Friday, 31 January 2014

The last of the leftovers- Marmalade Panettone pudding

It is the end of January and my one last remnant of Christmas was still waiting to be used,a small individual panettone.With expat friends coming for lunch what better than a good old fashioned steamed pudding for lunch on a cold day.Could I make a steamed pudding without a buttery batter( our friend is intolerant of butter )well it was worth a try.The panettone stared at me with a wide-eyed gaze that said “try me and your batter dilemma will be history”.

1/2 tablespoon Marsala / Oloroso sherry or sweet Madeira
100g panettone cut into 2cm pieces
15g toasted almonds
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup lightly whipped cream
1/2 cup milk
12g light muscovado sugar
Home made Seville orange marmalade

I cut the panettone up into small 2 cm pieces and doused it with 1/2 tablespoon of Marsala wine,a rare commodity here in the Algarve,so if my experiment was not to work I would be wasting a valuable culinary asset.I left the chopped up panettone to soak up the alcohol for 30 minutes.then added 1/2 teaspoon of dried ginger powder and 15g of toasted almonds.In a separate bowl I combined one egg lightly beaten,12 g of light Muscovado sugar,1/2 cup of lightly whipped cream, 1/2 cup milk and poured this mixture over the panettone .I greased 5  x 200ml dariole moulds and the spooned a dollop of Seville orange marmalade onto the bottom of each mould.I then filled them with the panettone mix. I cut out five pieces of foil and folded a pleat through the centre of each before placing them over the puddings and securing them tightly round the moulds.I placed them in a bain-marie with water coming 1/2 way up the sides of the pudding moulds, and put then in the oven on a low heat to steam for 2 1/2  - 3 hours, checking the level of the water and topping up as needed. I let them stand for 15 minutes before turning them out onto serving plates.

So music maestro-bring on the pudding.What was the verdict?- judging by the speed with which it was consumed by our guests and the cleanness of their plates, nothing short of “master chef" spectacular.The Thespian however was not in agreement and pushed his plate aside.Myself,I have to admit it was not completely up to my expectation but certainly not a disappointment.I put it down to the time it was steaming in the oven. I have taken this into account when writing up the recipe,allowing the puddings more oven time.It could be as simple as the oven performance lacking,but then a good workman should not blame his tools.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sugar and spice and Portuguese belly pork is nice

I´ve been sitting on this one for a while.This is another of those recipes inspired by watching a television programme.As the original recipe (not of Portuguese origin) was obviously cooked in bulk for a restaurant it was probably not intended for a home interpretation,but nevertheless It aspired to being given a try.The Portuguese love a pig and every part of the beast finds its way to the table. No more so than the more fatty cuts,so fat-o-phobes look away now.If you have been to Portugal you will already know that pork will confront you at every meal, including breakfast.The recipe in question was “Roasted Pork Belly with Warm Potatoes and a Celery Radish Salad”
The idea in my mind was to give a piece of belly pork a sweet and spicy flavour. With that in mind, I rubbed it with a mixture of brown sugar, salt and Quatres-epices.
I wrapped it in cheesecloth and enclosed it in a zipper-bag (having squeezed the air out) in the fridge, allowing it to "marinate" in the rub for five days.
The spice mix quatre-épices is one of the mainstays of classic French cuisine. And no wonder, says Heston Blumenthal - "this heady blend of cinnamon, clove, black pepper and nutmeg will add a certain je ne sais quoi to any dish".I decided to abandon the celery radish salad and concentrate on the warm potatoes as my accompaniment.
The classic French spice mix quatre-épices (also found in middle eastern kitchens) has a wide range of uses (you can add it to just about everything from stews to patés), but its most important use is in the making of foie gras terrines. The four spices that make up the mix, while not totally cast in stone, are generally agreed to be cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and black pepper. Ginger and allspice sometimes find a way in, too. (This wonderfully simple spice mix should not be confused with the Chinese version, five spice, which consists of star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves and ginger, with a sixth spice, cardamom, sometimes added.)

