Saturday, 31 December 2016

Don´t say cheese say Kimchi

Every year there are new buzz words and buzz phrases in the foodie world."gut health" is the term that´s set to be the heart of the health world in 2017. Its going to be a blessing that I like cabbage. Healthy digestion is so important, yet often taken for granted—until something goes wrong as in my case. Gastrointestinal woes can wreak havoc on your life. This year is the year I have promised myself that I am going to get my gastrointestinal system in tip top shape.How can I do this? - with a little help from Korea and the Portuguese explorers of the 16th century.This is all about pickling and fermenting and so kimchi, kombucha and yucatan pickles (more on that story later) are going become a major part of my foods du jour.Gut-friendly foods like these are thought to help with irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, fertility, immunity, low energy and libido.
When we as English are taking photographs, in order to induce a smile in our subject we get them to say cheese.In Korea on the photographers count of 1,2,3  the person being photographed says Kimchi.Like the word cheese, mouthing the word kimchi also makes a person smile.Try it with me, say Kim-ch’i- but prolong the pronuncation of ‘-chi’ as ‘cheee.’ Snap happy aside, Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made of seasoned vegetables and salt. Koreans eat it at nearly every meal. It can be fresh, served straight away like a salad, or packed into a large glass jar, (be sure not to seal the lids) and left to ferment at room temperature overnight, then chill. It will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks - the flavour will improve the longer it's left. While the most popular variety is spicy kimchi made of cabbage, there are hundreds of different types of kimchi made of different vegetables, and not all of them spicy.
In traditional preparations, kimchi was stored underground in jars to keep cool and unfrozen during the winter months,nowadays the refrigerator does the same job more effectively
Pickles and ferments ignite your tastebuds,such fun, and while most people picture a vermilion hue and fiery heat when the word "kimchi" is mentioned,it used to be white before chilli peppers were introduced to Asia from the New World by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Kimchi (or kimchee) is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its "healthy bacteria" called lactobacilli, found in other fermented foods like  yogurt.
Maybe 2017 will also give us some happy kimchee smiley faces replacing that tiresome "facebook pout" that we´ve been having to put up with for the last year.
In this quick and easy recipe the vegetables are mixed with rice vinegar, fish sauce, chilli paste and sugar, so all ingredients you can easily source. Serve it as a side dish, salad or with rice or noodles.
1 Chinese cabbage
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2.5cm /1 in piece ginger grated
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sriracha sauce or chilli paste
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
3tbsp rice vinegar
8 radishes coarsely grated or equivalent amount daikon
2 carrots,cut into matchsticks
4 spring onions finely shredded
Slice the cabbage into 2.5cm strips.Tip into a bowl, massage with your hands 1 tablespoon Flor de sal into the cabbage.sprinkle with some still spring water (not tap) press downn with aplate and set aside for 1 to 2 hours.
To make the kimchi paste,blend the garlic,ginger,fish sauce,sriracha sauce,sugar and rice vinegar together in a small bowl.
Rinse the cabbage under cold running water,drain and dry thoroughly.Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss through the paste (you may need gloves for this?).Add the grated radishes,carrot and spring onions. Serve immediately or pack into a large jar, (not a kilner) and leave to ferment at room temperature overnight, then chill.Kimchi will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks,it´s flavour improving the longer its left.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Foie gras, pain dépices,mango and a confit of spiced pears

What no Foie gras?  
There is no festivity if there is no foie gras.Its an absolute must have.Whether you pan fry it or use it as stuffing there are multiple uses for this luxury table delicacy.Why not do as we did and serve it with home made Pain dépices,( from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker) fresh  mango and a confit of spiced pears.
Boas ferias,Melhores votos a tudos..... 

For the confit of spiced pears
 4 large Williams pears
400 g caster sugar
1 piece of lemon peel
1 tonka bean
Peel and cut the pears into small cubes. 

Place in a large bowl, cover with the sugar, add the vanilla bean and leave to rest overnight. 
Transfer to a saucepan, add the lemon peel and bring to a boil over low heat, skimming occasionally. Turn down the heat and continue cooking, skimming regularly, for 35 minutes. (Place a drop of the preserve on a cold plate, if it is cooked, you will be able to draw a line through it with a teaspoon 
Remove the vanilla bean and blitz it with a stick blender
Place the confit in pots.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Why not savoury "Trifles"?

More often than not, when we think of trifles,we conjure up sweet visions of layered lady fingers,langue de chat or pound cake soaked in sherry or port, fruit, custard,and perhaps some nuts. But always fresh whipped cream or creme fraiche comes to mind for this classic British dessert.
Usually served in a deep cut glass bowl and delicious any day of the year, a towering trifle on one’s Christmas table is a gastronomic gift that rivals anything under the tree. Forget dessert , why not up the ante on the ordinary and change your typical trifle by creating a savoury one.Trade your usual sponge finger and glug of tonic wine for layers of roasted vegetables,cherry tomatoes,black or green olives, maybe some cous cous or crispy croutons drizzled with a home made tomato ketchup or salsa and topped with a garlic cream custard of mascarpone and egg yolks.Whatever you decide your colourful layers will never be far visually from the sweet option, and the classic method of soaking and layering can remain the same.In addition to creating something healthy and convenient in terms of a one-dish meal, a savoury trifle is a visual feast that spoils the fussiest vegetarian guest with its appetizing aesthetic.

