Sunday, 28 February 2016

Whats at steak? trying to solve the mystery of the rib-eye is something to beef about

The steak is the connoisseur’s meat dish; a subject of debate, delight and potential disappointment.The crimes however that have been committed in the name of one cut, the rib-eye, are unforgiveable.I for one have been on the receiving end of being fobbed off more than once with something claiming to be a Rib-eye.
Ordering a steak is a pretentious moment when you have to tell the waiter how you like it brings out an inherent manliness in me. I end up attempting to bamboozle the waiter about how I want it done.Years ago I would say "well done".can you believe this was what I was used to pre 1980 - grey meat. Soon I realised this was terribly de trop, and started saying "medium". Later still I progressed to "rare".Recently since moving to Portugal  I have been saying,with an airy wave of the hand,"mal passado"or in a French restaurant in Lisbon "a point" I don´t know what " a point" means,but, crucially nor do most waiters,but it doesn´t seem to make any difference anyhow to how the steak is cooked
One evening a few years ago we set out together with two expat friends for a potentially nostalgic evening.The common denominator between us all that not one of us had tasted a rib-eye steak for two years since we had left Blighty.The reason soon became evident.The meal should have been memorable and it was, but for the wrong reason.Hard as I try to erase it, it is imprinted on my memory as a bad evening.The ambience of the restaurant was the perfect setting to enjoy a fine dinner.We were given a round, candle lit table nestled under an exposed brick arch.The ritual of ordering and being served was a long drawn-out process.I will not dwell on our starters as that was another bad experience in itself.When the four so-called "rib-eye steaks" arrived we all  looked at each other in silence and then decided to tackle what I can say was a beautifully cooked piece of meat, which  in no way resembled a Rib-eye.The waiter/owner/ maitre-d` arrived at the table and asked if everything was alright.One of our friends replied "you have a chef at the table,why don´t you ask him". I told him that what he had served us was not the four rib-eyes we had ordered. "Well what do YOU call them he said."Excuse me", I said but I hope I am not mistaken in thinking you are French and in France you would call this a pavé de boeuf." "I am responsible for writing the menu and I must have made a mistake in the translation". Poor excuse we all thought.
In French cuisine the rib steak (with bone attached, called côte de bœuf, literally: "beef rib") is a very popular dish and it is not uncommon to find French restaurants where a massive single côte de bœuf is served for two or more dinner guests. The French entrecôte corresponds to the rib eye steak, that is, a rib steak separated from its bone.
What we had been served was a cut of beef of which all the fat and connective tissue from the large heart of the steak had been removed leaving a tasty, fairly tender and complely trimmed hunk that resembled filet mignon.This cut I had been served before.It is cut like a filet but is called pavé and is very often used for steak au poivre.
I have to concede that the language of cuts is a little vague, with variations in names being found from one butcher to the next (thankfully not the case with surgeons). A prime rib steak can be taken from any of the ribs, but can also be sirloin on the bone.
With prime rib, you’ll get a bigger cut than rib-eye,  very often weighing anything upward from 600g- 1kg. It has more flavour than rib-eye, because anything’s better cooked on the bone. I’d also rest it longer and serve with the same sides as you would the rib-eye.
I was lucky enough to find these beautiful organic rib-eye steaks (Novilho Biológico costelatas ) can you believe in my local supermarket Pingo Doce last weekend.Proudly reared, slaughtered and cut in Portugal,they were every little bit what I expected of them
Fat is key to the rib-eye’s appeal. One of the fore-ribs, it usually has no bone in and no fat around it; instead, it is infused with the stuff. It’s an important factor when buying your steak

