Monday, 28 July 2014

Acompanhamentos-side dishes

With no guests in the house for a day, it was time for a day of recipe development and culinary experimentation.I love this kind of day when there is no pressure other than to have come up with some new ideas for dishes by the end of the day.One of the things I find most difficult if it is not a composite dish, is to decide what vegetables, salad or accompaniments to serve with fish or meat.The main object of my experiments on this occasion therefore was to create some new dishes that would accompany some of our main plates.I cast my memory back to a dish my mother used to serve as a supper dish.It was a courgette gratinée.Light and fresh and summery.I thought that perhaps if I made this in a different guise it could be served on the side.I decided to make it in ramekin sized portions.This kind of dish is what the Italians call Sformato. First of all the ingredients needed a minor update to make it worthy of the twenty-tens. Courgettes,no problem,but perhaps a different cheese-Ricotta or Reqeijao were the obvious choices.My mother´s method of cooking the dish was in a baking dish or quiche pan.My method was to cover the ramekins with foil and cook bain-marie style.Success came not in the way I had intended but we ended up with a delicious starter and new vegetarian item.

Courgette flan(sformato) with ricotta
Serves 2 or makes 5 x 200ml ( 6oz ) ramekins
2 medium Courgettes (about 500g/ 1lb)
1 large shallot finely chopped
125g ricotta or requeijao
2 whole eggs beaten
85g (3oz) Parmesan 
Dry roasted breadcrumbs or Panko

Preheat the oven to 325F / 170C. Butter five 6-ounce ramekins and dust them with a thin layer of parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs. Set the prepared ramekins in a large baking dish. In a skillet  (on low heat) gently cook the shallot in some butter and oil till soft.Cut the courgettes into chunks and blanch in salted water for 5 minutes.Drain and add to the onion and leave to cool.In a blender, blitz the courgette and onion add the eggs, ricotta and the remaining parmesan to obtain a cream.Season with salt and pepper.Pour the sformato mixture into the prepared ramekins and cover each with foil. Carefully pour enough hot water into the baking dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.Bake the sformati for about 45 minute to 1 hour, until just set. Transfer the ramekins to a work surface; let stand for 5 minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the ramekins and invert the sformati onto plates. 

My second experiment was spot on and sort of like superior baked beans cooked in an Italian style,simmered rather than baked, in a tomato sauce flavoured with browned garlic, a little sugar to caramelise the sauce and sage.
The final dish was exactly what I had imagined and could easily be eaten on its own with slices of country bread or perhaps even a salad.But my original intention was to find a dish that would go beautifully with pork dishes or chops.We tested it with saltimbocca of pork and the result was more than harmonious.If you don´t have the time or will to cook the the beans from dry,you can substitute canellini or haricot beans from a jar or tin.

Feijão branco com molho tomate e salvia
( white beans in tomato and sage sauce)
serves 4
250g dried white haricot or cannelini beans soaked overnight 
or 500g(1lb 2oz) of ready cooked beans
3 garlic cloves,finely chopped
6 fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus a little bit extra for serving
350g812oz9 very ripe,soft tomatoes,puréed in the liquidizer or processor then sieved,or 300g (11oz) passata
teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon tomato purée
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drain the soaked beans,if using,then place in a pan with enough water to cover generously.Don´t be tempted to add any salt..Bring to the boil.,then boil hard for 10 minutes.reduce the heat and simmer gently until tender-anything from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the age ofthe beans,adding more water if needed.
Fry the garlic and sage leaves gently in the oil. When the garlic is golden brown,add the beans and season generously.Add the sieved tomatoes,or passata,the tomato purée and about 1 teaspoon of caster sugar,if necessary. Simmer gently for a further 20 minutes,stirring occasionally to prevent catching.Check and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ameijoas Bulhoao Pato - poetry and ocean

