Friday, 29 November 2013

From Ribatejo to the Açores and back in the Algarve - Grelos-growing your own grub

Pork tenderloin, turnip greens migas and black eyed beans

Grelos -so beautiful, why do I think weddings?

One of the joyous things about blogging is that there are bloggers out there whose blogs you faithfully follow but know very little about the author. It is with these people that you share an inexplicable je ne sais quoi,that something in common, a mutual bond shall we say. One of these particular bloggers, Elvira, I do not know, yet I love what she expresses on her blog and the always trusted recipes she shares with us. She lives on the island of Terceira in the Açores, but she was brought up on mainland Portugal,in the north of the Ribatejo.
Her recipes always have a homely rustic quality about them that I love.They are such a joy to recreate too with very straightforward instructions that always work. I have over the last three years made many of her recipes and never been disappointed.What I love even more is that it is more than just following a recipe ,it is at the same time giving me an insight and expanding my knowledge of another regions cuisine.
The province of Ribatejo is situated right in the middle of mainland Portugal.With no coastline or border with Spain,the region is crossed by the Tagus River.It is also home to one of the most beautiful breeds of horse in the world,the famous Lusitano
It borders with Estremadura in the west and south, Beira Litoral in the north, Beira Baixa in the north east, and Alentejo in the east and south.So it is easy to see how there're so many overlaps of culture in its gastronomy.
Ribatejo’s rich gastronomy includes traditional regional dishes such as Sopa da Pedra ( Stone Soup), stews, roasted or fried goat, broad beans with chouriço, eggs in tomato sauce.
The province has a great variety of produce, which is well known for its quality and quantity. This includes corn, grapes, wine, potatoes, carrots, turnips, onions, garlic, cabbage, turnip greens, rice, wheat, tomato, runner beans, broad beans, sugar beet, melon, figs, oranges, olives and olive oil, to name but a few.When I popped in to her blog for a recent peek the  recipe I found introduced me to one of these crops, Grelos (turnip greens) Grelos are the same vegetable as the Italians know as raab, cime di rapa, rapini, etc. Ideally they are harvested when the plants have shot up and formed a tight flower cluster that looks like a miniature broccoli head.Her pedigree recipe combines the grelos with migas another very typical dish of the Ribatejo.

In the past migas would have been served up as peasant food as a means of nourishment for those whose means could not afford meat. Nowadays the dish is making appearances in some of the smartest and refined restaurants across the country, even across the globe. People of all social classes have now adopted the dish and made it fashionable as something snazzy to accompany all kinds of meat and fish dishes.I personally really loved this extremely tasty rustic speciality.So much so,it has even made me go out and buy a packet of seeds so I can grow my own Grelos.I was not however lucky enough to have found a seed packet with a recipe attached to it like this one I found on the internet.I've never seen a serving suggestion on a seed packet before but here's grelos or turnip tops with chorizo. One for later maybe?

Pork tenderloin,turnip greens migas 

and black eyed beans (English translation)
This particular dish which Elvira posted is nothing special, just good homely Portuguese peasant fare.Each tenderloin very simply cooked in Massa de pimentao again a very traditional recipe from Elvira´s homeland.
Accompanied by a few stale old crumbs that are a compromise between the delicious food of the Ribatejo and the neighboring Alentejo. A dish that is good for the soul.

serves 4 people

700 g lean pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat 
1 table spoon Massa de pimentao or other hot chili paste 
200ml dry white wine 
 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
1 bay leaf 
1 bunch chopped Grelos, turnip greens, raab, cime di rapa, spinach … 
350 g of day old rustic bread 
500 ml water 
250 ml of olive oil 
200g canned frade (black eyed beans), rinsed and drained 
handful of fresh coriander, chopped 
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Slice the pork tenderloin and place them in a deep dish. Add the chili paste white wine, half the chopped garlic cloves and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper.Cover with clear film and reserve in the refrigerator overnight.On the day of preparation, trim the greens, only saving the tips and more tender leaves.Discard the tough stalks. Pass under cold running water and drain. Cut the bread into small pieces and put it in a large bowl. Sprinkle with water and leave to soak.Drain and lightly dry the slices of meat with paper towel. Reserve the marinade. Heat 100 ml oil in a large skillet. Add the slices of meat and sear on both sides over medium heat.Add the marinade and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover with a lid. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Adjust the seasoning at the end of cooking. Meanwhile, prepare the migas. Heat the remaining oil in a pan and sauté the remaining minced garlic for 1 minute.Add the greens and saute until wilted. Squeeze as much water as you can out of the bread- and add it to the greens mixing it well. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beans and half the chopped coriander. Mix well and cook for 2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.Serve piping hot tenderloin from the pan and sprinkled with the remaining coriander. With the aid of two tablespoons mould the migas into quenelles and serve around the tenderloin pieces.Spoon some hot pan sauces around the plates. Bom apetite!!

