Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Somewhere beyond the sea

We all have, "shall we call it an item" without which we cannot leave home. It may be a cellphone, an iPod, or for some who cant live without it, a vanity bag. From now on, for me in the summer months at least, my guilty pleasure is going to be a grammatically-challenged portable Portuguese condiment. Flor de sal. Fascinated?- I think you will be.Why would you carry your own salt and pepper around? For picnics, impromptu sandwiches made on the beach and, perhaps most importantly, as a quick-fix for poorly seasoned batatas fritas delivered to your terrace-table by a fast-disappearing waiter,or a quality alternative to the refined table salt usually found on the tables of unknowing establishments. Looking  for a better quality of life many people have now switched from refined salt to Flor de sal.Fast food from take aways can be a hit or miss,  especially when there's not enough spices to suit your taste. That's why discerning eaters need to arm themselves with portable salt that you can keep in your pocket.I may sound hypocritical here introducing fast food into the equation, when in my other breath I am talking better quality of life, but it is a good example of where food is often not seasoned properly.
Big Mac too bland? Put a little salt on it.Amp up your taste buds with a dash of piquant red chilli Flor de sal. Sprinkle it on your BLT, cod, onion rings,french fries or whatever else you decide to sink your fangs into. What the heck,throw caution to the waves it came from and put a dash in your hot chocolate or coffee if sugar and milk are too conventional for your sophisticated palate.
Despite weighing less than two ounces ( EU requirement) when empty these fun little test tubes are the perfect vessel to pop in your poche before checking in for the long haul.Once on board and fellow passengers see you sprinkling a test tube of green aromatic (parsley and oregano) Flor de sal, tongues will be wagging and and you´ll be the talk of the town,the one you are heading for most likely.
Before boarding you may well be asked by security to demonstrate that the salt is really what you say it is by holding samples on your tongue.White crystals/powders understandably attract concerns. Each tube only weighs 7g and the allowance is 100ml for liquids pastes and gels but if you put your test tubes in the requisite litre capacity transparent bag and are up front with your security officer it should be Ok. I challenge you be the first to try,why dont you.
This is truly madly new wave Portugal. I love it, and you too will blossom once you have portable sea salt in your pochette.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Um coelho Portugues, três pratos diferentes,mais barato do que o preço de um frango

 Putting aside any notions that we somehow destroyed Easter by dining on its tasty mascot, we sacrificed the traditional lamb in favour of rabbit.Rabbit does not seem to be as popular as it once was.This is a shame and I think its critics are missing a trick here. It is a healthy and flavourful meat but many people are concerned about the ethical issue and sustainability element and are therefore revolted by the thought of eating bunny meat.Much in the colouring and texture of its meat resembles chicken, as does its size and general anatomy, but to say that rabbit tastes like chicken would be a gross injustice to rabbit's strong, rich flavour. Certainly there are similarities—it's like saying turkey tastes like chicken—but at the end of the day (around dinner time) rabbit tastes like rabbit.One of the guiding factors in our choice was that you get a lot more for your money.Lamb has become a precious commodity and a luxury one can not always stretch to.With rabbit a little goes a long way, and I manged to get 3 separate recipes from one creature for less than the price of a free range chicken.

Lapin moutarde a la creme
Serves six.
1 tbsp olive oil
250g piece salt pork, pancetta or bacon, cut into chunky cubes
2 wild rabbits, skinned and jointed
1 large onion, peeled and thickly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
500ml dry or medium-dry cider
1 generous tsp honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200ml double cream
3 tbsp grainy mustard
Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Gently fry the bacon until lightly browned, then transfer to a large casserole. Brown the rabbit in the same pan in batches, transferring to the casserole as they are done. Sweat the onion in the same pan until soft and translucent, but not coloured, and add to the casserole.
Add the carrots, celery, bay leaves and thyme (if using) to the pot. Push everything around so it's fairly tightly packed, then add the cider; top up with water, if necessary, to cover the meat, then add the honey and season. Bring to a simmer and cook at a very low, tremulous simmer for an hour and a quarter, until the meat is tender but not too flaky (older, tougher animals will take longer).
Transfer the rabbit pieces to a bowl, cover and keep warm while you make the sauce. Strain the stock (keeping what you have discarded for another sauce later)– I do this first through a colander, then through muslin or a cotton cloth, to get it beautifully clear. In a clean pan, boil the strained stock hard until reduced to a scant 200ml, then whisk in the cream and mustard, and boil for a few minutes more, until thick and glossy. Taste, and adjust with salt, pepper and more mustard. Reheat the rabbit in the sauce, turning to coat the pieces. Serve with mashed potato and any spare sauce spooned over.

