Monday, 31 December 2012

Los doce uvas de la suerte - a grape escapade

     My 12 Lucky Grapes on sticks

Oh the fun and quirky customs that people all over the world are under obligation to engage in every New Year.Just a few of the little pleasures that we are forced to enjoy at this time of year.In Italy on New Year’s Eve there must be a plate of lentils and in Portugal dishes with salt cod are served to bring good luck in the New Year.However, across the river from here In Spain the special tradition is to eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds as the clock bells mark the final twelve hours of the year! Heavens to murgatroyd!!!
This is an 'ancient' tradition(1895), (Las doce uvas de la suerte, "The twelve grapes of luck") revived and consolidated by some shrewd Alicantese farmers about 100 years ago when they were left with too many grapes after the harvest.You have to eat twelve grapes on the twelve bongs of midnight.This sounds like a fun ritual, but surely spoiled by the fact that it is impossible to buy seedless grapes in Spain....

Dont worry some brilliant entrepreneur has now marketed tins exclusively for this occasion.Each one containins just 12 seedless grapes, so in the event that your New Years Eve host hasn´t pipped you at the grape post, all you need to do is buy one of these and take it to your party.Failing all this, when you get the rush to chomp down the dozen grapes,you will be amongst a lot of partygoers biting into some raisins while raising a glass of champagne and pulling a silly face.
If I lived in Spain, I could see the following scenario happening in my house.Just before 12 we would all be scrabbling around like blue arsed flies hastily trying to separate 96 or more grapes from their bunches and dividing them amongst individual bowls or glasses in time for the countdown, Oh lorks you have to de-seed them too,even more pressure. I am sure a lot of people subjected to this inane parlour game would be caught cheating.

So here goes, everyone counts down to the new year from 12 seconds, and every second you put another grape into your mouth. The goal is to have eaten all of them by the time the clock strikes midnight. Surely this sounds easier than it is. Eating 12 plump grapes in 12 seconds is quite a feat. And if you can't fit all of the grapes into your mouth, you will have bad luck for the next year.Instead of giving up this is what I would do........prepare enough grapes for the number of guests you are inviting and then thread them in twelves onto skewers ready for the bongs,(see picture above)-

A word of advice: apparently in Spain there are four higher-pitched introductory chimes just before the main ones at midnight (known as 'los cuatros') that announce the start of the real ones - make sure you don't start eating your grapes too soon. It catches people out each year - one year a television presenter made the fatal error!But for every grape you get right, you will get a month's good luck.

I hope you can take a minute from all the tippling, dipping, and dunking of the season to think about what you learned this year.
In the meantime,here's to a healthy,prosperous,incandescent and delicious 2013!!!
Raising a glass to you and yours
O cozinheiro

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Old pigs with fresh new honey spiced blankets

My New year canapé platter
I have been asked to provide a selection of canapés to kick off a New Years Eve party that we have been invited to. For one of the platters they have requested their favourite from Casa Rosada´s hors d ´oeuvre portfolio - Chicken liver pate toasts.The rest is up to me and this is a hard one to call as, being very close friends, they have sampled most of the canape tricks I have up my sleeve.So for my second canapé it´s Marmaduke Scarlet to the rescue.She has very wittily re-invented and spiced up the age old pigs blankets.
These quirkily named "Pigs in Blankets" are the traditional British accompaniment to the Christmas roast turkey dinner that we call "Trimmings".These so called pigs have had many incarnations, in the guise of Figs in Blankets, a recipe I posted back in October and devils on horseback,an appetizer of prunes, or less commonly dates, wrapped in bacon.
The bite sized variety of pigs in a blanket is a common hors d'oeuvre served at cocktail parties and is often accompanied by a mustard or aioli dipping sauce. Marmaduke Scarlet however has very cleverly dipped the sausages in seasonal spices before rolling them up and then knocked up a boozy spiced honey dressing.Yum yum pigs bum.She has also offered lots of variations on a the theme, so well worth a visit.Enjoy sharing some seasonal squealy wealy squigglywigglyness.Happy partying.

NOTE: If you can only get the normal size chipolata sausages, gently squeeze them in two or three places - to make 3 or 4 smaller sausages from 1 longer one; 6 normal sized sausages will yield between 18 and 24 smaller sausages!

