Friday, 30 September 2011

Ohhh crumbs

"Next to spaghetti with tomato sauce, this may well have been,for a certain generation or two, the most familiar of Italian dishes. Perhaps some cooks find it too commonplace to attract their serious attention;but at home I have never stopped making it, and am pleased to see aubergine parmesan continuing to appear in Italy, not just in pizza parlours, but even in rather fancy restaurants. No dish has ever been devised that tastes more satisfyingly of summer, and its popularity will no doubt endure long after many of the newer arrivals on the Italian food scene have had their day".Marcella Hazan
Inspired by Nigel Slater´s recipe for Mozzarella salad with hot tomato crumbs, I  set myself the challenge of deconstructing the classic Aubergine parmigiana and making a  salad of it.I am committing a heinous crime. I have always said you should never meddle with a classic but better the devil you know than the devil you don´t. Every aubergine parmigiana recipe I have researched says it is equally good served cold , so I'm going to put my neck on the line here. "Ohhh crumbs" I hear you say, the Italians will be getting "caldo tutto interno da collare." (I'm bracing myself already for a flurry of comments from Furious of Firenze, violated of Vicenza and irate of Roma) Anyway here´s how I did it.
I collated the aubergine, tomato, extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella, basil leaves, parmesan and breadcrumbs, my notebook and set to work.

A warm salad of aubergine parmesan tomato basil mozzarella and breadcrumbs
serves 6

1.35kg /3lb aubergines diced into bite size cubes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
500g fresh plum tomatoes San Marzano coarsely chopped
300g ( 2 balls ) buffalo mozzarella 
8-10 basil leaves
125g breadcrumbs
75g parmesan
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Dice the aubergines and steep them in layers sprinkled with salt inside a colander. place a deep dish under the colander to collect the bitter drippings and allow the aubergine to steep for 30 minutes or more.Pat the aubergine cubes dry with kitchen paper.
Cut the mozzarella into round  slices, then place, slightly overlapping, in a serving dish. Finely chop the basil leaves, then add a few twists of black pepper and the 3 tbsp of olive oil. Pour the herb dressing over the slices of mozzarella. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for up to four hours.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Cut the tomatoes in half, scoop out and discard the seeds, dice the flesh into small pieces then transfer to a mixing bowl. Tear or shred the basil leaves and finely grate the parmesan, then add, together with the olive oil, to the tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes and basil, parmesan and bread crumbs together gently. Rinse the aubergine and dry with kitchen towel then tip into a dish, add some extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the cubes and bake for 25 minutes.Remove from the oven and toss in the tomato mixture stirring lightly to combine with the aubergines return to the oven and bake for afurther 15 minutes or until the mixture has crisped lightly on top.
Remove the mozzarella from the fridge, scatter the crisp tomato dressing over it, then slide, using a fish slice, on to the plates.
The verdict:
Devilishly delicious, all the flavours of a traditionally baked aubergine parmigiana but less oily due to the fact that the aubergines were roasted not fried. The overall taste was a lot lighter and fresher.A perfect dish for an Indian summer or early autumn.Thumbs up for crumbs

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Here we go gathering nuts in Spain

Marcona almonds receive prominent displays in posh ingredient sections of supermarkets, get name-dropped on fancy restaurant menus, and are frequently lauded as the best almonds ever ever by those in the know. Just what makes people go nuts about these almonds?
Marcona almonds to the Spanish are what San Marzano tomatoes are to the Italians or caviar is to the Russians. They've been exported for years, but have only recently gained a wider audience thanks to a growing interest in Spanish cuisine among chefs, food writers, and foodistas.These almonds are more rounded and plump, shorter, sweeter, and more delicate in texture than other varieties.
They also seem to have a softer and somewhat "wet" texture, similar to macadamia nuts.
It's easier to find these almonds than it used to be. You can definitely get them at whole food shops and any good gourmet shop. You can usually find them raw or toasted with olive oil and salt. 
If you only have enough Marcona almonds for a sampling, try eating them on their own or as part of a Spanish cheese plate. If you have some leftover, Marcona almonds make a fantastic addition to salads, particularly green bean salads like lemon roasted green beans.