TIMING TIP: Once you have strained the stock,allow at least twenty minutes for the reduction process,so if you are preparing this for guests you need to take this extra timing into account.

Regarding left overs, my preference is to turn any left over rabbit into a thick, meaty sauce perfect on fresh pasta.The best and most traditional pasta served with the rabbit meat sauce  is pappardelle. Thick, wide ribbons just perfect for holding the chunky sauce.
Rabbit sauce is rich, thick and heavy with warming .It also requires a good red wine, and if you have it,the Portuguese Assobio makes a good pairing.

This recipe is one I adapted from a trip to Tuscany back in 1979. Drawn by the avant garde appeal of its corrugated cardboard cover I bought one of my first cookery books from a bookseller in the back streets of Florence.It is a limited edition with beautiful illustrations and recipes printed on re-cycled paper,very alternative and I have always treasured it.For any one interested in sourcing a copy it is now selling on sites like ebay for around €100.
I have no idea of the origin of the original recipe, but this is my adaptation of it. Enjoy.
Pappardelle with rabbit sauce
1 quantity of cooked left over rabbit,de-boned and shredded

the left over vegetables;carrots etc,strained from the above recipe
1 small carton of tomato passata
a little milk to thin the sauce. 

Discard half the quantity of cooked carrot and reheat the rest of the vegetables with the tomato passata in a pan.Stir in the shredded meat and warm through.When heated through, transfer the contents of the pan to a processor and whizz until you have a thick creamy paste.Return this mixture to the pan and slowly stir in some milk bit by bit until you have the consistency of a rich creamy sauce.Eh voila stir it through some cooked pappardelle.Pour yourself a generous glass of vinho tinto and enjoy 

Rabbit liver pate  
200g rabbit liver (trimmed and cut into chunks)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion (very finely diced)
1 clove garlic (finely diced)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (very finely chopped)
1 teaspoon parsley (finely chopped)
generous splash fino sherry
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons cream (whipped to peaks)

Melt the butter in a small pan until bubbling. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently fot 5 minutes until golden brown and soft. Add the liver and cook for 2 minutes before adding the sherry, parsley, thyme salt & pepper stir for 1 minute then remove from the heat and leave for 2 minutes.
Place in a food processor and blend for a few minutes until the pâté is smooth.
Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then gently fold in the whipped cream. Spoon into a ramekin and smooth out. Cover with some plastic wrap or if you’re feeling fancy – melt 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a saucepan and pour over the pâté to form a protective skin.
You can’t beat a pate with some crunchy oven toasted bread – or even just crusty fresh bread.
if you want to go Rabbit overboard all three recipes served together would make a sumptuous leporidelicious themed dinner.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Em espera ordens do juiz da partida - Under starters orders

White bean purée with horseradish fava beans and rocket
Before we get caught up in the whirlwind that is "the season" I need to get myself focussed on this years new dinner menus.There´s hurly and there´s burly but just like Mary Brazzle, one´s system must always be in equilibrium and ready for any challenge that may face us.Perhaps a vegetarian in the house, a coeliac or a vegan.There´s always the chance that the lady in room 2 is not comfortable with butter, or the young man in room 3 has a nut allergy,which means his partner can not have granola topping on their breakfast either to avoid the incidence of transferrence when kissing. Whatever the requirement, one must always be ready for every surprise that is thrown at one. Its only Easter but I have a month to get myself prepared and all dishes tried and tested.First in the starting blocks is a vintage runner who has been around the track as many times as I´ve had hot dinners.Yes its Aubergine Parmigiana.This Italian classic is always favourite of mine when dining a l`Italien.My favoured recipe for home cooking has always been Marcella Hazan´s.Normally served as a main course it can sometimes be a little overwhelming in its richness so i decided to make individual portions in small ramekins as 
an appetizer.