For my third offering I have taken some elements from another of my recent posts and turned them into a canapé.Piri piri polenta chips with home made ketchup.

For those who dont approve here are some porco pretos as nature intended, wrapped up in their blankets.

Oink Oink!!!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Something old, something new, something borrowed... my favourite blog posts of 2012

How could you resist?-my most made recipe from another blogger 2012
This year, more than ever, a great many of the dishes I have cooked,lessons I have learned and good advice gleaned has come from fellow bloggers. As a big thank you to them, I thought I’d share some of their more inspiring and in some cases most embarassing moments of 2012.
These are their posts of 2012 that have tickled, tempted, tantalized and transmogrified me......
...and perhaps even petrified me.Back in March I thought I was experiencing a Martha Stewart moment. A recipe for Duck stock but coming in at 2,183 words with an online musical accompaniment to the post.I have to say David Leite does not do anything by halves and this was true camp David in full fling, using 25 pounds of duck necks in his recipe for stock.1261 words later and I had only just arrived at the recipe.Please persevere, dear readers, this blog post is like an essay and bear with through all the amazing comments at the end.
Its beautifully written,informative and pure genius on all levels.Thank you David, I think this takes the prize for my favourite blog post of the year.
For me the perfect food blog post should be something that makes you sit up and say"I really want to make this".The recipe should be precise and informative and the accompanying story should be a damn fine read.Not only this, but if it is a recipe using one of your favourite ingredients it makes it a winner.The following post ticked all of those boxes, a case of culinary serendipity: jerusalem artichoke and creamed spinach soup,  as did this, a recipe that celebrated the best of Spring,something  I now make time and time again, and which has now become my most made recipe from a blog in 2012.(see picture above)

Another emotive piece of nostalgic writing from Marmaduke Scarlet came our way in June: an alternative celebration: Zanzibar Day!   

I stumbled on this by accident and it brought another blogging smile to my face.

Tourettes on toast
I think this has to be my all time blogger moment. Tourettes on toast has kept me laughing and sharing this with others round many a dinner table since Northern Snippet created this back in June.

COVERING A MEMORABLE EVENT, on September 25th O estado da cozinha Portuguesa covered the story of the first ever  lunch in a salt pan ( almoço na salina ) .The story was further covered on September 27th

Sometimes the holding image on a blog post is arresting enough to stop you in your tracks and how beautiful was this mosaicesque image.You could feel the the passion and patience that had gone into the styling of this image.

WHAT`S IN A NAME, a warming bowl of Mantovani soup was just what the doctor ordered In October,and the charming story behind it,just added to its appeal.

I DO LOVE A GOOD TYPO,and this one was an absolute gem
On 15 October  2012 when I started to read Belleau kitchen´s -Apple and pear cake post the opening gambit carried carried a slight indiscretion, and I got more information than just a recipe for pear and apple cake.....

"... one of the upsetting things about the past twelve months that make up my anus horribilis is that I don't get to reap the rewards that working at such a fine home as Gunby Hall brings...."
I know your first sentence isn't supposed to be funny, but your Latin typo had me sniggering like a schoolgirl!!!
  1. which is funny because my anus is really rather lovely! x
  2. HA!!! (Screeching like Claudia Winkleman now!)
  3. Brilliant! The joy of typos!

AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY  came while researching Indian food.This was a site I shall be visiting more often in 2013
    Happy New year to you all and keep on bloggin´
    braggin´and keepin´ me smilin´

Monday, 24 December 2012

Mince pie purses - um prazer Ingles de natal tradicional

Happy Christmas Everyone!!!

Bolsas de frutos secos picados 
Um prazer Ingles de natal tradicional
( a traditional English Christmas treat)

Since stir up Sunday one month ago I have been living in anticipation of how my experiment with mincemeat and "leaf lard" would turn out.Well, I am happy to announce it as a success, and here to prove it are some luxurious ‘moneybag’ pastries filled with a bounty of quincemeat in filo pastry. This is my  slightly different take on the traditional English Christmas treat.
It was thought lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas (ending with Epiphany, the 6th of January). Alternatively, to refuse one would lead to bad luck.