Lombinhos de porco com migas de grelos e feijão-frade
(Elvira´s original version)
Para 4-5 pessoas
700 g de lombinhos de porco, limpos de gorduras 
1 colher (sopa) bem cheia de massa de pimentão malagueta 
200 ml de vinho branco seco 6 dentes de alho, picados finamente 
1 folha de louro 
1 molho de grelos - ou de nabiças, espinafres… 
350 g de pão rústico de véspera 
500 ml de água 
250 ml de azeite 
200 g de feijão-frade de conserva, lavado e escorrido 
2 colheres (sopa) de coentros frescos, picados 
sal & pimenta preta moída no momento
Fatiar os lombinhos de porco e colocar-los num prato fundo. Juntar a massa de malagueta, o vinho branco, metade dos dentes de alho picados e a folha de louro. Temperar com sal e pimenta.Cobrir com filme transparente e reservar no frigorífico de um dia para o outro.No dia da preparação, arranjar os grelos, guardando unicamente as pontas e as folhas mais tenras. Passar sob água fria corrente e deixar escorrer.Cortar o pão em pedaços pequenos e colocar este numa tigela grande. Regar com a água e deixar embeber.Escorrer e secar ligeiramente as fatias de carne com papel absorvente. Reservar a marinada. Aquecer 100 ml de azeite numa frigideira ampla. Adicionar as fatias de carne e alourar de ambos os lados em lume médio.Juntar a marinada e levar a ferver. Baixar o lume e cobrir com uma tampa. Deixar cozinhar em lume brando durante 20 minutos. Rectificar os temperos no final da cozedura.Entretanto, preparar as migas. Aquecer o azeite restante num tacho e saltear os alhos picados restantes durante 1 minuto.Juntar os grelos e saltear até murcharem. Adicionar o pão - sem o escorrer - e envolver muito bem. Cozinhar durante 2 minutos, mexendo sempre.Juntar o feijão-frade e metade dos coentros picados. Misturar muito bem e cozinhar por mais 2 minutos. Temperar com sal e pimenta.Servir os lombinhos bem quentes, com o molho da frigideira e polvilhados com os coentros picados restantes. Acompanhar com as migas moldadas em forma de pastéis - com o auxílio de duas colheres de sopa.

For quick cooked greens, it is extremely important to select greens with young, tender leaves.   If you start with huge, mature turnip greens, collards, or the thicker varieties of kale, they will need to cook longer. Luckily  small bunches of young, tender green are now increasingly available in our local markets.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The label said not but this hit the spot

Rolo de carne de porco

The anticipation of the impending festive season finds me on an inspired mission to clear some space in my freezer.A year of un-labelled or mis-labelled items that I don't even remember freezing was going to prove to be  this seasons fun foodie adventure."I´m a cook get me out of here." With trepidation I delved deep into frosty corners unaware of what I might find lurking in the icy depth of the bottom drawer.To be more precise, I was actually looking for a frozen pork loin that was to be our Sunday dinner.With fear of frostbite I retrieved the item I thought I was looking for.Things however do not always go according to plan. As the contents of the plastic freezer bag gradually defrosted it was becoming evident that my much anticipated pork loin was actually a large ball of pork mince.With dinner time fast approaching and two manly mouths to feed it was too late to worry now.Thinking fast on my feet, a tasty mushroom and pork stroganov scenario was rapidly becoming a Pork and sage meatloaf.So if this was the first episode of mission Ice cold in Castro, what other unidentified tupperware containers are awaiting my cold grasp in the back corners of the other two drawers.

Minced pork and sage meatloaf
From chopping board to plate in just one hour 

This very easy to make ever so tasty pork meatloaf was a great alternative way to use up left over mince. Serve it on a bed of creamy seasonal mash with some fresh greens,or with some sautéed potatoes or salad.
If you have any left over fry slices in a little butter till crispy on the outside.Slather some ketchup or relish on fresh white country bread and you have the makings of a sausage sandwich with a difference.

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins

1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1 heaped tsp dried ground sage
sprig of thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
500g/1lb 2oz pork mince
175g/6oz fresh white breadcrumbs
dash of Worcester sauce,soya sauce or molho piccante
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 medium eggs, beaten

Heat oven to 180°C and line a loaf pan with generously overlapping baking paper (using baking paper makes it easier to get the meatloaf out of the pan).Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add onion, celery and garlic with chili flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent. Cool slightly.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Press mixture into prepared pan and fold over the baking paper on all sides to cover the top
Season with salt and pepper and bake for 45 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and stand in pan for 5 minutes. Gently lift meatloaf from pan onto a board and slice. Serve immediately.

