Friday, 27 February 2015

Tarte de amêndoa,uma delicia para fim de semana

I have always had a soft spot for a Portuguese almond tart, but never ever been able to replicate the one I had at a Portuguese cafe in Bloomsbury in London.Well now I think I´ve found a pretty close match for that memory. I´ll let you know in an hour or two when I´ve "deliberated, cogitated and digested."

Portuguese almond tart
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Grease the hollows of the fluted edge especially well, as the topping part of the tart will stick.

125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
200g (1 cup) sugar
2 eggs
Splash (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1/2 large plump vanilla bean
Pinch salt
200g (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Blend in salt and flour. Spread evenly over bottom of tart pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool out of the oven for about 30 minutes. Increase oven temp to 400°.

125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
60g (1/4 cup) heavy cream
150g (3/4 cup) sugar
200g (2 cups sliced almonds)

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in cream. Blend in almonds. Spread evenly over top of cooled baked cake. Bake for 20 minutes or until topping is bubbling and browned. Cool completely before serving, but serve at room temperature.

If you like your desserts sweet but not cloying,this is one for you.It has a buttery almond filling and a crunchy, nutty, caramelised topping.My only suggestion might be to use a slightly smaller and deeper tart pan, then each slice you serve would have more depth to it.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Vegetable crumble-food for thought?

I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. - See more at:
I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. - See more at: don´t know why I thought
I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. - See more at:
My post student days in London were the heydays of healthy wholesome eating.De rigeur was khaki, beige and army surplus sweaters as was dictated to us by Liz Tilberis´s innovative "More dash than cash" pages in Vogue.Tilberis introduced the notion of affordable style.She searched high and low for unexpected fashionable finds that wouldn´t make a hole in our aspirational pockets.
she introduced the notion of affordable style. She searched high and low for unexpected fashionable finds that wouldn’t break the bank. - See more at:
she introduced the notion of affordable style. She searched high and low for unexpected fashionable finds that wouldn’t break the bank. - See more at:
Kitted out in our hearty oatmeal and mossy coloured fern flecked woolies we were not only ensured of being well insulated against the chill of our poorly heated apartments, but also of being perfectly co-ordinated with the earthy glaze of the Leach pottery soup bowls we fashionably supped from.And if we still felt the chill after imbibing a worthy leek and potato soup, there was always a lentil and cheese bake and a wholesome slice of banana bread. 
 Fashionable wholefood restaurants like Cranks,(purveyors of the best ever homity pie) were all the rage.Establishments such as this made their regular customers aware of the connection between healthy eating and uncomfortable seating. We squatted on stools at cramped tables in basements, dazzled by the stripped pine that surrounded us.Sadly this era, a way of life, a civilisation and so much more, has gone.Only Food For Thought and Neals Yard bakery remain as a reminder of wholefood days gone by.
The queues out the door of the former come lunchtime were a good yard stick of the popularity of a long-standing vegetarian cafe and restaurant.
Food for Thought was, and I believe still is, a Covent Garden institution. This basement vegetarian restaurant has been on Neal Street since 1974 and still has a well-deserved reputation for making it possible to enjoy delicious vegetarian food at edible prices.Not that I miss this retro lifestyle choice,but I have to admit I do occasionally get a pining for it.
 Back then, in the days before Pret-a-Whatever this was my preferred break from the humdrum of the magazine art room and a welcome escape from wantonly inhaling the vapours of cow gum.
Fashions change and it was au reservoir to cranky eating habits and Hola to politically incorrect Nando´s.Cranks was sold to Nando's Grocery Ltd in 2001. An era, a way of life, a civilisation and so much more, was over. Cook in sauces and piri piri chicken were to be the next big thing.No use for office lunches but I have to say these cook in sauces were tasty, and a divine saviour by way of enabling a meal to be cobbled together in minutes.This was just what one needed after being pushed busy-wise till some ungodly hour of the day when one was unleashed from office toil to go home. 
Cranks and crankiness wasn't something we only went out to do. We were cranky in the privacy of our own homes, too.Last week I thought I would return to that crankiness and try to recreate some of that wonder of sustainable living and self sufficiency.Yes It can be recreated in even the smallest of tiny domestic kitchens.I had a burning desire to return to the days of carrot cake and tray bakes.
Who could have thought a serious meat eater like me would have considered cooking vegetables with a crumble topping? Or perhaps a nut roast - its density akin to a plywood block or reconstituted sawdust.
Having been one who enjoyed this guilty culinary pleasure I don´t know why I thought crumbles have to be sweet. Less bother than a pie, vegetable crumble is a great way to use up what you have in the fridge, cupboard or freezer! You can change the filling with the seasons making green and summery fillings in the spring and summer and filling it with heartier root vegetables in the winter. 
It was wholemeal all the way for me. There was no stopping me now.The thespian,never one to look forward to a plate of greens, was not convinced.My inspiration came from Portugal´s most prolific food and travel blog author and recipe developer,Isabel Zibaia Rafael .When she stayed at Casa Rosada for last year´s bloggers weekend she gave us a copy of her book Cozinha par dias felizes and I was taken with one particular recipe, pumpkin and roasted beetroot salad with Feta cheese and cous cous. I had a large butternut squash to hand,a block of feta in the fridge and decided that along with some almonds these would be the core ingredients for a savoury crumble.
Butternut squash crumble
Serves 8 portions
As regards how you portion this for cooking is entirely up to you.The quantities are easily changeable from a 4 pint/1.8 litre baking dish to smaller individual ramekins or for starter portions or make ahead portions to keep in the freezer.Just adjust quantities and cooking times accordingly.

