Friday, 29 July 2011

Its a Rum life- but we´ll muddle through

Is there any drink sexier than rum? The very name conjures up images of tanned torsos white sand and blue skies. Its seductive flavour and occasional spicy hit make it a terrific base for a cool sexy summer cocktail.
As joyful as samba, with the charm of Copacabana,and far better than Brazilian soccer - Caipirinha (ka-pur-een-ya) is by far the best known Brazilian drink.
Like any great cocktail, art and skill are required to make a great Caipirinha. Too much of any one thing – lime, sugar, or Cachaça – and the delicious concoction from Brazil will be anything but delicious. Too sour, too sweet, or too much Cachaça, and you have a cocktail out of kilter. And like life, it’s all about balance for any great cocktail.
Let’s start with the basics: what is a Caipirinha, and how is it made? The national cocktail of Brazil, the Caipirinha is a combination of muddled lime, sugar, and Cachaça served on the rocks in a glass tumbler. Take a good size lime, cut it into 8 wedges, and place 4 wedges in your glass tumbler. Add two teaspoons of sugar, mash the lime and sugar with a muddler for 15 seconds, and add crushed ice up to the rim of the glass. Add two ounces of Cachaça, stir thoroughly, and garnish with a lime wedge.

Best caipirinha destination: Cafe Porto Seguro, Praia Verde.
Here head honcho Senhor Joao, master muddler will mix you the best Caipirinha on the Algarve coast.

Porto Seguro (Portuguese for "Safe Port"). is a municipality in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It is the site where the Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral  first set foot on Brazilian soil on April 22, 1500. It was the busiest port of the developing Portuguese colonies from 1500 into the early 19th century and is now a major tourist destination.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lettuce entertain you

"Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!
I've grown accustomed to alface... breathing out and breathing in...
...It´s like second nature to me now"

When you move to a foreign country it´s not long before things become second nature to you. Portuguese lettuce ( alface ) is one. I have been lucky enough to have  found a local supplier in the market who grows his own heirloom red tinged lettuce, and fantastic it is too.Otherwise there is not much choice unless one ventures across the river to Spain where Romaine or little gem varieties can be sourced.
Lettuce is only for salads....or is it? Tightly furled dense Little Gem lettuce leaves or hearts of Romaine survive cooking extremely well, softening down without dissolving.
You may not think of lettuce as an especially versatile ingredient but with a little imagination it can become a class act and be used in several different ways. 
One idea that you might not have thought about, is to use lettuce leaves instead of bread or tortilla wraps.  If you choose to, or have to, avoid bread for any reason it can be difficult to find something to replace sandwiches and wraps but, perhaps surprisingly, lettuce makes an ideal substitute.They're quick to prepare and fun to eat, besides being delicious. The rich flavour of the filling against cool, crisp lettuce is fantastic.

To make the wraps
  • Take a lettuce leaf and place it so the underside of the leaf is uppermost.
  • If necessary, carefully crush the centre stalk, using your thumb.
  • Spread the filling onto the lettuce leaf.
  • Starting from the base, tightly roll up the leaf.
  • To make sure that the wraps don't unroll you could tie them with chives or secure the join with a cocktail stick - but take care that you remove the sticks before eating them!
  • Place join down on a serving plate.
Caesar salad  in Little Gem "cups"
Little gem lettuce leaves are also ideal to use as 'cups' which can be filled with your choice of filling and many types of lettuce can be used to make wraps.Braised with mushrooms and bacon they make a delicious side dish to any main course.Filled with a Caesar or Thai chicken salad could be the helpful solution to simple canapés or light starters for an outdoor summer party. The contrast of refreshing lettuce leaves to hot, spicy meatballs is a pleasure to the palate

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A new take on a Portuguese classic

  Bolo de Bolacha Maria ( new and revised recipe )

( original posted June 2010)

`Something for the weekend ` - There are endless versions of this cake.The bolo de bolacha even has its own facebook page!!!! Casa Rosada´s favourite version is served at Restaurante Dom Petisco on the Guadiana river estuary at Vila Real de Santo Antonio ( + 351 281 541 853 )

Here is my take on a true Portuguese classic!!

