Monday, 31 October 2011

Full of beans

The strong winds and heavy rains last week left me pining for a comforting bowl of flavoursome slow cooked stew.
Feijoada is a bean stew made with pork. In Brazil, Feijoada is considered by many as the national dish, and is also typical in Angola, Mozambique, Goa, and other former Portuguese colonies. In reality Feijoada was brought to South America by the Portuguese, based on ancient bean-and-pork dishes (cozidos) from the Portuguese regions of Beira, Estramadura and Trás-o -montes. Feijoada is a version of southern European stews, like cassoulet from France, Faba from Spain and Ribollita or Minestra from Italy.

Yum Yum Pig´s bum
It was first made by the slave cooks about 300 years ago. Sometimes using parts that normally got left behind like the head, ears, trotters, tongue all chopped up,and mixed with some beans to create this tasty stew. Today it’s served in Michelin star restaurants and homes where choice cuts of meat are used. You will still find many people using the pig’s ears and feet though.
I use only pork,belly, short ribs, smoked chourico and Morcela (blood sausage).If you type Feijoada into the search engine your results will show examples of Brazilian feijoda with black beans, fresh and salted pork, fresh and dried beef, cured sausages, blood sausages, quite an extensive list of ingredients in fact. Northern Portugal’s feijoada however uses white beans, butter beans or pinto beans. My feijoada is a a far cry from the Brazilian one, I only use pork.I also have a secret ingredient - my own home made spicy baked beans. You won’t be committing any sin if you choose more common piggy parts, there’s normally two rules that apply, at least one of the pieces of pork must be cured, smoked or unsmoked and you must use fatty pork of some kind, so bacon is ideal. You can also add cured sausages and or blood sausages. And it is always served with rice.
I made my very simple version, using very little meat for the quantity of beans since I wanted leftover beans, because cooking beans using this method gives them a great flavour.  These beans can then make an ideal accompaniment to other meals. Jacket potatoes with bean topping-YUM.

TOP TIPS -ho hum, pig´s bum
Pre-soaking beans in salted water to keep skins intact
I experimented soaking the beans in salted water before cooking to see what difference it made to the finished cooked beans. In Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfect Chili Con Carne he suggested pre-soaking the beans in brine to stop the skins from breaking, and it hi ho Heston it does.

Salting the Beans Whilst Cooking
There is an old wives tale about salting your beans."Adding salt to the water while cooking will harden the skins therefore you should season them afterwards".  This is SO not the right thing to do.  Beans will absorb their cooking liquor and therefore if the liquor is seasoned this means the beans will be seasoned, and more flavoursome inside.  When you season the beans or any pulses after cooking you’re just seasoning the outside skin and when biting into the bean it will be bland since the mass part of it will be unseasoned. A plumped up bean will have a large starchy inside and all starchy things need salt to bring out their flavour.  If you think about it,all the old fashioned recipes with beans were cooked with a salty piece of meat, usually pork, which provided the seasoning for the beans.  I came across this site  while researching this post and it gives you lots of different information about cooking  beans. For instance the older the beans the longer they will take to cook ( not an old wives tale).

Flavouring your beans
I always add flavours to the pot, an onion, couple of carrots, couple of bay  leaves, maybe some celery, thyme, basically the ingredients you would use  to make a good stock. Beans just love virgin olive oil, they can´t get enough of it and soak it up like thirsty fish. A few tablespoons after cooking adds good flavour to the beans.

Bits on the side
Feijoada is traditionally served with rice, and accompanied by chopped fried greens (couve mineira), lightly roasted coarse cassava flour (farofa) and peeled and sliced orange. Other common side dishes are boiled or deep-fried cassava, deep-fried bananas, and pork rinds (torresmo). A pot of chilli sauce is often provided on the side and Ioften serve a bowl of dry roasted breadcrumbs in place of the farofa or cassava.The idea being that it soaks up the cooking juices.
The meat I had on this occasion was 500g / 1 lb of bacon in one piece from the butcher, slightly smoked, and pork ribs about 6 ribs. I normally use entremeada (belly pork) too. You don’t have to use both, just adding one will still give you good flavour.
This quantity will give you a lot of beans, Freeze what you’re not using to give you a quick supper.  Use these quantities as a guide but you can use however big or small pieces of pork you like, ribs are good idea because they become tender with the long cooking and the meat falls apart.  If using a smoked piece of bacon it will add a subtle smokiness to the beans.

Eeny Beany Miny Moe...

