Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Celery leaf and almond pesto

Don't throw your leaves away. No, no, no, no. For you might need them someday.
I guess it´s my turn to confess that I usually throw out the celery leaves. I have never had any idea what to do with them!! (don’t shoot me!)Waste not, want not, I now have a very good idea - Hey, Pesto.Back in January, inspired by Marmaduke Scarlet´s English parsley walnut and Stilton pesto I set up a pinterest board flagged "Cooking with colour." My first pin was Scarlet´s pesto.Her recipe matched the  pantone colour of the year for 2013- PANTONE 17-5641 Emerald Green.I recently encouraged followers to cook up something colourful and tell us all about it. Well, what better way to respond to the starters gun than create another pesto matched to the pantone colour of the year.Celery and almond I thought sounded like a perfect pesto combination. I used salted Marcona almonds in place of the  usual pine nuts for even more richness and creaminess in the recipe.The celery leaf was very fresh tasting. It’s a great way to make use of every part of the celery. Just think bottom for mirepoix and top for pesto.
All you have to do is blend together in the food processor: 4 cups of fresh celery leaves (Chinese celery if you are lucky enough to find it is more leafy, darker in colour, and has a more pronounced celery taste), 1/3 cup raw blanched almonds, 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 large garlic cloves (peeled), 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 1 teaspoon salt. 

Every time I colour theme a recipe and pin it on "Cooking with colour." I will be flagging it up with the pinterest logo above.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A frugal curried fish cake and a parable for Europe

     Curried Fish cakes with Robalo (sea bass)  

At certain times in history, different countries seem to need particular, sometimes bizarre, heroes to help them out. As France needed Escoffier at the turn of the 18th century, as post Roosevelt America needed Alice Waters, as Gotham city needed Batman – so 21st century Europe needs Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did.
For those of you who weren't brought up by Victorians, Mrs BDBAYD was one of the two sub-aqua spinsters who saw to it that the water-babies grew up into decent water-adults in Charles Kingsley's fairytale "The Water Babies". Her colleague, Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By, was the cosy one, treating her charges as they wished to be treated: with unlimited love and treats.Mrs BDBAYD was a different kettle of fish. She was stern, bespectacled, unbending. She behaved toward the babies as they behaved towards others, making sure their actions came back to bite them, until they gradually learnt the golden rule of civilisation: if you don't like it yourself, then best not do it to someone else.So why the sudden need for Mrs BDBAYD? Well, as Europe teeters on the brink of financial crisis, it's occurred to me that in lots of ways the last forty years of my life have seen  the water baby code inverted. We all now feel quite free to do as we would not dream of being done by. Which is not to say we're not nice, just that we've forgotten how to look after ourselves.Mothers no longer make sure their offsprings cook as their matriarch would have done .The Italian mamma has been replaced by the young working ragazza.In Portugal the moça switches on her "BIMBY." What has happened to real cooking? And why do families on the breadline shell out precious pennies for over priced ready meals, when for the same price they could make  fresh ingredients stretch to at least 3 meals? - and then governments wonder why they have to deal with obesity.
On the surface, 'The Water Babies' appears to be a traditional fairy tale complete with fairies, sea-beasts and talking animals. However, this is a fairytale adapted to Victorian life. The villains are the neglectful masters, violent schoolteachers and ignorant parents, who create a darkening world of terror from which the hero Tom must escape by turning into a water baby. However, upon entering a new world of underwater mystery, Tom must re-visit aspects of the human world in new magical forms, in order to correct his own weaknesses and become truly 'clean'. Kingsley's novel is a heavily symbolic and didactic text that conveys the horror of Victorian evils represented through surprising methods of fairytale fiction. However, above all else, the novel champions the child victims at the heart of the text  in order to expose the social evils of the time and offer comfort to those reading the novel, with the hope that fairies and magic could still be found beneath the soot of industrial Britain.
So, what ever happened to the humble fish cake? Not only do homemade fish cakes taste miles better than shop-bought ones, but if  you make your own you know exactly what goes in them; the cheap factory made ones can be full of rubbish, and it's easy to see why. Born out of frugality as a way of using up left over  mashed potato and fish, they deserve to be made in their own right. 
These are  simple yet delicious fish cakes made in a Goan/Portuguese style.Unlike Mrs BDBAYD they are extremely adaptable and malleable.You can mix and match and use your imagination to make variations to the recipe.I would normally use Pescada (hake fillets) but on this occasion I used left over sea bass that had been poached with lemongrass, chilli,garlic,coriander and lime leaves. I like them as burger sized patties,but you could just as easily shape the mixture into small disks. They can be deep or shallow fried, baked, grilled or barbecued.
You can also use any combo of ingredients so long as they hold together.A very traditional Goan fish cake would be made with a mixture of white fish and shelled raw prawns.My fishcakes are very much from the Do as you like school.
I might sometimes add some blended prawns and fish sauce, or some garam marsala and chickpeas.
The dusting too can be a changeable feast. Cornmeal, polenta, breadcrumbs, egg, flour or gram flour. When I’m really after a quick meal I have been known to use chilli sauce and tinned salmon or tuna. Delicious.
The frugal Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby fish cake 

180g cooked fish Pescada (hake) (on this occasion I used left over sea bass that had been grilled with lemongrass, chilli, garlic, coriander and lime leaves)
Approx 250g cooked mashed potato (about the same volume as the fish)
0.5 beaten egg
1 small red onion
1 clove garlic – crushed
Black pepper and salt
0.5 tsp cayenne pepper

