Thursday, 31 December 2015

A língua de gato,Um novo bolacha seco salgada

Has the cat got your tongue? It is an expression we use in England about someone who remains silent when they are expected to speak.When you serve up these savoury beauties I guarantee that the cat will have all your guests tongues.They will be at a loss for words and be gagging for more.
I have made these on many an occasion,but only realised this time how much they might be related to the French classic, langue de chat.My version is loosely inspired by an original Ottolenghi recipe, but by the time I have 'deliberated, cogitated and digested' his recipe, it bears little resemblance to the original.Ones first reaction to these "crackers" is one of surprise but served with dips and cheese they become quite an addictive snack.Beware they are very fragile,so handle them carefully.,or you´ll be crying out Oh crumbs.

Flor de sal, thyme and olive oil crackers
Makes 32

250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
115ml water
25ml olive oil,plus extra for brushing
1/2 tsp Flor de sal
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked picante paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
Generous sprinklings of Flor de sal mediterranica 

In a large bowl,mix together all the ingredients except the flor de sal to form a soft dough.You can do this by hand or in a processor fitted with a dough hook Work the dough until you get a firm consistency,then cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7.Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface or board.Have a bowl of flour ready at your side for dusting.Use a large sharp knife to cut  off walnut sized pieces (roughly 15g each) from the dough. Roll out each piece as thinly as possible with a rolling pin,dusting with plenty of flour as you go.They should end up looking like long oval tongues,almost paper thin.
Place the crackers on a tray lined with baking parchment.Brush them with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle generously with Flor de sal. Bake for about 6 minutes,until crisp and golden.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Sexing up the Waldorf

Casa Rosada has been asked to cater a New Years Eve party for friends in their villa..The menu is simple but sumptuous. Three canapés, Porchetta with fondant potatoes and stir fried cavolo nero with garlic and chilli.To end, chocolate mousse cake with fresh mandarins. However, as always in the planning stage, several dietary requirements and dislikes had to be taken into account.
Peppers brought out a big NO from the host, so my starter for eight of Piquillo pepper mousse with parmesan crisps was first to be knocked out of the ring.
Salads are always an option.After the holy trinity of Christmas day( Smoked salmon,the bird and the pud) has passed, one craves for the healthier options. In our household we never cease to be disloyal to the trinity.Potted shrimps,octopus salad, duck and trifle are are our most favourite items for the festive dinner.
At this time of year when over indulgence has hit hard, and I speak from my own point of view here, I have a yen for raddicio, little gem and Romaine leaves with hard -boiled eggs,anchovies,capers but I know too many who wage vendettas against one or all of those hapless ingredients not to take the chance.Sigh.
 So,I thought I would sex up the traditional Waldorf salad incorporating among other ingredients beetroot and grilled goats cheese, in my mind always a match made in heaven, but then combine them with little gem leaves and the three main components of the classic Waldorf, celery, apple and a creamy dressing.

Almost a Waldorf Salad
(quantities per portion.Increase the ingredients accordingly per number of servings )
1/2 little gem lettuce per portion
1/4 medium sweet dessert apple cut into small chunks
small handful chopped walnuts per portion
1/2 small roasted beetroot cut into rounds
1/2 stick celery finely chopped 
chopped parsley to garnish
4 medium slices of Goats cheese,cut from a log,preferably chevre,per portion  

Creamy dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp home made mayonnaise

In a small bowl whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.
In a medium bowl tear  up the little gem leaves and combine with the celery and apple chunks.Toss in some of the dressing making sure everything is coated.Set aside.
Put the slices of Goats cheese on a roasting tray under the grill until melted and bubbling.
While the cheese is grilling,assemble the leaves apple and celery on a serving plate.Tuck the beetroot rounds in and around the leaves trying not to stain the rest of the salad.Scatter the chopped walnuts over the salad.
Bring the goats cheese from the grill and carefully place them on top of the salad.Add a little more dressing over the salad and finish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Better the devil you know now than the devil you did - sriracha devilled eggs

