Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Esparguete com burbigao,spaghetti and clams

Portuguese clams (ameijoas), particularly the small variety Burbigao from the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve in the East Algarve, are extremely flavoursome and need little if anything to help them on their way.We normally eat them Bulhao Pato style.Bulhao Pato was a Portuguese poet from the 19th Century. He is however, much more famous for his clams recipe than for his poetry. Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato can be found all over Portugal and it is undoubtedly one of the best clam recipes of all times. I rue the day I will see leftover clams in this house.This weekend however my enthusiasm reached Olympic proportions.I over catered and was left with a ton of clams.What does one do with left over clams? Ask the Italians.They make the most perfect summer pasta dish. I put the left over clams and their cooking stock in the fridge in readiness for the perfect summer Monday supper.I followed the classic recipe for Spaghetti al vongole and hey ho another simple supper with an intense flavour hit the table.

Esparguete com burbigao (Spaghetti al vongole)
30 ml/1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion,very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
150ml/174 pint/1/2 cup dry white wine
250g or more cooked clams
reserved cooking stock and juices
350g/12 oz spaghettini or spaghetti
tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley plus extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently stirring frequently,for about 5 minutes until softened,but not brown.Stir in the garlic,tomatoes,wine and reserved clam cooking liquor, with salt to taste. Add agenerous grinding of black pepper.Bring to the boil,stirring,then lower the heat.Cover the pan and simmer the sauce gently for about 20 minutes,stirring from time to time. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water and cook for 12 minutes or until it is al dente.Drain the spaghetti thoroughly an. add the clams and finely chopped parsley to the tomato sauce and heat through,then taste for seasoning.Tip the drained spaghetti into a warmed serving bowl.pour over the tomato sauce and toss thoroughly to mix. Serve at once garnished with the extra parsley.
The tomato sauce can be prepared several days ahead and kept in the fridge.Add the clams and heat them through at the last minute-but don´t let them boil or they will toughen.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Queijo de cabra dorado, golden goats cheese

I borrowed this idea from the simple and delicious Italian wine bar tradition- the Enoteca.We have nothing like this in Portugal and I just love the concept of bar snacks,and more so of eating a meal made up of many small dishes accompanied by several glasses of crisp chilled wine.This is the Italian equivalent of tapas. It is a healthier way to dine, eating less but tasting more.Applying the concept at home is easy too as much of it can be prepared in advance.Gather some friends, open a bottle of wine and let the tasting begin.Queijo Fresco - is a fresh uncured Portuguese cheese similar to fresh mozzarella but with a much lighter, melt-in-your-mouth texture and is a basic staple in Portuguese meals.It is usually consumed as a side dish for lunch sliced thick and sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and/or olive oil or as an entrada for dinner.We have a particularly tasty local variety which I just adore.Its naturally made with just enough salt, and therefore its plain taste lends itself to a gentle marinade of herbs and fruity olive oil.
Baked or sautéed in a parmesan and bread crumb crust it takes on a texture and flavour sensation.The crunchy outer layer paired with the softer centre contrast beautifully with a cool salad of bitter greens.I decided on a modern take of the classic waldorf salad with apple, rocket and walnuts dressed with a slightly fruity, sweet and nutty Pedro Ximénez dressing.

Crumb- coated goat cheese  with a wild rocket Waldorf salad
10mm slice (1/2inch) slice or 1 individual Queijo fresco
(fresh mild goats cheese), about 100g(3oz)
Extra virgin olive oil for marinating
Generous pinch of chopped fresh thyme, basil,or savory or a combination
50g grated Parmesan
Fine dried toasted breadcrumbs

Place the cheese in a shallow dish and add enough olive oil just to cover.
Add the herbs and turn the cheese to get an even coating.Cover and refrigrate for a few hours or overnight.
Spread the breadcrumbs over a flat plate and mix in the grated Parmesan.Remove the cheese from the marinade and dip it in the breadcrumbs, coating it well on both sides.Place the crumb-coated cheese in a small oiled baking dish and bake in a pre-heated  400F /200C oven until bubbling and golden,6-8 minutes.
(Alternatively you can fry the cheese in butter, turning once until the crumbs are golden and the cheese is starting to soften).
Transfer the cheese,using a spatula to a plate and serve with a the salad
100g of wild rocket leaves
handful of mixed bitter salad leaves
1 apple,( Royal gala,Braeburn or Fuji )diced but not peeled
1 stick of celery finely chopped
handful of coarsely chopped walnuts

