Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Collectors items

"Food gathering is the instance,par excellence,of time spent
procuring and preparing something to eat out of all proportion 
to the time spent in consuming it."

Patience Gray -`Honey from a weed´

Our ancestors were hunters, gatherers, fishers,and farmers. There were no airline pilots,advertising execs, installers, computer programmers, or telemarketers ( that reminds me must change the phone number) Food was either gathered, raised, or killed fresh and served in relative purity straight from Mother Nature.
Today, most consumers live in close proximity to a large supermarket, where hunting through the butcher´s chill cabinet  and foraging in the produce section is about as close to the food source as they will ever get. It has been observed with sagacity that if all meat eaters had to slaughter their own meat there would be mass conversion to vegetarianism. Needless to say, that may never happen, but it does show how far most of us are from the real process of food foraging and/or production.  
As a child, I loved to traipse along ditch banks and shallow river beds in the spring and summer to find rosehips,blackberries,wild garlic,watercress and whatever else was free and edible. Nowadays,shopping for a worthy dinner at Casa Rosada means you will find me grovelling in the earth for nettles, dandelions, mushrooms, samphire grass, spinach, asparagus and prickly pears,thorns and all.
Fresh Spring Acelga leaves ( wild spinach beet )
As I always say - "ask the elderly what wild plants they used to help them survive the depression. You might learn more from them than you ever expected".

Monday, 26 March 2012

If food could turn back time

Slow cooked Pork belly with Medronho
As Portugal faces the reality of a second bail out one has to brace ones kitchen for producing some austere yet nourishing dishes.The essence of a country and its people is mirrored in its customs, its traditions, its cuisine, as they transform what nature gives them.No more so than here in Portugal.
Ask the older generation what recipes they used to help them survive the depression. You might learn more from them than you ever expected.
If only food could turn back time. In this current recession it is not only Portugal that is rediscovering the hard-times recipes of its descendants. As Portugal and others in the European community re-enter recession, money is tight.
Old recipes are a richness that families treasure, many were perfected during periods of poverty and are a way to come through a crisis well fed.
Offal, stale bread and left-over pulses are the main ingredients in many of these dishes.
My parents experienced war time rationing in England,and I think my mother became a better cook as a result of it. To me, these generations are the true hero’s of the culinary world and I often return to their techniques when I need inspiration. Not measuring, using whatever´s around, adopting leftovers and cooking tough cuts of meat and making them taste absolutely delicious… in a way this is peasant food.
Peasant foods are more often equated with subsistence living. While it’s true that peasant food is eaten by the poor, the food itself is far from what most people imagine. It’s hearty and healthy and tasty, made from local seasonal ingredients.
Beans are a peasant food to which we pay nowhere near enough attention. Like cornmeal and rice, beans can fill every culinary role, even making a Portuguese cake that tastes delicious. Eggs also were the best and cheapest source of nourishment for peasants and the poor all around the world.
Finish off your peasant cookery with seasonal vegetables and fruits, and you can cook delicious, nutritious, gourmet meals inexpensively year round, and have a good stock of survival food with which you are comfortable and happy eating. Grains, beans, dairy, and eggs are more than survival foods, they are everyday foods, and comfort foods, and are easy enough to dress up into gourmet foods that will rival anything ever served in a fancy 5 star restaurant. You’ll hardly miss the huge slabs of meat to which we’ve become accustomed to seeing as the main part of the meal. Meat should rightfully be considered a treat and that’s just the way it is in peasant cookery.
How a feast for a fiver can seem like top dollar dining.
a traditional islamic caçoila in Museu de Arte Islâmica, Mertola
Take for example the Portuguese pork recipe called Caçoila.Acquiring its name from the vessel it was traditionally cooked in,it uses inexpensive cuts of meat and simple ingredients to produce a delicious meal layered with exotic flavors.
Ordinary people could not afford the more expensive cuts, so over many generations they found creative ways to tenderize meats and spice them so that the resulting meals were delicious as well as nutritious.Do not try it with a pricier cut. Pork loin, for example, will not have enough marbling or fat content and will dry out.
The key to caçoila is its time in the oven. Cooking the meat in a slow oven (325°)for two to three hours lets the fat in the pork break down and infuse the meat with the wonderful flavours of the marinade. When cooked carefully, caçoila doesn’t need a knife. It can be broken up with a fork.
Some Portuguese cooks first marinate the pork in spices, for as long as one or two days, then cook it. I prefer to cook the pork and let it create its own juices in the pot. When it comes to seasoning meat this is where Old World cooking and home recipes from the Old Country get troublesome. If you’re a “scientific” cook who measures everything with great precision, this recipe and others like it from may frustrate you.These Portuguese cooks would use a pinch of this and pinch of that.They seasoned by taste. If a pinch didn’t bring out the flavour they were looking for, they would add another pinch until it tasted just the way they wanted.

