Monday, 30 May 2011

O for Olives

Rich pickings
It´s Portuguese simplicity.  Content to be sitting eating an olive and gazing up at the lovely blue sky.In England we would say "Everything´s rosy", the Portuguese equivalent is "Tudo azul" referring to the unparalleled blue of the skies above us.If you can stretch yourself further than a glass of wine or a bottle of Sagres and a marinated olive there are simple recipes to be had and the varieties of olives with which to to choose from are endless.

Black oilve pesto (traditional tapenade)
125g ( 4oz) anchovies
175g ( 6oz) pitted back olives
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix all in a processor, adjusting quantity of olive oil until your desired consistency is achieved

Green olive tapenade
4 cups green olives pitted
12 anchovies
4 tablespoons capers drained
2 garlic cloves
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix all in a processor, as above adjusting quantity of olive oil until your desired consistency is achieved

Tapenade of olives, sundried tomato and basil
250g ( 8oz) pitted black olives
250g ( 8oz) sundried tomatoes
25g ( 1 oz) fresh basil, leaves only
1 small tin anchovies
1 cup capers, drained and pressed between kitchen towel
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a food processor with the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and use the pulse button( if you over process it will turn to a puréee )You need to aim for a texture that looks like coarse gravel. Add a little more olive oil if it looks too dry.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The secret was in the sauce

 La Brasserie de l’Entrecôte
If you are looking for a many options menu, this isn´t the place for you. Everyone that goes to this restaurant eats Entrecôte, beef with a very clever sauce,this sauce is incredible, and a closely guarded secret. But it tastes so good that you will come back again and again, surely.
Served high and mighty on a gut-busting plate, entrecôte steak with a green aromatic sauce is the only thing on the menu at this high-ceilinged, Parisian-style brasserie. It’s more than enough for me.

So this restaurant has a very limited menu - salad, steak, desser,t but what it does it does very well. Fresh salad, steak cooked exactly to your liking, as many frites as you can eat, followed by simple but delicious French style desserts. If it´s on the trolly you can point at it. Attentive, knowledgeable but unobtrusive service in a traditional brasserie setting - low lights, candles and huge mirrors. Well-chosen wines, many available by the glass as well as the bottle. The Brasserie de L’Entrecote is a rarity amongst French restaurants, which are usually renowned for their elegantly designed menus. Located in the heart of the beautiful city of Lisbon, this classic French restaurant has done away with the tradition of having a menu, which caused quite a stir when it first opened it doors to customers, and judging by some of its recent reviews cf. tripadvisor still does.
At the Brasserie de Lentrecôte, you are presented with a complete meal without ever having to order a thing. It begins with a starter, a choice of two fresh salads, one topped with walnuts,the other with cured salmon. It is sure to leave you wanting more.

Amazing what you can find on the internet with a little digging...
The best kept secret in Paris seems to have been unveiled.The Le Monde restaurant critic, Jean-Claude Ribaut, has subjected the sauce to chemical and culinary analysis. He claims to have penetrated the secret of Le Relais de Venise (271, Boulevard Pereire, at Porte Maillot in the 17th arrondissement) at last.
What is the magic ingredient which makes people queue in the rain outside a restaurant which has only one main dish and takes no reservations? The answer he says is "Chicken livers".Incidentally in the Lisbon re-incarnation they do take reservations and neccesarily so.
The sauce at the Relais de Venise - which now has a franchise in London - is composed, he says, of chicken livers, thyme, thyme flowers, white mustard, single cream, butter, water, salt and pepper. Unlike most French sauces, there are no eggs, no flour, no vegetables. M. Ribault says the secret of the sauce lies partly in how you make it. Dexterity is needed.
"Le Relais de Venise served the dish with a complex butter-based sauce containing tarragon, marjoram, dill, rosemary, thyme, basil, paprika, anchovies, and numerous other condiments and spices"
Now , if I could only find the correct measures...
Bon Apetite -enjoy your meal.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