I dressed the salad with a Pedro Ximénez dressing
1garlic clove
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Pedro Ximénez sherry
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper
Crush the garlic with a good pinch of Flor de sal in a pestle and mortar until you have a smooth paste.Add the sherry,vinegar and whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Going for gold, an olympic breakfast

My valiant  but rather pathetic attempt to create  an olympian breakfast of organic yoghurt granola and fresh fruit

How can anyone not be proud  when the once in a lifetime event comes to your country.Even if you were not born with David Beckham´s left foot,or have little or no interest in sport, the Olympics are history and something to be proud of.The UK will probably never be able to surpass Kylie Minogue arriving on a giant flip flop in Sydney 2006,the jaw-dropping scale of the Beijing opening ceremony, or Torvill and Dean Boleroing to become the first non-Soviet dance pair to win Olympic gold in 1984.However lets not jump the gun and get off to a false start.If the relay is going to be won and gold achieved, the team of athletes must have the perfect start to their day.It's advice that tends to get drummed into us from an early age: "Eat your breakfast! It's the most important meal of the day".Yet many of us just can't face food when we first get out of bed. Or, we're too rushed to get out of the house, so we simply don't bother.Eating breakfast increases the metabolic - or calorie-burning - rate. Consequently, you have more energy and weight control is easier. Watch out for foods heavy with refined sugars, like pastries and sugary cereals. These foods offer calories without many essential nutrients. High sugar foods and drinks may also cause your energy to soar briefly before it falls to lower levels. You may feel more drained and hungry, even if you ate breakfast. In the summer my day begins with a homemade fresh fruit smoothie. Pineapple, melon,bananas,peaches,nectarines, fruit juice or whatever else is healthy and close to hand.After fasting all night, breakfast can kick-start your energy level. If you choose healthful, slow-burning foods, like whole grains and fruits, you should be able to control your appetite until midday.Breakfast is the all important meal of the day and most of all to  the Olympic athletes.The 2012 Olympics are about to get under way in London and I have created a breakfast for champions.Good luck to all nations to bring home gold and what better advice and encouragement than found in the words of the first verse of the Portuguese national anthem.

Quote mark
Heroes of the sea, noble people, brave, immortal nation, raise today once again the splendour of Portugal! Amid the mists of memory, Oh Fatherland, feel the voice of your distinguished forefathers, that shall lead you to victory!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Three colours of Andalucía

Three super cool soups for a hot sultry summer meal.Try them separately or  take three shots at it like I did.Its the no cook easy way to impress and all I needed was a "little help from my so called friends".Traditional recipes for making Andalucían* gazpachos, samorejo and ajo blanco came from Elizabeth Luards book "The food of Spain and Portugal" and a thoroughly non-authentic influence but nevertheless delicious beetroot gazpacho came from Sam and Sam Clark at their revered restaurant Moro in East London.I have meddled with the traditional samorejo and introduced some extra spice not in the original.The ajo blanco has a lovely twist introduced by you´ve guessed it Yotam Ottolenghi.The traditional Andalucían* gazpacho is a poor man´s food,a fortifying bread-porridge served iced cold to cool the intensity of an Iberian summer.In its modern incarnation it is an elegant chilled tomato soup.By contrast, the gazpacho blanco has a thinner consistency. The infusion of almond milk heavily impregnated with garlic owes its pedigree, as so often in Andalucía*, to the sybaritic Moors.Elizabeth Luard warns us all to take heed "It has the kick of a mule" she says.
* Andalucia,Andalusia? Andalusia or Andalucía?
Andalucía is Spanish.It is pronounced"And-a-loo-see-a" by those who live in the south (Andalucía)and "And-a-loo-thee-a" (Castillian) by those who live in central and northern Spain.
Andalusia is English.It is pronounced"And-a-loo-see-a." When speaking in English it should always be written Àndalusia and should never be lisped!!!!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Kseksu bel Hut - a simple tagine of monkfish and cous cous

