Saturday, 27 April 2013

Risotto primavera com ervilhas,favas e queijo de cabra

Need to perk up your palette? Take a peek in the pantry. From the vibrant yellow hues of curry spices and turmeric to the fiery reds of pimentao and paprika.The orange-red stigmas of saffron to the chamois of cinnamon and taupe of nutmeg.Wherever you look inspiration is hiding right there in your vegetable rack or spice jars, just waiting to be released.
Mother nature had so much fun with colours when she was creating fruits and vegetables – red tomatoes, yellow corn, green peas, and purple brinjals. While making food look attractive and appetising, she also managed to provide us with an indicator of exactly what nutrient each fruit and vegetable had to offer.
So if you have a plate with an array of colourful fruits and vegetables, it’s probably extremely healthy as well. In fact, the deeper the colour of the fruit or vegetable, the higher it will be on the protection score and antioxidant value.I have put my mind recently to turning some of my much tried and proven recipes into more colourful plates. I had to think what to add that would introduce a colourful element with a dollop of health to boot.
The truth is, food that looks good often ends up tasting better. So next time, if your plate looks dull and lifeless, toss in a generous helping of some wonderfully colourful fruits or vegetables and transform your regular meal into one overflowing with the goodness of nature.With piles of portly pods of green peas and broad beans on the market stalls at the moment I must confess that I have not been giving enough attention to the vibrant lush Pantone minty green pea colour of the year  Emerald 17-5641. I decided to strengthen the colour balance of my usual risotto and perk it up with a creamy pea purée.

Risotto primavera with fresh peas 
broad beans and goat’s cheese
Risotto is my ultimate comfort food and I am always willing to try another risotto recipe –  I already have quite a large selection!!! My first risotto that I tried was a simple butternut squash,and it was so delicious that I was hooked for life.
I have also tried using different grains, such as pearl barley and even made a red wine rissoto. A basic risotto is like an open canvas, the possibilities are endless. You can serve it as a side dish, main course or even as a dessert. It can easily be  vegetarian, but what ever you make it to be, it will be delicious and comforting.
Spring came late this year so although I am eager to use summer vegetables, we are just not ready for salads…. Having had warmth from the sun all day it can still feel a little chilly in the evenings, so one still  wants something a little warm and comforting but at the same time bright and vibrant, and that for me means…..Pea Risotto!!

Serves 4
350g Arborio rice
1 litre Marigold vegetable stock
a small glass of white wine (optional)
Olive oil
2 leeks,thinly sliced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
! cup of broad beans,podded,cooked and skinned
a handful of mint plus extra for garnish
zest and juice of a lemon
100 gr young green beans – steamed and chopped diagonally.
1 log goat’s cheese
salt and black pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp sour cream or creme fraiche
a knob of butter

Cook the peas in some water with the mint. When cooked, drain and process the peas until you have a green chunky consistency. Keep the peas warm. Heat your chicken stock and keep hot in a separate pot.
Heat the olive oil and some butter in a large, heavy saucepan over a low heat. Add the leeks and saute about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until white spots appear in the center of the grains, about 1 minute.Add the wine,if using, and stir until absorbed, about 2 minutes.Add one ladleful of the hot stock, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding the stock, one ladleful at a time and stirring constantly, until the rice is just tender but slightly firm in the center and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes.
Now add the mushy peas, parmesan, butter and sour cream and stir in quickly. Taste and season if needed. Add the lemon juice and zest, crumbled goat’s cheese, the steamed green beans and broad beans. More parmesan can be added if so preferred.Garnish with chopped mint leaves and serve.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