I am constantly noticing newspaper and magazine articles with titles like..."50 things to do before you die".Well in culinary terms it got me thinking.What have I never attempted to cook? What came to the fore was devilled eggs.I have never as much as attempted this classic, let alone meddled with it, so what’s so “deviled” about deviled eggs?
Traditional deviled eggs? I am sure most have you have been there and done that. But with the extra spice kick from next years hot prediction, sriracha sauce? I don´t think you will have.Once you have though, you´re gonna go back and do it again and again and again. Don´t worry, Satan hasn´t  meddled too much with these little lovelies,They still contain the requisite mustard and mayonnaise for the deviled egg traditionalists. But it’s the smidgen of bacon dripping and some of that hot hellish heat that comes in the name of Sriracha sauce that makes these  become something of a crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvre that are the perfect way to start that ad hoc lunch.They are so easy to make that you can get the party started in 30 minutes or less. Just watch your guests saunter past that buffet table again and again and again to snitch a little bit more.Now I have crossed the threshold I for one will be devouring more than just two or three in one sitting.Bring ´em on......
Sriracha devilled eggs
makes 24 servings
12 large eggs
2 tablespoons  white wine vinegar
1/2 cup  homemade mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon  homemade Sriracha sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons pork dripping
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish (optional)

Put the eggs in a large pan. Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch and add the vinegar, too. Place the pan over a high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer for 10 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat, place it in the sink, and run cold water over the eggs for 1 to 2 minutes to cool them down and stop them cooking further. Transfer the eggs to a bowl filled with iced water and leave them for about 20 minutes,or more, until they’re completely cooled .Remove the eggs from the water, peel them and then cut them in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out the yolks and tip them into a medium bowl. You should have perfectly hard-cooked eggs with a firm yolk. To the egg yolks in the bowl stir in the mayonnaise, mustard, Sriracha, and pork dripping and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk the ingredients until smooth. Taste and adjust any ingredient as desired. Fill a piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with a corner snipped off with the mixture and pipe it into the egg white halves. (Alternatively, you can simply use the same teaspoon to fill each egg white cavity. Top each with slithers of snipped chives, if using. Serve immediately.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

The morning after,cranberry sauce muffins

Spongy,sticky,spicy,Christmasy muffins using lovely leftover cranberry sauce.They’re so easy to whip up, and just perfect for that lazy morning after the biggest day of the year. Cranberry sauce is arguably one of the best trimmings of Christmas – especially when its home made. I went a bit overboard and whipped up way more than was needed.Well If a little is good, a lot is even better! Am I Right? We' ve eaten half of them already.
So lets get to the point, inevitably there are always leftovers. While there are a trillions of things you can do with leftovers, this one really is not only the most inventive "left over"  on the planet but also the perfect morning after breakfast.Make sure you are the first up in the morning and whip up a batch of these little or not so little lovelies.Pop them in the oven and by the time the rest of your household surfaces there will be a warm batch on their entrance.Enjoy.

Left over cranberry sauce muffins
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 cup rolled oats
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1 1/2 cups leftover cranberry sauce
    1/2 cup milk (can substitute almond milk)
    1/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 egg

      Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
      Take a 12-cup standard-size muffin tin,and add silicone muffin cups.
      In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 cup oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
      In a medium bowl, whisk together the cranberry sauce, milk, vegetable oil and egg.
      Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.
      Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups - about 3/4 to all the way full.
      Bake for 20 minutes or until tops spring back when you touch them and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out dry.

      Wednesday, 23 December 2015

      Mousse de piquillos y bocadillo crujiente de parmigiano reggiano-Feliz Navidad

      "Tapa, small snack, great pleasure"

      "Catch a falling star an' put it in your pocket
      Never let it fade away
      Catch a falling star an' put it in your pocket
      Save it for a rainy day"

