Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pears are bastards

Baby Rocha pears poached in aromatised red wine

"Pears can just f**k off too. 'Cause they're gorgeous little beasts, but they're ripe for half an hour, and you're never there. They're like a rock or they're mush. In the supermarket, people banging in nails. "I'll just put these shelves up, mate, then you can have the pear." … So you think, "I'll take them home and they'll ripen up." But you put them in the bowl at home, and they sit there, going, "No! No! Don't ripen yet, don't ripen yet. Wait till he goes out the room! Ripen! Now now now!"                     Eddie Izzard Definite Article1996

The pear is a very nutritious fruit, rich in vitamins and fibre. In Portugal, there is a variety of pear that is different from all the others, since it is the only variety that is qualified (PDO): the West Rocha Pear (Pêra Rocha do Oeste), the main horticultural product that Portugal exports.
The growing of the West Rocha Pear extends as far as the Lisbon area, from Mafra to Alcobaça. The main producers of these pears are the municipalities of Cadaval, Bombarral, Torres Vedras, Caldas da Rainha, Alcobaça, Lourinhã, Óbidos and Mafra. In Sintra, where the fruit originated, it isn’t so prominent.  
This pear's pulp is fine, soft and aromatic. It has a nutty firm skin, and does not require the same treatment that other varieties do. The Rocha Pear can be eaten fresh, cooked (in syrup or boiled) or as an ingredient in all kinds of dishes.  
Pear with chocolate and pear cooked in red wine with spices are two common and well loved desserts in Portugal.
For a more intoxicating pear treat try the famous West Rocha Pear Liquor (Licor de Pêra Rocha do Oeste).
This great dessert is always best made a day or two in advance. If the poached pears are eaten too soon, the poaching liquid will have penetrated only some of the flesh and the centre will have remained white and less flavoursome. Remember the old saying "If its not good enough to drink, don´t cook with it" so use a really good red wine. I usually use Fontanario de Pegoes, a smooth velvety red wine with a hint of spice, chocolate and vanilla.The 2007 vintage if you can beg borrow or steal a bottle was particularly fine.Adega do Monte Alentejano is a very acceptable substitute.

Baby Rocha pears poached in aromatised red wine
Serves 4
The pears look nicer left whole, although this makes them more fiddly to prepare, particularly if you opt for the baby variety that I used.
1 Bottle Fontanario de Pegoes
300g sugar
1 Cinnamon stick
6 cloves
1 star anise
20g fresh ginger root peeled 
Zest of 1 orange peeled in one piece
Zest of 1 lemon peeled in one piece
12 unblemished and almost ripe baby Rocha pears with stalks on

Bring the wine to the boil in a casserole large enough to hold the pears and boil for 10 minutes to drive off the acidity. Remove from the heat, then add all the other ingredients except the pears. 
Prepare the pears. Carefully peel them, leaving the stem intact. Remove the core so that they cook evenly all the way through. To core them, insert the tip of a peeler into the base of the pear just on the edge of the core.Push carefully into the fruit and turn the peeler around the core cutting it out.
The liquid will have cooled down a little by now. Place the prepared pears side by side in the pan and top with adisc of parchment paper cut to the size of the pan. Slash a few holes in the paper and press it down slightly so that some of the poaching liquid comes through the holes keeping the pears submerged while they cook.If the liquid does not cover the pears add a little water until it does.Place the casserole back on the heat andcook at a gentle simmer- just enough to form the odd on the surface of the liquid - for 30 minutes or until the pears are done.Test them by inserting the tip of a small pointed knife into the flesh. If it goes in with little resistance, they are ready. remove from the heat and leave to cool.When cool transfer the fruit to to a suitable container.If you have added extra water, reduce the liquid in the pan to a syrupy consistency. Reserve the zest and spices if you like for decoration.The pears will keep in their poaching liquid for a week.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Gok Wan it and wok on by

Pork and clams with ginger noodles
Sounds fishy- pork and shellfish?
On the same plate? 
A culinary revelation, it really works.
How do you re-fashion a recipe, keeping its tradition, but playing around with its ingredients? Culinary heritage takes on gourmet fusion. Traditional Alentejo challenges new thinking Algarve. The masterclass in this case takes its reference from Portugal, where O Cozinheiro stirs up a whole new taste sensation. Two options,who wins, you decide.
For those of you not familiar with  Gok´s Clothes RoadShow, Gok Wan travels around British cities giving makeovers and fashion workshops to needy victims of lazyness and misunderstood fashion.The programme culminates with a catwalk show mixing designer items and Gok´s budget re-creations of the seasons designer collections. Lets turn the concept of the TV programme upside down. Lets make the original Alentejo version of my selected dish correspond with the "High Street", the peoples dish, and my makeover becomes Chef /Designer.Let the battle begin.
Udon Noodles are the ingredient that lift the dish to a new level.Ginger is the little jewel that makes it stand out in a crowd.Chilli gives it a kickstart, and a little Thai inspiration give it an Asian element.In the words of Maria von Trapp "Lets start at the very beginning, a very good place to start" -with the recipe in its original form.