Spiced Marcona Almonds
10 min Start to finish: 1 hr (includes cooling)
1large egg white
1teaspoon Flor de sal
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked hot or sweet Spanish paprika
2 Cups ( 275g )10oz blanched Marcona almonds
parchment paper
Put oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 350ºF
Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Whisk together the egg white, salt cumin, and paprika in a bowl, then add the almonds and toss to coat.
Spread the almonds evenly on the baking sheet and roast until golden, about 20 minutes.
transfer nuts on parchment to a rack and cool completely( the almonds crispen up as they cool ).
Loosen nuts from the parchment with a spatula and transfer to a bowl.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Finally found foccacia

Foccacia before it´s too late
I was in the baker´s yesterday and became very excited when this flat bread that resembles foccacia caught my eye. Sandwiches for supper I thought. Home made paninis or paõzinhos as we call them in Portugal.
I love grilled sandwiches. There's something so comforting about melted cheese, meat, and veggies, salmon or tuna wrapped in a crisp yet tender crusted bread. They are very easy to make, and the only limit on the kinds of sandwiches you can make is your imagination! Every country has its own take on the pressed sandwich and each has its own type of bread to do it with. From Italy we get Foccacia and Ciabatta. From India Rotis and Chapatis.The Mediterranean brings us Turkish Pide, Greek pitta,Lebanese Manoosh, Khoubiz,and from Ethiopia Injera. The list goes ever on. 
Now to make a hot pressed sandwich you could go out and buy a Le Creuset panini pan for upwards of €150, or you could just do what I do .....
Use a cast iron grill pan! Just add the weight of another pan on top and voila! Panini press!
No grill press? No problem!  
Foccacia later
My Cubano Tuna Melt
400g (14oz can tuna, drained
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 red onion sliced
2 tomatoes sliced
1/2 cup spinach leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 large flat breads

Put the tuna, lemon zest, and onion in a bowl with the mayonnaise and mix until just combined adding more mayo if it needs it. Slice the flat bread in half  horizontally and make a bed of half the spinach leaves on it. Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the leaves followed by a layer of sliced tomatoes.Top with the rest of the spinach leaves and sprinkle the grated cheddar to cover. Put the tops back on the flat bread.  Heat the cast iron pan on medium low for about 3-5 minutes while you assemble the sandwich.
Put enough olive oil (you can use butter or veg. oil) in the pan, let it heat for a minute and gently place the sandwich in the  pan. Weigh down with whatever works for you. I use another cast iron pan and a set of weights, a handy tea kettle filled with water would do the same job.Cook low and slow, checking after about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat.
Eat and enjoy. Feel smug that you made a great sandwich and saved €150 on a panini maker.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

What would mother have thought?

Europe on 5 fruits a day
How times have changed since our parents’ day, when meat and two veg constituted a well-balanced diet. Now we are all getting fruity on our five a day. I was brought up on the advice "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Half a century on it seems to have worked for me. Having lived through rationing, the world war two generation found creative and resourceful ways to deal with their rumbling tummies. These however, as we now know, were not always the sound nutritional answers to what their bodies needed. My mother scorned new dietary thinking, she had an impatience with people discussing their cholesterol levels on the grounds that she had lived through a war and eaten double cream all her life God forbid she would have pooh-poohed anything as modern as colonic irrigation.I in turn expressed my disdain for some of her culinary eccentricity.Cutting the crusts off the toast and serving them up separately to the toast itself and then eating them with salted butter and marmalade instead of the toast. I suppose in hindsight having suffered rationing it was her interpretation of frugality. Nothing must ever be wasted.Where does that leave us?
The Mediterranean diet is a very good example to follow. Olive oil replaces saturated fats. Eggs, dairy and poultry in moderation and reduced amounts of red meat, sugary puddings and confectionaries. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, fish, legumes, wholegrains and nuts. And of course take lots of exercise.
It has all gone to the other extreme. We now think we are all nutritional experts.At the click of a button one can find an online diagnosis.Every time we sit down at the dinner table someone will raise the subject of the benefits of five-a-day,anti-oxidants,unsaturated fats, low cholesterol and "friendly" bacteria. I am not so sure about intimacy with bacteria.Should we be sprinkling our food with an array of salt.Common sense and moderation are the order of the day I am sure. Listen to your body not the newspaper.
If you ask the question "what food group should you avoid?", the most common answer will be "fats." While it's true that, in large amounts, some types of fat are bad for your health (not to mention your waistline), there are some we simply can't live without.Among them are the omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods including walnuts, some fruits and vegetables, and freshwater fish such as bream, mackerel,salmon, sturgeon,( I am looking forward to a new healthy diet of Algarvian caviar ).
The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that omega-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer's disease.