1.5kg butternut squash,peeled and cut into 1/2 - 3/4 inch cubes.

3-4 large shallots thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
2oz(50g) bacon/pancetta chopped( vegetarians omit)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds 
2-3 dried red chillies crumbled
1/2 cup vegetable stock
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup (95g flour)
soup spoon finely ground almonds
1/3 cup sliced or flaked almonds
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Flor de sal and pepper
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces  

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F. Butter a large baking dish or 8 ramekins.Bash the coriander seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar. Sauté the shallots,garlic,bacon,if using. Add the cubes of squash and continue cooking until it begins to soften(about 15minutes) sprinkle over the crushed chilli and coriander.Add the herbs,stock and seasoning and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.Pour the mixture into your baking dish or ramekins.Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.While this is cooking make your topping.In a medium bowl bring together the flour,ground almonds,sugar if using,thyme,Flor de sal and pepper.Add the pieces of butter and bring the mixture together with your fingers until you have a consistency that resembles bread crumbs.Stir in the flaked and sliced almonds. Remove the dish or ramekins from the oven,remove the foil covering and scatter the crumble over the top.Bake 45 minutes until golden brown.

I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at:
I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at:
I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at:
I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at:
I’m not sure why I always through crumbles needed to be sweet. Is it because I’m usually eating them weekly smack dab in the middle of summer? Probably. But last month in Paris we stopped by a lovely little shop and café for lunch where Adam ordered a Zucchini Crumble, a small dish of tender eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and onions topped with a savory buttery topping and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Its simplicity astounded me, its flavor surprised me. And the door to enjoying a different type of crumble was opened and we’re already looking forward to repeating this dish with autumn’s delicious butternut squash or even tender roasted root veggies. It’s simple, satisfying, and makes a wonderful lunch. - See more at:

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bolos lêvedos de São Miguel

This is more like an English muffin than an American muffin

In the great, wide world of breakfast breads, the English muffin is a well-known favourite. On sandwiches, under Eggs Benedict, or on their own, English muffins are a classic choice for breakfasts on the hop as well as leisurely Sunday brunches. English muffins may have cornered the breakfast market,but they're not the only "European muffin" out there, and they may not be the best either. The Portuguese muffin can one-up and out-do its English counterpart any morning of the week.
For those who aren't familiar with the Portuguese muffin, it is slightly sweeter and slightly larger than an English muffin. You don't pull it apart like you would an English muffin -- instead, you cut it in half with a knife, as you would a bagel. The cross-section is smoother, with fewer "nooks and crannies" than an English muffin.
The dough for Portuguese muffins consists of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, whole milk, yeast and water.
 Also known as Portuguese sweet muffins, Portuguese sweet bread, Portuguese pancakes, or Bolo Levedo, these muffins are sturdier than English muffins and don't crumble as easily, which makes them great for sandwiches, toasties or instead of burger buns.
I could quite happily eat these muffins for breakfast and again for lunch, and I have no shame.My favourite employment of Bolo levedos is for eggs Benedict (above).
So when I saw a recipe for these online I decided to experiment with making them in my own kitchen. I have never even thought that bread could be baked bread in a dry frying pan.We were beyond excited when they came out just like the picture that had inspired me. Its almost magical watching the frying pan as these squashed dough balls slowly transform themselves into the sort of muffin we all know and enjoy
Bolos lêvedos de São Miguel                                                              Makes 8 or 9 muffins
500-550 g all purpose flour
125 g butter (preferably Azorean!) softened
125 g Sugar 