Porco à Alentejana
This great regional dish just doesn´t get enough airplay

Serves 4  to 6

450g ( 1lb ) loin of pork cut into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes
450g ( 1lb ) leg of pork cut the same way
1 large onion finely chopped
300ml ( 1/2 pint ) white wine
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon concentrated tomato paste
110g (4oz) lard
2 tablespoons olive oil
675g (1.5lb) clams
1 clove
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Prepare a marinade with the wine,garlic,paprika,salt,pepper, bay leaf and clove.Marinate the meat for 4-5 hours. Drain the meat and fry gently in the melted lard, until golden brown all over. Strain the marinade and add to the pan.Cover and boil with the meat until it is very tender and the sauce has reduced by half. Make another sauce with the tomato concentrate.oil, onion,parsley, salt and pepper, simmering it all for 6-8 minutes. Place the clams in this sauce over a low heat and shake the pan. The clams should open.( remove those which do not, and discard.) Shake the pan again and transfer its contents to the top of the meat. Cover. Boil gently for 3 minutes and serve in the same pot.

and now for the make over

Pork and clams with ginger noodles
Serves 4 

450g ( 1lb ) loin of pork cut into julienne
2 medium stalks lemongrass
3 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons Nam Pla ( thai fish sauce)
1 tablespoon sesame oil

( cooked in Broth Bulhao Pato style)
1 kg clams
Garlic- 2 cloves sliced
Olive oil - 3 tablespoons
 150ml(1/4 pint)lemon juice
Coriander- large handful chopped
Salt and pepper

Prepare the shellfish in advance, as it needs to stand in salted water for a few hours.
After first wash, for soaking, use 5-6 tablespoons of sea salt for each 1.2 litres ( 2 pints )
After soaking rinse thoroughly in plentiful water to remove the sand.

Cut the pork into julienne.They should be no bigger than your little finger. Remove any tough outer leaves from the lemongrass then slice the tender insides into wafer thin rings. Put them in abowl with the garlic, fish sauce and sesame oil.Leave to marinade for a good few hours while the clams soak.

250g Udon noodles
50ml peanut oil
2 small red chillies seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
6 pieces sweet stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely chopped ( reserve some syrup for later )
50ml soya sauce.
handful of chopped coriander and rocket

Cook the noodles in boiling water ( no salt ) for 8 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a towel. Toss the noodles in a bowl with some peanut oil. Cover the bowl and set aside.

Drain the pork from the marinade and fry gently in a wok oiled lightly with peanut oil until almost cooked and glossy, spooning over a little marinade as you go.
meanwhile in a large saucepan with a lid cook the clams in broth Bulhao Pato style.
Wipe the wok clean and heat the 50 ml peanut oil over a high heat.
Add the garlic chilli and ginger. Stir fry until the garlic is cooked.Add the noodles, tossing vigorously and then add the soya sauce and reserved ginger syrup.Stir again to mix thoroughly and combine the pork and clams and some of the broth, with the noodles and stir through the chopped herbs. Serve immediately in bowls

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Brownie points

Perk up your palates U.S. citizens because here is one of your national treasures with a Portuguese twist to it.Full marks to this recipe, talk about rich...these are the epitome of rich. Delectably gooey salty,sweet,and quintessentially chocolate, melt in the mouth,love it.
In my former incarnation as a Blair academy new wave dinner lady (Oliver´s army have it what you will, but I was there first ) I used to feature traditional brownies on the school pudding menu, at least once a month.Brownie recipes are something extremely personal.....What this recipe shouted to me from the highest hill was the Algarvian twist-  Flor de sal.
Whatever you put in your brownies is your business,nuts or no nuts, but at the end of the day unlike a cake where the skewer needs to come out clean with brownies the skewer needs to come out with a goo stuck to it and then you need to let it rest. They will firm up as it cools.Whatever recipe you go for you need to end up with a crust that is thin and lightly crisp and a centre that that is a cross between chocolate cake and  and the texture of a peat bog. The following recipe has gone through a big transition from its original form, but I found the final result pure ecstasy. If you are used to gilding the lily with vanilla ice cream or chocolate fudge sauce or caramel look no further its all inclusive in this particular recipe.

Flor de sal Caramel brownies

Flor de Sal caramel
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 teaspoon Flor de sal
2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey
1 cup sugar
1teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup creme fraiche
In a small saucepan combine the mascarpone and the salt, simmer over a very low heat until the salt is dissolved and then set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and syrup or honey carefully. They will not combine well until the sugar begins to melt.Cook over a high heat until a thermometer reads 350º (6-8 minutes). Without a thermometer just pull the pan off the heat when it is a medium goldish brown. It will continue to cook in the heat of the pan.( Better pull it off early than be sorry). Remove from the heat and let it cool for 1 minute.
Add the cream mixture and vanilla to the sugar mix. Whisk in the creme fraiche. Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then follow the brownie instructions. Refrigerate the left over caramel and save it for an ice cream topping or midnight munchie moment.

