Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The savory sensation

Summer savory/Winter savory/Garden savory/Segurelha,all these many varieties but still it remains the poor cousin herb;native of the Mediterranean region, well known to the ancient Romans, but lesser known to us nowadays.They used vinegar flavoured with savory and other herbs as we use mint sauce. Indeed  Virgil noted it as  being one of the most fragrant of all herbs.It always makes me think that it is the forgotten one when I go to get my jar of Herbes de Provence to make a lovely home made vinaigrette. Segurelha as it is called in Portugal and Provence adds that je ne sais quoi to a truly fine vinaigrette. It is recommended both for culinary use and for planting near bee-hives,where the herb is responsible for the fragrance of the honey. I feel a Segurelha honey moment coming on.The leaves and tender shoots are used,with other herbs, in stuffing  for meats, meat pies and sausages. 
Fresh sprigs of Savory boiled with peas or new potatoes makes an unusual change from the cooks normal choice of mint.Summer savory is an erect,bushy, rather densely pubescent annual that grows  about 6 to 18 inches high, so is ideal for growing on city roof terraces or back yards where culinary growing space is at a premium. Its taste is highly aromatic, and recalls thyme and marjoram,but at the same time remaining totally distinct.
One of my favourite marriages is that of savory and pizza, its simply irresistible.
Once tried never forgotten.It blends beautifully with different culinary oreganos,basils and thymes. Its small leaves are the perfect compliment to herb cheeses or as a last-minute addition to a sauté. However even though it has a strong flavour when fresh,it does not hold up well to prolonged stewing.There are very few dishes that a little Savory won't improve.
Baked tomatoes with goats cheese and herbs
1 to 2 logs of goats cheese (chèvre )
1 tomato per person
Basil Thyme Segurelha
handful of stoned black olives chopped
fresh dried breadcrumbs
Cut the cheese into slices.With a teaspoon scoop out the seeds and flesh from the tomatoes.Discard.Lay the slices of goats cheese overlapping with the olives in each tomato shell.Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and finish with a generous sprinkling of your choice of herbs.Put the stuffed shells in an ovenproof dish or on a roasting tray.
Put the tomatoes in a pre-heated oven and bake under the grill for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and spread over the whole shell.
This recipe works equally well with halved red pepper shells.

Monday, 25 June 2012

How do you solve a problem like Sangria?...

I'd like to say a word in its behalf
Sangria makes me laugh...

How do you solve a problem like Sangria?
Where do you catch a glass and swill it down?
How do you find a word that means Sangria?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!

...... Easy, its the European way to get hammered. When you can prise yourself away from the golden sands, tanned torsos and a summertime of "Tudo azul", its time to get yourself to the well-established Sunshine Bar on the Ilha de Tavira.Here in the sunshine a jug of sangria is always delivered with a smile.You need to take a ferry from Tavira town or Quatra Aguas to get there, but once there it is the place to be. Run and owned by Alice, Annie and Sergio you will get a great Portuguese/Irish welcome.I don't care how you get there, but just -- get there if - you can. Their recipe for Sangria is a closely guarded secret so dont expect them to part with It!!! However here is a  recipe for Portuguese Sangria that should sort you out good and proper.

A good old Portuguese beach Sangria

1 bottle good, light-bodied Portuguese red wine
2 cups white rum
1 litre 7-up, sprite, or home made lemonade
2 Oranges, Sliced in thin rounds
1 Lemon Sliced in thin rounds
1 small ripe pear, cut into thin slices
1 cinnamon quill
1 cup rasberry  syrup (cordial)
Ice cubes

1. Combine liquid ingredients, and cinnamon quill, and let it sit for at least 6 hours.
2. Pour sangria into pitchers, followed by ice cubes, then slices of fruit. let that sit another hour in the fridge, serve cold.