I am on a mission to empty my freezer before Christmas and unfortunately it means I am discovering frozen foods that one I didn't know I had (or frankly didn't remember - that case of out of sight, now out of mind) or unidentified things in Tupperware that I can't remember freezing and once defrosted have no ideal why I had kept them in the first place, apart from some ingrained sense of thrift. I suspect that this latter scenario is something to do with a combination of the current economic climate and being the child of people who themselves were brought up during an era of austerity and rationing. - See more at:

I am on a mission to empty my freezer before Christmas and unfortunately it means I am discovering frozen foods that one I didn't know I had (or frankly didn't remember - that case of out of sight, now out of mind) or unidentified things in Tupperware that I can't remember freezing and once defrosted have no ideal why I had kept them in the first place, apart from some ingrained sense of thrift. I suspect that this latter scenario is something to do with a combination of the current economic climate and being the child of people who themselves were brought up during an era of austerity and rationing. - See more at:
I am on a mission to empty my freezer before Christmas and unfortunately it means I am discovering frozen foods that one I didn't know I had (or frankly didn't remember - that case of out of sight, now out of mind) or unidentified things in Tupperware that I can't remember freezing and once defrosted have no ideal why I had kept them in the first place, apart from some ingrained sense of thrift. I suspect that this latter scenario is something to do with a combination of the current economic climate and being the child of people who themselves were brought up during an era of austerity and rationing. - See more at:

Monday, 25 November 2013

Pão batata doce com chouriço e bacon makes the best ever egg mayonnaise sandwich

This is the time of year when one needs to brush up on one´s baking skills.I have never professed to being a baker and will never receive any accolades in that department.I have no fear however of sailing into uncharted waters.As you all know by now by default the Portuguese sweet potato has become my vegetable of the month.I had a very specific idea in mind for my next sweet potato recipe.I trolled the length and breadth of the internet highway but could I find a recipe? Could I heck.So it was all down to writing my own recipe from scratch.My mission was to bake a loaf with bacon and chouriço using a sweet potato dough.Surprised? - I think you will be.Well I did not get off to a very promising start,bear with. My initial dough was far too wet.Potatoes carry quite a lot of moisture so I needed to redress the balance of wet to dry ingredients.My dough did not “develop” in the same way that most bread doughs do.It was essentially one part flour to one part potato.It required a  lot less kneading (that wasn´t a bad thing as far as I was concerned).About ten minutes would produce sufficient gluten for my not so little loaf to rise beautifully.Thank god for that, the first hurdle was now crossed.My loaf was starting to take shape,if a rather strange one, but “Its a long way to “tipapadaria, but my heart was right there”.Bread dough made with potatoes it seems,results in a softer crust than all-flour doughs.This meant my loaf had a longer shelf life ( another plus) - 3 days to be precise.My bread had a smooth, moist, rich interior that would do justice to most anything.It made a welcome alternative to the breakfast table served with eggs.While on the subject of eggs, it later made a couple of rounds of the best ever egg mayonnaise sandwiches

Sweet potato bread with chouriço and bacon
1 (11g) sachet of active dried yeast (fermento em po)
125 ml warm water (105ºF)
2 medium sweet potatoes,boiled in water to cover until tender,drained peeled and cooled
500g strong white bread flour
1/2 small onion chopped finely
200g cooking chouriço
125g bacon chopped
1/2tsp salt
1Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2tbsp fresh parsley
additional olive oil for bowl
additional flour for the work surface