20 g of baker's yeast
200ml milk
Zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs

In a bowl, pour in the warm milk, then the sugar and the crumbled yeast. Add the beaten eggs and then the softened butter. Add the lemon zest. Finally, sift in 500 g of flour.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Watch the kneading, it is likely you will have to add a little more flour, but do so using a tablespoon at a time testing the mass little by little (I added about 50g more, ie about 4 tablespoons).
Cover dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 11/2 hours.
Divide dough into about 8 or 9 pieces, and shape them into flat round cakes about 1/2 inch thick. 
In a dry ungreased nonstick frying pan, cook the flattened dough balls on a low heat, one side and then the other. Caution: keep the flame low.Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Benaddicted to eggs,'What one man can invent another can discover.'

This is one of the prettiest Benedicts I´ve ever seen!

Eggs Benedict represents everything we should not be eating in the mornings. It's a decadent stack of bacon, poached eggs and English muffin that gets generously doused in a buttery, rich hollandaise sauce; it's no wonder then that Eggs Benedict is one of the best-tasting dishes you can find on a breakfast menu anywhere.It still remains one of my all time favourite breakfast dishes, probably for that very same indulgent reason.You can not imagine what happened recently when I put Benedict Cumberbatch into a google search and what came up was a recipe for Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch. Eggs Arnold Bennett perhaps?-No there it was bold as Sherlock. I knew what this post would be about the moment I saw eggs and Cumberbatch in the title.
Mmmmmm, anything Cumberbatch is bound to be seriously delicious!Well isn´t it? Sherlock did it for me big time.... but I never thought of making something in his honour. This is genius!
I was beyond excitement.It immediately got me thinking that if the Savoy Hotel had created an *omelette in the name of a turn of the century English novelist, then why not create a modern twist of a classic egg dish for one of todays rising stars of the silver screen.I am a great fan of the Cumberbatch, he actually  deserves an entire breakfast buffet named after him he is so yummy!!! I loved the idea of this as much as I also love Watson his side kick, the cute and adorable Martin Freeman.The author of the post,  Molly Yeh , served her Benedict up on a delicious hunk of Polenta.

'There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.'
 Sherlock Holmes
-A Study in Scarlet

Swapping the English muffin for a polenta disc makes it even more decadent, and whilst I love the classic version of this dish, there are many variations that are worth trying too. Replacing the pork and fishifying  it with salmon lightens it up a bit and adding avocado is not a bad idea.
Change the bread,trade the poached eggs for other types of eggs or totally deconstruct it or re-imagine it.This got me harking back to a commission I was given back in 1987 to create the "ultimate Italian sandwich." 28 years later, given the inspiration, this seemed like the perfect time to give one of my signature dishes a makeover.The original recipe was Grilled Polenta with smoked salmon avocado and mascarpone.Today for my Portuguese Ben -addiction I served up a sandwich of Milho Frito ( a kind of Portuguese bubble and squeak) with a filling of smoked salmon, avocado "Hollandaise",and rocket. My Avocado “Hollandaise” is not technically a hollandaise or a variant. But maybe you guessed that from the quotation marks. It’s really just pureed avocado with a bit of lemon juice,Flor de sal, water, and olive oil, but it makes a great healthy option for a weekend benedict.Is there a vegan in the house?

eggs benedict cumberbatch (Molly yeh)
from bottom to top:
a slice of pre-cooked polenta, fried in a bit of butter, salted
two slices of canadian bacon, lightly browned
one egg, fried in a greased heat-safe biscuit cutter, salted and peppered
three leaves of fresh arugula
a few shavings of parmesan
optional tabasco 
My re-auditioned Benedict (top)
For the Milho Frito base
Serves 6
450g (1lb) fine ground cornmeal (polenta)
50g (2oz) butter
2 teaspoons Flor de sal
about 450g dark green cabbage,finely shredded
0live oil for frying