THE INSPIRATION:Not your average trifle! here you have a form of divinity that defies restraint! I decided to take the rustic simple Italian salad.Panzanella is essentially a bread salad to which other things have been added.I thought this would be the ideal starting point for my savoury trifle.My variation of the Italian classic would be an irresistible mix of crusty-chewy cumin croutons and colourful roasted vegetables, all bathed in a robust garlic mascarpone custard

Individual Roasted Vegetable Panzanella “Trifles” 
Serves 4

5 slices  bread, cut into 1/2” cubes
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flor de sal and freshly ground pepper
1 aubergine, cut into small chunks
1 red onion, peeled halved and divided into eighths
100g of butternut squash peeled and cut into small chunks
2 courgettes, cut into small chunks
1 cup cherry tomatoes,yellow and red quartered
5 baby peppers red yellow and orange
100g firm goats cheese cut into cubes
handful per portion  olives, green or black,de-stoned
handful shelled pistachios crumbled
1/4 cup per portion home made tomato ketchup

135g medium cous cous
250ml vegetable stock

230g mascarpone
2 free range eggs separated
2 large cloves garlic crushed
a large pinch of flor de sal

Place the cous cous in a heatproof bowl, then pour the boiling stock over it, add some salt and pepper and stir it with fork, then leave for 5 minutes by which time it will have absorbed all the stock and softened.Fluff again with fork and set aside until ready to use,
In a large mixing bowl add the bread cubes and toss until coated in the oil and cumin. Slide onto a baking sheet into a preheated oven at 180C, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Flip once during baking. Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely.
Toss the vegetables in Flor de sal and pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven at 200C for 20-25 minutes or until browned and soft.
As the vegetables roast, make the custard. Place the Flor de sal and garlic cloves in a pestle and mortar and mash until you have a coarse wet paste.Beat the mascarpone and egg yolks in a bowl, till creamy, beat in the garlic paste.Beat the egg whites till stiff and fold in gently
For individual servings, layer the trifle starting with a base of cous cous then a layer of croutons, ketchup then layers of roasted vegetables, and a scattering of cubed goats cheese.
Finally pour the custard carefully over the top of the trifles and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Taking your nibbles up a notch

We returned across the bridge to yum yum land to sample, before they close for Christmas, our friend Fabios new menu at LPA.New menu, new format, but some old die hard favourites still there.This menu is all about upping his game, and this is a class menu full of surprises.Having closed for the season I now have quality time for recreational cooking.I am currently in the enviable position of development chef.I have no guests to cook for but I have the time to experiment with what I may or may not be putting on plates when Casa Rosada opens again in the Spring.
I spend a lot of time here at Casa Rosada reinventing recipes. Instead of adhering to received wisdom,I try to push beyond that, seeking methods and techniques that get us to an even better version of the dish than most others have. Whether sneaking something secret into the meatballs, changing The Portuguese national dish from fish to vegetarian, or fish sauce to, well, just about everything.Its great fun thinking outside the  traditional pot. This is the time when ideas I have been keeping in my back head and references remembered can now come to the fore and be tried and tested.The Christmas season is a great time to put this into practice.Its the season of entertaining and as a host or hostess you want to set tongues a wagging.Making an extra effort will get you better results.The thespian is good at this and constantly reminds me that " you can do better than that"
Bearing this in mind you want your traditional pigs in blankets to be the pork of the town and so one of my first refreshments is to reinvent a tapas item and transform it into a petisco.The particular item a pincho (tapas designed to be eaten with a cocktail stick ) "Honey and sherry coated chouriço" I think has now lost its edge and using the same ingredients I am going to present it as a pate spread on Tostinhas

Pãté chouriço de porco preto Alentejana com pérolas esmeraldas

250g chouriço Alentejo without skin
125ml white wine
125ml water
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tablespoons dry sherry
150g butter 
Cooked frozen peas for garnish
Chop or crumble the skinned sausage into small chunks. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the chouriço softens, the first 4 ingredients in a pan small enough that the liquid covers the sausage.Drain the liquid from the pan and discard.Let cool slightly then put in the blender with the butter and 2 tablespoons of sherry.Blitz until smooth consistency is reached.Serve warm on small toasts or crostini.

THE SECRET: Go easy when adding the sherry and taste the mixture as you go.The layers of flavour are very subtle here the smokiness of the pork combined with the wine it has been cooked in does not want to be overshadowed by the sherry.The Pãté keeps well in the refrigerator but must be re-heated in a pan to regain its consistency before you serve it.

Monday, 19 December 2016

O Tesouro escondidinho no Pão- the new fondue

"O Tesouro escondidinho no Pão"
I am casting my mind back to late August when Castro Marim was medievalised for five days.The days were long and the Knights were hot.Ambling through the streets I found a stall selling what appeared to be little pies.They were called pão do tesouro, and the stall purveying what turned out to be molten garlicky cheese breads made me relish them with
It´s food like this,retro as a Rubik’s Cube that stands the test of time and I would say a good  fondue would give Sir Terence Conran´s chicken brick a good run for its money.And being on the money the times is right for the return of the fondue, but not as we knew it then.The mind boggles at some of the, shall we call them, activities that went on at seventies dinner parties.Images of strip poker games come to mind and reluctant guests having to forfeit an item of clothing if they dunked their skewer in the molten cheese and it came out devoid of the cube of beef that had formerly been on the end of it. No no no. I am suggesting we exchange the fondue set for a loaf of bread. Portugal has a long standing tradition,particularly in the Alentejo, with bread soups and many variants of the same to the point where it is no longer recognised as a soup.No native of the Algarve would disagree on the amount of different fish and seafood açordas that can be referenced.
My favourite type is when it is made as a sort of porridge with bread and then served with prawns or sausage inside its own loaf.
There is a very old Portuguese recipe called "O Tesouro escondidinho no Pão"This literally translates as "The hidden treasure in the bread" The treasure you hide in it can be anything from vegetarian, fish, shellfish, sausage or even small macaroni type pasta.For my first attempt at this recipe I decided to go for a simple leek and cheese sauce.The cheese you choose can be anything from Taleggio, Ementhal, Raclette,Mozzarella, Gruyere or one of the one of the unctuous sheep milk cheeses from the Beira Baixa. You can eat them using a spoon, like  a Vacherin, but theirs has such a delicate acidity that in spite of all its richness they seem to dance over your palate. Queijo de Ovelha Amanteigado Curado these beauties are called. They are surrounded by a linen bandage as the rind isn’t strong enough to keep them in shape. This is due to the fact that the (untreated) sheeps milk is traditionally coagulated using the filaments of a local variety of thistles, cynara cardunculos instead of rennet.
the inspiration
"O Tesouro escondidinho no Pão"
makes 6
6 pão bijou or miniature bread rolls
100g alho Françes (Leeks)
2 dentes de alhosesmagado (2 cloves garlic crushed ) 
25g manteiga sem sal (unsalted butter)
1 colherada farinha (tablespoon flour)
150ml leite gordo ( full fat milk )
1 colherada vinho branco (tbsp white wine)
1 colher de chá mascarpone
50g chevre
50g parmegiano reggiano