2 x 200g packets of Maria biscuits
4 egg yolks
125g unsalted butter
250g icing / confectioner´s sugar
100g good quality dark cocoa powder ( Valor Cacao Puro or Green and Black´s organic)
1 cup strong coffee
3 tbsp Maciera

1. Beat egg yolks, sugar, butter, and cocoa powder until you get a creamy mixture

2. Brew strong coffee and add the Maciera.
Dip biscuits very briefly one by one.
Do not let the biscuits stay too long in the liquid as they will fall apart

3. Put a layer of biscuits in a spring form tin, in the form of a flower
and spread with a thin layer of the cream mixture

4. Dip more biscuits and add another layer of biscuits
and once again spread with a thin layer of the mixture
Keep repeating the process building layers until you have used all the biscuits

5. Once you have got the size of cake that you want,
finish up by covering the top and sides with more cream mixture
Save some cream mixture to touch up the sides of the cake
when you remove it from the springform tin before serving
Refrigerate overnight to set until ready to serve.

Monday, 25 July 2011

The sheer cheek of it

Guisada de Bochechas  ( Pork cheek Ragù with pappardelle)

Bochechas de porco
A throwaway cut, championed by a handful of reputable chefs, and suddenly it´s the latest in food fashion: are pigs’ cheeks the new pork belly? Ricardo and Sara at Amore Vero champion some of the tastiest cooked pork cheeks in the Algarve and likewise Chef Marco does his own cheeky cha take at Cha com agua Salgada

Cheek by jowl, pure cheek...

...and Portuguese style

This brought a smile to my cheeks 

"Nigella Lawson keeps a secret stash of pigs ears in her freezer that she deep-fries for a crispy, solitary snack".

The most important thing to remember when you’re cooking pork cheeks, is not to cook them too fast. Not one for the barbecue, this cut demands long, slow cooking in order to tenderise the muscle fibres that spend all day chomping at the pig’s trough. Have patience and you will be rewarded with meltingly tender morsels of meat that you can eat with a spoon, and that snuggle up perfectly to a warming blanket of creamy mash.
Just as they sound, they are the cheeks of the pig. A delicacy that normally weigh 3-5 oz a piece.They have a very rich flavor and a lot of tough protein, which means that they are chewy, but when you slow cook them, those proteins break down to give them a beautiful melting texture.   Cook them until they easily pull apart with a fork (you don’t actually have to pull them apart). Ordinarily, I´d suggest you do this in a  cast iron pan or slowly in the oven.  You can dry rub them with salt and pepper and any herb that you like.  Rosemary is always a good choice.  I would sear them over high heat until they brown on both sides, then move them away from the direct heat and let them finish at 250C for at least 2 -3 hours.
If you prefer, you can always do them in a cast iron pot which allows you to collect the juices.  Then you can saute a little garlic in the pot and finish a sauce by reducing wine or peach slices. Or both,very nice.
Anyway, use your imagination as long as you sear them and then finish them low and slow. 

Do you want to be a cheeky chappy - then here´s how

Pork cheek Ragù with pappardelle
The best part about this recipe is that it’s simple and requires very little attention beyond the prep. Just brown the meat and refogado to create a flavourful fond on the pan, toss in all the other ingredients, then let it cook over low heat for a few hours. When you come back you’ll be greeted by a thick reduced sauce and glistening collagen laden meat that falls apart when prodded with a fork.
The aroma is quite intoxicating, and whether it’s served with al dente pappardelle or with a crusty slice of fried bread,Portuguese style. Whichever, you’ll be richly awarded for such a meager amount of work. The left over sauce freezes well and can be served up as a simple supper with any another type of pasta.