Mincemeat purses
Serves: 6 
6 sheets filo pastry, 30 x 50 cm (12 x 20 in) each, about 180 g (6¼ oz) in total 
45 g (1½ oz) unsalted butter, melted 
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted 
Mincemeat filling
Lay the sheets of filo out, stacking them on top of each other. Cut the stack into six 15 cm (6 in) squares, trimming off the excess pastry. You will have 36 squares. Brush each square very lightly with melted butter and layer them, with the corners offset, to make 12 stacks of 3 squares each.  
Place about 1 tbsp of the fruit mixture on each stack, then gather up the edges and pinch together at the top to enclose the filling. 
Place the pastries on a non-stick baking sheet and brush lightly with the remaining butter. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar.
When making the pies the mincemeat mixture should only be stirred in a clockwise direction. To stir it anticlockwise is to bring bad luck for the coming year.
A wish should be made whilst eating one's first mince pie of the festive season, and mince pies should always be eaten in silence.
It is considered very unlucky to cut a mince pie with a knife.

"Mince pies," "mincers" or "minces" are cockney rhyming slang for "eyes."
Many mince pies have a star on them to symbolise the star that led the Magi to the baby Jesus.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Lingua de sogra- cannoli

Truly sculptural -the original Italian cannoli

Before the Mother-in -law comes her reputation.We all know this particular relative has a reputation for the mouth on her, but did we know there was a Portuguese pudding named after her bitchy tongue."Stepmother´s tongue", literally.It could even translate as the language of the mother-in-law.Better not go there,don´t want to hear what she has to say? Make the pudding named after her instead.
Cannoli has always been one of my favorite Italian desserts and the perfect ending to any Italian dinner.It is  a very typical Sicilian speciality using ricotta cheese.To shape the cannoli you need four or five cylinders 2.5cm (1inch) in diameter and 15cms( 6 inches)long.In Italy they traditionally use bamboo canes,and they also sell the equivalent in tin. If you ever are in Italy,don´t forget to buy some.The shells are pretty simple to make if you have a little time, patience and the right tools.Failing that there are quality products that will give you the Marks and Spencer "I made it myself" con. 
Living in Portugal I haven´t seen these shells, but recently I found these "Stepmother´s tongues" in LIDL of all places.Yes, stepmother´s tongue in a Lidl check out queue, you´ve got the picture. I bought a few boxes in the hope I would find a traditional Portuguese recipe for a filling.I found just what I was looking for and here it is..

Chestnut filling
300g(10oz) chestnut purée
( made with sieved, boiled chestnuts-
or use from a tin of unsweetened purée)
90g (3oz) icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
90g (3oz)butter
150ml(1/4 pint) double cream(whipped)
4 drops vanilla essence
Mix the cold chestnut purée with the sugar,vanilla,softened butter and milk.Beat very hard until smooth.Fold in the whipped cream.Taste for sugar.

The Original Sicilian filling
Fills 12 cannoli
1 tbs orange water
250g (8oz or 1 Us cups) very fresh ricotta cheese
500g (8oz or 1 US cups)caster sugar
1/2 tbs vanilla sugar
25g(1oz) glacé cherries
25g(1oz) candied lemon peel
25g(1oz) candied orange peel
40g(2oz) plain dessert chocolate
icing sugar for dusting
To make the filling,beat the ricotta with a fork,add the sugar,vanilla sugar and orange water.The ricotta should become creamier in consistency.Cut the peel ,angelica and glacé cherries into small pieces.Chop the chocolate and mix these ingredients into the ricotta mixture.Fill each  cannoli with the mixture and line up on a plate.Dust with icing sugar and serve cool,but do not refrigerate.
A moscato or moscatel dessert wine is the perfect wine to accompany this incredibly delicious sweet.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A festive Compote for Christmas

Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as an alternative to Christmas and as a way to commemorate the season without having to be party to all its pressures and commercialism.Festivus became part of worldwide popular culture after being featured on an episode of the American TV show Seinfeld in 1997.What better way to endorse this than soak up a lighter more palatable pudding than that sad old mould of over compressed cooked dried fruit glute.
In the olden days the summer bounty was either dried or preserved in sugar and used only on special occasions.So what better use for it than in  a fruit compote. This is a very light and agreeable compote and goes well with all of the turrones (nougats) and other Moorish Christmas treats. It is not too sweet, but definitely has all the alcohol.Many turn their nose up at Christmas pudding, but here I have included plenty of the ingredients that make it up, but cooked yhem in a much healthier way making it far more appealing.