For the Filling
6 slices of smoked salmon
1 bunch of rocket
6 poached eggs

For the "Avocado hollandaise"
1 very ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Flor de sal
Freshly ground pepper

Mix half the cornmeal with 300ml (1/2 pint) cold water until smooth and free of lumps.Bring 2.5 litres of water to the boil in a heavy pan with the butter and salt.Stir in the watered cornmeal and bring back to the boil.Add the cabbage.Cook for about 10 minutes until the cabbage is tender.Sprinkle in the rest of the cornmeal,bring back to the boil again and stir over the heat for another 20 -30 minutes (depending on the manufacturers instructions and how finely ground it is),until the mixture is thick and pulls away from the base and sides of the pan.If you need extra water,make sure it´s boiling.
Tip out onto a lightly oiled shallow baking tray.Smooth the polenta out in an even layer using a metal spatula dipped in hot water. Cover with a tea towel and leave to set and cool for at least one hour or up to 24 hours overnight in the refrigerator.When ready to make your benedicts press out 12 circles using a 10cm cutter. Fry the circles in two batches on both sides in shallow oil until crisp and golden.
Keep your first batch warm in the oven while you fry the second batch.

Place a slice of polenta on each serving plate  and cover generously with rocket leaves.Arrange slices of smoked salmon on top and then nestle the poached eggs into the salmon.Pour the "hollandaise over the top.Position the second slices of polenta at an angle against the stack.

In a blender, combine the avocado and lemon juice with 1/3 cup of hot water. Puree until smooth and light in texture, about 2 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil and puree until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the hollandaise over poached eggs.

*Arnold Bennett was so delighted with the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan concoction that chefs at the Savoy created for him, he insisted on it being made wherever he travelled. And at the Savoy, Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard dish to this day.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sonhos - leave your dreams behind and sugar the bitter pill of Lent

Where did the word “carnival” come from? Because Catholics were not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale
 — from the latin expression carne vale, which means "farewell to meat", signifying that carnival was your last chance to eat meat before the fasting and abstinence of Lent. I may not be a practising Catholic anymore, but going back to my roots I remember well the custom of giving up something for Lent.Why did we give up things for Lent? It was all about sacrifice and as children we were made to give up our favourite treat: the theory was that Jesus gave up his life for us so the least we could do was give up eating Mars Bars for forty days.While Jesus wandered in the desert for forty days, resisting the devil´s lies, we fought off our cravings for pizza.
This was a long time ago but the ritual of Lent remained with me for a long time.
I have to admit that I am still drawn to the spartan simplicity,the stripped back starkness of an undecorated church devoid of flowers,the mysterious reverence of its covered up statues.Most of all its the symbols of ash and especially the fragrant aroma left behind by the burning of incense.It still touches a nerve.
At one point in my life, I gave up giving things up for Lent. It was stupid, I thought, and superficial. Yes, I too love and crave chocolate, but at the end of 40 days, I would just symbolically binge and eat up more than my fair share anyway in the form of a large hollow gold Lindt bunny, Chocolate Orange, After Eights a and a whole lot more. So what was the point? 
Well Its been carnival this weekend and I wanted to share with you this recipe for a traditional Carnival treat from Madeira, where the traditional foods at this time of year are the sonhos and malassadas (deep fried doughnuts).These are served up with some sort of decadent syrupy sauce or in this case a Flor de sal caramel sauce from George Mendes. Apparently  on one of his restaurant feedback cards a grateful female customer wrote"I love this sauce so much, I want to bathe in it". My sentiments exactly.
'Sonhos', means dreams in Portuguese.They are so called because they are a hollow and light, deep fried doughnuty and dreamy. I thought that not only would this be a reminder of my past penitence, but also a chance to bring my favourite christmas present into practice.
Cinnamon-Sugar "Doughnuts"
 Serves 8
1/4 cup plus1/4 tsp (55g)
1/2 tsp unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour (150g)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
sunflower oil as needed
In a medium saucepan,bring 1 cup (250ml)water,1/4 teaspoon of the sugar,and the butter to a boil over a high heat.Add the flour and stir continuously and vigorously until the mixture forms a ball.reduce the heat to medium.Continue cooking,stirring vigorously,until the dough starts to puff and a thin layer of dough sticks to the bottom of the pan.The dough will be very stiff; just keep working it.Transfer it to a processor fitted with the paddle attachment.
Beat on a medium low speed just to break up the ball.Add the eggs,one at a time,beating until smooth after each addition.Raise the speed to high and beat,scraping the bowl occasionally, until the eggs are fully incorporated and there are no clumps,about 1 minute.Don´t overbeat the dough;the bowl should still be warm.
Transfer the dough to a container,let cool slightly, and refrigerate until chilled.
when you´re ready to serve,combine the cinnamon and remaining 1/4 cup (50g) sugar in a medium bowl.Fill a medium saucepan with oil to a depth of 3 inches(7.5cm).Heat to 300F (150C).using ateaspoon cookie scoop or measuring teaspoon,carefully drop a few balls of dough into the hot oil.Don´t crowd the pan.Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature.Cook until the sonhos float,puff , and are golden and cooked through,about 8 minutes.Immediately transfer to the cinnamon sugar and gently toss to coat.repeat with the remaining dough.serve the sonhos hot with the salt caramel or a sauce of your choice.Lemon curd,rhubarb sauce or a home made custard could be options.