An Old Portuguese Recipe for 
Simmering a cheap cut of Pork 
(Serves 4) 
3-5 pounds pork shoulder 1.5 -2.5 kg (3-5 pounds ) pork shoulder, cut into 1” cubes 
(by the time you cut off the excess fat you can expect to loose a pound or more) 
2 minced garlic cloves
juice of two oranges
½ tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp pepper
½ tbsp mixed spices (Portuguese cooking uses cumin, but you can mix the cumin with thyme and bay leaf. Add a pinch (Grandma would be proud!) of cinnamon or allspice. These rich spices give the caçoila just a hint of Middle Eastern flavor.
1 cup dry white wine - Some cooks prefer red wine for cacoila. I prefer white with pork because the flavor of the red tends to overwhelm the pork flavor. The wine tenderizes the meat, adds a hint of the wine flavour to the pork, and the alcohol completely burns off during the slow cooking.
¼ tsp piri piri sauce – (optional)

Heat the oven to 325F/160C Cut the excess fat from the pork and cut the remainder into 1” cubes. Put the pork pieces in an oven-proof casserole dish. Mix all the other ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
Pour the seasonings over the pork. Gently mix the seasonings with the pork.Cover the dish and place it in the oven for approximately 2 1/2 hrs.
Now you can sit back and relax while the exotic aromas of a Portuguese caçoila infuse your kitchen. To be sure the pork is properly tenderized and the all the flavours are blending, periodically check the pot. If there is very little liquid left in the pot, add some additional wine or water. The caçoila is ready when you can easily break the meat apart with a fork.
Traditional Portuguese families serve the caçoila with plain boiled potatoes and soak up the wonderful sauce with Portuguese hard rolls.One of the wonderful things about Portuguese caçoila is how easy it is to make. The slow oven does most of the work.
Portugal has survived recessions before and those who are old enough to remember it are the ones who will survive it.It is a sanguine view, a "saudade" perhaps.A longing for the past that is so far into the future it may never happen. This is an older population,the one you meet on a daily basis manning our favourite  market stalls and selling their home grown produce and the eggs they have collected from their hens.When you buy these eggs they are still till warm in the tin bucket in which they were collected.This was a different age. Portugal was "poor"and people knew how to live a simple lifestyle. These people in the campo and serra still live this life style, growing and farming most of their own food.They work all the hours god sends and shop sparingly, very rarely in a supermarket, living on very small means.Not so the modern youth.They will not be seen behind a market stall.They have left behind a tradition,a life in the remote countryside of their childhood.They now go in search of an education and a better life in the cities or even abroad. They have not learnt to live within their means. Many are probably mortgaged at a very young age and have a new car.


Friday, 23 March 2012

Soup from the spectrum

We are two days into spring and our thoughts turn to lifting our spirits.It is at this time every year that paint manufacturers launch on us their new range of colour swatches.Colour plays such an important role in our lives and is something I have always been fascinated by.At art college I presented a project to my fellow students on the psychology behind the colour of food and  how it influences what we eat. I added food colouring to foods we eat everyday; for example I asked my audience to drink milk that was black.Regardless of the fact that the taste remained unchanged the response was not surprisingly 100% negative."Computer said NO." The brain was telling them it was wrong. In my previous incarnation as a graphic designer I constantly found myself working with colour swatches and colour matching systems.I have always loved thumbing through these colour charts like a spectrum flicker book.Yesterday I was flicking through the CIN paint chart and realised the spring colour range was close to the soup I was cooking.It occured to me that there must be a subliminal connection between my cooking and my days behind a drawing desk.I decided my  butternut squash soup was PO DE ESTRELA E263.I will now be even more conscience of the colour in the food I am presenting.Next stop peas - I am excited.