 Aubergine parmigiana
from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Serves 6

1.5 kg(3lbs) pounds aubergine
Coarse Flor de sal
vegetable oil
flour, for dredging
500g(18oz) can of San Marzano whole tomatoes,coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
300g(11oz) fresh buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
8 - 10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
50g( 2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Remove the stems from the aubergine and slice into thin rounds {about 1/4" thick}. Line the inside of a colander with one layer of sliced eggplant and sprinkle with kosher salt. Lay the next layer on top of the first and sprinkle with more salt. Continue this process until all the eggplant is salted. Prop the colander over a bowl and let drain for at least 30 minutes. Pat the eggplant dry before proceeding. (If you go a little overboard with the salt, you can also rinse the salt off and pat dry.)
2. Pour enough oil in a large skillet to fill to a depth of 1". Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Dredge the aubergines in the flour shaking off any excess. Continue this process, cooking the eggplant in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel lined platter.
3.Put the tomatoes and olive oil in another skillet,turn the heat to medium-high,add salt,stir and cook the tomato down until it has reduced by half.
4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Grease a baking dish or individual ramekins. Line the bottom of the dish or ramekins with a single layer of eggplant slices. Spread some of the cooked tomato over the eggplant, followed by a layer of mozzarella and a bit of the basil. Repeat the process, ending with a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and place the dish or ramekins in the upper third of the pre-heated oven. Check after it has been in the oven for 20 minutes by pressing down the layered aubergine with the back of a spoon,and draw off any excess liquid.Cook for a further 15 minutes,and after taking it out allow it to settle for several minutes before serving.
Make ahead: This dish can be made several days in advance and stored, covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Next up a new kid on the block,fresh and spectacular on the spectators plate.I am hoping that white bean purée with horseradish, Serrano ham and fava beans will be a hot contender for a place among the new starters.

White bean purée with horseradish 

fava beans and rocket (above)
The quantity of white bean purée will leave you with a fair amount left over that can be kept in the refrigerator for serving later.

260g (drained weight ) can of cannel ini beans
2 heaped teaspoons horseradish cream
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 slice of Presunto Serrano,Prosciutto or any cured ham per serving
1 handful of rocket per serving
1 slice of toasted rustic artesian bread per serving
50g  broad beans,podded cooked and shelled

Whizz beans in the processor with the horseradish,extra virgin olive oil and the juice and zest of a lime.Fry the Presunto Serrano ham in a dry pan over allow heat until starting to crispen up. Place a handful of rocket on each slice of toast.top with a generous portion of white bean purée.Place your slice of crispy ham on the top and scatter shelled and split fava beans over the dish and around the plate.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Spiced Flor de sal Chocolate and Seville Orange Hot Cross Buns

Good Friday is the day I usually make my hot cross buns, but they can be made ahead of time and frozen.The thespian is not partial to dried fruit, apart from perhaps a small whisper in a florentine,so I thought I would appease everybody this time round and replace the dried fruit with chocolate chips,but still retaining the spice quota.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, hot from the oven with lashings of butter. Try this rich Flor de sal chocolate and orange hot cross bun variation,but probably without the lashings of butter.

475g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting 

25g good-quality cocoa powder
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 heaped teaspoon Flor de sal
85g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
100g golden caster sugar, plus 50g extra to glaze
2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
1 large free-range egg
190ml lukewarm milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
75g raisins (optional)
75g milk chocolate, chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 Seville orange
75g chopped candied peel

Sift 400g of the flour, the cocoa powder, mixed spice and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and, with your fingertips, rub together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and dried yeast, then form a well in the centre. Whisk the egg and milk together and pour into the well. Quickly mix with a wooden spoon to incorporate. 

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes until soft and silky. Shape into a ball. Put in a large, lightly oiled bowl, covered with cling film. Leave for 1½ hours in a warm place, until doubled in size.

Remove the risen dough to a lightly floured surface, flatten slightly, then knead in the raisins (optional), chocolate, zest and candied peel, until everything is evenly distributed.

Divide into 10 equal pieces (about 100g each) and shape into smooth-surfaced buns. Place in rows on a lightly oiled baking tray, leaving a little gap between each. Cover loosely with lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size again. The buns should now be touching each other. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.

With a serrated knife, score the tops of the buns with a cross. Mix the remaining 75g flour with 1 tbsp oil and 5 tbsp cold water to a smooth paste, then spoon into a piping bag (or a small, clear, sturdy plastic bag with the corner snipped off). 

Carefully pipe the mixture in lines along the knife scores on the buns, going first one way, then the other, using a knife to stop the flow. 

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. 