Sangria recipes normally have red wine, brandy, and fruit. However,
it can be made in just about any style you can imagine.
Sangria as a mixture did not spring from the ether in the 1960s -
or even in the 1800s.The idea of mixing wine, alcohol, and fruit has been
around for centuries. For top notch European parties this concoction
was the centre piece - a big bowl full of fruit and wine that people
would ladel into cups or glasses.
The beauty of sangria is that you can make your sangria recipe
to your own taste,from spicy to mild to rich to bubbly. You can make sangria
with red wine, white wine,and even sparkling wine.You can use oranges,
lemon, and citrus fruit to give freshness to a hot summers day or you can
create a dense blend of blueberries and blackberries to make a more    
full bodied concoction.
When in Spain do as the Spanish do and use cava.
While Spain has its Cava,Italy has Prosecco and France obviously,
has the champagne,it may be a surprise to some that in amongst
Portuguese wine selections, there is a choice of some more-than-acceptable
fizzy options.When in Portugal why not do as I do and use 
Quinta do Encontro sparkling brut or the not so cheap at the price Ninfa.
The choice is yours so feel free to use any one of these or any other
sparkling wine you enjoy. 

A fruity white summer sangria
4 small juicing oranges 
2  lemons
2 ripe paraguayos (white flesh peaches) 
1 nectarine 
2 ripe juicy red plums 
1/2 charentais cantaloupe or musk melon 
6 tablespoons muscovado sugar
1cinnamon stick 
Handful of mint leaves
2 bottles dry white wine (eg. Pinot Grigio) or Brut, Prosecco etc
750 ml sparkling water (half if using Brut) 
50 milliliters Gin or Vodka – optional 
depending on where you want to go with this!!!
ice cubes
Wash all the fruits and prepare them, putting them in a large bowl:   
Cut the oranges and lemons in slices. Remove stones from peaches and 
nectarine and cut in pieces, leaving the skin on.. Remove skin and seeds 
from melon and cut in pieces. Cut the flesh from the plums. 
Add the muscovado sugar, the cinnamon, the mint leaves, white wine 
and leave to macerate ½ hour.
Add the sparkling water, gin if using, ice cubes. 
Stir vigorously and transfer to serving jugs.

MIXING TIP:  White wine has little body, so a poor white wine is not good at all. 
Also, don’t use a sweet wine, it’s the fruit that should be the star of the show, 
not the sugar content of the Sangria - if using a sweet wine you’ll end up with 
a syrup rather than a summer drink.
Think of the difference  between a home made lemonade and shop bought.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Dia de São João e Manjerico

O meu vaso de Manjericos
Its summertime and that means the season of "feriados municipais." These are the annual town holidays and many occur around the season of Santos Populares, in particular Santo Antonio and São João.The 13th and 24th of June are the two most popular dates.There’s an old saying in Portugal that says; “Porto works while Lisbon plays”.Well this is not exactly the case; Lisbon´s patron Santo Antonio was the cause for partying and celebrations on the 13th while Porto parties on from the 23rd to the 24th in celebration of their patron São João.When São João is celebrated in Porto, from 23 to 24 June It is a festival that is lived to the full in the streets, where anything is permitted. People carry a leek with them which they use to hit their neighbours over the head, all in a healthy spirit of fun.Down south here in the Algarve this weekend Mertola, Castro Marim and Tavira are brimming over with festivities and will be kicking up a party like you’ve never experienced in your life!.This morning while I was shopping in the market Dona Margarida from my favourite fruit and veg stall presented me with a pot of her home grown Manjerico. The tradition is that if you are attracted to someone, you declare yourself to them in the heat of the festivities and offer them a manjerico (a flower-pot with a sweet basil plant) and a love poem.Well I´m not so sure that I´m in favour of being a floosie and we decided to use the manjerico as a table centrepiece for our guests´ dinner.

A todos, votos de boas feriados

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Lemongrass Cucumber and coriander vichyssoisse with cumin croutons
 (s. tipo de sopa cremosa feita com batata e alho-poró)

Vichyssoise is possibly the best known cold soup in the world, so much so that it has become a preparation method based on a light potato purée paired with any number of other vegetables.My mother made the best Vichyssoisse ever and she used cucumber.
In summer. In the searing summertime heat nothing  is more refreshing than a chilled soup. Leeks which have made this particular soup famous are not at their best at this time of year, so this alternative, in my mind, excels. Its made by using fresh lemongrass.It recalls the potato and leek soup of my childhood which again my mother used to make.I have fond memories of how, when English summers were summers, my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk, and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for our summertime guests here at Casa Rosada.This classic cold soup also has it stories.According to Jean Vitaux and Benoît’s “Dictionnaire du Gastronome”, Vichyssoise was invented by Louis Diat in 1910 when the terrace of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York was opened. Its origin was probably a common French recipe that he used, adapted and served cold.So why is it that neither Escoffier in his 1921 “Guide Culinaire” nor even the 1939 edition of the Larousse mention it? And, what’s more, it isn’t mentioned in the 1962 “Dictionnaire de l’Académie des Gastronomes”. Maria Lucia Gomensoro, in her “Diccionário de Gastronomia”(“Small Dictionary of Gastronomy”, confirms 1910 as being the date of the invention of Vichyssoise, but does not know the name of the creator, who may have been an "immigrant French chef".Setting aside its jolly provenance here is my recipe....