Butternut squash soup - Sopa abobora manteiga
The intrinsic sweetness of the butternut squash is what makes this soup.Try to get hold of the best squash available.If you  cannot find any butternut, try substituting it with one of the many other squash or pumpkin varieties.This soup contains a large amount of butter which can be reduced but you should however try this version once.
1kg butternut squash
1 large onion
200g unsalted butter
1 litre water
Up to 750g full fat milk
salt and cayenne pepper
Peel the squash, halve it lengthways and scoop out the seeds.Slice the flesh as thinly as possible ( on a mandolin ( if you have one) or a vegetable peeler. Halve the onion,then peel and slice it as thinly as possible too.Take a heavy based casserole, large enough to hold all the ingredients.Sweat the onion and squash with 150g of the butter over a medium to low heat for 10 minutes.Turn up the heat, add the water,bring to the boil,then simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.Remove from the heat, liquidise.The soup will need thinning with the milk Add enough to  obtain your desired consistency, but make sure that you are not diluting the flavour too much.To finish, re-heat gently,whisking in the remaining butter (optional ). Sprinkle with a light dusting of cayenne pepper and a leaf motif. Check the seasoning and serve.
Garnish with some croutons and a bit of parmesan.For something a little different try "self" croutons. Lightly sautée some cubed butternut squash to give some added bite, or for a fresher taste contrast the soup with some cubed melon croutons.This is something to try with other soups - throwing in a little of the main ingredient cooked in a different way, to build layers of flavour.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Urtigas - Putting spring in your step

 Eat your weeds before they get´cha
Tender-handed stroke a nettle,
And it stings you, for your pains:
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.
Tom Johnson

Put a spring in your step, a smile on your face and  take the sting out of your cookin´. Early spring is a good time to go out with a basket, gloves and a pair of scissors to gather nettle tops (urtigas).March is the prime time for picking. Still tender,their sting is minimal.Bring them home, pop the kettle on, blanch them and your´re on course for grasping the nettle.As a child I have to say I grasped the nettle all too often and had to resort to the dock leaf remedy.In Western Europe, dock leaves are a traditional remedy for the sting of nettles and suitable larger leafed docks often grow very conveniently in neighbouring habitats to the nettle. Anecdotally they work - at least they did when I was knee-high to a stinging-nettle. How is it that small children know to reach for a dock-leaf when stung? They just do don´t they,they do.It's nice now to be able to have some revenge  as an adult.
So anyway, I grabbed a big bunch of the nettles I had gathered, and with tongs in hand dunked them ceremoniously into a cauldron of furiously boiling salted water to tame their poisonous attitude. Bye, bye formic acid, hello delicious green thing.Now everyone and their mother makes a nettle soup or nettle tea. Sorry that is so not interesting and nettle soup I’m sure is great, but that’s the one recipe everyone knows and that you can find everywhere on the Internet. I dug deeper. Stung? I think you will be.....

Bola de urtigas com queijo feta e azeitonas verde
Nettle bread with feta cheese and green olives
(adapted from a recipe by Maria Manuel Valagao)

250g farinha     
(250g plain flour)
4 ovos /eggs
100ml azeite / extra virgin olive oil
3 colher sopas de vinho branco   
(3 dessert spoons white wine)
levedura q.b.     1 heaped teaspoon dried yeast
sal e pimenta q.b  salt and pepper to taste
1 colher sopa tomilho  1 soup spoon thyme

1 colher sopa hortela  1 soup spoon mint
250g de folhas de urtigas branqueados e corteados grosseiramente
(250g fresh nettle leaves blanched and roughly chopped)
125 g Queijo feta / feta cheese

manteiga para barra a forma
butter for greasing the baking tin
100g de azeitonas verdes cortadas sem caroço
(100g pitted green olives)

Em tigela,juntar a farinha, o sal e a levedura.Adicionar os ovos um a um, misturando levemente.Juntar,progressisivamente,o queijo feta esfarelando, o azeite,o vinho branco,o tomilho e hortela,obtendo uma massa uniforme.Envolver as urtigas e as azeitonas cortadas.Deitar a massa numa forma de bolo Inglês previamente barrada e polvilhada de farinha.Vai ao forno a 210ºC/410F,durante 35-40 minutos.  