Home made spicy baked beans
500g dried white beans, butter beans or pinto beans
soaked overnight in cold salted water

 4 small red piri piri chillis
small knob of ginger finely chopped
1 stick of lemongrass chopped finely
4 shallots chopped finely
tablespoon coriander stalks chopped finely
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
400g tomatoes skinned, seeded and chopped
1.5 teaspoons Flor de sal
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves
sunflower/ nut oil for for frying
Cover the base of a large skillet with some oil.
Over a low heat fry the first 7 ingredients till soft (5-6 minutes). Add the tomatoes and rest of the ingredients stirring the sugar well into the sauce. Continue cooking until reduced to a fairly thick consistency. 
Heat the oven to 150C. Put pre-soaked or ready prepared beans in a large earthenware casserole and mix sauce in well, adding some extra water if it does not cover the beans. cover and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours.

O cozinheiro´s Feijoada a Portuguesa
serves 6

450g spicy baked beans ( as above)
500g entremeada ( belly pork)
6 short pork ribs
175g chouriço
175g toucinho, pancetta or cured bacon ( cubed )
100g Morcela ( blood sausage )
1 medium tomato peeled seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 medium onions chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lard
3 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Boil the belly pork and ribs in a pan of water for 1 hour or until tender.Set aside.
meanwhile in another pan cook the cured meats in some boiling water until almost tender
(15-20 minutes) Fry the onions in the lard, together with the tomato, parsley and bay leaf for 4-5 minutes over a low heat.Add all the meat cut into pieces, cook for a further 2-3 minutes, add the beans. Stir in well and transfer to a large casserole or earthenware pot and slow cook in the oven at 150C for a couple of hours checking the liquid level from time to time and adding a little water if it looks too dry.

"It's hard not to be full of beans when you're blessed with a dish like this.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Uncomfortably comforting

As you well know I am a great exponent of melding culinary cultures and have always adopted different elements of global cuisine in my cooking.I think this draws the winning card for me. Where in the world would you find a jacket potato topped with baked beans being eaten with forked chopsticks? - Ultimate fusion, Love it.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Let them tweet cake

Time for coffee and cake

There are times when the new technology can aid us in our kitchen practice but more often than not it can make a meal of it and actually deprive us of the joy, artesan skill and therapeutic experience that we are experiencing.
Twittering a cake recipe, I don´t think so. I don´t twitter, but just how can you can condense the recipe for a Bolo de Bolacha Maria into 140 Characters ( 18 characters in the title for starters ).
The downside of this phenomenon is that micro recipes can be confusing, with varying forms of shorthand such as a T for tablespoon and EVOO for extra-virgin olive oil. If you have a tablespoon and a teaspoon in the same recipe how do you differentiate? But it appears baffled users can simply tweet any queries as they cook.Do they want to? Do they heck.Or since you're online anyway, perhaps you could just Google it and get the whole recipe in legible terms. Proponents say the idea is flourishing partly because people hit by the recession seek ways to reduce the cost of their shopping baskets.Being the game bird that  I am i gave the concept a fair chance and tried writing a twecipe version of my shortest simplest recipe Quick chocolate mousse cake.....
 mlt Cc in bm.+bt+ 
Oh dear,35 characters and I have only got through the first line.It looks like  some awful disaster in my physics exercise book back in primary school.Miss wouldn´t have been very pleased with that would she? The recipe in its original form is only 225 characters long but I don´t believe that even translated into shorthand it could be condensed to 140 characters. I abandoned the exercise and decided that only twats tweet cake.Lets stick to traditional values and what we are best at eh?
As a child I learned to bake with my mum. Of course I was lured by the perfect, factory-formed cakes of their time with their garishly coloured icing, Lyons Cup Cakes, Battenberg, Fondant fancies, iced fingers, to name but a few. But Oh the sense of warmth and security that being greeted by a home-made bun on your entrance can bring.As the Algarvian days become shorter and the nights draw in, autumn brings with it a growing desire to stay home of a Sunday afternoon and enjoy the contrast between the comforting oven heat indoors and the cold that is starting to make itself felt outside.Our minds turn once again to baking, and new ways to rustle up a new creation to impress the unexpected visitor that might pop by.Electric hand whisks at the ready girls, Nigella always has a store cupboard chocolate cake as her larder stand-by, so should I. The challenges to creativity and innovation are endless.All those wonderful Portuguese Doces conventuais recipes to choose from.God forbid the Christmas cake looms high up on the list, a whole afternoons work in itself.
In the United Kingdom, according to The Independent newspaper, there’s a new word buzzing around: Escakeism. It describes this as a tendency to escape from miserable reality or routine into a fug of Victoria sponge and Battenberg cake, with Mary Berry as fairy godmother.
Our baking escapade knows no bounds, we fill the tins, we empty the tins, we knead, roll out, dust and ice A stress free afternoon of baking is excellent therapy.As for the Independent, it’s not that wrong about the immersion into the warm glow that baking brings: just think about the scent of a cake baking in the oven. Baking also requires concentration, organisation and one’s full attention, so it takes us away from everyday stresses, woes and worries.Twitter is so past its sell by date.I never considered it  fresh anyway.
Bolo Maçá Smith
(Granny Smith´s apple cake)
Serves 10

