Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Arroz de mariscos-an "everywhere" dish

This is one of Portugal´s most popular one dish meals.It is found on nearly every restaurant menu. I call it the "everywhere" dish for this very reason My personal take on it uses just prawns and clams, and sometimes, if I can source them, fresh mussels. I sometimes find Galician mussels across the river in the market in Ayamonte. New Zealand green mussels can be found frozen, but I prefer to use the fresh variety when ever possible.All that new take aside, for the rest of it I stick to the tradition that is a  true Portuguese, and more specifically Algarvian, arroz de mariscos.How did I miss this one? -probably because it is so commonplace but so good too and not to be missed. So I decided it should be introduced into  the Casa Rosada cookery workshop.The flavours in this dish are prominent and pleasing yet subtle and delicate.

1 large onion diced
6 large plump cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 tomatoes peeled and roughly 
chopped handful of coriander stalks
An assortment of shellfish of your choice
3 cups Fish stock ( Home made if possible otherwise one stock cube )
1 cup malandrinho rice
large pinch of piri piri flakes
Large handful fresh coriander

First make a “refogado”,the base for your dish Saute the finely chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the tomatoes to the stew. Season with salt and piri-piri. sauté for a few minutes. Add the rice as you would a risotto stirring to coat. Add the bouillon. Over a low heat, cover the pan and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the prawns,clams or whatever shell fish you are using, simmer covered for a further 10 minutes or until the clams are open and the prawns have changed colour. Turn off the heat, add the chopped coriander. Serve

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Theme tuna to a workshop

The Casa Rosada cookery workshop continues and for the most recent workshop on Friday, in response to the candidates answers to my initial questions about skill levels and what direction they would prefer, I decided to follow a more specific theme.My chosen theme  was "A town and its tuna."Vila Real de Santo Antonio, our local town has a history related to tuna fishing.
In the second half of the 19th century Italian, Spanish and Greek immigrants opened canning factories in Vila Real.This golden age of commercial tuna fishing on the Algarve continued until the 1930’s.
At the beginning of the 1930’s the Parodi tuna processing plant in Vila Real Santo António employed modern technology to process up to 1000 tuna daily. Profits from tuna fishing were enormous even if catches were down on the previous century.
Just two factories for preseving tuna remain today, including the Conservas Damaso factory.Despite the fact that Tuna may have had its chips,a permanent exhibition pays homage to not only the people of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, but to *those who came from other places,bringing with them their technical skills,initiative and knowledge of business to further this great adventure of tuna fishing and the tuna preserving industry.I decided to incorporate a visit to this historical archive and also bring in the present day context of tuna with a visit to  Conservas Damaso warehouse, where we purchased Muxama (dry cured tuna)and saw the preservation process first hand.We prepared a carpaccio of Muxama with  a cucumber
salad and citrus balsamic reduction and from a section of the tuna loin purchased in the market we pepper seared it on a salt stone.We had more guests booked in for dinner the same night, so I decided to cook espetadas de atum for them and highlighted the marinade process as  part of the afternoon´s workshop.We returned from a tapas lunch across the river in Spain and schlepped down to the salt pans for a spotlight on the important industry of artesan salt production in Castro Marim. 
Tapas lunch in Spain
I showed them how this production still thrives on harvesting methods dating back to Roman times.We needed just one more tuna element to complete what would be our troika of tuna for our starter.Using canned tuna highlighted in our visit to the archive earlier in the morning we made a tuna pate.
Being careful not to OD on the tuna front, for our main course we prepared a pan of roasted Algarvian seafood-camarao (prawns) ameijoas( clams), burbigao ( a smaller cockle) and lulinho ( tender baby squid) roasted with potatoes and garlic, splashed with white wine and olive oil. We moorishly devoured our way through a large dish of this.

Finally I put them through their paces making a Bolo de Bolacha ( Portuguese layered biscuit cake), finished off with a mango and lime coulis and slices of fresh fig.
An enjoyable day was had by all and I look forward to creating a tailor made theme for the next workshop.