De cabeça para baixo tu mexas com me

A vegetarian bite as near to heaven as you could get
"Upside down you´re turning me" hit the number 1 spot for Diana Ross in 1980. Messing around with a classic is something close to my heart and coming up with a twist that is new and fresh has to be applauded. On Saturday I had to cater for one vegetarian in a party of eight for a privately catered dinner in a villa rental. Ottolenghi to the rescue again, bless him. He so cleverly re-invented the classic Tarte Tatin as a savoury vegetarian dish. It is such a delicious  recipe that I have now adopted it into the Casa Rosada repertoire. He named his creation Surprise Tatin because of the yummy goats cheese hidden beneath the vegetables. The principle is so simple, it not only follows the concept of baking a tart upside down and then inverting it when it is cooked, but it turns the whole idea of tarte tatin as a French dessert upside down. Line a loose bottomed cake tin or pie dish with the caramel, substitute potatoes for the apples and after a little embellishment of roasted cherry tomatoes,soft caramelised onions and fresh oregano and before you can say eh- sarkhozy you have a mouth watering very easy and impressive vegetable tarte tatin. I pinched this 4 years ago from his column in the Guardian

Yotam Ottolenghi´s "Surprise Tatin"

500g small potatoes; charlotte/new
150g cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
40g sugar
10g butter
1 spring fresh oregano
150g goats cheese
1 puff pastry sheet

Preheat the oven to 130C then halve the tomatoes, put on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, season and dry out in the oven for 45 minutes.
Chop off a bit off the top and bottom of each unskinned potato, and cut into two to three discs around 2cm thick, then boil until cooked (approx 10 minutes)
Sauté the onion in olive oil and a little salt for 10 minutes, until golden brown. Brush a 22cm cake tin with oil and line the base with baking parchment.
In a small pan cook the sugar and butter on a high flame, stirring with a wooden spoon, until you get a semi-dark caramel. Pour carefully into the cake tin and spread out over the bottom. Scatter oregano on top.
Stand the potatoes close together in the bottom of the tin. Press onions and tomatoes into the gaps, season well and cover with goats’ cheese.
Cut a puff pastry disc 3cm larger in diameter than the tin. Place over the cheese and gently tuck the excess around the potatoes. At this stage, you can chill the tart for up to 24 hours*.
Bake in a preheated oven 200C  for 25 minutes, then at 180C for another 15 minutes. Place a reversed plate on top of the tin and carefully but briskly turn out.

*De-briefing: the tart works much better, holds up better, and tastes better if chilled for 24 hours and is then served at room temperature

Yotam if you are there - " Respectively I see to thee.... you´re giving love instinctively"

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Life is just a bowl of cherries

I love it when I can easily make something at home and it turns out to be just as good or better than the more expensive shop bought kind, and especially in the absence of the shop bought variety anyway. Back in March when I was making Brownies the recipe called for chocolate syrup, so not being able to source it I tried making my own with great success.

½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cocoa powder and the water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil for 3 minutes over medium heat. Be careful not to let it get too hot and boil over! Add the salt and the vanilla. Let cool. Pour into a clean glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for several months, but trust me it will be gone before then. Yields two cups.
The result is extremely rich.
I poured the chocolate into a flip-top glass bottle and added a label.
I’ve been gradually learning how to replace some of the foods we used to buy.Its far more rewarding than shopping and not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.Now is the time to tap into my reserves that are still in the door of the fridge.With a glut of cheap cherries in season at the moment, a cherry chocolate combo seemed the order of the day.

Cherries with home made chocolate syrup
Chocolate sauce poured over fresh cherries.Incredibly healthy, low in fat and high in pleasure.The amount in the recipe above will make a large quantity that keeps well in the refrigerator, where it can tantalize and torture you every time you open the door. Just before you want to eat them put a handful of cherries on each serving plate and pour the sauce over the top.Alternatively pour the sauce into a bowl and dip the cherries in the chocolate as you would a fondue. Smile and sigh.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Lost in Lisboa