Chop the leek finely.Sauteé the leek in the butter until glistening and soft.Add the garlic and cook for two more minutes.Remove the pan from the heat,add the milk and white wine and return the pan to a medium heat stirring constantly until the sauce thickens,stir in the three cheeses and some chopped parsley.Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile slice a lid off the top of each roll and scoop out enough dough to allow the bread to be filled with the sauce.When the sauce is cool spoon the filling into the bread rolls and replace the tops.wrap each bread in a piece of foil so it is completeley sealed and bake on a baking tray for 40 minutes at 180c.After 30 minutes remove the foil and lids. continue cooking them unwrapped for the last 10 minutes.Discard the foil but keep the lids warm.When ready remove the breads to aserving platter and replace the lids slightly off centre.Eat with gusto.

As I said you can use any cheese you choose as long as it melts well. Your treasure could be bacon bits, chopped sausage, chouriço,minced beef or pork, prawn, small macaroni or baby gnocchi,but bear in mind you will need to choose a suitable sauce to pair with your filling.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Gnocchi -"Soul love"

My favourite Gnocchi with tomato sauce and bocconcini from Chef Marco at Cha com Agua Salgada
Gnocchi seems to have become an appealing specialty beyond Italy’s borders of late.Here in Portugal, and in Spain too, gnocchi keeps popping up on menus. Gnocchi are one of those seemingly secret restaurant-only dishes that I always order.For those of you who are unfamiliar with the awesomeness that is gnocchi, they are basically little potato filled pasta pillows of yumminess. The only obstacles I can see to why gnocchi might not take off outside of Italy would be encountered in Northern Europe, where the habit of consuming large quantities of potatoes makes it difficult for a product that impinges on local traditions to penetrate.I am talking pierogis, the staple of of Eastern Europe, and in particular Slavic countries like Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Russia, and Baltic countries such as  Latvia and Lithuania.Doughy and soft, filled with potato, bacon, cheese mushrooms or onion, pierogis are everything a good comfort food should be.But I am sorry, when it comes to dumplings nothing quite compares with the Italians very own dumpling, gnocchi. When it’s made right and topped with simple ingredients, it’s a delight. Gnocchi lends itself well to fresh herbs, pesto and is definitely the dumpling of my choice.Firstly, let me assure you that making gnocchi at home isn’t anywhere near as daunting as it is made out to be. In fact, it’s the ultimate excuse to relive your childhood and play with your food, forming flavoursome little pillows with only a knife and fork at your disposal.The three most common ways of serving gnocchi are either with a robust tomato sauce, a creamy cheese sauce or blanketing these little beauties in a rich butter and sage sauce.Here I have tried an on-trend sweet potato twist.
Ricotta and Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Roquefort sauce
These sweet potato gnocchi are both light and luxurious and can also be frozen for those nights when " inspirations have I none".
Serves 6–8

800g sweet potatoes
200g ricotta cheese
160g flour
1 free-range or organic egg yolk
a little butter
olive oil

Melt 25g butter in a pan over a medium heat then stir in 1 tablespoon of flour. Slowly add 150ml milk, stirring all the time until the sauce is smooth and all the milk has been added. Bring to a simmer and add 50g chopped Roquefort or another blue cheese and stir.

AN ALTERNATIVE SAUCE: Dolcelatte and chopped piquillo peppers

Peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into large 3cm pieces and steam them; this will take about 20 minutes.Put a large pan of boiling salted water on a high heat. Drain the sweet potatoes, allow them to steam dry for a couple of minutes to get rid of as much moisture as possible.( I put them flat on a baking tray and dried them for 20 minutes on a very low heat in the oven then mashed them well with a potato masher or a potato ricer).Fold in the ricotta, flour and the beaten egg yolk. Leave the mixture for 5 minutes, then, on a well-floured surface working with a quarter of the dough at a time, roll it into two long, fattish sausages about 2cm in diameter.Leave for a further couple of minutes to firm up.Cut the sausages into short 2cm pieces.Roll each piece against the tines of a fork to make ridges; Keep these to one side while you roll and cut the rest of the gnocchi. Drop them into the boiling waterand cook until they rise to the top.
Meanwhile, warm four bowls. Once the gnocchi have risen to the surface, scoop them out of the pan into a big bowl, then stir through the sauce before dividing between the four bowls with an extra grating of Parmesan or pecorino, if you like.
Make sure your gnocchi mix is really dry before you mash it and add the rest of the ingredients.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Tagliatelle della Zia,following in nonna´ s footsteps