What´s the shorthand for Granny Smith?- never mind lets get on with the task in hand, cooking a good ol-fashioned cake recipe and enjoying it.Grandmothers make a large contribution to a nations baking repertoire, with cakes being named after them. Italy has Torta della nonna and Portugal has  Bolo da avo to name but two.My grandmother for sure wasn´t a Smith, so I don´t know where this recipe came from.Some old biddy called Smith must have tied in the fact that a tart crisp apple carried her name and set about creating a recipe around it.
The great thing about this cake is that if you let it rest for an hour you can serve it as a warm pudding with a dollop of creme fraiche.Leave it to chill overnight and you have a stunning firm cake to enjoy with a cup of coffee. Sprinkle a dash of canela (cinnamon) into the ingredients and a few raisins and sultanas and you will keep any dutch expat happy.

4 Maça Smith ( granny smith apples)peeled, cored and sliced
3 large eggs
250g caster sugar
185g unsalted butter, melted
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to 190c. grease a 25cm round spring form tin, line the base with baking parchment and add enough apple slices to to cover.Whisk the eggs and sugar together till thick and pale. whisk in the melted butter, sift and add the flour and baking powder and fold in until smooth.Add the lemon juice and remaining apples and pour into the tin. Bake for 1 hour or until well risen and golden brown.Allow to rest in the tin for afew minutes before turning out onto a cake rack.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

O Cozinheiro´s Seven Up

The lovely Northern Snippet( who I read for her writing skills,wonderful pub landlady experiences and just simply because her posts are an absolute hoot, nominated me to take part in the My seven links project.
The idea is to provide links to 7 blog posts under the following categories, not to over-think it, and pick five other bloggers to do the same: 
  1. Your most beautiful post
  2. Your most popular post
  3. Your most controversial post
  4. Your most helpful post
  5. A post whose success surprised you
  6. A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved
  7. The post that you are most proud of
So Hi there Blog pickers welcome to pick of my pops.
Coming up
O cozinheiro´s hits and misses..

1.My most Beautiful post.
I have handed this task over to the thespian without whom I would not have lovely photographs to illustrate my posts. He has to put up with a lot and I therefore gave him a shortlist of 6 and allowed him to make the final selection.He chose "Think Quince"

2.My most popular post.
I had a major dilemma here. My all time most popular post is my most controversial post so I needed to find an alternative.Posts alternate for the top position, get knocked off the number one spot of the top 7 on a weekly basis and sometimes retrurn so my decision had to be made as of the day I made these nominations and my nomination for my post poular post currently is held by "Wrapped/unwrapped, a pizza simplicity"

3.My most controversial post.
"Sex and the kitchen - Beef encounter"  I never even dreamed when I wrote this post that it would recieve such an enormous amount of attention. the word "sex" is very much a fast favourite of search engines. So I guess I can eliminate at least half of the hits here to an unwanted guest list of those just searching for some cheap titillation.The controversy of the post is that I was writing about the serious issue of whether women should be "used" in advertising, to sell product.

4.My most helpful post
"A night in Tavira" is a restaurant review of one of my all time favourite restaurants and the post was written with the intention of drawing peoples attention to a phenomenal dining experience. it has had many hits and carries a link to Tripadvisor so hopefully it has been helpful

5.A post whose success surprised me. 
My take on the traditional vindaloo "A Real Goa". I have to keep returning to this post to see why it is so consistency successful, but it is always maintains its third place in the daily, weekly, monthly and all time hits.I just don´t get it. The picture doesn´t even  look that appetising.

6.A post I feel didn´t get the attention it deserved.
It is always interesting to get some feedback from your readers."Finger on the pulse or hands alone". This post was intended to generate discussion and comment and in that respect it failed miserably. It did not get a single response. a real B-side this one.

7.The post I am most proud of.
was a post I wrote to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the publication of Elizabeth David´s first book.I wrote it in the style of a biblical parody.

So thats all Blog pickers O cozinheiro´s 5 Hits and 2 Misses.

So now its time for the five nominations. My 5 favourite culinary love affairs  are:
Five Quarters of the orange   ( English translation) 

Hip hostess NYC            

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sweet and sour

Pomegranates growing in the Casa Rosada garden
Pomegranate molasses
Being the pantry queen I am, my culinary closet has shelves bowing under the weight of pickles, preserves and whatever that I have bottled as seasons have dictated, throughout the year.
This anti-oxidant powerhouse can actually keep us out of the grave. And while its celebrity juice is becoming seemingly ever more expensive, pomegranate molasses,( not molasses at all but rather a syrup made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar) is positively cheap, especially if you both grow the pomegranates and then make it yourself.
It tastes equally of very,very sweet, and very,very tart, but that´s capital SWEET and capital TART. It has the consistency of ketchup, and a deep, garnet colour. Dip your naughty finger in, and taste the delight - its the original sweet/tart sensation that makes you pucker and smile simultaneously. So now you know what pomegranate molasses is, what do you do with it?- absolutely anything.You can use it to make pomegranate molasses barbecue sauce to slather on pork ribs. Additionally use it in dressings, vinaigrettes, cocktails or sauces, and in glazes or cakes.
It was the secret ingredient in the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, so why not make this your secret ingredient weapon for making anything and everything taste interesting, slightly exotic, or just delicious and unusual.