Allow 2 Bochecas ( pork cheeks )per person
1 medium onion chopped

1large carrot chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 Cup white wine
1 Can chopped tomatoes
5 sprigs fresh thyme
handful of fresh basil leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dried shiitake mushroom (optional)

Generously salt and pepper both sides of the cheeks . Heat a small casserole until hot. Add the pork, fat side down and fry undisturbed until browned. Flip, then brown the other side. You may have to do this in 2 batches. The brown fond on the bottom of the pan is where the sauce gets most of its flavour so make sure you build up a nice thick layer without burning it.
Turn down the heat and set the pork aside. Add the onions, carrot,celery and garlic to the pan. Use the vegetables to scrape the brown fond off the bottom of the pan and fry until soft and fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the wine turning up the heat and boiling until the mixture is a thick consistency. This incorporates all that good flavour into the sauce while reducing the amount of liquid so your sauce doesn’t end up watery.
Add the tomatoes, thyme, marjoram and bay leaf stirring to combine.If using, take a microplane or other zester to grate 1 tablespoon of dried shiitake mushroom into the ragù. Return the pork with the collected juices back into the pot. Submerge the meat in the sauce, turn the heat down to low and partially cover with a lid. Simmer for 2-3 hours or until the jowls come apart easily with a fork.
Skim off any excess fat with a spoon then remove the pork from the sauce and roughly chop or pull apart the meat then return it to the sauce. If you are serving it with pasta, put the cooked pasta in a bowl with some sauce and toss to combine along with some minced parsley for color. .

The versatility of the chap: 
it can be  sliced into lardons for a carbonara.

Friday, 22 July 2011


I was recently given an introduction by friends to a new Insurance broker for motor cover.
Responding to his request for my full name I nearly fell off my chair, when he said "Oh RIP KIRBY!!!!". An insurance agent in Tavira  Portugal was familiar with the popular 50´s comic strip and knew about a private detective created by Alex Raymond in 1946.- TRULY AMAZING!!!!!. The fact is how could someone younger than me know of a daily comic strip published in The Daily Mail, for its sins, 60 odd years ago. WOW!!!!!

A little bit of background
Having relinquished the Flash Gordon strip to fight in World War II, Raymond returned to create something completely different, a new strip featuring scientist-turned-private-detective Rip Kirby, an ex-marine, a former athlete, and a genuine intellectual, a bookish-looking urbanite who smoked a pipe and even wore glasses. This postwar paragon solved cases with the help of his valet (and former safecracker), Desmond, and his fashion-model girlfriend, Honey Dorian. The cultured and cerebral Rip may not be as well known as Flash, but his strip was technically far better work than Raymond’s gorgeously drawn but stiff and stilted SF epic.
I wonder if he was interested in food.I can´t find any mention of his eating habits.
There should be a campaign to revive the eponymous RIP

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The cherry on the cake

Adam and Eve got their start in the Garden of Eden, and so can anyone else if they want to. The combination of a bucolic setting and air scented with flowers makes for a peaceful yet intoxicating place to propose marriage. Take a walk to a private spot and take the plunge.What better place place for a marriage to bloom.Our most recent guests at Casa Rosada had requested dinner in the garden. She was pregnant and so some dietary issues needed to be addressed.No posh pate for starter, not even a quenelle of mayonnaise and most of all no raw eggs. After they left the following morning, we found this comment written in our visitors book..."Your lovely garden inspired me to propose...She said YES!!!" - It must have been the cherry on her cake.This is how the proposal came to be.Everything was going according to plan until I got to pudding when I had for some reason delved back deep into my recipe archives and unearthed a mousse like tart of my mother´s from the 50´s.It involved raw eggs. No good. There had to be a way. The recipe needed a makeover and I did not want to use gelatine so it all melted down to the simplicity of bittersweet chocolate and a heavily whipped cream.— and it didn't need to be baked.Simplicity itself.

