Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Getting the taste of tapas at home

A tapas selection
I am not one for self promotion on a blog but a new idea we have just developed here at Casa Rosada is something I am very proud of.
To taste some very tempting tapas you no longer have to check in to Casa Rosada.Casa Rosada will bring the tapas to you. Yesterday we launched our new villa rental tapas delivery and satisfied the palates of 15 eager recipients celebrating the last night of their holiday with a party on the terrace.You choose six items for just €15 (minimum 6 people) We deliver to your villa ( radius 10 kilometres of Castro Marim)If you are not holidaying or living within that radius we will consider  but don´t expect the hot items to remain warm.Tempted? I think you will be when you see whats on offer.You don´t even need to dress for the occasion, although last nights party pulled all the stops out and when we arrived with the food we were greeted at the door by glammed up  characters looking like hopefuls to play a part in South Pacific, An Officer and a Gentlemen,and more.Here is some of what they ordered.

Moroccan pastillas

sizzling pork port and pimentão

seared tuna loin
Like the sound of it? - next time it could be you.Owners or clients alike, if our menu is not already in your welcome pack pick up the phone or email us for a menu.You don´t even have to be on holiday.If you dont fancy cooking one night order out.All we require is 24 hours notice.Our mix and match tapas  dishes are perfect finished with a refreshing glass (or jug!) of our home made Sangria.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Five spice curry,a foray into the unknown

Until yesterday I never thought of curry as being a part of Chinese cuisine. Curry spices and powders are something I normally associate with Thai or Indian cuisine.
I found myself with a whole batch of left over quail that I had roasted in a five spice marinade.I had misjudged the quantity I needed and had to put my thinking cap on to capitalize on my mistake.Curry was foremost in my mind,but the quail was flavoured predominantly with the classic 5 spice mix of cinnamon cumin, nutmeg clove and star anise, not the combination of spices that would normally constitute one of my curries.The quail was already hot and spicy and did not need much more help in that area.A Chinese fusion curry? Why not.Exactly the same principals of making a curry would still apply and my meat was already pre-cooked and ready to be thrown in at the final stage. I had a very posh jar of "Melange 5 parfums Hung Liu"from the gourmet house of M.de Turenne.Their products are not cheap in times of adversity but are unique and I would strongly advise next time you're in the international food aisle of your supermarket, or "posh ingredients" section, as I call it,  take a look for their product range or check them out online.
I was fascinated by the result because the curry flavour was familiar yet very different to the curry flavours found in Indian/Sri Lankan cooking. I'm now really looking forward to taking this experiment further.Here´s how I did it.If you don´t have quail, duck or chicken would work just as well.

A spicy fragrant 5 Spice curry

500g (1lb ) quail duck or chicken

1 large garlic clove crushed
1 tbsp crushed piri piri chilli flakes
2 tbsp Chinese 5 spice powder
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp ground nut or virgin olive oil
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and rub all over your selected meat.Put in an airtight container and leave in the fridge overnight.Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F.Put the meat and marinade in aroasting tray and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.Set aside and when cool carefully shred the meat from the bones

1 medium onion chopped
large handful of coriander stalks finely chopped 

1 Tbs of crushed garlic and 1 Tbs of fresh ginger grated)
1 soup spoon of Chinese five spice powder
1/2 tsp of red chili flakes (or to taste)
1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 can (15oz) coconut milk
Heat some groundnut oil and a nub of butter in large frying pan and add the onion, coriander stalks, ginger and garlic and fry gently till softened and melded but not coloured. Stir in the five spice and mix well.cook for another minute before adding the soya sauce and then the coconut milk.Cook until the sauce starts to thicken 10 -15 minutes and then mix in the shredded meat.Cook until the meat is completely heated through then serve with basmati rice or any savoury rice of your choice( herb, lemongrass or other).

Note: Your "gravy" should thicken up on it's own, mine did. If you need to thicken up your gravy, just take 1 tbs of cornstarch to 2tbs of water and mix well then add it to the gravy and allow to boil until the gravy thickens up.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sopa silvestre - a crema de agrião