      Perry Como
      Yes its the countdown to the entertaining season.As fast as Charlize Theron can leg it up a hundred metres of satin Christmas is here.
      J´adore the scentimentality of it all. No longer do we have to go around smelling of Tramp.(Tramp by Mayfair was an Oriental floral fragrance for women.The must have Christmas gift  was launched in 1975. The fragrance featured citrus, floral and oriental notes)
      The slushy adverts only encourage us to dig our heels in and ignore supermarkets yonder, beckoning us with promises of a gluten free Christmas. God spare us all,we are wiser.
      Nothing seems special any more. Prosecco Valdobbiadene, once nectar of the gods is now available in Iceland,where apparently you can also purchase a chocolate cake, hand finished with a star.Now what makes me think I would not fall for that one.That reminds me ,I must spritz my optimum body areas with Perry Como (my friend Stacey´s endearing term for my 360º by Perry Ellis cologne) on Christmas morning.The Daily Mail´s Maybelle Morgan suggests pulse points,including wrists and backs of knees as preferred optimum body zones.Areas such as the belly button emit heat and maximise scent intensity.Maybe Maybelle knows,or maybe she´s really Maybelline but she´ll have us all into fifty shades of temptation the worse this Christmas if we follow that sort of advice.
      I am starting to sound like a bah humbug Katy Hopkins ( not to be confused with Mary Hopkins, "those were the days my duck".No seriously,what is left that is special? Please dont say 3 game birds rolled and stuffed inside each other.Its neither tasty or clever.I think to bring back the magic and make Christmas a little special again you need to go a little off piste and I have to say this is easier if you are living abroad, and this was more than evident on a recent Christmas food shopping trip to Andalucia.I commented on the amazing array of seasonal treats to be had from lovely old fashioned grocers shops where you can sit down with a glass of pedro ximenez after making your purchases.
       Without a doubt tapas are the principal hallmark of Spanish gastronomy as well as one of the country’s principal exports. Many  have created their own versions of this typical Spanish style of eating.
      Here is my version of a tapa from  Pamplona, a much loved destination of Hemingway in the 1920´s. Pamplona was his first obsession – a mutual romance. Even now, though sizeable of reputation, the capital of the Navarre region is a small city, hemmed into the north-east corner of Spain. In Hemingway's heyday, this was trebly the case – a little-acknowledged citadel barely grown beyond its medieval youth,like Christmas a secret package waiting to be unwrapped.Nowadays it has become a city famous for its small bites-Tapas.

      Mousse de piquillos y bocadillo crujiente de parmigiano
      Known as the 'red gold' of Navarrese market gardens, the Piquillo pepper is indigenous to the south-western part of Navarre in northern Spain.They are easily recognisable thanks to their small size, triangular shape with an incisor-like slightly curving tip, deep red colour and smooth texture, and the stamp of the Control Board which appears on every can and bottle to endorse their excellent quality.

      150g piquillo peppers
      6 garlic cloves,cut into slices
      2 tablespoons olive oil
      6 tablespoons of vegetable bouillon,preferably Marigold
      100ml whipping cream

      125ml tomato purée
      1 leaf of gelatin
      2 parmesan crisps per portion
      salt and sugar

      Poach the sliced garlic in olive oil.When they start to colour add the piquillo peppers and season with salt and sugar. Saute for ten minutes, add stock, cream and tomato purée cook five minutes more.Blitz in  a processor, strain and return to the pan. Put the gelatine to soak in cold water and add to the warm cream mixture, add salt to taste.Fill small porcelain dishes or ramekins with the pepper mousse right up to the brim.Put in the fridge to set for at least four hours or preferably overnight. Make the parmesan crisps from the link above.When ready to serve, stand 2 parmesan crisps in each pepper mousse and bring to the table.

      Whats that terrible smell it must be ma griffe!!!!       Feliz Navidad a todos

      Tuesday, 22 December 2015

      "Perna de borrego do mar"