The fat content is what gives it a lot of flavour. Get your butcher to cut it at least an inch thick and cook it a bit more than some steaks — medium or medium-rare — so it can absorb the fat. You don’t want fat with fat, so I’d suggest serving with a nice tomato salad. For a 250g steak, you’re looking at 4-6 mins for medium-rare, 6-8mins for medium, although times are never precise.
 Nuevo buey-gallego
My favourite Rib-eye has to be the Spanish Chuletón Gallego.El buey gallego the Galician ox is the main stronghold of the Galician Blonde breed, the icon of the meat cuisine and the most international of Spanish beef.That is why cuts can be found in markets and butchers outside of Spain.
 The type of fat infiltration in the muscle gives it the mottled appearance, called marbling, which is responsible for its organoleptic characteristics: tenderness, juiciness, and intensity of flavour.
My suggestion to wash it down  would be something fruity to counter all that fat, an Assobio D.O.C Douro 2014.The Tinta Roriz*,touriga Franca and Touriga nacional grapes give you an attack of redcurrants rose petals and  a refreshing cherry flavour left in your mouth.
* NOTE Tinta Roriz | Aragonês - This is one of the rare grape varieties to be prized on both sides of the border. Tempranillo to the Spanish, the Portuguese call it by two different names depending on the region: Aragonês and Tinta Roriz (the latter name is used only in the Dão and Douro regions). In recent years it has spread rapidly throughout the Dão, Ribatejo/Tejo and Lisboa regions. It tends to be blended with other varieties, typically Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca,and also with Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet in the Alentejo.                    

For more information  WWW.ESPERAO.COM


Monday, 22 February 2016

Sumac-the right kind of sour

I haven´t written about foraging for a while now.This is because I haven´t found the time to venture out into the wild with this mission in mind. I was however recently the recipient of a bounty of sumac from a fellow forager and one of our guests who has now visited Casa Rosada on two occasions. Like ourselves he and his vivacious wife( who co-incidentally came to us by this blog) have made the Algarve their choice for retirement.
 There is always something fascinating to learn from Brian.I was particularly taken by him  waxing lyrical on a new way of preserving Danish plums.On his first visit I learnt from him that Sumac (Rhus Corairia) actually grows in the western end of the Algarve.Can you imagine my excitement, I needed not only to find out more, but find and forage some for myself.I never managed and one year later on their second visit he brought me a few branches to try.He calls himself " a botanist and retired lecturer in aquaculture "....or perhaps... just superhero would be more appropriate?
Sumac is the product of Rhus coriaria, a bush that grows in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates. Its berries, usually sold in the form of glistening, deep red flakes, have an astringency tempered with fruity sweetness. It's most commonly used in the spice mix za'atar, the beguiling Lebanese condiment, along with thyme, sesame seeds and salt, but it definitely earns its place in my Algarve kitchen.I rub it on oily fish or pork chops before grilling, stir into steamed vegetables with a little butter or olive oil, sprinkle over tomato salads or grilled onions. For an intriguing one-fruit salad that takes you back to old fashioned half-time refreshment,I scattered it over sliced oranges; mix it with garlic, ginger, chillies and yoghurt for a very good marinade for lamb or chicken kebabs.
Casa Rosada´s tuna kebabs dusted with sumac
The right kind of sour makes things taste brighter, cleaner and sharper – think of that squeeze of lemon over a piece of fish, or a splash of lime in a salsa; it zings the thing right up. But If you have not already come across this tangy, sweet-sour spice,I want to introduce you to something you may have not cooked with before, something that takes you way beyond the familiar tang of citrus.
It delivers sourness with intriguing depth and character. It’s better, I think, than paprika for making a stunning dusting on top of hummus or a plate of fish.
Whether anointing your creative plate with its dust or making it an integral part of a dish now is the time of year to betrothe it with some lovely Sevillian orange.What claims to be the "greatest British biscuit"can be made even greater with a tarter than tart and tangy dust and the grated zest of bitter orange.