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water.Set aside till its creamy,about 15 minutes.
Place the cooked peeled potatoes in a large mixing bowl and mash them well until smooth.Measure the mashed potato and return 11/2 cups to the bowl to use for the bread dough.Reserve any remaining for another use.Meanwhile put the onion, chouriço and bacon in frying pan and cook until the onion softens but is not coloured and the fat from the meats is giving off good juice.Set aside to cool.Add the flour salt,olive oil,garlic, parsley and cooked meat mix to the mashed potato.Begin kneading the dough in the bowl,keeping one hand clean in order to hold and turn the bowl while using the other hand to work the dough.
As soon as the mixture comes together in a rough yet cohesive mass,which will happen quite quickly,add the yeast mixture and continue kneading in the bowl.Vigorously fold the dough in from the sides of the bowl toward the centre.Rotate the bowl as you do this (Phewwwww!!!)picking up the dough and slapping it back into the bowl several times and keep on kneading vigorously until it is tender and somewhat smooth,about 10 more minutes.There is no correct way to knead by the way, just as long as you fold press and stretch your dough into a uniform shape.
Shape the dough into a large ball.Rub a large bowl all over with the olive oil and place the dough in the bowl.Turn the ball so that all surfaces are coated with oil.Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave the dough to to rise in a warm place until doubled in size for  11/4 hours.
Punch down the dough by folding the edges into the centre and turning it over so the top is once again smooth.Re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise a second time until doubled,about 45 minutes.Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.Trying not to overwork the dough,fold the edges in towards the centre again.Work in a circular motion,folding the entire rim of the dough in towards the centre several times to form a round ball with a smooth side.Spread a fairly thick layer of flour on a work surface.Place the ball of dough rough side down on the flour.Cover the loaf with a towel and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour.The dough is ready when it springs back gently in response to being lightly pressed with your index finger.Place a baking stone or pizza tray in the oven and pre-heat to 200F.With help of a flat fish slice and your hand slide the loaf onto the baking tray.Bake the loaf for 40 to 50 minutes or until it is golden brown on top and darker brown on the bottom.It should also have a hollow ring when tapped on the bottom.Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

The best ever egg mayonnaise sandwich

The fresher the eggs the better the sandwich
Makes enough egg mayo for 2 large rounds of sandwiches.

4 size 2 free-range eggs,boiled for 6 minutes
1 tbsp butter,at room temperature
celery salt
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp mayonnaise
small pinch of mild curry powder

Shell the hot eggs under a cold running tap.
Shake off the the water and put them in clean dry bowl.Add the butter,a pinch of celery salt,some freshly ground black pepper and mash everything together with a fork.Don´t over mash,it´s important that the egg mayo is chunky.Let it cool for 10 minutes or so.Then add the mayonnaise and small pinch of mild curry powder and stir together.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tempted by Jannson - Proudly made in Portugal, Batata e anchova no forno

 A snazzy new way to serve Jannson´s temptation

I was recently asked the question by one of our guests as to why Bacalhau is still so prolific in Portugal when its historically purposeful task was to provide long life nourishment in the days before refrigeration was an option. It is all due to the Vikings,who navigated the coast of Portugal to trade goods and ideas.Dragging home with them Portuguese princesses to marry danish kings, and more importantly,vast quantities of salt to preserve their cod.When the Vikings stopped coming the canny Portuguese,having no cod of their own,sailed the seas as far as Newfoundland to fish it.They took with them ,as the Vikings had taught them their fiel amigo( faithful friend) bacalhau.Nowadays cod is no longer fished by the Portuguese and therefore all cod products are imported,a great percentage coming from Norway and Iceland for salting in Portugal.Edite Vieira,in her book "The taste of Portugal",says she will only eat salt cod made in Portugal; she claims the flavour texture and colour are superior to all others.She must have a point otherwise why does it feature so prominently in their cuisine.There is even a recipe book with 365 recipes for their Fiel amigo - one for every day of the year.So there you have the answer, it is in fact keeping a nations longstanding tradition with cod fishing alive.The Vikings have produced many of my favourite potato dishes and so I decided to bring this long standing association of two culinary diverse cultures together with a bit of Scandinavian culinary skullduggery.Include a classic Portuguese staple, the anchovy, and the result is a simple recipe that I owe big time to Jansson whoever he was.Who Jansson was, we may never know, but this meal is an absolute must on a cold winter´s evening, standing alone as a supper dish or as a side dish to lamb.You might be put off by the inclusion of anchovies but dont be.

In Sweden the original with ansjovis (pickled sprats - available at Ikea) is unlikely to be served as an accompaniment to lamb which was rarely eaten in Sweden until recently, because they thought it tasted of wool!All you anchovy sceptics will be really surprised at how well the saltiness of the fish works in this dish. If the anchovies are a definite 'no', then substitute smoked salmon. It won't have the same saltiness in each bite, but the salmon can be just as delicious in its own right.This dish – originally from Sweden – is incredibly simple, but don’t rush it. It is also fantastic with freshly grated Parmesan, sprinkled over the top before you pop it in the oven.Not quite authentic but tasty.Just be prepared for some divine smells emanating from your oven, garlic and anchovies can pack a mean punch.