I can´t think of another city I´d rather be Lostin than Lisbon. This is a story of being lost and then discovery and how to get Lostin again. On Thursday we were inLost and loving it.
On paper, Lisbon looks simple enough. but one can quite easily lose oneself in its rabbit warren of winding streets. Three main areas cluster around the mouth of the River Tagus where it opens out to Atlantic shores. Alfama, the Moorish section, and Bairro Alto look across at each other and down on Baixa in the valley between them; and what a wonderful valley it is. Broad avenues stretch in an uncharacteristically orderly manner connecting triumphal arches and grand squares from Rossio down to Praça Commercial and the ferry ports. Cafes dominate, fabulous art deco affairs serving thimblefuls of super-strength bica, and irresistible cakes and pastries.
High above Baixa, and best reached either by  the funny-peculiar (funicular) railway called  "Gloria" or a massive iron elevador, is Bairro Alto. The "high quarter" is a 16th-century grid of workshops, charming little grocers' stores and homes. It is now comfortably contemporary, jostling with funky boutiques, artesan hat shops, bistros, bars and retro-furniture emporia.Streets on the map suddenly become dead ends and the resume their path again higher up. It is difficult to describe without actually losing yourself in the experience.Its like a game of hide and chic.
At lunch time on a hot May day last week we found ourselves on Rua Dom Pedro in Principe Real at the highest point of the Bairro. Lost again within 15 minutes and bored of staring at maps, hot and weary with stomachs crying out for  some sort of nourishment we despair that we can´t find a lunch spot where we can sit outdoors and enjoy another view of the Baixa below. The Tapas bar we had been recommended and endeavoured to eat at was closed. But lo and behold, my eye caught a sign directing us through an arch to Lostin - Hippie chic, lifestyle bar, buddha bar, esplanada. Each to his own, make of it what you want, but for sure you will want to find it again, as we did for an early evening snifter.
Here is an Indian terrace bar in Principe Real."This is how Lisbon´s most shanti chill out with one of the best views in the city might present itself", says Convida guide no. 14 Buddha bar lounge music, silk parasols and exotic muriels, what more could you ask for while eating a ham and brie toastie with caramelised red onion and a bottle of ice cold beer in the other hand. After lunch ,treat yourself to an item from the clothes shop,and then head off back down the hill of twisting streets towards shopping chic Chiado.
Lostin maybe,  but we certainly found exactly what we were looking for. Long may the quest for discovery in this beguiling and intriguing capital continue....
.....and our bill arrived in a little embroidered Indian  shoe

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Em espera a nespera

An abundant crop of Nesperas growing wild at the end of our street
Nesperas have just come into season.  This is how you say their name: “NESH-pair-ush.” What are they?   They look like loquats They taste vaguely apricot-like, but with a tarter edge and large seeds. What do you do with them? Just COOOOK will ya....

Nesperas in the market
Bolo de nesperas  
 500 g of Nesperas
4 large eggs
200g sugar 
200 g flour + a little for sprinkling
1bsp baking powder
2 tbsp (tablespoons) milk
5 tablespoons of good quality olive oil plus a little for greasing

Preheat oven to 180 º C. Grease a loaf pan with a little oil. Sprinkle with flour. Wash and dry the Nesperas. Cut them in halves lengthwise and remove the stones.                             
Breakfast or snack time is Nespera time
Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is fluffy and pale. Add flour, baking powder, milk and oil. Beat well.
Fold in the Nesperas.Transfer the dough to the loaf pan.Put on the middle shelf of the oven and bake at 180 °C - for about 40-45 minutes. Check with a skewer for doneness.Allow to cool completely before slicing.  

Source: Recipe adapted from the 
Portuguese Magazine Saude a Mesa No. 27.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

More Adventures in Sushi

My second attempt at Sushi, Lulas estufado-Ika Zushi (stuffed squid sushi )
Sushi a Algarvia - part 2.For my second venture into sushi I tried something much easier. For a start I had my vinegared rice already made, and there was no marinading and pressing.The joy of this sushi is that if you have pre-prepared your rice you are well on course to produce a ready to eat unusual canapé within 30 minutes.This dish also grabbed my attention as it is rare to find meat used in sushi, ( don´t worry veggies if you don´t eat meat just use the squid flaps and tentacles in the mixture but reduce the cooking juice accordingly). This sweet, dry cooked minced meat goes well with vinegared rice.And of course for my spirited Algarvian twist on the proceedings I used Medronho, the Algarvian fire water in place of Sake, and substituted sweet Madeira wine for the Mirin in the original recipe