Equal weights of:
Whole cloves
Whole black peppercorns
Whole nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks

Put all the ingredients in a coffee grinder and reduce to a powder. If you want it as fine as possible, rub through a tea strainer.
Sugar and Spice Pork Belly with a warm potato salad
serves 4

For the pork:
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup Flor de sal
1 tablespoon Quatres-epices
1.5kg pork belly,bones removed and skin left on
oil for frying

Potato Salad:
Tablespoon pork fat
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 russet potatoes, cubed and boiled
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

200ml cream
1/3 bunch fresh chives, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Dipping Glaze:(optional)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon hot sauce
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, salt and five-spice. Score the skin of the pork belly, then rub all of the spice mixture over the entire piece of pork belly. Wrap tightly in cheesecloth and seal in an zip-bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 3-5 days. Remove pork belly from bag and cheesecloth, rinse off spice mixture and dry. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and brown the pork belly on all sides. Wrap the pork belly loosely in aluminum foil and cook in an oven set at 275 F 135C for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
Once the pork belly is done, cool and set aside. Once cooled, portion the belly into 3/4-inch by 3-inch slices.
Meanwhile, heat a deep fryer to 350 degrees F.

For the potato salad: Mix together the cream,mustard and red wine vinegar and set aside.In a frying pan, start with a little pork fat. Add the shallots, potatoes, cream, mustard and red wine vinegar. Saute until warmed through. Finish with the chopped chives, salt and pepper.

For the dipping sauce (if using): Combine the soy, hot sauce and red wine vinegar.

Deep fry the pork belly portions in the hot oil until nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Remove and dip in the glaze. Serve with the potato salad

* Don't make up quatre-épices too far in advance or in a big batch, because it will lose a fair bit of its great aroma. Just as well it's so quick and easy to put together.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Alheira - a great pretender- a salsicha disfarçada

There is a Portuguese saying “peixe não puxa carroça” (fish does not pull a cart) meaning literally you cant fuel a mule on fish.Energy and sustenance according to the Portuguese can only come from meat.From a scientific point of view this is absolute bollocks,but I am always happy to go with the flow when quality meat products are at stake.
Bearing this in mind I continue my quest to learn and gain more experience of Portuguese sausages.I had two portions of
left over duck confit  and found a tasty sounding recipe for a cheats cassoulet.The recipe included smoky french garlic sausage so I dutifully searched locally for a Portuguese substitute.
Each region has a long list of specialities. The Alentejo is famous for its pork and Trás-os-Montes for its cured meats and sausages.Under guidance I purchased my first Alheira sausage...bravery beyond the call of duty...there were two varieties on offer so as an alheira virgin I went for the smaller more expensive option in the hope that quality over quantity would result in a successful choice.Alheiras are among the lightest members of the sausage family because they are traditionally made from lighter meats,such as poultry or game and plenty of seasoning, including a heck of a load of garlic.
The Alheira was invented by the Jews of Portugal, who were forced to convert to Christianity, as a way to deceive the Inquisition. Since their religion didn't allow them to eat pork, they were easily identifiable by the fact that they didn't hang sausages in their smokehouses (fumeiros in Portuguese). As a cover, they replaced pork with a large variety of other meats, such as poultry and game, which would then be mixed with bread for texture. This recipe would later spread amongst Christians, who added the ever-present pork to it.
Nowadays they tend to be fried and served with chips and a fried egg, often one of the cheapest courses in restaurant menus, but I would be a little wary and probably opt only for the more expensive varieties made with game and served in higher end establishments.
Although its name derives from the Portuguese word for garlic (alho) and was once used to describe any sausage seasoned with it, I have to say the dreaded present day Israelite "banger" did not contain the quantities of garlic i was led to expect.Nevertheless it infused my cassoulet with tremendous flavour.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Junket (cuajada,requesón) "Just not like Mama used to make it!"