Flor de sal caramel sauce
11/4 cups of sugar ( 250g )
174 cup(180ml) heavy cream
1 tablespoon Flor de sal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter,cut in pieces and softened 
In a medium saucepan,combine the sugar and 5 tablespoons(75ml) water.
Bring to a boil over a medium heat,swirling the pan occasionally,until the mixture is amber.reduce the heat to low and carefully and slowly whisk in the cream.The mixture will bubble up.Continue whisking until well combined.Whisk in the salt.Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.when lukewarm,stir in the butter,a little at atime, until well combined.Serve the caramel at room temperature.The caramel can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.Bring to room temperature before serving.

If you prefer a butterless caramel follow my own recipe

Flor de Sal caramel
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 teaspoon Flor de sal
2 tablespoons golden syrup or honey
1 cup sugar
1teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup creme fraiche
In a small saucepan combine the mascarpone and the salt, simmer over a very low heat until the salt is dissolved and then set aside.
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and syrup or honey carefully. They will not combine well until the sugar begins to melt.Cook over a high heat until a thermometer reads 350º (6-8 minutes). Without a thermometer just pull the pan off the heat when it is a medium goldish brown. It will continue to cook in the heat of the pan.( Better pull it off early than be sorry). Remove from the heat and let it cool for 1 minute.
Add the cream mixture and vanilla to the sugar mix. Whisk in the creme fraiche. Let the caramel cool to room temperature.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Voz do Carnaval e dia de Sao Valentim

  a stunning pudding to wow your beloved this weekend 
Chica chica boom chic, lets get all fruity this weekend.Yi yi yi yi, Valentines day and Carnival collide on the same weekend.Whether you are feeding a carnival party or just looking to wow your little latin lupelu I have found a pudding that instantly conjures up the outlandish fruit-festooned headgear that was the "Brazilian Bombshell"Carmen Miranda. She epitomized the spirit of carnivals the world over,bringing the vitality and essence of Latin culture to the streets.
Born in Portugal, her devoutly Catholic parents moved to Brazil when she was a baby. Her convent education necessitated that she keep her entertainment business dreams under covers,and she started off her career as a department store clerk, entertaining her co-workers.That aside, here is a tutti frutti terrine to keep her spirit alive.
Strawberries are plentiful here in southern Portugal at the moment but alas will be over in a couple of months, just when you really want them. Summer berries, however are scarce, so I had  to use imported blueberries and raspberries padded out with a large bag of frozen fruits of the forest. I am sure with a bit of imagination you can make this pudding work with whatever fruit is available in season down your way.Whether you´re down Argentina way, its That night in Rio or you´re having a Weekend in Havana,The gang will all be there so lets do the Copacabana...."Beijo Bamba" enjoy

A Pink port and tonic terrine

You will need 2 x 900g loaf tins 19 x 12 x 9 cms deep

300ml Croft Pink Port

125ml tonic water
( if you cant find this, you could substitute 425 ml sparkling rose wine and failing that 125ml sparkling mineral water to 300ml of rose wine)
22g gelatine granules or leaf equivalent
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice


500g strawberries
225g raspberries
110g each of blackcurrants,redcurrants and blue berries, or a combination of your own choice

Remove the stalks from the fruit and halve any strawberry that is larger than a quail s egg.Carefully mix all the fruit together in a large bowl. In a small saucepan heat half the port and tonic till it begins to simmer, then whisk the sugar and gelatine into it. Make sure that everything has dissolved completely before adding the remaining liquid and lime juice.
Pour the liquid into a jug and allow to cool. Lay the fruit in the loaf tin with the smallest prettiest fruit first as this will be the top of the pudding when the terrine is turned out. Pour in all but 150ml of the liquid over the fruit. Lay a sheet of clingfilm over the tin. Place the other terrine on top then put two unopened tins as weights into the terrine and put in the fridge for one hour or until it has set. Warm up the remaining 150ml wine mixture and pour it over the surface of the terrine. Re-cover with clingfilm and return to the fridge overnight to set firm.

Turn out the terrine by dipping it very briefly in hot water and inverting it on to a plate.
Use a very sharp knife (also dipped in hot water ) to cut it into slices.
This recipe can also be made in small individual ramekins if you are catering for large numbers.
Quantities can be doubled or reduced in the same proportions.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Croquetas de cecina y puerro

Having a plate of croquetas and a cold glass of fino sherry put in front of me is pure, deep-fried happiness indeed. In terms of tapas they are pretty damn perfect,fried,starchy and assertively salty. Spanish croquetas are made from a stiff Béchamel,rather than mashed potato and they need to be eaten hot-so hot from the fryer that you burn your fingers on the crisp breadcrumb coating as you rush to bite into their gorgeous molten centre.My imagined fear of first mounting Etna palls into insignificance.They are surprisingly light despite the outrageously piggy filling that oozes from their shell.There  are innumerable variations on croquetas, and everyone has their particular favourite.
Old habits die hard, and I was more than happy to have come across an unusual croqueta recipe,but not too far removed from the classic ham standard.Creamy béchamel is the perfect foil for morsels of jamon iberico,but how about cecina and leek? I left you with a cliff hanger in my last blog post.What is he going to do with the cecina before it dries out? Well I was sent the answer on a plate, this recipe popped out of the ether and landed on my mouse mat.However,entering virgin territory I was left with issues which need to be addressed in future croqueta projects.The recipe I used told me to cook the bechamel until it came away from the sides of the pan and another recipe had informed me not to overcook the béchamel to avoid the consistency becoming stodgy.Who I should have believed I am not too sure,but I think the end product could have been a little firmer.I was also unsure whether to fry them on a low, medium or high temperature, or if indeed I should have employed the deep pan fryer as opposed to a frying pan on the stove top.I did not find a recipe that gave much guidance in this respect but perhaps with further research I will graduate from virgin to one initiated in the art of producing the perfect croqueta.I did follow advice about flouring your hands to roll the chilled croquetas mixture before breading.This is a cheffy tip recommended by José Pizarro, and makes things much easier.
Finally, although generally I favour neutral oils for frying, on this occasion throw caution to the fryer and use olive oil.It´s well worth the expenditure – the flavour is complementary, rather than distracting. A litre bottle should be fine, and you can filter it and use it again should the call of croquetas prove difficult to ignore: in fact these are ideal for parties, because they need to be made in advance, and then fried to order.God forbid they are far too good to share.
Croquetas de cecina y puerro (cecina and leek)
ingredients (for about 40 croquettes approx.):
you might want to halve the quantities here

1250 ml whole milk 
100g butter 
100g wheat flour plus extra to form the croquettes 
150g cecina
1 leek 
Black pepper 
Olive oil
Chop both the leek and Cecina as small as you can, reserving one slice of meat kept whole.Bring the milk to a simmer and drop in the reserved slice of Cecina. In a pan melt the butter. Add the leek and fry until soft but not coloured. Then add the Cecina and stir it in.Now add the flour and let it take on a bit of colour.
When the milk is coming to the boil, remove the slice of Cecina, and pour the milk slowly onto the flour mix stirring constantly to avoid any lumps.Add the seasonings to taste.
When the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, this is when the batter is ready for croquetas.
Pour it into a dish to cool. Once cool, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until the next day.
The next day mould the croquetas with a spoon to form the cylindrical shaped croquetas.
Pass them through (in this order)  flour, egg and breadcrumbs. 
Pour enough olive oil in a medium to large frying pan to cover 1/2 inch deep. Heat the olive oil for frying to about 355F degrees. Dip the croquetas in the beaten egg and coat with crumbs by rolling in bowl. Place the croquetas in the hot oil and fry quickly, turning several times, until golden. 
If you prefer, you can use a deep-fryer to fry the croquetas.Be sure not to over-cook them!I am not convinced about this.
Remove the croquetas with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve immediately.
If your croquetas will not be served immediately, place in a warm oven (200 degrees) for up to 30 minutes.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Cecina, um almuerzo de invierno,con almendras y las gachas de rábano picante