To make 10-12 pieces
2 medium squid cleaned
3 tablespoons of Medronho
2-3 tablespoons of Japanese rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of sweet Madeira
2 tablespoons soya sauce
50g minced pork, beef or chicken ( I used pork)
2 cm fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
1/2 quantity of vinegared rice
Wasabi or horseradish to taste

Peel the outer skin off the squid.It comes off easily if you hold the two flaps together and peel down the body. Put the 2 bodies into a saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of Medronho.
Cover with boiling water and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain, rub the surface with a damp cloth to remove any marks, then sprinkle with rice vinegar all over to retain the whiteness.
Chop the flaps and tentacles.
Put the remaining Medronho, sugar, Madeira and soya sauce in a saucepan. Mix together and bring to the boil over a moderate heat. Add the meat of your choice, the chopped suid flaps and tentacles and chopped ginger. Stir vigorously with a fork until the meat blanches.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meat to a bowl, leaving the cooking juices in the pan. Boil the juice over a high heat for a couple of minutes until thickened. Stir the meat back into the saucepan to absorb the juice and then remove from the heat.
If you have not previously made the vinegared rice do so now. and then while still warm fold in the dry-cooked meat, and season to taste with wasabi or horseradish. Tightly stuff each squid body with half the rice mixture and using a very sharp knife, slice crossways into 5-6 pieces.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Come what May

First of the season´s cherries in todays market, at a reasonable price

First off today my sincere apologies for O Cozinheiro´s absence these last couple of days but the guys and/or girls at Google have let everybody down big time this week.There is nothing more soul destroying than having spent hours of research and creative time writing a blog post only to find that it has disappeared into the ether.Hopefully they will find my "disappearing" posts and I will be able to share them with you later, but meanwhile come what may, here is todays post....
Que sera sera, "vaille que vaille"- Whatever will be will be,its May and its Eurovision weekend, and unfortunately Portugal failed to qualify, but will the boys in Blue carry the conquest back to England, just as Vicki Leandros took this blog post title back to her homeland in 1972. Strong hopes for our neighbours in Spain too, and a big stadium reverberating aria from the favourites France. Who can predict a result- " Come what may "
Lerner and Lowe had a much simpler approach to catchy tunes with La Julie Andrews bringing her own beautiful English pronunciations and pure singing to light songs like "The Lusty Month of May" and "Then You May Take Me to the Fair,"

Tra la! It's May!
The lusty month of May!
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes          snail hunting
Blissfully astray.                                      
Tra la! It's here!
That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts
Merrily appear!......                          

It's mad! It's gay!                             ( the Eurovision song Contest )
A libelous display!

Whence this fragrance wafting through the air?         Apricots
What sweet feelings does its scent transmute?

Whence this perfume floating ev'rywhere?               Nesperas

Don't you know it's that dear forbidden fruit!          Figos lampos

My euro vision is more on what is happening in May foodwise, and what is seasonally available here in Southern Europe,and in particular the Iberian peninsular.
Today saw the May monthly market in town, a spot on barometer for what´s in season.
Yesterday I bought my first locally grown avocado.The fava beans are almost over alas and tomorrow we will pick the last crop and pull the plants up in preparation for the second batch of tomato plants to go in.Strawberries will continue for a few more weeks and the sardines are starting to poke their noses off the market stalls.Basil is still in pots, but with the weather now turned and with the current heatwave it wont be long before that heady aroma fills the terrace and garden.This week I spotted the first Portuguese cherries for sale at €5.80 a kilo, a hefty bill to pay for the miracle gout cure so I suffered the wait for the monthly market to hit town today, and my dividend paid off ( see above ).
May sees the fig bear its first crop, called the breba crop, in the spring on last season's growth.They are called the "Figos Lampos" because they are the first figs of the season produced by each tree. For me,these first figs are the best ones.
It is said that these first figs are the lamps; lampo or lampeiro - which is premature, hasty, premature,and as in the popular Portuguese  saying, referring to birds:
..  O cartaxo é lampeiro
....põe os ovos em Janeiro;
....quando vem o Entrudo
....já está penudo.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The coast is clear... but not for long