*Descendents of the foreign entrepreneurs, who established tuna fishing companies along the Algarve, can be found in the phone book, for instance under family names of Piteueu and Ramirez.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Portuguese Conspiracy, a traveller a love affair a green sardine and pasteis de nata

It all sounds very Peter Greenaway "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover", and all that. Sometimes a great decision can backfire. One of  the reasons I left England for a new life in the Algarve was to  discover all things Portuguese.When I lived in London, every year I had to fork out an air fare for my pilgrimage to Portugal. I needed to experience what this wonderful country offers in respect of food and products.All that was available back home in London  then, was, and this was if I was lucky enough to be in South Lambeth Road("Little Portugal" ), a Portuguese family restaurant and a smattering of mercearias ( grocery stores).In West London in the Portobello area there was the Portuguese bakery and a cafe where one could get a pastel de nata and a coffee, and sometimes if one was lucky a bit of tarte de almêndoas (almond tart).Suddenly times have changed and some of the best of Portugal has come to London. Even the stay at home birds can shop online from the comfort of their ergonomically designed home office chairs. They can browse the best of Portuguese products from a carefully chosen selection at The Green Sardine.
Now you no longer have to do the Lambeth Walk, you can jump on a bus or a tube to Camden Town or  hip hop down to Dalston on the off chance of the Portuguese Conspiracy popping up somewhere.

Maybe at L´atelier,where they launched back in February or perhaps where they popped up one September Sunday at The Duke of Wellington.Check their website and blog for food and where they are popping up next.
You can have a Portuguese Love affair in Columbia Road and consummate it all with an overnight stay at a smart Portuguese Boutique hotel in Bethnal Green of all places.Chef Nuno Mendes can even cook up some modern Portuguese twists for you.Weekends in London are now  pop-up a go go.
Start the day with a visit to Nata 28 at Camden Lock.Pasteis de nata are now being sold  off a Lisbon tram in Camden Lock.
A replica of Lisbon’s number 28 tram is becoming a main talking point in the UK after two budding Portuguese entrepreneurs came up with the idea to create the replica and serve traditional Portuguese coffee and Pasteis de Nata tarts from it.The ‘nata28’ mini-tram is the brainwave of Portuguese nationals Jaime Silva and Nuno Patrício, who took an Italian motorised tricycle to Leeds (UK) to have it transformed into something resembling a quaint Lisbon tram.
 A coffee machine, a glass box in which the custard Pasteis are kept warm and a till were installed in the back of the tricycle and for the past few months ‘nata28’ has been selling close to 600 of the typical Portuguese pastries every weekend.-Muito Bom!!!!!

Cut your way across London to the fringes of Shoreditch and find yet more clippings of Portugal,down the Columbia Road.The street is narrow and cobbled like the Bairro Alto but the only difference being it comes alive by day not night.The daytime atmosphere is not far removed from the night time in Bairro Alto.People sitting on the calçadas, plastic beaker in hand.
It could almost be Bairro Alto if it was night time
Portuguese traditions ,experiences and memories are all for sale. Portugal is romanticized at "A Portuguese love affair," number 142 Columbia Road in East London. Ones eyes move across the shelves and suddenly you are no longer in London,you are in Portugal.The project is the brain wave of Dina Martins and Olga Cruchinho who emigrated to London but did not want to leave their memories behind. Instead they found a great opportunity to promote what is the best of their national heritage.You are so transported to Portugal you can almost hear Fado being sung.

Portuguese Conspiracy, um «supper club» à portuguesa em Londres
A Portuguese couple, encouraged by the praise of English friends for their bacalhau com nata (cod with cream), decided to launch a gourmet supper club in London to promote Portuguese food and wines.The project launched at L´atelier Dalston on 28 February. Dubbed "The Portuguese Conspiracy" , it was created in the spirit of "supper clubs." Londoners started the trend of hosting dinners in unexpected places, with set menus, where participants end up experiencing something completely new.A maximum of 30 people,sit down to a meal consisting of a starter, two main courses and two desserts, accompanied by wines chosen especially for the occasion and with music, also on a Portuguese theme.
The hub of The new "Portugal in London" is destination east end, so why not check in for a weekend treat and base yourself at yet another venue with Portuguese connections,the Town Hall Hotel  in Bethnal Green. Thank goodness some far sighted hotelier decided to convert the disused Bethnal Green Town Hall into a hotel ,and a good one at that. The location might not strike everyone as ideal but there is no no difficulty in getting around.Viajante is the restaurant and  if you DON’T like minimalist décor, a series of small dishes, extreme reductions, partially-cooked food, odd flavours and eccentric service - you will not enjoy it here and you’ll be writing negative and confused reviews on tripadvisor but the general consensus is that Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes has brought something very special to London that should at least be sampled.