Orange, Polenta And Wild Sumac Shortbread 
Ingredients for 24 servings

150g(5oz) plain flour
25g(1oz) fine polenta /milho (for added crispness)
50g(2oz) caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
Grated zest 1 large Seville orange
Topping 1 tablespoon powdered wild sumac 
and sprinkling of caster sugar
Sift the flour into a bowl.Rub the grated orange zest into the sugar with your fingers. Stir in the Semolina,followed by the zested sugar.Add the butter.cut it in with a knife and then rub in with your fingertips.Draw the mixture together to form a crumble mixture.Transfer to an ungreased 17.5cm (7inch) diameter tin.Press out smoothly until the tin is covered with an even layer of the mixture.Spread the surface evenly with a palette knife.
Ridge the edges with a fork and then prick it all over at regular intervals to give a typical shortbread effect.Sprinkle with sugar.Bake for 1 hour in a pre-heated oven 180C/ 300F /Gas mark 3 The shortbread should be the colour of pale straw. Remove from the oven.Dust with a fine carpet of Sumac.Cool to lukewarm then carefully score into 8 wedges.Carefully ease the shortbread from its tin.Transfer to a wire cooling rack until completely cold.

When cool carefully ease the shortbread out of the tin

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Nursery food "the proof of the pudding is in the eating.''

With this intense cold spell sweeping all across Europe my heart yearns for a good old sponge pudding.I know I have been banging on about nursery food of late but sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered, a small dollop of comfort. 
 Pudding is important for our well-being,as well as our soul. It is not a treat but a necessity. It is there to heal and comfort, to cosset and hug. Pudding is not food, it is medicine. 
There is an inextricable link between stress and pudding. At least there is in my mind. It is not silver that lines my cloudy days but butter, sugar, jam and cream.
The puds we turn to for comfort are inevitably those that remind us of our childhood, or more likely, an imaginary one - those dream-like sugar-and-spice-filled early years that never really existed. A mother in an apron brandishing a rolling pin; a cupboard lined with home-made plum jam; a kitchen filled with the smell of baking and warm spice.
The English quite rightly think their puddings rule the world. Steamed, baked or boiled; no other nation comes close to such a delectable excess of sugar-stuffed delight. But try to define exactly what a pudding is and things get a little more difficult.One could describe them as sweet dishes, yet steak and kidney pudding and fish pudding puts paid to this.These are savoury suet and bread puddings,and very much deserve a place in the scheme of things.In Britain,there are as many soft warm sweet puddings as there are Portuguese recipes for salt cod, one for every day of the year and perhaps more.So many in fact that a resourceful mum could easily turn out a different one every day of the week,light up childhood mealtimes and linger reassuringly decades later in the memories of us 50-somethings and 60-somethings.They are the quintessential nursery food, comforting to both body and spirit, and you will find them on menus of proletarian pubs and Michelin starred restaurants alike

Blessed be he that inventeth pudding,' 
wrote the 18th-century French traveller Monsieur Mission.
'For it is a manna that hits the palates of all sorts of people... Ah, what an excellent thing is an English pudding!' 

Allo Allo - Gallic praise poured upon English food is a rare thing indeed, even 300 years ago. But the excitable Frenchman did have a point. Despite endless, and usually misguided, attacks on our national gastronomy, we are undoubted masters of two culinary arts: roasting and the making of puddings. The former needs little explanation and, you would have thought, the latter too.
From the citrus surprise of a Sussex pond pudding (where a whole lemon is hidden within the steamed dough), suet-rich spotted dick and the berry-laden joys of summer pudding, right through to the caramel-soaked majesty of the sticky toffee pudding.
Some puddings,  jam roly-poly (baby´s leg), apple dappy  and spotted dick, have agreeably eccentric names, usually created by uncouth public school boys. These ridiculous nicknames only enhance their appeal. (If the last seems just too naughty for some, and more decorum is required at the dinner table, a solicitous English cookbook advises, it ''can also be called spotted dog.'') 
Nowhere on Earth could one find such a wealth of comforting stodge. The final tweak was when the pudding cloth, a great innovation at the time, but often unwieldy, was removed and superseded by basins lined with greased paper and foil.We have come such along way. Can you imagine flouring a large double muslin cloth and dolloping your pudding mix on to it and then tying it up like Dick Whittington´s bundle.
 Admittedly, the classic British pudding is not for all types - those of a nervous, timorous disposition, people with aversions to butter, suet, cream or even  pleasure, and the assorted fat-fascists, health freaks and hippies are best advised to stick to their tasteless low-fat yoghurt and yakult.
The rest of us, though, need little excuse to celebrate one of England's great edible glories, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.And what that means is that you have to try out food to know whether it is good.My thoughts exactly.Whoops did I forget the treacle tart?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