Are we healthier for all this? We like to think so. I am not so sure.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Must tell Tripadvisor

".....giant squid is pulling towels out of the cupboard. No towels -Is she there- no towels ?- Everything a bit damp, must inform Tripadvisor."

No sugar on the table. No bowl from which to eat your cereal and compote. The guest has had to ask for a napkin. No butter on the table for the toast. These are all minor issues that can irritate a guest, and encourage them to give one a bad review on Tripadvisor. We all know that as "nano" enterprises working in the hospitality industry Tripadvisor reviews can make or break us. Here at Casa Rosada we have been very lucky and had some wonderful guests who have done no more than pass on the good reports about what made their stay in our hostelry a pleasurable and relaxing experience.We now have 15 reviews all giving us an excellent rating. We currently come in at number 9 of 152 bed and breakfasts in the Algarve.
However what goes around comes around, and things can turn sour. It seems Tripadvisors  filters, review moderation and fraud detection do not always allow honesty, as the thespian has recently discovered.As part of the service we offer at Casa Rosada we want to point not only booked in guests but potential guests in the right direction with our opinion and suggestions for where to eat and where not to eat in the local area.This is based on a tried and tested policy by ourselves. When someone posted a bad critique of the then number one restaurant on Tripadvisor in Tavira, we posted a  counter defence "whats the hurry... " of this establishment that we ourselves have eaten in on many occasions. Tripadvisor refused to allow the post to appear and refused to discuss why. All we were attempting to achieve was to put some facts straight about our own experience of service in this particular establishment. Tripadvisor finally agreed to allow the post and it appeared. The proprietor of the restaurant also defended this criticism with his own post. More recently we were walking in the streets of Tavira and were accosted by the owner of a restaurant we dined in two or three years ago. His sales approach to us was aggressive and unpleasant and he would not take no for an answer when I told him of our bad experience on every level in his establishment, food, service,waiting time, professionalism or lack of in all categories.He asked for a second chance.I vehemently said no we would never return.Time to tell Tripadvisor.“Off-putting!” ....They were having none of it again. They told the thespian by email that his post was unacceptable.He replied:
I have reviewed twice and this has happened both times. I am now feeling why bother.
I do appreciate that reviews must be unbiased. Mine are! I have no agenda other than give my opinion in a considered way. Can you tell me then. how , on the same section (Restaurants in Tavira) in the last weeks someone has posted a review alleging food poisoning (unsubstantiated - a very serious and potentially damaging accusation) and another labelling someone "creepy""! Nice!
I merely wrote a review of what I experienced. Is my opinion not of any value?
I live and work in the area and visit many restaurants in order to recommend to my clients the best and suggest the ones they may want to avoid. i now feel its not worth trying to share this knowledge with Trip Advisor. I avoid posting opinions of hotels and B&Bs to avoid any suggestion of bias.

