Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tarte de nêsperas

This light and refreshing dessert makes a perfect finish to a rich meal. I sourced this recipe from an Açorean blog that delights me. Every time I visit it I unearth yet another delicious dish.This one is no exception and perfect for this time of year.I guess you could perfectly well substitute apricots for the loquats.Thank you  Elvira for another inspired and original recipe.

Tarte de nêsperas
Serves 6

1 rolo de massa areada caseiro ou de compra 
275g sweet pastry, home made or shop bought

Recheio /Filling

200 g de queijo fresco para barrar ( cream cheese ) , tipo Philadelphia ou valformoso 
200 g cream cheese  (cream cheese), like Philadelphia
2 iogurtes naturais - Two natural greek yoghurt
3 folhas de gelatina neutra - 3 gelatin leaves

4 colheres (sopa) de mel - 4 tbsp (tablespoon) of honey

1 colher (sopa) de raspa de casca de limão - 1 tbsp (tablespoons) grated lemon rind

Cobertura /Topping

800 g de nêsperas - 800 g of loquats

100 g de açúcar - 100 g sugar  
2 colheres (sopa) de água - 2 tbsp (tablespoons) of water  
 2 folhas de gelatina neutra - 2 lraves of gelatin 

Pre-aquecer o forno a 180ºC.. Forrar uma tarteira com uma folha de papel vegetal e depois com a massa areada.  Picar o fundo com os dentes de um garfo. Cobrir integralmente a massa com uma folha de alumínio alimentar e espalhar feijão seco ou arroz no fundo.Levar ao forno - a 180ºC - por 15 minutos.Descartar o feijão seco ea folha de alumínio.Levar ao forno por mais 5 minutos.Retirar do forno e deixar arrefecer.Demolhar 3 folhas de gelatina em água fria.Escorrer muito bem, espremendo as folhas de gelatina com as mãos.Levar a derreter em banho-maria, sem deixar ferver.Bater o queijo fresco em creme com os iogurtes, o mel ea raspa de limão. Incorporar as folhas de gelatina derretidas, mexendo bem até dissolverem por completo no creme.Espalhar o creme pela massa cozida e deixar repousar no frigorífico até solidifica.Entretanto, lavar e arranjar as nêsperas.Corta-las em metades no sentido longitudinal e remover os caroços. Colocar as metades de nêsperas num tacho, juntamente com o açúcar ea água. Cobrir com uma tampa e levar ao lume.Cozinhar em lume médio-brando por 15-20 minutos.Demolhar as duas folhas de gelatina restantes em água fria.Espremer muito bem com as mãos e juntar ao preparado de nêsperas ainda quente.Envolver até a gelatina dissolver por completo.Dispor as metades de nêsperas de forma harmoniosa sobre o recheio da tarte. Cobrir com um pouco da calda do tacho e deixar arrefecer. Levar novamente a tarte ao frigorífico até solidificar.
Retirar a tarte do frigorífico 10-15 minutos antes de servir e cortar em fatias.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 º C. Line a round loose bottomed baking tin with a sheet of baking parchment followed by the pastry.Prick the bottom with  a fork.
Cover the pastry with aluminum foil and fill with baking beans or dried rice. 
Place in the oven - 180 ° C - 15 minutes.  Remove the beans and foil.  Bake for a further 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.Soften 3 gelatine sheets in cold water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain well, squeezing excess water from the gelatin sheets with your hands.  Add the gelatine to a little hot water in a pan, but do not boil. Beat the cream cheese with yogurt, honey and lemon zest.Add the gelatine sheets, stirring well until completely dissolved in the cream mixture.Spoon the cream mixture into the pastry shell and let stand in refrigerator until set. Meanwhile, wash the loquats. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove pits.Place the loquat halves in a pan, along with the sugar and water.  Cover with a lid and bring to boil.  Cook over medium heat-low heat for 15-20 minutes.Soak the other two sheets of gelatine in cold water.  Squeeze well  and add to the cooked loquats while still hot.Make sure the gelatine is completely dissolved. Remove the loquats from the pan and set aside to cool.Allow the jelly in the pan to cool also.Arrange the loquat halves over the filling of the pie.
Cover with the jelly from the pan and leave to set. 
Remove the tart from the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before serving and cut into slices.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Quanto baste- enough is enough