David Bowie liked the cake -Torta di Cioccolata

The cold spell continues and with it the desire for cake, still warm from the oven.Not tired, but a little blasé about my cake repertoire, I turned to the bookshelf and randomly picked a book entitled "Alastair little´s Italian Kitchen" ,recipes from La Cacciata,his cookery school in Umbria. I bought the book second hand( half price) in 1996 in good condition. Since then its pages have become well thumbed and one recipe in particular, the Chocolate Torte, had its pages stuck together at some point from cake mix spillage. 

This just goes to show how good this cake is and just how many times it has been made.The Chef/Manager of my then concession, a museum cafe in North London, used to make this on a regular basis and the cake was even commended by the late great David Bowie,when visiting the gallery.We don´t have photographic proof of the occasion as I was not on site at the time alas, but you have to trust me on that one as she phoned me in a state of hysteria after he left the building.Well today for nostalgia´s sake I baked the cake, making only one mistake, that it needs to be baked slightly longer than the recipe states.However if you want some warm gloopy chocolate filling from the middle of the cake follow the original recipe.This is another example of store cupboard management.All the ingredients were at hand and no on the spur of the moment visit to the shops was necessary.
How could this delicious recipe have slipped through my fingers all this time and it makes me wonder what else is secreted on my cookery bookshelves crying out for an incarnation.
Torta di Cioccolata
Chocolate torte
for 8 people
150g whole blanched almonds
1x 2cm thick slice of panettone
150g unsalted butter
300g good quality dark chocolate
150g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
150g mascarpone cheese
Pre-heat the oven to180C /350F /Gas4.
Combine the almonds and panettone in afood processor and whizz until it forms a fine meal.Remove from the processor and set aside.Grease a 20cm spring form cake tin generously and sprinkle with some fine breadcrumbs.Roll the tin around to form an even coating then invert the tin to shake out excess breadcrumbs.
Melt the chocolate with 2 tablespoons water in a double boiler or pyrex bowl set over a pan of boiling water.Whilst this is being done cream the butter and the sugar in the processor.Add the eggs,the scraped out vanilla pod,chocolate,remaining almond and panettone mix and the mascarpone.Whizz until just incorporated,no more.Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and bake for about 40 minutes, slightly longer if you want the cake firm all the way through.The cake should be just about set:cracks will appear about 2cm in from the rim and when they have spread all around the cake in a circle,this is apretty certain indication it is done.
remove from the oven and leave to sit for 20 minutes to half an hour before unmoulding.It is best served warm when it may be a little runny in the middle.This is not a problem; remember how much you liked raw cake mix as a kid, fighting with your siblings over the bowl!!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Poker face muffins

Some things come along that just have that WOW factor.Things that make you sit up and say"I wish I´d thought of that. I am just a sucker for Bloody Mary´s and if there is a Mary being mixed any where in my close radar I will come hither.The other thing that inspires me is creative and witty interpretations of things familiar.So watching the television the other night I scored double whammy. For those of you not familiar with British television, The Great British Bake Off is one of the highest rating British cookery shows.Twice a year there are spin off shows for charity when well-known faces don their aprons in these special editions for Comic Relief and Sports Relief respectively.This is an entertainment show in which celebrity contestants try to raise money for charity, and have a bit of fun at the same time.
Victoria Coren-Mitchell in muffin mode
Unfortunately, in the case of writer, broadcaster and competitive international poker player, contestant Victoria Coren-Mitchell, the fun value back fired.She tried to amuse the palate of someone who´s never drunk a Bloody Mary and the joke fell flat.For the queen of the Victoria sponge and doyenne of dough, Mary Berry, it was her first experience of a Bloody Mary and these unusual muffins threw her.What was a chance for a stroke of creative genius from Coren-Mitchell was merely admired by the judges.She went on to win the technical challenge with her pies but then sadly she fell again at the last hurdle with her showstopper chocolate sea sponge, another stroke of genius that missed the mark.Too much salt in the sponge,Victoria.Sadly the look on the judges faces said it all.