Tripadvisor´s response was now to remove the previous review that the thespian had posted. What is the matter with this organisation?- We are, as a bed and breakfast, in no way in competition with a restaurant 26 kilometres away that does not provide accomodation or breakfast.
He replied again:
Now I see you have removed the other review I posted, after you agreed to publish it when I contacted you!!I resent strongly the implications of this - that in some way I am being dishonest or biased.I read reviews using much stronger and damaging language than I ever have.My views, which I believe are as valid as anyone elses, are an accurate report of my experience.I have no connection to any restaurant in the area and so have nothing to gain by posting false reviews.I own a B&B in the area - well reviewed on Trip Advisor - and have never solicited  reviews from my clients. I know the value of honest and unbiased comments - anything else is damaging to the business. I wont review other hotels I have visited in the area for that very reason - I dont want to be accused of any wrong doing.With over 20 years experience of visiting, and now living and working in the area I do have a knowledge which i thought worth passing on. Obviously Trip Advisor doesn´t think so.I am also aware, because of local knowledge, when reviews are being manipulated or solicited. Maybe Trip Advisor is not a place any more for me or my business.
Alls well that ends well. Normal service has now been resumed and  both the the thespian´s posts have been posted succesfully. Thank you Tripadvisor for acknowledging our mission.Parting words from our guests as they left this morning.... "Must tell Tripadvisor"

Monday, 19 September 2011

Pucker up

Pucker up
"To contract a facial feature so as to form wrinkles; 
used especially of the lips when whistling or kissing"

Pucker up, people, and add a thrilling dash of sourness to your cooking.The world may have turned sour outside,but them gherkins indoors can sure put a smile on your face, and a lick on the lips.
Purse those lips - crisp and cold, can a pickle be too bold? No never.
The gherkin is a vegetable similar in form and nutritional value to a small cucumber. Gherkins and cucumbers belong to the same species They are usually picked when short in length and then pickled in jars or cans with vinegar (often flavored with herbs, particularly dill ( hence, "dill pickle") or brine to resemble pickled cucumber.The path of the pickle was passed by the Portuguese from West Africa to the West Indies.The original species was the Burr Gherkin,a funny looking cuke named probably because of its covering of prickly spines.Unless you live in the North of Brazil, you will find it hard to source. Its most common use is in the Brazilian version of the most typical Portuguese meat and vegetable stew, cozido. It is a rich stew made from shin of beef,chicken, spare ribs, belly pork Morcela farinheira and chouriço,cabbage, carrots turnips, rice and potatoes.
Pickled gherkins are one of my favourite accompaniments to other foods. When making a sandwich with cured meats, particularly salame I make sure I get myself a pickle in.
They were associated with central European and eastern European cuisine, but are now found more widely. Sometimes also called a cornichon (the French word for gherkin).They are also the perfect ingredient to pep up a potato salad.Add chopped up gherkin to creamy
peppery sauces for steak or cuts of pork.Why not do what I do, sneak up on the fridge in the night and steal some gherkins from the jar.Tempting.

Cacetinho( small Portuguese baguette) com cabecero de lomo porco preto (Cured Acorn Fed Iberico Pork Top Loin ) e pepino em vinagre (gherkin)

Slice baguette in half
lay a layer of dressed salad leaves along the base
cover with slices of salame
scatter gherkins sliced lengthways and black olives( optional )on top
Replace top

Tuck in and savour the moment

Friday, 16 September 2011

Jam session

We're jammin' -
To think that jammin' was a thing of the past;
We're jammin',
And I hope this jam is gonna last