Dark Cherry and Chocolate Mousse Tart
It´s all about intensity.Mountains of feathery light chocolate mousse together with a crunchy shortbread casing and the soft flesh of the darkest of dark cherries.
Keeping the stalks on the cherries lets you pull the cherries out of the tart one by one, pre-dipped in the chocolate mousse. I didn´t know whether to eat it or climb it. Another original sin to my name.

4 fully baked 10 cm tart shells
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
18 dark cherries pitted and halved
20 dark cherries with stalks still attached
cocoa powder for dusting
Break the chocolate up into chunks and set it in a medium bowl over a pan of gently boiling water.When it has melted set it aside for a moment and whisk in the whipped cream gently until completely smooth and amalgamated.Transfer to a smaller bowl and cover with cling film, and puncture several holes in it with the tip of a paring knife.Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.Halve the cherries and pit them.Then spread them in an even layer cut side down on the bottom of each tart shell.Scrape the chilled chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl and using a hand held mixer beat at medium speed until soft peaks form.Spoon the mousse over the cherries.Arrange the rest of the cherries randomly stalks up in the chocolate mousse and serve.
If you have some chocolate mousse left over, just chill it in a bowl and save for later. Lets face reality it´s not going to happen is it!!! For an alternative proposal treat yourself to a weekend away and let Casa Rosada do the cooking

Monday, 18 July 2011

Its better with the pig

Many recipes are improved by the addition of a pork product. That rash statement out of the way, the inimitable chouriço sausage can bring something extra to a salad.I decided recently to play with the composition of a classic bacon and spinach salad and give it an Iberian update, bringing to it some lovely warm southern Spanish flavours.It was all a bit 70´s when there was a fashion for raw spinach leaves in such establishments as Joe Allen´s. So out went the bacon, mushrooms and hard-boiled eggs and in came chouriço sausage, pequillo peppers avocado and orange. What have we got, chic modern Spanish salad......

Spinach and avocado salad
with a warm chouriço, pequillo and orange dressing

1 large ripe avocado cut into chunks
500g washed baby spinach leaves or pousse
250g  Chouriço corrente (semi cured cooking chouriço) skin discarded and then diced
4 tablespoons of good quality sherry vinegar
1 tin or jar of Pequillo peppers 185g ( approximately 6 peppers)cut into strips
zest and juice of 1 Navel Orange
handful of chopped pistachios for garnish

Remove the skin from the chouriço and dice the meat, fry in a small frying pan with a glug of olive oil until the fat runs out and the chouriço is nicely coloured and cooked.Set the pan aside and cool for a minute.Introduce the sherry vinegar and juice from the orange.Stir to mix well then add the strips of pequillo pepper.Season well.
In a salad bowl mix the spinach leaves with the orange zest.Chop the avocado into chunks and when ready to serve arrange the spinach, orange zest and avocado chunks on plates and pour over the warm chouriço orange and pepper dressing.

A simple Chouriço dressing
• olive oil
• 100g chouriço sausage, chopped into small pieces
• a sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
• extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• juice of 1 lemon

Heat a frying pan with a couple of glugs of olive oil. Fry the chouriço until the fat renders out, add the rosemary and garlic, toss and take off the heat after 30 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar and half the lemon juice to the pan, mix and put to one side.

Memories of a childhood summer

My father as a child in 1906. So thats where i got my culinary influence?