Sort through and flake the fish by hand removing skin and any bones as you go. Stir in the mashed potato then add the egg and mix it all in by hand. Finely chop (or blend) the onion and add it along with the crushed garlic, cayenne, pepper and salt and mix it all in thoroughly.
Shape the mixture into slightly-bigger-than-bite-sized disks that you can pick up with chopsticks. Heat a little oil in a non stick frying pan and fry them for about 2-3 minutes a side, until they are a dark golden brown.
Serve with some salad, soba noodles, maybe some sweet chilli sauce for a healthy, tasty and fine looking meal
Green slaw
This crunchy coleslaw is full of crisp textures and fresh flavours.
Light, crisp and refreshing, this recipe for green coleslaw is quick, easy and a wonderful accompaniment to dishes like rice and beans that need some enzymes served on the side. Green Slaw is also a great alternative to regular coleslaw, as the dressing is very light, and it is made with either Napa or Savoy cabbage, both of which are curly and juicier than regular green cabbage.

  • ½ Savoy Curly kale or White cabbage, sliced very thin (about 4 cups)
  • 1 spring onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cup chopped coriander or other parsley, or a combination
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • celery/cucumber (optional) 
Combine all ingredients and add sea salt to taste.

On re-reading Kingsley's tale I wonder if my childhood fascination may well have been due more to the lovely illustrations of Jessie Willcox Smith than what can often be a pompous, long-winded and bigoted story with pages of ranting sermons; literally long lists the ‘ills’ of the world, as perceived by the Reverend Kingsley. There are also many examples of prejudice against Americans (murderous crows), Jews (dishonest merchants who grow rich on the sale of false icons), Blacks (fat old greasy negros), and Catholics (Popes are listed as one of the great bogies, alongside Measles!) - all of which may explain why the story is no longer very popular!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Nature calls

 This is what I am looking for
I have a need for rennet.I have made extensive enquiries here in the Algarve as to where I could obtain rennet but no joy. I am surrounded by artesan cheese makers and farms,but it is not cheese I am looking at making.What´s he up to you ask ?-more on that story later.
I am no great fan of veggie substitutes, agar agar and all that, but with no animal rennet to hand I shall have to go down the veggie trail.Talking of which its that time of year and I have got my foraging head on. I have my foraging kit in the back of the car on the off chance of passing by a nettle bed, a patch of wild spinach or some other manifestation of free food ..... gloves, snippers and saco pano on board off I go, and yes I´ve found one.
Nettles nestled neatly under the boardwalk to the beach in abundance. If my rennet works I will post what I have produced with it.

Rennet —liquid rennet derived from wild nettles?  that’s right, nettles can seperate milk into curds and whey.  So although cheese will never be vegan (duh), there is a way to make it completely vegetarian.  I have a grand plan for this rennet, let me tell you! Pictures will have to wait — In the meantime, here’s how you can make your own vegetarian rennet:

In a large pot, combine 1lb (500 g) nettle tips with 2 quarts (2 litres) of cold water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Use a pair of tongs to push the nettles below the surface of the boiling water until wilted and submerged.  Continue to boil the nettles over medium heat for 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat, strain out the nettles, reserving the liquid.  Stir 2 teaspoons of salt into the hot liquid, then set aside to cool.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

It takes about 2/3 cup of homemade nettle rennet for 2 quarts (2 litres) of pasteurized  milk.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Celery (aipo) - Less waist more taste

You dont often find such a perfect specimen as this even in a farmers market. 
And this one was off the supermarket shelf.
It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.In our weight and waist conscious society,obsessed with the chimera of physical perfection celery is our Godsend.The promise of a quick`n´easy weight loss solution is a siren´s call to us.We race from pillar to post looking for the magic pill or food,exercise programme or magnetic belt that will magically melt those kilos away and strip metres from our vital statistics.Well look no further. It is for this very reason that the promise of "negative calories"  draws us like moths to a flame.Celery has about 6 calories per 20cm stalk,making it a dieters staple.Though chewing it may feel like a somewhat strenuous activity,it burns about the same amount of energy as watching paint dry.It is the bodily energy devoted to the ingestion of these brittle green stalks that actually exhausts those all important calories.In its defence,even if it does not work waistline wonders,those of us who are eating it are not eating something else.Look at it this way, it´s hard to sneak a chocolate bar into a mouth that is busy chomping celery.
Its no wonder celery has become a common household staple, along with carrots, onions and potatoes.Its crunchy texture and distinctive flavour makes it a popular addition to salads and many cooked dishes,particularly soups.A Minestrone is no Minestrone without the inclusion of celery. It´s all thanks to the Romans, who discovered that it´s unique taste made it the ideal vegetable for seasoning food. Centuries later the French were to name it, along with the onion and the carrot, the perfect seasoning trio, the mire-poix. A mire-poix is really just the chopped-up ensemble of the three vegetables — sweated, simmered or stewed. It’s used as the base for innumerable dishes, whether in stocks, stews, casseroles or sauces. So versatile!
Mire-poix Here´s one I prepared earlier
Similar combinations of vegetables are known as holy trinity in Cajun and Creole cooking, refogado (braised onions, garlic and tomato) in Portuguese, soffritto (onions, garlic and celery) in Italian, sofrito in Spanish, Suppengrün (soup greens) in German (usually purchased in bundles and consisting of a leek, a carrot and piece of celeriac), and włoszczyzna in Polish,typically consisting of carrots, parsnips, parsley root, celery root, leeks, cabbage leaves, and sometimes celery and flat-leaf parsley.