Meanwhile, put the remaining sugar into a pan with the orange juice. Put over a low heat until it has dissolved. Bring to the boil and bubble for 2 minutes until thickened.

Remove the buns from the oven and turn out onto a rack. Glaze with the syrup and serve warm or cold.
Boa Pascoa a tudos

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Spelt correctly-life´s a complete beach

Last year was the year of kale and I’m sure that kale will continue to maintain its popularity because people have found that they can do so much with it. The question is, what will be the next big thing? Don’t be surprised by a kale backlash if the once-designer vegetable is replaced on menus.Nothing, it seems, can stop the march of the kale revivalists. Kale ice lollies “Greensicles” in the form of the KaleliciousTM and Greena ColadaTM. are already waiting for the summer sun to come out and shine on on a nation of Green age children.But do these ankle biters know the difference between spelled and spelt? Because some experts are predicting an upward surge in ancient grains,so-called because they have been little altered since they were first cultivated.These are whole grains that are generally high in nutrients and safe for those with wheat and gluten allergies. You’ve probably had quinoa, but expect to be introduced to another oldie-but-goodie, spelt,(an ancient cousin of wheat). It is high in fibre, has a higher protein and vitamin content than wheat, and although not Gluten Free, spelt can be tolerated by some people with wheat sensitivity.Different varieties of Spelt seem to be the buzz words on everybody´s lips at the moment.So like the smart person who invented “Greensicles”I think I have found away to get these “green” children to eat their grains. As Julie Andrews said when you read you begin with ABC,when you sing you begin with Do Re Mi, so when you cook you begin with  re si pi, (not spelt correctly I know but you see where I am coming from). Correct spelling attempts to transcribe the sounds of language into alphabetic letters and correct cooking produces a plate composed of diverse ingredients. I was fascinated by a side to the main on a recent episode of Masterchef.The item in question was called “chilli sand”.I attempted to translate this and make what I thought was a fairly true rendition.I took it literally and using an organic spelt cous cous (This is a tad healthier version of the normal couscous, and I found the taste a little nuttier, wholesome and all in all nicer. ) I set about making a plate of food that would delight any child and make them eat everything on it.Since we are beside the sea here in the Algarve,my theme was summer holidays, surf and turf,buckets and spades and of course, central to my theme, the sand castle.I know you are thinking this is all very Heston Blumenthal,but that is completely coincidental I promise you.My “Life´s´a beach” plate is composed of Thai spiced salmon driftwood,a cucumber wasabi and lime jellyfish,a chilli sand castle, cauliflower rice sea urchin, and that old retro trick - crispy seaweed .Could this whet a difficult young eaters appetite and ensure they clean the plate?
Here´s how I composed the plate

Thai spiced salmon driftwood
makes 24 sticks in total
small bunch coriander
4 sticks lemongrass
! thumb sized piece ginger
4 small red chillis
1 kg salmon fillet
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons Nam pla( Thai fish sauce)
Corn meal for coating fingers 

Chop coriander,lemongrass,chillis and ginger in a processor.Add the rest of the ingredients and process again.Line a shallow freezable container with cling film and fill it with the processed mixture.Put in the freezer until firm but not frozen,(about 1 hour).
Shape into fingers and fry in very hot oil.

Cucumber wasabi and lime Jellyfish
3 cucumbers, deseeded and chopped 
6 gelatine leaves, soaked in warm water until softened, drained
1 lime, juice only
1 tsp ready-made wasabi paste

Blend 2 cucumbers and strain through a sieve.You will need 300ml(1/2 pint) so  juice from the third cucumber if required.
Heat 1/2 juice in a saucepan and whisk in the gelatine until completely dissolved.
Place the remaining juice in a bowl with the lime juice and wasabi.Mix well.Strain the cucumber and gelatine and pour into moulds.Chill overnight.
Chilli sand castle
100g spelt cous cous per sandcastle

I small onion finely grated
1 heaped teaspoon Ras al hanout
tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
small handful pistachios finely choppedsmall handful roasted peanuts finely chopped
small handful roasted salted almonds finely chopped 
Place the grated onion and ras al hanout in a dry saucepan and heat gently until the spices start to give off an aroma,add the chilli flakes.Stir in the cous cous and add the olive oil and lemon juice.Stir to mix well then add 80 ml of hot stock per 100g cous cous.Cover the pan with a lid and set aside.After a few minutes fluff up the cous cous with a fork and mix in the chopped nuts.When ready spoon into dariole moulds and turn out onto serving plates.
Cauliflower rice sea urchin
1 head cauliflower, cored, broken into florets
1/2 cup water (more or less depending on the size of your pan)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt 