Another new year is here and there is nothing better than starting  with something that makes you happy.Food  can have a great impact on our moodswings,and our mood can effect everything in our daily life.If you want to look and feel good then you need to be sure to include some of the foods that will naturally lift your spirits.One particular childhood pudding comes to mind
Junket was a love-it-or-hate-it dessert. I for one, LOVED it and miss it terribly!
Traditionally, junket was known as an invalid’s food. Children like myself were especially fond of the custard-like consistency and it was a good way to get nourishing milk into little people who had little appetites.New mothers would also make junket to feed to their babies who were being weaned off breast milk and on to cows’ milk.
We used to have our milk delivered every morning, so there was often some milk leftover which needed to be used up before new milk arrived the next day. Making junket was the perfect way to use up this extra milk.
Part of its comfort factor for me comes from the memories I associate with it; the sense of taste is closely linked to the sense of smell,and related more strongly to memory than visual stimulus or flashback,so up until this morning, I had never physically journeyed into the world of making my own junket before.It is not one for the faint hearted and certain rules need to be observed,so here I am putting in a disclaimer that there is always a possibility of failure in junket making,particularly if you are not observing these rules.
Rennet is an enzyme found in a calf’s stomach to help it digest its mother’s milk – so it’s best not to think about that as you make this delicious, healthy dessert. If you’re a regular cheese maker,you will be blessed by having a bottle of rennet in your fridge, otherwise you will have to search for it online.Health food and online suppliers all offer vegetarian varieties.
It is most important the type of milk you use.Most modern supermarket milk is full of vitamins and minerals,calcium salt and proteins and these will prove to be an obstruction to your junket making and prevent it from setting.You need a good pasteurized whole farm milk or organic milk free of these additives.It is also vital to heat the milk to exactly the right temperature,so an accurate cooking thermometer is a prerequisite.
So with those words of warning aside let’s give junket a second chance. Sadly one seldom comes across Junket especially when eating out and I think there should be a revival.
I’m jousting for junket or ‘junkit’ as I used to call it when I was a child.Maybe you’ve had it, maybe you’ve at least heard of it. Maybe you’re thinking what is he on about now?  The thing is, junket is not new. It’s old enough to be a classic. Still, the jolly joy of  junket has never lost me. Despite being a particularly popular pudding in the fifties, junket evolved over the years and began to mean many things to many different countries and many different people.The word derives from an old french word Jonquette,used to describe a curd cream cheese and also the basket in which it was made.
It seemed to disappear around the time that instant desserts such as Angel Delight were introduced. Younger mothers, mine not included, tended to use the 'new fangled' powder mixers in a packet such as “Little Miss Muffet Junket” and "Milk made"- thank god for my mother, at least true Junket survived for a few more years.
How can I describe junket? Well it looks like a cross between a thin jelly and a blancmange ( man jar branco in Brazil and Portugal) and tastes,for those of you old enough to remember,somewhat like those milk gums that came in the shape of bottles.Blancmange unlike junket is not thickened with rennet.
There is  a type of Junket called 'Damask Cream', now whether that came from the rose water that was added I can´t be sure, but rosewater is one of the many flavours that can be added to junket,and while researching junket I stumbled on an old Indian home remedy Haldi ka doodh, which translates into turmeric milk, which is just that, turmeric (haldi) with milk (doodh). A new way with junket i thought….
So without further ado I set about flavouring my junket in this way far removed from my mothers whey.Even the sight of turmeric colouring and adding a beautiful golden hue to food it touches is as healing and therapeutic. Well, I can't say the same thing about my turmeric stained wooden cooking spoons, but they have now become a part of daily cooking routines and there´s nowt much you can do about it. 