Batata e anchova no forno 

A simple and tasty way to jazz up a jacket potato This simple recipe transforms the humble spud into a delicious, perfect baked potato with just 5 ingredients

30g can anchovy fillets in olive oil
25g butter
2 medium onions, very finely sliced
4 medium, waxy potatoes (about 800g), thinly sliced
284ml carton double cream, made up to 300ml with milk

1 large russet, baker, or red potato per portion 
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon melted butter

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Drain the anchovies, reserving their oil. Gently heat half the butter in a saucepan and stir in the anchovy oil as it melts. Add the onions and fry over a low heat until they are very sweet – don’t let them brown. This should take a good 20 minutes. Once cooked, set aside.
Scrub your potatoes until good and clean.Using a sharp knife, make slices across the potato, being sure to stop before you reach its bottom. If you’re scared of cutting too far, a good technique is resting the potato in a wooden spoon. The spoon will actually prevent you from going too far!Next, open the potatoes’ crevices and with a teaspoon carefully insert dollops of the anchovy onion mixture into every other crevice,followed by some cream.When you have filled all the alternate crevices,mix bread crumbs together with the melted butter, then sprinkle over the top of the potatoes. 
Bake them at 400ºF/200C for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on their size. 

A more traditional plate of Jannson

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tarte de Batata Doce( Sweet potato pie ) giving thanks for a guilty pleasure

 Version 1 with home made sweet pastry crust

Not everybody is a great fan of Autumn like me, but when the afternoons draw in and the warm aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg waft through the kitchen its hard for anyone not to be a happy pumpkin. I have never quite got the point of that starchy sweet tasting tuber, the sweet potato,but since experimenting with a roasted sweet potato and chouriço soup I have not only become enamoured but it has become this month´s guilty pleasure.This week found me making two different variations on a theme of Sweet Potato Pie.I am not American and therefore will not be celebrating Thanksgiving ,but it does not stop me from sharing the sentiment of appreciating everything good that has happened during the year.
This sweet potato pie has the consistency of a very light mousse, with a taste much like pumpkin pie because of the spices.My two versions were one with a traditional sweet pastry crust and one more like a cheesecake without the crust.Both versions I topped with a syrup made from a local organic thyme honey.My own personal preference was for the latter.

Tarte de Batata Doce( Sweet potato pie )
1 quantity home made sweet pastry or 1 Package Frozen Pie Dough
2 Large orange fleshed sweet Potatoes
120gr of butter (room temperature)
2 eggs
125ml Evaporated Milk
125gr White Sugar
75gr of light Brown Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon grated nutmeg (Noz moscada)
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon Powder (canela)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract (pure) 

1 tablespoon honey
Thyme honey Mel de tomilho for making syrup topping

Wash the potatoes well. In a pan with boiling water put potatoes and cook for about 45m to 55m approximately. Remove the potatoes and let cool a little then with the tip
of your fingers remove the skin, cut into small cubes and set aside.
Line a  8inch (20cm)loose bottomed pie tin with your sweet pastry chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator and then blind bake.Alternatively follow manufacturers instructions on the packet.
Preheat the oven to 180C. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer  put the cubes of sweet potato and beat at medium speed until pureed and formed a homogeneous paste. Melt butter and add to the mix. Beat for a few more seconds, then add the brown sugar and then white sugar gradually. Add the evaporated milk and add one egg at a time, allow an interval of a few seconds between the addition of each egg. Increase the speed a little and add  the spices and honey, beat for a few minutes until get a creamy texture but a little liquid (Don´t worry it will get its consistency while it is baking in the oven).Adjust the seasoning. Pour the filling into the pie shell with a spatula and flatten slightly. 
( if you are making the version without the pie crust grease the pie tin and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment.)
Bake for around 50 minutes to 1 hour depending on the oven. 
When slightly cool melt enough thyme honey in a small pan over a medium heat and pour all over the top of the pie.Allow to cool then serve.
Bom Apetite!

  Version 2 without any crust

Friday, 15 November 2013

A deliciously achievable meal for just €1

The Observer award winning Skint Foodie would be proud of this.We all like to see savings in the price of our weekly shopping basket.A nourishing meal full of smart, fashionable ingredients for next to nothing,even better.Part of my work is the responsibility for portion control and costing the food we serve here at Casa Rosada.As proprietors we need feeding too,so I am even more aware of current market prices and how it affects the food I purchase.I really surprised myself this week when I costed out a midweek supper dish for the two of us.The unit cost was under €1 per portion.WOW. This is not only a healthy and appetising dish easily achievable at home but one worthy of any smart restaurant such as the River Cafe in London, a fashionable restaurant in Lisbon, Porto or any Italian city.I cite these countries in particular because I know the ingredients are  native and therefore readily available in these countries.The dish, I am pretty certain, originates from Italy.Whether you are up Pompeii, down yonder Yorkshire dale or just pottering around any market town in Portugal,it is so accesible. All you need is a good deli or gourmet section of any notable supermarket, a farmers market or fresh produce stall and by George, Gino, or Gonzalo you have a grande hit on your hands.If this is the quality of the proprietors supper,what can the guests expect?-leave that up to them to tell you...