Receitas adaptadam da revista  Blue Cooking No.9 Outubro 2006 /No.25 Março 2008

When I first moved to Portugal and started to familiarise myself with the nation´s cooking I discovered something curious in the ingredients listing of almost every recipe I stumbled upon. The curious abbreviation "q.b." seemed omnipresent in most Portuguese recipes.Sal qb or açucar qb? This was in the days before twats were twittering and I myself was not familiar with shorthand,so what could this ubiquitous acronym mean? - I delved deeper in my research thumbing through pages of the Portuguese /English dictionary and discovered the phrase `Quanto baste´meaning enough,  just the right amount, or as much as is needed. qb is the Portuguese equivalent of the English expression "salt and pepper to taste."So it amounts to what the cook feels is needed, and therefore the buck is being passed by the author to the reader.You should add as much as you feel is necessary.This then started to make perfect sense. The writer is deferring to your judgment, preference, and experience — whether or not you have any. He'll include measurements, but very often uses the term qb (quanto baste). "to your own taste". Who needs to go by the book when you 're cooking from the heart? Who knows better than you how much you need or like.I can hardly think of a dish handed down to me by my mother, or other cooks for that matter, that did not include the phrase 'to taste.' So I started to grab salt in the quantities that the Portuguese call qb. I cannot explain how much it is, this comes with time, and if you are lucky enough to live in a country where rock/sea salt doesn’t cost the earth, use it in this way.Using handfuls as measurement is exactly how my mother would have cooked.Since there’s no way for me to quantify the size of a handful, just put in as much as you want. This sounds so simple. No not simple at all - just exactly how much does this mean? Cooking is about proportion and balance, and seasoning plays an important part. Some recipes indicate a "pinch" of salt. What is a pinch? Two fingers go into my bowl of sea salt beside my cooker and scoop up some grains, but we are not all blessed with the same sized fingers. Seasoning advice in recipes is only a guide. Proper seasoning comes with practice. I never measure seasoning, I add it instinctively .

Understanding proportion and balance in cooking is the key to successful seasoning......
Enough is enough lets get on with the recipe in hand. 

Abreviaturas utilizadas em receitas Portuguesas
(other useful abbreviations used in Portuguese recipe books)
Colher de sopa ( dessert spoon) -cs.
Colher de chá ( tea spoon)- cch.
Colher de café ( coffee spoon) - cc.
Mâo cheia - handful 

Sempre que se referir "sal e pimenta", significa pimenta moida na hora e sal e sal marinho ou flor de sal agosto 
When the recipe calls for "salt and pepper",unless otherwise specified it refers to ground pepper and in the case of salt sea salt or Flor de sal 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Um almoço simples de verao - sole food

Every week, Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett M.B.E. devises a quick, delicious, seasonal recipe to brighten supper time for Guardian readers across the globe. I follow with expat enthusiasm and if the ingredients are readily available "where I am" I shop and cook it. Spanish pork chops with pequillo peppers were right up my rua, so Ange -  thanks for that.Hot sunny weather and happy days are here again and our European lives are brightened by the chance to have light lunches in the garden with a glass of rosé.On Saturday the weekend weather was perfect for sampling the latest offering from La Hartnett. However it is not fault free. Here is classic example of  an accomplished chef unleashing a recipe on the general public without considering the limitations of a domestic kitchen.Nao faz mal, don´t worry,the subtle flavours, delicate taste and fine texture of this dish are pure genius but the recipe has quite clearly been conceived and developed in an industrial kitchen where turbo, steam ovens and other such luxury aids are prevalent.The timings are incorrect, and I have also had to rewrite the quantities with which Miss Hartnett has gone copiously astray ( I halved the quantity of breadcrumbs and cheese and still ended up with enough left over to feed the five thousand with loaves and stuffed fishes for a weekday supper).The only other problem was with the "local fish" for local people.The sole of Portugal does not quite carry the soul of the Great British sole when it came to the filleting.Antonios boys in the fish market made a cack handed job and I brought it home where the thespian put his Macfisheries experience of many years ago to the test and saved the day. Having done all this  we ended up with something tasty tasty, a dish of star quality.The recipe below is my rewrite, but if you want to refer or follow the original here is the link to the Guardian.I also added  runner beans and baby new potatoes to the final plate I dished up.