Classic Junket
My mother always made her junket in individual bowls.if you want to to make up one large quantity,which personally I think is a lot easier,you will need a 750ml bowl 
600ml Whole cows milk
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence(not extract)
1 tbsp rennet

Pour the milk and sugar into a pan and heat to 37ºC /99ºF
Stir constantly to ensure the sugar is dissolved completely,then add the vanilla and taste to check its strength.Take your temperature reading and when correct pour into a bowl.Add the rennet,stirring for no more than 3 to 5 seconds until it starts to set.Do not so much as touch the bowl again for at least 15 minutes.Now put it aside somewhere to cool until you are ready to serve it.Do not chill in the fridge as it makes junket tough.

Turmeric milk junket
Follow the method as above but add the following quantities of spice to the warm milk.Before adding the rennet strain the spiced milk until smooth.
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2-3 cardamom pods cracked and crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Seville orange cheesecake

The first hit of the citrus season
Its that time of year again-the citrus season.When all seems grey and grim that jewel in the winter crown of the Sevillian courtyard brings a dash of colour to the Iberian winter.
Finding new recipes for Seville oranges should be the theme of a competition.Having worked as an editorial designer in my other life,after three years of working on "that" title I was hard pressed to find a fresh way of presenting the annual autumn rain wear story to a captive audience, to whom aspirational ways of wearing a mac was an expectation. Luckily six years of harvesting Seville oranges in the Algarve does not concede the same resignation.
6 years of making marmalade every Spring has been taken as given.Making marmalade is a cheery thing to do on dreary winter´s day, bringing a heady scent into one´s home and  bestowing a great reward on its maker.Oh that joy that is felt when a jar of this years batch is good and ready and plonked on the table.
Marmalade however is not just for spreading on toast and each year I need to find new ways with the mass of Seville oranges and lemons that weigh down our trees in early spring.This year the madcap in me was saying how about making the sharp tang of Seville oranges shine through in a cheesecake, and use up the plethora of last years home made marmalade.I love a cheesecake I, and particularly the no cook variety.

For the base:Serves 8
You will need:
a 20cm (8in) springform tin, base lined with baking parchment
15 large digestive biscuits
85g / 3oz unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Break up the digestive biscuits  and place them into the bowl of a food processor.
Place the butter in a heavy-based pan and melt gently.
Process the biscuits in the food processor, until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Line the base of a 20cm / 9in-10in loose-based spring-form cake tin with a round of greaseproof paper. Brush the bottom of the tin with some of the melted butter and place the round of greaseproof paper in the base.
Add the remaining melted butter to the biscuit crumbs in the food processor and process again briefly.
Tip the crumbs into the bottom of the cake tin. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the crumbs from the centre outward, until smooth and level. This will form the base of the cheesecake.
Bake the cheesecake base in the oven for 10-15 minutes until it's lightly browned and just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least five minutes.

For the filling:
250g (9oz) cream cheese
100g (4oz) caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
2 oranges, zest finely grated, and juice of 1 orange
3 gelatine leaves, soaked in cold water
3 rounded tbsp Seville orange marmalade
200ml (1/3 pt or 7fl oz) double cream

Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add 50g (2oz) sugar, the egg yolks and orange zest and beat again until smooth and creamy.
Place the orange juice in a small saucepan and bring up to a boil, remove from the heat. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatine leaves, add to the hot orange juice and swirl the pan until the gelatine is dissolved. Pour onto the cream cheese mixture, beating well. Stir in the marmalade. Lightly whisk the cream to soft peaks and fold into the cream cheese mixture. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add the remaining 50g (2oz) sugar and whisk again until thick and glossy. Fold into the cream cheese mixture then pour over the biscuit base. Give a couple of sharp taps on the worktop to remove any air pockets, then smooth the surface. Chill for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. 

To serve, run a round bladed knife around the outside of the tin to release the cheesecake. Cut into slices with a hot dry knife and serve with extra orange segments if desired.