125g (4oz) unsweetened chocolate ( Green and Black´s or Valrhona)
11/2 cups unsalted butter
11/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
11/2 cups all purpose flour
pinch of Flor de sal
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup ( I made my own) it´s so easy.
half of the above caramel recipe

Pre-heat the oven to 325F. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small pan over a low heat till smooth. Remove fro the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
Add the flour, salt, chocolate syrup and chocolate mixture and blend well.
In a greased 8 x 8 cake tin, pour over half of the brownie batter and bake for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour over the caramel.For a more intense Flor de sal kick sprinkle some extra Flor de sal crystals on top of the caramel and then add the other half of the brownie batter. If it does not pour smoothly, just drop it on and swirl it around a bit. Return to the oven and bake for a further 18-20 minutes. The brownies will still seem a little wobbly due to the caramel, but they will firm up once they are cooled. Do not over bake them.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The call of the wild

On  a recent walk around the fields on the edge of town, 
I stumbled upon some rich pickings..all for free
Foraging is massively popular in many European countries – they do a lot of it in Scandinavia for instance – but elsewhere we seem to have become a much more urban society and we’ve got a bit detached from our surroundings.
It wasn’t always this way. Marie Fish at the Natural History Centre in Aberdeen researched the eating habits of Scottish ancestry and discovered how much they depended on nature’s larder before Sainsbury´s and Tesco´s appeared on every corner.
Mrs Beeton had a favourite recipe for blackbird pie, shudder. Eels used to be eaten a lot before they became protected. Even heron was a delicacy, although I shouldn’t imagine there was much eating on a heron. It really was a case of eating whatever they could pick or catch.
People were much more aware of the land around them. We’ve lost touch with that a little bit. That’s one of the reasons why people make mistakes and have accidents eating things they shouldn’t.A little knowledge is a good thing.
There’s a lot of nice stuff out there but we’re really missing a trick.
As they say on the TV "Do not try this at home". In this case do not attempt foraging from the wild unless you have prior knowledge or are part of an organised workshop or foraging group. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A taste of honey

.....tasting much sweeter than wine.
Casa Rosada is never without its honey.My monthly stock take never allows the larder to go below three jars. Sourced from a farm in the Asseca valley outside Tavira, the three flavour options are rosemary, orange or thyme (see the cross on the side of the jar). I always opt for the orange honey as it seems the most versatile and is always popular with our guests. At Casa Rosada that honey jar lid never stops turning from dawn till dusk. It flavours the yoghurt to accompany the fresh fruit we serve for breakfast. I also serve it as part of our preserve selection for the breakfast toast.The pork ribs need a sticky sauce. The belly pork needs a honey glaze.I need a honey and rosemary dressing for my goats cheese and beetroot salad.The fresh goats cheese with toasted almonds needs its honey drizzeurrl. Honeyed Chouriço as part of the tapas.Honey whipped cream or mascarpone to top the evenings dessert... the list goes ever on,- "would I lie to you honey"

Monday, 21 March 2011

Pasta a portuguesa

Massada de Peixe ( look for the star on the coriander leaf)  no lens trickery I promise.
I was curious when I first discovered this on t´internet.It took me a while to get my head round it. Pasta cooked in  sauce and not drained.Pasta cooked in Beer instead of water, interesting?- For sure.

This recipe is a variation on the classic Portuguese dish, Arroz Mariscos ( shellfish rice), a wet rice dish.This type of dish is extremely popular in restaurants throughout Portugal, and particularly in the Algarve. Having followed this recipe to the letter, I have to say that my personal interpretation would be to return to the original recipe of Arroz Mariscos and then apply this concept, but replace the rice with pasta cooked in beer and keep the original shellfish mixture of prawns, mussels, clams, crab, whatever. I don´t feel the white fish made a useful enough contribution to the overall flavour sensation, to give it the WOW factor.
The idea here is to make a stock as flavourful as possible for cooking the pasta in, and I like this idea. Any type of small shaped pasta can be used, though the most common is a small macaroni.
My other verdict is that any favourite personalised tomato sauce would work just as well with the fish and pasta, and a tad of cream would perhaps not go amiss either.
Cook and try before you buy into this. And the moral of this story - Dig deep into the wealth of a huge culinary heritage and don´t be scared to innovate, but at the end of the day you may come full circle and not be far from the way the original was intended to be served.Love it.

500gr firm fish on the bone (monk fish, red snapper)
1 red pepper (coarsely chopped)
1 green pepper (coarsely chopped)
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic ( finely chopped)
4 ripe tomatoes
1 dried chilli
33cl beer
4 bay leaves
4tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 cups of seafood/fish stock or water
250gr small pasta shapes
1 small bunch of coriander

In a large pot, heat the olive oil then add the onion, the chillie and cook until soft. Add the garlic, stir for a minute then add the tomatoes, cook for a few minutes and finally add the peppers.
Just as the peppers begin to soften add the beer, salt and taste. Add the fish, cover and allow the fish to cook, turning if using large pieces. Take care not to overcook.
Remove the fish from the pot to a plate to cool down. Remove the bay leaves and blend with a hand blender.
Strain the cooking liquid,( I didn´t, preferring to opt for a liitle bit of  texture in the dish )
return to the pot, add stock or water and bring to boil and add the pasta. The pasta should be cooked “wet” and some sauce should remain at the end. While the pasta cooks, debone the fish and cut into large chunks.
When pasta is ready, check seasoning and add the fish, stir gently and finally add the coriander.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spring has sprung

20th March 2011  
Today is officially the first day of Spring- Primavera 

There’s a palpable optimism in the air as the sun shines a little more each day and the days get longer.

Spring in the air (filled with love)
and the Marvellettes in my ears
There's magic ev'rywhere......