I'm not a savvy preserver or a sugar plum fairy by any means, I'm more of a quick-pickle guy. Well preserved I are and all plummed up but in no way a jammy queen, and when it comes to jam making I´m more a jammy dodger, one who likes to get it done, bottled with minimum effort and onto that larder shelf as quickly as possible.However preserving is now very much back in fashion and, though thought to be caused by the recession and the need to cut back, the myth that making jams and preserves is cheaper than shop bought, is not always true.
My need to preserve is not about being thrifty and usually starts about now, as the last of the soft fruits hit the market and the first hint of autumn wafts in, and then returns again in February when our orange tree bears the bitter fruits of the Seville Orange.
Why I need to fill the CasaRosada store cupboard needs no justification.There are year round guests to be fed and breakfast jam pots to be replenished on a daily basis.
An afternoon jam session of choppin´, stirrin´, bottlin´ and labeling plus the resulting messy, sticky kitchen, worktops and jars is not my idea of heaven but if needs must, at the end of the day it is all worth the while.The sight of my creations sitting securely in their jars and bottles is truly rewarding and if the contents of those jars and bottles were also home-grown then it’s an added bonus, but this is not very often the case.There is that sense of self-satisfaction when you open a jar of home made jam ready to slather on a piece of toast, or the smug pride as you dollop a heap of your home-made onion relish onto some mature cheese sandwiched between two slices of wodgy country bread.
Jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, and bottling were once all a part of the cook’s repertoire. Say thank you to the fridge, the freezer and the supermarket for, in the most part, the disappearance of these skills. So if you want to conserve some retro repertoire, grab a preserving pan, a wooden spoon, some recycled bottles and jars and your on the way to setting point.....To think that jammin' was a thing of the past. 

Plum jam
to produce a jar of beyond delicious plum jam...
I enlivened it by adding 75g of finely shredded fresh ginger, which I stirred in at the same time as the sugar.

Yields 2 x 400ml jars or equivalent
Cooking time about 1 hour
shelf life 2 years

1.25kg plums,stoned and halved or quartered if large
350ml water
1 kg of granulated sugar
Put the plums and water in a preserving pan. Bring to the boil,then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes stirring occasionally, or until the plums are soft.
add the sugar and ginger (if using), stirring until the sugar has dissolved. return to the boil and boil for 25-30 minutes, or until setting point is reached*
remove the pan from the heat and leave the jam to settle for a few minutes. Ladle the jam into hot sterilized jars, then seal.

I can never have enough of greengages.I panic each year in August that I´m never going to find them. This year I have strived to preserve this increasingly unavailable fruit by saving the stones and cracking them open to remove the husks which I am going to plant in pots and see what happens.
Greengage conserve( conserva Rainha Claudia)
A conserve, or whole fruit jam, is a jam made of fruit stewed in sugar.
Often the making of conserves can be trickier than making a standard jam, because the balance between cooking, or sometimes steeping in the hot sugar mixture for just enough time to allow the flavor to be extracted from the fruit and sugar to penetrate the fruit, and cooking too long that fruit will break down and liquify.

Yields 2 x 400ml jars or equivalent
Cooking time about 1 hour
shelf life 2 years

1.5kg greengages halved and stoned
250 ml water
1 kg granulated sugar
3 x 400ml jars or equivalent
Place a saucer in the deep freeze
Gently simmer the greengages in the water for 15-20 minutes.
Add the sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. 
boil until setting point* is reached.
Let the jam settle then ladle into sterilised jars

*A jam is ready for setting when it reaches the setting point. this can be tested in any of the following ways:

Sugar thermometer 
Warm the sugar thermometer in a bowl of hot water before using or it could break. clip it on to the side of the preserving pan, making sure the bottom end is not touching the base of the pan. Boil the jam at a good rolling boil until the thermometer reaches 105º C (220º F) 

Flake Test
Dip a metal spoon into the pan, then turn it so that the jam runs off the side. the drops should run together and and fall off the spoon in flat flakes or sheets.