       Gigot de tamboril com alho alecrim e anchova

      You  might have guessed I am a huge fan of tweaking,yes tweaking not twerking.Unless I am cooking for clients or guests I rarely cook a dish the same way twice.
      There are many benefits to being a serial ‘tweaker’. The biggest is I rarely feel bored with my cooking, or like I’m ‘stuck in a rut’. Tweaking keeps recipes  alive and kicking and tasting fresh and interesting.
      The other plus is that it allows me to use the ingredients I have in the larder. Which minimizes waste and also cuts down on shopping trips. I was shopping for some sea bass in the market on Saturday and some monkfish tails caught my eye.I love monkfish tail and giving it an edge with rosemary and anchovy is just amazing.
      I usually wrap monkfish tail in bacon, or make a monkfish tagine but calling to mind something I read recently about the french term for monkfish tail being gigot de mer,literally meaning "leg of lamb of the sea",it got me thinking.The shape of a monkfish tail is somewhat reminiscent of a leg of lamb so why not lance it with anchovies and roast it in a roasting tray with rosemary and garlic as one would a leg of lamb.Monkfish tails work particularly well if simply baked, as the meaty flesh holds together well during cooking.This certainly made a delicious and comforting Sunday lunch on a chilly and damp winters day.I made a tomato vinaigrette,not far removed from a ratatouile, but without the courgettes and aubergine.What could be more Provençale? -and as Shakespeare once said  "let the sky rain potatoes",and outside it certainly did.I served baby red skinned potatoes roasted with garlic and yet more rosemary.If I was a fish and chipocrite I would be well happy with that for my Christmas dinner.Isn't Ann a vegetarian? Yes, but she still eats fish.

      Gigot de tamboril com alho alecrim e anchova

      1kg/ 2 1/2 lb monkfish tail
      1 tin anchovy fillets
      6 Tbsp olive oil
      juice of 1 lemon
      salt and freshly ground pepper
      a large bunch of rosemary

      10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
      4 tsp wine vinegar
      2 dessert spoons chopped tomatoes

      Using a sharp knife make slits in the fish and insert pieces of anchovy. Marinate the fish in a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper for at least two hours.
      Lay the fish on a large bed of rosemary in a roasting tin.Pour more oil over the fish (it is the presence of fat that releases the essential oils of the rosemary, this will be apparent at the end of 45 minutes cooking) 
      Roast in a pre-heated oven at 180C / 350F / gas 4 for 45 minutes.
      To make the tomato vinaigrette,heat the ingredients in a small pan and season to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and pour over the warm vinaigrette.Serve with garlic roasted baby new potatoes.

      Sunday, 20 December 2015

      Em algum lugar além do mar - uma onda cerebral

      Somewhere beyond the sea -a brainwave......
      How many front covers does a magazine have? The logical answer, one, is a thing of the past.
      In an effort to woo readers, and generate additional advertising revenue magazines are now being published with two, three, four or more front covers, typically appearing one after another as if a printing press had run amok, or perhaps just the result of a unanimous decision not having been reached at the monthly cover meeting.
      It’s hard to find something with the power of a magazine cover to attract attention,  so when you bring out a surprising version of that cover, it can create a great impact.
      Multiplying the number of front covers, each bearing a different image and, on the inside, a different ad  can create a great panoply.In marketing terms covers carrying a variety of images encourages readers to collect them. Applying this principle to gourmet food packaging is something new.Portuguese sardine packaging perhaps being an exception. The Esperao brand of wines have for some years been commissioning famous Portuguese artists to design wine labels for them and  the original artworks are housed in a gallery open to the public.

      Fresh from our shores and just in time for Christmas, the creative genius that is Salmarim has launched the second edition of their portable salts in nine different pack designs.The difference from Esperao is that each pack contains the same product, but the packaging is different.Jorge and Sandra, brand founders of Salmarim , invited Patricia Conde, Vanessa Teodoro, Pedro Emanuel Santos, Amélia Muge, António Leal and Francisco Cipriano to design new packaging. The text on the packaging was created by Patricia Serrado.
      The options here are never ending. For families like my own, table presents at Christmas were a tradition.At the Christmas dinner table there was always a present next to your place setting.You only spent up to a maximum of €5 per present and one example for adults would be lottery tickets and scratch cards wrapped up.Well, bearing this concept in mind my suggestion for this years table presents is the same present for each person- portable salt, but when the receiver unwraps their present each one is in an individual pack.So say there are 8 family members your total cost is under €40 and you can buy them all under one roof.What have Salmarim got up their sleeve or what trick are they going to pull out of the bag for the next edition? I am already imagining flip packaging,printed in two sections with the back of the packaging becoming the front when turned upside down,or maybe gatefold packaging which fold in or out to form exotic shapes with stories and recipes printed inside......but whatever dont forget to take the salt and a reminder of one of Portugal´s best products wherever you go.

      Available now from Salmarim , A vida Portuguesa,
      and selected suppliers in Central London,UK at a later date.