Another July, another year older.I feel nostalgic for my culinary childhood.
From an early age, although my mother never ruled sugar out of our diets, when we asked for sweets or chocolate, she would dangle a raw carrot in front of us instead. My adolescence of culinary adventure blossomed even further with two and a half acres of garden, orchard and vegetable beds to explore. For the most part the vegetable garden was my fathers domain.It consisted mostly of summer cropping. Rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, lettuce, plums, carrots, runner beans and potatoes all were his pride and joy. Jerusalem artichokes he grew in quantity and sold to the local green grocer. I remember having my very first vine ripened tomato, from his modest little greenhouse.He pressed it to my nose, leaving an indelible impression on me of what real freshness was about.This was a time when seasons still dictated what we ate.A tomato still warm from the sun gave one a fragrant indication that it was the height of summer, and the citrusy aroma of tangerine, satsuma and clementine peel told us it was Christmas.
A great game was to climb the greengage tree or one of the plum trees in the orchard and pass down to my father below some fruit, ripe  varieties of Little River or  Victoria plums. Playing hide and seek amid the tall stems of the jerusalem artichoke plot, looking forward to the piping hot gratin of the same that my mother would serve up before bedtime. Hot sunny July afternoons scrabbling under the strawberry and raspberry nets  eating the luscious fresh fruit as I gathered punnets for our supper. My favourite stop on the way back down the garden path was the gooseberry bush.And back indoors I would find my mother making her home-made cream to pour over the plentiful strawberries.Alas time for bed."Don´t pull that face or the wind will change and you will be stuck with it for the rest of your life", my mother would say. It must be something about growing up and the strong winds in East Lothian, Scotland. So that explains what happened to Subo!!! Sigh, why did I ever want to grow up?

Friday, 15 July 2011

Duas empregadas pequenas da escola

Mop and bucket
Two little maids from school are we.Irony finds us so appropriately the proprietors of a boarding house that was once the old girls school "freed from its tutelary" in Castro Marim."Two little maids in attendance come" as we climb the stairs with our mops and buckets, dusters and brooms or carry freshly ironed and pressed linen from the linen cupboard to the bedrooms. I feel not as much a maid as an "old girl."

I am the mistress of the floors upstairs and the Mrs Bridges of the kitchen downstairs. He is my Mr Hudson that charms the pants off the guests in the parlour and sees that all is up to colour and up to style in the guests rooms,gives them a warm hand on their entrance and bids them a fond farewell, a hope to see you again and a pleasant onward journey when they have paid their dues, and passed comment in the visitors book.

"OHHH Ruby you Stooooopid girl" You are so slow-witted".

"The lady in Room 1 would like to go off piste and have a soft boiled egg with her breakfast this morning"."Very good Mr Hudson.

...and Lady Bellamy  has informed me that she and her husband would like to partake of afternoon tea in the garden this afternoon"."Thank you Mrs Bridges"

...and the two hirsute gentlemen in room two would like you to call O Senor Valentim for a carriage to take them to Vila Real."I will see to it right away Mrs Bridges".

Mr and Mrs van Groeben will be checking in to room 3 for two nights in October and will require early breakfasts on both mornings due to their golfing commitments.

"ohh I don´t know about that Mr Hudson I´ll have a lot on my plate"
Such is the fictitious familiarity of a daily
scenario, but not far from the truth.Who would have thought 
it- eh?

Casa Rosada,by all accounts a great place to stay

....and downstairs

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Perk up a peanut

Last year I perked up a pequillo, for my next turn I am going to perk up a peanut.Pick up an aperitif and to accompany it- a perked up peanut. Bring on Casa Rosada´s new pan cooked petisco( Portuguese snack).

Rosemary and sugar coated peanuts

2 cups roasted salted peanuts
1/8 cup golden sugar
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Finely chop rosemary and add with sugar to saucepan. Add enough water to make a wet sand texture. Simmer on low heat until mixture is just starting to turn beige. Turn off heat. Add peanuts to saucepan and stir rapidly until syrup coats peanuts evenly. Cool peanuts before serving to allow the syrup to harden.Pour your guests an early evening tipple and serve with a bowl of Rosemary and sugar coated peanuts.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Dressed to impress

In Italian a puttanesca is a `lady of the night´ and in Portugal a puta is a whore. Spaghetti Putanesca is literally tart´s spaghetti. In keeping with the general gist of this I have prostituted the recipe, and the bastard child I have produced is son of puta, a risotto-esque cake, a teasingly provocative appetizer or starter that presents itself as a perfect Portuguese petisco. This tarty little pasta item dressed up and made to look attractive, provides a sexy starter and will bring repute to any house, giving your summer dinner a bootylicious kick start.