Pomegranate Molasses                                                                                 Cooking time 1-2 hours

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

In a large, uncovered saucepan, heat pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice on medium high until the sugar has dissolved and the juice simmers. Reduce heat just enough to maintain a simmer. Simmer for about an hour, or until the juice has a syrupy consistency, and has reduced to 1 to 1 1/4 cups. Pour out into a jar. Let cool. Store chilled in the refrigerator.

If you want your pomegranate molasses to be sweeter, add more sugar to taste, while you are cooking it.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Muffins de salgados

Salty muffins! I have always been eager to try savoury muffins.Never seen them, never made them, but it seemed a great idea to ´flerte` with them.
In the past, I have had a phase of 'flirtation' with a recipe - casting an initial eye over it,and then putting it aside for a later date until interest outweighed inertia and the particular recipe got the better of me. No inertia this time, I had to make these gorgeous looking little buns the moment I saw them.But one word of warning. I have been a muffin baker for some years now. I used to bake upwards of 200 muffins every morning for the kids in school, but I have always lined my muffin pan with paper muffin cases. I followed the rule for this recipe but realised the recipe instructed me to grease the muffin pan with vegetable oil. There was a good reason for this; my batch of muffins stuck to their paper cases and were quite a chore to remove.
What I liked about this recipe however was its versatility - both of its ingredients and its applications. You can substitute other vegetables of similar consistency, as long as you keep to the same proportions; You can use most types of cheese,cheddar,flamengo, mozzarella, bacon, ham, pancetta smoked sausage, and probably many other meats.I added a tablespoon of chilli flakes, well some like it hot. I also substituted the grated carrot in the original recipe for an equal amount of grated courgette.These are great for standby lunches, buffets, canapés, picnics, you name it and there will always be a hungry mouth waiting. Vegetarians, I feel a need to ´flerte` with a goats cheese, red onion and tomato version.    Muito Recomendo! Muito Delicioso.

Muffins de salgados
Makes 18
2 large eggs
100ml cold milk
125g pot of yoghurt
25ml olive oil
1 teaspoon Flor de sal Salmarim
1Tablespoon piri piri chilli flakes
1 small onion finely chopped
1 handful flat-leaf parsley chopped
150g chouriço corrente ( cooking chouriço)
150g smoked ham, paio de lombo or smoked bacon
275g mixture of grated mozzarella and grated cheddar or flamengo
275g grated courgette
275g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder.
Pre-heat the oven to180ºC /390F / Gas mark 6. Lightly grease each mould of your muffin tray with vegetable oil.Chop the meats into small cubes and set aside in a bowl.In a large bowl, beat the eggs well with the olive oil, then stir in the milk and yoghurt and beat a little more to combine.Stir in the rest of the ingredients except the flour and baking powder. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and fold through gently, then spoon
the mixture into the prepared muffin trays almost to the top.bake for about 25 minutes until puffed and golden.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Developing a method

Have you ever wondered how a recipe developer goes about creating a recipe from scratch?  Like any creative process, each person has a different approach. One element of the new Casa Rosada Cookery Workshop is writing a recipe or taking an existing  recipe to a new level.You just have to find what works for you.Over the last few years I have been putting this to the test by practicing writing my own versions of some not only traditional Portuguese recipes, but also some more international classics.
When I set out to create a recipe, I hit the kitchen with an inspiration, maybe a tear sheet from a magazine or newspaper, a blank sheet of scrap paper, a pen or pencil, a copy of Culinary Artistry and The Flavour Thesaurus, my ingredients, and a general idea of how I'm going to cook the dish, and not forgetting my reading glasses ( "where are they". "have you seen my glasses".That reminds me I must get a neck cord.Some neck cords apparently have the added benefit of "slipping" over the temple arms to provided a cushioning effect, helping to eliminate "hot spots" behind the ears.How marvellous,I had always thought it was getting hot around the collar that was the problem.
I guess I start feeling like I might limit my options if I put anything on paper too looking like Hinge or Bracket with my glasses supended below me and resting neatly on the bib of my apron I start cooking by instinct, and I scribble down what I'm doing as I go. 
Once I've essentially bushwhacked my way through the recipe for the first time, I type it up in an orderly fashion, using proper recipe style. If I'm being really good, I'll cook the recipe from this version to make sure I remembered everything, but sometimes I'm in a hurry and the recipe goes straight to my file. And that leads me to an important point: No matter how good you are, you can't test your own recipes. Someone else has to be able to successfully recreate your dish from your recipe before you can consider it done. Lots of times, the testing reveals mistakes, omissions, or ways to improve the recipe. And if that happens, you just keep testing until you have confidence in your dish.The Casa Rosada Cookery Workshop can be the perfect time to put this into practice.
When writing your own recipe:
(God forbid I am starting to sound like Mary Portas,I feel like people will start calling me Mary queen of scones) or even worse Gok Scone -  anyway...