Serves 8
3 large oranges, Navels or Valencia lates, peeled, pith removed and segmented
1/2 kilo fresh plums if available
2 cups dried peaches
2 cups dried apricots
1 cup dried figs
1 cup stoned prunes
1 cup of dried kiwi banana , pineapple, papaya, coconut
( the simplest way here is to chuck in a bag of good quality tropical cocktail mix, 
the type with just dried fruits not nuts)
1/2 cup dried strawberries
mixed candied peel to taste
I cup water
1 cup orange licore or brandy
1/2 cup golden granulated sugar

Preheat your oven to 130ºC. Place the orange segments and any juice in a casserole large enough to take all the ingredients. add the dried fruit in layers, finishing with the apricots.
Pour in the water and licore and and sprinkle the sugar over the top. Cover and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Add a little extra water if necessary. Allow to cool and then store in the refrigerator.Top with skinned segments of clemantine satsuma or mandarin and pomegranate seeds

As Nigella would say "its fabulously festive"

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Spicy white asparagus christmas twigs

It´s the party season again,be it catering a small offering to take to the office, having the neighbours round for drinks, or a full blown, no expenses spared, evening of champagne and fine dining. The pressure is on but the brief is the same, you need be creating food that´s imaginative, original and most of all dressed to impress.
I was working as a waiter at a party once, and while working the room with a tray of pre-dinner canapés involving among other items some allumettes aux anchois ( anchovies rolled in very thinly sliced fried brown bread), I was involved in a chance meeting that will be hard for me ever to forget. As I thrust my offerings in front of a loquacious parley of thespians, the revered Imelda Staunton, startled by my arrival and eyeing me askance, enquired " my dear good man what are these?" Following my response she retorted" "may I call them a fish finger."She enjoyed her apparent new discovery so much that every time I passed she tugged my sleeve asking for replenishment....
Rolled canapés can be spectacular and make heads turn as you have seen.Anchovies aside, my suggestion here for a party conversation stopper is an unusual way of serving asparagus. Depending on what size you opt for these canapés they could be called cigars, cheroots (if they had truncated ends), or if using very thin asparagus and inspired by La Staunton "might I call them a twiglet".I have to say at this point, this was my first foray into filo´s world and tough it was too.Working with filo you need to keep your wits about you and work faster than the speed of light, but at the end of the day my little twigs were crisp as a pringle,short and sharp as the bite of a quaver and not nubby like a twiglet ever was.Step down Marmite, born in the Algarve here comes the new alternative conquering twiglet.With its introduction as an early starter on the Casa Rosada menu the demand is indicating that, like our guests, it is here to stay.

Parmesan and white asparagus twigs with presunto
Makes about 36
These twigs can be made up to 4 hours in advance and then reheated
If you can not get hold of fresh asparagus a good quality bottled asparagus will
be just as good, but be very careful not to break the spears when you take them out of the jar.
2  bunches of white asparagus,trimmed
18 very fine slices of presunto,prosciutto or parma ham,torn in half
6 sheets of fresh filo pastry
100g butter,melted
150 g finely grated parmesan
cayenne pepper for dusting
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the last 5cm of each asparagus stalk,then cut stalks in half width wise.If any of the stem ends are particularly fat.cut in half lengthwise.Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes or until just tender.Drain and refresh in iced water,then refresh again.
Working with one sheet of pastry at a time and keeping the others covered with a lightly dampened tea towel,brush lightly with melted butter,sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of parmesan and a pinch of cayenne,then cut in half lengthwise.Cut each half into 3 to get 6 roughly square sheets of pastry.Roll apiece of ham diagonally around each asparagus spear.Place an asaparagus spear across the bottom left-hand corner of one square and roll up diagonally and as tightly as possible.Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Place the twigs on on greased oven trays,brush generously with more melted butter.Sprinkle lightly with Flor de sal and bake for 10-12 minutes or until crisp and pale golden.Serve warm or reheat when required.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Diabinhos, Devilled Christmas sticks

Better the devilled you know than the devilled you don´t.Their colour might be a small hint.I used a Flor de Sal in the recipe that had been cold smoked with the wood from port wine beer barrels. I have called them Diabinhos (little devils) These "rather hot" biscuits are easy to make and just the Christmas ticket for serving with pre-dinner drinks.I hope you will agree.