Bolinha Puta Portuguesa

Serves 4
200g Pontinha,  risone or other rice shaped pasta
Extra virgine olive oil
200g fresh chopped tomato
20g chopped capers
40g chopped black olives
20g fresh oregano
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
1 piri piri pepper or malagueta
Flor de sal aromatica

Cook the rice shaped pasta, following the method for a risotto. Warm the olive oil in a pan add the rice pasta and stir to coat in the olive oil.gradually add a boiling organic vegetable bouillon, preferably Marigold until the pasta is cooked. remove from the heat and, while still hot stir in the chopped fresh tomato, capers, olives, fresh oregano, tomato paste and chilli. Season with the flor de sal, Spread the resulting mix into a pre-oiled shallow tray lined with cling film and leave to set. Keep in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight until set firm. Turn the tray over and carefully peel away the cling film.Cut into small circular pieces with a pastry cutter.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Amazing grains

An idea inspired by Rachel Kelly alias Marmaduke Scarlet
My challenge is to emulate a supermarket ready meal at home. I have always had a desire to do this. In those dark unhealthy days when I used to work in an office in the big smoke and inevitably lunch at one´s desk came from M and S or Cullens. Who remembers good old Cullens?-Swallowed up by greedy Tesco's £54m purchase of Europa Foods, Harts and the former Cullens convenience store chain, all much needed quality corner shop institutions,that left the British high street awash with Tesco Metros and Sainsbury Locals.Anyway, so.
The core ingredient here is mograbiah or moghrabbiyeh. This is also known as Lebanese, pearl or Israeli couscous.Rachel´s word to describe it, was fat couscous; and it shall always be fat couscous to me.Step aside big fat gypsies and enter big fat cous cous
Here is my Lusitanian interpretation of the Sainsbury´s Taste the Difference giant Cous Cous and Feta salad pot that Rachel purchased and enjoyed.I used a bit of artistic licence I have to admit.

Mediterranean cous cous
The cooking method for Mograbiah is slightly different to normal cous cous and is boiled for 15 minutes as opposed to being steeped in hot water or stock. Please refer to Rachel´s post
for more specific cooking instructions and to see her own take on this.
Serves 4 
200g Mograbiah, Lebanese pearl or Israeli cous cous 
200g Cherry tomatoes
2 Medium avocados cut into small chunks
200g Feta cheese crumbled
Abundant torn basil leaves

5 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Stir the dressing into the cous cous, mix in the tomatoes, feta and avocados.
Serve with rocket

For meat lovers substitute the feta for shredded cooked chicken breast and toss in the dressing.Kepping the avocado and cherry tomatoes is up to you. The chicken herbs and mograbiah is delicious on its own- just up the quantities of basil and rocket.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Original sin

A naked woman reclines comfortably on a bough while an admiring male and a mischievous looking snake survey the scene from nearby. A classical painterly image of biblical temptation. Temptation being an apt metaphor, since the fig is an alluring fruit with a stunning shape and smooth, velvety flesh that when penetrated gives way to an interior filled with a texture and seeds that seem almost like ground nuts.
According to Genesis, after Adam and Eve had consumed the forbidden fruit ( an apple) , their eyes were opened and they realized their nakedness.  They covered themselves by sewing fig leaves together and making aprons. Thus,from an Old Testament point of view, figs have been in existence since the inception of the world. Secularly speaking, figs were possibly one of the first fruits cultivated by man.  There is archeological evidence over 11,000 years old from the Jordan Valley suggesting that agriculture began with the fig.
Figs are employed in multifilarious savoury and sweet dishes including jams, tarts, mousses, salads, purees and stuffings.In Europe, roasted figs are used to flavour coffee. The Arabs ferment them into a spirit.  And in many cultures they are still relied on for sundry medicinal purposes.