Eating en famille alfresco or entre amigos em restaurante, summer is the time for sharing a big plate of food.If tapas isn't your bag perhaps paella is.Here in the Algarve a big old plate of clams is perfect for sharing.Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato, the Algarve’s signature dish, gets my vote for one of the 7 wonders of Portuguese gastronomy.Fresh clams are cooked with garlic, coriander, onion and locally produced white wine and olive oil. This dish is usually served with lashings of crusty white bread to mop up the broth with.This is perfect finger food.Pick up a clam,slurp it out of its shell and then use the shell to scoop up a glug of broth.Delicious.
 Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato. The name is synonymous with Portuguese cuisine.It is not a type of mollusc. Rather, it is a method of preparation, or a recipe.The dish, like so many other famous national dishes – Chateaubriand and Tournedos Rossini, was named in honour of a literary figure, the Nineteenth-century Portuguese poet Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato.
The English writer Arnold Bennett was so delighted with the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan omelette that chefs at the Savoy Hotel in London created for him, he insisted on it being made wherever he travelled. And at the Savoy, Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard British signature dish to this day. Its not surprising therefore that Bulhão Pato ironically became more famous for this clam recipe that the Portuguese named after him than for his poetry.
It's a classic that can be found all over Portugal.It is simple, quick, and easy to make at home and so so so delicious.Imagine you're sitting in a beach bar on a beautiful coastline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. You have sand in your toes, a caipirinha in your hand, you can smell the salt and you can taste the sea.
Order clams Bulhão Pato at an ocean-side restaurant and you will understand why Bulhão Pato thought they were pure poetry.

Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
A perfectly light supper for two, or a seriously impressive starter for four 
2 kg clams pre-washed clams*
6 fat cloves garlic peeled but kept whole
a few tablespoons of olive oil
250ml ( 1/2 pint ) water
125 ml lemon juice
glass of white wine
salt and pepper
Large handful  of chopped fresh coentros (coriander)*

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and let the garlic take colour in it.Add the water,lemon juice and wine followed by the washed clams.Season with a little pepper and add the coriander. Keep on a high heat a with a lid,shaking the pan vigorously until the clams are open (3-5 minutes).Bring to the table with a basket of crusty white bread to mop up the wonderful juices that they have been steeped in.

*Prepare the clams well in advance.They need to stand in salted water for 2-3 hours.After a first wash use 5-6 tablespoons of salt for each 1.2 litres (2 pints) of water for soaking. After soaking wash again in plentiful water to remove all the sand the clams have discharged.

*Coentros(coriander) is well known as an ingredient in Asian and Mexican cuisines, but it's also a staple in Portuguese cooking.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A popular beet combo

No doubt many of us have had our appreciation of beetroot tainted by the sliced, tinned variety or the vinegary pickled memory of school dinners, but fresh beetroot is easy and convenient to prepare. The rule is not to overcook it.The way to get the best mileage out of your beetroot is to roast it.There's nothing quite like roast beetroot - slightly caramelised and with a rich earthy flavour, it's delicious.
The flavour of beetroot is a mixture of sweetness - from its relatively high sugar content - and a pleasant bitterness derived from its ancestor, the wild sea beet. When these two characteristics are in perfect balance and the beetroot is cooked neither too little nor too much, this is one of the most delicious vegetables, and I´m campaigning for you to eat more of it before the food police are back on our case hauling us over for consuming too much "natural" sugar. Here are my unbeatable "Fab Four" recipes.

Three Cheese and caramelised beetroot pasta
Raw grated beetroot sandwich with parsley and Presunto Serrano
Beetroot and fresh goats cheese stack
Beetroot gazpacho

Beetroot and fresh goats cheese stack (above)

Per portion
3 round slices of freshly roasted beetroot
2 rounds of fresh Goats cheese or feta
Assorted salad leaves and herbs
Salad dressing of your choice
chopped walnuts (optional)

Take a pastry cutter the size of your cheese and cut rounds of beetroot to the same size.
Assemble the stacks in the middle of each plate starting with a base of beetroot and then alternating the cheese with the beetroot ending with a final top slice of beetroot.scatter some salad leaves, sprigs of coriander and /or mint around the stack and some chopped walnuts if using.