Onward from this era of French culinary genius, celery’s fame went from strength to strength. A simple stick of celery was later to become a prerequisite for the perfect Bloody Mary, along with a sprinkling of its salt (more on that story later) in the tomato juice mix. The famous Waldorf salad calls for celery along with walnuts and apples.Even celery leaves are really lovely chopped in a salad in the same way that you might use flat-leaf parsley, interspersed with other salad leaves. Waste not, want not!- more on that story later too.
Some other more unusual ways of using celery
Enjoy my  peanut butter with celery and cream cheese in a sandwich as tried and tested by James Ramsden in the Guardian
Use celery leaves in salads.
Next time you are making a smoothie give it a unique taste dimension by adding some celery to it.
Add celery leaves and sliced celery stalks to soups, stews, casseroles, and healthy stir fries.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Crisp, Curly, Kale and Hearty

Some milho frito I served up as before dinner nibbles for friends  on Saturday night

At last the final Christmas edible is gone from the house and I can recommence a normal eating plan......2013 is the year of the snake, so possibly a year of following a sinuous sidewinding path in our weekly housekeeping perhaps? The Snake is keen and cunning, quite intelligent and wise, and ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means your family will not starve.What’s in ? -me thinks , what’s out and what has always been the most intriguing to me, what’s next? In comes Kale this years new green.Kale sits atop the greens heap now We have been told it´s the new broccoli, "Don’t overlook kale at the supermarket just because you find it easier to cook broccoli"  say the fashion police.
Sometimes a substantial breakfast is called for after an early morning fishing trip, on which no fish were caught.Perhaps you just want to recreate what a Portuguese farmer´s wife might serve up after a morning of ploughing across the Alentejo.For me it might be just what I needed post tough jog along the beach, or as a stamina builder to a particularly arduous day of home and garden improvements.I am always looking for new versions of things that I already know.There´s kale aplenty here in Portugal.Some milho frito with a fried egg is what I had in mind.Perhaps my preferred serving though is without the egg as a side to a simple midweek supper of Pinchitos Morunos,an Andalucian speciality of Moorish grilled meat skewers.Milho Frito in its authentic form is simply cornmeal, lard, water and salt.I have embellished this somewhat and teamed it  up with Presunto (Portuguese ham) Requeijao ( Portuguese curd cheese) leeks and Kale.

Milho frito
25g(1oz) unsalted butter
50g(2oz) finely diced toucinho,pancetta or bacon
2 shallots finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 small leek finely sliced
125g (1/4 pound) kale,savoy cabbage or collard greens,very finely shredded
thick centre stalks and fibrous bits removed
Flor de sal
Freshly ground black pepper
600ml chicken stock
75g unsalted butter
1 cup papa de milho,yellow cormeal or polenta
1/2 cup Requeijao or Ricotta 
1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan

Lightly oil a 20cm x30cm ( 8x12inch)  roasting tray and set aside.Bring a medium sized pan of water to the boil.Add the kale and a table spoon of salt and cook until the kale is tender (about 10 mins).Drain in a colander and set aside to cool.
In another large heavy pan heat the butter over a low heat.Add the shallots and leek and sauté stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until they are softened.Add the ham or bacon and garlic and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes until the bacon is becoming crispy.Do not let the garlic burn.Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
In the same pot add 600ml of chicken stock,3 tablespoons (75g) unsalted butter,1 teaspoon salt,1/4 teaspoon black pepper and bring to a boil over a medium heat.Slowly pour in the cornmeal in a steady stream,whisking constantly.Reduce the heat to low and stir with a wooden paddle until the mixture thickens to the consistency of smooth mashed potatoes and pulls away from the side of the pan,(about 5 minutes).Stir in the requeijao(Ricotta)mixing it in well.Add the kale and the bacon mixture and again mix it in well to combine.Adjust the seasoning if necessary.Turn the mixture out into the oiled roasting tray and smooth out the top with a moistened spatula.Allow to set covered with a clean kitchen towel.It can be left overnight.Cut the cornmeal into small cubes or rectangles.Line a baking tray with parchment.Lightly brush the cornmeal pieces with oil and bake in hot oven for 30-35minutes turning once.Alternatively cover a large frying pan with a dfilm of oil and heat.When its hot fry the pieces for 2 minutes each side until browned gently on top and bottom.Transfer to aplatter with paper towel and serve immediately.
"You’ll get to be a new and improved you 
a lot faster with kale on your menu".-so they say


Monday, 18 February 2013

"Cooking with colour" on Pinterest

    Goethe's symmetric colour wheel  
Evocative for me of the colours in many sweet and savoury dishes

"Today's paint colors sound good enough to eat / From Salsa Red to Creme Brulee, these exteriors evoke a powerful sense of taste"

The pantone cocktail menu at Trick Dog,San Francisco

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Braised duck legs with spicy Asian flavours

My duck legs after 30 minutes slow rendering of fat,
dusted with five spice on a bed of vegetables and ready for a slow roasting