Viajante is a Michelin starred restaurant set in the urban landscape of East London.
Viajante means ‘traveller’ in Portuguese and this is reflected in its cuisine. The team have travelled the globe to bring their experiences to the table and tell stories through food. They serve an ever-changing tasting menu taking guests on a unique culinary journey.
Being Portuguese their inspiration is the sea and this has a strong influence on the food served. Viajante is one of the 2013 San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants.

Convinced of the worth of Portuguese products these pioneers hope the experience they offer will inspire their compatriots to develop ideas and invest in “a good image, good quality and good service”, “People are hungry for new experiences and that is what we wanted to bring – more than the product itself, a different experience.”

Friday, 6 September 2013

Gluten free vodka infused cherry tomatoes

Looking forward to Christmas? -I think you will be when you read this.What do you do with a glut of cherry tomatoes? Roast them,salads,jam,chutneys.Well just three words here Vodka, infused and tomatoes. Looking ahead you have the perfect base for a "Portuguese Mary" it will make you the star of the party, be it pre-Christmas or New Years day hair of the dog,and guess what,for those concerned about this issue, gluten free as well.
For those who are worried about the strength of alcohol in these little chaps not to worry. Your guests will not be getting drunk, off these at least.
The vodka gives the tomatoes a nice subtle flavour, but certainly not an overwhelming alcohol taste. If you think about it, tomatoes are made mostly of water, therefore they can’t retain much of the alcohol. Now, the rest of you who want more of a kick, blitz them in the processor with Worcester sauce, a glug of sherry or if in Portugal why not do as I do (use a glug of Madeira my dear) Tabasco and home made celery salt.
This makes a  great pressie too,
I used a lovely 250ml capacity re-cycled jar with a cork.First you prick a hole through the tomatoes using a cocktail skewer.Sterilise the glass jar in the oven. Fill it to capacity with cherry tomatoes and then fill it with vodka.Put it away and forget about it until the end 
of the year when you are desperate for a quick fix or lost for a last minute gift idea.You can make this in any volume container you require.1.5 litre tall kilner jars make stunning gifts or a whole jug of Mary.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Fig tomato and caramelised onion jam

When your garden produces a bumper crop,don´t let it go to waste. I could barely allow my addiction to figs to interfere with the preservation order that was buzzing in my ear.My task  was made even harder by the clients of one of our more recent villa catering jobs who commented on the quality of the figs."freshly picked this morning from the Casa Rosada garden" was my answer.So with an abundance of home grown succulent figs  and home grown juicy tomatoes what could a man possibly do  when there´s not much time for pittlin but turn to  Australian Womans Weekly for a recipe.Few savoury dishes won´t be improved by the addition of a spicy relish or a chutney but AWW recipes to my mind always make my meals exceptional.

Fig tomato and caramelised onion jam
 makes about 1.5 litres (6 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil 
4 medium onions (600g)  
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
1/4 cup (55g) sugar 
6 large tomatoes (1.5kg),peeled and chopped 
31/2 cups (700g) dried figs,sliced
1/2 cup (125ml) lemon juice
4 cups(88og) sugar,extra

Heat oil in a large frying pan,add onion; cook,stirring for about 15 minutes or until the onion is very soft.Add vinegar and sugar.Cook,stirring  often for about 20 minutes or until the mixture is lightly browned.
meanwhile combine the tomato with the figs in a large heavy-based saucepan. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is pulpy.
Add the onion mixture and remaining ingredients,stirring over a medium heat without bringing to the boil until the extra sugar is dissoçved.Now boil,uncovered,stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the jam sets when tested on a cold saucer.Pour the hot jam intohot sterilised jars and seal immediately. 
Store in acool dark place for about 6 months.Refrigerate after opening.