● Grate or finely chop the cauliflower florets until they resemble rice grains. (The fastest way to do this is using the chopping blade or grater in a food processor, but it will result in a finer texture that’s a little more like couscous. Pulse to make sure it’s not over-processed.)
● Cook on full power in the microwave for 2 minutes in a lightly covered microwavable dish (reduce to 60 seconds if using one portion’s worth). Don’t add water: there’s already enough water in the cauliflower to stop it drying out.
● If you don’t have a microwave, steam the cauliflower pieces in a steamer (with fine holes, so the grains won’t fall through) or in a sieve set over a pan of simmering water (cover the
sieve tightly with foil to allow the cauliflower to steam) for 2 minutes. Or stir-fry in a hot pan – with a splash of water to prevent it from sticking – for 2-3 minutes, until softened

Crispy seaweed
125 g green cabbage pak choior spring greens
900 ml groundnut oil
1 tsp flor de sal
2 tsp sugar

Set the oven to 130°C/gas 3. Separate the stalks from the stem of the bok choi and then cut the green leaves from the white stalks. Wash the leaves in several changes of cold water, then drain them thoroughly and dry in a salad spinner.  
Roll the leaves up tightly, a few at a time, and finely shred them into strips 5mm wide.
Spread them out on a baking sheet and dry them out in the oven for 15 minutes (they should not be completely dry or they will burn when fried). Remove from the oven and leave to cool. This can be done the day before.
Heat a wok over a high heat, and then add the oil. When the oil is hot and slightly smoking deep-fry the greens in three or four batches. After about 30-40 seconds, when they turn crisp and green, remove them immediately from the wok and drain well on kitchen paper. Leave to cool.
Toss the crispy greens with the salt and sugar.Serve.

Friday, 11 April 2014

A ceia ultima-Casa Rosada os hospedeiros

The last evening of our Bloggers weekend,and it was time for Casa Rosada to open its doors and play host to our fellow bloggers.Earlier in the day we had chosen a selection of fish to prepare and vegetables and salads to accompany.The idea behind the dinner was to get as many cooks involved in the preparation and cooking of a dinner that included Flor de sal at every stage.Having set all the fish out on the table and the other ingredients on the counter top I started to make suggestions and under my watchful eye delegate various responsibilities to the bloggers. 
The task of cooking prawns fell upon Joli, Jorge Nunes,food and wine blogger.German blogging couple Nicky and Oliver set to preparing us a salad of muxama with rocket and citrus balsamic reduction.
With her culinary sparkle and inspiration Isabel Zibaia Rafael ( www.cincoquartosdelaranja.com ) was assisted by Adriana from chefagency in the prep for a sweet potato salad, and the Baila (sea Bass) which she baked in the oven.
The thespian busied himself preparing a Casa Rosada signature dish Filetes de salmonetes pan fried in mustard seeds and red onion.
I prepared sesame lime and soy tuna skewers which I cooked on salt stones.
The only disappointment of the evening was when we discovered that the large Dourada we were going to bake in a salt crust had had its scales removed and therefore was no good for the star task we had intended.You don’t scale the fish. If you scale it, the salt is absobed through the skin rendering the fish inedibly salty. Scales protect your dinner. Not so ours.
The most popular plate of the evening however was my very own Flor de sal Caramel Brownies.I gave a step by step demonstration of how they are made.Unfortunately our bloggers were so pre-occupied with eating them that they forgot about their photo opportunities and we were left with no record of the finished product."Punishment for gluttons" I would say.

© Foto: João Pedro Rato com Canon EOS 60D

FOTO: http://www.joli.pt/excelencia-da-flor-de-sal/
FOTO:Raul lufinha@ http://mesa-do-chef.blogs.sapo.pt
The Casa Rosada kitchen has never been so vital.We cooked to the acompaniment of clicking camera shutters and every stage of the proceedings was recorded by the sharp and watchful pencil of illustrator Ana Rita Monteiro ( www.aqui - ha - arte.com
The food was washed down with two splendid Douro wines from the house of Carm.Maria de Lourdes Branco 2011 and Vinho Tinto Reserva 2011.