This is one of those recipes you keep up your sleeve for a cold winter’s night when you have work to do but you want to make something delicious. And you’ve just killed the family duck- only joking. It is anything but soft and warm outside. It is cruel, agitated, windy, dark and wet. On such days it is necessary to shut up shop early, crack open a good bottle of wine and have a recipe in mind for a hot meal.Having spent time harvesting an over abundance of lemongrass in the garden, I mentally planned out this hearty, healthy and fragrant dish, starring the citrusy lemon grass and slow braised duck legs.It's precisely because most cooks like breast that duck legs are sold separately and for less money.This does not mean low cost proof of inferiority - Nope.Duck leg recipes are eminently practical, and just as delicious as the all too swanky breast.However, cooking out the fat, a prerequisite to crisping the skin, takes a long time and requires patience.I am happy to anounce that after years of frustration I have finally mastered the art of crisping the duck. So first things first, open a bottle of wine,pour yourself a glass and enjoy.(its always good to have a bev on the go while you are cooking)I Must have been watching too much "Floyd on"...whatever.Duck legs are the easiest way to serve duck.Once you have rendered the fat out,they slowly roast in the oven while you run away and have some quality time.The trick with pan-cooking is to make the skin take most of the heat, but at a slow and steady pace so it doesn't cook too quickly. If it browns too fast too soon, it will blacken. Pan method. Heat: nice and low. Timing: with skin down, at least 15 and up to 25-35 minutes. Aim: a polished mahogany colour. Before turning: dust with salt and pepper, and with powdered spices if you like. After the turn: cook until it's... well, until it's done. Timings are impossible to dictate with accuracy, because so much depends on the type of bird and the length of skin-side cooking.

Braised duck legs with spicy Asian flavours
Serves 2  (adjust quantities accordingly for larger number of legs)

This came to me by default(what I had in the pantry and garden)remember those 5 jars of chinese five spice I found during my annual pantrification.
The flavours and aromas emanated exciting foreign flavours Vasco de Gama brought back to Portugal.
1 bottle of wine for imbibing
2 Duck legs
1 stick celery,finely chopped
1 carrot,finely chopped
Nub of peeled sliced ginger
2 Green chillis split open deseeded and chopped
2 sticks of lemongrass finely chopped
Tablespoon light muscavado sugar
2 cloves garlic, left whole
4 shallots,finely chopped
6 sturdy coriander stalks  finely chopped
Chinese 5 spice for dusting
60 ml Nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
dash of soya sauce
125 ml freshly squeezed Seville orange juice or half and half combination of sweet orange juice and freshly squeezed lime juice
500ml ( half pint ) home made chicken stock
175g (6oz) puy lentils (optional)

First open the wine and pour yourself a glass.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Place duck legs skin side down in a cold cast iron skillet or casserole.Sprinkle with salt and pepper.Turn the heat on keeping it very very low.Allow the pan to come up to cooking temperature slowly.Do not to rush this step, otherwise, you won't render enough of the fat off and you'll over cook the skin.As the fat from the duck legs is rendered,skim it off and set it aside in a container for later roast potatoes.While the legs are cooking prepare all your vegetables and put them in a clean roasting tray.When the duck is cooked(approx 30 mins) and is going crispy(hurrah,a first for me)Drain the remaining fat off,remove the legs and dust them generously al over with chinese five spice mix,Place the duck legs skin side up on top of the vegetables.De-glaze the skillet with some chicken stock and set aside for later.
Mix the orange juice, fish sauce and soya sauce together and pour this mixture on top of the duck legs.
Cover tightly with tin foil or a lid and place in the oven for 45 minutes.
Remove the roasting dish from the oven,remove the cover and all the vegetables, baste the duck legs with the remaining pan juices and put the dish back in the oven to roast uncovered for another 45 minutes, or until the duck legs are tender and the skin browned.If the skin browns too much before the legs are tender, loosely cover the legs with foil, until they have finished cooking.While the duck is finishing cooking blitz all the vegetables in a food processor with some chicken stock to dilute it to a thick soup like paste.Set aside.(While the duck was cooking I cooked some puy lentils in the deglazed pan adding some more stock).
Heat the remaining chicken stock in a saucepan, and keep warm until ready to make the sauce.
When the duck legs are ready to remove from the oven, place the duck legs on a plate, pour over a little of the juices from the pan and cover and keep warm.
Put the roasting pan on the stove top and add two or three tablespoons of the reserved vegetable purée and the pre-heated chicken stock.Simmer this gravy until you have a sauce reduced to your flavour preference. Add more stock or water as necessary.  I made mine to a rich soup consistency.
Plate up the duck legs on top of some steamed bok choy kale or other greens then add the lentils if using and pour over the sauce. Garnish with coriander leaves and orange zest.

NOTE : You will have more than enough vegetable purée for your sauce so when cool, store it in the fridge and you will have the basis of a cook -in curry sauce for a another tasty mid-week supper.One word of warning you will now be using
the reserved purée in a more concentrated form therefore the degree of spice is intense and your curry will be comparable to a mild vindaloo,so if you you like a milder curry, temper the sauce with yoghurt or creme fraiche.Alternatively use a half and half quantity of purée and yoghurt.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Carnival 2013, passion fruit - Calm and Miranda