Half Hartnett´s Baked sole with asparagus 
runner beans and baby new potatoes
( Filete de linguado com espargos,feijao verde e batatas novas pequinas)
Serves 4

30ml olive oil
100ml water
8 large or 16 small sole fillets
20g breadcrumbs
50g parmesan, grated
16 asparagus spears

Spread a teaspoon of oil across an oven tray with a splash of water. Season and roll the sole fillets, place them on the tray and cook in a preheated oven at 180C / gas 4 for 12 minutes., or until tender to the tip of sharp knife
Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese and snap the woody ends from the asparagus.
Pour 25ml of oil into a lidded pan large enough to hold the spears and put on a medium heat.
Add the asparagus and the water, replace the lid and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Remove the fillets from the oven and check they are cooked through by piercing with a skewer or sharp knife.
Sprinkle the top of each rolled fillet with the breadcrumb mixture and put them under a medium grill.
When the sole is light golden brown, remove and place on a plate on top of the asparagus, with the cooking juices.( I ended up with no cooking juices)
Serve with lemon juice drizzled over the top and a wedge on the side.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Caril em po cremoso de frango e maça

"For Christ and Spices" -There are some abominations sold in the name of curry powder, mostly famous brand names, but there are also some beautifully fragrant and well balanced ones from small independent producers.Thanks to the availability of fresh spices I rarely need to purchase ready made sauces and pastes.I have also been lucky enough to find an old fashioned grocers shop behind Rossio in Lisbon where you can purchase fresh curry powder, scooped  out to your desired weight. It´s fragrance and strong colour took me back to some all too familiar aromas of curries my mother used to cook up when I was a child. I was absolutely right when I actually came to cook with it, its affinity to what mama cooked up was uncanny.Todays good blend is a reminder of yesterday´s past glories.My verdict is just find one that works for you and stick with it.
 With a curry powder this good,fragrance rather than heat is of the essence. Mellow,warm and lightly spiced rather than a mind-blowing Hyderabadi biryani,and I opted for a creamy curry rather than a dry one.The addition of apples acted like a muse to the god, it cooled the biryani.For my bit on the side rice was nice.Here´s how I did it....

Creamy curry powder chicken with Apple
Serves 4

4 chicken pieces,2 breasts and two legs
50g(2oz) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
1 large onion chopped
4 plump cloves garlic finely sliced
2 heaped tablespoons curry powder
2 apples,cored and diced
3050ml (1.5pints) home made chicken stock
100ml double cream

Season the chicken with  flavoured salt  and pepper.( I actually used a Sal da Ásia picante ) Heat together the butter and oil in a large shallow pan and cook the chicken till the skin is golden,about 4 minutes each side.Add the chopped onion and garlic,and cook until soft and golden.Sprinkle over the curry powder, add the apple and cook for 2 minutes.Pour in the chicken stock and simmer for about 15 minutes until the juices have reduced to a thick sauce and the chicken is tender and cooked right through.Pour in the cream.Bring to the boil and serve,adding salt and pepper only if necessary.

Monday, 21 May 2012

"For christ and spices"

Having set foot on South Indian soils,on the dawn of May 21st 1498,
Vasco de Gama shouted:
"For Christ and spices"

Having loaded up with spices De Gama returned to Portugal and finally reached Lisbon on the 9th November 1499. It wasn´t just a journey of discovery into one of the world’s oldest industries, but a lesson in colonial culture clashes, exploration and global trading. The ingredients in our kitchen cupboards have destroyed empires, made fortunes, cost lives and changed not only the course of history but the way we cook nowadays.

The Portuguese empire was the earliest European seaborne empire to grow from the spice trade.It was during this time of discovery that explorers working for the Spanish and Portuguese Crowns first set foot on the New World.Christopher Columbus  was the first when, in 1492, in an attempt to reach the Indies by sailing westward, he made landfall on an island in what is now the Bahamas. Believing to have in fact reached India, he named the natives "Indians". Just eight years later in 1500, the Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral, while attempting to recreate Vasco da Gama’s route to India,was blown westwards to what is today Brazil.After taking possession of the new land Cabral resumed his voyage to India,finally arriving there in September 1500 and returning to Portugal in 1501.
By now the Portuguese had complete control of the African sea route and  the Spanish, if they were to have any hope of competing with Portugal for the lucrative trade, had to find an alternate route. Their first, early attempt was with Christopher Columbus, but he ended up finding an unknown continent in between Europe and Asia. The Spanish finally succeeded with the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. On October 21, 1520 his expedition crossed what is now known as the Straits of Magellan, opening the Pacific coast of the Americas for exploration. On March 16 1521 the ships reached the Philippines and soon after the Spice Islands, effectively establishing the first westward spice trade route to Asia. Upon returning to Spain in 1522 aboard the last remaining ship of the expedition, the starving survivors then became the first humans to circumnavigate the globe.