It is a custom apparently, to say that Morocco is "a cold country where the sun is hot" and where the sun is hot,the food needs to be summery and `cool´. Moroccan food is not as hot and spicy as some might think, and generally quite light.The Moroccan method of spicing is  very easy on the palate.Many traditional tagines (also the dish name) call for lamb or beef cooked for 3-4 hours. In addition to becoming very tender, the meat also browns well in a tagine. Vegetable, fish, and chicken also benefit from this technique but conveniently require much less cooking time.
Besides being able to serve food in a sleek, exotic, and unusually shaped vessel which requires little or no additional cleanup, the labour is also minimal. Due to the low temperature and sealed in moisture, the dish only needs to be checked for doneness. No stirring necessary. For me this makes for an all around dinner winner.
Cooking in a tagine is quite a common way of cooking fish in North Africa and if you are lucky enough to have a conical tagine, it is great to cook ( or at least finish cooking) and serve a fish stew in it.
I thought it was about time I learnt about monkfish.My knowledge of monkfish was little more than it was a robust fish. It’s got a tough texture that can be a turn off.
The recipe said "Cut it into 1-inch thick pieces". (A half of a monkfish tail typically weighs a half-pound (250g) or a little more — though they vary in size — so 4 tails  was perfect for the three people I was serving, including us.) I seared the pieces, fast, in sunflower oil.Then I put the monkfish back in the sauce, and let it soften there while I cooked the cous cous — half a pound of that, too.  All in all, a delicious and pretty simple dinner.

A simple Monkfish tagine 
1.5 kg monkfish on the bone,skinned and cut into 3cm slices.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour for dusting
Sunflower oil for frying
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions,roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves crushed
1 red chilli de-seeded and finely chopped
 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
11/2 teaspoons ground cumin
11/2  teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
generous pinch of saffron threads
2 x 400g tins of tomatoes
1 litre fish stock
1 preserved lemon halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
Season the fish pieces and lightly dust them with flour.Heat some sunflower oil in a non-stick or heavy frying pan and sauté them on a high heat for 2-3 minutes each side until lightly coloured.Remove from the pan and set aside.Meanwhile,heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan and gently cook the onions,garlic,chilli,ginger and spices.Cover and cook gently for 4-5 minutes until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes and stock,season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about two thirds.If you are using a tagine,at this stage transfer the sauce to the tagine( or casserole), add the fish,preserved lemon and coriander to the sauce,cover with the lid and place in a hot oven 230C/450F/Gas mark 8 for about 15-20 minutes or until the fish is just cooked.Serve with a cous cous of your choice or fattoush.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Leaf it be- shay na `na´

I have a strong aversion to sweetened hot drinks.I can´t bear sugar in my tea or coffee.Moroccan mint tea (shay na `na´) is invariably sweet.The sweetness apparently ameliorates the underlying bitterness of the green tea they use as a base for the mint.Pour moi plain fresh mint with nothing else added makes a brilliantly restorative,digestive drink and a real pick me up under an Al-gharb summer sky.If you must have sweetness try a drizzle of honey.
My kind of Cha is about throwing abundant handfuls of mint sprigs into a cafetiere or glass pot, pour boiling water on it and let it steep for a few minutes.
Well I could do a lot worse than take a leaf out of the Moroccans´book.
Mint tea isn't just a drink in Morocco.The making of mint tea is surrounded with ritual,and it´s usually the man of the house who is responsible for it.As one of the men of this house I usually take responsibility for dinner guests who request  a mint tea after dinner.It is a sign of hospitality, friendship and tradition. Because this drink is so popular, it is served all day long, after every meal and with every conversation. Moroccans take great pride in their tea and will often ask a visitor who among their group of friends makes the best cup of mint tea.A good mint tea is always sweetened with sugar;the sugar is added to the pot before serving rather than to the cups.A traditional Moroccan mint tea is made with, can you believe 3 tablespoons of golden caster sugar,2 teaspoons of green tea and only 6 mint leaves crushed,( my handfuls must tot up to about 600). Anyway here is how the Moroccan men make it. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and steep 5 minutes. Strain tea mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Note: When you get loose tea from tea bags, one regular green tea bag will yield 1 teaspoon loose tea leaves.One of our guests has just made me try her tisane recipe which is simplicity in itself.Take a handful of mint leaves add some thin slices of fresh ginger and steep in a pot of boiling water-Deeelicious.Gosto bom!!!!!                                                                                                                                              
Who says there ain't no cure for the summertime blues?