I can imagine what it must be like dining out with food bloggers like myself.Having insisted on all the dishes being photographed before anyone can start to eat, my co-diners then have to learn the art of dissecting food.I start picking out the ingredients so that I can replicate the dish at home, while they sit and watch or worse still, on the rare occasion when my palate fails me, I subject them to tasting the dish I have ordered in the endeavour to pick out a flavour I can not identify.How annoying it must be particularly for those who do not enjoy sharing a portion of something they have not ordered.You know who you are, the ones who pass on tapas so that you ensure you get a whole main dish all to yourselves. I find the idea of attempting to trap a memory of not only how a dish is presented on the plate, but what actually constitutes that dish a challenging exercise.If I can dream it I can make it.There are several memorable dishes that I have eaten over the years that I have never got around to making at home and one of these is a pasta dish made with mushrooms and cheese.Its called tagliatelle della Zia,obviously named after whoever she was.Judging by the widely differing recipes I found on the internet there was certainly more than one Zia.The dish has probably been handed down from nonna to nonna and been subjected to amendments along the way.
THE INSPIRATION:I ordered this particular dish at an office Christmas lunch in a bonkers Italian restaurant underneath the multi-storey car park just off Wigmore street, London.I am not normally a fan of themed restaurants, but in this case the re-creation of some of the sets from the famous film studios in Rome ,"Cinecitta Roma", left me speechless,and I therefore returned on many occasions thereafter to sample this same dish.40 years on I have been playing around with some home cooking involving Porcini mushrooms and I thought I would attempt to see if I could conjure up those tastes again.I cast myself back to the first time I ate this dish.The first memory always makes the most lasting impression and sometimes it is never quite the same the second time round.The pasta was tagliatelle,it contained fresh mushrooms , cheese and I guess, although not evidently visible, dried porcini mushrooms, which were what gave the dish its intensity.Its an old restaurant trick to re-hydrate the dried mushrooms and use the hydrating liquid only for the pasta sauce.The reconstituted mushrooms can then be reserved and provide for a delicious risotto con funghi.
I guessed sage leaves,nutmeg and white wine, and the creamy sauce was more than just double cream, so I would use mascarpone in my dish and perhaps a hint of Dolcelatte.Well I was now ready to melt butter and add chopped onion and porcini to pan.
THE TRICK:Fresh wild mushrooms if you can get them are very good in a sauce like this but they can be expensive.To cut the cost use half wild and half cultivated,or as many wild as you can afford.For true Italian authenticity the nutmeg gives this dish its deserved status.

Tagliatelle della zia ( as I remembered it )
Serves 4
15g / 1/2 oz / 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
25g /1 oz / 2 tbsp butter
1 small onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves crushed
225g / 8oz / 3 cups fresh mushrooms thinly sliced
fresh sage leaves,plus a few for garnish
125ml / 1/4 pint / 1/2 cup dry white wine
225g / 8 oz/ 2 cups tagliatelle, fresh or dried 
115g / 4oz 7 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
115g / 4oz Dolcelatte or Gorgonzola cheese crumbled (optional)
a generous grating of nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the dried Porcini in a small bowl with the dry white wine warmed to finger temperature.Leave to soak for 20 minutes.remove from the liquid and and squeeze the porcini over the bowl to extract as much liquid as possible.Strain the liquid and set it aside.Finely chop the porcini.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and chopped porcini and cook gently stirring for about 3 minutes or until the onion is soft. add the garlic and fresh mushrooms,chopped sage,salt and plenty of ground black pepper.Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and juicy.Stir in the reserved soaking liquid and simmer.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of rapidly boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until al dente
Meanwhile stir the mascarpone and gorgonzola into the mushroom sauce.Add the grated nutmeg.Heat through, stirring until the cheese have melted.Check for seasoning.Drain the pasta thoroughly,add to the sauce and toss to mix.Serve at once with more black pepper and if you like more grated nutmeg. Garnish with sage leaves.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Bolo de bolacha Oreo ice cream cake

It would take a lifetime to make all the many variations on this classic Portuguese cake. I am obsessed with Oreos at the moment and thought I would create yet another variant -"Bolo de bolacha Oreo ice cream cake".I was in the biscuit aisle of the supermarket when I spotted Chocolate Maria biscuits.What a god sent inspiration I thought.My normal version of Bolo de bolacha uses traditional Maria biscuits which I dip in a warm mixture of freshly brewed coffee and Maciera.I then layer it with a chocolate butter cream filling.So with 2 Packets of chocolate Marias, 2 packets of Oreos, 2 tubs of mascarpone and a tin of condensed milk in my shopping basket I hurried home, a man with a mission.The thespian will be excited I thought, and this was going to be some experiment. Chocolate Marias and Oreos are one thing but a frozen version of this cake just had to be a dream at this point.Only four ingredients too.

For the Oreo cream filling
2 x 250g tubs mascarpone

370g can condensed milk
2 cups chopped Oreos

20-30 minutes before beginning, place a metal mixing bowl the freezer to chill.

Remove the bowl from the freezer.
Add the mascarpone
Stir in the condensed milk and mix well with a spatula or mixer.
Add in the 2 cups of chopped oreos, mix to combine.