It´s going to be a busy week full of festivities! Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day
and it’s Carnival time again! When one thinks of Carnival one thinks of Brazil but the Carnival at Loulé here in the Algarve is the oldest carnival in Portugal.As Carnival 2013 gets under way everything is Calm and Miranda here, and that  means we'd better get stuck into cookin'up some happy sunshine food! The theme of Carnival this year is "Entroikados na grande palhaçada" - "Stuck with the Troika - what a farce", a Portuguese satire on the European Union’s economic hold on Portugal.Not much chance of inspired food around that theme then.So what should we eat?- well If you knew Dixie like I know Dixie I´m thinking Cajun,and to be more specific a Cajun Bloody Mary.Well that puts you in the spirit for sure, but what about keeping your sugar levels up?( Carnival is a test of endurance)There'll be music everywhere, "There'll be swingin' swayin', and records playin, Dancin' in the street" and if both carnival and passion fruit originated in Brazil, what better way to celebrate than with a passion fruit tart.I made a passion fruit curd for the filling and rubbed some Seville orange zest into the sugar.I know the traditional fruit for curd is lemon but passion fruit and Seville orange gives the recipe an explosive betrothal of bitter sweetness and intense colour that marries well with Carnival.The idea behind the recipe is a twist on classic Key Lime pie.You will have some curd left over so why not use it as unusual filling for your crepes or panquecas. And if you don´t make this for Carnival here is the perfect bitter sweet end to end your romantic Valentine´s dinner on Thursday.
So, a desert with a difference for Valentines day, a great pancake filling and Chinese New year - well I am not sure about spring rolls with mango-NO.
Passion fruit tart
Serves 8
For the curd
1/2 cup seedless passion fruit pulp ( polpa de maracujá sem sementes)
1/4 cup seville orange juice
Zest of 2 seville oranges
3/4 cup sugar
8 egg yolks ( reserving 4 whites if you want to make a meringue topping )
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into cubes
Put the sugar in a medium bowl and grate the orange zest into it.
Rub the zest into the sugar vigorously with your fingers.
Strain the orange juice into a medium sized pan
Add the passion fruit pulp, egg yolks, butter and zested sugar mix.
Set the pan over a medium to low flame and cook, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. The temperature is crucial and you must not let the mixture boil.Be sure to keep whisking all over the pan especially around the edges.At the first sign of of a boil, remove from the heat and keep whisking. Pour into a sterilised jar and put in the fridge to set and chill.
For the tart shell

15 large digestive
85g/3oz unsalted butter                                                                                                    Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2                                                        Break up the digestive biscuits  and place them into the bowl of a food processor.Place the butter in a heavy-based pan and melt gently.   Process the biscuits in the food processor, until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Line the base of a 24cm/9in-10in loose-based spring-form cake tin with a round of greaseproof paper. Brush the bottom of the tin with some of the melted butter and place the round of greaseproof paper in the base.Add the remaining melted butter to the biscuit crumbs in the food processor and process again briefly.Tip the crumbs into the bottom of the cake tin. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the crumbs from the centre outward, until smooth and level. This will form the base of the cheesecake. Bake the cheesecake base in the oven for 10-15 minutes until it's lightly browned and just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least five minutes. 
For the filling    
2 cups passion fruit curd 
2 leaves or 2 teaspoons gelatine
2 tablespoons water

Sprinkle gelatine over the water in small heatproof jug; place jug in small pan of simmering water, stir until gelatine dissolves. Cool 5 minutes,then stir into the curd mixing well to ensure all the gelatine has dissolved.Spoon the mixture into the cooled tart shell,and chill in the refrigerator until set.

For the topping
You have a choice here, I opted for a meringue topping and it went disastrously wrong, so if you are a dab hand at meringue baking by all means have a go.But please only attempt this if you are an expert.DO NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT LEAVE THE KITCHEN while the pie bakes; meringue burns easily and if you blink you´ll do an Alfred.
Please use your own method as mine quite clearly failed.
My suggested topping would be a whipped cream topping
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
grated nutmeg to finish (optional)
Beat the cream to soft peaks in a cold bowl(freeze the bowl in advance).Sift in the confectioners sugar and add the vanilla and orange zest. Continue beating the cream to firm peaks.Do not overbeat.Transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag with fitted with a large star tip.Pipe rosettes of cream all over the top of the tart.Grate alittle nutmag on top.You can prepare this ahaed of time but only pipe the whipped cream onto the pie one hour before serving.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dia dos Namorados - Can´t buy me love

"Say you don't need no diamond ring
And I'll be satisfied
Tell me that you want those kind of things
that money just can't buy
For I don't care too much for money
For money can't buy me love"

Bem vindo ao meu blog post primeiro bi-lingual.Eu vai tentar isso mais vezes mas que exige tanto o dobro da quantidade de trabalho e tempo.Se faz favor seja paciente comigo.
Welcome to my first bi-lingual blog.I will try to do this more often but that requires both double the amount of time and work- bear with.

Dia dos amorados para mim evoca imagens de pessoas sendo bombardeados com bolos chocolates, flores,bolos e cartões, e sendo enterrado sob uma rajada de bom bons.Isso não tem que ser tudo o que claptrap.Nenhuma quantidade de mimos pode bater um dom de alimentos feito para você por alguém que você ama e se preocupa,não importa o quão instável,queimados ou desgrenhado que lhe poderia ser.Mesmo os não comestíveis irá saborear deliciosae simples das coisas,um bolo alguns biscoitos- é suficiente.Aqui sáo duas sugestões um doce e um salgado.
Valentines Day for me conjures up images of people being bombarded with chocolates, flowers cakes and cards,and being buried under a blast of bomb bons.It doesn´t have to be all that commercial claptrap.No amount of pampering can beat a gift of food made for you by someone you love and care about, no matter how wobbly, burnt or dishevelled it might be. Even the inedible will taste delightful and the simplest of things- a cake or some cookies - is enough.Here are two suggestions one sweet one savoury.

Easy no cook chocolate and 
vanilla salt fudge hearts
Melt 125g good quality dark chocolate and 60g butter in a owl over simmering water and stir to combine.Add 1/4 cup evaporated milk and finely grated zest of 1 orange.beat in 375g icing sugar until the mixture is smooth.Spoon into an18cm square shallow tin lined with greaseproof paper.level it out and set aside till firm,then turn out and cut into squares.
Makes 36 pieces

Pecorino Shortbread hearts
Makes 12
250g  (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups finely shredded pecorino romano cheese
2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed into small pieces

1/2 tsp Flor de sal
2 cups all purpose flour
Golden granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180º C, with the rack set in the centre. Cream together butter, and sugar in a large bowl.  Add cheese, pepper and salt, and mix together until well blended, then add flour and mix until well combined.  Press the dough into an 8 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. With a heart shaped cookie cutter score the shortbread into 12 hearts. Sprinke the top of the shortbread with granulated sugar, and place in the freezer to chill for 15-30 minutes until cold. Remove from the freezer and bake for about 20 minutes until set and lightly brown. Go over the score marks again witha  knife when removed from the oven. Cool in pan on a wire rack, before pressing out the heart shapes with your heart shaped cutter.