Cucumber lemongrass and coriander vichyssoisse
4 large stalks of Lemongrass 
4 spring onions finely chopped
50g (2oz) fresh coriander leaves,separated from their stalks
1large onion chopped
500g (1lb)new potatoes,cleaned,scraped and diced small
1 large cucumber 
2oz (50g) unsalted butter
1 litre (1.75 pints) chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
125ml single cream
salt and pepper ( to taste)
Trim the roots and the tough outer skins from the lemongrass, then chop it very finely.
Trim and chop the spring onions.Save the peelings and trimmings from the lemongrass and spring onions and put them in a saucepan together with the coriander stalks, add 1 litre (1.75 pints )of salted water and simmer covered for one hour to make a stock.To make the soup,melt the butter in a large pan, then add the chopped lemongrass, onions and potatoes.Cook gently over a low heat for 15 minutes.Add the stock through a sieve and cook for a further 30 minutes.Allow the soup to cool and then blitz it in a food processor with the remaining coriander and spring onions or with a hand blender.Cover and chill completely before serving.garnish with a sprig of coriander.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Entre a serra e o Mar- Between the sea and the hills

Only a month ago I wrote a blog post about  Algarve Restaurateurs and managers getting their heads round learning how to promote and sell the latent culinary product they are sitting on.In terms of gastronomy the East Algarve has a wealth of traditional recipes and dishes that have not been cooked for years.I was encouraging a mission to rescue these wonderful long forgotten gems and flag them up as such on menus.Over the next two weeks in the Cacela region this is exactly what will be happening.
 The fourth Festival "Entre a serra o mar" opened on Saturday evening and until 30th June selected local restaurants will be offering menus featuring these very same regional specialities.Restaurant doors will be open to promote the gastronomic traditions of the area.Local products and traditional recipes wil feature strongly, and at the same time they will be paving the way for innovation.During the next two weeks  one will be able to taste dishes as diverse as espinheta atum(braised tuna) with black-eyed beans, seafood souffléFerreira (gilt head bream) with baked sweet potato  and mountain salad, Açorda ( bread soup) with Ria Formosa clams and shrimp, Razor clam rice with shrimp,  and wild mountain boar, among many other delicacies.For dessert, the menus are highlighting local specialties such as almond and orange pumpkin pudding, figs and carob cheesecake, lemon and mint mousse and rice pudding with carob.Many of the participating restaurants are in areas which have a notable importance in terms of landscape and cultural value. Restaurants that have accepted the challenge are 'Sem espinhas', 'Finalmente', 'Rios e Ramos' in Manta Rota, "O Camponesa" and "O Cisne", in Vila Nova de Cacela," "O Pangaio"  on the EN 125 in Cevadeiras and the "Casa de Pasto Fernanda e Campinas" in Corte António Martins. 
To raise awareness of these dishes,the restaurants and local traditions,the festival opened with an on the spot live demonstration of  "Town of Clams".In addition to sampling menus and wine tasting, this old  tradition from Olhão, consisting of a circle of clams arranged in tight concentric circles around a stone and then covered with pine needles was set fire to until the clams were cooked and opened.
The people of Cacela and their restauranteurs have a great pride in their culinary heritage - the wealth of sustainable fishing on this stretch of Algarvian coast and the fruits of their labours in the surrounding fields and orchards; vegetables, citrus fruits, figs, almonds and carob.A recognizable feature of the next two weeks promoton will be the traditions linked to free range mountain grazing, the production of honey, hunting and the widespread use of herbs such as Poejo (pennyroyal) for flavouring these dishes.
If you are looking for an Algarve meal with adifference between now and the end of the month I implore you to tryout one or more of these special promotional is only by responding to what is on offer and applauding it that resataurant food in the Algarve will become more exciting.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Sunshine lollipops and rosé