......Each night seems just like the Fourth of July
When stars spangle the sky
The moon at night (shines so bright)
Seems to shine twice as bright...well it did last night anyway.The garden was naturally floodlit.The Apricot blossom beckons to me signalling a promise of a fruitful crop.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Out of the fire and into our roasting pans

Legumes assados com funcho

Funchal, the capital of Madeira, derives its name from the Portuguese word funcho (fennel). Funchal was named by the first settlers that landed on its shores, due to the abundance of wild fennel.The hillsides around Funchal that are stuffed with houses today were once amply overgrown with fennel. The first settlers simply cleared the fennel brushwood and named the city according to this plant.
"After the great "Seven years' fire" had burnt down the forests and enriched the soil of Madeira. It was soon after Zarco's ( Henry the Navigator´s naval explorer) return to Funchal that he first set fire to the woods behind the fennel fields of the coast, to clear himself a way through the undergrowth into the heart of the island; the fire blazed and smouldered till it had taken well hold of the entire mass of timber that covered the upper country, nothing in the feeble resources of the first settlers could stop it, and Madeira lighted the ships of Henry on their way to the south, like a volcano, till 1428".(sic)

The herb was in abundance when the first settlers put down their roots soon after Madeira was officially discovered in the early 15th century by João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixiera, who were under the command of Prince Henry the Navigator.
Used in low concentrations fennel gives a mild aroma and flavor, similar to anise, but much more mild and sweet.... 

Legumes assados com funcho
Serves 4-6 as a side dish, or part of a combined salad

200g cherry tomatoes
1 small aubergine
2 medium courgettes
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 large red onion
2 large fat cloves of garlic
4 soup spoons of extra virgin olive oil
sprigs of wild fennel
Flor de sal and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 475F /240C
Prepare the aubergines and courgettes by cutting them into 2.5cm dice, leaving the skins on. Arrange all the vegetables in a roasting tin. Pour over the olive oil and toss everything around to give them a good  coating, Season with salt and pepper. Place on the highest shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are toasted brown at the edges.
Serve hot as a side dish or cold with cous cous, salad leaves and top with goats cheese or feta. Dress the salad to your liking a spicy hot dressing like a harissa paste diluted with olive oil works well, and looks enticing.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Cartaos de receitas

The first four of a new range of recipe cards from Casa Rosada

Dinners at Casa Rosada now come with an added bonus - if you enjoyed a particular selection on your dinner menu,you can take the recipe home on your own Casa Rosada  recipe card. Subject to availability in our library, we can customise a recipe card before the end of your stay.For guests who have stayed with us in the past, and would like a particular recipe contact us by email and we can direct you to the recipe you require on this blog.If not we can create a card for you and email it to you.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Coming back for Moor

"Next month, when my lemons are ready, I will post a recipe for one of the most renowned Moroccan dishes 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."

I keep my promise and here it is. The lemons are ready and delicious they are too.
London alas didn´t come up trumps on the tagine front. They were beautiful but not large enough for the job Casa Rosada had in mind.
The Moroccan tagine is directly descended from the Persian khoresht stew,
Traditionally a tagine is a robust stew consisting of meat, fowl or fish, vegetables or fruit, and spices slowly simmered in an earthenware pot with its distinctive conical lid.  The shape of the lid draws the steam upwards, while its unglazed underside absorbs the steam, concentrating the savoury juices in the bottom of the pot.If you don’t have a tagine, a heavy-lidded casserole is a decent substitute.I cooked this subtle dish of semi-stewed, semi steamed chicken in a heavy cast iron casserole. In theory therefore it was not a tagine but a pot-roast. What a pot roast it was, politely spiced with ginger, cumin turmeric and saffron with the salty tang of the preserved lemons and fleshy succulent olives.The resulting plate of gorgeousness was reminiscent of a coq au vin. The meat had cooked down sufficiently to just fall off the bone and await the moisture of the sauce it had been cooked in to be poured over.

Djej Makali
Tagine of chicken, preserved lemons and olives
Serves 4
1 large free range chicken
1teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 garlic cloves crushed
1 onion grated
2 chicken livers
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
300ml(1/2 pint) water
pinch of saffron threads
110g pinky red and green olives ( if you can´t get kalamata can be a substitute)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Trim the flaps of excess fat from the chicken at the opening of the cavity, and remove any other excess fat. Truss the legs and tuck them into the cavity. Rub the turmeric, ginger and cumin all over the chicken, and then smear over half the garlic.Season lightly with salt and pepper, then cover and set aside for up to 12 hours ( covered in the fridge).

Put the remaining garlic, onion, chicken livers, olive oil and water into a casserole , saucepan or tagine large enough to take the chicken.Stir and bring to the boil.Now, add the chicken and reduce the heat so that the liquid barely simmers.Cover the pan, leaving just a small gap for steam to escape, and cook for 11/2 - 2 hours,turning the chicken frequently so that the flesh is partially steamed and partially simmered to a melting tenderness.Meanwhile soak the saffron in a tablespoon of hot water.Scrape the pulp out of the lemon and discard. Cut the skin into strips, rinse thoroughly, drain and reserve. Rinse the olives. Bring apan of water to the boil, add the olives and blanch for 1 minute, to remove excess salt. Drain Thoroughly.
When it is done, take the chicken out of the pan and keep warm. Retrieve the livers, quarter them and reserve them with the chicken.Stir the strips of preserved lemon, the olives and the saffron into the remaining sauce in the pan, then simmer for 2-3 minutes.Taste and adjust your seasoning.Serve the chicken with the sauce spooned over and around it, scattering the bits of liver in amongst the olives and lemon.
And a suggestion for a starter.