FOTO:Raul lufinha@ http://mesa-do-chef.blogs.sapo.pt

...and to round off the evening yet another surprise.After a hard day´s work, including having provided a most delicious tapas lunch for all of us, our friends Clíodhna Browne e Fabio Zerbo from Puerta Ancha in Ayamonte joined us for a nightcap(more on their story later....)
What a great end to an information packed weekend. Brindamos a todos!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Chermoula baked fish,pure and simple

Sometimes fish is best left alone, and at other times It can take a good rub or paste to help it on its way. Red Snapper has a great, firm texture and a sweet, nutty flavor that lends itself very well to everything from hot chilies to subtle herbs.
 Last week I was putting together a Moroccan-influenced menu for some guests who had booked in for dinner, and was looking for a sauce to pair with a robust fish for baking in the oven.Pargo or African snapper beckoned to me off the cold slab in the market and seemed the perfect choice for this.
Chermoula is one of those sauces—once you taste it, you'll wonder why you´ve never stumbled on it before.Since chermoula can be found in many North African countries and has myriad regional variations, I couldn't find a definitive starting point for my recipe. I approached it focusing instinctively on Moroccan flavours, then tinkered a bit( as usual), eventually coming up with a sauce that proved to be a huge success.
I started with coriander, parsley, and garlic finely choped in the mini processor.I then added in few ubiquitous Moroccan spices like paprika, cumin, chilli, and cinnamon. Then its defining feature—preserved lemon which imparts a strong and unique acidic flavor and a bit of olive oil for the finishing touch.
Chermoula is traditionally paired with fish and as I slathered it on,I imagined it could be be a great change of pace for a quick mid week supper, rubbed onto chicken beasts or even as a dressing for roasted vegetables.
Besides being incredibly versatile and costing next to nothing, the sauce takes only a few minutes to prepare, and can keep refrigerated, for a week or so. 
Chermoula marinade
2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 medium red chilli,finely chopped
1 preserved lemon flesh disarded and peel finely chopped or zest and juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic,finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon coriander leaves,chopped
1 tablespoon,parsley leaves,chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients together in aprocessor adding alittle water if it is too thick. Make 3 incisions in each side of your fish and rub the marinade all over the fish and into the incisions.
Serve with a jewelled cous cous,rice or Moroccan sweet potato salad.

Monday, 7 April 2014

O restauração e documentação do centro gastronómico e arquivo com Pão cozido em forno a lenha

                                Bread with and without salt   PHOTO RAUL LUFINHA
My bread making skills are as you all know seriously lacking and with my recent venture into the territory of “no knead bread”, things went from bad to worse.An artesian bread making demonstration was perhaps what the doctor ordered?.The second stop on our action packed Saturday of Bloggers weekend was just this.Our destination -  Casa de Odeleite.I could barely hold back my excitement and anticipation about this visit, this was something something that was long overdue on my Casa Rosada list of things to do/places to visit.
For nearly two decades, the house of John Xavier de Almeida was an important trading centre in the village and parish of Odeleite, part of the municipality of Castro Marim. It was the richest house in the parish and the authentic nerve centre of the village, located on the banks of the river Guadiana.
In the early twentieth century it provided dried fruits,fertilizers and seeds for the local community.This once important trading post was acquired by the Castro Marim authorities and carefully salvaged and restored.Casa de Odeleite has been transformed it into an authentic historic recreation of a home and a very important gastronomic artefact. As an exhibition centre and archive visitors can enjoy, besides the residential areas,the restored cellar,sewing room,warehouse showing grains and pulses and the focus of our particular visit, the wood burning oven.

                                     A padeira, Dona Celísia Custódio           PHOTO RAUL LUFINHA
Lenha esteva para forno a lenha
                                                                                                                                 Dona Celísia Custódio was our
demonstrator.She fueled the oven with wood from the esteva plant
(rock rose),above.This infuses the bread with a distinctive aroma.Bread loves salt.You do not notice the taste of salt in most bread,not even a little bit..." She pinched some of the salt between her fingers and let it fall through the air. "Even a teaspoon of salt in a loaf of bread will change it so much. The salt helps stop the yeast from overgrowing so that the bread will rise but not spill out all over the oven. The loaf becomes strong, sturdy, and shapely. Without any salt at all, the bread will be crumbly and taste sour. Every good cook knows that bread loves…salt.Perhaps this is where I have been going wrong.She baked us loaves both with and without salt and with the fresh cheese from our previous stop and some olive oil we were able to sample the difference which also doubled up as a very welcome mid morning collation.