Pezinhos n´Areia at Praia Verde
Sunshine, Lollipops ... but no Rainbows ... no rain here mother. Still the East Algarve delivers on its promise of sunny holidays, inexpensive food and all year round value for money.
Here’s to the nights where the sand is your seat, the waves kiss your feet, your friends outnumber the stars, and even the chilliest of nights at Casa Rosada are still warmer than the cold glass of rosé  in your hand.Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to people. For those few months you're not required to be who everyone thinks you are.
Summer in the Algarve is kind of like the ultimate one-night stand: hot as hell, totally thrilling, and gone before you know it,making you yearn for it all to happen again.
There is something for everyone in the land of salt, sand, sunshine, sardines and sumptuous settings .... This is El Al Gharb.
When the thespian and I re-located, we came we saw we conquered, we shopped around and here is a round up of our findings; What is available and what we consider the best, a stones throw from Casa Rosada.The last stop on the East Algarve is an ultimate stop for the foodie traveller.Our favourite local Ristorante offers a spot of guide book idealism, fresh fish from the river or the sea, grilled to perfection and served with charm and intimacy.You can´t get much more local than the restaurant five minutes walk from our house. Try a glass or bottle with some excellent traditional Portuguese cuisine at A Tasca Medieval in Castro Marim, where Fatima and Antonio will welcome you and ensure you receive excellent service.One of our favourite restaurants, just six kilometres away is Pezinhos n´Areia at Praia Verde.This is one of the few local restaurants that upholds culinary heritage and serves some very traditional and unusual Algarvian dishes,and what a setting for a romantic dinner with moonlight seaview on a balmy summer night.For a light lunch before an afternoon on the beach, or dinner for that matter or even for a rest break from the hot midday sun we recomend Chá com Água Salgada.
Bordering on Andalucia,as we do, I have felt at liberty to suggest a tip toe through the Spanish tiles of Ayamonte and pop in for a glass of Pedro Ximenez and a spot of Tapas at Orta.Going up the country and following the Guadiana river along its banks a day out in Mertola will be a day to remember.Last, but by no means least, our beloved Tavira.A twenty minute car drive will take you to The "Venice of The Algarve." The town itself, probably the most beautiful in the Algarve, has a wealth of history to discover and many cosmopolitan restaurants Aquasul, Bistro Porto and Amore Vero to name but three, situated in the narrow cobbled streets behind the riverfront.Cést si bon, so many dens so little time.Spoilt for choice-you will be.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dia de Santo António

A religious festival that brings a whole new meaning to Basil
Many public holidays in Portugal are Saint’s days. These days are just a tad different from what you might imagine a religious public holiday to be like. Saint’s days in Portugal are full of fun, dancing, music and excess. One of the most important Saint’s days in Portugal is Saint Anthony´s Day  (or, in Portuguese, Dia de Santo António), which is celebrated in Lisbon on June 13th.On this day the entire city comes to a grinding halt.The alfacinhas* (the lettuces) are making a slow recovery from the festivities of the night before when the city dances,has fun,sniffs manjerico eats sardines, and drinks copious amounts of sangria.As well as being the patron saint of Lisbon, Saint Anthony is also known as the matchmaker so this enormous street party cannot be dissociated from love and romance. On the 12th June as an annual custom Lisbon Cathedral plays host to St Antonio’s Weddings. Lisbon City Council offers 16 couples from modest backgrounds all the preparations, such as the dress and other clothing, wedding rings, marriage ceremony, and even the honeymoon. And  this, blessed by St Antonio. Another tradition is to present your lover with a manjerico (sweet basil) plant and an (often humorous) poem during this time. It is known as Saint Anthony´s manjerico: the lovers flower.The streets are decorated in bright colours and are full of people partying and dancing into the night.Bush basils (manjericos ) are found for sale on every corner. The tradition is that boyfriends should offer a manjerico to their girlfriends. These come with a little flag with a verse on it, a little like fortune cookies, or in Italy Baci chocolates. 
These potted bushes smell like basil but you should first touch it and then smell your hand, otherwise it may die!!!! In terms of gastronomy,the tradition is to eat sardines, red peppers, caldo verde, and bread.