Watercress soup ( recipe below) and a watercress sandwich

Its the green gladiator wielding his sword on behalf of a healthy immune system.If you want strong bones, bags of energy and a better ability to see in the dark,( why on earth would you!!!)this is what you need.This plant is delicious and packed with vitamins and minerals.It's available free for the gathering in almost every inhabited and many uninhabited parts of the world . . . .and what´s more  you can turn a summer hike into a "go green" shopping expedition with other bushels of free food for the gathering along the way.
The rather amazing wild food I'm talking about is watercress (Nasturtium officinale). And unless a friend has pointed it out to you, you could well have walked right past bushels of the "weed" on any tramp through the woods that took you along a stream, spring, small lake,tributary or other body of water.
Many years ago I stumbled upon watercress quite by accident while out on a river excursion along the River Stour in Suffolk. A childhood memory  of gathering from a small rowing boat, wild watercress growing along the banks of the River Stour in Suffolk,where this pungent member of the mustard family grows abundantly.To think that we could have have overlooked a small fortune (at supermarket prices) of the cress,and possibility of preserving a strong memory and taste that is still with me today. It is certainly reassuring that in these times of agroculture that one can still gather nutritious greens from hedgerow and stream.
As Euell Gibbons always said, "You don't need to learn about all the plants you don't want to forage. Just know—really know—the few you do want to harvest from the wilds."
In the case of watercress, you'll be looking for a floating and/or creeping plant with leaves made up of three to five oval-shaped leaflets. This cress can grow to be quite "leggy" and tall and, in the spring, exhibits clusters of small, white, four-petaled flowers.
Never pull up the whole plant when you're harvesting watercress (it's just a waste of time since the stem below water is tough and bitter). Instead, twist or pinch the plant's foliage off at the water's surface. You should have no trouble gathering a basketful in just a few minutes, since the cress tends to grow quite profusely anywhere it gets a start.
The process of growing watercress depends on much pure water,no longer just from natural springs but from deep boreholes and a constant washing of the watercress.
When foraging for wild watercress beware of where you’re looking: the water quality of the water in which it grows is important for fear of Fasciola Hepatica.Also called the “common liver fluke,” the Fasciola Hepatica is a parasite known to wreak more havoc on livers than a whiskey-fueled bender. They cause damage to ruminants and humans that eat wild watercress where juvenile flukes reside.
This shouldn’t however deter a gourmand from enjoying their exotic flavour.As I´ve discovered while shopping in the Algarve it’s much spicier than any cultivated variety. Foraging watercress requires a little gumshoe detective work. Investigate upstream. If you find livestock, farms, or housing developments, try elsewhere.
The more usual method of buying watercress is by the bunch.All bunches should be labelled,a guarantee of quality.In the old days they were packed in chip baskets; now cardboard does the job more efficiently if less attractively.Vacuum packed watercress comes expensive,but there is no waste and it will keep in the salad drawer of the refrigerator in good condition for a week.
How much should one eat?- Eat watercress daily if you can. In some regions it's more widely available during the spring and summer when it's cultivated outdoors. But since it can also be grown hydroponically in greenhouses, you can find it year-round in many grocery stores and at your local farmer's market.
Cream of watercress soup
Watercress makes one of the best of all soups,whether you make it with potatoes or as a cream soup.My version uses no potato.
300g (10oz)watercress
1 medium onion chopped
60g (2oz) butter
1 heaped tablespoon flour
1 litre (2 pints) light chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
250ml (8fl oz) whipping cream or thick yoghurt
Separate the leaves of the watercress from their stalks and set the leaves aside. Chop the stalks finely and and cook with the onion and butter for about five minutes till softened but not coloured.Stir in the flour and cook for another couple of minutes.Gradually add the stock and seasoning.Simmer for half an hour the allow to cool before blending.When cool pour the soup into the blender and add the reserved watercress leaves.Blend until very smooth.return the soup to the pan and re-heat gently.Judge the consistency and add more water if you like,bearing in mind you are going to add the cream*.Beat the cream or the yoghurt or a half and half mixture and pour into the soup.Stir for a couple of minutes over a low heat and correct the seasoning.

Chilled watercress soup
The soup can be chilled.Follow the recipe up to the asterisk,keeping it on the liquid side as it will thicken as it cools.When chilled add the cream and/or yoghurt 

Other watercress tips
  • You can cook it, but watercress is better for you when you eat it raw. Tuck it into a sandwich in place of lettuce.This is the best of all watercress dishes.Nothing can challenge the perfect combination of good bread,salty butter and peppery crisp watercress.Make sure you use plenty of watercress so that is bursting cheerfully out all over.
  • Toss it with your favourite vegetables and eat it in a salad,with walnuts and Portuguese pears.Dress it with a roquefort or any other creamy blue cheese dressing.Dress it with a walnut oil or the uber fashionable Argan oil.
  • Watercress is great in pesto -- just replace the basil with watercress -- and soups.
  • Use watercress as a wonderfully detoxifying ingredient in a juice or smoothie.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Apricot and almond tart - natures way of saying thank you

Sometimes nature needs a little help.Here in the garden at Casa Rosada we use no plant foods or pesticides on the fruit trees and garden produce that we grow.What is served to our guests is 100% bio and untreated.Last year we lost all our soft fruit to a bug.All the fruit was diseased inside before it even ripened on the trees.With much research and visits to  garden centres for natural products that would stop this recurring, no solution was forthcoming.The only option was for systemic treatments that would infiltrate the trees from the soil up and at the same time anihilate the worker bee population.This was a totally unacceptable solution.