All Kale Caesar

Spring took its time to arrive this year but today we are just over a month in and the beautiful hot rays of sunshine are finally here.What better way to celebrate than with friends in the form of a healthy lunch in the garden. 
Our thoughts now turn to lifting our spirits, and as we all well know we should be eating our greens.I know, I know, I know.  More kale. I am overwhelming you with all this healthy green shit, but this is a star turn.The crisp-tender texture and robust flavour of roughly torn Portuguese kale standing up to the tart Caesar dressing of this healthy, hearty salad. Serve as a first course, or as a side dish or part of a tapas with grilled chicken, beef, or lamb,or even cook some chicken and mix it into your salad for a kale and hearty "chicken" Caesar.Raw kale takes the place of traditional Romaine or Cos lettuce and partners with a bold dressing that stands up to the hearty greens.Caesar you say, doesn´t that involve anchovies? I can just see you grimacing the “ewww gross!” face about the anchovies.  You just think you don’t like them.  Anchovies are, in fact, delicious, and nutritious just like this salad.Trust me, a Caesar is no proper Caesar without anchovies.Accept no substitutes.Crispy homemade croutons tossed with olive oil, salt and herbes de Provence,a perfect solution to 3 day old bread and here you have a cheap healthy salad and a clear conscience, having found a use for the remains of the week-ends loaf.Hey-ho I hear the door bell ringing so its off to the jardim for lunch.

Kale Caesar salad
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g 3-day old white bread cut into 3cm cubes

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/390F/ gas mark 5. Toss the bread cubes around in a bowl with the oil.Spread over a baking tray  and bake in the oven, turning occasionally for 20 minutes until golden brown.Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

2 cloves garlic
4 anchovy fillets
1Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 eggs plus two egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon
125ml white wine vinegar
250ml extra virgin olive oil
300ml sunflower oil

Blend all the ingredients in a processor until smooth and creamy.

1 large head curly green kale, centre stems removed 
and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
⅔ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, toss the kale with the croutons. Add the dressing to taste, reserving any extra for another use. Add the Parmesan, toss again and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

You´re having a larp

There is a book in my cookery library that gets taken on and off the shelf from time to time,but always without me having made a recipe from it.Its beautiful dayglo magenta silk cover and magenta and lime green markers makes its luxuriant appearance irresistible, but I just can not do its 674 pages justice.I am not within satellites throw of a specialist Thai food shop, and If I was I am still not convinced that I would be unable to source some of the specialist ingredients necessary to make most of the recipes.
I am talking "Thai Food" by David Thompson.If you are not living in Thailand this book is purely academic.Where in heavens name do I find la
ngsart,assam,betel leaves,durian,fermented siamese watrcress,hydrolised lime water,long leafed coriander,white turmeric,tomalley and so the list goes ever on.The ingredients listings for each recipe are extravagant on column inches, however I took the bull by the horns and decided to have a larp.A larp is an ancient salad.There are many diverse styles of larp,but what they all seem to have in common is that the meat is minced or chopped,then cooked in the dressing,which is spicy and based on dried chillis.Sliced red shallots, shredded mint and coriander are invariable aromatic companions in a traditional Thai larp.Raw vegetables are the usual accompaniment but I found that making vessels of little gem leaves, although unorthodox, was an ideal and cool accompaniment.I had to forego the optional szechuan pepper but I still constantly craved a chilli hotness that I am ever keen on.The dish was delicious and oh so simple to prepare but at the end I felt disappointed.Perhaps this tome will remain on the bookshelf longer from now on.

Larp of Minced pork
500g pork mince
3 garlic cloves peeled
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon rendered pork fat or oil
pinch of palm sugar-optional
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 red (banana ) shallots,sliced
1 tablespoon chopped spring(green) onion
1 tablespoon coriander leaves 

5 dried long red chillies,deseeded,soaked and drained
pinch of salt
5 red shallots,peeled
5 garlic cloves,peeled
2 tablespoons chopped galangal
2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon cumin seeds roasted and ground
1 teaspoon macquem or Szechuan peppercorns,roasted and ground,optional
2 long pepper,roasted and ground
1 sheath of mace,roasted and ground
5 black peppercorns,ground
5 white peppercorns ground
First make the paste: pound the ingredients together using a pestle and mortar,gradually adding one by one,until smooth.Poach the pork mince gently in some salted water until tender-about 10 minutes-perhaps using some offcuts of galangal and lemongrass from the paste.When cool drain the meat reserving the stock.Pound the garlic with the salt.Heat rendered pork fat or oil in a pan and fry the garlic until golden.Add paste and fry until the spices are fragrant.Season with sugar,if using, and fish sauce.Add the pork and moisten with a little of the reserved poaching liquid.Simmer for abvout 5 minutes,moistening further if necessary.
Add the remaining ingredients and put in a bowl on the table with a plate of little gem leaves for people to help themselves.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