O cozinheiro says                                             Mary Portas says

Keep it simple                                                   Do keep it low maintenance

Don’t get swayed by trends                               Don’t get swayed by trends
Work carefully with your proportions                 Do work with your proportions
Don’t buy second rate produce                          Don’t buy crap
Plan in advance
Don´t try something you´ve never tried before
until you are confident with it
Always try something within your comfort zone
Don’t dress to impress                                      Don’t dress like a teenager

Friday, 14 October 2011

Putting it together

A small thought for the day. A recipe like the lyrics to a song can "wax lyrical". Imagine a 'Still Life' Culinary Work of Art.  Why not create a culinary masterpiece of your own? 

Bit by bit, putting it together

Piece by piece,the only way to make a work of art

Every moment makes a contribution

Every little detail plays a part

Having just a vision's no solution
Everything depends on execution

Putting it together (That's what counts)

Ounce by ounce, putting it together
                                                     Small amounts, adding up to make a work of art
                                                     First of all you need a good foundation
                                                     Otherwise it's risky from the start
                                                     Takes a lot of earnest conversation
                                                     But without the proper preparation
                                                     Having just a vision's no solution
                                                     Everything depends on execution

These are the elements that form backdrop to your culinary performance centre stage.

With many thanks to Stephen Sondheim for the inspiration

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A trifle Portuguese

A simple trifle, layering peach, nectarine, Amaretti  and unctuous cream.
Trifle: something of little value, substance, or importance.
 a dessert typically consisting of plain or sponge cake often soaked with wine or spirits 
(as brandy or  rum) and topped with layers of preserves, custard, and cream.

This is going to be a trifle epic but..."Bear with,bear with".It´s worth it´s wait in trifle, and is certainly not one for the faint-hearted foodie.
What a stunning dessert the trifle makes, with its multiple layers that have so many colours, textures and flavours. The English have enjoyed this dessert for over three centuries.  Although the dictionary defines 'Trifle' as being something insignificant, this dessert is anything but. Its beginnings were humble, as the first trifles simply consisted of a mixture of boiled cream and a few other ingredients. It wasn't until the mid 18th century that the trifle started to evolve into the many variants that we have today. This is an example of a trifle recipe from 1852 by Frederick Bishop from "The Wife's Own Book of Cookery" (quoted from Elizabeth David's 'An Omelette and a Glass of Wine')
'Cover the bottom of the dish with Naples biscuits, ratafias and macaroons broken in halves, wet with brandy and white wine poured over them, cover them with patches of raspberry jam, fill the dish with a good custard, then whip up a syllabub, drain the froth on a sieve, put it on the custard and strew comfits over all.' 
(Naples biscuits was the name given to sponge fingers at the time.) (Syllabub being a milk or cream that is whipped with sugar, spirits, spices and sometimes egg whites.) (Comfits are sugar-coated coriander or caraway seeds.).
My first experience of trifle was a throw back to the '80s,when it was bananas and super-tart passion fruit. Nowadays  bananas are out and citrus is in,mandarins or clementines curdling delightfully with the custard.Back then, for reasons known only to the original creator, one added a big blob of jelly.Name one redeeming feature about jelly. No, the fact that both old people with dentures and children after tonsil removal can eat it is not a redeeming quality. So my verdict is jelly is out, sorry kids the party is over.
Last weekend I needed to cater pudding for the thespian´s visiting parents and our army of expat friends.
Trifle calling Portugal.How shall I make it? Every southern European country now has its own version of this classic English pudding. The Portuguese call it Bagatela, the Italians Zuppa Inglese, and the Spanish, Postre de soletillas, crema y naranjas.I settled for my tried and tested favourite from the Marie Claire cookbook by Nigel Slater. A simple combination providing soft fruit, Amaretti di Saronno macaroons and unctuous cream. My offering was a slight twist with the addition of some left over Portuguese orange sponge cake and as apricots were not in season I threw in end of soft fruit season peaches and nectarines.I finished the proceedings off with a scattering of Portuguese pomegranate from our garden.
Trifles are traditionally made in a large deep bowl so you can see all the layers. Many trifle recipes exist and there are very definite opinions as to what should and should not be used in a trifle. There does seem to be a consensus that a layer of cake, usually stale, should be on the bottom of a trifle, followed by spirits, fruit or jam, custard, whipped cream,jelly and decorations. The disagreements begin when you discuss what type of cake, spirits (wine, sherry, or liqueur), fruit (jam), custard, cream,"jelly?" and what decorations should be used. If you do not have a favourite trifle recipe then you have lots of choices as to how you want your trifle to look and taste. 
To begin with, various types of cake can be used for the bottom layer. Most commonly a sponge cake,ladies fingers, or macaroons are used. Sometimes the cake is split in half and a layer of jam, preserves, or puréed fruit is used to sandwich the two pieces of cake together. Once the cake layer is placed on the bottom of the bowl, alcohol is poured or brushed over the cake. Feel free to use whatever spirits you like but it is best if the spirit used complements the other flavors in the trifle. Sherry,Madeira white wine, rum,liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Framboise, Frangelico, Kirsch) are some favorites. The amount of alcohol is dependent on how much liquid the cake will absorb and how strong an alcohol taste you want. (Cakes that are a few days old will absorb more alcohol than a freshly made cake). Next comes the fruit layer. Here again you have choices. You can use cut up fruit (like berries, peaches, pears, kiwi, etc.), a purée  (raspberry, strawberry,apricot, blackberry), jam or preserves, or a combination of all these. 
A topping of creme fraiche and Portuguese pomegranate
Next comes the custard layer. The classic English trifle usually contains custard followed by a layer of whipped cream. However, an alternative is to  replace the custard altogether with a cream filling that can include things like lemon curd mascarpone cheese, eggs, whipping cream, spirits, lemon juice, or chocolate. Depending on what ingredients are used for the cream filling layer, you may not want or need to top this with a layer of whipped cream or creme fraiche.
The size of your trifle bowl and the thickness of the layers will determine whether you need a second layer of cake, spirits, fruit, custard, and cream to fill the bowl.  Don't worry if the layers mix together as this is the way trifles are supposed to look (i.e. the lines between the layers can be uneven and even mix together).  The finishing touch is to decorate the trifle with toppings such as;  fruit, crushed cookies, toasted almonds, candied fruits, shaved chocolate, to name a few. (Crushed Amaretti cookies are sometimes used as a layer in the trifle, as well as for decorating the top.)
Once assembled, the trifle is covered and placed in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to mingle. 