And then when we had almost given up, a visit to a French DIY superstore came up trumps with a totally natural answer in the form of an armadilha ( insecticide free hanging basket) you put in the trees when the first blossom becomes evident, around April.Hey ho this worked I have already picked 2.5 kilos of luscious apricots (see above).
Smoothies, coulis, Trifle and tarts are now all on the agenda.Yes tarts.Just in case you are still wondering the difference between a tart and a pie is simple enough.A pie has pastry on top and not necessarily underneath while a tart has a pastry base and no cover.The other difference is in  the pastry.In general,pies have a robust short crust that supports their heavier structure.A tart on the other hand is encased in a lighter,somtimes more brittle,sweet paste that is a negligée to the pie´s pyjamas.I adore a good fruit tart.We haven´t always been so prejudiced against tarts, be they girls or pastries.Tart used to be a term of endearment for a girl in her Sunday best-probably a truncation of "sweetheart" ( drop the
"h" and say it quickly)-and had no derogatory inference until the end of the 19th century.And in cooking,tarts were once made of of every conceivable ingredient,both sweet and savoury,and signified any uncovered pastry dish.Tarts that are filled before cooking are a simple proposition,as the filling supports the sides.The only worry is that the base takes longer to cook.Bear with it is the best route to take for a fruity tart.Like all the best dishes,the principle behind a good tart is simplicity itself. Just bake a pastry shell,then add the fruit filling of your choice.So without further ado here is one of my favourites from the Book of Old Tarts.

Apricot and almond tart
Sweet lining pastry
This should be enough to make two large 32cm round tarts.
What you do not use will keep very well in the refrigerator
500g flour
250g unsalted butter
200g sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor,or in a bowl with a wooden spoon.When they are smooth,incorporate the beaten eggs to form a wet paste.Sieve the flour and add it to the mixture,folding it in gently without working the dough.Roll the dough into a thick log about 12cm in diameter,and refrigerate until you need it.
Almond cream
125g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
125g ground almonds
20g flour
1 tablespoon amaretto (optional)
Cream the butter and sugar together,add the eggs and,if you have it ,the rum,and stir to a smooth paste.Fold in the almonds,and mix into asmooth dough.Sieve in the flour and stir in gently.
For the fruit filling
1 tart case (as above)
200ml almond cream
250g fresh apricots
3 tbsp clear apricot jam
Make the tart case but do not cook it.fill it with a 1/2 cm layer of almond cream (see above). The cream will expand threefold during cooking,so don´t spread it any thicker.Halve and stone the apricots,and place them skin side down on the cream.Bake the tart in a medium hot oven (400F/200C/gas mark 6) for 25 minutes.Turn the heat down to 350F/180C/gas mark 4 and cook for a further 20 minutes more,Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool,dissolve the jam in a tablespoon of warm water,then paint it over the tart to give it a glaze.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