" It was remarkable how sad I felt when Mary’s face fell at Muffingate-"
Mary Berry thought the sea sponge was pretty revolting. And Paul Hollywood the other judge said: “Victoria let herself down with that cake”. "But I genuinely think it’s really nice! It isn’t that salty! It’s a bit salty! Some of us like salt". Moscow mule muffins or Vodka Stinger muffins perhaps might have made Mary´s eyes light up, but the missed point here was that they taste like a Bloody Mary. In muffin form! I put it to the test,made them (see above) and tasted them and our verdict was fan bloody tastic. 
There is a moral to this story.....Taste, of course, is one of the five senses. In everyday usage, it refers most often to its gustatory sense at the table or in the kitchen. Some food tastes good; others don't. Is the pleasure derived from what you like up to you or to the thing that pleases you? The answer may seem obvious. That which gives pleasure does not necessarily please everyone. As the rhyme goes, "some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot nine days old". Some things please only a few, while there are things that please a whole lot of people. So, some things are apparently more successful in providing pleasure than some other things. Taste depends on the thing liked or disliked; or does it?
Victoria Coren-Mitchell´s Bloody Mary Muffins
Makes 24 mini  cocktail muffins
Dry Ingredients
400g flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons celery salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Wet ingredients
16 tablespoons milk (350ml)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
4 tablespoons Worcester sauce
One tablespoon Vodka
4 teaspoons Tabasco
4 large eggs

300g sunblush tomatoes ( Cherry tomatoes, semi-dried)

Mix the sifted flour with the baking powder and celery salt, black pepper and bicarb. Then whisk the milk together with the olive oil, ketchup and Worcester sauce, vodka,Tabasco and eggs.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients but do not over mix, then fold in 300g of sunblush tomatoes (do not use fresh) and "a drizzle of red food colouring" (optional) "for festivity". Divide the mixture between 24 muffin cases and bake at 180c for about 20 minutes (or until they seem risen and cooked).
Leave them to cool on a wire rack.Serve them with small celery sticks on the side and a shot of vodka (optional)

Saturday, 13 February 2016

One man´s fish is another man´s poisson



Where´s the catch?- there isn´t one.The fish above is a perfect specimen of a wild fish 
and the two bloated examples below are  the farmed variety (viveiros)
There´s a world of difference between farmed fish and its wild relation.They don´t even look alike, and as for the taste....
The appearance of a wild fish and its counterpart, the farmed article, is not just the difference between a real diamond and paste.It is more the difference between the Mona Lisa and a very bad reproduction.
What really tipped the scales for me was when I read that  DECO (Portuguese Association for consumer protection) carried out a taste test of Portuguese fish in 2004 and it resulted in 88 per cent of people saying they preferred farmed fish. Was this the sad future of the fishing industry? Sadly yes. In Portugal the market for farmed fish has increased significantly since.
The bass, a fish that is most produced in nurseries (viveiros), can be dificult to tell apart from the sea or river species, until you actually taste it. However there are some fish "being produced" that look more like fat burgers.
For the engineer António Coelho Castro, president of the Association of Aquaculture of Portugal (AAP), the problem is only one: "The fish are all equal, whether in captivity, sea or river. . The power given to it is not, "and exemplifies:" The bass is a fish that more is produced in nurseries. However, there are some productions that look like fat burgers and no bass. "