A popular verse written by Fernando Pessoa that you might find attached to a pot of manjerico

O vaso do manjerico The pot of basil
O vaso do manjerico The pot of basil
Caiu da janela abaixo. Fell from the window below.
Vai buscá-lo, que aqui fico Go get it, get it here
A ver se sem ti te acho. See if you think without you.

Legend says that St Antonio gave dowries to poor girls so they could get married. Based on this legend, many others were invented. This one has to be my favourite … There was a girl who was tired of praying for the man of her life without success. One day she decided to throw the saint’s image through the window and hit a man who was passing on the street. At that moment they both fell in love and lived happily ever after. Truth or myth, this surely is a lovely story.

*alfacinha: is the name given to Lisbon’s locals. “Alface” is lettuce, . And “Alfacinha” is “little lettuce”, a more intimate derivative.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Salt grilled sardines. Portugal´s Summer dish

Long after the credit card holiday bills have been paid off, and the suntan has faded, you can relive the memories of meals eaten in Algarvian beachside bars and tascas.These sardines will take you right back to those smoky al fresco barbecue  memories of a summer holiday in the Algarve.And to think some people force themselves to eat oil-rich sardines and mackerel purely for their health.

If Bacalhau is the king of Portuguese gastronomy then the sardine is its queen.During the month of June it reigns supreme over the Popular Saint Festivals,(festas populares) whether it is celebrating St.Anthony, St. John or St. Peter. Throughout summer the sardine season heralds the smell of fresh sardines being grilled on charcoal in the streets of Portugal. 
Even though sardines are served in many other countries, such as Spain, France, Brazil or Morocco, there is no other place like Portugal to eat sardines. Portugal even has its own special way to eat grilled sardines, a way that does not require plates, knives or forks.Eating a sardine isn´t rocket science.If you feel puzzled by the blue-silver fellow that arrives with head and tail on your plate, here’s some help: You’ll need to know some particular things about this most popular fish if you are going to get the best from it.If you are willing to taste a sardine like a true Portuguese,why not do what they do.Put one on a slice of bread and eat it with your fingers while the fat of the fish drips into the bread.To add extra flavour to a grilled sardine on a slice of bread  drizzle it with a dash of olive oil. The taste truly compensates for greasy fingers!You´ll only regret it if you don´t.Use a slice of good wodgy bread as a “bed” to place your sardine on. Carefully remove the skin – if they are fresh and within the season it will come off really easily.
The bread soaked with juices and salt from the sardines works as a side dish and you may reuse it for several sardines and change it from time to time, eating it once it is well soaked with the juices.

Salt grilled sardines

2 sweet red peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
8 large or 12 medium sardines,gutted, cleaned and scaled
1 dessert spoon Flor de sal
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
a little extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon quartered

Coat the sweet peppers with some of the olive oil and grill, turning occasionally, until scorched and blistered all over.Peel off the skin and cut the peppers into long strips, discarding the core and seeds.An alternative method if you want to get ahead and do it the day before is to roast the peppers in the oven till they are blistered and charred.
Brush the sardines and the grill with oil to help prevent them sticking.Roll the sardines in the sea salt,pepper and cayenne,set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Grill or barbecue lightly on one side,then turn the sardines while they are still firm enough to be moved without breaking up. Grill or barbecue on the other side until the until the skin is scorched and bubbling.
Arrange the grilled sardines and peppers on serving plates.Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve with a wedge of lemon and salad on the side.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Secreto Ibérico -The secret of the iberian pig