Some other ideas for Valentine´s day              Ideias para o Dia dos Namorados

Se ainda não encontrou o programa ideal para o Dia dos Namorados e procura uma atividade barata, veja as seguintes sugestões:
If you have not found the perfect surprise for Valentine's Day and are still looking for a cheap surprise, see the following suggestions:
  • Na primeira hora na manhã  - O Pequeno-almoço na cama....
  • First thing in the morning - Breakfast in bed....                                               
  • Na hora de almoço, vá buscar a(o) sua(seu) namorada(o) e surpreenda-o com um bonito piquenique à beira mar ou num parque verde.
  • At lunchtime surprise your girlfriend/boyfriend by picking them up from work and take them for a picnic on the beach or in the park

  • Na hora de jantar prepare uma refeição gourmet. Pesquise receitas em livros de culinária ou blogs e ponha mãos à obra. Brinde ao amor com um bom vinho. Vai ver que o seu trabalho vai valer a pena. 
  • For dinner prepare a gourmet meal. Research some romantic recipes in cookbooks or blogs and get to work. Toast your beloved with champagne or a good wine. You'll soon see that your work will be worth it.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

It´s Not POSH but It´s BECKS with a smoky bit on the side

It is the size rather than the genus that is significant

I had almost forgotten about whitebait.When I started going to restaurants 35 or more years ago this was "THE" restaurant starter. Now it seems to have disappeared from menus altogether.Until last summer, when to my surprise I found them here in the Algarve on the starter menu of one of our favourite beach side restaurants, Cha com agua salgada.
They have now become so unfamiliar that some of you may need me to tell you what whitebait are or is. Whitebait are just small fish, the original "small fry" and that is exactly how you cook them.And it is the size rather than the genus that is significant.Things are changing and on a recent trip to the supermarket I noticed the chest freezer bulging with bags of do it every which way whitebait.The fish comes frozen now, in bags which is straightforward enough.
Cooking is minimal,they are deep fried and eaten whole. The whitebait are dredged in flour (deviled whitebait being tossed in flour heavily dusted with cayenne)plunged into hot oil,piled on a plate and served with bits on the side like tabasco mayo and parsley.
I wasn´t born with David Beckham´s left foot but my right arm is strong as an ox and made for what a right arm is for, raising a beer or two with a snack of whitebait.

A Becks with Whitebait, 
cumin salt and smoky mayonnaise
This truly international beer with its distinctive full-bodied taste, slightly fruity undertones and a firm crispness is a perfect pairing for seafood dishes and in particular this clean tasty snack
Serves 4
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 lime,finely grated rind only
1 tablespoon smoked sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

For deep frying
sunflower oil
300gm small whitebait
75gm( 1/2 cup )plain flour
To serve: lime wedges

Smoky mayonnaise
150ml olive oil
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic,finely chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Dry-roast cumin in a frying pan over high heat, stirring continuously, for 20 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar, cool slightly, then, using a pestle, finely grind. Add rind, smoked sea salt and freshly ground white pepper and combine.
For smoky mayonnaise, combine oils in a jug. Process remaining ingredients in a food processor until smooth, gradually add oil mixture, one drop at a time, then in a thin steady stream until smooth and emulsified. (If mixture becomes too thick, thin with a little hot water before adding more oil.) Season to taste with smoked sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. Makes about ¾ cup. Mayonnaise will keep refrigerated for 1 week.
Preheat sunflower oil in a deep-fryer or large, deep saucepan to 180C. Combine whitebait and flour in a bowl, season to taste and toss to coat. Sift excess flour from whitebait with a coarse sieve. Fry in batches, for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden, drain on absorbent paper and season with cumin salt. Serve with mayonnaise, cumin salt and lime wedges to the side.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

From Parker Quink to Nigella Squink and a dirty sink

Long ago are the days when we went to school armed with proper fountain pens, which we filled with real ink (Parker Quink).Gone too, the days when Portuguese fishwives bashed the living daylights out of squid on the rocks to tenderize it after having extracted the rich black ink.Nowadays its all too simple.You buy sqid ink in sachets over the counter from your peixeiro (fishmonger) or in the supermercado and you tenderize your squid by bunging it in the freezer overnight."Don't Knock It Till You've Tried It."
The whole point of this Nigella risotto is that it’s tinted black by the squid ink ( squink ). She had no desire to "lessen its impact with some pallid white wine". What’s more, squid ink is so richly, headily flavoured that nothing less than a robust red would stand up to it. While she was more than happy to eat it plain black, she couldn´t help feeling cheered by the "jaunty tricolore adornment" provided by the squid rings, red chilli pepper and parsley.