Monday, 16 July 2012

Farinheira com ovos mexidos

Farinheira com ovos mexidos (farinheira with scrambled eggs)
Dining out recently in one of our favourite local restaurants, we received a little surprise.Having placed our order and whilst awaiting our starter, two unexpected plates arrived in front of us supporting 2 rolled stuffed chicken breasts.We were informed that this was a little extra soupçon chef had put together specially for us. It was extraordinarily delicious but we couldn´t quite nail the flavour nor the key ingredients of the stuffing other than it was something  smoked.On questioning our waiter, he told us that it was Farinheira and with a further reccomendation that we should try it cooked with scrambled eggs.Fascinated I was, and kept it in my back head for later.Was this  a Portuguese-inspired modern take on scrambled eggs? We would later learn in the aftermath of our suffering stomachs, a little goes along way. One needs some Portuguese stamina here, and not only that but a certain familiarity in the quantities used for one of the nations popular dishes.
Farinheira is a Portuguese smoked sausage made mainly from wheat flour, pork fat and seasonings (white wine,garlic, paprika, salt and pepper).It can not be eaten raw because it contains flour and is not cooked.In its original incarnation it  did not contain pork fat; it was created by the Jews during the 15th century to deceive the Portuguese inquisition,making them believe that they were converted to Christianity by showing they were eating pork. It has a yellow/brown colour to it and is served in traditional dishes like fejoiada  or cozido à portuguesa , however it can also be eaten on its own, roasted or fried. In the method our waiter suggested, it is previously cooked,and then  mixed with scrambled eggs  and served in bread or with toast as a starter.
Although it resembles a chouriço or other meat sausage, its taste is not meaty; it's tangy (but not hot), with a doughy texture and has a somewhat sweet finish on the palate. It is never cooked sliced unlike other sausages since its dough like content would pour out of the skin during cooking.

The Farinheira mixture is filled into pork intestine to 2/3 of the total size. After separating and closing them up, they are smoked for 2-3 days and end up drying in the sun. They're still not cooked at this point, just smoked, you should cook them after this or rub in olive oil and they preserve for a year.If you dont have a dry dark larder to hang them up in you can freeze them. I would not reccomend making them yourself because of the mess involved and the amount of pork fat, like rillettes is not so healthy at all.Delicious nevertheless.

Farinheira com ovos mexidos
( Farinheira with scrambled eggs )
Because of its richness this is a supper dish not a breakfast dish

You will need about half the sausage pictured above to make scrambled eggs for four people.
First remove the filling carefully with a sharp knife  or rip it open with your fingers. Don't try to squeeze it out or you'll lose half of the content that adheres to the skin. Remember, the skin is NOT EDIBLE so make sure to remove it.When all of it is removed, mash or cut the farinheira into chunks. Don't worry if they're too big, you'll be crushing them almost until it's ready so the bits will get smaller.Turn on the heat. Because of  the excessive  lard content in the farinheira you won't need oil, even with a non stick pan.
Keep it on medium-high heat until the bits are melting and turning slightly golden. As it cooks you will see,the lard emanating from the filling. Beat the number of eggs for the number of people you are feeding season with salt and pepper and proceed as you would for making scrambled eggs.