To make the Bolo de Bolacha
2 x 265g packets of Maria Choco biscuits
( you will only need a quarter of the second packet )
1 mug freshly brewed strong coffee cooled
3 tbsp Maciera

100g good quality dark cocoa powder 

(Valor Cacao Puro or Green and Black´s organic)

Brew strong coffee and add the Maciera while the coffee is still warm
Dip biscuits very briefly one by one.
Do not let the biscuits stay too long in the liquid as they will fall apart
Put a layer of biscuits in a spring form tin, in the form of a flower
and spread with a layer of the Oreo cream mixture
Dip more biscuits and add another layer of biscuits
and once again spread with a thin layer of the mixture
Keep repeating the process building layers until you have used enough biscuits to be level with the top of the tin.
Don´t worry if the cream mixture is a little on the soft side and drips out of the layers,you can tidy this up with a palate knife when you take it from the freezer
Once you have got the size of cake that you want,
finish up by covering the top and sides with more cream mixture
Save any cream mixture to touch up the sides of the cake
when you remove it from the springform tin before serving
Refrigerate overnight to set until ready to serve.remove the cake from the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before you are ready to serve to allow it to soften slightly.
Just before serving smooth over any untidy areas around the cake with a palate knife dipped in warm water.Dust the cake with a good quality cocoa powder

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Panna cotta de trufa with bacon marmalade and a crisp biscuit

Since a panna cotta is really creamy, you can add different textures and flavours to your cream to make it more interesting. Like what? Peas, tomato,basil, mint.These have been my previous ideas, but I now wanted to take it a step further and make a new starter with mushrooms.Mushrooms I always feel have an autumnal feel about them, so what I wanted to create was a panna cotta with a more earthy taste.I had bought some Porcini mushrooms and I asked my Italian chef friend Fabio Zerbo if he had ever made a savoury pannacotta.His answer was NO, but when I told him my idea was to make a Porcini mushroom version of the Italian classic he suddenly became animated and suggested I should re-hydrate the mushrooms in the Spanish Brandy Luis Felipe.At €80 a bottle Fabio? Have a laugh, I dont think so. I loved the sheer indulgence of his idea and the concept of marrying the sweet creamy digestif with the earthy flavour of the porcini, but I had to consider budget and settled for a good quality dry sherry.Still keeping a happy union of Italian and Spanish.

THE TRICK:The sherry is what makes this something special.I think if the mushrooms had been re-hydrated just in warm water the recipe would fall short.Make sure the Porcini mushrooms are the best quality you can find.A little goes along way and so don´t be tempted to over egg the pudding, so to speak.The final result is a wonderful surprise and bears a resemblance to foie gras both in texture and taste,so much so that in hindsight the next time I serve it I will make extra fingers of toast enabling the recipients to spread it if they want.The bacon marmalade can be served on the side.
Panna cotta de trufa boletus or Porcini mushrooms

4 tablespoons of dry sherry 
15g dried mushrooms (porcini, trumpets of death ...)
1 tablespoon butter
250ml cream (35% fat)
a splash of soya sauce
2 sheets of gelatine (4g)
A splash of soya sauce In a shallow dish soak the dried mushrooms in warm sherry for 20 minutes.Drain the mushrooms, keeping the rehydration liquid, chop them finely and saute them briefly over high heat with the butter. In a small pan mix the cream and a couple of tablespoons of liquid from the mushrooms. Cook until it just starts to boil. Soften the gelatine sheets in cold water for 5-8 minutes.Drain the gelatine and add it to the cream off the heat along with the splash of soy sauce. Fill 5 x 80ml ramekins almost to the top and carefully add the sautéed mushrooms with a teaspoon till the mixture rises to the top of the ramekins Put in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

Bacon marmalade
this is a loose interpretation of Fabio´s bacon marmalade that I came to enjoy so much at LPA last year.

1 lb smoked bacon, sliced into small pieces (or use regular bacon and liquid smoke)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium brown onion, sliced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Tabasco sauce (according to taste and optional)
1 cup brewed coffee
1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄4 cup honey
black pepper
extra water

In a non stick pan, fry the bacon in batches until lightly browned and beginning to crisp.
Fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat on medium heat until translucent.
Transfer the bacon, onion and garlic into a heavy based cast iron pot and add the rest of the ingredients except for the water.
Simmer for 2 hours adding 1/4 of a cup of water every 25-30 minutes or so and stirring,taking care not to let the mixture dry out and catch on the bottom of the pan.
When ready, cool for about 15-20 minutes and then place in a food processor. Pulse for 2-3 seconds so that you leave some texture to the “jam” or of course you could keep whizzing and make it a smoother and more paste like.
When ready to serve Dip each ramekin into some warm water and run a knife around the edge to loosen.Invert the ramekin onto a serving plate and shake to release the panna cotta.Serve with crusty toast soldiers and the bacon marmalade on the side.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Cure it Thursday

Stir up Sunday passed unnoticed at Casa Rosada this year.Its been such a busy year my head just was not ready to start planning Christmas on 20th November.Two weeks have now passed its December the first and we have just returned from a weekend of house and animal sitting for our friends.They have extensive land, fruit trees and different varieties of olive.Our friends do not like olives and said they were quite happy for us to harvest whatever we wanted.As our own sole olive tree had borne no fruit this year the offer was more than welcome.We returned with enough olives to salt cure and then bottle in different oils for next years guests.I am now going to inaugurate this annual event as "Cure it Thursday".
Getting to grips with the recipe it was a case of 972 olives, Connie you slit I´ll cure....

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Coalfish cakes - the new black

"Squid ink is the new black". Sounds like something trendy being posted on social media, but in fact risotto nero has been on the menu in Italy for quite a long time. The same goes for black spaghetti, pasta al nero.In Spain, arroz negro and black paella have long been standard fare. Squink risotto too may sound like the epitome of hip cuisine.So I thought I would venture down a slightly different avenue, taking another leaf out of Jose Avillez book and make some blackened fish cakes.This was my second venture into the culinary bairro do Jose Avillez.He uses bacalhau for his version ( "pastéis de bacalhau negros com maionese de alho" ) but bacalhau is not received well in this house, so I thought, being British, I would try pollock.And by the way, can someone clarify for me when, in Portuguese, is a fish cake a patanisca and when is it a pastel?
The Portuguese dictionary definition of pollock is.........
(O escamudo-negro (ou apenas escamudo) ou paloco é um peixe da família do bacalhau Pollachius virens.) 