Squink Risotto as Nigella wrote it
1 litre/1¾ pints vegetable stock, preferably organic
8 tsp olive oil
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled
250g/9oz risotto rice
125ml/5fl oz red wine
2 sachets squid ink (available from fishmongers or delicatessens)
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
250g/9oz (cleaned weight) baby squid, cut into fine rings
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
small handful chopped fresh parsley, to serve

Heat the stock through and keep warm in a saucepan over the lowest heat.
Warm 6 teaspoons (2 tablespoons) of the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat and fry the sliced spring onions until softened for 2 minutes. Keep stirring and don’t let them burn.
Grate in the garlic and turn up the heat. Toss in the rice and turn it in the oil so it is slicked and shiny.
Pour in the red wine and let it bubble up over the rice.
Adorn yourself with disposable gloves,( I am surprised Nigella forgot to tell us when she cooked it on TV) snip the sachet of squid ink and add to the rice. Carefully dunk the squeezed-out sachets into the separate pan of hot stock to get out any remaining ink.
Add and keep adding ladlefuls of the hot stock to the rice, letting one ladleful be absorbed before adding the next, stirring all the while.
When the rice has had 15 minutes, you can be less assiduous on the stirring front and get on with the squid.
In a frying pan, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil and the chilli until sizzling, then add the squid rings and cook, stirring or shaking the pan a little, for 3 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
By this time, the black risotto should be ready, so divide it between warmed shallow bowls or plates, top with the fried chilli and squid and scatter with the parsley.
The Verdict:
I found the overall dish, even after my embellishments to the original recipe, a little too bland for a main course plate. I think it would make a novel cracking starter.I used coriander instead of parsley and in place of the squid rings I used tentacles which made the presentation ten times more exciting and easier to eat.Having fried off the squid in chilli oil, I then dusted the plate with some dried chilli flakes and shredded some fresh chilli over the top of the risotto.And then dear Mademoiselle from Armentières, it was Hinky dinky parlez-vous  down to a pan full of smelly squink and an inky sink.

Monday, 4 February 2013

French onion soup

 Soupe a Loignon gratinée "Odeon"

The Algarve climate in late January and early February is guaranteed to give us sunny  days and clear blue skies.Days are warm but nights are cold, feeling even colder when the temperature drops drastically as soon as the sun goes down. I decided it was time for me to cook onion soup again. I love soups, I love onions and I like to recreate flavours that reconnect me to a time, a place or an experience: in this case, the Soupe a Loignon gratinée "Odeon" from Café Procope  in Paris.
The year is 1975, and if it is August it must be Paris and in the busy 6th Arrondissement near Boulevard Saint-Germain des Près and Odeon, I am at Le Procope.

Le Procope claims to be the oldest restaurant in Paris, opening shop in 1626, with famous patrons such as Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, and Robespierre having dined there.
The onion soup came with at least a quarter pound of cheese. It was truly delicious, but impossible to eat without embarrassment, using your fingers to tear big hunks of cheese off the spoon.I called over the ever attentive waitress who came to the table as if she knew what I was about to ask her.She had a sharp knife in one hand and a bottle of port in the other.In one swift move she cut a neat slash into the top of the the monstrous garnish of melted Gruyère cheese crust on my soup and anointed a glug of port into the the richly sweet and savoury broth beneath. A shrill tone of "EHHHH VOILAAAAAAA...." and like Samantha in bewitched she was gone.I proceeded to enjoy every last slurp of this soup´s inimitable version.
Everything about this classic dish works for me – its innate frugality, simple ingredients and lack of pretension.All in all the perfect comfort food when times is hard.
What is probably the world's best-known soup is so souperior and so rewarding if one makes it properly.Onion soup is a remarkably simple thing to make, but the simplicity must be kept —roast onions,red onions, caramelized onions, add balsamic, add herbs -  non non non, the slightest diversion from the classic recipe and you will lose the whole point of this recipe - its unctuous onionyness.Elizabeth David was unimpressed with the "sodden bread, strings of cheese and half-cooked onion floating about" Oh how I disagree.
 My classic french onion soup

Classic french onion Soup
Serves 4
750g (1lb 10oz) onions
40g (2-3 oz )butter plus extra for toast
2 tbsp plain flour
1.75 litres (2 pints) beef stock
1 level teaspoon salt
1 glass of Madeira
1/2 inch thick baguette slices to toast
Gruyère or Emmenthal

Peel and thinly slice the onions.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions.Cover with a lid and sweat over a low heat for about 15 minutes,until they are soft and transparent.Remove the lid and continue frying the onions until they are golden brown.(The trick to getting this soup right is that.they must cook for at least 35-40 minutes over a low to moderate heat. Only when the onions are soft enough to crush easily between finger and thumb can you add the flour and stock).Stir in the stock Madeira and salt.Replace the lid and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.In a small bowl mix the flour to a thin paste with some water.Add to the soup and stir until it comes back to the boil.Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the soup has thickened,then draw off the heat.Meanwhile butter both slices of each slice of baguette.Sprinkle generous gratings of the cheese over each slice and bake them on a baking tray under a pre-heated grill until the bread is crisp and the cheese has melted Arrange the baguette slices in individual bowls and pour over the hot onion soup.Serve the remaining grated cheese in a separate bowl.
My decision to use beef stock clearly affected all the subsequent aromatics. Liquids first: what alcohol should I  use? Suggestions included port, white wine, sherry, and cider. I was tempted by port,because of the memory and as I like the depth it adds, but I decided there would be plenty of that from the beef stock. White wine and cider aren’t beef’s best partners (although I’m sure they’d work well with a dark chicken-stock base) so sherry it was, or at least a close Portuguese relative – Madeira. Parmesan in place of Gruyère produces a less fatty but just as tasty crust.