In a bowl mix together the flour salt and the dry yeast that has had water added.Add the eggs one by one lightly beating them in.Crumble in the feta followed by the white wine thyme and mint and stir until you have a uniform thick dough.Toss in the nettles and green olives.Stir to mix.Pour the paste into a loaf pan that has been previously greased and dusted with flour.Put it in a hot oven 210C/410F for 35-40 minutes.Allow to cool in the tin on a baking rack. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Instead of nettles you can use other wild foraged leaves,spinach for instance, 
blanched in the same way.
Serve with a salad or part of a tapas
Make a batter with the nettles, flour and water for nettle patties

Um pouco mais
Urtiga e batata gnocchi, risotto de urtigas , pesto de urtiga, spaghetti, ravioli,tagliatelle

Show me your mettle, petals;tell me your thoughts and ideas on cooking with nettles.I want to hear from you.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Soak stars,groovy chicks and pulse rates

Chickpea patties
Chickpeas! chiches pois! garbanzos! ceci! grao de bico! In anybody's language,these beige nuggets make a sustaining cold weather meal.This strange little pulse with its little cleft and curlicue,is full of protein.Chickpeas are the truly global ingredient.Versatile, nutritious and easy to prepare, their appeal is universal, but most of all the chickpea is perhaps the defining food of Portugal,Its subtle flavour gracing dishes as varied as soups, stews, puddings and pancakes.Roasted, boiled, puréed or just lightly seasoned, who would have thought that popping open a can could create so many possibilities.They love lamb and just adore garlic.
I mentioned "can" because who could bear the thought of soaking the dried variety for 24 hours,then boiling them the following day for at least a couple more.Chickpea minefield-  the dry variety may be years old, and the older they are the longer they will take to rehydrate and cook,There is no way of telling.I can remember cooking a batch of these little  for five hours and the damned things never softened."The devils pebbles" I muttered under my breath.By the time they had boiled dry I was then left with a saucepan bottom full of precious and artistic little imprints which took me weeks to get rid of.Next time I will take a leaf out of Marmaduke Scarlets hot tips for things to do with vinegar. If you are a chickpea virgin I urge you to flirt cautiously. Showing a slow cooked leg of lamb accompanied by a sloppy mash of chickpeas would be my simplest equivalent of hog heaven.Probably the best cold weather meal on the planet.Lets put the chic back in chick pea. From soak star to superstar, its a cinch.No matter what level your culinary skills are, you can produce a winning dish.

Chickpea Mash
3x 400g cans or jars of chickpeas
a small onion
3 plump cloves garlic
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
juice of small lemon
Flor de sal
Pimenton picante (hot paprika)

Drain the chickpeas and put them into a pan of lightly salted water.Bring to the boil,then turn the flame down to a simmer.This warms the chickpeas rather than cooking them.Peel and finely slice the onion and garlic, then let it soften with the olive oil over a medium flame. Let the onion colour a little.Join the warm chickpeas,garlic and onion in a food processor.Add the olive oil from the onion mixture, lemon juice and blitz to give a smooth luxurious purée.season with a pinch of pimenton, flor de sal and black pepper and whizz again,Serve with your lamb.
Chickpeas can be what you want them to be.So good they are as vehicles for carrying flavour.Whatever the circumstance,however,to give of their best,chickpeas must be fully cooked.Al Dente pulses are intolerable.As with any pulse its a mistake to salt them until they are fully cooked.The salt inhibits the cooking process.

Chickpea, feta and coriander patties
with harrissa
Serves 4

100g (3.5oz) feta cheese
2x400g (14oz ) can chickpeas drained and and rinsed
1 medium free range egg
1/2 cup chopped coriander (coentros) leaves
1/2 cup chopped mint
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
1 chopped spring onion
1 heaped tablespoon of home made harissa paste
1 tablespoon of preserved ginger syrup
1 cup breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying
1 bunch rocket (rucola )( 100g /3.5oz )trimmed
Bread sticks to serve

Place the feta,coriander,mint,cumin,lemon rind,eggs, spring onion, garlic and chickpeas in a food processor and process until roughly chopped.Add the breadcrumbs. Shape into 12 cakes.Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat.Add a light coating of oil and cook the cakes in batches for 2 minutes each side or until golden on both sides.Transfer to a parchment lined baking tray and finish in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve the cakes with a rocket salad and raita.