I had not come across, or even heard of, Cecina until June last year, on my first visit to Porto while dining in the brilliant Restaurante (LSD) Largo Sao Domingos with its simple but clever and inventive menu.On quizzing the waitress,I interpreted it was "cow ham."
Cecina is similar to ham but is made by a complicated and lengthy process of curing the hind legs of beef.What arrived on my plate was something that reminded me of one of my favourite cured meats,Italian Bresaola.On tasting, it did not have the sweetness of the Italian cure,which I was informed is cured for less time (5 months).They are incomparable really.
Cecina is salt-cured, smoked, air-dried beef, and is truly a delicacy of Spain. The origin of the word cecina is not altogether clear. There are two main beliefs both of which seem totally feasible given the curing process.
Some believe that it comes from the Latin siccus, meaning dry, while others believe it originates from the Celtic ciercina, and is related to modern Spanish "cierzo" or North wind. The oldest written reference to Cecina dates from the 4th century B.C. The description of the process is the same as it is today. For centuries homes in the Maragara area (in the northwest of Spain) traditionally kept a dried beef leg in the larder to feed the family.
Protected geographical indication logoFurther research told me that Cecina is a speciality from the provinces of Leon and Zamora in northwestern Spain, where it has PGI status, although it is also produced in the Basque Country and is well known all over the Iberian peninsula. The Cecina de Leon  is famous for its quality, and has a protected geographical identification under the law. The altitude (over 800 meters) and dry climate of Leon is perfect for its production.The production process contains six steps, which are called perfilado, salado, lavado, asentamiento, ahumado and secado or curación. First, the meat is cured in salt for a specified number of days. Any remaining salt on the outside is washed off. It is then smoked in oak for 2-3 weeks. The final step in the process is to dry the meat in special rooms, where windows can be opened and closed, regulating the temperature as well as humidity. The entire process takes 7 months, according to the Regulating Council (Consejo Regulador I.G.P. Cecina de León). 
Cecina has a brown crust, which is removed before eating. Inside, it is a dark cherry to maroon colour, with small veins of fat running through it. It is slightly fibrous and has a distinct flavour. Although cured in salt, it is not salty. It is usually sliced very thin and served as an appetizer by itself, or with bread. I loved the colour and wanted to  pull it through so I teamed it up with roasted beetroot and rocket salad dressed with a Sherry vnegar dressing and an almond and horseradish porridge.Cecina,by the way
dries out quickly after slicing,so plan to use it no longer than 24 hours after purchase.I had leftovers from what I had purchased so to avoid the sliced meat drying out,I am going to make some croquetas.More on that story later.... 

remains of the day
Almond and horseradish porridge
150g whole blanched almonds
11/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
4 - 6 tablespoons water
25g stale white bread soaked in water
1 garlic clove,crushed to a paste with salt
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
Flor de sal,pepper to taste
In a food processor,grind the almonds to a consistency as fine as possible.Now add 3 tablespoons of the water and process until the almonds form a paste.Squeeze the water out of the bread and add it it to the almond paste with the crushed garlic.Combine well until smooth.Slowly add the Horseradish and the olive oil until you achieve a thick dropping consistency like mayonnaise.season with Flor de sal and pepper.Add the rest of the water only if you need it.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A perfumed Moroccan apple pie