      Thursday, 17 December 2015

      Alho Francês à Brás - ele gostou imensamente

      Quando em Portugal nem sempre eu faça como os Português fazer e este é um exemplo. When in Portugal I do not always do as the Portuguese do, and this is one example.
      One of my favourite bacalhau dishes from the reputed 1,001 recipes is the classic Bacalhau à brás.The origin of the recipe is uncertain, but it is said to have originated in Bairro Alto, an old quarter of Lisbon. The noun "Brás" (or sometimes Braz) is supposedly the surname of its creator.The dish is made from shreds of salted cod, onions and thinly chopped fried potatoes mixed in with lightly scrambled eggs. It is usually garnished with black olives and sprinkled with fresh parsley.When the dish is cooked well it is phenomenal.When cooked badly you don´t want to know.Bacalhau is not however to everyones taste.You either love it or hate it.The thespian has a particular aversion to it,calling it the devil´s food.As he likes leeks and eggs I thought I would make this vegetarian version for him and see if he would like it.Ele gostou imensamente.This makes a great brunch dish, simple supper or quick and perfect meal for a student budget.Então, continuando a minha campanha para louvar o alho-Francês seguida é Alho Francês à Brás.

      Alho Francês à Brás
      1 alho francês grande (só a parte branca)   1 large leek (white part only) 
      1 dente de alho      1 clove garlic
      1 folha de louro      1 bay leaf
      4 ovos XL                4 extra large eggs
      300g de batata palha     300g thin potato sticks
      Coentros                       fresh Coriander leaves
      Azeite                           olive oil
      Sal                                Flor de sal
      Pimenta branca             white pepper
      Noz moscada                 grated nutmeg
      Azeitonas pretas            Black olives for garnish

      Num tacho com um fio de azeite e a folha de louro refoga-se o alho francês às rodelas bem finas e o dente de alho bem picado até reduzir de volume.
      Mistura-se a batata palha e reserva-se.
      À parte bate-se os ovos juntamente com uma pitada de sal, noz moscada e a pimenta.
      Verte-se na mistura anterior e envolve-se bem e em lume brando, mexendo sempre para não pegar no fundo do tacho.
      Acrescenta-se os coentros picados e envolve-se novamente.

      Serve-se com azeitonas pretas e polvilha-se com mais coentros ou salsa se preferirem.

      Thinly slice the leeks in rounds. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and saute the bay leaf, leeks and finely chopped garlic clove until everything is reduced.Blend in the Potato sticks well and set the pan aside and reserve. In a bowl beat the eggs with a pinch of salt,nutmeg and pepper.Combine this well with the leek and potato mixture and place the pan back on a low heat,stirring constantly so the eggs do not stick to the bottom of the pan.Chop the coriander and add to the pan.
      Serve topped with black olives and sprinkle with coriander or parsley if you prefer.

      Sunday, 13 December 2015

      A breakfast of toasted panettone with banana

      At this time of year there is a plethora of panettone in the shops.Its not expensive and a little goes a long way.A breakfast with a difference and packed with goodness can launch you into your day feeling nourished from just four ingredients
      This breakfast takes about 10 minutes to make.Don´t be tempted to butter the panettone or sprinkle sugar over the fruit. It just isn´t necessary.If you prefer or just dont have any panettone try it with thick slices of brioche instead.If you are not driving to work you can sprinkle a few drops of rum or as i did some orange liqueur over it, just before the panettone is grilled.Serve with live,natural yoghurt -cream would be far too rich, and ruin the purpose of this healthy breakfast.Alternatively if you dont feell this is the breakfast for you try it as a pudding for lunch or dinner

      1 slice of panettone 1cm / 1/2 inch thick
      1 banana
      juice of half an orange
      live natural yoghurt to serve

      Preheat grill until it is very hot.
      Place the slice or slices of panettone on a baking tray.
      Slice the banana into pieces the thickness of a euro and lay them slightly overlapping on top of the panettone.
      Squeeze the orange juice over and place the baking tray under the grill until the banana starts to turn golden.Serve hot with yoghurt