Nigel Slater´s Marie Claire perfection
The recipes I have included here are from Italy Portugal Spain and England. Don't be afraid to make up your own trifle recipe, using whatever cake, fruit, jam, and cream you have around. Heavy whipping cream (maybe whipped with a little mascarpone cheese)?  Don't be afraid to use your imagination and improvise. Use individual glasses or, for larger groups, a pretty glass bowl, as you want to see all those beautiful layers.

Apricot Amaretti trifle 
Serves 6-8

455g/1lb apricots
255g/9oz Amaretti biscuits
6 tablespoons sherry or sweet madeira
455g/1lb strawberries
230g/8oz mascarpone
2 free range eggs, separated
60g/2oz caster sugar
230g/8oz crême fraiche or thick double cream
Halve the apricots, remove the stones and place the halves in a shallow pan of simmering water and cook for 4-5 minutes,until the tip of a knife will slide through them effortlessly. Drain and allow the fruit to cool.
Place the amaretti in a large glass bowl. sprinkle over the sherry.Purée half the apricots in a blender and rub through a sieve. Pour the apricot purée over the amaretti biscuits.
Scatter the remaining apricots and the starwberries over the purée. Beat the mascarpone and the egg yolks in a bowl till creamy, beat in the sugar, then beat the egg whites until stiff and fold in gently.
Place the trifle in the fridge for at least 4 hours for the flavours to blend together. Spread the crême fraiche or cream over the top of the trifle.

The next recipe "calls for some tonic wine and a sponge finger" 
Spanish trifle 
(Sponge finger,cream and orange dessert)


5 Navel Oranges
50ml/ 2 fl oz Cointreau
Curaçao or other orange flavoured liqueur
300g/11oz sponge fingers
500ml/18fl oz milk
150g/5oz caster sugar
60g/2oz caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
sunflower oil, for brushing
6 glacé cherries halved

Prepare this dish the night before you intend to serve it. peel the oranges, reserving the rind of one of them, then thinly slice on a plate in order to catch the juice. Rinse out acake tin with water and drain, then arrange the orange slices on the base and around the sides.
Pour the juice into a shallow dish and add half the liqueur and 2 tablespoons of water. Make a layer of sponge fingers on top of the oranges in the base of the tin, dipping them first in the juice mixture. Line the sides of the tin with sponge fingers, again diping them  first in the juice mixture.Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the reserved orange rind and half the sugar. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, and bring to the boil. Beat the egg yolks  with the remaining sugar, the flour,cornflour and the remaining liqueur in a bowl, then stir in a few spoonfuls of the hot milk. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the pan and simmer, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, remove and discard the orange rind and stir until cold.Pour half the custard into the cake tin, make a layer of sponge fingers (not soaked), add the remaining custard and and make a final layer of sponge fingers( not soaked). Brush foil or greaseproof paper with oil and cover the tin. Put a lid or plate that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the tin on top so that it rests inside the tin and add a light weight. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving. To serve, remove the lid or plate and carefully take off the foil or grease proof paper. Run around bladed knife around the edge of the tin and turn out on to a serving dish. Decorate with the cherries.