Sabzi khordan, or soft herb salad. This is simplicity itself—a bowl of unadorned fresh mint, coriander, flat leaf parsley, dill, tarragon and basil, for example, along with some feta-like crumbly white cheese and warm flat bread.
It is difficult to convey how stimulating it is to crunch through such a kaleidoscope of flavors, tempered by a neutral mass of bread and cheese. Naturally, the mixture of herbs depends on availability and can also include radishes, spring onions and chives. But whatever the combination, it is a revelation to have such a fresh and simple start to a meal.

Friday, 11 March 2011

From little acorns...

Vegetarians, sorry, there is nothing for you here.I have always loved pigs. As a child my favourite bedtime story was The Three Little Pigs. "Without acorns, there can be no pigs."and "without pigs there can be no ham."- and I would not be a happy man.
The Black Iberian Pig, also known in Portugal as Alentejano Pig, is a breed,Mediterraneus, of the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) that is indigenous to the Mediterranean area. The Iberian pig, whose unique origin can be traced back to ancient times, is found in herds clustered in the central and southern territory of the Iberian Peninsula, in Portugal and Spain.

 “No flies on this little piggy”
These Little Piggies went to Prada 
Nursery Rhymes for the Blahnik Brigade

Twenty-one revamped, tongue-in-cheek, name-dropping nursery rhymes, This Little Piggy went to Prada is the must-have gift for yummy mummies. Politically incorrect, utterly frivolous and lots of fun. If the Sex and the City girls had a baby shower, it would be top of the gift list!


The Iberian pig is dark in colour, ranging from black to grey, with little or no hair and a lean body, thus giving rise to the familiar name "pata negra", or "black hoof". Because the animals live freely they are constantly moving around and therefore burn more calories than other species of pig. This in turn produces the fine bones typical of this kind of Jamón ibérico. At least a hectare of healthy dehesa ( oak forest) is needed to raise a single pig, and since the trees may be several hundred years old, the prospects for reforesting lost oak forest (dehesa) are slim at best. True dehesa is a richly diverse habitat with four different types of oak that are crucial in the production of prime-quality ham. The bulk of the acorn harvest comes from the holm oak (from November to February), but the season would be too short without the earlier harvests of Spanish oak and gall oak and the late cork oak season, which, between them stretch the acorn-chomping period from September almost to April. During the season each pig gobbles up acorns fallen from the trees at the astonishing rate of over twenty thousand acorns a day. I am in hog heaven

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Off the beeton track

This is my blind interpretation of a favourite starter item from O Monte Velho, a very popular Portuguese hunting lodge. It´s hidden away in the hills around Santa Caterina,if you are lucky enough to find it. Its also a much frequented haunt of Casa Rosada´s when we are lucky enough to have a day off.The cooking of Dona Ana Lidia, for me, is probably the most innovative of all the Portuguese hostelries I have ever visited.She tempers her food with spices not applied elsewhere by her counterparts.Her partridge with chestnuts is aromatized with Star Anise for instance.Rabbit with pennyroyal and mashed potatoes topped with duck and blackberry compote.You need to order your chosen dishes in advance with your reservation.So, you will also need to be in possession of one of her menus so you can make your selections. The menu is your doorway to a restaurant of enchantment.
                                              Reservas: Tlm. 961 253 727  Tlm. 967 091 015

Betteraba pudding Pudim betteraba
serves 6-8
This makes a a dazzling and delicious starter or part of a selection of dips served with a creamy fresh mild goats cheese, Serrano ham and rustic country bread.It has a sweet- sour sharpness and the earthiness of beetroots roasted in their skins.
serve warm or cold
3 medium-sized beetroots
3 tomatoes skinned and seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
150g/ 5oz onions peeled and thinly sliced
1clove of garlic peeled and crushed
6 desertspoons of good quality sherry vinegar
Valdespino, Lustau or Pedro Ximenez
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon double cream, optional
150ml / 5fl oz hot chicken stock
Flat leaf parsley

Wash and trim the beetroots. leaving the roots intact so the colour doesn´t bleed. bake them in individual foil parcels in a medium oven until cooked, pierce with a skewer after 45 minutes. Skin and slice them thinly as soon as they´re cool enough to handle. Chop the tomatoes coarsely.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic gently until softened but not coloured. Pour over the vinegar, and add the tomato,beetroot slices and seasoning.Cook with alid on very gently for an hour. Check the moisture level from time to time. liquidize, or blitz in a food processor for a slightly coarser purée, with the stock. If you go for the cream option you will lose some of the deliciously deep colour that gives the dish its dramatic effect.If serving warm,keep in a bowl over simmering water until you are ready to serve.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Spring into action