      Friday, 11 December 2015

      Banana bread with Greek Yoghurt

      O iogurte grego contêm lactose? Does greek yoghurt contain lactose?
      People who are lactose intolerant may quiver at the thought of having greek yogurt. Just like all natural dairy products, greek yogurt contains lactose.But because greek yoghurt has been strained three times to remove the whey, much of the lactose is also removed. Milk contains about 11 grams of lactose per cup,whereas plain greek yoghurt contains less than half of this per serving.
      This qualifies greek yogurt as a low lactose dairy product. Finding this out, was a great step forward for me in trying to fathom out the tolerances and intolerances in my lactose free diet.I also learnt that bananas are an important source of calcium so can help replace some of that lost when not drinking milk.
       The live active cultures (probiotics) inside greek yogurt will help digest lactose for you,and studies have shown that probiotics can lessen the symptoms of lactose intolerance. This is because they modify the metabolic activity of microbiota.. So, is greek yogurt lactose free? No, but it’s perfect if you’re lactose intolerant and want to start introducing a little lactose into your diet!

      The ripeness of the bananas is all important

      Soft, tender, subtly sweet, and packed with banana flavour, you’d never be able to tell that this banana bread is made without butter or oil. Instead, it’s got Greek yogurt to keep it moist.
      And honestly? You’d be fine leaving out the brown sugar and only using a 1/4 cup of honey as a sweetener… especially if you were planning on tossing in some chocolate chips. I like my banana bread without any extras, so I passed on the chocolate chips and walnuts(I know, I know) and played around with the sweetness instead. I am sure the other version is delicious — it really depends on how sweet you like it!

      Banana bread with Greek Yoghurt
      1½ cups all-purpose flour
      1½ tsp. baking soda
      ½ tsp. sea salt
      2 eggs, lightly beaten
      2 large, ripe bananas (~1 cup mashed)
      ½ cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
      ¼ cup honey
      ¼ cup brown sugar* 

       chocolate chips/raisins/nuts/etc.(optional)

      Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and lightly grease a 9 x 5 bread pan.
      In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until well combined and set aside.
      Lightly beat the eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add mashed bananas, Greek yogurt, honey, and brown sugar, if using. Stir until well combined.
      Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir gently. Do not overmix.
      Pour the batter into the loaf pan, spreading it out evenly, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
      Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
      * depending on how sweet you want your bread to be, you can easily leave out the brown sugar and just use honey especially if you add chocolate chips.

      Wednesday, 9 December 2015

      Pear,almond and ginger cake,sem lactose

      It all seems grey skies, gloomy and cold.The chill of Winter is officially here so bring on the cravings for comforting foods that nurture the soul and warm up our bodies!  When I think of Winter... I think of the sweet and warming spices of ginger, cinnamon and cardamon as well as classic foods like tangy tangerines,mandarins, hearty roasted root vegetables, steaming hot puddings, delicious stews, comforting casseroles and bowls of hot steaming soup. What better way to satisfy these cravings than a seasonal pear almond and ginger cake, made using some fine Portuguese Rocha pears and our very own harvest of Algarvian almonds. Ginger was introduced to Europe by the Portuguese and many Portuguese recipes are characterised by the use of a wide variety of spices,Southern Portuguese cuisine in particular having Arab and Moorish influences.
      The main ingredient of this recipe obviously is pears. Now I don’t enjoy peeling fruit and vegetables,but the big exception is pears. I could stand peeling pears till the cows come home – which is a long time as I don’t own any cows, nor do any live with me. There’s something about the texture of the pear skin and the pear itself that is lovely. I’m sure a psychologist could make something of that....
      A wonderfully moist and rustic cake, the gentle heat of the ginger and the juicy sweetness of the pears, all set in a lightly spiced cake, work so well together. This cake is perfect sliced and eaten along with a cup of coffee, but wonderful served warm as a dessert with either cream or ice cream. Yoghurt makes a particularly happy partner.
       I had scribbled this recipe in the back of one of my cookery books that I have had for decades, found only while having a tidy of my cookery book shelves and delving into a few that I hadn’t read for some time. I have always jotted down recipes when they were demonstrated on television (long before the immediacy of the internet!). Actually, most of my older cookery books are stuffed with bits of paper with both mine and my mother´s  ideas and scrawlings all over them.
      The recipe called for milk which I am not allowed,but I saw no reason why,since the cake contained almonds that I could not substitute almond milk.Ha, it worked beautifully.The recipe also called for butter,another forbidden item.I just omitted it and nobody even noticed.
      The small pieces of pear inside the cake cook down a little as the cake bakes, giving lovely squidgy pieces. The ginger is there as a subtle back-note.
      Pear, almond and ginger cake 
      3-5 Rocha pears,depending on their size,cored and sliced lengthways
      1/2 cup ground almonds
      3 eggs
      1/2 cup almond milk
      400g caster sugar(1.75 cups)
      1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
      250g plain flour (2 cups)
      2 teaspoons baking powder