The Fabrica Lagoon
WARNING:Non food related post. if you are expecting a recipe stop reading now.
"Dear diary" kicks in for a bit of light relief and normal service will resume tomorrow.
Easter is over and now we have the lull before the storm. It´s still Spring but the temperatures are already inviting us for a swim at the beach The beaches are still deserted,but the Portuguese are saving their hard earned cash for the back up of holidays in June. Dia de Portugal, the national holiday is on 10th  June. Many Algarve towns have their Municipal holiday in June, with our own Castro Marim holiday and Tavira´s holiday as always coinciding on the 24th June.This year Corpo de deus falls on 23rd June, a Thursday, so that makes for a very long weekend of beach, eating and drinking. And summer officially starts on 20th June. I am enjoying my space while it lasts, before the sunbeds and umbrellas stake their claim on the sands, and the hordes arrive and there is no rest for the wicked for 4 months.Lets hope the crise universal,Portuguese bail out and the election on June 5th don´t keep the punters away- but meanwhile while the early morning spring sun shines my dog and I will enjoy the bay before we have to make way .

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

It doesn´t take much beating

Batatas à muro - Punched potatoes
I think this dish embodies many things that are uniquely Mediterranean... it marries garlic and olive oil with a baked potato, replacing maybe Northern Europe´s sour cream and chives.
Instead of gently cutting open the potato, these ones are literally beat up ('à muro') in the true hot blooded fashion that is being Mediterranean.
  • medium-sized potatoes (4 per person)
  • coarse Salmarim sea salt
  • olive oil and butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  1. Wash the potatoes and place them in a baking dish on top of a bed of coarse sea salt
  2. Bake 450 F /230C until soft,or until the potatoes begin to very lightly brown (around 30 minutes) - the salt speeds up the cooking
  3. Remove the excess salt and punch the potatoes with a wooden spoon so that the skin breaks (This is the beating up part!).
  4. Heat up the butter and olive oil in a shallow frying pan.Sauté the garlic gently  till soft I mixed in some roasted garlic purée to give an additional contrast.
  5. Mix in the punched potatoes season with salt and pepper and serve.
"It doesn't matter who's wrong or who's right  
Just beat it,beat it,beat it,beat it"

    Monday, 9 May 2011

    Putting the Portuguese back in Sushi

    My first attempt at Sushi - Algarvian carapau (mackerel) and Japanese sushi rice

    Sushi a Algarvia- The first in a series, which will follow my experiments with fusing the  raw cooking of Portugal and Japan.I have been fascinated by sushi for many years, but never taken the step to cross the threshold from the customer in a Japanese restaurant situation to sushi chef. Reading about its history as an expat in Portugal gave me the necessary push.The lesson I learnt from my first venture into the land of Sushi was that I started with the most difficult sushi first and everything thereafter seemed a doddle.My advice to a novice sushi maker is set aside some time for your first attempt, this is not something you can rush into.Given the time, the ensuing reward is phenomenal.
    The Portuguese lived in Japan, for generations before our own ancestors knew of its existence. They introduced words to the Japanese language, which are still current, including "orrigato" from"obrigado", meaning thank you.
    Not quite Portuguese, but the Osaka style sushi´s boxed carapau (mackerel) is named after the Portuguese word “barca”, or small boat. The name evolved into the word battera, and is used commonly in Japan today. The word battera was derived by an Osaka sushi restaurant around 1893 to describe a sushi, which looked like a small boat, and eventually became a word just for boxed cured mackerel.
    The battera uses fillets of a carapau (mackerel) and is placed inside a mould (sushi box, or hakozushigata) filled with sushi rice. A piece of vinegared kelp is placed on top, and pressed with the lid of the sushi box. They are cut in individual pieces and result in rectangular boxes.

    Carapau ( mackerel) sushi pieces - battera
    If you are making bigger quantities or need the rice for other sushi items, quadruple the quantities below. The vinegar will help preserve it for a few days if kept wrapped, in a cool place.Sushi should never be put in the fridge it will go hard.