Wrinkle Test ( my favoured method)
Pour a little hot jam on to acold saucer and leave it for a few minutes to cool. Push the jam with your finger; if it wrinkles it has reached setting point. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

East beats west- The cataplana experience

Cha com agua salgada, os conquistadores

O prato vencedor de Cha com agua salgada  Carabineiros em vapor de poejo e salicornia,contemplado com flor de sal, envolto numa cataplana

The beginning of this month saw the 3rd Cataplana experience return to the Marina in Vilamoura. The main objective was to demonstrate and encourage the potential of using this well known item of Portuguese batterie de cuisine.Throughout the four days several renowned  Portuguese chefs including Henrique Sá Pessoa and Luis Baena from Lisbon, Luis Americo from Porto and Guy Doré from Almancil competed against chefs from the East Algarve including our very own local stars Chef Marco from Cha com Agua Salgada in Manta Rota  and Catalan chef Jaime Perez  from Monte Rei Golf resort in Vila Nova Cacela. These chefs and others held demonstrations in show kitchens. Cha com Agua Salgada and Monte Rei Golf Resort brought us home two gold medals out of the eight nominations in the Gold category. 
This versatile cooking instrument can be used to make much more than just rice dishes.It can be used for steaming, smoking and even for making desserts,as the chefs demonstrated.All the chefs were seasoning their dishes with Castro Marim´s  Flor de sal, supplied by Jorge Raido of "Salmarim."As well as show kitchens there was a gourmet market with displays and items for sale including salt, Flor de sal, enchidos( Portuguese sausages) cheeses, teas, preserves and other carefully selected gourmet items.
Here´s to the East Algarve bringing back even more medals next year.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Give peas a chance

Panna cotta pea perfection on a plate

Panna cotta is the stuff of gods...  and there's nothing you can't do with it,it´s so versatile, as I was to find when I read Felicity Cloake´s recent Guardian word of mouth post "How to cook the perfect panna cotta." My palate was tickled by this comment from  Guardian regular nom de plume nationwide  ( Not an old television show............ Not a Building Society he tells us on his blog).

 "The pea season is all but gone but one of the few savoury treats that transfers successfully from restaurant to home is pea panna cotta as a starter. The sweetness of the peas works really well (you don't need sugar) and it looks fab so possibly frozen will work just as well. Serve with slices of crispy bacon or posh crisped parma ham / pancetta recipe: puree the peas, and add to panna cotta mix (no sugar)"....... "I think it's the natural sweetness of the peas that allows it to get away with the 'panna cotta' label" 
I love spontaneity and improvisation in the kitchen, and this comment put before me just that and most of all a culinary challenge - to make my first ever savoury panna cotta. Yum! I love the interplay of textures here. Usually panna cotta seems a little boring, but not with all these great ingredients. Incredible easy to prepare and a welcome twist to the usually sweet panna cotta versions. Here in Portugal perfectly seasonal as well.He did not give us the recipe but with a bit of nouse and the help of an online savoury panna cotta recipe I found, I set about the challenge and most of all was starting to get excited by the anticipation of achieving savoury inner thigh wibble and of the colour it would bring to the dinner table.So here is the recipe for my successful attempt to replicate nationwide´s idea.Slightly rich, yes, but cut by the crispness and saltiness of the bacon, quite a bloody little wonder. This is one of those recipes that could have Gordon and Heston shaking in their checked trousers?

Minted pea panna cotta
Makes 6 ramekins
3 sheets gelatine
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Soak gelatine in mixture of milk and cream
Sauté shallots in butter and add peas
Add chicken stock and simmer for five minutes or until peas are just cooked
Purée in blender with mint
Adjust seasoning
Remove gelatine from milk cream mixure
Heat mixture. Do not boil
Remove from heat and whisk in gelatine until dissolved
Whisk in pea purée and season with salt and pepper
Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve
Pour into ramekins and chill overnight
Unmould and serve with some crispy bacon or posh presunto,prosciutto pancetta ...and crunch.
Apparently panna cotta should jiggle like a "beautiful lady's breast" and this is exactly what mine did ( the panna cotta not my man breast). A trembling, pristine little thing flopped onto the plate.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

I pitted the poor olive

Where oh where would I be without this gadget? Like podding peas,there is something so reassuring and therapeutic about pitting your own olives, as opposed to buying a jar of the pre-pitted variety. When you purchase olives in the market they are ladled out of tins or  lovely ceramic bowls into plastic bags and then some of their brine is also ladled into the bag to preserve the flavour. At home one can then, with the help of this faithful work mate remove the stones and either make a marinade for them or add them to a salad or a cooked dish.Marinated olives are a popular Iberian snack and petisco. They make a great addition to any Portuguese  Spanish,or Moroccan meal.