Judging by current online reviews, Le Procope continues to attract a steady stream of Parisians who want a quality meal at a low price.  For a quality dinner, in a lively area with rich detail and friendly waiters, Le Procope is as good a choice as any for those on a budget,as I was then, a student.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Sham chowder....When two soups became one

....or how a ham bone became a comforting soup, and by accident I created a  Portuguese sham chowder.So "two soups? One soup and another soup"
Beedle dee, dee dee dee...
We like it.
Beedle dee, dee dee dee...
This two for one.
I do the cooking...
Whenever I am asked the question "What is my favourite dish to cook on chilly rainy days in winter?" the answer is inevitably soup. Whether it's a simple broth with tender Italian tortellini (tortellini in brodo), a remedial Portuguese pick me up (canja with pasta noodles) or a hearty bowl of chowder, a spoon is applied to face, a small blowing gesture for cooling follows, spoon meets lips and the result is a satisfying "mmm." Even the most complex soup can invoke a very basic pleasure, like a warm blanket on a cold day (French onion) or a cooling refreshing summer sensation in August, white gazpacho with grapes (Ajo blanco con uvas).
Did you save your leftover Christmas ham bone?- and if so do you have some split peas or lentils in the cupboard? I can hear you saying "I know whats coming" and feel you might be groaning already - who has the time to make homemade soup? You're right, it's a time-consuming process but most of the time is accounted for by the soup sitting on the stove simmering, not by you actively preparing the ingredients. Its so not a risotto, requiring the standing and constant stirring.
To help ease your work schedule, you can prepare the soup over two days. Day one - put the ham bone on to simmer. It needs to simmer for anywhere from 3 to 4 hours- this long, slow simmering develops the wonderful flavour that forms the basic stock needed for a classic robust soup. Just before hitting the sack, cool the stock, then put it in the refrigerator. (After the pot has cooled slightly,  set it in a sink  of cold water to speed up the cooling process)
Day two, skim the fat from the surface of the stock and discard the ham bone, then put the pot on the stove to start heating the stock while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Once the remaining ingredients have been added to the pot you can relax and have a cup of tea while the soup simmers. A few final touches and dinner is ready.This soup, "London Particular,"was named after the thick blankets of yellow fog or `peasoupers´ that used to engulf London. I have never managed to achieve the yellow hue in my soup.Every time I have made it ( and I only make it once a year so no second chances)it is an unappetising shade of grey.The colour of city fog.So this time I followed a different recipe and embellished that recipe with a smattering of turmeric.I love turmeric, and not only did it bring a more cheerful tone to the soup but it actually enhanced the flavour.

Yellow split pea soup with Turmeric
The trick to making the rich, creamy texture typical of this classic soup is to cook the split peas until they dissolve and thicken the stock.

1 leftover ham bone (with a small amount of ham still attached to bone)
1 medium onion studded with 4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
16 cups (4 L) cold water
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dry mustard powder
2 cups (500 mL) yellow split peas, picked clean of debris and rinsed
1 soup spoon of turmeric
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried thyme leaves
3 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 tablespoon (15 mL) red wine vinegar
Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Put the ham bone, clove-studded onion and bay leaves in large heavy pot. Add water. (The ham bone should be completely covered. If necessary, add a little more water.) Place over high heat and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 4 hours. Remove from stove, uncover and let cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day,skim the fat from surface of ham stock; discard fat. Remove clove-studded onion and discard. Remove ham bone; set aside.
Transfer 1 tablespoon (15 mL) cold ham stock to small bowl. Add mustard and stir until dissolved. Add split peas, thyme and mustard mixture to ham stock. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, cut ham from bone; discard bone. Cut ham into bite-size pieces (we had about 2 cups/500mL); refrigerate until ready to add to soup.
When stock comes to a boil, add carrots, celery and leek. Return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 75 minutes or until peas dissolve and thicken soup, stirring occasionally then more frequently as soup thickens.
Add ham and cook for 2 minutes or until ham is heated through. (If you prefer a thinner soup, add a little water until reaching desired consistency.) Stir in vinegar.
Remove and discard bay leaves. (Make ahead: Chilled soup can be frozen in airtight container for up to 1 month.)
Garnish each serving with parsley.
Makes 8 servings.

Now for the trick - serve some of the soup for lunch or supper and save the rest  in the freezer for a second souperior meal-a lentil clam chowder.

Chowder-A thick, chunky seafood soup, of which clam chowder is the most well known. The name comes from the French chaudiere, a cauldron in which fishermen made their stews fresh from the sea. New England-style chowder is made with milk or cream, Manhattan-style with tomatoes. Chowder can contain any of several varieties of seafood and vegetables. The term is also used to describe any thick, rich soup containing chunks of food (for instance, clam chowder).
Lentils pre-date the potato as a starchy accompaniment, so you can thicken your soup without using potatoes. I already had some pre-cooked clams with their cooking stock in the freezer.These were clams left over from when I recently cooked Rick Stein´s Clams with Serrano ham and sherry recipe,so packed full of flavour to kick off my lentil Clam chowder.The pea soup (see above) had also been made with ham stock.Lentils and bacon are a match made in heaven.
Creamy Portuguese sham chowder
My Sham chowder is a comforting meal that can be made any night of the week. Who can resist clams,in thick bacon flavoured creamy soup, and sweet corn?  Serve this chowder with a nice hunk of crusty garlic bread.
125g (8oz) pre cooked clams drained of their cooking liquid
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
1 1/2 cups drained whole kernel corn
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup clam liquid and water
1 medium onion finely diced
1 litre Pea soup (as above)
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour
Drain clams and set aside.Fill one measuring cup with clam liquid.
Sautée onion and cook until tender. Add Pea soup, clam liquid and water.
Add corn and milk.Take a tablespoon of soup from the pot and use to blend the flour and butter in a bowl and then stir it into soup.Cook slowly until mixture thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Add clams and season.