It´s all in the Olive,stay true to yourself

Writing this blog is something that gives me immense amounts of pleasure. It has unearthed something which I never realised I had in me, a way to express myself through my writing, and more important to make each recipe sound delicious enough to get a reaction in the form of a readers comment, or to be informed that they might take it a step further and recreate the recipe and best of all, that they report back after having cooked it. 

I know dear reader that it may sound selfish to say but this blog is completely self-indulgent.When I started it three years ago all I wanted was to share with others my passion for food and cooking, not only my successes but my disasters too.The idea of a book deal or film rights had never entered my head.I never saw myself as a Julie Powell.I was not even looking to write to acquire a huge following,that would have been self indugent.Now every time I blog a post it is just like giving away something something I treasure and no longer need to keep to myself. Like giving away an item of clothing or a piece of furniture,there will always be someone out there who will appreciate it. I in turn follow other blogs around the world and when I have time post comments on them.It is like returning the favour.I have however noticed a trend among many blogs recently,that they are becoming selling vehicles for products.This is for me like Jamie Oliver selling his soul to Sainsbury´s or  Heston and Delia riding on the Waitrose wagon.I have never been approached by a manufacturer or supplier and I think I would think twice before I said yes, having made sure first that they were asking me to endorse a product I had previously used with success.
I believe in staying true to my principles,my blog will never become the "new product" page of a magazine,and I certainly haven´t dropped to the status of needing food packages sent to me.If I wanted all singing all dancing I would have shouted from the rooftops and covered my blog site with sponsorship and and advertising but NO.I just want to share my ideas with kindred spirits. Certainly I flag up and encourage readers to use a certain, mostly artesan, products that I have discovered,but it is always me that came to the product not the product coming to me.I do not think I would ever consider making money from advertising on my blog.Well, its always fun to consider.But suddenly the tables have turned and people are writing about Casa Rosada.First up Thomas Cook "Departures" magazine invited me to kick off a regular feature called the Hot Plate.Every issue they ask a local nominee to promote their favourite must-try dish of the region and where to eat it.Next comes the May issue of Olive Magazine. They have selected Casa Rosada´s cookery workshop as one of four European cookery courses they are flagging up.Finally, and very timely too, Time Out lisboa have asked us if we would take part in their up and coming 2 por 1 promotion where we offer guests a two night stay for the price of one.This two for one offer, taken together with our cookery workshop, is perfect for any one who is interested in cooking and wants to save on the accomodation.So as Olive says, check in, then check out the kitchen.For further information go to Casa Rosada Workshop revisited.


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

From Russia with love.Coulibiac pillow, a dream of a dish

The salmon are running, so that must mean Coulibiac!
A coulibiac,or Koulibiac as it is sometimes spelt, is a Russian fish pie. As well as its main ingredient( which could be eel,sturgeon,sometimes chicken but more often than not salmon) it contains rice,hard boiled eggs and vegetables.This filling is encased  in a crust of either puff pastry or brioche dough,which is simply wrapped around it to form a sort of pillow shape,rather than being baked in a dish.My description sounds like one of those terrific medieval pies where every luxurious ingredient in the house was jammed into a pie crust out of spite,to get around sumptuary laws.(I must have been thinking subconsciously what a splendid dish this would make for our annual Casa Rosada medieval banquet for Dias Medievais in August). Its like nursery -rhyme meets temple of doom dining conjuring up images of Heston Blumenthal cutting the crust and four and twenty salmon flop onto the table- Now there is a cool idea.If ever  there was second series of Heston´s feasts ?
Why on earth am I making a Russian dish in the Algarve anyway you might say.I don´t know is the answer.The salmon tails in the market were so fresh and appealing, I had puff pastry in the freezer and with a bag of field mushrooms some baby spinach leaves I was well on the way to making one of the best fish pies ever invented.Not that I was expecting  guests, but this majestic dish is also perfect for entertaining as it can all be made well in advance.I remember watching the Hairy Bikers make this on their TV show and I also remember making dear Delia´s version from her "Winter Collection".This time for my revival coulibiac I improvised, taking the best of method and ingredient from both.Lo and behold it was a real joy and a change from a meat dish for the main plate of a Sunday.