Friday, 13 July 2012

Almost clafouti

A pudding for Bastille Day

Some of the best recipes stem from a revolution of culinary proportions or an accident involving ingredients.The following story is a combination of both.Clafoutis is a French batter pudding generously dotted with black cherries, or in non-classic versions of the dish, other seasonal fruits. In most versions, while the clafouti bakes, the batter puffs up around the fruit and browns, becoming slightly crusty on the top of the soft, custardy centre.Last night I needed to find an original dessert recipe to impress some discerning guests that I was going to feed it to, and who have dined here on previous occasions.The recipe I found was "Ricotta tart with cherries".I had lovely Portuguese cherries, I had Italian ricotta and Marsala wine, eggs, honey and sugar. So while cheerfully having done all my research I sing, “Can I bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Can I bake a cherry pie darling Billy? Yes, I can bake a cherry pie, ...So what was I waiting for? At this point I was still unaware that the finished product would be a variation on clafoutis, the variation being that it was baked in a sweet pastry shell.
Traditional clafoutis recipes call for using cherries with their pits still in, which are supposed to lend a subtle almond flavour to the dish.Unstoned cherries also hold together better, and make for good spitting contests. I'd place apricots and plums in joint second place, small peaches and nectarines joint third. Needless to say, anything larger than a cherry should be halved and stoned: the stones aren't nearly as good for spitting contests. If using larger halved fruit, place it in the tart shell  with cut surface down before pouring in the batter, rather than this recipe that calls for mixing the cherries into the batter first. In this recipe however the pits are removed (royal pain in the butt), making the clafouti easier to eat,and what the heck my tart turned out having a distinct flavour of almonds anyway.
There are dozens of different clafoutis, each unique to their owner and I have now made this particular one my own. I find it has just the right texture between custard and cake. A smidge of icing sugar finishes it off, and a small smattering of fresh cherries along with splash of Marsala wine give this clafoutis a certain je ne sais quoi. If you're a fan of desserts with little work and a lot of payoff, then clafoutis is the way to go.
As I put the plates with the pudding before my guests I had to think quickly of how to announce this pudding that had previously been advertised as "Ricotta tart with cherries" they said "so you haven´t gone to a lot of trouble for us?!!!!!" my answer....
"Oh this?! It's just a simple French clafoutis I knocked up. Nothing fancy.")

variation on the theme of clafouti
I had a quantity of batter left over after I filled the tart shell so I made a variation on the theme - an individual clafouti baked in a ramekin.

Ricotta tart with Cherries (variation on a theme of clafouti )

1 quantity of sweet pastry (Pate sucre)

350g fresh ricotta or requeijao
2 eggs plus 2 extra egg yolks ( save the whites)
60g honey
teaspoon ground cinnamon
20ml Marsala wine
35g caster sugar
250g fresh cherries,stoned and halved (or small red plums)

FOR THE MERINGUE ( this is where I started to question the recipe)
the 2 saved whites from above plus one extra
35g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/325F/gas mark 3
Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 25cm loose bottomed tart tin.
Line the pastry shell with baking parchment,fill with baking beans or rice and bake blind for 5 minutes.Remove the beans or rice and parchment and bake for afurther 5 minutes or until the pastry is lightly coloured around the rim.Turn down the heat to 150C/300F/gas mark2.
Put the ricotta,eggs and egg yolks,honey,cinnamon,Marsala and sugar into a bowl,whisk together,then add the cherry halves.Make the meringue by whisking the egg whites until you can achieve a trace in it with the whisk,then very slowly add the sugar,whisking continuously, until the mixture is firm and forming stiff peaks. Take a third of the meringue mix and fold carefully into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the rest very gently.
Spread the mixture over the pastry base and bake for 15-20 minutes,or until golden.Leave to cool to room temperature.To serve,dust a thin layer of icing sugar over the top of each slice through a fine sieve.Serve with a garnish of fresh cherries on the side.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Sticky fingers- Os Dedos pegajosos