Orechiette com cime di rapa (grelos,turnip tops)
serves 2
400g Grelos,cime di rapa or turnip tops,finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced
3 small dried chillis,crumbled
12 whole salted anchovies( 1 Tin)
Juice of 1 small lemon
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water as per the producers instructions.Drain and set aside. Heat the oil over a low heat in a pan large enough to incorporate all the ingredients at the end.Fry the garlic until it just begins to colour,add the chilli, followed by the anchovies and stir until the anchovies have dissolved to a paste.Throw in the Grelos and continue cooking until well wilted.Add a small amount of boiling water to release the anchovy and make a sauce.Stir and cook for 5-10 minutes,add the lemon juice.Stir in the pasta and mix well to combine.Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Christmas pickling with an age old twist

It always happens at this time of year "my dears".When the Christmas adverts come on the television I hear voices in my head telling me to start preparing for the forthcoming incumbent festivities.Well I can do better than Iceland, Morrison´s and Marks and Spencer.No more so than this year when Casa Rosada is going to find itself with almost full occupancy throughout the festive season and whats more we will be offering a special New Years eve dinner for the first time. "My dears" last weekend I responded to these voices and with a little bit of theatrical musicality I found myself In the kitchen surrounded by an abundance of glass jars,lids and preserving pans singing "You gotta pittle a bottle or two.If I had been Fagin I would have been offering orphans a roof over their head in return for picking silk handkerchiefs from the likes of rich gentlemen.I however picked the produce myself. I certainly do not expect this of our discerning customers who have paid for bed and breakfast with the option of a Portuguese Réveillon.Having artfully dodged my way round the thespians prickly pruning I brought indoors an autumnal glut of chillies and less than ripened cherry tomatoes.To supplement this, on Saturday during a market adventure I found brown onions with a certain redolence that was crying out to bring tears to my chopping board.Well "my dears" at only 39 cents per kilo how could I not lug a sack home.First off the chopping board and into the preserving pan was chilli jam, a damn good dipper for all kinds of canapé,prawns or meatballs.Next up I adapted Stephanie Alexander´s green tomato relish to suit my bucket loads of unripe cherry toms.This relish will be perfect with my home-made pork pie or in a turkey sandwich.Finally my olfactory onions hit the pan and, with a nudge of help from some cumin seeds and raw cane sugar, produced a gorgeous onion marmalade that can be slathered over mature cheese and crackers.Didn´t I do well and all in the space of one afternoon.You see "my dears" just what you can achieve if everything is at hand. I hope I will be commended for "a little something I produced earlier."And if you are still wondering about my thoroughly insincere and disingenuous use of the phrase "my dear" it was one of Fagin´s distinguishing traits. Enjoy!!!!
Chilli Jam
10 hot red chillis
800g tomatoes
4 cloves garlic peeled
300g(10 oz) caster sugar
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
In a food processor whizz the chillies,tomatoes and garlic until smooth.
Put the mixture into a medium sized pan.Stir in the sugar and vinegar.Boil rapidly for 25 minutes or until it has reached a jam like slightly then pour into sterilized jars* and seal.

Stephanie Alexander´s Green Tomato Relish(adaptation) 
1.5kg green or semi-ripe cherry tomatoes 
2 large onions 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground turmeric
100ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
100g sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour

Thinly slice the tomatoes and onions, then put all the ingredients except the cornflour
into a preserving pan.Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook, uncovered,
for 1 1/4 hours. Mix the cornflour to a cream with a little water. Remove a ladleful
of hot liquid from the pot and add to the cornflour cream.Stir, then quickly return
the mixture to the pot, giving it a good stir so that the liquid thickens evenly.
Cook for 15 minutes, then spoon into hot sterilised jars* and seal at once.
Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Onion Marmalade
8 brown onions sliced 
1tablespoon cumin seeds
1tablespoon coriander seeds
3 cups (24fl oz 9 white wine vinegar
21/2 cups (20floz) light brown cane sugar
Place the onions, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and vinegar in a saucepan over a medium-high heat. Cover and allow to simmer rapidly for 15 minutes. Add the brown sugar to the pan and cook uncovered , for 1 hour or until the onions are soft and the syrup is thick. Pour into sterilised jars* and seal immediately.
Serve the onion marmalade on sandwiches with cheese or meat.Makes 5 cups.
The marmalade can be kept sealed for up to 1 year. After opening, store in refrigerator for up to 8 weeks.