June is bustin´ out all over

The temperature´s rising here in good old Al Gharb and that means summer and some small changes in lifestyle that help us adapt better to the summer heat. Fresh and nutritious soft fruit is abundant.I don’t care what fashion experts say, even the most forgiving swimsuit leaves many body flaws on display. Whether you want to minimize one-piece pooch, tone a bikini-worthy tummy, or trade your beer gut for washboard abs,summer fruits are the answer.If June is busting out all over  you most certainly don´t want to be June.
In the market we can find not only the usual kinds of fruit that are present all year, but already in June delicious summer fruits begin to appear. Apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, paraguayos, melons, pineapples, strawberries… they all are exquisite and have something in common: they are healthy, nourishing,colourful,juicy and not fattening.Here in Portugal strawberries are now coming to an end but not to worry, they are all put to bed as ice cream in my freezer,ready for a mid-summer treat.For those in Northern europe or across the pond where strawberries appear later, seek out unblemished berries with a bright-red colour extending to the stem, and with a strong fruity smell. They should be neither hard nor mushy. Ideal storage: Place unwashed berries in a single layer on a paper towel in a covered container in your refrigerator.
Although available all year-round, pineapple with its potent mix of vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes (in particular, bromelain) is an all-body anti-inflammation cocktail. It also protects against gout, colon cancer, arthritis, and macular degeneration. If only the "colada" part of the equation were as healthy.Casa Rosada´s healthy way to kick start the day is to combine pineapple in a variety of combos using melons, apricots, ginger, limes or celery in a breakfast smoothie.
Pears aren't usually spoken about with the same nutritional "ooos" and "ahhhs" as apples, which are rightfully regarded as a superfood,but both are great for thickening up a smoothie. One word of warning, being pretty as a peach comes at a price. The fruit is often doused with pesticides in the weeks prior to harvest to ensure blemish-free skin. By the time it arrives in your supermarket's produce department, the typical peach can be coated with up to nine different pesticides, according to research. So if shopping at the  supermarket fill your  produce bag with peaches that wear an "Organic" or bio sticker.Better still, Farmers markets are probably a safer option.
Good news though Apricots, nectarines and peaches all weigh in at the lower end of the calorie table.All of them below 50 calories per 100g serving. So June is when you should be getting your head round your summer hols.Mix and match your summer fruits carefully and you will soon be slimming down into shorts and swimsuit.You don´t want to be bustin´out all over like June.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Sardinhas e Santos Populares

2013 winner, Alberto Faria, 46 years, Portuguese
The Santos Populares( Festival of Popular Saints )is one of the most awaited traditional events in Lisbon.When it comes to June, sardines and saints have now become synonymous.
On the feast day of St Anthony, patron saint of the Portuguese capital,the city goes sardine crazy. The winding streets and steep staircases in Alfama, the city’s oldest quarter, fill with the smoky smell of sardines being grilled outside little houses and restaurants.
Even by the standards of a coastal country where the population lives on fish dishes, the grilled treats consumed in honour of Anthony of Padua are a must try taste sensation.

There is a parade along Avenida de Liberdade and balconies everywhere are draped with coloured lights, streamers and paper lanterns. And the quirky practices don’t end with sardines. Single girls carry out all sorts of rituals to implore Anthony, known as the matchmaker saint, to help them find a worthy husband. The girl might fill her mouth with water until she hears a man’s name mentioned, or write her suitors’ names on pieces of paper, roll them up and place them in a bowl of water under her bed. In the morning, the piece of paper that has unfurled the most indicates the lucky man.
If girls are really sick of being single, they stand a small statue of Anthony upside down and bury its head, returning it to its proper position only when the hard-working saint has placed their case at the top of his long list of lonely hearts. Men, meanwhile, present the Portuguese apple of their eye
with a manjerico ( basil ) plant containing a love poem. This is a popular practice, and balconies across the city sport pot plants and paper carnations with messages of affection for Anthony or the recipient.Legend says that St Anthony gave dowries to poor girls so they could get married. Based on this legend, many others were invented. This one has to be my favourite … There was a girl who was tired of praying for the man of her life without success. One day she decided to throw the saint’s image through the window and hit a man who was passing on the street. At that moment they both fell in love and lived happily ever after. Truth or myth, this surely is a lovely story.Lovelorn ladies still to this day have even been known to toss these pots or even staues of Saint Anthony out of upstairs windows at the risk of injuring passers by
Despite its name, which might suggest ample religious implications, the festival organisers host a competition to design a graphic image of a sardine.Now in its 3rd year it has drawn a great response from all across the spectrum.People, of all ages, Portuguese and foreign residents and non-residents in Portugal, singularly or collectively may submit one to three sardine  images in this initiative promoted by EGEAC with the aim of encouraging the participation of everybody in the festivals which take place in June.Proposals may be made “in any manual or digital technique. ” It is mandatory that the silhouette is easily recognizable as a sardine. Each winner receives 1000 Euros, and the ten winning images will be displayed around the city throughout the summer.
Last year, the winning sardine (above) was designed by a group of friends, who call themselves Matilha Cycle Crew, “passionate about going through the traffic and always arriving first,”. They competed with three sardines inspired by cycling and Lisbon, and one one them pedalled their way to victory.