Portuguese recipes depend on simple ingredients, often in unusual combinations (pork and clams for instance may sound like surf 'n' turf, but it is in fact a Portuguese classic), subtly seasoned with olive oil, bay, tomatoes, garlic and the spices of the East introduced to Portugal by da Gama.Take the classic Canja. Its origin may be found in an Indian rice broth, peze, seasoned with some spices. Eventually the chicken was added to it, and the recipe is still common in Goa.According to another source the chicken broth’s origin would belong to Malabar, also in India, where a soup named kanji can be found. There kanji means nothing other than water with rice. This name and its transformation would more likely fit the current Portuguese name.Other sources cite the origin of the soup as having come from China where they have congee, and some people think canja is from the Tom yam Thai soup.Whatever  these origins we owe De Gama a big thanks for bringing these wonderful spices back to Portugal and latterly into our kitchen store cupboards.

Do not store spices in glass jars. These are the worst possible containers, being exposed to light humidity and fluctuating kitchen temperatures. Always store spices in tins or foil packets  in a cool dark place thereby avoiding exposure to light and humidity.

Anything older than a few months will begin to deteriorate and lose its potency and flavour, even if the "use by date" contradicts this. Spices need to be fresh to get the optimum result.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Nigellas sexy seafood platter

PHOTOS: Alex and Mel "Tale of two kitchens"

The power of television brought this recipe to my attention via The Food Network Channel. I instantly became fascinated by the idea that seafood could be roasted in such a way.My thoughts turned to how I might adapt this for Casa Rosada´s menu.I watched inquisitively, I had never seen anyone pick out a prawn, rip off its head and devour the whole thing, shell and all, with such noisy abandon.Oooooh, Nigella that's the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.
This is a pure posh totty recipe.No fiddly techniques are required here. Bung the following items in an oiled roasting pan: A couple of potatoes cut into one-inch chunks, a sliced onion, a lemon cut into quarter-inch bits, and a head of garlic separated into cloves. Bake at 400F for an hour. You don’t even need to peel the lemon, garlic or potatoes (easy-peasy). The lemon peel caramelizes and the garlic cloves become crunchy, savoury-sweet morsels of yum.After an hour, scatter your choice of seafood over the roasted bits. The heat from the roasted potatoes etc, gives the seafood a jump-start. Give the pan a splash of white wine (about a quarter cup) and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Everything is perfect about this recipe.It looks stunning,its relatively inexpensive and its "food for friends".If you want something special to share this is the perfect dish to pop in the middle of a dining table. Its tuck in and don´t mind your fingers getting messy sort of food. Most of all this is an ingenious way to get a selection of seafood on the table without slaving over a hot stove.As always there are shortcomings, most of all in the quantities given.No way NigelIa was this enough seafood for four hungry afishionados.I had to increase the quantities of everything in the recipe.So as long as you take into account the number of people you are feeding, you can quite easily adjust it accordingly, and perhaps increase the amounts of one particular favourite. A very important consideration also is to take into account  the amounts of clams that do not open;something completely unknown until you take the dish from the oven.

A comment I loved about the food network episode....

HOLY S***T!! I watched the episode on the Food Network......did that chick just reach in and eat a shrimp without peeling it? Does everyone else eat shrimp with the shell on? I had to rewind 5 times to make sure I wasn't mistaken. Don't get me wrong...I will try anything...but does the shell really taste good??

Roasted Algarvian seafood platter
1 1/2 pounds white-skinned potatoes 
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled 
2 small red onions 
1 unwaxed lemon 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil  
12 ounces small clams ( Berbigao) in their shells 
6 to 8 baby squid 
1 1/4 pounds or 16 unpeeled large raw prawns
3 tablespoons dry white wine 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
2 to 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the potatoes, without peeling, into thick slices and each slice into quarters. Put them into a large roasting pan with the whole garlic cloves 

Quarter the onions,then peel them (it is easier to do it this way around), then halve each quarter horizontally. Quarter the lemon and cut each quarter into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the onion and lemon to the pan with the potatoes and garlic.

Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil and roast for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, soak the clams in a bowl of water - if any are smashed or don't close after they've soaked, throw them away. Slice the squid into rings.

After 1 hour, take the pan out of the oven and put it over low heat on the stove top so that the pan doesn't cool while you add the seafood.

Arrange the drained closed clams, baby squid rings, and whole raw prawns over the potatoes, garlic, lemon pieces, and onions.

Splash the seafood with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the white wine. 
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Put the roasting pan back in the oven for 15 minutes, by which time the clams should have opened and the shrimp have turned pink. Discard any clams that have not opened.

Scatter with parsley and serve straight from the pan: it couldn't look more beautiful.