                      Paloco as pollock  is called in Portuguese is of the same family as cod.

Sometimes also called Saithe, Coalfish or Coley, this used to be a favourite cheap option for the English nation's cats before tinned pet food was developed. Now, however, top chefs and leading supermarkets have changed all that,and these related species are making a fashionable comeback as a great alternative to cod.It is brilliant in fish pies and cakes,and can also be eaten salted and smoked, much like Bacalhau.Hence my choice as an alternative to cod.The recipe stated for 4 people and I found it made 30 pataniscas.The reason my mix made a little bit more was that I found that I needed to add some bread crumbs to the original recipe as I found the mixture needed firming up a little in order to make it more workable when shaping the quenelles.In hindsight, the next time I make them I am going to spice them up a tad by adding some spice and chilli. They freeze beautifully too, so always useful to have some extra as back up.
 Coalite - Do not attempt to eat these and keep them away from children
Ironical that this fish was alternatively known as coal fish because these pataniscas (above) bore an uncanny resemblance to something called "coalite" that my parents used to burn on the fire when we were children.
Pataniscas de peixe negros 
com aioli ou sriracha sauce
makes 30
250g Pollock fillets
200g potatoes 
60g finely chopped onion
10g finely chopped parsley
20g (5 x 4g sachets) squid ink
4 eggs
olive oil
1 clove garlic
Bread crumbs as required
Flor de sal and pepper, nutmeg to taste
Sunflower oil for frying

Boil the unpeeled potatoes with a clove of garlic,salt and olive oil.Remove from the heat and when cool,mash.
Steep the pollock in some hot milk with some peppercorns and a bay leaf.When it almost comes to the boil, remove from the heat and leave with a lid on for 5 minutes then flake it.Add the flaked fish to the mashed potato, chopped onion parsley and stir in the squid ink.Add the eggs one by one and stir them into the mix.Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.With the help of two dessert spoons make quenelles and fry them in a deep fryer at 180C.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Oreo smoked salt chocolate cheesecake

Dont attempt this recipe unless you have time to spare

For some time now I have been looking for the perfect foil for smoked Flor de sal. I have in my store cupboard three strengths of it, mild, medium and strong.The hint of salt here is crucial I was told.It subtly cuts through the richness of the chocolate, so even if you are not a fan of sweet and salty it is essential to the recipe that you include it. If you must, halve the quantity but do not forgo it completely.I know I have been going off on one about recipes that have shortcomings and once again there is a problem with this one. The recipe originally stems from Nigella.I followed the original recipe, apart from substituting 250g mascarpone and 200ml of whipping cream for the 500ml double cream.By doing this I changed the texture slightly making it more of a cheese cake than a tart. Her instructions here are, to say the least, vague.
In her own words the recipe begins.....
"I never lie about how effortless something is to make, but no one will believe me on this one". 
Ok, once made the tart has to rest and set in the fridge overnight, but the cooking time given spans quite a large window (10 to 30 minutes ) The actual preparation time took me over one hour.This is far from the "Express"Nigella of a few years back.I do understand that that series was all about fast cooking for busy mums ( like yourself ), but seduction even with food, cannot – repeat cannot – be done quickly, and this seductive salty chocolate tart is sensual in the extreme. 
Two of the steps alone take 25 minutes between them, leaving me only 5 minutes to complete the rest of the steps.Dear me Nigella, back in the day you were the finger licking goddess of gastroporn, but nowadays you are only happy enough to run your finger across the back of the chocolate coated spoon and the lick it off sensually.When it comes to mixing the ingredients for the base you encase your hands in  disposable vinyl gloves.As I slowly progressed through the 9 stages of the recipe I was thinking how you would have done it.
Get taxi to supermarket to buy Oreos,keep meter ticking and coming out of supermarket look side ways at camera with smouldering look before returning home– bat eyelashes – shake hair – apply disposable gloves, look at camera again – closer, sieve cocoa powder with cornflour, add carefully scraped vanilla that you bought on a recent trip to Madagascar – suggestive look at camera – pick up very small whisk as you are not aiming to get air in the mixture,just trying to banish any lumpiness. Grab packet of baking parchment from the cupboard and run it under the cold tap – wring it out – final mix – wipe finger in it – lick finger – sexy pout at camera. And there you have it, all ready to be poured into a wide Nigella branded measuring jug or batter jug and rest in the fridge for a while with the damp crumpled piece of baking parchment sitting on top of it. I always wondered how one wrung out a piece of wet baking parchment-fascinating.

Finally you can slice modestly into 14 small slices ( not an even working my dear but then again your papa was chancellor of the exchequer so his precise calculations must have rubbed off on you.At last you can give it its first outing at optimal stage - Marvellous. Even though I didn´t have time to spare it was more than worth the work involved.
For the base

2 x 154g/5½oz packets chocolate cookies, such as Oreos or Bourbons(28 small biscuits in all)
50g/1¾oz dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
50g/1¾oz unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp smoked sea salt flakes (see tip section)

For the filling
100g/3½oz dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
25g/1oz cornflour
4 tbsp full-fat milk
200ml/6.5 fl oz whipping cream

250g mascarpone
50g/1¾oz cocoa powder, sieved
2 tsp strong coffee grounds
75g/2½oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp smoked sea salt flakes