Pantry tip:If you have space in your freezer (I don´t have a chest large enough alas, and if I did I would I would be far to pushed busy wise later in the year  and would rather get this yearly, lengthy and sometimes tedious task out of the way now) and can’t be bothered to make marmalade right now, whole Seville oranges can be frozen successfully.

Other uses: Try juicing Seville oranges and using them in sauces for fatty meats like duck.The juice cuts through any greasiness in gravies and sauce.Alternatively, try reducing it with a little sugar to make a glaze that you can baste onto a duck leg or breast.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Cauliflower couscous with piccalilli vegetables

Al-Gharbian cauliflower couscous with piccalilli vegetables

Piccalilli is an English interpretation of Indian pickles, a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices; regional recipes can vary considerably. In 1758, Hannah Glasse described how "to make Paco-Lilla,(“ginger-spiced pickle”) or Indian Pickle” in the 18th century British cookbook The Art of Cookery.The more familiar form of the word appears a decade later in a book for housekeepers in a section on how "to make Indian pickle, or Piccalillo".

Move over kale,cauliflower is the new Brussels sprout so it seems.We owe this to experts, whoever they are, predicting cauliflower to be the hot vegetable of 2014.I am sure after his long campaign to give cauliflower some well earned glory,Yotam Ottolenghi will be pleased.I recently had the idea of making cauliflower couscous. “Its already been done”,said one of my close friends having seen it on the television.After researching it she was quite right.The pioneer of this smart new idea seemed to be Eric Ripert,the celebrated New York chef, whose original recipe Cauliflower “Couscous” with Market Vegetables and Argan Oil Vinaigrette has been much emulated across the blogging network.It seemed to me to be jumping on the gluten free bandwagon and lacking the wow factor.Things started looking up when I found genius UK Master Chef winner Natalie Coleman´s recipe for pan-fried sea bass on a deconstruction of cauliflower mornay.She made a cauliflower couscous and served it on a purée of cauliflower.This was certainly more inventive.My thoughts were more on the lines of piccalilli.
Cauliflower is the definitive ingredient in any piccalilli and whatever else goes in is up to the individual.I have heard of versions that include  gooseberries,mango,grapes and even melon.What I wanted to achieve was a dish that reiterated that wonderful melange of bright colours that shine at you through the glass jar of  a cracking home made piccalilli.So what I created was a "couscous" made with cauliflower, but given a bit of colour by a combination of turmeric and Ras-al-hanout.It had the visual appearance of regular couscous but the trick being the taste and flavour bore little no resemblance.To this I then brought a deconstructed piccalilli.A plate full of all the ingredients you might find in a jar of piccalilli but without them being pickled.I mixed into the couscous red and green chillies,piquillo pepper,red onion,mango, apples,orange and green capsicum and coriander.

Cauliflower is full of antioxidants and helps detox the system so a perfect choice for this time of year

For the cauliflower couscous
8oz cauliflower florets
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp Ras al hanout
1 small red onion finely diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
extra virgin olive oil

Cut the cauliflower into small florets, discard stalks. Place the florets in a food processor. Pulse until the florets become little grain like couscous.
Heat a spoon of butter and some olive oil in sauce pan on medium heat. Add the diced onion and almonds stirring  to coat for couple of minutes Add turmeric and ras al hanout, cook until the spices give off an aroma then add cauliflower couscous to pan. Mix well until all the couscous is coloured by the turmeric. Remove from the heat and add lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Serve warm or cold with the piccalilli vegetables or as a side to fish or meat.