Serves 6
I packet of ready-rolled fresh puff pastry
500g ( 11/4 lb ) salmon fillet tail or centre cut in half lengthways, skinned,pin bones removed
75g (3oz) butter
75g (3oz) basmati rice
225ml (8 fl oz) Fish stock
1 medium onion finely chopped
110g (4oz) mushrooms finely sliced
2 large eggs,hard boiled ( 7 minutes from simmering)cut in half length ways
1 Tbsp Chopped fresh flatleaf parsley
1 Tbsp Chopped fresh chives
100g (3½oz ) baby spinach leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
I free range egg,beaten for glazing

Melt 1 oz (25g) of the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice.When the rice is coated with the butter,add the stock and a little salt and bring it to a gentle simmer,then stir well and cover with a lid.Cook the rice for 15 minutes exactly,then take the pan off the heat,remove the lid and allow it to cool.While the rice is cooking,take a sheet of buttered foil and lay the salmon on it.Season with salt and pepper.Wrap it up loosely,pleating the foil at the top and folding the edges in to seal the package.Place it on a baking tray and pop it in the oven for just 10 minutes-the salmon needs to be only half cooked,Remove it from the oven,open the foil and allow it to cool.While the salmon and rice are cooling,melt the other 50g (2oz)of butter in a small pan and gently sweat the onion for about 10 minutes until it softens.Add the sliced mushrooms and continue cooking gently for another 5 minutes.
Now take a bowl and combine the rice mixture with the onions and mushrooms, the parsley and chives and mix well.
Cut your pastry into two rectangles the second one 5cm/2in larger than the first one.Lay half of the spinach leaves over the smaller sheet of puff pastry, leaving a 2cm/¾in gap around the edge of the pastry.Place one of the salmon fillets on top of the spinach leaves, then spread the rice mixture over the salmon. Place the second salmon fillet on top of the filling mixture to make a 'sandwich'. Cover the salmon with the remaining spinach leaves.Brush the edges of the puff pastry with beaten egg and cover the salmon filling with the second, larger, sheet of puff pastry. Seal the edges of the pastry parcel together with your fingers, trimming off any excess. Carefully transfer the salmon coulibiac to a greased baking tray. Using a knife, cut one or two small holes in the top of the salmon coulibiac, then brush all over with the remaining beaten egg. Transfer the salmon coulibiac to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden-brown.Serve in slices with a light salad of your choice.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

"Big fat portuguese wedding soup"