Sticky fingers-what happens next?!!! O cozinheiro gets his hands dirrty

I just love eating with my fingers,there is something very decadent and satifying about digging in manually.Eating with the hands is common in many areas of the world, including parts of Asia, much of Africa and the Middle East.There are some foods that create very little controversy when eaten with your hands. When it comes to ethnic foods you usually have to bid farewell to the traditional knife and fork, at least if you want to get an authentic experience.Indian food has naan bread and Ethiopian food is eaten with Injera another type of bread. Surprisingly however, many Westerners have a problem eating with their fingers.Conservative table manners seem to indicate tearing up bread and dipping it ferociously in a bowl of olive oil and balsamic is as far as inhibitions will allow for most diners.And from where did this preprandial dipping dish originate? In Italy olive oil is certainly eaten with bread but this dipping malarky goes no further than the top of the grocers counter or gourmet trade fair stand.In order to sample a specific oil to see whether you like it, you might pour some onto a plate and sop it up, or you would pour it directly onto the bread, but only just enough to taste.Eating a whole bowlful of oil saturated bread fills you up before the pasta course even arrives.Could this idea have stemmed from a healthy option idea of a low fat replacement for  traditional bread and butter? Certainly a good compromise, but not Italian.
For some,there is a squeamishness in being  intimate with your food.For others, it's all about hygiene.Eating with your fingers allows you greater control over cleanliness.You can, and should, wash your hands well before eating.While you are being served this style of food restaurants will feel obliged to provide finger bowls to ensure your hands are cleansed throughout the process.Hands-on eating often proves to be much neater than expected.Try and forget early table training, and recapture some of the childhood joy of playing with your food. For others it is a difficulty with technique, especially when rice is involved.  You can't go back to the" fistful of food " method you perfected when you were two.There is no way around it. Indian food tastes best when eaten with your fingers.  There is not only a tactile dimension added to the eating process, but a practicality too. Some foods are designed to be eaten by hand,prawns,tortilla wraps, hamburgers, sticky ribs and pizza. HELLO, until recently, you would have been hard-pressed to find many restaurants in the United States accepting this concept but this is the greater part of the all American diet we are talking about. 
Breads are baked to be torn and wrapped around foods. Eating with your fingers is not only a cultural experience but something everyone should at least try. Eating with the hands evokes great emotion. Using a fork is unthinkable in traditional Indian eating, and in Ethiopia if you are on a date or dining with someone you really like, scoop up some food and feed them. This is a tradition called "gursha." It's basically an act of kindness and respect towards the other person.The Ethiopian way is to serve the food on top of the injera, but you'll also have extra on the side to pick up the food with. Start by tearing off a piece of injera. Usually half the size of your palm is good enough, maybe a little less even. As long as you can scoop up enough food, you're in good shape.Choose which dish you want to try and scoop up some with the injera. Don't overdo it. It's not  nice sitting across from someone who has food falling out of his/her hand or mouth and back onto the shared tray.
I was onced spotted by a customer tossing a salad with my bare hands.Since my hands were spotlessly clean I did not see the problem, but in the eyes of this individual, Health and Hygiene should have insisted I wear gloves.

How would you eat this?-answer below
Of the foods we serve at Casa Rosada I have yet to witness guests accepting the concept of using their fingers.This results in plates of half eaten quail returning to the kitchen, and sticky ribs that customers have given up on trying to dissect with a knife and fork.I have even witnessed people eating prawns in a restaurant with a knife and fork.Part of the joy of eating prawns is in the peeling of the shell and pulling the flesh apart with your fingers.Once in your mouth the other thing is how about removing things from your mouth - the general rule for removing food from your mouth is that it should go out the same way it went in. Therefore, olive pits can be delicately dropped onto an open palm before putting them onto your plate, and a piece of bone discovered in a bite of poultry or game should be returned to the plate by way of the fork. Fish is an exception to the rule. It is fine to remove the tiny bones with your fingers, since they would be difficult to drop from your mouth onto the fork. If you need to spit out a fatty piece of meat, spit it into your napkin, so that you can keep it out of sight.

A perfect recipe for hands on dining..

Roast quail with Ras al hanout
cous cous and carrot purée

4quail cut down the middle
1large clove garlic crushed,

1 tbsp hot chilli powder,
2tbsp chinese five spice powder,
juice of 1 lemon,
2 tbsp oil, 
Mix all ingredients well then coat the quail well.Leave for at least 2 hours then roast in hot oven 220º until golden...Sooo simple.

Tunisian carrot puree
Serves 6

750g organic carrots

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1/4 teaspoon of harissa, chilli sauce or sambal oelek 
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp ground ginger 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
2 tablespoons runny honey 
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
4 tablespoons extra Virgin olive oil

Peel the carrots, chop into large chunks and cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes
or until soft. Drain well and whizz in the processor with all the other ingredients.
serve immediately or allow to cool if you are using it as a dip.Use bread to mop up the carrotand use it as avehicle to carry the cous cous.