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All fish are all equal,whether in captivity, sea or the river.The difference is in the food that the fish in captivity are given to feed on.Take for example Salmon. Salmon bred in captivity contains excessive toxic chemicals.These toxins are present in the rations these fish are fed on, and when you come to cook it a very noticeable difference in texture will become apparent.This in fact generally applies to all farmed fish.So why this increase in Portuguese fish farming? The Portuguese government has a reputation for selling off all its valuable assets including its fishing territories many of which are now owned by the Japanese.The much decreased stocks of fresh fish are then kept for the top hotels and restaurants in the capital or exported at a high price. Dwindling supplies, along with the over fishing of rare species such as squid and sardines, being greedily caught out of season before they have had time to mature ,there is not much in the market for Joe Public and what there is for sale at inflated prices. I have seen Red Mullet on market stalls fetching upwards of €35.For a nation renowned for its fish this is a very sorry state of affairs.From the moment the traditional fishing industry had to adapt their skills to the lack of resources, aquaculture in Portugal has become an element of strategic importance.
 Fish that lived a happy life
Since then it has begun to make a high production of farmed bass, bream, turbot and sole
Portuguese fish is not as cheap as the imports coming from Greece, Italy and Spain but the Portuguese fish is superior.Today in Portugal more than 25% of fish consumption is from aquaculture.
Trying to produce as cheaply as possible rather than seeking to produce the best quality is not the solution.The truth is that more and more of us consumers are now being more careful to distinguish  the fish we are purchasing, choosing fish that are from their natural habitat.How can we distinguish what we are eating? Still, few consumers know that most of the fish we eat on a daily basis comes from aquaculture. Unless you specifically ask the staff in restaurants when eating out the provenance of the fish on the menu,you will never know what you are being fobbed off with.
In the market place labelling helps.Market traders and supermarket counters are now obliged to inform the consumer about the price and the origin of the fish it intends to buy.The lack of  a label carrying this information leads to harsh penalties.
In addition to this, whenever a consumer finds uniform sized fish on the counter it immediately tells them it is a farmed fish. I am glad to say that our favourite local restaurant now flags up whether fish is viveiros and the staff offer the choice of fish from the sea, river or farmed.Its a start.Lets hope others follow suit.As far as possible casa rosada supports sustainable fishing

The trout, sea bass, sea bream, turbot and sole are the fish species most produced in captivity. "Today, in Portugal, some 25 percent of fish consumption is from aquaculture," says the president of the Chamber of Veterinary Jose Cardoso. But few consumers know that most of the fish we eat from day to day comes from aquaculture. How can we then distinguish what we are eating? "By labeling," says José Cardoso. The whole shopping center is obliged to inform the consumer about the price and the origin of the fish that it intends to buy. "The lack of a label with this information is entitled to harsh penalties." In addition to this factor, whenever a consumer find a uniform size fish counter is in the presence of fish from captivity. "Is that what they call animal that serves to dose," said the president.

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For the engineer António Coelho Castro, president of the Association of Aquaculture of Portugal (AAP), the problem is only one: "The fish are all equal, whether in captivity, sea or river. . The power given to it is not, "and exemplifies:" The bass is a fish that more is produced in nurseries. However, there are some productions that look like fat burgers and no bass. "

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For the engineer António Coelho Castro, president of the Association of Aquaculture of Portugal (AAP), the problem is only one: "The fish are all equal, whether in captivity, sea or river. . The power given to it is not, "and exemplifies:" The bass is a fish that more is produced in nurseries. However, there are some productions that look like fat burgers and no bass. "

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Friday, 12 February 2016

Creamy leek and prawn tart

Stand-by suppers are my new best friend. We've all been there, not enough time to nip to the shops, the fridge looking a little on the sparse side,you feel a bit lazy and are still craving a satisfying dish that's not going to take the next hour to make.
Turn to your store cupboard and with a couple of tins or jars of handy sauce and clever spicing, you can put together a hearty, filling and nutritious meal. The freezer should not be forgotten either, crammed full of goodies like prawns, frozen peas, vegetables and if you are lucky, you might even find a complete ready meal in that curry or cassoulet left over that you froze the week before.
This is one of those recipes I call a store cupboard supper.All the ingredients are close to hand, either on the larder shelf,in the vegetable basket or freezer drawer.You wont even have to step outside to the shop.An evening fridge forage and some pantry pottering can rustle up some handy store cupboard staples.
This is not just no brainer cooking but something that makes you feel you are pushing the prawn out a bit.Crack open a bottle of Contacto (left) to go with.