Secret pork....curious name.One of Portugal´s best kept secrets it seems.There is no secrecy about how to cook it. It is a highly marbled cut of pork, but not too fatty; the veins of fat are small and well incorporated into the meat. You simply season it with a good pinch of salt, grill it quickly in its own fat over very high heat, and the surface gets crispy while the interior fat melts and leaves the meat moist and bursting with flavour. It also retains the texture of a nice steak.Like the meat from Wagyu cattle that produce the famous Kobe beef known worldwide for its marbling characteristics and naturally enhanced, flavour, tenderness, and juiciness,the Secreto has to be Portugal´s equivalent, taking pork to a higher level.So what is the secret.The meat is in a layer that is hidden among other layers of belly fat or bacon...that is the clue to its name.
This mysterious cut of pork I have only encountered in Portugal and Spain.Moreover, what I have specifically tried was Secreto Ibérico from the famous  acorn fed black pigs.The mystery doesn´t end there, there still seems to be much confusion to the exact location of the pork secreto cut.Its like being blindfolded and trying to pin the tail on the donkey, or playing Cluedo with a poor knowledge of porcine anatomy.Hokey cokey pig in a Pokey I'm still not sure exactly where the cut comes from, I've heard many an explanation:"skirt steak","hidden underneath the belly fat,or is it the oxter? The Scotsman on Wikipedia tells us as such "The oxter is the pairt o the human body richt unner the jient where the airm jiens the shouder",in a word "under the shoulder blade next to the ribs."Is it between the shoulder ribs and fatback? Perhaps there are two different cuts both referred to by the same name.I am still none the wiser.I need more clues to reveal the secret.

I did find this chart which provides another clue, and I believe that since pork belly does wrap up the side of the hog to cover the ribs, that describing it as under the belly and behind the rib might both be correct.I think perhaps the Portuguese secrete it in their menus in the hope that they wont have to share it with the tourists, giving it an ironic name, laden with sarcasm.Have you discovered the secret of the Portuguese pig?
But it would be good to keep a secret of our own,the best kept Portuguese secret...
Uma delicia... A delight ...I am not good at keeping secrets,not for long anyway.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Jubilee cherries

If you are reading this in England you will either be full of jubilation or jubilee- ed out.The parties over and I am no monarchist.I have deliberately turned my back and bah-humbugged any whiff of expat royalist activity.I have decided to post a posthumous recipe from my very own jubilee free penal colony in the Algarve.So lets turn our back on all the nonsense back home. Its June, it´s  Portugal and  they´re here - cherries. They´re juicy, they´re ripe,and they´re irresistible.The power of cherries as a superfood can be obtained by eating them raw but I wanted to see what I could do with a cooked cherry. Can I bake a cherry pie? Yes, but I dont want to use the tinned variety.Every recipe I found for cherry pie used canned cherries.But Hey Ho I found quite by accident an old English recipe for Cherries Jubilee. This is a dessert made with cherries and liqueur (originally Kirsch), which is subsequently flambéed and traditionally served as a sauce over vanilla ice cream.The recipe is attributed to Escoffier, who prepared the dish for one of Queen Victoria´s  Jubilee celebrations, though it is unclear whether it was for the Golden Jubilee of 1887 or the Diamond Jubilee in 1897.This was more what I had in mind, and something in my back head was telling me cherries and mascarpone make a fresh pair for summer.                                                   

Fresh cherry compote with orange-scented mascarpone    Serves 6

Cherry Compote
4 cups cherries (about 1 1/4 pounds), pitted and halved
1 cup fruity white or red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest

250g tub  Mascarpone
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest

For the compote, put cherries, wine, sugar and zest into a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until thickened and cherries are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, for the mascarpone, stir together mascarpone, honey, juice and zest just until combined. Serve compote warm or cold, spooned over dollops of mascarpone.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

O lider poderoso esquecido de salsichas

        The mighty Fuehrer of the sausage people
Despite Portugal’s long Atlantic coast and fame for producing excellent fish and seafood dishes, meat is an essential part of Portuguese gastronomy and has traditionally been the basis of many dishes in inland, mountainous regions, particularly in the north of the country. Each region has a long list of specialities. The Alentejo is famous for its pork and Trás-os-Montes for its cured meats.
Prosciutto, chourizo, speck…We all know the delights of these cured meats but there is one that seems to have been bypassed. Lost maybe but never forgotten, the Portuguese Salpicão flags  a long way behind its big brother the mighty Chouriço. This cured sausage, traditionally from the Portuguese region of Tras-os-Montes (Meaning “Beyond the Mountains”) is specifically made from the loin of pork which has been marinated for a week in a mixture of spices, garlic and wine. It is the leanest of all cured meats, trust me, pure loin with delicious hints of bay. Please let’s give this beautiful meat a second coming and let it shine as it used to, hanging from artesan butchers hooks.For a simple summer lunch slice it thinly and throw it over the top of a dressed rocket salad topped with some caper berries.