      Pre-heat the oven to180ºC (350F),gas mark 4.
      Grease a 25cm ( 10 inch ) round spring-form cake tin,sprinkle in half of the ground almonds,and shake the tin so they stick to the greased base and sides.beat thev eggs and sugar together till thick and pale.mix in the milk,flour,baking powder and grated ginger.Fold the pears into the batter and spoon the mixture into the tin.Sprinkle the top of the batter with the remaining almonds and bake for 11/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean.


      Tuesday, 8 December 2015

      Always the bridesmaid never the bride - Alho françes

      perfeito para aquele almoço de improviso.

      "I have heard of you, Monsieur Poirot," and Poirot made an unsuccessful attempt to look modest.”    ― Agatha Christie, Taken at the Flood  
      Poireaux,puerro, porro. Depending on what country you are in this is the word for the noble leek, except that is here in Portugal where it comes under the guise of French garlic, Alho francês.I was aware that Mr Ottolenghi was championing cauliflower a while back and now I have taken it on my own to laud the leek and honour it for what it is.Consider the leek. It’s majestic, a titan of a vegetable that belongs, along with onion and garlic, to the genus Allium. Mostly just the white and light green parts are eaten, though the darker green parts have plenty of flavour and can either be cooked longer to tenderize them, or used when making homemade soup stock.This is the funny thing about the green leektops.Recipes always say “use the white and pale green parts only,” and discard the rest.I often use the green part of the spring onion in recipes.I refuse to discard something that if treated with respect will give you an abundance of flavour.Over the next few months I am going to post a variety of recipes involving the leek that shows off its versatility.Always the bridesmaid never the bride, this glorious vegetable deserves a certain reverence on the altar of gastronomy.Here in Portugal it is available in the markets throughout the entire year.I feel it is important to mention this as many will not have thought of using the leek in the summer months.It can add that little  je ne sais quoi and subtlety to a simple soffrito, refogado or tomato sauce.
      First up in my campaign for leekqual opportunity is a variation on Leeks vinaigrette

      Winter salad Niçoise wrapped or unwrapped
      3 thin to medium leeks cut into thirds
      2 chopped hard boiled eggs (7 minutes exactly)
      Black olives
      Chinese leaves
        For the vinaigrette-
        (this will leave you with plenty to jar up and store in the refrigerator)
        300ml extra virgin olive oil
        125ml white wine vinegar
        1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
        1 teaspoon Flor de sal
        1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
        1 clove garlic
        generous sprinkling of Herbes de provence

          Make the vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a food processor until well emulsified.
          Trim the leeks and wash them thoroughly
          Cut off the dark green tops, leaving about an inch or two (or three if you like the more strongly flavoured greens) on the shaft. Cut off the roots, cutting as close to the roots as possible, to help keep the leeks together while they simmers.
          Bring a pan of salted water to a rapid boil.Once the water is boiling, carefully place the cleaned and prepped leeks into the water. Return to a simmer and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Start a timer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thickest leek can easily be penetrated with the tip of a sharp knife.
          If your leeks are about an inch thick, they should just begin to be turning from bright green to olive-y green at the 8 minute mark. Thicker leeks you'll want to cook a little longer. Use tongs to gently remove the leeks from the pot and place into an ice water bath to stop the cooking.
          Remove the leeks from the ice water bath and let them drain. Place the leeks in a rimmed, long serving dish (a Pyrex casserole dish would work for this as well). Drizzle some vinaigrette over the leeks. Gently turn the leeks over and drizzle a bit more vinaigrette on the other side.
          Cover with plastic wrap and let the leeks marinate in the vinaigrette for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. (Chill if marinating more than 2 hours. The longer they marinate, the tastier and more tender they become.) The leeks should be served at room  temperature.