*Sterilised jars- Before putting foods into jars to be sealed and stored, the jars need to be sterilised. Sterilise the jars by by thoroughly washing in hot water. Let them dry naturally. Do not dry them with a tea towel. Place the jars on a baking tray in a preheated oven 100C (200F) for thirty minutes. Remove  jars from the oven, allow to cool, then fill and seal.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Costeletas de borrego com salata de abobobra piri piri assado ( Lamb cutlets with chilli roasted pumpkin salad)

 All the colours of an autumn palate on the plate

When I left England I thought Welsh lamb would be a hard act to follow,but the exquisite cuts of Portuguese lamb that I have been buying here need little more than a simple seasoning to bring out their best flavour.My butcher, as always, did me proud and I wanted to  showcase the freshness and quality of the meat with simple flavours and unfussed cooking.Grilled lamb chops always bring together the flavour, tenderness and texture of the meat.For me a perfectly seasoned lamb cutlet would be with rosemary and anchovy.This time I removed these two elements and used them to enhance the flavour of the supporting salad.
Not cheap I know. The price of lamb has risen to almost unaffordable prices all over Europe but at this time of year, especially with the austere measures our governments are imposing on us, a small luxury for an autumnal Sunday lunch or a pull all the stops out dinner for friends makes light of all that and transports us to a culinary arcadia.This dish is really easy in its preparation,simply delicious and displays all the colours of an autumn palate on the plate.

FOR THE MARINADE (3 hours or overnight)
3 lamb cutlets per person
Piri piri chilli flakes, cumin seeds, crushed garlic,olive oil Flor de sal, 
cracked black pepper black pepper

serves 4
400g (14oz) Butternut pumpkin,peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-3 dried red chillis
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 large juicy cloves garlic
Flor de sal and cracked black pepper
400g (14oz) can of chickpeas (grao bica) drained and rinsed
1 cup coriander leaves
1 long red chilli,thinly sliced
1 cup baby rocket leaves ( Rucola selvagem) 
Put the coriander seeds and dried chillies in a Mortar and pestle.Bash them to a rough the butternut squash in a roasting pan.Toss to coat with olive oil and then sprinkle with the chilli powder.Season with salt and pepper.Roast for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is cooked and golden.Place the pumpkin, chick peas,coriander,chilli and rocket in a bowl.When ready to serve gently toss with the dressing and transfer to serving plates.
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary chopped finely
1 teaspoon chopped anchovies
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove crushed174 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice 
Combine all the ingredients in a processor and blend until creamy

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Portuguese Roasted Sweet Potato & Chouriço Soup

Being confronted by the likes of a crate of knobbly gnarled Portuguese sweet potatoes could be daunting. For me it was a pleasant surprise that meant I needed to hit the Google button and comb my stash of cookery books to make the most of what a sweet potato can provide. Using the finest local ingredients to bring fresh new tastes to your table? I like it ! Well when a gift horse dropped by last week I didn´t look him in the mouth,I became inspired by the challenge of what seasonal goodies I could bring to the table over the coming weeks that would showcase the Portuguese batata doce.So first up a rich soft thick unctuous soup, abundant in organic ingredients.If you’re a bit tired of your favourite recipes, seasonal surprises such as this give you a chance to apply some culinary inspiration. What I came up with was a daal like soup,almost a meal in itself.A strong reminder of warm Indian spices that Vasco de Gama would have returned to Portugal with.Daal is a thick soup-like dish that is a staple in most Indian homes, and is cooked in many different ways across geographic regions.My version is more homely, more Portuguese and introduces some artesan sausage into the equation.It´s mildly spicy,tangy and does wonders when that "north wind doth blow" and when one wonders "what will poor Robin do then?" For those vegetarians amongst you I have included a vegetarian version.
Roasted sweet potato and chouriço soup
1kg (2 pounds) sweet potato peeled and cubed
I large onion chopped
3 garlic cloves
olive oil 
100g unsalted butter
thumb sized piece of ginger
1 litre good quality vegetable stock or bouillon
up to 700ml milk
salt and cayenne pepper
grating of nutmeg
tsp cinnamon
tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
pinch of piri piri flakes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup sliced chouriço

On a baking tray arrange sweet potatoes and garlic. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until potatoes are fork tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add choouriço. Saute for 5 minutes or until juices render orange from sausage. Add roasted vegetables and stir. Add dry spices and brown sugar and stir. Pull fresh herbs away from their stems and add to pan Stir and pour in the stock, bring to a gentle boil and let simmer covered on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. With a hand blender, puree soup until smooth. For a smoother soup, you might want to pass the soup through a strainer. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Changing one´s tuna