A traditional start to a Portuguese wedding- "Green soup" served on old  family china
I was recently grabbed by this blog post title and it inspired me to develop it further.Having last year watched the  TV series "Big Fat Gypsy Weddings" I guess I already had an inkling of what I was expecting to read. I was not far wrong. Inspired by the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", the Portuguese author was relating her experiences both as guest and staff at Portuguese weddings and the many quirky customs attached to them.It has inspired me to write about how we plan and cater weddings for international clients here at Casa Rosada .
We have not as yet catered a wedding for Portuguese clents,but we are now in discussion with a couple of wedding planners here.What we have done in the past is cater "Portuguese themed" weddings for couples who are  looking for a slightly different, less conventional and more informal wedding than they might perhaps be able to attain in other parts of Europe, and more importantly for the client, on a more affordable budget.
Portuguese wedding receptions traditionally took place in a private home but more commonly these days at a restaurant, or even worse in the sterile atmosphere of a hotel. Recently, however, there seems to have been somewhat of a revival of ancient wedding customs.
More and more couples are now opting for the romanticism and tradition of the more traditional wedding customs handed down from generation to generation.So while it is possible for a young couple to enjoy a modern wedding in Portugal, it is also becoming more and more common for weddings to incorporate some of this old-fashioned fun and values of more ancient traditions.This is what we have researched and tried to integrate into the "Casa Rosada style" wedding.Either way, there are few places in the world more steeped in tradition or more romantic in which to get married than here in Portugal.Foreign nationals can not by law get married here in Portugal unless one partner has been resident in the country for at least six months.We have found the perfect solution to this. What we suggest for non -residents is to have a registry office wedding in their own country, just for the close family, and then come to the Algarve for the wedding party with all their friends and family.Once in Portugal there needs to be a focus to the day and we suggest and organize a blessing in front of all their guests,which brings the whole celebration together.
 We have abandoned the more common "package" concept in favour of a more flexible approach to the planning, where each wedding is considered unique and tailored to the particular ideas requirements of the wedding couple.This is very Portuguese.Weddings used to be small and restricted to direct family, while others would be larger affairs where friends and relatives would all lend a hand in planning and organizing all the details of the wedding festivities.This is also something we respect and encourage in our clients.From enquiry to wedding breakfast the clients are involved with all decisions that are made.What the hosts can afford is what their guests will be served.
In a Portugal past it was the custom among many families to chose and to prepare their own food, trusting that all dishes they prepared themselves would always be the very best. Farmers and people from small villages would traditionally serve their own chickens and pigs, as well as fresh-grown tomatoes and potatoes.We always try and respect these traditions when it comes to the food we source for wedding menus.Locally sourced fish and meat and other fresh seasonal produce go to  make up a traditional Algarvian wedding menu.

Wedding receptions typically do not have a firm schedule: parties can last long into the night, and it is not unusual for the menu structure to allow for free time between courses, giving wedding guests the chance to indulge in frequent toasts to the happy couple, a chance for speeches, music, perhaps dancing and most important the chance to build up an appetite! Portuguese weddings are about the food! Portuguese wedding parties are traditionally slightly different to typical receptions.

The pre-dinner drinks hour can go on for upwards of 2 hours.Champagne is available upon arrival and a collection of tapas is served. A large volume of food is prepared, plated, and served including Milho Frito, Almondegas,Moroccan pastillas,Picadinhos de porco with Port and pimentao,Rissois de Camarao (shrimp turnovers)and of course no Portuguese wedding is complete without Pasteis de bacalhau (codfish cakes). I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. And all this food is JUST cocktail hour. I cannot tell you how many times I have needed to tell people who had never been to a Portuguese wedding reception before that this was in fact NOT a buffet dinner.The main event was yet to be served when they were seated.An abundance of food is very important for any Portuguese wedding.A selection of entradas including octopus salad,fresh goats cheese,cured Iberian meats,home made pate,tapenade and perhaps if in season panados  de sardinhas (breaded sardines).This is followed by the Casa Rosada style four course surf and turf  barbecue, including  Camarão ao Alho piri piri (garlic and chilli prawns) Frango no Churrasco piri piri( barbecued chicken with a home-made piri piri rub)Espetadas de atum (Tuna steak kebabs) and Entremeada de porco em molho picante( belly pork in a honey and tomato glaze)These platters are brought to the table, and guests can serve themselves from a healthy colourful salad bar of fresh carbs and leaves.

Later in the evening a buffet can be served with many of these same items along with some other traditional classics cheeses and fruit to see you through the night.

