree, and others , all subject to seasonal availability.We endeavour to add a personal touch to most things and by adding our own label to the yoghurt we hope  it will make breakfast that little bit more special.So here is a sneak preview of the new breakfast time culture- Bom Dia!!!!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Maças assadas- Portuguese baked apples

Eça de Queiroz generally considered to be Portugal´s greatest writer in the realist style, ranking alongside Dickens, penned  many food related references in his works. His characters certainly seemed to enjoy their food, not the least baked apples. Baked Apples are a common pudding offered both in Portuguese homes and family run restaurants. The apples used are maça Reinetas ( large russets ). They are very fleshy and extremely good for the job. I suspect English Coxs would work equally well.In The Sin of Father Amaro Eça de Queiroz refers to baked apples: "Marvellous!"said the canon, as Senhora Janeira brought a large platter of baked apples to the table. "I´ll have some of those. I never refuse anything as delectable as baked apples!"

4 large russet apples ( or English Coxs)
4  tablespoons golden granulated sugar
butter for greasing the apples

Wash the apples but do not core or peel them( the pips actually impart a good flavour ). Place them in a buttered baking tin. Rub the apples with buttered paper. Sprinkle them with the sugar. bake at 180C /350F /Gas 4 for 35-40 minutes or until tender and brown.
A Double Twist
1.Sprinkle the apples with 4 teaspoons of port, after brushing with the butter. sprinkle with sugar and bake as above.
2. Mix cinnamon or ground cloves in with the sugar

Friday, 14 January 2011

Rabanadas-tipsy slices

Rabanadas (pronounced ha-ba-nadas) are part of the Portuguese Christmas tradition.Not dissimilar to French toast, and made in exactly the same way,I don´t see why they should be reserved exclusively for Christmas, they´re a great perk-you-up on any cold wet winter morning for a cosy continental breakfast.Much like the French name, pain perdu (lost bread), the rabanada is usually made from bread that is about to go stale, thus the reason for soaking it in something such as milk to soften it up again. If you don´t have Portuguese bread, use a country style bread, ciabatta or baguette. The secret is it must be a tight crumbed bread that will stand up to the soaking and not fall apart.
They are normally served with cinnamon and  topped with a sugar syrup or honey. In the old days, the dessert was known as rabanada only in northern Portugal, while towards the south it was referred to as the patia-dourada (golden slice).In the Minho,Portugal´s most traditional region,where donkey and cart have still not given way to Toyota pick-up truck they use red or white wine in the soaking stage. In my version the alcohol element is incorporated into the syrup for topping the cooked rabanada.
Any port in the sauce?- Yes

1 large Egg
A few drops of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons caster sugar
125ml(4fl oz) 1/2 cup milk
125ml(4fl oz) 1/2 cup cream
2 x 8cm (3in)pieces of yesterdays bread, without crusts

1 small cinnamon stick
1 strip orange rind in one piece
1 strip lemon rind in one piece
2 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons port

2 tablespoons butter for frying
ground cinnamon for dusting

Whisk the egg, vanilla,sugar, milk and cream in a flat dish. add the bread, spoon the liquid over it, and leave to soak for an hour. Meanwhile make the syrup. Put the cinnamon, citrus rinds, sugar and 185 ml (6fl oz 3/4 cup )of water in a small pan, stir to dissolve the sugar and then bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes, then add the port. Keep boiling until syrup like. Remove from the heat.
Heat the butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Remove the bread from the milky egg mixture and fry until the underside is golden. Turn over and cook until firm and golden with a slight crust.Serve immediately with some of the syrup dribbled over it and a sprinkling of cinnamon powder.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A simple twist of taste

A new addition to the Casa Rosada breakfast table
I drew inspiration for this recipe from a bit of history, a tad tradition and a national treasure. The tart is based on the old tradition of using quinces to make a thick and delicious sweet paste - something that was exported from Portugal in the late middle ages and the forerunner of breakfast marmalade.The national treasure being the Pasteis de nata or Portuguese custard tart. Many tarts and pies at this time involved the pre-cooking of the fruit in a sweet syrup, reducing down to a thickish paste and then being topped with a cream custard before baking. I was lucky enough to have over produced   quince marmelada at Christmas so only had to resort to the store cupboard, but to make the paste from scratch is a bit more of a faff. Once the quince business has been taken care of this is a very easy tart to make, and fuses together a genuine taste of old England and latter day Portugal.Pasteis de nata vs.quince reduction - lets turn the oven on and get started.

Quince Custard tart

makes 18 tarts
150g (5oz) quince paste 
1/2 cup ( 5 fl oz )
Melt the quince paste with the orange juice in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir well until completely combined, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

500g Massa folhada (puff pastry)
140g single cream
4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
A dash of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 230C /450 gas 8
In a saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar till thick. Beat in the cream gradually and carefully heat, stirring till the mixture thickens to a custard. Be careful not to overheat or it will curdle. Remove at once and cool completely. Roll out the pastry to make 2  22cm x 18cm (10x 8in) oblongs and roll each one into a swiss roll shape.Cut into slices 2 cm thick. This is a clever technique, because instead of expanding upwards the puff pastry pushes outward, making a deep cup shape for each tart. Spread the rounds into into muffin pans, pressing down thoroughly with both thumbs. Scoop into each tart 1/2 teaspoon of of quince paste followed by a dessert spoon of the custard. Bake until the pastry is golden and the top is caramelised (10-15 minutes ).
I have kept the top custard very simple so that the taste of the quince can be appreciated with every mouthful.Mmmmmm - I cant wait for the next batch. These are pure heaven.
They have to be eaten on the day they are made ,so halve the quantities if you need less.
These Belem style breakfast bites don´t last long at Casa Rosada.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cereal Thriller