Muxama with mandarin orange toasted almonds rocket and grated butarga
Things may come and things may go but the culinarian has to work hard to hold the attention of a captive audience.How we dress our plates is just as important as how we dress ourselves."Can you judge a man by the pattern on his tie?" and all that malarky.Us cooks as culinary artists are responsible for skilfully preparing meals that are as pleasing to the palate as to the eye.We are required to have a knowledge of the science of food and an understanding of diet and nutrition.As one responsible for preparing dishes for paying guests I constantly must keep abreast of what is happening in the world of fashionable food.Customers can like a certain ingredient and return for their next visit when it is up to me to wow them with a new interpretation.With the exception of Casa Rosada signature dishes, (even these get tweeked every once in a while) how I present a dish from one season to the next requires important consideration.Muxama is a perfect example.Over the last three years I have presented the dish in more than three guises.My latest twist combines it with another type of dry cured tuna Butarga.Butarga has a unique and strong flavour and therefore needs to be used sparingly,so using the muxama as the main part I supported it with the sweetness of mandarin orange and toasted almonds finishing the dish with a dusting of grated butarga.i think this could be a strong contender for an untraditional Christmas first course.It has certainly earned its place on the Casa Rosada tasting menu.

Muxama with mandarin orange toasted almonds rocket and grated Butarga
serves 4 as a starter
Finely sliced Muxama (allow four slices per portion)
4 mandarin oranges
toasted almonds
handful of rocket leaves
block of dry cured butarga for grating

Take each mandarin orange,peel and position on a serving plate.With a sharp knife cut an incision between every two segments being careful not to cut all the way through the orange.From your block of muxama cut wafer thin slices.Wedge these slices into the incisions, scatter some rocket leaves and toasted almonds around the plate and grate some Butarga over the top.Serve.

Friday, 1 November 2013

O encontro de duas estradas,tambem a boa comida

Just one ingredient and a self seasoning salt stone

A meeting of the minds, a chance opportunity and a jolly good lunch.This week envoys from Turismo de Portugal have been visiting the Algarve. A field trip representing investment, promotion, development and the sustainability of tourism.As chance would have it they chose Castro Marim as one of the stops on their whirlwind schedule.
Portugal has a special asset that few know about: Artesan food production.But while hundreds of these producers are at risk of extinction,others survive and are on the cusp of further expansion.Many people are trying to preserve this extraordinary heritage, gambling with biodiversity.These exemplary pioneers are heroes that will not allow a lingering tradition to disapppear.
Jorge Raido is just one who has now become Castro Marim´s foremost spokesman for this trend. Turismo de Portugal were primarily here to discover more about traditional salt production, Castro Marim´s most prolific product.After the salt pan tour Jorge decided we should showcase the best of the area in the form of an informal lunch here at Casa Rosada.We were honoured to have as guest of honour and ambassador for the day Filomena Sintra, our glamorous and forward thinking new vice president of the camara ( town hall). Tuna was the focal point and round our kitchen table (extended for the day) we sat down to a starter of Muxama (dry cured tuna) and my inaugaural introduction to Butarga.Both these products are artesanally produced in Vila Real de Santo Antonio by Conservas Damaso. Butarga is the roe pouch of Atlantic bluefin tuna.It is also dried and cured in sea salt for a few weeks.Our guests tucked in to a cauldron of piping hot roast octopus and sweet potatoes ( courtesy of Noélia at Jerónimo´s) while we continued our showcase with Ventresca de atum na pedra (tuna belly cooked on the salt stone).This is the choice part of the tuna, the stomach (ventresca), which is very tender.This was also the first time the Casa Rosada kitchen has witnessed  salt stone cooking on this scale.Well our guests were all crowding round for a place in front of the cooker so they could photograph this.Having skinned the tuna and cut it into portions, at one stage we had seven salt stones sizzling on the hob.To make this possible we heated the stones on flat griddle pans and when the tuna was cooked we carefully transported the stones on cork rests to the table.
Wow, it was quite amazing and having recently had our kitchen re-arranged for a magazine photo shoot, to cater for eleven people seated close to the cooker was some kind degustational achievement,and I was quite amazed.So get you Marcus Wareing and your "Gilbert Scott Kitchen Table". Our guests did not have to stump up £900 for the experience.We ended the meal with Flor de sal caramel brownies and an almond and orange tart,and I forgot to mention the selection of Quinta de Barranco Longo wines we enjoyed along the way.Our guests left with happy memories of a lively, informal and relaxed Algarvian lunch round our kitchen table.Not only has it inspired and encouraged me as to how our cookery workshops could develop but we  made new friends and sent them on their way to their next Portuguese port of call with replete stomachs.Our great thanks to you Jorge and also to Turismo de Portugal.We hope you will return some day soon.