North African Mslalla
Use oil-cured black olives with lemon juice.Stir in cumin seeds, coriander seeds, lemon and orange zest and crushed chilli flakes.

Aceitunas aliñadas Espanol
Use paprika, cumin seeds and peppercorns. 
If you like you can use all green or all black olives.

These are some of the more poular herbs and seasonings you can mix with marinated olives.Mix and match to suit your own taste.
  • Bay leaves
  • Cardamom seed
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Crushed red chilli
  • Cumin seed
  • Fennel seed
  • Lavender
  • Lemon, lime or orange zest
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Thyme 
  • Do not used canned olives for this recipe! (Unless you have no shame.)
  • Marinated olives will stay fresh for 1-2 months if stored in the refrigerator.

Monday, 5 September 2011

‘what’s that got to do with the price of tomatoes’

Preserving food by solar drying requires no energy except the heat of the sun. Once dried it also requires no energy to maintain it while stored. Related expenses are practically nothing, and little storage space is required. Drying food is easy to do and doesn’t require any special skills or equipment, and you´re  reducing your carbon footprint.Can´t be bad?

The trick:
I recently noticed a car parked in the local market car park. On the dashboard were a whole range of chilli´s drying in the sun, and then this idea came to me.

A car and a hot sunny day: It sounds strange,using your car as an energy efficient oven.  Spread the tomato slices out on shallow trays. Put the trays on the dashboard of your car,  roll all the windows up and park in the sunniest spot you can find. It's best to start in the early morning and finish when the sun sets.  It may take 2 days - but  bring the tomatoes back into the house overnight. Some people,like myself prefer to sprinkle the tomatoes with flor de sal  and/or some spices (typically basil). 

SUN DRYING depends on the weather, the temperature and relative humidity outside. If you live in a hot, dry climate, sun drying may be successful. Its advantage is the cost. The only investments are drying trays, netting to protect against insects and the food itself. Its main disadvantage is time. What would take 6 to 10 hours to dry using another method may take 3 to 5 days in the sun. To avoid scorching, move the food into the shade to finish when it is about two-thirds dry.
SOLAR DRYING is like sun drying only better. You are still dependent on the weather but the sun's rays are concentrated so drying time is shortened.No need for special equiment and if using the car as your de-hydrator it is protected from insects, particularly ants.

The result, a winter fuel of Sun-dried goodness
* Store dried vegetables in cloth or paper bags to allow any remaining moisture to   
  evaporate. Sundried tomatoes can alternatively be bottled in good quality Olive oil.

* Use good quality fresh produce that is just ripe and unblemished

* Remember to turn produce over half-way through the drying process

* Make sure dried produce is completely cold before storing

Friday, 2 September 2011

Reparar em a diferença

Spot the difference
There is  a universal game, popular in  magazines and journals throughout the world, which in English we call "spot the difference". When one of our recent Portuguese guests took up the Casa Rosada cookery workshop I gleaned a lot of information regarding notable Portuguese cook books. Among the titles that she came up with was an international co-edition of the English title The Cookery Year, the first cookery book my mother bought me and my initiation into cooking for myself and friends. First published in the 1970´s by the Readers Digest, this was the bible of us culinary twenty year olds.The concept of the book guides you through entertaining and cooking with what is seasonal, either in England or Portugal. 40 years later I am introduced to the Portuguese version, following the same layout but with entirely Portuguese recipe content.The format seems identical to the original English version, but the Portuguese version has been completely re-styled. I must lay my hands on a copy of this. Can any Portuguese follower of this blog tell me where I can acquire one? I am only interested in an original edition.I am also fascinated to hear from anyone who knows of editions in any other language featuring its national gastronomy.Please can anyone help me with this information.