2013 winner,Yuichi Fukuda, 34 years, Japonese

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Windfalls and a natural cleaning agent

The 2013 marmalade has all been made,sorbets have been frozen, chutney has been bottled, Marmaduke Scarlet´s orange cake has been made nearly every weekend since February, and now we are throwing out windfall Seville oranges by the bucket load. I have been racking my brain for ideas to make use of these poor unwanted fruits,then along came Pinterest,always at the forefront of top tips for house and garden.I have for a long time been curious about what other household uses, other than culinary, vinegar might have.In fact I have found so many that I think there might be a book in the making (been done). Well anyway here is the top tip from my collection.- Orange peels, vinegar in a 2 pint jar, let sit for 10 days or so...strain out the liquid and use as an all-purpose cleaner. Easy, cheap, natural,and smells good!
Forget Cillit Bang forget Mr muscle, Cif, Harpic. Vinegar by itself is a great natural cleaner, but adding the oil from the peels adds additional cleaning power and gives it a subtle citrus fragrance.
All you need to make your own bio cleaner is a few leftover citrus peels from oranges (or clementines), distilled white wine vinegar, and a little water. Simply fill up an airtight container with the peels, cover them with white wine vinegar, and wait two weeks. After that, you can strain out the peels, dilute the mixture with water, and decant it into a spray bottle.
And if you want to vary your household aroma try lemons, grapefruit or lime peel. Happy toxic-free cleaning!!!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Corvina no churrasco-from river to table in 30 minutes

Fish of the day-literally
On Friday we were sitting in our favourite restaurant,Dom Petisco, waiting for the waiter to take our order, staring across the river to Spain as one does on a sunny spring day.Something caught our eye on the beach below.A fisherman moored his boat and hiked an enormous fish out onto the sand.It was not long before the fish had been taken around the back of the restaurant and a price had been agreed with Pedro the manager. If I was not mistaken the fish I had just seen was a Corvina, my favourite fish.Sure enough it was. A Corvina can weigh in at anything up to 45 kilos and is then portioned into steaks. A moment later the empregado (waiter) was at our table announcing that he had a very fresh fish (Corvina) weighing 10 kilos that had just been brought in if any one would like to so order.Having just witnessed the event four of us chose accordingly and he tootled off to the kitchen to inform Pedro of the good news.
I mean how can one resist ordering a fish whose provenance has just unfolded before your very eyes.Well 30 minutes later conversation lulled as the four of us tucked in to one of the tastiest plates of fish ever tasted.From river to table in under an hour since it was caught,you can´t get much fresher than that.

From river to plate -a thoroughly delicious lunch

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Leek, goats cheese and tapenade tart

You know how sometimes you try to recreate a restaurant classic at home and it doesn't work? This isn't one of those times.This is quick, reliable, easy and fabulous with a great mediterranean flavour.This yummy leek tart recipe features goat cheese and tapenade.I used a traditional black olive tapenade but I am sure green olive tapenade would work equally well.You could serve it cut into small squares as an appetizer, sliced as an entree, or take it on your next picnic.It is just as tasty hot or cold,in fact I think my preference was when I ate it as a slice of cold left over. Tapenade is a popular spread that originates from Provence. It is main ingredient is olives, with capers and other ingredients. You should be able to find a good quality jarred tapenade, or try my home made version if you are feeling a little more ambitious.

Leek Tart with Olive Tapenade
(Tarte aux Poireaux et Tapenade)
Preparation time: 30 minutes 
Baking time: 25 min
Makes 6 servings
1 packet commercial puff pastry
4 to 5 leeks (if they are large you many need fewer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper
1/3 cup white wine
1 small (31/2 ounce) jar of tapenade
1 "log" of fresh goat cheese 225g (about 8 ounces), cut in 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 egg yolk beaten for glaze

200g (6oz) black olives,pitted
125g (4oz) anchovies
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Mix all together in a processor,adjusting the quantity of olive oil until the desired consistency achieved.

Roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle double the size of the baking sheet you intend to use.Divide the rectangle into two equally sized pieces.
Roll up the sides slightly and prick the bottom in a dozen places with a fork.
Meanwhile, cut the roots and the greens off of the leeks. Slice the white part in 1/4 inch rounds. Steam or boil them for 5 minutes (you can do this in the microwave if you wish).
Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the leeks, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer just until the wine evaporates.
To construct the tart: lay one of the pastry sheets on a baking tray and spread the tapenade all over it. Cover with the leeks and then evenly with the goat cheese.Fold the second sheet of pastry in half lengthways and with a sharp knife cut evenly spaced slits across the sheet up to 2.5cms in from the fold.Unfold the sheet and carefully place it over the top of the leek mixture.Brush with the egg glaze.
Bake for 25 minutes at 200C or until the cheese has melted and the pastry has started to brown on top.