Piccalilli vegetables
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
1 orange green and or yellow capsicum
1/4 mango diced
2 piquillo peppers
1/2 red skinned apple 

a few dried apricots halved and cut into thin wedges
small handful of coriander leaves

Finely cut the chillies and pepper into julienne strips.Peel and dice the mango.Cut the piquillo peppers into thin strips,Cut the apple into segments and then into small wedges.Halve and slice the apricots into thin wedges.Tear up some coriander leaves for garnish

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Duck carpaccio with a citrus spiced marinade

Due to the surprise success and continuing popularity of the Casa Rosada tasting menu,this year I have decided to extend the repertoire.This particular plate is not so much about the cooking but more about showcasing a dressing or marinade.I have taken some classic flavours that pair up well with duck and created an unctuous marinade with which to anoint a salad.
There are two ways you could go with this one,depending on how much of a purist you are.Carpaccio traditionally is a dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced and served mainly as an starter.If you preferred not to use raw meat take cooked duck breasts and slice them finely.If using the classic version
prepare the duck breast by removing the fat and sinew with a sharp knife. Wrap the breast in cling film and place in the freezer.
Remove the breast from the freezer when firm and semi-frozen, about 30 minutes. Using a very sharp knife, slice across the breast into thin slices and fan evenly across 4 plates. Cover each with cling film and store in the fridge until required.

Carpaccio of duck breast
with chinese leaves and rocket
dressed with a spiced citrus marinade

2 raw or cooked duck breasts (see above)

20 ml sesame oil 
20ml extra virgin olive oil 
20ml balsamic vinegar 
tsp ground ginger 
tsp cumin 
tsp liquorice 
1/2 tsp chinese 5 spice 
 tsp of Seville orange zest 
salt and freshly ground pepper 
1 mandarin,segmented and each segment sliced lengthways in half 
4 leaves of chinese cabbage large handful of rocket and/or lambs lettuce

Place the duck breast, skin side down, on a board. With a very sharp knife slice very finely and place slices in a dish.

To make the marinade: (can be made the day before) In a bowl stir the the dry spices, salt and pepper into the vinegar and oils.Grate the orange zest and add to the dressing.
Mix well and leave to marinate.
When ready to serve tear up the chinese leaves mix in a small salad bowl with the rocket and dress with the marinade.

Make a pile of dressed leaves in the centre of each serving plate and fan however many duck slices you require around the edge.
spoon or drizzle a little more of the marinade over your composed plate.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Piquillo peppers,a tale of leftovers and innovation

Last spring while combing the seed packet racks of the local garden centre  I stumbled upon piquillo peppers.I adore the smoky taste of piquillo peppers. My eyes lit up at the thought of growing my own piquillos.It would be a dream come true if it worked. I would roast them myself and conserve them in olive oil. I was already imagining serving my favourite festive Christmas starter  of tiny piquillos stuffed with tuna and mashed potato.Well, I have to confess, my piquillo dreams were dashed. Oh, I picked my peck of piquillo peppers, all right.Beautiful, small scarlet cornets with tips like little curved beaks (piquillo means beak). I learnt very quickly that the skins of fresh piquillos are like leather. Whether green or red, raw or cooked, the skins are too tough to chew. Which explains why the only way you ever find these peppers is roasted and skinned,and conserved in jars or tins.It obviously needs the artesan Navarran secret touch to do it and this I do not have.Not to be defeated by my virgin pepper harvest I picked up a few jars for the Christmas cupboard.They are always good to have in as a standby,either served hot or cold and give an extra bit of smoky flavour to a pizza topping salad or romesco sauce.
Stuffed peppers come in all shapes and sizes and piquillos are perfect for stuffing.
This  is a classic and delicious way to use up leftover rice. Of course, these stuffed peppers are so tasty you'll find yourself cooking rice just for the sake of stuffing them.
The spicy smokiness of the Piquillos is a fantastic foil for the creaminess of the risotto.

It is the marmalade making season, so another great way to use piquillo peppers is to make a marmalade.Although this does not have any Seville oranges in the recipe the lemon zest and juice gives it the citrus hit that makes it a great accompaniment to any cuts of meat,either hot or cold.

Piquillo pepper marmalade
Makes 3-4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 piquillo peppers, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan at medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and browned, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the piquillo peppers, lemon zest, lemon juice and rosemary and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add a little water if the pan gets too dry. Remove and discard the rosemary sprig. Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.