Italian trifle
Serves 6
500 ml Confectioners custard
1 teaspoon cochineal
2 tablespoons rum
250g/9oz sponge cake sliced

100ml/3.5 fl oz double cream
mixed crystallised fruit
chocolate chips or fruit berries

Reserve 250ml/8fl oz of the custard.Mix the cochineal with 1 tablespoon of water in a shallow dish. Mix the rum with 1 tablespoon of water in another shallow dish. Arrange a layer of sponge cake on the base of a broad glass bowl, sprinkle with the cochineal mixture and pour on a layer of custard. Make another layer of sponge cake, sprinkle with the rum and pour on another layer of custard.Continue making alternating layers, ending with a layer of sponge cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and leave to stand for about 10 minutes.meanwhile stiffly whip the cream.Spread the reserved custard on top of the last layer of sponge cake. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with the whipped cream and use to decorate the trifle, then add crystallised fruit and chocolate chips or fresh berries.

Monday, 10 October 2011

A vine romance

Fresh and light Pinot Grigio has been a mainstay on restaurant wine lists for the last few decades. From Milan to Monchique it often pops up as the house white and is often available by the glass, (should that be your small requirement) for a half decent price. Because it´s a good palate cleanser it´s great tipple to accompany food. Crisp casual,uncomplicated and unobtrusive Pinot Grigio is a great partner to the new fashion for a lighter cuisine. The grape itself, the Pinot Gris is one of many mutations of the French red varietal Pinot Noir. Over centuries it travelled and spread to Alsace, Germany, Hungary and Switzerland before crossing the Alps into Italy where vino fashionistas adopted it to accompany opera rather than yodelling. "Gris" begat "Grigio"( both meaning grey) and
Pinot Gris took off again only to be found as a rare grape variety in the Estramadura ( Lisbon ) region of Portugal.This chameleon of the wine world readily adapts and changes to reflect the characteristics of a specific growing area.The Portuguese variety Pactus has an inherently, snappy and approachable character.Come and help us imbibe the Gris back into Grigio at Casa Rosada.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

What a corker

Making beautiful things is important to Jorge Raido, entrepreneurial owner of Salmarim, a company that produces and markets Flor de Sal. So it is no surprise that the packaging of his products has always been a priority. As Jorge says, quite simply, "I'm always looking for new ideas."

His latest inspiration is to box and present Flor de Sal in another historic Portuguese product - cork. This new packaging has now been added to his existing range of Flor de Sal, which continues to jump off the shelves of gourmet outlets throughout Portugal.

The idea came to him while he was visiting a cork factory in the serra at Caldeirao.
Initially the project looked simple, but to actually arrive at a practical solution was another matter. Jorge eventually got there. His new range of Flor de Sal in cork packaging is now selling well in traditional and gourmet delicatessens.

Why cork? The choice is related to the moisture content of the product. Jorge argues that the Flor de sal should be used with less moisture than tradition favours. "The French like their Flor de sal with a higher degree of humidity, but I think the flavour is more intense with less." Jorge´s target is to reach 400 cork-packaged unit sales by Christmas .

He is also probably the only producer of Flor de Sal in Portugal who is keen to "get his hands dirty," donning his wellies  and slipping into the mud slide spirit of saline that is the Sapal of Castro Marim, here in the East Algarve.

Integrated in the Marshland Nature Reserve of Castro Marim can be found a paradise for nature lovers. Salmarim is one of the sites linked with Natura 2000, the Europe-wide network concerned with the preservation and promotion of  natural heritage. It is here that Jorge likes to enjoy the little things in life, the small pleasures, which reap him great rewards.

Even outside harvest time, which does not exceed three or four months a year in summer, as water, wind and sun combine to create the perfect conditions to remove the salt crystals from the surface of the water in the pan, Jorge likes to harvest more than just salt from the reserve. 

He loves the beauty and silence of his natural surroundings. But when it comes to work time (from dawn till dusk), he is again ready to accompany the team of artisan harvesters and help them, "hands on", to bring  the tiny crystals of Flor de sal to the surface. The entire process  is all done by hand. "Only then does the Flor de Sal retain all the minerals that the Atlantic Ocean offers," explains Jorge.

The adventure began three years ago and currently Salmarim has a product range, all of it based on  natural Flor de Sal,  flavoured with parsley and oregano, olives, chili, chili with garlic and bay leaves and lemon. His customers are encouraged to appreciate the flavours that accompany particular dishes to their best advantage.