  1. For the base, snap the biscuits into pieces and drop them into the bowl of a food processor. Do likewise with the chocolate, then blitz them together until you have crumbs. Add the butter and salt, and blitz again until the mixture starts to clump together. If you’re doing this by hand, bash the biscuits in a freezer bag until they form crumbs, finely chop the chocolate and melt the butter, then mix everything, along with the salt, in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or your hands encased in disposable vinyl gloves.
  2. Press into your tart tin and pat down on the bottom and up the sides of the tin with your hands or the back of a spoon, so that the base and sides are evenly lined and smooth. Put into the fridge to harden for at least 1 hour, or 2 hours if your fridge is stacked. I wouldn’t keep it for longer than a day like this as the crust tends to get too crumbly.
  3. For the filling, finely chop the chocolate. Put the cornflour into a cup and whisk in the milk until smooth. (I find it easier to use cups for the liquids – in which case the milk measure is equivalent to an American quarter cup, and you’ll need 2 cups of cream.)
  4. Pour the cream and mascarpone into a heavy-based saucepan in which all the ingredients can fit and be stirred without splashing out of the pan, then add the finely chopped rubble of chocolate, the sieved cocoa (or just sieve it straight in), espresso or instant coffee powder, sugar, vanilla paste or extract, olive oil and smoked salt. Place over a medium to low heat and whisk gently – I use a very small whisk for this, as I’m not aiming to get air in the mixture, I’m just trying to banish any lumpiness – as the cream heats and the chocolate starts melting.
  5. Off the heat, whisk in the cornflour and milk mixture until it, too, is smoothly incorporated, and put the pan back on a low heat. With a wooden spoon, keep stirring until the mixture thickens, which it will do around the 10-minute mark, but be prepared for it to take a few minutes more or less. Take the pan off the heat every so often, still stirring, so that everything melds together, without the cream coming to a boil. When ready, it should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, and if you run your finger through it (across the back of the spoon) the line should stay.
  6. Pour into a wide measuring jug or batter jug (it should come to about the 600ml/1 pint mark). Now run a piece of baking parchment or greaseproof paper under the cold tap, wring it out and place the damp, crumpled piece right on top of the chocolate mixture, then put the jug into the fridge for 15 minutes. The mixture will still be warm, but will be the right temperature to ooze into the base without melting it.
  7. Pour and scrape the mixture into the biscuit-lined flan tin and put back in the fridge overnight. Don’t leave it longer than 24 hours, as the base will start to soften.
  8. Take out of the fridge for 10 minutes before serving, but unmould straight away. Sit the flan tin on top of a large tin or jar and let the ring part fall away, then transfer the dramatically revealed tart to a plate or board. Leave the tin base on.
  9. Slice modestly – this is rich and sweet, and people can always come back for more – and serve with crème fraîche; the sharpness is just right here. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 4–5 days, but the base will soften and the sides crumble a bit. That will not detract from your eating pleasure too much, but I still like to give it its first outing at optimal stage!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Warten auf Brexit

The concept of Brexit appears to have been around a long time.Well heeled shoppers were able to purchase a box of Brexuits endorsed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second many years ago, leaving only the containers now as collectors items to be bargained for on ebay. I wonder if they were a hard or soft Brexuit? their description as a delightful savoury biscuit, made by Fortnum and Mason Ltd of Piccadilly, does not give much away.Sadly, this is yet another memory that seems to have been forgotten. The past has been re-written by the Brexit Leave campaign, airbrushed to remove our imperfections, distorted to snub our European neighbours, and whitewashed to remove our compassion for refugees, who incidentally, more than anyone, are the ones that need a good Brexuit.The irony is that many of our former allies and foreign counterparts took the advantage as soon as they were able after June 23rd this year to take advantage and make trademark applications related to the word "Brexit."What was formerly "Great Britain" did not have the nouse to take this opportunity to create some newly patented products.It was the more forward thinking countries of Europe that are now planning to start branding what was formerly British.Having lost Cadbury´s to the Americans and thrown British Home Stores away, we then lost the Findus crispy pancake.Now its the turn of Germany among others to rebrand some of our past glory.In fact, naming food and drink after Brexit seems such a daft idea, there’s a strong chance that these products will never even see the light of day. After all, most of the trademark applications were made within 48 hours of the result coming in – which feels much more like ill-thought-out opportunism than considered marketing.Will we be seeing Brexit’s official English breakfast tea be made by Germans? Or worst case scenario, excuse the pun, Brexitwurst sausages. There is a two month period for third parties to object to any trademark application.I haven´t heard of any objections yet.Are the Brits going to be first in the tea plantations before the Germans get there? Its like the old holiday joke of putting your towel on the sunbed by the pool before breakfast to ensure the Germans didn´t get it.“Vorsprung durch Technik” I say.
Now in the light of America making yet another globally affecting faux pas, I suspect that if you stopped an average American on the street and asked them what they thought about Brexit, the assumption would be that you were talking about some delicious new biscuit. Brexit, the snack you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite.A Brexit a day helps you work, rest and play. Or something like that…Sadly the reality of a Brexit is more than a morning snack. I look forward to seeing Disneys Remake of the Lady and the Trump.....Happy days are here again!!!!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Mini savoury leek egg custards ( lost in translation )

Read the press,ate in the restaurant,wowed by it,bought the book and this is how the story continues..........the unspoken problem with cookery books. How many recipes work?

At this time of year you want to be sure you have reliable recipes to hand.There is no time for failures in your seasonal preparations. Translating a chef's creation—intended to be cooked by professionals for hundreds of people per night—into something you can cook at home comes with its own unique set of challenges, from scaling down enormous quantities to sourcing obscure ingredients.
The prevalence of errors in cookbooks is the publishing world's dirty little secret. The problem is indicative of an industry mired in economic doldrums resorting to cost-cutting, guaranteeing less editing and testing before publication.Following a recent memorable lunch at Bairro do Avillez in Lisboa and having purchased one of his books, Petiscar com estilo (making snacks with style) I thought I would put this book, packed with exciting petiscos and tapas recipes, to the test.The main body of the recipes are given in Portuguese with a section in very small print at the back giving the translations of all the recipes into English.I selected my first recipe "Mini savoury leek egg custards" for its wittiness of putting a savoury interpretation on one of Portugal´s iconic sweet cakes.Having myself just put a new spin on Bacalhau a bras by using leeks instead of salt cod, I was rather enamoured witrh Avillez´s idea.It could be the perfect party petisco for Christmas, but also make a beautiful winter starter if dressed up with some winter leaves.