Top notch Sierra de Gredos chickpeas from Spain, if you can get them, are worth their contribution to any stew.The main ingredient of Castilian stews are these chickpeas,cabbage and morcilla( blood sausage).In addition,like their Portuguese counterparts, all kinds of other sausages, pig tails and ears are the typical ingredients of stews.In Castilian cuisine the chickpea is the element which has been in the area for centuries, brought to Spain by the Carthaginians.
Keep a few cans of these chickpeas in the pantry and you´ll always have the humble beginnings of a quick dinner on hand.
Let them plump up your meals with their nutty flavour.
You´ll be amazed how quickly a simple dish of chickpeas will silence a grumbling tummy.

Friday, 16 March 2012

From rice to riches

I have an on-going quest for the knowledge of another nation´s cuisine.This search has brought me to Portuguese rice.Rice is produced in Portugal? -surprised? Yes I was too.
Rice production in Portugal goes back to the middle ages when its cultivation was in conjunction with the drive to drain areas of marshy land in the north west of the country.  From rice to riches. Rice suddenly became the food of the masses, whereas previously it had been the food of the rich. Rice may have become more popular in the 16th century with the sale of rice pudding by women in the streets of Lisbon.
There were rice fields in Brazil in the 18th century, and there are records of the export of  rice from Brazil to the Portuguese royal larders.
Initially rice was probably regarded as a supplementary food like bread.Only later did rice enter into the culinary vocabulary and be considered the all versatile food it is today,one capable of being the core ingredient of a soup, starter, fish or meat dish, and even as a pudding.The grain was brought to the Iberian peninsular by the Moors as early as the Seventh and Eighth centuries,hence the origin of its name arroz from the moorish ar-uz. Rice is a grain that comes in different shapes and sizes according to variety. Carolino Rice ( Lisbon region) is a short, plump, white grain, similar to arborio. With a great capacity to absorb flavours and low amylose content (one of the components of starch), this grain retains more of the starch and remains firm to the bite when cooked.This is why Carolino Rice is ideal for a style of cooking  known as ‘malandrinho’,(dishes with rice and a variety of ingredients prepared as stews similar to paellas). This style of cooking is typical of the north of Portugal but extremely popular in the Algarve. 'Malandrinho' is a cooking technique in which rice obtains a creamy smooth texture, and can be adapted to regional recipes  such as the tomato, bean or fish rices.The carolino is the one grain that Portuguese cooks have taken to the heart of their cooking.The reason being  is that it adapts so well to this style of cooking.Let’s return to rice here rice now. The Portuguese  learnt to use it every which way. Apart from bread and potatoes,which appear at every meal,you will frequently find rice.There has been many an occasion when I have found both rice and potatoes on the same plate.It makes its presence felt in the famous soup canja, but more often it holds its own in tomato rice or arroz de mariscos (shellfish rice)razor clam rice and the Algarvian speciality octopus rice.My favourite of all malandrinho dishes however,is arroz de pato ( duck rice).I have put my own mark on this dish recently.
A typical example of malandrinho as it would be served in a typical portuguese restaurant-arroz de (rice and prawns, lobsters, mussels, clams)
With regards to specialties from other countries we have the example of Spanish paella that has become a global icon. And even Italian risottos which, while still bearing this name, have been adapted into other rice combinations which have abandoned the original Italian risotto recipe.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Canja, literally soup re-written

Still suspicious, he (Jacinto) tried the fragrant chicken broth and looked up at me.... His eyes shone in surprise.Another spoonful,and still another,fuller,more consistent.And he smiled,astonished:`It´s  good!´And it was:divine.It had liver and gizzard.It´s aroma was endearing. And thrice,with great fervour, I attacked that broth.Ì´ll have some more as well,´Jacinto exclaimed, thoroughly convinced.`I am so hungry!´he said.`God! I haven´t felt this hungry for years!´....The rich aroma from the soup in the tureen was simply mouth-watering.On a large platter, a succulent chicken covered with moist rice and garnished with sausages had the magnificence of a meal fit for the lord of the manor.