Makes 24 sticks

125g ( 4oz ) self-raising flour
1/2 level teaspoon Flor de sal ( smoked if you have it)
1/2 level teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 level teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/4 level teaspoon cayenne pepper (HOT!!!)
1/2 level teaspoon smoked paprika ( pimentón de la vera picante)
50g ( 2oz ) unsalted butter
25g (1oz) finely grated mature cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk
6 teaspoons cold milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (molho Ingles)

1 egg white
Cumin seeds 

Sift the flour,salt,mustard and the 3 peppers into a bowl.Rub in the butter until finely blended.Add the cheese.
Mix to a stiff dough with the egg yolk ( retaining the white for later),milk and Worcestershire sauce,beaten together.
Draw together with your fingertips.
Turn out onto a floured surface.Knead lightly until smooth.Roll out thinly and cut into 24 sticks each measuring about 15 x 2.5cm (6 x 1inch)
Transfer the sticks to a greased baking tray/s,Brush with lightly beaten egg white,then sprinkle with cumin seeds.
Bake until the biscuits are golden brown and crisp,allowing about 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 400F/200C,Gas mark 6.
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.Store in an airtight container when cold

Monday, 17 December 2012

Queijinhos de atum

Queijinhos de atum - little tuna "cheeses"
When my main course arrives in a restaurant I often think would I have been happier having  two first courses? The idea of a starter, a main course and and then that pudding on Christmas day is all a bit much when, after an amusing and delightful first course,the middle course all too often turns out to be something designed to be weighty, rich and impressive.With this in mind I have created a fresh light starter, that will be kind to that already overworked tummy that is groaning from batterings of booze and buffets.These easy to prepare make-ahead little rounds of tuna would for me be a great introduction to what is to follow.I have called these Queijinhos (little cheeses) as they remind me of the little wheels of fresh cheeses that fill the back of deli cheese counters all over Portugal, and I have given them a texture not too far removed from a fresh cheese itself.Allow them to set in the fridge overnight and all you have to do the following morning is assemble a simple salad from ingredients you have pre-prepared in your fridge. cornichons,shredded chinese leaf, ribbons of pequillo peppers and a simple salsa of tomato red onion and coriander. Eh voila, pretty on the plate, not too filling and packed with lots of uncomplicated flavours.

Queijinhos de atum
with cornichons shredded chinese greens,ribbons of pequillo pepper 
and a simple salsa
Makes 6 x 150ml moulds

2 sheets of gelatine
1 x 385 g can of tuna in olive oil 
( use multiples of 140g cans for less or more people.1 can will make 2 portions)
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
200ml double cream
For de sal
freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil
1 small head of crisp chinese leaf 
pequillo peppers

FOR THE SALSA (adjust quantities according to number of servings)

10 tomatoes topped and tailed, finely chopped
2 large or 3 small red onions

3 small dried chillis crushed
2 cloves of garlic
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
salt and pepper
a good drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon and leave to marinate overnight
Add another handful of chopped fresh coriander before serving

Drain the can of tuna and reserve the oil,you will need this later.Separate the tuna by whisking it with a fork.One by one add the soya sauce,balsamic and lemon juice.Beat the cream lightly to stiffen it slightly to a soft mousse like texture.Gradually add the cream to the tuna mix,folding it in carefully. 
Soften the gelatine for 5 minutes in cold water.Drain the gelatine squeezing as much water out of it as you can then dissolve it in in 1 tablespoon hot water.Let cool slightly and mix with the tuna.Season with Flor de sal and pepper to taste. Brush the moulds with the reserved tuna oil.Fill with the tuna mix and store in the refrigerator until the "cheeses"  set. Unmould the tuna "cheeses"  onto plates and surround them with julienned chinese leaf.Top with thinly sliced cornichons and julienned pequillo peppers.Decorate with a sprinkling of the salsa, and serve with some thin strips of toast.
Note: Use preferably silicone moulds,which allow easier unmoulding of the cheeses.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