Make Ahead Note: Potatoes can be prepared 1 day ahead. Submerge in a bowl of water and store in the refrigerator.Drain and pat dry before using.The onions and lemons  can be cut 1 day ahead and stored in bowls tightly covered with cling film in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Working in pears-literally


"Its May, it´s May the lusty month of May-
That lovely month when ev'ryone goes Blissfully astray.
Tra la! It's here!That shocking time of year 
When tons of wicked little thoughts Merrily appear". 

My wicked little thoughts always turn to the avocado and Portuguese avocados are now in season. Smooth rich and unctuous, the avocado or alligator pear as it is sometimes known is one of my all time guilty pleasures.Recalling "Retro eating"- a halved stoned fruit came with a tart opaque dressing of oil and vinegar,and if you were unfortunate enough a dusting of dried herbs for good measure.It was not long before food fashionistas were filling the hollow with dollops of this, that and the other.The contrasting acidity was very acceptable, but the oily texture of an avocado is not flattered by the addition of extra fat and I am talking of sins in the name of Mary Rose and soured cream. My Noughty preference was to combine mashed avocado with chopped boiled egg, lots of lime juice and sea salt.Nowadays I occasionally push the prawn out in the name of calories and stir in a lovely little lollop of alioli. SSSSShhhh, don´t tell anyone.So how come I have only just unearthed avocado ice cream,a concoction that Somerset Maugham claimed to have created.It is interesting for its literary association though perhaps for little else.I have looked at several versions of this and they all use cream, so I have decided to pinch Mr Maugham´s idea but make mine as a healthy  sorbet, and serve it  as a starter. If you want to serve it as a dessert increase the quantity of sugar and reduce the quantity of salt.

Avocado Sorbet
3 large or 4 small ripe avocados
1/2 cucumber
1 heaped tsp caster sugar
1tbsp flor de sal limao
3 tbsps lime or lemon juice

For the Salad
250g little gem lettuce,chinese leaf,or iceberg
handful of rocket leaves
2 medium green chillis finely minced
2 heaped tbsps fresh coriander chopped
Juice of 2 limes
fresh mint for garnish

Peel avocados thinly,ensuring that you keep all the flesh,especially the dark green under the skin.Chop the cucumber finely.Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz thoroughly.Check flavouring.Freeze. Remove from the freezer at least one hour before serving.
First line the glasses with chinese leaves.Tear the lettuce leaves into 2.5cm pieces or smaller, wash and drain well. Take the green chilli,rocket and coriander and put in a bowl large enough to take in all the combined ingredients.Season with salt pepper and lime juice and taste again. Do not over mix as the lettuce will go limp very rapidly. Only start the process when you are ready to serve.Serve in individual brandy balloons, large wine glasses or on a platter and sprinkle with some fresh chopped coriander and mint leaves. This salad does not keep well once mixed and therefore all the preparation should be complete prior to blending.Finally top the salad with scoops or quenelles of the avocado sorbet.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Era uma vez uma nêspera...

Griddled nesperas with Moscatel, tangerine juice and mascarpone

Once upon a time there was a loquat tree.This tree was  growing on a patch of grass next to a run down house on the corner of a street in an Algarvian village called Castro  Marim.This tree bore a lot of delicious fruit.Every year a scheming chef from the neighbouring Casa Rosada saw the fruit ripening and had evil thoughts of foraging his local loquats.Twisting the fruit off the tree every spring, dusting off the fuzz, eating the fruit and then throwing the seeds aside for another tree to grow.He was happy to see the loquat trees bordering his neighbourhood, and wished for a bit of rehabilitation for them by plucking  the honey sweet fruit from their tight clusters and secretly taking the seeds from the middle of the fruit.He yearned to plant them in his garden and watch them transform into fruit-producing treasures.Luckily his social conscience got the better of him and he said "No", these are local fruits for local people and the beauty of their sweet and abundant growth should be adored and not explored.

The tree on the corner

The English call these fruit `medlars´, but to the Portuguese they are the noble nesperas, and if you are from other eastern mediterranean parts, or particularly Lebanese, they would be the loquat. They are small roundish yellow fruit that look like-an-apricot-but-not-an-apricot, and have just one or two large pips and a lovely juicy flavour, even if they don’t look that attractive with a few skin blemishes.One can bite into a loquat like a plum, but I prefer to tear off the stem and unzip the skin, which is edible but flavourless and slightly bitter. Next, cut the fruit in half, flick out the seeds, and tear off the calyx (the little whorl at the base), and the interior membrane if it is tough. This sounds more complicated than it is, and the filet of a prime loquat,a pure glistening blemish free fruit resembling a half apricot, is your exquisite reward. What you do after that ( if they get have managed to escape your mouth) is your business but here is my suggestion.