A big fat Portuguese wedding is not complete without a cake.We work closely with "THE" Algarvian cake designer Sara Lopes of Cake Chic Portugal who can design a bespoke cake or something more modern like cup cakes or brightly coloured macaroons.
Beyond the food, lets face the music and dance.
Portugal is renowned for its wine and the Romans used to associate the country with Bacchus, God of wine and feasts. Casa Rosada has tried and tested Portuguese wines for the last six years and whether its a Vinho Verde, an Alvarinho,a fine Douro or an Algarvian Rosé, we can find the right wines at the right price to suit the occasion and budget.

Music is an all important part of the event and throughout the afternoon and evening we can provide a live musician to greet the arrival of guests,provide suitable traditional Portuguese wedding music for the blessing and if required background music to dinner.For partying into the night a disco can be provided to suit every age and taste in music.
There are wedding venues the length and thin breadth of the Algarve,so sand and sea are never far away,but further east, almost on the Spanish border is the sleepy village town of Castro Marim.In the run up to a wedding when you need a bit of rest and relaxation you can let Casa Rosada get on with the preparations for the big day while you can  surround yourself with peace and quiet as you lay on the nearly empty sand beaches and play in the warm coastal waters.Just a short drive and you will find yourself face to beak with hundreds of bright pink Flamingos,casually eating a meal in the shallow waters of the Ria Formosa nature reserve. The hills surrounding you are almost alive with millions upon millions of bright wild flowers surrounding picture postcard farms and orchards.
So whether you are looking for the total pampering that you’ll find in a touristic beach resort, prefer the peace and serenity of Castro Marim – or a happy medium of a bit of both, then head south to the surprising and romantic East Algarve Region of Portugal.We always look forward to being set a challenge.As I said each wedding is treated as its own entity and does not follow formula.I only wish it was me that was getting married and catering my own home made wedding.

Portuguese Wedding Soup
(Caldo Verde)
(There are many regional and family variations)

3 lb fresh Chicken (whole or cut into pieces)
12 cups water
1 large chopped onion
2 large celery stalks
2 large carrots
2 cloves garlic (peeled)
3 sprigs parsley
1 tbsp salt
1 /2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1  – 1/2 cups orzo pasta (or white rice)
(1/2 tsp crushed piri piri pepper flakes optional) 

In a large stock pot, place the water, onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, salt, 2 sprigs parsley and garlic and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and let it cook on medium for 2 hours. (If desired: remove one chicken breast after 1/2 hour of cooking time, remove bones, dice the meat and reserve for later).
After 2 hours remove the chicken and vegetables. Strain the soup through a strainer to remove any scum or fats. 
Note: (Discard the chicken and vegetables since they have lost their nutrients and con not be re-used). Place the pan with the broth back on the stove and bring to a low boil. Slice remaining carrot and celery into desired small slices.Garnish with mint leaves.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Pêras Rochas escaldadas com pimenta preta e queijo da Serra da Estrela

The combination of Portuguese desert pears and a strong mature hard cheese has always been a favourite flavour pairing for me.The poached pears bring a note of sweetness to the dish, while the black pepper brings out the flavour of the cheese.
Wash this down with a glass of Moscatel de Setubal or an Amarguinha and you have the perfect finishing touch to a Spring dinner.
Peppery Poached pears with Nisa Cheese

4 Rocha Pears
10g /1/4 oz freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
10g / 1/4 oz caster sugar
1/4 cinnamon stick
250g /9oz Nisa Cheese, Pecorino or Parmesan shavings
Whole peppercorns for garnish

Peel the pears leaving the stalk intact,then core them by scooping out the base with a melon baller.Do not cut them open.
Place the pears in a large pan with the pepper,lemon juice,sugar and cinnamon.
Add enough water just to cover.Cook over a very low heat until the pears are tender-about 10 -15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the pears to cool in the liquid.
When the pears are cool,drain them,reserving the syrup and removing the cinnamon stick.
Using a sharp knife slice the pears neatly from the base up without cutting through the stalk end.
To serve, fan the pears out on a plate and serve with a little of the syrup,the cheese shavings and some peppercorns to garnish.Since developing and photographing this recipe I now serve different coloured peppercorns, red, green and black as the garnish.The choice is yours.