"Getting the bird" - a Moroccan Christmas, stuffed quail on sage and onion polenta

Marroquina de natal,codorniz em cima de polenta salva e cebola

Turn those trials and tribulations into a triumphant Christmas.
This is the ideal main course if you want to spend time with your guests.It is effortless entertaining.What preparation there is,you can do in advance, putting the birds in to roast just before the first course, and everyone gets their own bird.
 "To get the bird" is a derogatory term manifesting itself in a two finger symbol of defiance, the middle finger being held up demonstratively.This "up yours" hand gesture (the rigid finger representing the hypothetical object to be inserted) signifies contempt.This recipe not only sticks the finger up to the traditional roast turkey, but sees the cook being given the freedom to relax and enjoy family and friends without being a slave to the stove.I have included an alternative lighter and fruitier stuffing for those who think the cous cous stuffing is too rich in combination with the polenta base.A taste test of the two stuffings saw the fruit and nut stuffing coming out tops,and so I will be stuffing our traditional Free range Christmas duck with the fruit and nut stuffing.
Moroccan stuffed roast Quail on sage and onion polenta
Serves 6

12 small quails or 6 large ones
Up to 24 rashers of rindless streaky bacon

FOR THE POLENTA (this can be made the day before)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 large cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 medium sized red onion finely chopped
10 fresh sage leaves chopped plus one teaspoon dried sage
2 cups chicken stock,preferably home made
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup polenta or coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Extra sage leaves for garnish
In a large heavy saucepan,heat the olive oil over alow heat.Add the garlic and the red onion and sauté,stirring constantly,for about 3 minutes until softened.Do not let the garlic burn.Add the chicken stock,water and Flor de sal and bring to the boil over a medium high heat,Reduce the heat and when the liquid is simmering,gradually sprinkle the polenta over in avery slow,thin stream,whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains have been incorporated and no lumps remain.Reduce the heat to very low.Switch to awooden paddle and stir thoroughly every few minutes for 25 to 30 minutes or until the mixture pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan and the grains of polenta have softened.Stir in the pepper parmesan,butter and finally the chopped and dry sage.The mixture will be quite thick.
If you have 9cm-12 cm baking tins (eg Miniature quiche pans)brush them with oil according to the number of quail.Alternatively oil a large shallow tin or roasting tray.
Turn the polenta out into the individual pans or tray and using a spatula repeatedly dipped in very hot water,spread the polenta evenly until it is about 1/2 inch thick.Cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.If you have used one large tin,cut out the appropriate number of rounds of polenta to the number of quail.
NOTE: if you are using quick cook polenta,follow the instructions according to the packet adding the butter parmesan sage and seasoning as soon as you have put the polenta grains into the liquid.

I medium onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped 
1 soup spoon Ras al Hanout
150 g cous cous
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
250 ml vegetable bouillon or stock
6 dried apricots,finely chopped
handful of chopped coriander stalks
Small handful chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup pistachio nuts finely chopped 
1 cinnamon stick 
Stir the Ras al hanout onion and garlic in a heavy based saucepan over a low heat for 2  minutes or until fragrant.Add the olive oil and cous cous and stir vigorously to combine.Add the boiling stock,cover with a lid, remove from the heat and stand for 10 minutes,Fluff up the cous cous with a fork to separate the grains.When completely cold add the apricots, coriander, parsley and pisatchios stirring well to combine everything.

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 
1 teaspoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon runny honey
teaspoon piri piri flakes

Spoon couscous mixture in and push cinnamon stick into chicken cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string.Wrap each bird in 1-2 bacon rashers,tucking the ends underneath and securing with a cocktail stick if necessary.Place the polenta discs in an oiled roasting tin and rest the the birds breast side up on top of each disc.
Place, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan. Whisk honey,olive oil,cider vinegar, soya sauce and piri piri flakes in a jug. Brush over each quail.
Roast quails, basting every 20 minutes with remaining honey mixture, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until juices run clear when thigh pierced with a skewer. Stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables of your choice and quince sauce.