Griddled Nesperas with Moscatel, 
tangerine juice and mascarpone

4 loquats
Juice of 2 tangerines
1 tbsp of Moscatel wine
1 tbsp of muscavado sugar

150 ml mascarpone

Peel and stone the Nesperas and lightly grill them on a slightly greased grill pan. In a small bowl, add the tangerine juice, the moscatel, the sugar and mix well. Pour this marinade on top of the grilled loquats and let them marinate for  30 minutes.

Loquats are also great when mixed in fruit salads,cakes,compotes,and are a great addition or base for jams and jellies due to their pectin content. has an extensive collection of spiced and preserved loquats.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Fish and tricks

I love battered fish and breaded fish but sometimes have a concern of how it presents itself on the plate.I have for a long time wanted to find a new and more exciting way to serve it.How could one make it more interesting than just a piece of flat breaded fish fillet on a plate so I thought take a fillet apart and tie it up in knots....

Knots of Portuguese pescada with saffron mayonnaise
Serves 2 as a main serving or tapas for 6

1 medium sized hake sole or plaice filleted
1 egg beaten
dry breadcrumbs
1 heaped tbsp mixed fresh herbs finely chopped
seasoned flour
oil for deep frying

150ml(1/4 pt) good quality fish stock,not from a stock cube
4 strands saffron
150ml(1/4 pt) thick mayonnaise
salt and ground black pepper
pinch of turmeric
squeeze of lemon juice
Cut the fish fillets into thin even strips, roughly 1/2 cm(1/4in)wide and 10 cm(4in) long
and tie them into knots.Mix the beaten egg with a pinch of salt and a little milk.Mix the breadcrumbs and herbs together.Dip the knots of fish first into the seasoned flour,then into the egg and milk,and finally into the breadcrumbs.Make sur they are evenly coated.
To make the Saffron Mayonnaise
Boil the fish stock until reduced to 1 tbsp.Soak the saffron threads in the hot stock and leave to cool.Strain the stock and mix it with the mayonnaise.Season with salt,black pepper,turmeric and lemon juice.Serve in a small dish.Heat the oil until apiece of stale bread sizzles vigorously in it and turns golden..Fry the fish knots until golden brown.Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with salt.Serve immediately on a flat dish with the saffron mayonnaise in the centre..Alternatively you can leave them to cool and reheat for 10 minutes in an oven at 190C/375F/Gas mark 5 just before serving.
TIP; the knots can be coated in egg and breadcrumbs the pday before,covered with cling film and stored in the refrigerator overnight.

Trick of the day:Add cornflour to any batter mix to make it more crispy.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Belly Pork and black beans-Entremeada e feijao preto

Back in January,when I checked myself in for larder re-hab and depantrification - I missed a tin of black beans that was sitting at the back of the shelf.What ever possessed me to buy them? I have never cooked with black beans or ever intended to, but must have at one point had a spontaneous intention to cook a Feijoada in the Brazilian style, which uses black beans as opposed to the Portuguese version, which uses pinto or butter beans.I am never convinced whether the conquistadores taught the pig and bean thing to the natives or vice versa, but surely the Brazilians and the Iberians are top of the world league when it comes to pig and beans in a pot. I am not a great fan of the former version, but I needed to be thrifty quickly and use up this commodity before it expired. I decided to improvise and came up with a pan-asian meets Iberican belly pork, braised in a garlic and black bean sauce.
The black beans from Asia are soybeans, which are  fermented and preserved in salt.Also known as Chinese black beans  or salted black beans, they have a very strong, salty flavor and are generally soaked for a half hour or so in fresh water before being added to a dish.My tin of beans was the type of black beans particularly popular in Brazil, Spain and Portugal  (frijol negro in Spanish, feijao preto in Portuguese), or Mexican black bean or turtle bean. Their flavour is stronger and fuller, bearing undertones of meat or mushrooms.So taking a recipe from the orient I replicated the saltiness of the recipe by the seasoning of the meat as opposed to the beans.Well I thought; living at the far eastern end of the Algarve, this could become a dish from the Portuguese Orient:

Belly pork from the "orient" 
braised in a garlic and black bean sauce
( entremeada "orientale"guisada em molho feijaoem molho feijao preto e alho)

Total time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Serves 2 as a main plate or 4 as part of a multi-dish meal