When you have a fruit as beautiful as this, and one that´s at its peak of perfection this time of year little is required to create a sensual and satisfying dish. The question is should it be simply taken in hand and devoured voraciously or exalted by cooking. Whichever you choose paradise is just around the corner.

Baked figs with Orange Licore and whipped cream
Serves 6

12 fresh figs
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon orange flavoured licore such as Grand Marnier*
1cup chilled thick cream

Pre-heat oven to 300F
Prick bottom of each fig several times and stand them in a buttered 24cm flameproof gratin dish.Sprinkle figs with 1/3 cup sugar, then add water to the dish.
Bake the figs in middle of the oven, basting twice with pan juices, until tender. About 30 minutes.Transfer dish to stove top, then add 1/4 cup orange licore and bring to aboil over a moderately high heat.remove from the heat and carefully ignite the pan juices. After the flames subside, the juices should be syrupy.if they are too thin, transfer the figs to a shallow serving bowl, then boil the juices until reduced and syrupy, 3-5 minutes, then por over the figs.
beat the cream with the remaining two tablespoons sugar and a tablespoon of using an electric mixer until you obtain soft peaks.
Serve figs in your very own Garden of Eden, warm or at room temperature, with syrup and cream, not resisting temptation.

*Grand Marnier is a liqueur created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. It is made from Cognac flavored with the peel of bitter Haitian oranges, spices, and vanilla.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The label said not....

                   ...But the fruit said yellow. 

Last year I bought a peach tree from what I thought to be a reputable garden centre in near neighbouring Andalucia. The variety of peach was supposed to be The Paraguayo variety. I duly planted and waited, but a year down the line what came to maturity was an Amarelo ( yellow fleshed) peach. How disappointing. The paraguyo does not usually grow in the Algarve so Portuguese garden centres do not normally carry stock of them. I was so excited to be a potential Portuguese grower of the paraguayo, but alas, at the end of the day  can you trust a label?

The yellow flesh peaches tend to have a more Acidic tang than the white flesh peaches.

For a fresh salad idea, combine sliced peaches with shredded barbequed chicken, baby Asian salad greens, sliced avocado and camembert cheese. Drizzle with a mixture of olive oil and lime juice.
For a fresh breakfast, peel peaches and remove stones. Puree the flesh until smooth then swirl through natural yoghurt. Serve over fruit salad or cereal.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Corks -a-poppin

Fight back against synthetics and screw caps! Corks are poppin, business is boomin! Good old-fashioned cork is making a comeback.Portugal’s cork industry is celebrating the return of the cork wine stopper.  A few years ago the world’s greatest experts had forecast its imminent demise with absolute certainty. It was a thing of the past, they said; a gift from Mother Nature destined to be overtaken by man-made materials*. I have always been in favour of the cork - it adds to the mysticism of opening and enjoying wine/champagne and It has been argued that there is a component of ageing wines that favours corks over other materials.Many wine producers turned away from the cork oak forests of the Iberian Peninsula in the 1990s, after studies showed that up to 7 per cent of bottles sealed in traditional fashion were “corked” — the term that describes wine affected by a contaminated cork. Did we know however, that when we visit a department store,just  how many varied products are cork related. Obviously on the wine shelves there will be cork stoppers, but in the food hall there will be olive oil, salt and spices all found in containers sealed with cork. Moving on to items for the house we find floor and wall tiles, and in the bathroom showroom sinks moulded from cork are available.Furniture manufactured in cork is becoming fashionable. If we are looking for a new pair of shoes cork is again a possibility. Among the accesories and gifts we now find cork wallets, purses, bags, belts and would you believe it umbrellas.