An aromatic citrus spiced fruit and nut stuffing ****
I onion,finely chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
handful shelled pistachios
handful toasted pine nuts
handful blanched almonds
handful dried apricots chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan,soften the onions and garlic in the oil till the onons are golden.Add the spices,apricots,nuts,lemon zest and juice and honey.Cook for a further two slightly then blend including all the pan juices and scrapings.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Pudim Ingles-steamed sherry sponge a Christmas alternative

Little and Large

With the winter wind battering at the door its time to re-visit culinary yesteryear and drum up a comforting old-fashioned steamed winter pudding.Here is a boozy pud that is one big Christmas treat that´s just for the adults.Using a comparatively local ingredient from just across the border - sherry - I have tried to re-create one of my mother´s classic sponge puddings for which the recipe has long since disappeared. With no one responding to my recent appeal on the Guardian word of mouth blog for a matching recipe I had to start from scratch.To put you in the picture, I need to return to the 50´s and conjure up some kitchen nostalgia.
My dear mother made full use of her pressure cooker. As a small child I used to drive her to near insanity by jumping up and down on the springy kitchen floor boards in order to pop the valve and cause that thrilling whooooooooosshhhhh and high pitched shrieking whistle as the steam let off.Not only that, I was always hanging around the kitchen like an expectant puppy in the hope that there would be a bowl of pudding batter that needed a finger dipping in it before it went to the sink to get washed up.

Not the recipe for Sherry Sponge Pudding that I was looking for.
Put two penny sponge-cakes into a buttered tart dish, pour over them a wineglassful of sherry, let them stand until the wine is absorbed. Boil half a pint of milk with two or three lumps of sugar, beat an egg up with it, pour it over the cakes, and bake in a slow oven until the custard is set, when turn out, and serve.
Cookery for Invalids: Persons of Delicate Digestion, and for Children by Mary Hooper, published in London in 1876.

Proper Sherry sponge pudding
with some quince jam
This quantity will make 6 x 200ml dariole or pudding moulds
or one 600ml pudding basin and 3 x 200ml pudding moulds.The choice is yours

Serves 6
200g butter at room temperature, plus extra for the moulds
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp dried ginger powder
150ml Pedro Ximenez or good quality Oloroso sherry
6 tbsp quince jam *
home made custard to serve

Butter 6 x 200ml pudding or dariole moulds
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.Beat the eggs,then slowly add them to the butter and sugar using an electric whisk or mixer.Sift the flour and baking powder together,then carefully fold into the egg,butter and sugar mix using a large metal spoon. Fold the ginger and 4 tablespoons of the sherry into the mix.
Mix the jam and the remaining sherry,then divide between the moulds.Spoon in the batter, filling the moulds two-thirds full. Fill another mould with any leftover mix. Cover each mould with a large square of foil with a pleat in the centre to allow room, as the sponges will rise a lot. Secure with string. Place the moulds in a baking or roasting dish, then fill the dish with water to come one-third up the side of the moulds. Bake for about 1 hr or until the sponges have risen and are cooked. If required the puds can now be cooled, then chilled. Reheat the same way they were cooked for 20 mins or until hot. To serve, remove the foil. Gently loosen the puddings with a knife and upturn them onto plates. Serve with homemade or bought custard.

*Quince jam recipe
Makes 2.5 kg (5 1/2 lb)
1 Kilo Quince, prepared weigh (2 1/4 lb)
1 Litre Water (1 3/4 pints)
1.5 Kilogram Sugar (3 1/4 lb)
Peel, core and slice the quinces and then weigh them. Put them in a pan with the water and simmer very gently until the fruit is really soft and mashed.Add the sugar, stir until it is dissolved and boil the mixture rapidly until the setting point is reached. Pot and cover the jam in the usual way.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Macaroni cheese -a Christmas makeover

 Who would have thought it? 
I have just made individual macaroni cheeses in a muffin pan. 
How amazing is that?

This has to be the mutton dressed as lamb canapé, or is it all knickers and not a fur coat in sight. Whatever. Here again is another something the host can prepare in advance,refrigerate and re-heat 7 minutes before it is needed.How I just adore macaroni cheese and now being able to eat it with my pinky finger aloft and and a flute of fizz in the other handwhile I talk to my guests, what a happy bunny am I.Here is a closet classic coming out and proudly saying I am now a contemporary canapé.