Acelga leaves ( wild spinach beet )
Spring is just around the corner and that means green soups.In the days following my recent foraging adventures I have been experimenting with the harvest of leaves I returned home with.My second recipe using acelga ( wild spinach beet) was a spring soup- a combination of vibrant colour and the freshest flavour. A thick creamy pool of green deliciousness daringly fine- tuned with dandelion and hare´s lettuce.One word of caution, texture is as important as colour, when it comes to green soups. Spinach like cabbage can be unpleasantly fibrous, unless very young, and therefore needs serious blitzing to get rid of its fibrous nature.If you´ve ever eaten a bowl of caldo verde the famous cabbage soup of Portugal, you´ll know what I am talking about.This dark green soup is so thick you could stand a spoon up in it.
Apart from the acelga obviously,I collected two other wild culinary herbs,* dente de leao ( dandelion ) and *serralha ( hare´s lettuce, milk tassel)I am not certain if the latter can be found outside of Portugal and would advise omitting this from the recipe, if you can find dandelion,all the better but use the leaves only.I have made this soup on many occasions in the past using only the spinach and omitted the other two herbs and I assure you it is equally delicious.

Sopa de acelga com folhas dente de leao
( Spinach beet soup with dandelion leaves )
                        simplicity itself to make and an ace taster.I made lots as seconds were inevitable

8oog folhas de acelga ( leaves of wild spinach beet)
100g manteiga sem sal ( saltless butter)
* dente de leao q.b ( optional )
* serralha q.b ( optional )
2 cebolas ( 2 onions finely chopped)
1 pau pequeno de aipo ( small stick of celery)
2 dentes de alho ( 2 fat  cloves garlic )
Flor de sal e pimenta q.b (Flor de sal and pepper)
1.8 litro caldo de legumes ( vegetable stock )
180-200g parmesao
casca de parmesao ( parmesan rind)
Noz moscada ralado q.b
( grated nutmeg or mace)

Peel and finely chop the onions, garlic, celery and herbs. Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot until it foams, then add the vegetables, Flor de sal and pepper. Cook slowly for 20 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and just coloured. Pour in the stock, add the Parmesan rind (optional).
Bring to the boil and simmer for a further 15 minutes. While the soup cooks, pick through the spinach, ripping out any excess stalks and yellow or blemished leaves. wash thoroughly to remove any grit, Bring the soup to the boil, plunge in the spinach and liquidise immediately ( discard the parmesan rind at this point if you have used it).. Pass the soup through a sieve and return to the pan, taking care that it does not get too hot, or it will lose its colour and spoil the flavour. Add the grated nutmeg, check the seasoning and serve with liberal amounts of grated parmesan on top.

With a spring in my step, a hoppity skip and a jump and foraging cap a kimbo I´ve got the bug for free food and next I´m off into the Sapal ( salt marshes) to gather wild asparagus and samphire grass as part of a recce. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


International Womens Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. ... O Cozinheiro celebrates, acknowledges and pays tribute to the work of women in the kitchen, past present and future, in no particular order.

Pamela Kirby, Julia Child, Alice Waters, Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers, Vianna la Place, Fanny Craddock, Elizabeth David, Patience Gray, Nigella Lawson, Angela Hartnett, Jane Grigson, Sophie Grigson, Stephanie Alexander, Marcella Hazan, Mary Contini, Madhur Jaffrey, Sybil Kapoor, Jennifer Patterson,Clarissa Dickson-Wright, Delia Smith,Alice B.Toklas, Marguerite Patten,Ursula Ferrigno, Tamasin-Day Lewis, Donna Hay, Claudia Roden, Sally Clarke, Elisabeth Luard, Valentina Harris, Anna del Conte, Alison Crudas, Catherine Calego, Sarah Purificaçao.

Women touch our lives in so many ways, as mothers, grand mothers, sisters, aunts and friends. So this special day is just for them, and all the things they do big and small. In Portugal, women have strongly embraced this day and take advantage of it to get together with friends to celebrate womanhood.
As time has passed by though the day has become more romanticized and in different countries you will find different customs. For example in Italy and Russia men give yellow mimosas to the women in their lives, and  Portugal and Romania celebrate with women only dinners and parties.
What would be my time honoured recipe to celebrate International womens day?
It has to be a recipe from the most influential woman in my life, my mother. Jerusalem Artichokes are alas something of an expat craving here in The Algarve. I haven´t yet sourced them here, but they still conjure up fond memories as a child in the kitchen.

Jerusalem Artichokes Au Gratin
1 1/2 lbs Jerusalem Artichokes
Lemon Juice
Breadcrumbs for the top
1/2 oz butter
1/2 oz flour
1/2 pint of milk
4 ozs grated mature cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon djon or english mustard

Scrub and peel the artichokes.  Drop into a pan of salter water to which has beed added a little lemon juice.  Boil gently until just tender. Drain well and turn into a ovenproof dish.
Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a pan and adding the flour.  Blend well and let the roux cook for a minute of two over a low flame.  Add the the milk, 3 ozs of the grated cheese and mustard along with salt and pepper and stir constantly until the sauce thickens.
Pour the cheese sauce over the artichokes, sprinkle the top with breadcumbs and the other 1 oz of grated cheese and brown under a hot grill or the the top part of an hot oven for about 20 minutes.  Serve piping hot.