1 kg (2 pounds) entremeada( belly pork), cut into strips about 1½ inches wide and seasoned with flor de sal
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 green chillies,deseeded and cut into thin strips

1 stick of lemongrass,finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
2 large spring onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Flor de sal
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon dark (thick) soy sauce
3 tablespoons madeira wine or dry sherry
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 410g tin black beans, rinsed
1/4 cup coarsely chopped coentros (coriander)

Prepare the garlic, ginger,lemongrass, spring onion and chillies on a plate. For the seasoning liquid, stir together the salt, sugar, dark soy sauce, Madeira and water.
Heat a wok, heavy pot or deep skillet over high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the garlic, ginger and green onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Stir in the pork and black beans. Continue cooking until the pork turns white and is coated with the other ingredients, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the seasoning liquid,and bring to the boil.
Transfer the contents of the wok to a large casserole,  cover, then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until the pork is chewy-tender, about 1 hour, stirring 2 to 3 times. The dish can be made up to this point and then refrigerated overnight before continuing.
Skim most of the fat from the sauce (the fat will be easy to remove if the pork has been refrigerated and the fat is solidified; if not refrigerated, temporarily transfer the pork to a bowl to make skimming the fat easier).
Heat the pork and sauce over medium-high heat until the liquid comes to a vigorous simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce has reduced and thickened enough to coat the pork, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the coriander  and transfer to a serving plate or shallow bowl. Served with rice or Chinese colcannon
Chinese Colcannon (serves 4)
  • 3-4 good sized potatoes, peeled
  • a small bundle of chinese cabbage, washed and shredded, stalks and all
  • 2-3 spring onions (scallions)
  • 1 small leek thinly sliced
  • 3 rashers of bacon
  • 1 tablespoon roasted garlic purée
  • Half a cup of good full fat milk / cream if you're feeling decadent
  • 150gms of butter
  • chinese five spice
Slice the peeled potatoes into 1.5 cm thick rounds and put in a pan with cold water.  Bring to the boil for about 5-8  minutes.  Check to see if they're done, by sliding a knife into the centre.

Meanwhile, shred your cabbage and spring onions finely and fry the bacon till it's crispy.  When you have fried the bacon, keep the fat and add the cabbage and spring onions,season with chinese five spice and fry gently for one to two minutes until it's wilted.

When the potatoes are done, add the butter and milk / cream.  Mash well or put through a ricer and mix the cream and butter through until the mash is smooth.

Crumble the bacon and add it to the mash with the roasted garlic purée, cabbage and spring onions.  Mix well.  Taste and season to your liking.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

24 Cozinha - Casa Rosada unplugged

Dear Diary - It has been a busy 36 hours. 24 Kitchen has been visiting the East Algarve. Their mission, to include Cozinha Algarve ( the cooking of the Algarve )in a series of televised programmes setting out to discover Portugal´s most typical dishes and their characteristic ingredients.GOSTO DE PORTUGAL is presented by Rodrigo Meneses,an ex Masterchef contestant.

TUESDAY MAY 1 -We were at Jeronimos in Cabanas for a showcase dinner hosted by  Chef Noellia.As always her personality shone through in a menu of non-stop traditional Algarvian dishes being brought to the table.Entradas included Butarga, Muxama, marinated anchovies,the best caracois (snails) I have ever tasted in the Algarve and a most delicious newly discovered artesan cheese from the Alentejo.These were followed by "Canja com ameijoas" "Porco e fava algarvia" Polvo com batatas, and Linguado frito with a tomato migas.The evening finished off with a Noellia triumph, her Tarte laranja  which we ate while Noellia, with 24 Kitchen´s host Chef Meneses, performed to the cameras sampling my contribution to the evening, Chocolate caramel brownies with  Flor de sal Limao ,which they washed down with a couple of tots of "Medronho",( Algarvian fire water). An evening that celebrated the cuisine of the East Algarve was enjoyed by all.Obrigadinhos a Noellia.

WEDNESDAY MAY 2 -Masterchef Portugal meets Masterchef UK. "Let the battle begin".It is a friendly match,totally non competitive.Formerly having worked in advertising, Meneses became a charismatic participant in the Portuguese version of Masterchef. He quite clearly has a passion for food, travelling within Portugal and discovering the richness and diversity of his national cuisine. The day after Noellias dinner he meets myself, a former contender for UK Masterchef who fell at the first hurdle, not on my cooking skills I hasten to add, but on my screen test.I am the complete opposite of Meneses, whose personality, confidence and charm  exude without a doubt. I play host at the location, Casa Rosada, and hand our kitchen over to him and his film crew. I introduced him to our local town butcher Senor Antonio who provided him with the cut of Vazia Novilho that he required to cook "Bife Na pedra" steak on the stone. He also chose from the deli a local Castro Marim fresh queijo de cabra  to demonstrate the flavour combinations that can be achieved with  Jorge Raido´s product Salmarim Flor de sal. 