                                         Eça de Queiroz,The city and the Mountains, (A cidade e as serras)

I can not write about Canja de galinha ( chicken soup spiked with lemon juice and garnished with mint) without a mention of Eça de Queiroz the great Nineteenth century Portuguese novelist and gourmand.Some of the country´s most favourite and famous dishes are enjoyed by his characters.The Canja that Queiroz wrote about had "nary a whisper of lemons or hint of mint".That said, I have to admit my version goes one step further.Having tasted traditional Portuguese Canjas I have added fresh ginger,lemon grass and nutmeg, token gestures to the origin of the soup,which stems from China where it is called congee.Like Thailand´s most popular soup Tom Yam, in its original incarnation, Canja was a hot medicinal broth,containing potent herbs and spices to which the Portuguese later added chicken. In medieval Portugal the use of oriental spices was prevalent in a great number of recipes.Such spices were beyond the means of the man in the street.However in modern Portuguese cooking ginger is a popular and easily affordable ingredient. I couldn´t resist but meddle, and love the heat that the ginger brings to this soup.Apart from Caldo verde, Canja is probably the best-known Portuguese soup,hence its mention in classic literature.It is part of popular tradition and is a recommended food for invalids.As far back as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Canja was prescribed to sufferers of consumption.The medieval cookery booklets of  Princess Maria Manuela are Portugal´s equivalent of England´s Mrs Beeton.Apart from providing recipes they also contained some remarkable home hints which are still applicable today. Canja de Galinha is just one example.Tradition demands that this soup should be made with rice,but I can´t see why there is any reason to stop Canja being made with noodles.I took the middle road and opted for Risone( pasta rice ).

Canja de galinha (re-written)

2 pints ( 1.2litres ) Home made chicken stock
1.5 lbs (650g) chicken,breasts,legs and thighs,                                                       jointed bone-in, skin and fat removed

1 onion, sliced 
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small carrot thinly sliced
12 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon nutmeg
thumb sized piece of fresh ginger thinly sliced
2 stalks lemon grass finely chopped
2 bay leaves

Juice of 1/2 lemon plus zest of
2/3  cup risone pasta rice or small noodles
small bunch of mint leaves, sliced thinly
Cook the chicken in the stock,and the first 9 ingredients, simmer  for 40 minutes-1 hour. Remove from the heat and then leave to cool in the stock.When cool remove the chicken from the stock and shred it into bite sized pieces. Juice the lemon and remove the zest in one piece.Add the zest to the remaining stock with the pasta rice and boil over a high heat,covered until the rice is cooked (10 minutes).When the rice is cooked remove the zest and add the reserved chicken.return to asimmer until warmed through.Pour in the lemon juice and stir to mix.Adjust the seasoning and serve in bowls.Scatter the mint leaves over each bowl.Feel the restorative goodness.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Seville Orange Snow

At the expense of losing a friend,Rachel @marmaduke scarlet I write yet another Seville orange post.Yes, I have a Seville orange tree in our garden, but bear with, trying to keep apace with the fruit it yields is indeed a challenge.Its now March and god help us, the crop is coming to an end - believe me Rachel this is a large tree,and I dont want to put a ladder against it again this year. Snow in Seville at any time of the year- low fat chance. However my annual obsession with Seville oranges continues, this my final instalment being a sweet and sour granita.A refreshing flavoured snow, an extraordinary mush served in its own shell for a spectacular dessert suited to the calorie conscious  and the truffle-eating epicure alike. No cook,no machine,what more could a host ask for.This is an offer you can't refuse.
Water ices are based on a flavoured sugar syrup rather than a custard – and are thus much quicker and easier to make. Granitas must be beaten at regular intervals during the freezing process in order to develop their characteristic crystalline texture. Sorbets should, in theory, be smooth – which is less labour intensive, particularly if you're lucky enough to own a machine to take care of the churning side of things. You really can't make this ice too zingy. Spend time tweaking the balance of sweet and sour until it suits you.Simple and natural -   a fruit made ice cold and turned into a dream.Beat it into submission, and you'll be rewarded with an effortless moment of bliss.No fat and very little added sugar, it is almost as healthy as a fruit juice and much more fun to make and to serve.And it doesn't stop there,tangerine, lemon, lime or citrus combos.I keep a box of this in the freezer for guests. Some prefer a light refresher at the end of dinner as opposed to a moreserious pudding, and on the right occasion an intercourse sorbet might be the order of the day.So keep some hollowed out fruit shells in the freezer too,and as you can see,  yes I finished it with a hat.
Seville orange granita
sugar 100g
water 200ml
lemon juice 400ml
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and warm over a moderate to high heat until the sugar has dissolved. There is no need to boil this down to thick syrup, just make sure there is no undissolved sugar in it. Leave to cool completely.This is more than enough for the recipe but you can add extra syrup to sweeten your granita to taste.
Pour the Seville orange juice into 100ml of the sugar syrup. It will be seriously sharp and refreshing. If it is too bitter, then add more sugar syrup to taste. Either pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker or freeze by hand. If you are taking the latter option, pour the mixture into a tupperware and freeze for 3 or 4 hours until ice crystals are forming around the edge. Beat them into the liquid centre until you have a sort of lemon slush, then freeze again for a couple of hours and, once again, beat the mixture and freeze again. This beating will help the structure of the granita and stop it freezing into a solid block.You are aiming for the characteristic crystallised slush.
Once it is frozen, leave it to soften slightly before serving. Rough, snowy slushy lumps are preferable to neat quenelles.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Arroz de pato com imprevisto (a diferença) - Duck rice with a twist