This advice is spelt out on the packaging by  the celebrated Portuguese chef Henrique Mouro, chef proprietor of the acclaimed restaurant Assinatura in the Rato neighbourhood of Lisbon.

Chef Mouro joined the project from the beginning, "because it is a way to be assured of getting a good product for my daily work and to have faith in its quality", he explained. "Flor de Sal is the purest form of salt, more tasty, healthy and crisp," he adds.

Adapted from a recent feature in the  Portuguese magazine "Good Living"

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Whisked away

My batterie  of trusted  hand beaters

One can not live in Portugal without adopting baking as a serious kitchen activity. The massive legacy of cake and confectionery recipes that are available can not be avoided at any cost.So electric hand-whisks at the ready!!!  NO . Every time I have tried to follow an instruction like this...
"Using an electric hand whisk or stand in mixer, cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, adding a little flour with each addition to keep the mixture smooth". kitchen instantly turns into something reminiscent of a war zone, dough up the walls, egg white all over  my face and a sugary yellow mastic all over the ceiling.Don´t get me wrong, I bake and beat a lot. I am no Nigella, so for me hand whisks and beaters - so much quicker and more efficient and obviously better than using just a fork! - Handle choice is everything in a whisk or masher - choose the one that feels right for you and take the strain out of whipping cream and whisking meringues. Why? Simply because it works, it works well and is lovely to hold (the whisk, not Nigella).But for me I always go for hands on and power off.
I will admit to being a tad sceptical when chef personalities launch their range of branded kitchenware. Once again take Nigella for example– she has an incessant urge to make life in the kitchen easier - implements all soft, round and sensual, not unlike the cook herself.  Nigella's extensive range of kitchenware enjoys a lot of support: "solved my wrist problems" "trendy" and "sleek".Well I can´t deny that with all those years of experience under her Armani belt and Pringle angora cardigan that she should know what she is doing. House of Ramsay has not been received so favourably, neither t´Oliver.I can´t wait for the House of Blumenthal endorsed appliance of science.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Cookery workshop revisited

Just think what you could make with this

The lure of the kitchen is more than just a hobby or a simple love of cooking. Inside you, there is a stronger pull that separates you from everyone else who dabbles with recipes. Others see a typical kitchen stocked with typical ingredients. But you see a blank canvas where you can create your newest culinary masterpiece. A sizzling sauté pan and the sound  of a knife chopping against a cutting board are more than background noise for you. They are the backdrop to your performance centre stage. Everyone learns and gets to join in to create a culinary masterpiece. Then, relax in a convivial atmosphere as everyone enjoys a memorable  day and meal prepared amongst friends.The Casa Rosada Cookery workshop could be what you are looking for.Take a day out in your holiday or spend a long weekend given over to challenging the boundaries of the traditional Portuguese kitchen.

Cookery Workshop  - 1 day €75 euros per person


Weekend package - based on 2 people sharing

Two nights bed and breakfast  plus workshop 11/2 days - €350


The Portuguese Kitchen then and now

A meeting of culinary minds, this is not a cookery school. No lessons or tuition.
This is purely a workshop for people who already enjoy cooking and have some previous experience but are looking to expand their repertoire through an interaction of ideas and pointers.

An informal day out in your holiday to brush up on your cookery skills.
( This can be spread over more than one day if you choose).

In advance of your visit we ask you to tell us what you want out of
the workshop, what you can bring to  the workshop and at what level you consider your skills.

Prior to the workshop :
We will cover -
A background to Portuguese cuisine, its heritage, and its ingredients.
An insight into the different styles of Portuguese food, in particular
the culinary heritage of the local area of Castro Marim and the East Algarve.

A visit to a traditional Portuguese/Spanish  market  
Lunch in a very traditional Portuguese restaurant or lunch in a Tapas bar*

The Theme
"cooking intuitively." - researching recipes,
Planning and writing out a tentative menu based on seasonal, local products.
Using this recipe as a springboard for creating your own signature dish.

The day includes.
Shopping for ingredients, including visiting the local market, butcher, fish stalls and an independent supermarket, that has its own farm and supply chain.

Adapting the menu according to what is available and fresh;

Prepping the sourced produce,and cooking the dinner.

The day ends with a convivial candlelit dinner in the garden ( exclusive of wine)
or in the winter months around the kitchen table, to enjoy your days work hopefully!!!

The weekend option will include dinner, and lunch the following day


Topics covered in the workshop might include

Making your senses work    taste    smell    touch
Tips for culinary artistry
Selecting and pairing ingredients to compliment base flavours
Accompaniments to entrees
Sourcing and selecting the best ingredients
Shopping and the seasons
Writing a recipe
Compiling a menu
Evolving a cuisine.

*  ( Optional not included in the basic fee )