Hot porridge puts you on course for a round of golf
It maybe winter outside but inside my heart its Spring. What better way to start the day than with a bowl of hot porridge in front of you. With global warming giving us hotter summers and colder winters porridge is oh so the new oats cusine here in Portugal. One only has to peruse the many blog posts and food Forums to see everybody´s talking Flocas de aveia (oats) No oats so easy as doing porridge in Portugal. Here´s what some are saying.....
Still a brand leader in 2011

            Deram-me 2 saquinhos de flocos de aveia, 
            mas não sei o que fazer com eles... 
            They gave me two bags of oatmeal, 
            but do not know what to do with them    
             ... mais, nem sequer nunca provei.
            more so, I  have never even tasted.
Alguém tem uma receitinha para os aproveitar? 
 Does anyone have a recipe to make?

Fatima I eat oatmeal for breakfast every day.

Podes fazer com leite e canela deixando cozer um pouco, e depois juntar maça partida. 
 You can do with milk and cinnamon letting it cook a little, then add mace departure.

Eu pessoalmente faço o seguinte à noite deito duas colheres de sopa flocos num copo juntamente com um iogurte liquido e três colheres de amoras ou outro fruto à tua escolha e de manhã como assim mesmo porque os flocos ficam bons.

I personally do the following evening lay two tablespoons of flakes in a glass with a liquid yogurt and three spoons of blackberries or other fruit of your choice and in the morning like it anyway because the flakes are good.
The brand I use

Com o frio que está parece que me agrada mais a versão da papinha quente.... 

With the cold seems that is what I like more the version of porridge hot .... Grin

Qual a quantidade de flocos e de leite?  
How many flakes and milk?  

É mais ou menos o mesmo que a farinha Maizena? 
It is more or less the same as cornstarch?
Obrigada pela ajuda. 
Thanks for the help.
Beijinhos Kisses

I usually do often oatmeal Cheesy  

ponho leite no tacho e os flocos de aveia (a quantidade de leite é posta a cobrir os flocos de aveia... eu regulo-me melhor pondo o leite primeiro) depois ponho açucar porque sou gulosa eo meu namorado também, levo ao lume sempre a mexer até ferver e ficar grossinho ou cremoso. 

I put milk in saucepan and oatmeal (the amount of milk is placed to cover the oatmeal I adjust me ... I better put the milk first) then put sugar because I'm greedy and my boyfriend too, always take the heat stirring until it boils and Grossinho or creamy. 

Deito numa tigela e ponho canela por cima 
I lay in a bowl and put cinnamon on top Cheesy 

fica óptimo! looks great!
Há quem ponha casca de limão no leite, mas eu não. 
Some people put lemon peel in milk, but not me.

Gosto muito da ideia de os comer com iogurte e fruta, tenho de experimentar! 
I love the idea of eating them with yogurt and fruit, I must try
Salt,oats, spurtle and my childhood porridge bowl

I was brought up in Scotland, and still make my porridge following a traditional Scottish principal which means cooking it with salt and stirring it with a spurtle. I also still have the original Quimper lug bowl that my mother used to serve my porridge  to me every morning. It is so named because of the two ear shaped handles on either side. My dear mother encouraged me to eat all my porridge by telling me I would then see the picture on the bottom of the bowl.  "Keep your eyes peeled and your lug holes open" because the originals are now becoming collectors items.
A bowl of creamy, soothing porridge is the  new muesli .Once the health police told us to "Go to work on an egg." Forget the egg, the new decade sees everyone  going to work on versions of oats, water and salt.Porridge is the morning meal of the moment.
David Cameron recently claimed in the House of Commons that he "almost choked on his porridge" over some bust-up with another member (surely also an oats man,and I´m sure wikileaks knows who and which brand was to blame). If you're a recent convert, beware the porridge pedants like myself he he. Rather like driving, everyone, it seems, thinks that their way of making porridge is best. Pinhead oats or rolled? Steel cut or roasted? A dash of salt or a pinch of sugar? Purists take the austere route favoured by the Scots and myself – oatmeal, water, salt, preferably stirred in a clockwise direction with that wooden implement called the spurtle. 
Even London´s lovely Ottolenghi is serving up porridge.They serve it with roasted nuts, maple syrup and fresh blackberries for a little bit of tartness.

Some current contenders
Deluxe porridge served with cream and Drambuie-laced raspberries.
Jumbo and rolled oats in a moat of cream with crunchy dark muscovado sugar.
Heston Blumenthal's snail porridge.
Stir in blueberries or blueberry compote.
Golden syrup and cream.
Raspberry purée or jam, perhaps even marmalade.
Banana, chocolate and cinnamon.
Pomegranate and muscovado sugar.
A big dollop of pumpkin puree with nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Maple syrup and walnuts.

Quick Orange Porridge For Two
Ingredients: 80 g (3 oz) porridge oats; 300 ml (1/2 pint) cold unsweetened orange juice
Method: Mix the porridge oats and orange juice in a medium sized microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the orange is absorbed. Add more orange juice if necessary. Stir and top with fresh orange slices.

Paired with the fact that a packet of oats is very cheap to buy, it makes sense that they are flying off the shelves in these tight financial times.Cereal thrilling is back with a vengeance.