Beetroot gazpacho

3 medium-sized beetroots
3 tomatoes skinned and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
150g/ 5oz onions peeled and thinly sliced
1clove of garlic peeled and crushed
6 desertspoons of good quality sherry vinegar
Valdespino, Lustau or Pedro Ximenez
salt and pepper
1 large handful fresh coriander
150ml / 5fl oz hot chicken stock
Flat leaf parsley

Wash and trim the beetroots. leaving the roots intact so the colour doesn´t bleed. Bake them in individual foil parcels in a medium oven until cooked, pierce with a skewer after 45 minutes. Skin and slice them thinly as soon as they´re cool enough to handle. Chop the tomatoes coarsely.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic gently until softened but not coloured. Pour over the vinegar, and add the tomato,beetroot slices and seasoning.Cook with a lid on very gently for an hour. Check the moisture level from time to time. Liquidize, or blitz in a food processor with the fresh coriander, diluting the mixture with tomato passata or tomato puree as you go until you reach your desired consistency.Chill overnight and serve in bowls or glasses with ice cubes and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.

Raw grated beetroot sandwich 
with parsley and Presunto Serrano
This is one of the popular items I created back in the days of "panini etc" when I was the
sandwich man.
Slice a baguette or bread roll of your choice in half lengthways.Drizzle the insides of both slices with extra virgin olive oil.Lay slices of Presunto or prosciutto on the bottom slice. In a bowl toss generous amounts of grated beetroot and flat leaf parsley with vinaigrette then layer on top of the meat.Eat straight away.

Three Cheese,sage and caramelised beetroot pasta
I have been making this for years now but cant remember where the recipe originated.No amount of googling or combing the bookshelves has produced a result but I suspect its creator might have been Donna Hay.Please forgive me whoever you are if I am wrong,but thank you for this stunning and ingenious recipe.

Serves 4
6 small beetroot (750g approx) peeled and cut into small chunks
6 cloves garlic,left whole and unpeeled
1/2 cup sage leaves
1 tablespoon muscavado sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
400g farfalle(bow)pasta or penne
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese,ricotta or requeijao
120g Goats cheese(chevre) 

Pre-heat the oven to 180C(355F).Put the beetroot,garlic,sage,sugar,olive oil,salt and pepper in a baking dish and toss to coat.roast for 30-35 minutes or until the beetroot is tender and caramelised.Remove the garlic and mash it using the back of a teaspoon to form a smooth paste.Discard the skins.Set aside and keep warm.Cook thepasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until al dente.Drain and return the pasta to the pan.tir in the parmesan,mascarpone,goats cheese,beetroot mixture,garlic paste and check the seasoning.Toss well to combine.

Beetroot goes with
Extra virgin olive oil; butter; sesame oil; vinegar; soy; anchovies;prosciutto; pancetta; bacon; sausages; duck; venison; chicken; quail; celery; carrot; garlic( especially roast garlic); parsley; thyme; sage; celeriac; onion.Feta, mascarpone, requeijoao, yoghurt.

Choose beetroot that is firm and preferably with its top leaves looking fresh and crisp. Generally, the larger the beetroot the more flavour it has, though if it gets too big it can be woody and tough.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Not in the name of Greek salad

  "the ultimate high-summer salad … best eaten with sand between your toes and salt on your lips" ...Nigel Slater

Here in Castro Marim,never a moment goes by when we don´t have some of the best salt in the world on our lips and if we want sand between our toes it is only a short drive away.What better place to eat a Greek salad in high summer then,than here in the East Algarve.
The term Greek Salad is one of the most abused in the world.Greece has always had a large range of interesting and novel salads,nearly all of which involve the ingredients to be wilted first. I don´t do no wilting with salads because I think of salad as a dish of raw ingredients with no cooking involved.Lemon thyme and honey are ingredients I consider are not authentic, but essential, to a Greek salad and of course the whole salad revolves around the core ingredient of feta cheese.
Stirred into action by Felicity Cloake´s recent reminder here is what some might call an abomination in the name of "Greek salad", but it was colourful and greek-saladly delicious without bearing much resemblance to the real thing.My only crime, I added a cooked element -risoni (Italian: "big rice") a form of short-cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice).If you are in Portugal look for Pontinha on the Supermarket shelf.My salad was not Greek salad but an embellishment of horiatiki (Village salad) .