I must be quackers.Last week I decided that I was going to cook Arroz de pato ( Duck rice ) for an invited table that was made up of 70% Portuguese.This very traditional and tasty rice dish is quite common all over Portugal; it is very much enjoyed on those special occasions when all the family gets together for a special Sunday lunch, or any other celebration. But would I get the desired seal of approval from my guests for my take on a Portuguese classic?
I wanted to infuse different flavours into this ever popular Portuguese dish.In Portugal, it’s very much a peasant dish where you cook the whole duck with chorizo, rice, spices—a very simple, one-pot meal—but being an eternal exponent of culinary make over I decided to take it apart and employ a different cooking technique.- Risotto. The Portuguese have never adopted risotto as such, but they have many risotto- esque dishes that involve a rice.The closest Portuguese equivalent to risotto that I have found is Arroz de pato (Duck  rice) in which the duck is cooked in water and then the resulting stock is drained off to cook the rice. Halfway through the cooking, the rice is transferred to an ovenproof dish and with the addition of butter is finished in the oven. The pre-cooked duck is then shredded and added to the rice.The dish is then returned to the oven.A combination of traditional and oven cooked risotto.If cooked properly the result is delicious.. I made a Refogado.`Refogado´ is to the Portuguese what `Soffrito´ is to the Italians. Onions are fried together with olive oil, or some other fat, over a very low flame until they are soft and translucent - and this is the basic procedure for countless dishes.

The flavour  can be altered by adding different types of onion or herbs.In this case I used onion, garlic and parsley stalks.For my risotto I used equal parts carolino rice and puy lentils.I dissected several recipes for this dish, with my major influence coming  from Dona Ana Lidia At O Monte Velho.She tempers her food with spices like Star Anise not applied elsewhere by her Algarvian counterparts.Her rice was beautifully creamy like a risotto and without that nasty dried out crust that is so typical of the more traditional ristorante and tasca versions. 
The more traditional arroz de pato with  its typical dried out crust
One of the most popular recipes for this “Arroz de Pato” is the one from “Braga”, which due to its particular and unique flavor has been reproduced all over the country. It is said that the people from “Minho” however, are the experts on making this rice and they even have a particular clay bowl from a region called “Barcelos” to make it. Nevertheless, don´t refrain from making it just because you don´t have that special bowl. Any kind of dish that can go from the oven to the table is all you need.

Arroz de pato com imprevisto (a diferença)
Serves 4-6 as a main course,   6-8 as a side dish

1 pato de tamanho médio -1 medium duck
6-8oz (175g-225g) presunto-cured ham
2oz (60g) bacon,cubed
3oz(90g) chouriço, cubed

1.5 litros caldo de galinha - chicken stock
1/2 chavena Vinho Madeira seco 1/2 cup dry madeira
2 colheres de sopa Laranjas de sevillanhas - 2 dessertspoons seville orange juice
1 folha de louro grande -1 large bay leaf
2 anis estrelado enteiro -2 whole star anise
1 colhere de sopa gengibre em trinchado fino - 1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
1 colhere de sopa folhas de tomilho - 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 cravinhos - 2 cloves

Lentilhas de puy 8oz(225g) - puy lentils
1lb (450g) Arroz carolino - Risotto rice ( carnaroli or Arborio )
6 echalotes decascados e  cortado fino -shallots peeled and finely chopped
3 dentes de alho decascados e  cortado fino - garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced
Manteiga sem sal  2oz(50g) - unsalted butter
1colhere de sopa azeite - tablespoon olive oil
12 talos de salsa  parsley stalks
Ervilhas congealdos 4oz (120g) -  frozen peas
1 iogurte griego pequeno - 1 small pot Greek yoghurt
Folhas espinafres, refrescado em coador esfregado 1lb (450g) - baby spinach washed
Fatias de laranja  para enfeitar - orange wedges for garnish