This recipe comes from a book 
"Mac and Cheese" by American food innovator and authoress Ellen Brown.She gives this timeless comfort food, Macaroni Cheese, a foodie makeover.For obvious reasons the author had a trick up her sleeve here or otherwise your carpet or parquet would be covered with gooey stickyness post party, so stick to the recipe and you wont need to shake and vac after your guests have gone.The only thing I would say is let them cool and refrigerate them and then re-heat them.Having made these the author´s suggested cooling time is  too short for them to hold together when picked up and  if you ate them five minutes after they left the oven you would irreparably damage not only your palate but the carpet beneath your feet.However if you love macaroni cheese like me don´t be put off. The sensation of eating macaroni cheese not at the kitchen table,without a fork and standing on your feet is quite remarkable.

Macaroni cheese canapés
Mini muffin tin -2 x 12 cup capacity

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for the pans 
1/4 cup toasted breadcrumbs (optional) 
1/4 pound ditalini, which are essentially mini macaroni shapes, or other small, similarly shaped pasta 
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup whole milk, warmed 
2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated 
2 ounces Gruyère, grated 
1 large egg yolk 
1 tablespoon heavy cream 
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)                                                                          Flor de sal and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC). Generously butter 24 mini muffin cups and, if desired, sprinkle with breadcrumbs. (If you’re baking the canapés in batches, reserve some of the butter and breadcrumbs, if desired, for the second batch.)
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until it’s just barely beginning to soften and is at the early stages of al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse it under cold water, and return it to the pot.
  • Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, still stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the mixture turns slightly beige and is bubbly. Increase the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Bring to a boil, whisking almost constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cheeses to the sauce in 1/2-cup increments, stirring until the cheese melts before making another addition. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir well.
  • Beat the egg yolk with the cream and mustard, if using, and stir it into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper, and press the mixture into the prepared cups. (You may not fill all 24 of the cups.)
  • Bake the mini canapés for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the tops are light brown. Let them rest for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a platter and pass ASAP. The canapés can be baked, cooled, and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Reheat them in a 375ºF (190ºC) until warmed through, 7 to 10 minutes.
Cheers!!! Saude!!! Santé!!!Bom apetite

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Vegetarian rollover

Luck be a veggie tonight.Who are the lucky vegetarians who are going to have this for their Christmas dinner?
A roulade is like a souffle that has been run over, flattened by a steam roller, and then rolled up again around a filling, swiss roll style.It can be served hot with a sauce,more often than not tomato, or as in my recipe served cold. By choosing the right combination for your filling lady luck will be on your side and you will have a winner.If your three items are are well contrasted in texture and flavour,the final result will not only look but taste superb.This is what cooking is all about,a small change to what is expected,in this case my choice of cheese and transposing the tomatoes out of the would be sauce and into the filling,can alter a dish to great effect and give you a stunning centrepiece that is simple to make and sure to tempt vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Spinach Roulade with mascarpone
fresh goats cheese and sundried tomatoes
To get the maximum from this recipe make it a day ahead and freeze it.
It not only makes it easier to slice but if you put it on the table at its last stage of de-frosting it will give a festive tone to your table

2 x 200g bags ready-washed spinach
5 large eggs , separated
200g pot mascarpone
3 tbsp self-raising flour
150g wheel of fresh goats cheese or curd cheese
finely grated vegetarian parmesan -style cheese
10-12 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
I fresh flavoursome tomato,seeded and diced
Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 and line a Swiss roll tin (23 x 32cm) with baking parchment. Cook the spinach according to pack instructions.When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much juice as you can. Tip the spinach into a food processor and add the egg yolks, 1 tbsp mascarpone, plenty of seasoning and the flour. Blend until really finely chopped and well mixed.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the spinach mixture. Spread in the tin and bake for 12-15 mins until firm to the touch. Meanwhile, beat the rest of the mascarpone with the goats cheese until creamy. Put a sheet of baking paper on the work surface and dust with a little of the vegetarian parmesan. 
Turn the spinach mixture onto the work surface and carefully strip off the paper. Spread with the cheese mixture and scatter over the tomatoes. Roll up from the shortest end using the paper to guide you. Put in the freezer overnight and defrost for one and a half to two hours before serving.