Fresh cheese warm bread and olive oil
 ..and the moral of this story if bread loves salt make sure you always have a few blossoms of Salmarim in your pocket.

some of the objects found in Casa de Odeleite

More interesting facts about 
Casa de Odeleite
About 1500 unique objects (artefacts, furniture ...) including a wedding dress were also recovered and many other documents (correspondence, invoices ...) belonging to the former owner, who shot himself in 1933.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Blesed are the cheesemakers

I was recently privileged to participate in a food bloggers weekend.From Friday to Sunday we had the chance to sample some of the modern, innovative,fine dining and molecular gastronomy of the East Algarve and Southern Andalucia.The highlight of the weekend for me however was not the modern Algarvian fine dining - interesting and delicious as it might have been- but discovering some more traditional gastronomic Portuguese treasures to be found on our doorstep.Artesan cheese making and bread baking.There is a common denominator here, artesan Flor de sal.Salt is not just a seasoning “chefs in the know” sprinkle over their food, but an integral part of cheesemaking and we were also able to taste bread baked with and without salt.Flor de sal was the focal point  and we witnessed how chefs use it in their creations.The weekend started on Friday evening when we were guests of Monte Rei Golf and country club and some clever molecular gastronomy presented to us by Jaime Perez and chefs Renato and Dalila Cunha from restaurant Ferrugem in Porto.You should have seen the expression on my face when a white capsule was miraculously transformed into a warm “oshibori” wipe as warm lemon infused water was poured over it.It rose serpent like from my plate,reminiscent of a Chinese cracker trick.I did not know whether to admire it or eat it and only avoided an embarrassing culinary moment when I noticed my fellow diners were cleansing their hands with it.
Putting my naivety aside some of the canapés and degustation items were indicative of Perez´ time with superstar chef Ferran Adria at El Buli´.
Next morning it was an early start, to drive north from Castro Marim through some stunning countryside that an uninformed tourist would sadly miss.Arriving in the remote little riverside village of Foz de Odeleite,the sun managed to break through clouds threatening an impending spring shower.A narrow weed strewn street led us to our Nirvana.There was a sweet smell in the air which was already giving us a clue as to where we were heading,an artesan dairy.
The smell intensified as we entered a room,almost surgical in its appearance.Large pans of milk were heating on the stove and a large stainless steel table filled the centre of the room.While 72 year old Dona Isabel Cavaço washed pots, 78 year old Dona Otilia Glory Gonçalo Ribeiro,mother of the current owner was preparing to apply gloves ready for the filling of the moulds with the fresh cheese.What we witnessed was an operation of hospital like proportions with the highest levels of hygiene being observed.

What i found most encouraging was to see the young granddaughter of both these septuagenarian ladies assisting and therefore ensuring the future livelihood of this traditional artesan business.In turn she brought pans of the warm milk to the table,where she drained the whey in a muslim bag and tipped the discarded liquid into the bowl that contained the moulds.The two, now gloved ladies rinsed their hands in this warm liquid.This ensured that every contact with the cheese was covered and no flavour was lost.By this point I was welling up with the nostalgia of the situation and overcome by the strong aroma of the warm fresh cheese.Dona Otilia then explained to us how the cheese was made.
First the milk is boiled.It is then cooled to 56 or 57 ° C. To help speed up the process there are large containers full of water where they put the pots of hot milk . 

When it reaches the desired temperature rennet and salt are added. The rennet is extracted from thistle flower. The flowers are crushed and placed in water overnight, the liquid is then strained.The result is a chestnut coloured water.This was a surprise for all of us. We knew that the thistle flower was used in some way to curdle milk , but did not know exactly how it was done.Thistle rennet can only be used with goat's or sheep's milk,the other type of rennet being animal based.We left that small room reassured that this method of cheese making was 1000% sustainable.As fellow blogger Raul Lufinha,"Mesa do chef", so rightly put in his blog post- "Não há queijo de cabra… sem cabras"
(“You cant have goats cheese without goats”)
The son of the owner Joáo M.G.Ribeiro has a herd of goats numbering between 150 and 200,which produce the milk used in the cheese making......

......Next stop Casa de Odeleite. which will be my next post about artesan breadmaking