Now, several high-profile chefs are asking diners to get their hands dirty, in the belief that it heightens the sensual connection to food and softens the formality of fine dining.I´m all for that as long as it doesn´t become over stated.What would dear old Miss manners say?
Do you want to share your secret or not so secret of hands on dining? And don´t you think it would be  fun to throw a dinner party where all the food was eaten with your hands?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Peixe Rei- crispy fried whitebait

"You shall have afishy on a little dishy"
"Whitebait". It is an old English term for little teeny fishies, dusted in flour and fried very quickly until crispy. Yep, you eat the whole fish,but because whitebait are always smaller than your pinky finger, it's no biggie. Lots of cultures eat deep-fried whole little fish, and the best quality fish are often "blue anchovies". Count on between 1/4 and 1/3 of a pound (125-175g) per person, depending on appetites. You will also need a dipping sauce for this. I like an aioli,a piri cocktail sauce or lashings of tabasco.
Whitebait are fine frozen, but if you are lucky enough to find yourself with fresh ones, you have the makings of a fantastic fried feast!
Whitebait basically are smelt and what are smelt?.Smelt are little anadromous schooling fish that spawn in rivers and live their lives at sea,much the same way, striped bass and salmon do.
Smelt are vastly underfished, according to many seafood watchdog groups.So good news, this means you can eat lots of them in good conscience, and various species are available all over the world.
Frozen whitebait are widely available in supermarkets, and I just love them. They are always flash-frozen and come in big bags, so you just grab as much as you need  per person, thaw in the fridge and fry away.
Yes, I said fry. No other fish fits the frying pan so well. I have eaten whitebait in other ways, but there is nothing quite like a good ole' smelt fry. Batters differ from place to place, but I highly recommend my tempura Sagres beer batter. The key here is using a light batter otherwise you overwhelm this delicate, soft fish.
Not a fan of batter? Do what I do most often then: Season flour and fry them that way. With just a hint of spice and crust, these little delicacies fly off the plate. I could eat 50 at a sitting. And yes, I am proud of that, and did just that in our favourite beach restaurant Cha com agua salgada at Manta Rota recently.
Did I say "eat them whole?" Yep. I did. Here's the deal: Whtebait are small, and any fish smaller than 6 inches really should be eaten head, guts, tail and all. All you taste is the rich flavor of the meat, plus a pleasing soft crunch from the bones, which will not stick in your throat.
If, however, eating a whole fish disturbs you, you can cut the heads off with a quick diagonal slice from the top of the head toward the fins on the bottom of the fish and you will be free of both the head and guts.
Give smelt a try. They are easy to love, easy to cook and let's face it  they're delicious fried, eaten with your fingers and dipped in any of the above sauces I mentioned.

Peixe Rei estaladiço com amendoa em aroma de poejo fresco   
Crispy fried whitebait with toasted almonds and olive oil infused with pennyroyal

Peixe Rei      (Whitebait)
Farinha     Flour
Breadcrumbs    Pao ralado
ovos    Eggs
Azeite virgem extra    Extra Virgin olive oil
Flor de sal
Cenouras Carrots
Hortela    mint
Poejo fresco   fresh penny royal
Amendoas laminados

Chop some poejo (penny royal)finely and add to some extra virgin olive oil in a jar
This can be done well in advance and kept for a couple of days
Clean the fish in water. season with flor de sal and leave for 15 minutes.
Coat the fish in flour,then beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs.
Fry the fish in a pan of olive oil.(180º-190º)
Steam the carrots without salt.Once tender douse them in cold water and purée.Season with extra virgin olive oil and and flor de sal aromatico.On the side of each serving plate place the carrot purée in a mould.Sprinkle some toasted flaked almonds on the top, and finish with some fresh mint leaves.Drizzle the plate with some of the infused oil.

Watch this space for more Peixe rei recipes

Friday, 6 July 2012

Sal, Atum, e Cha com agua salgada

Click here for a Taste of The Algarve

Salt, tuna and an exceptional restaurant on the beach. Follow Mariana and Sofia on a gastronomic journey in the Barlavento( East Algarve). In the Castro Marim Sapal they pick up some crystal tips from Jorge Raiado of Salmarim.In Vila Real de Santo Antonio they get some insights into the tuna industry at Conservas Damaso and finally down the road apiece with the wind in their hair, they sample some tuna delicacies cooked up by Chef Marco at Cha com agua Salgada.

Watch this space coming up next on Algarve Travel TV the girls on a motor cycle head for the hills...