I opted to follow the Portuguese instructions to serve 4 and the method was spot on,the only problem being that the quantity the recipe actually made was for 12. No worries, they were simply delicious, but so rich we could only manage one each and as there were only two of us there was massive leftovers.God help anyone who opted for the English translation in which 500g of leeks became 1.1oz and 50g unsalted butter became .11oz?

 Mini pasteis de nata de alho-francês

500g de alho frances
Flor de sal q.b.
pimenta q.b.
100ml de natas
2 gemas de ovo
50g manteiga sem sal 

De alho-francês
1.Num tacho de fundo termico,derreta um pouco de manteiga
2.Adicione o alho-francês cortado em juliana fina e deixe estufar tapado.tempere com sal e pimenta.Acrecente um pouco de água e deixe cozinhar
3.Quando o alho-francês estiver bem cozido,adicione as natas e deixe ferver 2 minutos
4.Transfira para um copo misturador e triture muito bem.Passe por um passador de rede e deixe arrecefer.
5.Quando estiver frio,adicione as gemas,rectifique os temperos com sal e pimenta e reserve.
Massa folhada
1. Estique a massa folhada,picele com manteiga derretida à temperatura ambiente e enrole-a com se fosse uma torta bem apertada.Deixe descansar pelo menos 20 minutos no frio.
2. Corte o rolo em moedas grossas e coloque-as nas formas.
3.Estique a massa com as mãos até esta se adaptar perfeitamente à forma
4. Encha cada pastel de nata com o creme 8pode congelar nesta fase) e leve ao forno pré-aquecido a 220ºC até ficarem dourados (8 a 10 min aproximadamente).

Mini savoury leek egg custards 
(lost in translation)
(makes 12)
1.1oz leeks
salt and pepper
100ml cream
2 egg yolks
.11oz unsalted butter
Leeks egg custard
1.Melt a little butter in a deep pan
2.Add the leeks sliced into thin julienne.Season and add a little water,cover then let them stew.
3.when the leeks are cooked,add the cream and let it boil for 2 minutes.
4.Whizz everything in the blender,sieve and leave to cool.
5. When it is cold,add the egg yolks mixing well between each addition.Check the seasoning and reserve.
Puff pastry 
1. Lay out pastry and brush it all over with melted butter at room temperature.Roll it out as if for a tart.Let it rest for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
2 . Cut the roll into rough coin-size shapes and put them into the individual pie shapes on a pie tray.
3.Push the pastry to fit the shape.
4. Fill each pie with the filling (you can put some in the freezer for later)and put in a pre-heated oven at 220C until golden (approx. 8 minutes)

Well I wonder if if you made sense of that? How an earth can you butter a roll of pastry all over before you roll it out? then apparently the rolled out pastry magically forms itself back into a roll before you cut coin sized shapes out of it.My "coin" sized pieces were 8cms in diameter,I dont know any coin in history that has ever been that size. The recipe translations are also given in Castellano, dont lets even go there.

Having had hands on experience in industrial kitchens I know how recipes can become misinterpreted when put into print.What you are intending to achieve in the directions might call for completely different and more sophisticated equipment than your own kitchen is equipped with. The failure, from a recipe which clearly works beautifully in a restaurant, can be blamed in some quarters on the difference between professional and domestic ovens, whereas sometimes the error seems to be with the publishers. Some blame these errors on shrinking budgets, which mean that editors have less money to spend testing and checking recipes pre-publication.Many of the dessert recipes in the original River Café cookbook never worked in a domestic oven. Always needed much longer. But you learn to use your judgment.Any blog post on the subject of culinary disaster isn't complete without mention of the River Café chocolate nemesis.How many of us remember this dish which, despite rave reviews from diners in the west London restaurant, steadfastly refused to work for home cooks like myself, who famously produced something more like "a kind of cowpat" than the decadent dessert they were hoping for. The late Rose Gray's slightly unsatisfactory response was that "It's a recipe you need to make a couple of times before you get it right". I doubt many people attempted it more than once Rose: humiliation doesn't tend to whet the appetite for seconds.And what about that weeks budget of fresh eggs all ending up in the bin? On the contrary, Ottolenghi recipes are mostly conceived and thought through with a home kitchen at heart."How do home cooks cook? What would they want to cook?" and "are they something that home cooks can actually make?" That has always been the guiding force behind his recipes.Aside from not taking into consideration the need for an industrial grade blender to make that ultra creamy fish soup, it is not every home cook that has a gallon of fish stock to hand.
Abbreviations can be the curse of a recipe too. Tsp printed as Tbsp. Just one letter´s difference, but having the potential to reek catastrophic effect on a recipe.An extra zero on the grammage,250 instead of 25g,can cause an absolute Disaaaaaster darling!!!!Chefs are particular culprits because they´re simply not used to thinking in terms of recipes.I am culpable myself when cooking and writing up recipes,being vague in the extreme about the quantities and methods involved.It is so important for authors of cookery books to make it very doable for home cooks.Here´s hoping my next recipe attempt from this book wont need so much cross referencing and initiative.The result however was more than worth the effort and i shall most certainly be making more batches of these.Thank you Mr Avillez, I am sure the faults don´t lie with you.