"Women are responsible for 50% of the world´s food production, 
but are only paid for 10% of it"

“More than 800 million people are suffering from hunger in the world, and some 70 percent of them are women and children.”  World Food Program.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Cant help lovin´ dat pan

My faithful pancake pan

The secret to making the perfect pancake is the pan and the temperature at which you have it when you tip the batter in. "A bad workman blames his tools", and no wiser word said than when applied to the cook. When it comes to Shrove Tuesday, pancake day, I have a pan that is only used for cooking pancakes. My mother gave it to me as part of a set of six assorted cast iron pans when I left home. It is cast iron and shallow and has never been washed in the 35 odd years I have had it. I have always just rinsed and wiped it. A pancake is for life, not just Shrove Tuesday. I merely grease the pan with a small amount of butter, when it foams I wipe the excess with kitchen paper towel, lower the heat and pour in an amount of batter to create the first pancake. The first pancake is always the test and is then discarded before you continue with the rest of your batch.Once your happy with the quality of what your pan is producing, maintain that heat and regrease the pan before cooking each pancake. I have always found this method foolproof and of course, have never used anything other than my trusted pan.
Since I posted my alternative pancake recipe for carnival on Saturday I have discovered a very popular recipe that originates from Argentina but is ever popular in Spain and Portugal
Dulce de Leche is a rich, milk-based caramel sauce. Now, Dulce de Leche is available packaged in bottles, but nothing compares to the richness and density of homemade Dulce de Leche. 

Even Haagen Daz have been inspired by Latin America's treasured dessert.

Pancakes with Dulce de leche
(dool-say deh lay-chay)
This is easy peasy to make, but keep your eye on the tin while boiling. if the water is allowed to evaporate the tin can explode.
Submerge a can of leite condensao, condensed milk, in a large deep saucepan ( about 6-litre capacity, if possible)full of water. Bring to the boil and and bubble for 2 hours, topping up the water level with boiling water from the kettle. The water must cover the tin at all times.When the cooking time is over make sure not to open the can immediately, else you just might have some hot Dulce de Leche in your face.The dulce de leche should have a rich, deep caramel colour.

I wondered how something as simple as condensed milk could be transformed to such a tasty caramel sauce, with just a little heat and a lot of time. I had read about it being extremely easy to make; simply plonk the can of condensed milk in a vessel of simmering water or microwave it (in a non-metallic bowl, of course) for 10-15 minutes, and there you have it.From being just condensed milk, it undergoes a metamorphosis into a thick, creamy and rich dessert in its own right. Its one of those desserts where you must be careful not to feed your clothes too.  It can be used in cakes, as a topping for muffins and ice creams, spread over bread and cookies, or swirled into brownies but on its own Dulce de Leche sounds pretty darn addictive don´t you think? Once addicted why not try......

Pancakes with Dulce de leche and goats cheese
Bannofee pancakes

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Been around the world and I, I, I

When marimba rhythms start to play
Here in Portugal today sees the start of a very wet Carnival, Mardi gras in many other Latin countries. This was a perfect excuse for blogger Cozzy-B to make a short foray into international food customs. Forget the dancing in the streets, the fancy floats, music and costumes. Its time to eat some pancakes, in preparation for 40 days of fasting - NOT!! talking of which....
The day before the beginning of Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday. To shrive someone, in old-fashioned English, is to hear his confession (he shrives, he shrove, he, she, or it has shriven. Say that very quickly I dare you. or he shrives, he shrived, he, she, or it has shrived). The term survives today in ordinary usage in the expression "short shrift". To give someone short shrift is to pay very little attention to his excuses or problems. - 'Yeah, but no, but yeah... WOTEVER!'
In Portugal Shrove Tuesday is  called "Terça-feira gorda", Fat Tuesday.In Louisiana it is the last day of the Mardi Gras Carnival season,as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.The day (or sometimes a longer period immediately preceding Lent) is also called Carnival, which means "farewell to meat." "Carni" as in carnivorous, and "vale" as in valediction.In the name of love, lets have one last hamburger before the Lenten fast begins. In France Mardi=Tuesday and gras=fat, as in foie gras which is very fatty. On this day  a thrifty French housewife uses up the fats that have been hanging around for cooking (her precious can of lardons, or WOTEVER!) She will not be using these throughout Lent, and will be mardy for sure, like a surly moaning child who doesn't get his or her way. 
Back in England, since pancakes are a standard way of using up fat, the day is also called Pancake Day,  and  is celebrated with pancake races. Flipping feck, the contestants run a course while holding a griddle and flipping a pancake. Points are awarded for time, for number and height of flips, and number of times the pancake turns over. There are of course penalties for dropping the pancake. Too much griddlin´ and flippin´, life´s too short. So happy Carnival everyone and just to put a spanner in the pan, O cozzy-B is still intent on watching his middle page spread, so here is Casa Rosada´s  healthy alternative to panquecas.Tortilla is the new pancake and the apple turns over a new leaf as the filing in the enchilada. For Carnival I decided on something a little more Ricky Martin and a little less James Martin if you get my drift, and its great for the kids after show party too.I´ve flipped now its your turn to set your sights on pancake perfection......