225g home made savoury pastry
25g unsalted butter
100ml water
1/2 tsp Flor de sal
200g leeks,thinly sliced
200g cooked peeled prawns
3 eggs and 3 egg yolks
350ml whipping cream
3tbsp tomato ketchup
1  tbsp chopped fresh herbs
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180C /360F.
grease a 23cm flan tin. Roll out the pastry and line the tin.Place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.cover the pastry with foil and line with baking beans.
Bake blind for about 15 minutes until light golden.Remove the foil and beans and set aside to cool.Reduce the oven temperature to 150C /300F. To cook the leeks,melt the butter in a pan with the water and salt.Add the leeks and fry gently for about four to five minutes until just cooked.Allow them to cool slightly,then squeeze out the excess liquid.Pat the prawns dry on kitchen paper and mix them with the leeks stirring well.
in a medium bowl,whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until well blended.Add the remaining ingredients andwhisk gently until the mixture is smooth.Stir in the prawn and leek mixture.Gently pour the filling into the tart base and cook for about 40-45 minutes or until the tart is completely set.Allow to cool slightly before serving  still warm with a lovely salad.

My Store Cupboard Essentials

  • Tinned tuna
  • Dried pasta
  • Noodles
  • Basmati rice
  • Tinned tomatoes,tomato purée,tomato ketchup
  • A few jars of sauces; pesto for pasta, stir fry sauces and Thai and Indian curry pastes
  • Spices including chilli powder, five spice powder, salt, black peppercorns and smoked paprika
  • Canned beans such as kidney beans, butter beans, cannellini beans
  • Olive oil
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Stock cubes
  • Plain flour
  • And for the freezer I like peas, sweetcorn, spinach and prawns.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A good soak opera - Anchovy bread and butter pudding

The British are proud of their puddings but for some, bread and butter pudding is the king of nursery desserts, for others like myself it's the stuff of bad childhood memories.
As a child I had an abhorrence of bread and butter pudding. I was kept back at school dinnners long after my classmates had run off to the playground, defiantly sitting on that uncomfortable wooden bench with this bowl of indescribable matter in front of me.No matter how much coaxing from teachers, my feet were firmly ensconced under the table knowing that if I ate as much as half a spoonful I would be sick.I still will not eat this pudding today because of that childhood reference.Modern variations including scattering fresh grapes between the layers of bread, melting apples into the egg-milk mixture, and using unusual types of breads  such as brioche just make it even worse for me. They say lemon or orange peel will add a characteristic flavour. I don´t think so.
A few years back I made an Ottolenghi savoury bread pudding that was pure genius and so yummy.One of those dishes that you scrape the last morsels from the dish it was baked in before washing up.I know Nigella too makes a mean savoury bread pudding on the lines of a croque monsieur. So maybe savoury bread puddings I am ok with. Its the sultanas, raisins and citrusy custard that makes me heave.I´m the same about Queen of puddings.Boiled milk and breadcrumbs jam and meringue, absolutely not.I though I would put my own savoury bread pudding to the test.I started off with a traditional recipe for bread and butter pudding and deconstructed it.Out went the sultanas and raisins.In came black olives and capers in their place.Triangular bread slices remained. I added Ricotta cheese and Dijon mustard to the butter and spread that on the bread slices.For my custard I rendered down just the right amount of anchovys to intrigue but not overwhelm.
Having rendered them down to a paste, I then brought them to a simmer with milk, cream and thyme.When this was tepid I whisked the mixture into the eggs and egg yolks and whisked it until I had a smooth custard which I seasoned with parmesan, salt and white pepper.