Welcome to the world of Amorim, this is Madeleine speaking, I'm over by the elevadores between the wine emporium and the war paint ( makeup (usually burnt cork) used by a performer in order to imitate a Negro). Fatima and myself are just about to give a demonstration of the new Autumn range of war paint and accessories.We have a special offer on special offer. A free gift coming to you free with any purchase worth £36 or more. A free gift comprising cork effect "pochette" packed to the drawstring with handy sized oddments. Total in-mouth blot, eye wipe and shimmering cleavage enhancer...If any lady wants a special LUUUUK perhaps for a night out with the latest in cork adornment or just for the sheer heck of it then please come up to the counter, yes thats between the wine emporium and the war paint  and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of.... Amorim. 
Harvesting cork
Amorim, the world’s largest producer of natural wine corks, registered record sales of 3.2 billion stoppers last year.Its business in Britain rose by 50 per cent, and António Amorim, the chief executive, predicted that even Australia, which led the move towards man made stoppers, would return to the bark of the cork oak.The comeback of the cork is an enormous relief for many environmentalists, who had feared that the rise of the screw cap would lead to the destruction of Portugal’s cork oak forests, which are home to endangered species such as the Iberian lynx, Barbary deer and the Imperial Iberian eagle. Mr. Aracil said: “The environmental issue has been very important in the revival. It is a key argument.”   

Cork is environmentally friendly.
Stoppers account for 70% of the cork industry´s turnover.
Portugal is the leading world producer and exporter of cork.
Cork´s range of uses goes from stoppers to aeronautical or pharmaceutical applications.
Stoppers are a major cork product.

All the single ladies wear a cork on it.....

 A Portuguese wedding dress made of cork

*Carbon footprint studies commissioned by Corticeira Amorim, Oeneo Bouchage of France and the Cork Supply Group of Portugal concluded that cork is the most environmentally friendly wine stopper in comparison to other alternatives. The Corticeira Amorim’s study, in particular ("Analysis of the life cycle of Cork, Aluminum and Plastic Wine Closures"), developed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Results concluded that, concerning the emission of greenhouse gases, each plastic stopper released 10 times more CO2, whilst an aluminium stopper releases 26 times more CO2 than  a cork stopper.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Naughty but NICE

" What crimes have been committed in the name of this pure fresh salad...!"

Everybody knows Salad Nicoise. So they think they do?- a bit of lettuce, a couple of tomatoes, some French beans and potatoes, soft boiled eggs, a few olives, a tin of tuna et Robert est son oncle. Robert may be, but Jacques isn´t, Jacques Medecin that is, one time mayor of Nice, wrote La cuisine du compte de Nice, a compilation of recipes based on his grandmother´s coooking. He violently disagrees with having cooked vegetables in his "authentic" Salade Nicoise, so out go the beans and spuds. In their place however is a positive riot of raw ones.Escoffier´s recipe for salade Nicoise, written 50 years earlier is simply:"Tunny fish(Tuna) in oil, tomato, anchovy fillets cut into cubes, mixed with chervil and chives. A little mustard may be added.
Here are two versions with very different effects.

Salad Nicoise (authentic)
Very bold and very Portuguese in its ingredients
even though its French
Note the omission of tuna
6 large tomatoes peeled and quartered
6 hard boiled eggs quartered
1 cucumber peeled and sliced
2 green peppers sliced in very thin rings
500g broad beans peeled
100g silver anchovy fillets
100g black olives
50g radishes
olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic,
basil, salt and pepper
Rub a big salad bowl with a clove of garlic and arrange the ingredients in the order given .
Sprinkle with vinegar, salt and pepper and anoint in copious amounts with good olive oil.
Toss well at the table before serving.

Salad Nicoise (bogus)

"Oh you are awful but I like you".

2 round lettuces,oak leaf, baby gems or mixed leaves
(leaves separated and washed)
6 large tomatoes, peeled and quartered
6 hard boiled eggs, halved
400g baby new potatoes, scraped boiled and halved
400g french beans topped tailed and boiled al dente
(I substitute runner beans which are more readily available here in the Algarve)
250g good quality canned tuna such as Ortiz
100g black olives
In a bowl arrange the ingredients around and over the salad leaves in a high pile. Make a vinaigrette and pour over the salad. Toss the salad at the table before serving.