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Umbria in Portugal -value for money

The view from our lunch table-Could it be magic?
Portugal has so much to offer – climate, food, wine, culture, beautiful scenery, and most of all, the people.In the six years we have lived here we have not only met, but built up friendships with, a very interesting cross section of Portuguese society and by cross-section I mean to include the expats among  the British, Dutch and French communities.
According to a recent Eurostat poll overall prices in Portugal were lower than average prices in the 27-member European Union. Taking all products together, costs in Portugal were 13% lower than the average.Food and non-alcoholic beverages were lower by 10%, alcohol and tobacco by 15%, clothing by 7%, and restaurants and hotels by 21%.Yesterday we put all this to the test and headed North off into the serra for lunch.Turning off the main road you follow a winding dirt track through forest, alongside dry riverbeds and then climb to high peaks of breathtaking beauty before you freewheel down again into the picturesque valley before ascending to yet another spectacular panorama.
When you arrive at O monte velho there is a terrace looking across the hills for miles, a bottle of wine is poured and almost immediately you are deep in relaxez-vous.The sign at the bottom of the hill said Umbria and the landscape and terrain did not deny it,we could have been in Italy.If we hade been in the real Umbria,with a comparable setting for lunch, our bill would have been double. It might just have well been Provence too and again the price of lunch in a location such as this would have commanded a steep hike in ones wallet.Dona Ana Lidia´s food surpasses any of these cuisines and adds a whole new dimension to traditional Portuguese gastronomy.What arrives on the table is home produced fare,cured hams, home made cheese and warm parfait of beetroot topped with almonds from the hills behind her home. In the words of Kander and Ebb...

"Money makes the world go around It makes the world go 'round.
A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound A buck or a pound.....
Is all that makes the world go around

Never mind the buck or the pound Whether it be pranzo, almoço or dejeuner it doesn´t  much to make a beautiful world go round here, just um pouco dinheiro.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Looking for the best? ovos de bacalhau

Looking for the best?-thats what the label said, and I only wanted the best to fulfil a mission.Rootlin´ through a shoe box of old letters and papers recently I stumbled upon this gem of my dear mum´s recipe for smoked cods roe pate.Boy did I used to love it.

It got me thinking, as it would, but for more than just the sentimentality. By the grace of cod  I am going to bring alive your recipe and what better time and place to do it than here and now where I have settled in the land of Bacalhau-Portugal.
In Portugal, it is said that there are more than 365 ways to cook bacalhau, Cod almighty! 365 Cod recipes - one for every day of the year; others say there are 1,001 ways. Cod´struth! Whatever the exact number, Bacalhau can be considered the iconic ingredient of Portuguese cuisine (but curiously the only fish that is not consumed fresh by this fish-loving nation). Salt cod has been produced for at least 500 years, since the time of the European discoveries of the New World. Before refrigeration, obviously there was a need to preserve the codfish;drying,salting and.... canning are ancient techniques to preserve nutrients and the process makes the codfish tastier.Along with extended shelf life and tastiness, faith propelled the popularity of salt cod. Catholics,like my dear mother who observed meatless days, needed a stockpile of fish for their meat-free meals. The one that they chose was Bacalhau. Portugal wasn’t alone in its use of this preserved fish. Italy, Spain, the Caribbean and parts of France, South America and Africa all had recipes calling for salt cod. Yet only one exhibited this passion for its fiel amigo or faithful friend.The Portuguese love their food…seriously love it. The Portuguese have an obsession with salt cod,  …..I like it, but not that much.However mission accomplished, I brought mums treasure back to life and on Thursday night gave it a life cooling experience. Casa Rosada received a visit from a journalist commissioned to write a story about us for Life cooler and I served up the best of my Algarve culinary re-inventions  to thank him for his visit and give him some modern Algarvian tastes to take home with him to Lisboa.

Hope this does justice to your recipe mum?
Pate ovos de Bacalhau
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
120g (6oz) tin ovos de Bacalhau (Cods roe)
1 soup spoon lemon juice
1 soup spoon light soya sauce
1 soup spoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Put the cods roe in a food processor and pulse to break up.
Add the lemon juice, soya sauce and balsamic,process again.
Add the butter and cream and process again.
Put in a pate dish or tupperware and leave in the refrigerator to chill.
Be careful not to over process the cream or the mixture may separate.