My embellishment of a Greek salad

250g block Feta cheese
100g Risoni( you could use orzo, another type of pasta rice))
1 medium sized red onion thinly sliced
Generous handful cherry tomatoes
2 Tomatoes on the vine seeds removed then chopped into chunks
1 small cucumber peeled and cut into chunks
generous pinch of dried thyme
3 sprigs of fresh oregano leaves separated from their stalks
25g Kalamata olives stoned
25g of cooked french beans,cut into 5cm lengths or 25g shelled broad beans
1 tablespoon capers
handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
handful chopped coriander
1 small round lettuce or Romaine, Little Gem or Cos lettuce

Crumble the Feta into a large  mixing bowl.Add the risoni followed by all the rest of the ingredients except the lettuce.Pour over the dressing and toss well to ensure all the ingredients are well dressed.
 In a large salad bowl make a circle of lettuce leaves around the edge to form a well hat the rest of the ingredients can sit in.
Tip all the mixed salad ingredients into the well of lettuce leaves and serve.Bom apetite

For the dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic,crushed
In a screwtop jar put the lemon juice,oil,salt,pepper,oregano and garlic.Shake the jar vigorously until it is a thick creamy consistency.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Descanso em porto - Parte 2: A comida

A Perola do Bolhao,one of Porto´s oldest and most beautiful delicatessens

Dia 2 : um passeio de barco no ribeira, delicatessens, num almoço nostalgico

Food is a cultural expression. My first priority when I arrive in a city is FOOD!!! I always visit the local markets, padarias, confeiterias,mercearias and check out the restaurants.There is no better barometer for what a city eats than a visit to its market.A market, and to a lesser extent the delicatessens, will reflect what you will be served in any city´s restaurants.As you saw in Part 1 my first excursion on arrival in Porto was the market.That mission accomplished an exploration of food shops and delicatessens was high on the list for Day 2. 
The day started with breakfast at Bela Torre, the cafe next door to the bookshop Livraria Lello whose staircase inspired JK Rowling to write the Harry Potter series. The stairs in Lello are known for being the inspiration for the stairs at Hogworts. JK Rowling came to live in Porto and work as a teacher of English as a foreign language.
This pasteleria became our breakfast choice every day.Good coffee and amazing pasteis (forget dietary restraint, just eat and enjoy) under a great view of The Clerigos Tower.Well I have to say in most people´s books a first time city break would revolve around sightseeing with meals in between.Our break ended up being meals with, if possible, a bit of sightseeing in between.
Our first visit of the day was to A Pérola do Bolhão, a traditional grocery store, located a couple of steps away from Mercado do Bolhão.
Very much like its younger counterpart, A Favorita do Bolhão open since 1934,the older A Pérola has a large variety of quality national products, from mountain cheese to dried fruits, from good wine to deli meats and Portuguese traditional cookies. Before the products catch your eye, the façade will with its beautiful Art Noveau entrance covered in Portuguese tiles. If you look closely you’ll notice that the images are of women holding tea plants and coffee plants, as the lettering on top refers to “Chá” and “Café”.

We were only a schlep away from Hotel Teatro. The building was once a real theatre.The Teatro Baquet was inaugurated in 1859, but closed down again after a huge fire in 1888. Time passed but the theatre wasn’t forgotten, and when Nini Andrade Silva was appointed with the mission to redesign the interior of the building, he stayed true to its original spirit. 122 years after the fire, the Hotel Teatro now has four stars.Imposing heavy doors, devoid of a doorman, were not giving away any secrets of what was behind.
Having finally managed to open these impressive doors,we took the chance of glancing over the tasting menu for the Hotel´s restaurant Palco (which means ‘stage’).Palco had been recommended to us,but you never know until you taste for yourself. On paper it looked like one of the best tasting menus we had seen,but would we take the risk? We went back in the evening and had a goldfish bowl of Hendricks gin and Tonic in the open terrace area.When you walk around the Hotel there are references to its past in every corner. The reception looks like a box office, theatrical costumes are waiting for their actors in the hall ways and the dim lighting makes you think that a show is about to start.Unfortunately the light was too low and the show was going to have to start without us in the audience.we decided to pass on the dinner.
When in Porto a river trip on the Douro is a right of passage – a quick cruise underneeath the arches of the six bridges.Oh dear then it was time for lunch.Rua de Flores is fast becoming the new fashionable drag and after a pre-dinner drink the night before we had already earmarked a lunch spot - Restaurante (LSD) Largo Sao Domingos with its simple but clever and inventive menu.

I re-touched childhood memories with a plate of Lingua de Afiambrada,ox tongue and home made seed mustard
The thespian opted for a terrine of Foie gras which came with a mouth watering red onion marmalade .We washed it down with an excellent recommendation from our waitress,a bottle of Vila Regia.
Vila Regia ('Royal Village') is the name once given to towns founded by a king. In Portugal there are many villages of this kind referred to in the cartas de foral ('charters of privileges') or royal charters that listed benefits, rights and duties for land and people. It was great to discover that this young Douro wine was bottled just across the river at Sogrape Vinhos' premises in Avintes, Vila Nova de Gaia.

Our bill was presented to us in a box made from re-cycled computer keyboard.
After that lunch,would we return for dinner? More on that story in part 3.That was lunch done, it was back to more food exploration.Back up the hill and this time a visit to Casa Oriental.
Founded in 1910 next to the Clerigos tower they began to market products from the Oriental and African colonies. Coffee, chocolate and teas sold since the early nineteenth century are still evident on the facade of this famous grocery store, with the representation of a scene from Colonial Africa. After the 2nd World War, the range of products increased and they started selling Portuguese regional products. The present owner, Jose Maria Gama, has decided the hallmark should be Bacalhau.

Once you walk through the door of these food shops, there’s no turning back. The smells and deliciousness overwhelm you. In this case the not so salubrious smell of dried cod.The selection is enormous. If you’re a fan of figs, you’ll find your favourite variety from different regions. Are you nuts for nuts? Walnuts, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, pine nuts, macadamia. I could go on and on........

Our second dinner in Porto was somewhat of a surprise.The recommendation came from the receptionist in our hotel.If she had not told us and made the reservation for us I don´t think we would ever have stumbled upon it.
Tucked away in a narrow cul-de sac behind the Avenida is one of Porto´s best kept secrets Flor dos Congreados .This is one place that you will never forget! It is Porto´s oldest restaurant, over 150 years old and tucked into ancient city walls.For me history and cooking are closely affiliated.As soon as you cross the threshold of this lovely restaurant you feel that the walls have stories to tell,they breathe history. There’s no such thing as microwaves here and everything’s cooked in traditional wood ovens and the meals are served on traditional plates.The handsome and charming Andre (above) greeted us and seated us at a lovely table in the corner.

His sister-in law presented us with the menu
on a small handheld chalkboard proudly sharing with us the the cuisine of of their region. The menu is limited but with more than enough variety to make it interesting.She suggested we start with the cheese and meat board.Well we have had couverts here in Portugal but this was something else.Every cheese was a winner,likewise the selection of regional meats.All the wines are sparkling and deliciously Douro.  

 A costeleta da flor (Veal Cutlet)
 Nacos de vitela à Beirão (Veal chanfana)
The thespian ordered A costeleta da flor, a succulent veal cutlet while I opted for
the Nacos de vitela à Beirão.A truly local dish which Andre was well impressed that I recognised as a veal Chanfana.This is an extremely regional dish from the Beira region.It is marinated over along period in wine and spices and then baked in the wood oven.
What a memorable dinner and perfect ending to our second day in Porto.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Strawberry and lemon geranium cheesecake

I am a firm believer in eating foods that are in season (and preferably local and organic).Cheesecake is always a popular pudding choice with our guests so I try to make a cheesecake that reflects the particular season.In early Spring, when bitter  oranges were abundant, I made a Seville orange cheesecake.More recently I made a Tarte de nêsperas.This week I thought it would be a good idea as its July and strawberries are still in season (just,They are now from the More temperate north but still national)to use them for this summer recipe.Strawberries lend themselves to experiments with different flavours.A little black pepper will enhance the flavour and fresh basil works really well with strawberries.I cast my memory back a few years and remember Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall adding lemon geranium leaves to strawberry jam.It gave me an idea. How about cheesecake infused with Lemon geranium and strawberries.This is a simple no bake cheesecake and is wonderfully light and fluffy.

175g (6oz) digestive biscuits, finely crushed
75g (3oz) butter, melted

Place the biscuits and butter in a bowl, mix well and press into the base of the tin. Chill whilst you make the filling.
about 12 lemon geranium leaves,torn

225g (8oz) strawberries, hulled and halved
25g (1oz) caster sugar
2 gelatine leaves, softened in cold water
300g (10oz) cream cheese
150ml (1/4 pt) whipping cream infused with lemon geranium leaves
150ml (1/4 pt) natural Greek yoghurt

To make your strawberry cheesecake you will need:
a 20cm (8in) springform cake tin, base lined with baking parchment

Place the strawberries, caster sugar and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan and cook on a moderate heat until the strawberries are very soft. Puree the mixture in a blender and push through a fine sieve back into the saucepan that you cooked them in. Warm the strawberry puree again and when hot, squeeze the excess water from the gelatine leaves and add to the strawberry puree. Swirl the pan to make sure that the gelatine is completely dissolved. Set aside.

Warm the cream with the torn geranium leaves in a pan until it just simmers. Turn off the heat and leave for 30 mins for the flavours to infuse. Strain off and discard the leaves.When the cream is cool whip it to soft peaks.
Place the cream cheese and remaining sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Add the cooled strawberry and gelatine mixture and beat again. Add the yogurt and infused cream and fold in until thoroughly combined . Pour over the biscuit base and chill for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight.

To serve the cheesecake, run a round bladed knife around the outside of the tin and release the tin. Transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate. Decorate the top with a few halved strawberries and serve Your strawberry cheesecake will keep for 3 days, covered in the fridge.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Descanso em Porto - um conto de duas cidades em parcelas - Parte 1

We have recently returned from our first visit to Porto.There is a well known  Portuguese saying "Coimbra studies, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off and Porto works". Put to the test I would say this is so true.Walking through the terminal on our arrival, an airport official was only too pleased to show us how the ticket machine for the metro worked,inserted our money in the machine, gave us our tickets wished us a good stay and pointed us in the direction of the train.This proved to be a strong indication of the what we were to experience over the next three days.There are really very few similarities between Porto and Lisbon – they are both near the coast, on the banks of a river and have some fairly daunting hills, but that’s really where it ends. The two cities have a different feel and different charms.Where Lisbon has seven hills Porto has six  spectacular bridges.
As with Lisbon its hard not to like Porto.Its a large city but that doesn´t get in the way of it being laid back.
For me Porto’s most striking characteristic is that of ‘faded grandeur’.In Europe there are very few remaining cities that can do ‘faded grandeur’ quite on the scale of Porto.Not that I have ever been, but I would imagine you’d have to travel to Cuba or Argentina for close competition.You must constantly look up to fully appreciate the façades and engage in the design of the windows,the tracery, the mouldings,the balconies and the azulejos.The feeling is accentuated by the quirky mix of Baroque, Neoclassical and a splash of Belle Epoque architecture in varying degrees of preservation.Its a massively atmospheric place, almost Dickensian in parts with its narrow dark steep curving alleyways and lanes.As one winds one´s way through a confusion of cobbled streets one finds gold leaf writing on dusty old shop windows and more old fashioned
barber´s shops than one would care to count.One expects to encounter The Olde Curiosty Shoppe- its like stepping out of the Tardis, now there´s a thought,if ever the Doctor were to land in Porto.It’s hard to overstate how atmospheric this old city can be.Inevitably its the port that dominates every aspect of Porto, but take the port out of Porto and there is so much more to be gleaned.My first port of call is always the market.
Mercado Ferreira Borges

Mercado de Bolhao
Mercado de Bolhao
DAY 1: The grand Mercado Ferreira Borges unfortunately is, despite its imposing presence, a bit of a white elephant.Built in 1885 to replace the now old Mercado da Ribeira, it never fulfilled the functions for which it was originally intended, due to the reluctance of dealers to leave the previous market. The Mercado Ferreira Borges is now used for exhibitions and Trade fairs .
Mercado de  Bolhao
However, located in the heart of the city, the noisy and exuberant Mercado Bolhao was more what I was looking for.This a sight not to be missed,in more ways than one.The two-tier covered building houses stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to household goods. The building is over 100 years old and starting to look quite tired and in dire need of rejuvenation... this  marketplace has surely seen better days.Especially entertaining is listening to the flamboyant fishwives hawking the latest catch in true Oporto spirit, an image that has made this market famous all over Portugal.I have visited many market halls on my travels but I am afraid this one failed to get me excited. But if you want authenticity that is exactly what you get.This market was the decaying Porto without the grandeur.I was desperate for a comfort station but what the market had on offer was far from acceptable.We left fairly quickly, reminded by the fact that I needed to buy a new toothbrush.I crossed the road to the farmacia, purchased a toothbrush and spotted the Adolfo Dominguez outlet store.Thank god for fashion. A few items later we returned to the hotel with outfits to address dinner in a more different Porto........

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

An Indian inspired apricot relish or may I call it a chutney?

My recent post about our glut of apricots set the tone for what I wanted to do with yet another batch  that were hanging heavy on our overladen tree. Something spicy. God forbid, yet another jelly or a jam would not do. It had to be a chutney of sorts—fruit and sugar cooked down in vinegar to a reduction that gave me a jar of gloriously coloured pickle.Ideally with jaggery instead of sugar(chance would be a fine thing in the Algarve ) and whats more I had no recipe.I copiously searched the internet to no avail while trying to keep abreast of an abundant harvest of apricots that was ripening before my very eyes.It was at this point, when I was seriously considering coming up with my own recipe, that I got sidetracked by trying to unearth the answer to another big question that has always befuddled me.What is the difference between a chutney and a relish? If I was going to add that coveted title of "recipe developer" to my resume,I must know the answer.In my store cupboard I had literally every spice and aromatic known to man, but what might I call the conglomeration of spices and fruit that were about to tossed into my preserving pan. My predicament now was still no recipe,a great question and no real definitive answer.Apparently the definition of a relish is a pickled condiment usually made up of chopped vegetables or fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices. The definition of a chutney is a relish made of fruits or vegetables, vinegar, sugar and spices. Adding more to the argument is that chutney, relish, salsa, and jam, can all share similar consistencies and flavours.
There is a big debate between chefs about defining the difference between a relish and chutney. Depending on where they are made, region to region, and chef to chef this definition changes. The term chutney originated from India, traveling it's way east over time. Relish, it has been said, originated in England. When England had a presence in India, the two terms began to be used interchangeably due to their similarities.
The cooking methods are almost the same and the ingredients can also be the same. Both relishes and chutney range from sweet to sour and spicy to savoury. As for consistency, they can both be chunky or smooth.I used no currants or raisins in the recipe and that is not truly traditional when making a chutney,so perhaps this is the key to what I actually produced - a relish.
Perhaps the most generalized distinction nowadays is that chutney is made mostly with fruits, and that relishes are made mostly with vegetables. While this distinction is gaining momentum in the culinary world, what still holds true is that both of them have near endless ingredient possibilities and can be named either one or the other. If you are making an Indian inspired relish as I have done, you might just call it a chutney.If you are blessed with an abundant crop of apricots, and you like the idea of spicy chutney more than a sweet jam or jelly, here´s one for you.But if you aren't as lucky as I was, you could use market or shop-bought apricots or substitute with peaches, figs, dates, raisins and fresh currants. But don't mock this recipe, for peaches are coming soon and I´m going to be trying this one again with a variation on at theme! Heaven help us I even started thinking of pittled presents to send back home for Christmas and we are only four days into summer.Well an expat has to think ahead- post early for Christmas and all that malarky.It could even become a two way family favourite.

 Beautiful deep orange fleshed apricots from the market

I can imagine this chutney being a beautiful colour...especially if one used the deep deep orange apricots. My apricots are the pale yellow ones but I gave them a boost by using Turmeric and a pale sugar as opposed to a dark one.I just guessed at the amount of jars it would fill as I had no recipe.

An Indian spiced apricot and apple chutney
1kg(2lb) fresh apricots, halved and stoned
300g Cooking apples,peeled cored and chopped 
2 lemons, zest and juice
275g(9oz) shallots,coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves,finely minced
75g (2.5oz) fresh ginger root,finely shredded
500ml cider vinegar
250g(8oz) sugar or jaggery if you can get it (see above)
1 heaped teaspoon asfoetida  
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 heaped teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon of caradamom pods shelled and crushed
Put all the fruit including the lemon zest and juice,the shallots,garlic,ginger ,spices and vinegar in a preserving pan.Bring slowly to the boil,then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes until the apples are just soft and the shallots translucent.
add the sugar,stirring until it has dissolved.simmer for 35-40 minutes,until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.Remove the pan from the heat.
ladle the mixture into hot sterilized jars,then seal immediately.
The chutney will be ready to eat in 1 month and has a shelf life of 6 months