Chef Meneses and Jorge Raido face the 24 kitchen cameras

Watch the episodes GOSTO DE PORTUGAL Quartas Feiras, ás 22h00 on Channel 105

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Heranças esquecidas -Forgotten legacies

Pork and clams with ginger noodles
They say the way to a man´s heart is through his stomach.There are thousands of tourists out there who are looking for new culinary sensations - not just that tired old trick of pulling the chicken piri piri out of the bag.In the current economic climate it´s the well run and efficient restaurants that are the survivors. It´s become interesting to see how the real professionals are being sorted from the amateurs and the just plain lazy.If this is the case and there is money to be made why aren´t all restaurants pulling out the stops.There is a simple way to win more tourists -and here lies the Algarve´s trump card,it´s through their stomachs.
Packages discounts and meal deals are being offered but, particuarly with the enormous hike in IVA on restaurant bills, no one can afford to sit back, twiddle their thumbs and wait for the clients to come.Algarve restaurants are sitting on a hidden gold mine.The Algarve is still a great value destination.Flights from Northern Europe are cheap and last year was a record year for tourism.Our restaurants have so much potential, but in most cases an untapped potential.So if visitors are spending less we have to think of ways to get the punters to the area and into its restaurants.Algarve Restaurateurs and managers have got to get their heads round learning how to promote and sell the latent culinary product they are sitting on.In terms of gastronomy the region has so much to offer; there is a wealth of traditional recipes that have not seen the light of day commercially, dishes that have not been cooked for years. If these recipes were resurrected it would raise extra revenue as a result of bringing tourism to the area.The task is simple, rescue these wonderful long forgotten traditional dishes and flag them up as such on menus.Secondly,chefs should look at current food fashions and update the Portuguese culinary heritage accordingly.This is already being achieved by Michelin starred chefs Henrique Sá Pessoa and Luis Baena in Lisbon,Luis Americo in  Porto and in smart resorts like Vila Joya,Dieter Koschina,and at Monte Rei Golf Resort by Jaime Perez.I am not suggesting every chef should attempt to become a "Michelin man" and this style of fine dining with a lot of extra fannying is most certainly not to every travellers taste, but with a little research and imagination in the area of fine dining the Algarve can achieve a sensible balance even without these forced accolades.Exquisite and delicious traditional food can be served with creativity,cooked from heirloom recipes with passion and finesse.Sourcing the best quality, local, fresh ingredients from the markets of the Algarve teamed up with the freshest seafood from the Atlantic can be the challenge that will attract the tourists to the region and offer an all new modern mouth watering Algarve.

Seafood açorda no pao Pezinhnos n´areia, Praia Verde
Far from the madding crowds in the hils of Umbria there is O Monte Velho. Down by the riverside in Vila Real de Santo Antonio there is Dom Petisco and along the boardwalks to the best East Algarve beaches at Manta Rota and Praia Verde we can find Cha com Agua Salgada and Pezinhnos n´areia.You would be hard pressed finding a restaurant serving more authentic regional cuisine in the East Algarve than Noélia e Jerónimo in Cabanas.Noélia is a traditional Portuguese cook and that means that all the meals that come out of her kitchen are just like momma used to make!!

Our friends at  "A portuguese dish" are on a mission to find the very same tradition that I am trying to encourage out of the closet.Through their blog they share wonderful stories of their gastronomic discoveries, told through the owners and families behind the restaurants they have visited.Last winter they visited the Algarve and brought us some long lost dishes from Olhao, S.Bartolomeu de Messines, and Vilamoura

Some Old Portuguese recipes that I feel should be revived

Coelho com Poejo
Coelho bravo frito com tomilho
Cozido de grao com perdiz
Polvo assado no forno com batatas
Polvo panado com arroz de feijao
Arroz de lingueirao
Salpicao and rocket salad
Polvo alagareiro
Lulas recheadas
Arroz de polvo a moda santa Luzia 
Javali estufado
Batatas a murro
Ensopado de veado
Bolo de bolacha Maria

Come on Algarve - Restaurateurs and proprietors  alike - lets make the East Algarve a culinary tourist destination. Lets put that wonderful legacy where their mouth is.