A fine example of Cozido à Portuguesa
Cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese stew): If you're looking for a traditional dish, this is it! Made with several traditional smoked meats (smoked sausage, spare ribs, pig's trotters, smoked ham, salted pork fat, bacon), boiled carrots, potatoes, cabbage and turnip, this dish is one of the national favourites.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Lulas recheadas com molho vinho tinto

The gastronomy of the Algarve is a priceless cultural legacy.The gastronomic applications and habits of the region are strongly connected with it’s geographic location, weather, culture and, unavoidably, it’s history.Thus the Algarve coastline and countryside are two distinct zones with understandable differences in the  constitution of their dishes.On the Algarve coast fishing is very important to the economy and to generate revenue from tourism in the region.Travelling along the coast every restaurant offers you a wide range of fresh fish and shellfish. Some of the most common are sardine, tuna, hake, stone bass, dogfish and gurnard, prawns, clams, mussels, cockles, and of course crabs and lobsters. Traditional regional dishes include charcoal grilled sardines, ”caldeirada de peixe” (several types of fish stewed with layers of potatoes, onions, tomatoes and green peppers), “Cataplana de marisco” (clams, spiced sausage, tomatoes cooked in a sealed, clam-shaped copper-pan), "Bife atum" (tuna steak),  “choquinhos com tinta” (cuttlefish dish), “salada de polvo” (octopus salad), “arroz de polvo” (octopus rice), “lulas recheadas com presunto” (squids stuffed with smoked ham).For my version of lulas recheadas,I use pork and prawn and throw in some token Thai for good measure.As usual I can not resist meddling, and this has now become a Casa Rosada signature dish.

Lulas recheadas com molho vinho tinto
(stuffed squid with red wine gravy) serves 6

6 large squid cleaned and prepared

100g minced chouriço

100g raw prawn meat

1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves,stems and roots

4 shallots finely chopped                                                                                  1large garlic clove finely chopped                                                        
1 teaspoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1egg lightly beaten
Flor de sal
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tinned anchovies finely chopped
150g breadcrumbs 
Pre-heat the oven to180C.Mince the squid tentacles or chop them very finely.
Remove the chouriço from its skin and mince it.
Mince the raw prawns or chop finely.Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan
and add the chouriço,shallots,garlic and coriander.
Sauté over a medium heat until  the onion is soft but not coloured.
Stir in the prawn meat and fish sauce and cook until the prawn meat
changes colour.Do not overcook.
Remove from the pan and set aside to cool in a bowl.
When cool mix in the breadcrumbs,anchovies and beaten egg.
Season with flor de sal and pepper.
Carefully stuff the mixture(not too tightly) into the squid bodies,
pushing the filling down with the end of a wooden spoon.
Secure the open ends with toothpicks.Arrange the squid in a single layer in an ovenproof dish.Pour over the red wine gravy,cover with foil and transfer to the oven.Bake for 45 minutes or until the squid can be pierced
easily with the tip of a small knife.If you have some filling left over                         roll it up into small balls and fry them lightly in some oil.                                        Keep warm in the oven and serve with the squid                                  

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oi
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch piri piri flakes hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons fresh coriander,leaves stalks and roots
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
4 shallots, diced
1/4 cup red wine
1 can whole peeled plum tomatoes
Teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and herbs for 2 minutes until the herbs are fragrant and garlic is golden (but not overly brown.) Raise the heat to medium, add the onion; cook for 5 minutes until they breakdown and are soft. Deglaze with red wine and reduce to evaporate the alcohol. Hand crush the canned tomatoes and add to the pot, along with its liquid. Add the sugar to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Dias de vinho e rosés

A retro advert from Vogue House and Garden Entertaining c.1950
The food may be perfect,the wine superb, but they may not bring out the best in each other and much of their worth be lost unless you know what to drink with what.The classic order of precedence for wines during a meal is to serve young before old,dry before sweet and white before red. This does not, of course, apply to dessert wine.A gentle wine should precede a strong one.So what accompanies what?
What you keep in is whatever serves as your cellar, depending not only on what you like, but on the people you are likely to entertain.You may concentrate on table wines,or prefer to keep  a selection of bottles which will provide for occasioanal drinks.There is always a Portuguese wine to provide for all options.Its true what they say - Portuguese wines are good company.Some things never change!!