This is the perfect task for a weekend winter afternoon, and if you are selling your house even better.The perfume that fills the kitchen while you are cooking the filling is simply alluring.Its exotic floral tones certainly pip quince at the post, and whats more this wonderful perfume returns to haunt your palate as you savour your first slice. The result is stunning, but it requires time, patience and concentration.You need to be very methodical in your prep and have all the elements of this recipe measured out accordingly so that they are all ready at the various stages of its creation.For instance, the recipe calls for melted butter, completely cooled.The apple filling took much longer to cool than I had anticipated,by which time my butter had solidified and I had to re-melt it.So if you want, prepare the apple filling the day before and keep refrigerated until you are ready to proceed.The whole pie could be assembled and stored in the fridge for a few hours until you are ready to bake it.The original recipe was published in The Times and has been scattered across the Internet ever since.It was most unlike the Times not to credit the original creator of this recipe,and if anyone else had used Times material without permission it would have been pistols at dawn.Anyway, whoever you were, I´m sure you owe your ingenuity to your parents and you deserve merit for your creation.
The method of using layers of buttered phyllo pastry and inverting the pie was inspired by the savoury Moroccan pie, “bisteeya”, but here the filling is vanilla-infused apples. Such a brilliant idea. 
I made one major change to the recipe. I accentuated the Moroccan theme by using brik pastry in place of the phyllo.Plated desserts with impact like this one cry out for Feuilles de Brik.The paper thin, non-brittle and very easy to handle leaves are full of possibilities, and so much easier to work with than phyllo.The major advantage being that you do not have to keep unused sheets covered with cling film or a damp tea towel while you are working (always a bug bear).Since the sheets of brik have a very slightly salty edge to them you have to pair them carefully.The combination of cinnamon vanilla and tart apples is one perfect choice.Back to the brik, this is inspirational stuff.It is a ready made pastry.You can make your own if you are brave and confident enough. Personally I think daily life in a modern kitchen provides us with enough tasks to fill one´s day.("Aga-doo-doo-doo, push pineapple, grind coffee") and all that.
Brik is sold in circular or rectangular sheets,(you will need the rectangular version for this recipe) similar to phyllo pastry, but as I have already said a good deal easier to work with.Brik originates from Tunisia,but most brands are now produced by French manufacturers.The pastry is thicker and more robust than phyllo and does not require endless washings of butter to make it malleable.You can be fairly rough with it too and it stands up to the job.No surprise there then that the French, being no fools, were quick to embrace it. In Tunisia it is usually deep fried, wrapped around a filling of meat, tuna or egg.If you are not a fan of deep frying and never know what to do with the left over oil,here is your answer- bake it, which is much easier and healthier and makes a fantastic crunchy jacket to all sorts of fillings. I can feel that this is fast going to become one of my favourite ingredients over the next few months.

A perfumed Moroccan apple pie
Serves: 8-10
6 tart, green apples (peeled, cored and thinly sliced)
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla pod (split lengthways)
115g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp cornflour
80g unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
8 sheets of brik pastry
Icing sugar for dusting

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Place into a medium bowl. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add to the apples. Add 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest. Add half of the caster sugar into the bowl and toss to evenly coat the apples. Put the remaining caster sugar into a small bowl with the cinnamon. Mix throughly. Set aside. Place the sugarcoated apple slices in a large saucepan with 2 tbsp water and the lemon juice. Cover and cook stirring occasionally over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the apples slices have softened.
Transfer the cooked apple slices into a bowl and let to cool down. When the apple slices are completely cooled down, stir in the cornflour. Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F). Place a baking tray into the oven to heat.Grease a round  (22cm diameter) cake tin with butter. Lay a sheet of brik pastry on a clean work surface and lightly brush with melted butter. Sprinkle some of the cinnamon-sugar on top of the butter layer.
Repeat this with the next 3 sheets of brik pastry. Gently press the buttered brik layers into the buttered cake tin. Let the ends of the filo pastry hang over the rim. Make a second layered stack from the remaining 4 brik pasty sheets exactly the same way. Then lay this second layered brick pastry stack across the first one in the cake tin, so that the entire rim of the cake tin is draped with brik pastry. Spoon the cooled apple slices into the tin and with the back of the spoon gently, but firmly press them down.
Fold the ends of the brik pastry towards the centre of the tin to cover the filling. Lightly brush with melted butter. Working quickly, remove the hot baking tray from the oven and line with non-stick baking paper. Invert the cake tin onto the baking tray. Remove the cake tin and bush the top of the Moroccan Apple Pie with melted butter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and crisp. Let cool down and dust with icing sugar before serving.