          In a bowl dress the leaves lightly with some of the vinaigrette.Add the olives boiled eggs and finish with generous amounts of parsley.When you are ready to serve, compose the salad on a platter,arrange the leeks vinaigrette on top and finish with a scattering of chopped chives.
          Alternative: carefully put inside a tortilla wrap and roll up in the normal way

          Thursday, 3 December 2015

          Algarve Mediterrãnico-tradição,produtos e cozinhas

           "Endlessly fascinating, illuminating and useful." 
          Kevin Gould (The Guardian).

          É uma autêntica declaraçao de amorà região do algarve feita por autores que partilham raizes na região.O sul de Portugal é retratado,dando conta ao leitor do que pode esperar encontrar num espaço onde o maré quem mais ordena.Xarém de ameijoas,biqueirões marinados e folar algarvio são alguns dos pratos apresentados.-Revista Comer

          Este livro deveria ser leitura obrigatória e essencial para qualquer chef, gerente de chef e proprietário de restaurante na Algarve.Only então a cultura de ementas turisticas, oferecendo frango piri piri e sardinha colar o bacalhau salgado onipresente (bacalhau), todos servidos com a mesma trio de acompanhamentos - arroz, batatas e salada, ser erradicada e uma nova onda de turismo gastro ser introduzida à riqueza aparente da tradição que o Algarve tradicional perdeu.

          Anyone with a passion for gastronomy will know the importance of its traditions and culinary heritage.No more so than those living in the Algarve ,where sun,sea, salt,wine, olive oil, bread and fish are among its staples.The three authors of this book,who all share roots in the Algarve, set out to find these traditions through a study of the Algarve´s history,landscape and gastronomy.
          The book not only nurtures these traditions and shows us how they continue to thrive,
          but also suggests innovative ways of giving them a new lease of life. Particular emphasis is placed on the anthropological and social aspects of the region’s cuisine, its produce, cooking techniques and food preservation procedures.
          For several decades, Maria Manuel Valagão has gathered the popular wisdom and millennia-old expertise that shape local cooking. 

          “People already have authentic habits inside them that they don’t even realise. They forget that they hold valuable intangible heritage,” says Valagão*

          “It’s extremely important that we create mechanisms so that this knowledge is not lost,” she said.

          "The book has a little bit of everything", she explains, but focuses mostly on the traditions that set the Algarve apart from everywhere else.
          I have been fortunate enough to meet Maria Manuel Valagão on a few occasions.One of her previous books Natureza, Gastronomia & Lazer  was somewhat of an inspiration to me, both in the way I started to look at natures bounty and also in the way I adapted it into my style of cooking
          Written alongside photographer Vasco Célio and Chef Bertílio Gomes, ‘Algarve Mediterrânico: Tradição, Produtos e Cozinhas’ took four years to bring to life and was a result of a dream that had been in the pipeline for a long time.This magnificent volume thus provides a comprehensive picture of the Algarve’s cultural heritage and culinary landscape, as enhanced by Vasco Célio’s photographic vision and chef Bertílio Gome’s contemporary recipes.
          The romance of the Portuguese language and its distinctive vocabulary is evident throughout  in the superb translation by Jethro Soutar.I was never conscious that I was reading a translation. The Guardian writer Kevin Gould was in charge of copy editing for the English edition, and apparently  accompanied Valagão on some of her trips through the Algarve.This work should be compulsory and essential reading for any chef, chef manager and restaurant owner in the Algarve.Only then will the culture of ementas turisticas offering Piri piri chicken and sardine paste, the ubiquitous salted cod (bacalhau), all served with the same trio of accompaniments – rice, potatoes and salad,be eradicated and a new wave of gastro tourism be introduced to the seeming wealth of tradition that the mainstream Algarve has lost.
          *Valagão – holder of a PhD in Environmental Studies – has 40 years of experience in similar initiatives and has already carried out studies in the regions of Minho, Alto Douro and Alentejo.