    100ml sushi rice
    3/4 tablespoon rice vinegar
    1/2 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    Put the rice in a large bowl and wash it thoroughly, changing the water several times, until clear.Drain and leave in the colander for 1 hour.If you don´t have the time, soak the rice in clear cold water for 15 minutes, then drain.
    Transfer to a deep, heavy-based saucepan, add 115ml water. Cover and bring to the boil over a high heat, about 5 minutes.
    Lower the heat and simmer, covered for about 10 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.Do not lift the lid. Remove from the heat and and leave to stand with the lid still on for a further 5 minutes.
    Mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir until dissolved.
    Transfer the cooked rice to a large, shallow dish and sprinkle abundantly with the vinegar dressing. Using a wooden spatula, fold the vinegar dressing into the rice. Do not stir. While folding, cool the rice quickly using a fan. Let the rice cool to body temperature, before assembling the sushi.

    1 medium sized fresh carapau (mackerel) about 400g, filleted
    3-4 tablespoons rice vinegar
    Sea salt crystals
    vinegared sushi rice (see above)

    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    125ml water
    Start the preparation of this dish a few hours before cooking the rice. Take a dish larger than the fish fillets and cover with a thick layer of sea salt. Put the fish fillets flesh side down, on top of the salt and cover completely with more salt. Set aside for 4 hours. Remove the fish fillets and rub off the salt with damp paper towel. Carefully remove all the bones with tweezers, then put into a dish and pour the rice vinegar over the fish. Leave to marinate for a further 30 minutes.
    Make the vinegared rice if you haven´t already done so, following the recipe above.
    Mix the hand vinegar ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
    Put the fillets skin side down, on a cutting board and slice off the highest part from the centre of the flesh so the fillets will be fairly flat. Keep the trimmings.
    Line a wet rectangular container with a large piece of clinfilm. I used a straight edged Loose Bottom Rectangular Quiche/Tart Pan 35 x 13cm.
    Put a fillet, skin side down,in the container, Fill the gaps with the other fillet and trimmings. Dip your fingers in the hand vinegar, then press the cooked rice down firmly on top of the fish.Fold the clingfilm in and put a piece of thick cardboard cut to the size of your container on top with a weight.
    You can leave it in a cool place( not the refrigerator for a few hours.When ready to serve,remove from the container and unwrap the clingfilm. Take a very sharp knife and wipe it with a vinegar soaked cloth or piece of kitchen paper.Cut the block of sushi in 4 lengthways, then in 4 crossways, making 16 pieces in all.The division of the block and number of pieces may vary according to the size and shape of container you use.Arrange on a tray or plate and serve with individual bowls of soya sauce and wasabi.

    Arigato gozaimasu for reading.

    Friday, 6 May 2011

    A walk in the sapal

    One of the Salmarim salt pans surrounded by an abundance of edible plants
    This morning we scheduled a morning walk through the Sapal Nature reserve with our friend Jorge Filipe Raido from Salmarim.We learnt how sea salt has been harvested since Roman times in the Rio Guadiana delta. It really was an education, we not only visited the salt pans and acquired an insight into how the natural salt is collected, but also visited the Salmarim warehouse and saw work in progress. Jorge is developing the exciting  possibilities of many new natural flavours of infused salts.For me  it was also a chance to further develop my foraging skills and to bring home wild aspergo (asparagus) and Salicornia Europea (Marsh samphire). I am particularly excited about the latter as I am keen to introduce it into the Casa Rosada dinner menu, particularly for guests who may have been walking and experiencing the Sapal themselves. It will of course be part of the gastronomia silvestres workshops that we are now running with Maria Manuel Valagao.

    Salicornea Europea and Aspergo

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    That´s shallot

    The type of onion I have sourced in Andalucia

    The spring onion as I know it
    I am constantly plagued by the question "What is the difference between scallions and green onions?"

    This is a problematic vegetable, for it is known by many names; spring or green onions, scallions or Chinese shallots.
    I have an expat quandary which further complicates the matter. I've had experience in converting  produce names and varieties... but I am unable to source spring onions here in the Algarve .Nowhere have I seen a substitute for 'Spring/Green onions'.... Here at Casa Rosada we are growing and using chives when required as a garnish but... The Portuguese just do not seem to grow spring onions. On my shopping hops across the bridge to Spain I have managed to source an onion that is half way between scallion and white onion, which appears like an over developed spring onion or small leek.It has a bulbous fat bulb, a little smaller than a golf ball. It is what I think Americans call a green onion.Are you You me both.Forget insurance prices what we need is an admirable onion comparison website. Are you supposed to use a different part of the plant (top greens only) or is it the size of the onion that makes the difference? But then again I still do not know exactly what a scallion is."scalogno" in the Italian dictionary says scallion...? Maybe I should become rich by importing them....? NOT

    In the Casa Rosada kitchen I use them raw or as a part of salads or Asian recipes. I use diced "scallions" in soups, noodle and seafood dishes, or as part of a stir fry. I use them to  make green curry paste or salad dressings,normally removing the bottom quarter-inch of  the onion before use. 