Place the duck in a roomy pot and add the stock,madeira herbs and spices. If the liquid does not cover the duck completely add a little water. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until just tender 1-1.5 hours.Take care not to overcook the duck. Meanwhile sauté the cured meats and set aside.Wilt the drained spinach in a pan and set aside.
Drain the meat and allow the stock to cool completely. When cool skim off the excess fat with a spoon and discard.Shred the duck meat and set aside.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large shallow pan.gently fry the the shallots,garlic and parsley stalks until the shallots are softened but not browned.Stir in the rice and toss to coat completely. Gradually add the stock to the rice (21/2 times its volume) in stages.when half cooked (12-15 minutes) Stir in the reserved duck, presunto, chouriço and bacon.Add 2 tablespoons butter.Transfer to an ovenproof pan and finish cooking in the oven.
Remove from the oven and stir in the spinach and yoghurt with a wooden spoon.transfer to a large dish and  put in the middle of the table for people to help themselves. 

And the Portuguese panel´s verdict - Thumbs up to chef!!!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Making ends meat

There is something irresistible and especially delicious in the flavour and texture of Duck liver pâté. Even if you haven´t recently purchased a duck its worth seeking out duck livers.However it is perfectly acceptable to use chicken livers instead.Regardless of austere times nothing ever gets wasted in this house.Every morsel of meat is applied in some way. I made a duck rice last week. and my butcher had left the livers inside for me. I needed another spontaneous couvert for our menu so my attention turned to Duck pate with Orange licore.

St Estêvão Duck pate with Orange licore
1 onion
1 carrot 
1 stick of celery
1heaped tablespoon chopped parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
3oz( 100g) unsalted butter
200g duck livers trimmed and washed( average amount from 1 x 2kg duck)
125 ml dry white wine
60ml orange licore
Flor de sal  and pepper
30g clarified butter 

Gently fry the onion carrot celery and parsley in the olive oil and half the butter. Cook until the onion is soft, then add the duck livers.Stir and add the wine.allow to evaporate for 2-3 minutes.Season with a little salt and pepper,cover with a lid and simmer for about 20 minutes.remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then process the mixture with the licore until smooth. Decant into a pretty pot or small pate terrine and smooth the surface.
Melt the clarified butter,pour it over the pate and when cool, will keep happily for several days provided the seal is intact;once broken,eat quickly,which shouldn´t prove much of a chore.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Spring has sprung

Sunday afternoon............
Out of a springform tin and onto a plate.Spring has sprung. When I read Rachel´s post at Marmaduke Scarlet I just couldn´t stop myself from making this Seville Orange cake.With a basket of Seville oranges from our garden I began my now regular Sunday Portuguese bake off. "My kind of cake," I kept mithering as I stirred and folded the ingredients with a great zest.The result was phenomenal.The cake was everything Rachel promised it would be."Citrusy cake delight" The light texture just melting in your mouth with a subtle melding of bitter citrus undertones.What I love even more is the way she has used the old fashioned baking principle of weighing out the ingredients.She weighs the eggs first and then matches their weight to the butter sugar and flour.It really works. Need cheering up? - Seville oranges at the ready folks, get baking.You will bake this again and again I assure you.
The recipe..... seville orange cake: to celebrate the spring sunshine

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Our doors are numbered

Non-food related blog.
Stop reading now if you are searching for a recipe, or other culinary suggestion.

Much to the chagrin of our postman and tired out travellers searching for a place to stay we have been without numbers on our doors for the 6 years we have lived here.Of course, we have been trying to allow Casa Rosada to remain one of the Algarve´s best kept secrets. In times of austerity one needs to announce oneself.No need to shout from the top of Castro Marim castle but some discreet traditional enamel plated blue numbers in the style of old Lisbon houses could definitely become the order of the day and enhance our façade. Our dear friends in London sourced the number plates, having great memories and recording this item from our wish list in their back heads. A surprise package arrived in the post one day and I have finally set about putting us on the map ready for this coming season.Thank you dear friends( you know who you are) for our numbers that are right up our street.