Apple enchiladas
This is not a quick dessert, but it is very easy,
very little prep involved, very Latin and vey lovely

Mushed filling from 4 baked apples
6 Tortillas
1tsp ground cinamon
125g ( 4 oz ) unsalted butter
100g ( 3 oz )white sugar
100g ( 3 oz )brown sugar
125ml ( 2/3 cup) water

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark4
Grease a baking dish. spoon the cooked apple evenly down the middle of each tortilla, the sprinkle with cinnamon. roll up the tortillas, tucking in the edges first, then place seam side down in the baking dish.
in medium saucepan over a medium heat, combine the butter, sugars and water. bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden, and serve piping hot. 

Dancado lambada

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Robin Hood - Men in packaging ( os homems em embalagem )

It has come to my attention when shopping, how many times the male image features on Portuguese food packaging, so I thought I would share some of my finds with you.And I have thrown in a recipe for good measure. UK viewers may also remember the Weetabix advert that used a comedy version of the Robin Hood song. The lyrics consisted of the chorus followed by:

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, could be in a fix
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, spies the Weetabix
Does he retreat, back to Sherwood?
Course he should, course he should, course he should


Pudim Flan (creme caramel)
Home made version not from sachets!!!
Serves 6

450ml (3/4 pint) milk
4 large eggs well beaten
200g (7oz) granulated sugar
Mould 15-18cm(6-7 inches) in diameter
Prepare the caramel first: bring 110ml (4 oz)of the sugar to the boil with 2 tablespoons of water, in a saucepan. Allow it to turn into a liquid caramel and pour immediately into a large mould, turning it around, to coat evenly. A spoon may be helpful, to cover the interior of the mould. This operation must be done at great speed, as the caramel dries very quickly. Any lumps left around the mould will melt later, so do not worry.Set the mould aside. Warm up the milk to blood temperature and beat in the eggs and the rest of the sugar.Combine really well and pour into the prepared mould, 15-18cm(6-7 inches) in diameter. Bake in a bain-marie ( placing the mould inside a tin containing boiling water)in the oven 180C /350F/gas 4 until set, about 35-40 minutes.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Back to the future

I have a glut of acelga ( wild spinach beet ) from last week´s grovelling in the earth. I have to prove my worth in following through the skills I learnt at foraging academy.Everybody´s talkin´Blumenthal, so with all the buzz last week surrounding the opening of Heston Blumenthal´s "Dinner" I decided I should take a leaf out of his book,follow fashion and step back in time by bringing another former classic back to life in the 21st century. When choosing spinach, assess its liveliness, none livelier I say than something one has just plucked from the ground.It should be bouncing and bright , not dull and limp.
Saco de pano
As you stuff it into your saco de pano ( towelling or cloth bag to ensure freshly gathered herbs and greens hold their freshness and moisture, a must have for farmers marketing) it should crunch and squeak.
I cook spinach by leaving it to stew in its own juice, not blanched in salted water as in many mediterranean kitchens.My way, the English way, conserves flavour and virtues better.
The big spinach enemy is wateriness, and its natural allies are butter, olive oil,cream, anchovies, nutmeg or mace and citrus juices. A dash of sugar in a spinach soup or sauce will also help enhance its flavour.
In the 18th century,when Spain and Portugal exported these fruits to England, the Seville orange came into fashion and was often used as a flavouring. Creamed spinach flavoured with Seville juice was turned onto a serving dish and surrounded by a fence of fried bread triangles. Segments of  Seville orange then were placed on top of the spinach to form a central crown. This is a fine dish for the final days of January or February, when Seville oranges come into season.To this basic dish you can add poached fish or lightly fried white fish steaks. Fish, spinach and orange make a heavenly troika.

An 18th century dish of spinach with Seville orange

1.5kg (3lbs) cooked spinach
125ml (1/4 pint) double cream
salt, pepper ,nutmeg
juice of Seville orange
1sweet orange cut into segments
12 triangles of fried bread
Reheat cooked spinach with the cream. season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Add the juice of a Seville orange to taste. turn onto a hot serving dish. Arrange the orange segments in the middle, peel side up, and make a fence of fried bread triangles round the edges. Fried bread is commonplace in the Portuguese kitchen as a device for soaking up juicy dishes.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

One said hot the other said not

Pimentos padron com améndoas salgadas
Cristóvão Colombo trouxe o pimento (capsicum) para territorio espanhol, dando inicio à sua expansao. O pimento padrão  é uma especialidade galega, apreciada um pouco por todo o mundo.Rico em vitamina C e carotenos, tem um sabor único......Já diz a célebre expressão:" Pimientos de Pádron,unos pican otros non."
Following in the footsteps of Christopher Columbus, my search for the perfect tapas continues.The Casa Rosada 2011 dinner menu will soon have a comprehensive tapas selection.These little chaps are the perfect start to a good meal,followed by meat,seafood or shellfish.They are also great support to an early evening "pair o teef."And for the girls who can´t say no, stir some up to accompany a copa de vinho or a cerveza before lunch.

Pimentos padron com améndoas salgadas
( Padron peppers with salted almonds)
Olive oil
Flor de sal Azeitona Castro Marim
1 packet pimentos padron
1 cup of almonds (with skin)

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, Add the olive oil,lower the heat and and tip in the peppers and almonds. Toss them together well, season them with Flor de sal and mix again. When the peppers begin to blacken slightly, after about a minute, remove them from the pan. Put hem in a bowl or on a plate and serve with another sprinkling of salt.