    Yotam Ottolenghi´s Spring onion soup 

    700g spring onions (a large variety with a thick bulb, if possible)
    40g unsalted butter
    50ml olive oil, plus extra to finish
    2 whole medium garlic heads, cloves peeled and halved lengthways
    3 bay leaves
    300g frozen peas
    1 medium courgette, diced
    1.3 litres vegetable stock
    80g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
    60g  crème fraîche/parmesan mix
    20g mint leaves, roughly chopped
    Grated zest of ½ lemon
    Salt and black pepper
    Cut the white of the spring onions into 1.5cm-long slices and the green into 2.5cm-long segments.
    Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the oil, white spring onion slices, halved garlic cloves and some salt and pepper, and sauté on moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the green spring onion segments and the bay leaves, cook for about 10 minutes, add the peas and courgette, and cook for another five minutes.
    Remove half the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Cover the remaining vegetables with the stock, bring to a boil and simmer for three minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the parsley and blitz in a food processor or with a hand-held blender. Return the reserved vegetables to the pan and warm up gently. Stir in the kashk, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
    Transfer the soup into individual bowls, sprinkle with chopped mint and lemon zest, and finish with a drizzle of oil.

    Ramp up the volume with music to peel spring onions by.......

    Tuesday, 3 May 2011

    An ovenful of childhood memories

    Kromeski cromesqui, croquetas, wherever, whatever
    I shared my mother’s very same enthusiasm for culinary opportunity,watching with careful eye her kitchen procedure, asking questions whenever I could, and in turn started to acquire a basic culinary knowledge for myself. The Scottish lowlands, Berwickshire, East Lothian,West Lothian and Midlothian and Edinburgh  were at this time hosts to a sizeable expatriate community made up mostly as we know of Italians, but also Polish. Many of my mothers circle of friends were employing Italian and Polish staff in their households.My mother gleaned recipes from these expats, and adapted them into her own repertoire. At a very early age I too unconsciously acquired my multi-cultural palate.  

    (makes12 pieces)
    a recipe my mother was given by a Polish expatriate in Scotland and a childhood mealtime favourite of mine. Now I find myself an expatriate in Portugal eating an almost identical dish but as a tapas item called Croquetas in neighbouring Andalucia.I recreated the dish following the original polish recipe for nostalgias sake, and it rekindled fond memories of tastes gone by.

    For the batter 
    1/2 pint water
    6oz plain flour
    pinch of salt
    1tablespoon of oil
    2 egg whites

    For the filling
    8oz cooked chicken,or other left over meat ( I used quail )
    4oz fresh breadcrumbs
    1oz butter
    125g streaky bacon, pancetta or toucinho diced
    1oz plain flour
    2 egg yolks
    1 medium onion
    1/4 pint milk
    salt and pepper to taste
    pinch of nutmeg
    12 rashers of toucinho fumado or thin bacon rashers
    0il for deep frying

    Prepare the batter mix and leave to stand for one hour.
    Finely chop the onion and chop the cooked meat.
    Sauté the onions gently in the butter until softened but not browned.
    Combine the mixture with the breadcrumbs, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and season to taste.
    Add the cooked meat.
    Remove the rinds from the bacon and flatten with a knife.
    Spread some of the mixture generously along each bacon rasher then roll up.
    (for smaller kromeski or to serve as canapés cut each rasher in half before spreading the mixture)
    Beat the egg whites until stiff.
    Fold the egg whites into the batter.
    Dip each of the bacon rolls into the batter mixture.
    Deep-fry for 5 minutes or until golden brown.
    Drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot.