Monday, 26 January 2015

Uma sopa tu podes comer tambem como patê Bissara Moroccan Split Pea soup, The Soup You Can Also Eat as a Dip

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful…” but this soup is so delightful!
New year,new you they say,and I have been working on a make over of our cookery workshop,here at Casa Rosada.(More on that story later).Meanwhile the Algarvian weather has not been clement of late.With high winds rattling our shutters and cold temperatures biting our toes some hearty winter soups have been much appreciated.
Split pea soup is a comfort food for many of us, and it is one of my favourites.What I am about to introduce you to is certainly not your typical split pea soup.This particular version is given a North African twist with the addition of paprika, cumin, and chili pepper.In Morocco, it’s called Bissara or Bessara and once cooked it is garnished with lots of olive oil and warm spices, then dunked with bread. It is particularly popular for being a warming dish in the mountain regions during the cold seasons because of the energy it provides for the body, and also in the country side for being cost effective.
This is a multi -tasking soup. It can be served in different guises throughout the year by diversifying the main ingredient - the pulse.You set the pulse to suit the season. In winter when we are awaiting the new season´s broad beans we can use dried broad beans or split green peas.Then in spring, when the fresh broad beans are popping their pods, you can make a gorgeous bright green concoction, cut through with the same spices and the addition of some creme fraiche.
Traditionally Bissara is best known as poor man´s food.There is a popular Moroccan saying "its only the poor that eat bissara" Personally, I like it just because! I mean what’s not to like about it? It does not cost much, easy to make, very healthy, and darn delicious and it reminds me of the “split pea soup” my mother used to make.
A bowl of Bissara, a hearty bean soup loaded with enough garlic to keep evens Satan away, mopped up with bread, is also popular street food. Hole-in-the-wall hatches dish it up for lunch with a scatter of lemon-infused olive oil and a sprinkle of cumin and chilli. Once sold out, the stall-holder will close his shop and call it a day, leaving the hungry ones hysterically heartbroken. Sigh.
 Now about its versatility.The word bissara refers not only to this Moroccan Split Pea Soup, but also to a tasty Moroccan Fava Bean Dip. Leave the consistency thick for a dip or thin it for a soup. In this version of Bissara, split peas are simmered in meat broth with onions, garlic, paprika and cumin before being pureed with the addition of cayenne pepper to give it a kick.(use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version). The dish can also be prepared with dried chick peas, but you'll need to allow time to soak them overnight. The split peas don't need to be soaked.Garnish the Bissara the traditional way with cumin and olive oil; or if you've made it extra spicy, consider adding a bit of fresh coriander and a swirl of creme fraiche or plain yogurt.
For a change, you can reduce the olive oil in the recipe and garnish the Bissara with a drizzle of argan oil for a light, nutty flavour that complements the split pea's natural flavour.

Bissara-Uma sopa tu podes comer tambem como patê
I adapted this recipe "somewhat", using a ham hock ,and upping the ante of spices, I also made za’atar croutons to give the soup a little bit on the side. The result was fantastic — a richly spiced, velvety broth with just a touch of spicy heat. Crispy croutons that were so good I had difficulty not eating them all straight out of the pan.

1 lb. (500 g) dried split peas or dried fava beans
6 cups (1.5 liters) beef, chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups (500 ml) water
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
cumin and olive oil, for garnish (optional)
In a large pot, cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat for just a few minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 50 to 60 minutes, until the peas are tender. Stir occasionally while cooking. If you'd like a thicker consistency bissara to offer as a dip, remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to reduce the liquids a bit more.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender, adjust seasoning, and serve. Garnish as desired.

125 g (4 oz) day old bread
2 Tbs za’atar
1 tsp flor de sal
1 Tbs olive oil 
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the bread into small cubes (approx. 1/2-inch square). Toss the bread cubes with the oil and the spice mixture. Put the cubes in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.


Friday, 16 January 2015

Um algo pequeno para o fim de semana, bolos de laranja macios

 someone´s already taken a bite out of one

When someone says cooking something from scratch is as easy as buying it ready-made, it's usually just not true.One advantage however is that you can customise to your own taste,and sometimes it customises itself.
 I love it when I can easily make something at home and it turns out to be just as good or better than the more expensive shop version.Home made foods can be infinitely superior if you have the time, and making it yourself can save you a lot of money.As you are aware I have been trying to recreate a lot of childhood favourites.Just before Christmas I cured my own ox tongue as opposed to going out and buying buying it industrially sliced in a hermetically sealed plastic pack.I rekindled memories of shopping with my nanna and buying bounty bars.When making Brownies I always have a jar of home made chocolate syrup in the fridge and also my own customised salt caramel.These are both expensive items if purchased in the supermarket.Since living in Portugal I have always made all our jams and preserves that grace our guests´ breakfast and dinner table.Rum and raisin ice cream was an all time favourite and I made my own customised version with a little help from the Clarke´s of Moro.So you see with a little time,patience and ingenuity you can create some of your own favourite comestibles and I do hope we might see this as a trend in the year ahead.
Imagine my excitement when I found a recipe for Jaffa cakes on pinterest.Well it gave me one dilemma and that was that we dont have Jaffa or Shamouti ( as they are sometimes called) oranges in Portugal.I could not call them Jaffa cakes so they would have to be Seville Orange cakes.Being me I refused to use shop bought jelly, and therefore decided in its place to make my own Seville Orange jelly.Having never made these before I stayed true to the recipe (with the exception of not being able to resist making a home made jelly),but along the production line I encountered a lot of hiccups.Whether my muffin tray has bigger wells than the author´s I don´t know, but my first attempt at making the sponge bases was unsuccessful to say the least.Having followed the recipe I was hard pushed to make my batter stretch to twelve portions and ended up with slithers of sponge bases.Not to be deterred I increased the proportion by half again and this time got succesful sponge bases but only eight.I suggest if you are embarking on this challenging project that you are braver than me in the final stage of the recipe.I had conniptions about pouring melted hot chocolate over the jelly I was so proud of having created.I thought it would melt the jelly so I let the chocolate cool slightly and as you can see from the picture I had some difficulty in getting a smooth presentation in my topping .In hindsight here the logic is that if the chocolate is hot it will seal in the jelly, avoiding jelly seepage which my little lovelies experienced.
Just before we crack on with the recipe,a whimsical aside. I read recently that it is highly debated whether the orange-flavoured snack is a cake or a biscuit, but in a court case Scottish company McVities argued that the distinction between cakes and biscuits is, among other things, that biscuits would normally be expected to go soft when stale, whereas cakes would normally be expected to go hard. It was proved that Jaffa Cakes become hard when stale.I dont think mine will be around long enough to become stale.See what you think? Here is my take( at half the price) on yet another of my childhood tea-time treats.Even if you mess them up,they are well worth the effort and I implore you to try them.You´ll only regret it if you don´t.
2.5kg Seville oranges juiced and passed through a fine sieve
(This should give you 750ml juice)
500g jam setting sugar with added pectin
4 tbsp Lemon juice
1 tablespoon of Seville orange marmalade
Pour the orange juice into a medium sized pan.Add the sugar. Bring to the boil,stirring constantly and boil for a maximum of 15 minutes less if the juice starts to show signs of setting.It will look fairly liquid in the pan but it will start to set as it cools.Allow it to cool completely.You should now have a litre of Orange pectin.When it is cool measure out 500ml of liquid and stir in the marmalade Soak 5 leaves of gelatin in cold water for five minutes to soften.Squeeze out as much water as you can and then in a small pan with 100ml of warm water stir in the gelatine stirring until it has completely dissolved.Pour this into the orange pectin and then Pour this mixture into a shallow-sided baking tray or large dish to form a 1cm/½in layer of jelly. Set aside until completely cooled, then chill in the fridge until set.

Quantities adjusted by a half more from original recipe
3 free-range eggs
75g/3oz caster sugar
75g/3oz plain flour, sieved

200g/7oz good quality dark chocolate, 
minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids, broken into pieces

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the cakes, bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl and beat continuously for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture is pale, fluffy and well combined.
Add the flour, beating continuously, until a thick, smooth batter forms.
Half-fill each well in a 12-hole muffin tin with the cake batter. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake the cakes for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown and cooked through (the cakes are cooked through when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.) Remove from the oven and set the cakes aside, still in their tray, until cool.  When the jelly has set and the cakes have cooled, cut small discs from the layer of jelly, equal in diameter to the cakes. Sit one jelly disc on top of each cake.
Bring a little water to the boil in a pan, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering. Suspend a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate and stir until melted, smooth and glossy, then pour over the cakes. Set aside until the melted chocolate has cooled and set.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Left overs for real

Was I imagining it, or did the newspapers seem to be bombarding us with articles about how to make use of our seasonal leftovers before we´d even cooked our Christmas dinner? Leftovers are becoming so fashionable among the foodie journos these days.But lets get one thing straight - what is a leftover?
Leftovers are the uneaten edible remains of a meal after the meal is over,and everyone has finished eating(basically, items of food that you have cooked too much of).These items do not include sausages that you have not yet cooked, but have apparently been over purchased and therefore escaped the Wednesday supper.People seem to think cheese and cured meats, like slices of ham, are left overs.No they are not, and neither is a tin of plum tomatoes that hasn´t been opened. Journalists and TV chefs are are telling us how to cook things that we have simply over purchased and if you listen to them, very often it is necessary to go shopping again to create a leftover recipe.Well I feel very disappointed, but worthy too, that this year we had no left overs apart from a few roast vegetables, gravy and carcass which all went to make some great soup.Now we are open for business again,I am starting to accrue left overs either from guests requesting small portions or not being able to portion control when cooking for one.The thespian´s home cured ham is now coming to the end of its life, and therefore what it is going to create I definitely constitute as left overs.Last night I knocked up a classic left over dish of Chicken, ham and leek pie. A traditional turkey or chicken and ham pie contains lots of vegetable and is the perfect 'use up' dish. You can add almost any veg, you have to hand, to your pie and along with a good (and I'm talking "good to big") knob of butter and a tablespoon of Creme Fraiche D'Isigny - my favourite creme fraiche.  The D'Isigny type has a lovely savouriness about it that comes from a slight hint of cheesiness - which goes so, so well with savoury dishes.
The only thing I did not have, and actually had to purchase to make this dish, was a leek. Ready rolled puff pastry was in the fridge, and the ham as I said came from the thespians prize cure.The chicken was left over from a one pot chicken casserole I had cooked for the guest who wanted only a small portion.With the help of the dregs of a bottle of white wine and the already opened tub of creme fraiche I was able to unleash a sumptuous and creamy meat pie bubbling with left over goodness.Tonight we are having the last remains of the ham tossed into a creamy wine sauce with peas and Fettucine (see below)

Left over Chicken ham and leek  pie (top)

  • 450ml/16fl oz chicken stock
  • 250g left over chicken pieces,breast thigh or drumstick chopped 
  • 75g/3oz butter
  • 1 fat leek, trimmed and cut into 1cm/½in slices
  • 2 left over roasted garlic cloves, crushed out of their skin
  • 50g/2oz plain flour
  • 200ml/7fl oz milk
  • 2-3 tbsp white wine (optional)
  • 150ml/3fl oz creme fraiche
    2 tsp spoon Dijon mustard
  • 150g/5oz piece thickly carved left over ham, cut into 2cm chunks
  • Flor de sal to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
Melt 25g/1oz of the butter in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Stir in the leek and fry gently for two minutes, stirring occasionally until just softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the remaining butter and stir in the flour as soon as the butter has melted. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Slowly pour the milk into the pan, just a little at a time, stirring well between each adding. Gradually add 250ml/10fl oz of the stock and the wine, if using, stirring until the sauce is smooth and thickened slightly. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3 minutes.
Season the mixture, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche and mustard. Stir in the chicken and shredded ham. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
Line a large rectangular pie dish with ready rolled puff pastry Portioning off enough pastry for the lid.
Spoon the chicken, ham and leek mixture into the pastry lined pie dishand smooth it out. Brush the rim of the dish with beaten egg. Roll out the reserved pastry for the lid.
Cover the pie with the pastry lid and press the edges together firmly to seal. Trim any excess pastry.
Cut a few horizontal cuts along the lid of the pie with the tip of a knife
to let the steam escape.Glaze the top of the pie with beaten egg. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the pie is golden-brown all over and the filling is piping hot. 

Fettucine with left over ham cream and peas
Serves 4
115g/4oz unsmoked  left over cooked ham
50g/2oz butter
2 shallots,very finely chopped
135g/3oz fresh or frozen peas
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper
150ml/1/4 pint/2/3 cup double cream
350g/12oz Fettucine
50g /172 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Cut the fat from the ham and chop both lean and fat parts separately into small squares.
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan and add the shallots,peas and the squares of ham fat.Cook until golden.Add the lean ham, and cook for 2 minutes more.Season with black pepper.Stir in the cream and keep warm over a low heat while the pasta is cooking.
boil the pasta in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water. Cook according to manufacturers instructions and drain when al dente.Turn into awarmed serving bowl,and toss with the sauce.Stir in the cheese and serve at once,garnished with the chopped parsley.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

"The grapefruit juice effect",grapefruit marmalade,a risky business

Its January and that means its grapefruit time in the Algarve,This year there seems to be a bumper crop and I have just been given some gorgeous ruby red grapefruits from a friend who grows them. I just adore grapefruit and I thought I would kick the marmalade season off by attempting something I have never tried before, a grapefruit marmalade. I was first introduced to this bitter,sour somewhat exotic fruit at a hotel breakfast table in the sixties.They're big, they´re sour, have tough membranes, big seeds and bitter flesh. People used to douse them in sugar and prise the flesh out with a special knife or spoon specifically designed for this purpose, just to get one little morsel...of an acquired taste.No,no,no this fruit deserves more respect than that.
But the poor grapefruit has been getting a bad rap over the last couple of years.Research has shown us that the number of drugs that can be risky when taken with grapefruit is on the rise.There are now more than 85 drugs that may interact with grapefruit. The list includes some statins that lower cholesterol (such as atorvastatin, lovastatin, and simvastatin), some antibiotics, cancer drugs, and heart drugs. Most at risk are older people who use more prescriptions and buy more grapefruit.
This is what happens: Grapefruit contains furanocoumarins, which block an enzyme that normally breaks down certain medications in the body. When it is left unchecked, medication levels can grow toxic in the body.
It’s not just grapefruits, either. Other citrus fruits such as Seville oranges (often used in marmalade), limes, and pomelos also contain the active ingredients (furanocoumarins), but have not been as widely studied.
Far from being the harbinger of bad news, I want all of you to enjoy the fruits of this wonderful pamplemousse, so if you were not previously aware of this issue,which came to me via one of our guests,please before you proceed, just check online or with your GP if you are on medication, enjoy eating grapefruit, and want to make this recipe.

Ruby red grapefruit and ginger marmalade 
The added colour of the fruit gives a lovely blush to the finished marmalade, so try to find the ruby red variety rather than just a pink one. 
Makes 2.5kg (5-6lb)
Preparation time 1 hour
Cooking time about 3 hours
1 kg (2lbs) ruby red grapefruit,washed and quartered
1 lemon,washed and quartered
2 litres(31/2 pints
1.5kg (3lb) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 100g(4oz) of chopped crystallised ginger preserved in syrup

Peel the grapefruits and lemon quarters.Remove the pips and tie them in a muslin bag.If the peel is really thick,remove most of the pith and put it in the bag also.
Cut the peel finely and place it in a large preserving pan with the chopped pulp and two types of ginger.Add the muslin bag and water.Bring to the boil and then simmer until the peel is soft.About 1-2 hours.
Remove the muslin bag.add the sugar and stir until dissolved.Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached-about 20-30 minutes.Remove any scum from the surface.
Ladle into cool sterilised jars and seal.Label and store.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Nuns and stiff wimples, pasteis de marmelada

Its winter time, egg yolks and wine, and over the past festive season what with making frosting for  the cake and perhaps a meringue pavlova or two I expect many of you have ended up with a glut of egg yolks. If so,here are some Portuguese solutions  that might ease the problem and avoid excessive waste and blocking up the kitchen sink.
With thanks to discerning wine drinkers and nuns, pastry production in Portugal has always been part of their culinary heritage.
Many of the country's typical pastries were created in monasteries by nuns and monks and sold as a means of supplementing their incomes. The main ingredient for these pastries was egg yolks. It is common belief that the medieval nuns used vast quantities of egg whites to stiffen their wimples, and therefore were forced to develop endless dessert recipes to use all the surplus yolks. However it is also known that Portugal had a big egg production, mainly between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
When wine (Port) started being exported abroad, the Portuguese found that wine consumers were preferring filtered wine, which gave a more clear and refined flavor. After experimenting in different filtering techniques, they concluded that using egg whites produced the best results.
The excess quantity of yolks, combined with plenty of sugar coming from the Portuguese colonies was the inspiration for the creation of wonderful recipes made from egg yolk. The names of these deserts are usually related to monastic life and to the Catholic faith. Examples are, among others, barriga de freira (nun's belly), papos de anjo (angel's breasts), and toucinho do céu (bacon from heaven). Other common ingredients in Portuguese convent confectionery are almonds, "doce de chila/gila" made from pumpkin or squash, wafer paper, and candied egg threads called "fios de ovos.
Today, the Portuguese still enjoy rich, egg-based desserts that are often seasoned with spices such as cinnamon and vanilla.
Perhaps the most popular is leite-crème or egg and milk custard. It consists of milk, flour, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and seven egg yolks, but the intriguing part of this recipe is the need for an iron. Yes, an iron.My first thought was that I was lost in translation but then I realised that before cheffy type blow torches were the rule of the game this would have been the only option in a conventual kitchen. After the custard has finished cooking, heat the base of a flat or cast iron over a high flame and apply it to the sugar for a few seconds to allow the sugar to caramelize. Using a blowtorch is now the modern equivalent, but when given the chance, who wouldn’t want to iron their dessert?
Most towns in Portugal have a local specialty, usually an egg or cream based pastry. Originally from Lisbon, but popular nationwide as well as among the diaspora, are my all time favourite, pastéis de nata.Here is my own seasonal variation on the theme of these, with marmelada (quince jam).

Quince Custard tart (pasteis de marmelada)
makes 18 tarts

150g (5oz) quince paste
1/2 cup ( 5 fl oz )orange juice

Melt the quince paste with the orange juice in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir well until completely combined, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

500g Massa folhada (puff pastry)
140g single cream
4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
A dash of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 230C /450 gas 8
In a saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar till thick. Beat in the cream gradually and carefully heat, stirring till the mixture thickens to a custard. Be careful not to overheat or it will curdle. Remove at once and cool completely. Roll out the pastry to make 2  22cm x 18cm (10x 8in) oblongs and roll each one into a swiss roll shape.Cut into slices 2 cm thick. This is a clever technique, because instead of expanding upwards the puff pastry pushes outward, making a deep cup shape for each tart. Spread the rounds into into muffin pans, pressing down thoroughly with both thumbs. Scoop into each tart 1/2 teaspoon of of quince paste followed by a dessert spoon of the custard. Bake until the pastry is golden and the top is caramelised (10-15 minutes ).