Anchovy Bread and butter pudding
makes one large rectangular pudding or 24 mini puddings
The anchovy I put in was very subtle, just adding an intriguing salty background flavour; I've used chopped up fillets here, but anchovy paste can be used too.Allow yourself plenty of time as once assembled you need to give it at least one and half hours time to allow the custard to soak into the bread.If you can leave it in the fridge overnight even better.Press the bread down from time to tima and pour over a little more custard if you have some left over.
1 x 400g  Páo de trigo e centeio com sementes de sesamo
( mixed grain loaf, wheat and rye with sesame seeds)
4 large free-range eggs
4 large free-range egg yolks
200ml double cream
500ml whole milk
Tbsp dried thyme
1 small tin anchovy fillets
250g Ricotta cheese
75g Dijon mustard
25g unsalted buttter
50g Parmesan cheese 
80g black olives, finely chopped
20g capers rinsed
½ tsp salt
white pepper

Take one 27 x 21 x 6cm baking dish (10.5 x 8.25 x 2.25inches)
Butter your dish thoroughly. Make the savoury butter by beating the Ricotta, Dijon mustard and butter softened to room temperature.Beat it vigorously until well combined to a spreadable paste.
In a medium sized pan over a medium heat add the anchovies and the oil they were packed in.mash them into the oil, almost to a paste.They do not need to cook,they just melt, this only takes a few seconds.Add the cream, the milk and the thyme.Bring slowly to a simmer then remove from the heat and allow to cool.While it is cooling cut your bread,if not already, into slices.Grease the baking dish all over.Butter each slice over one side with the savoury buter. Lay the slices butter-side up in the dish, standing them up on an angle and overlapping.Repeat until you have filled the entire dish.
Now beat the eggs and extra egg yolks, the mustard, parmesan,olives and capers. Combine this mixture with the anchovy cream and whisk all together until you have a smooth custard.Pour the custard over the bread slices to almost cover pressing the bread down as you go.Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside in the refrigerator for at least one and a half hours but overnight would not be a bad thing.Check from time to time to see how the bread slices are absorbing the custard and if you have any custard left pour this over the bread and allow to soak in. When ready cover the dish with foil and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.Remove the foil and continue to bake for afurther 30-35 minutes or until the pudding starts to get a nice golden crust.Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bánh Xèo – Savoury Vietnamese Crêpes

Pronounce it ‘ban say-0
This Tuesday, in some shape or form,pancakes are going to be beaten, fried, tossed, dropped, raced and even eaten in much the same way as they have been for years.Pancakes, it seems, predate bread as one of man´s oldest forms of cooked food.
Given their simplicity and spartan ingredients, it is not surprising that pancakes are present in almost every food culture, from silky thin French crêpes to Russian yeast-risen buckwheat blinis / blintz or Sri lankan hoppers,described by the doyenne of Indian food, Madhur Jaffrey, as the love child of a crêpe and a crumpet. With a whole world of pancakes to try, perhaps it is time for a challenge with something different this Shrove Tuesday. - Vietnamese Bánh Xèo.This recipe has been sitting in my queue for far too long,and as each Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras blends into lenten penance I forget about them for another year.

Asia arguably rivals Europe as the continent with the best pancakes, especially in terms of diversity. Vietnamese Bánh Xèo are not only delicious, but a boon to those with allergies or intolerances as they're made without eggs, and with gluten-free rice flour and coconut milk. Because of this, outside of Asia the authentic version seems to have been demised in favour of more worthy vegetarian fillings,even endorsed by the divine god Ottolenghi. I plumped for the original with its surf and turf filling, which brought to mind one of my favourite Portuguese dishes the Alentejan pork and clams.
It may surprise you to learn that the pale yellow, fluffy banh xeo typically contains no eggs at all ( I sneaked a small one in,very naughty ) despite the fact that it looks unmistakably omelette-like. In fact, the Vietnamese rice flour pancakes get their vibrant colour from turmeric. The name can be literally translated as "sizzling pancake," and that's exactly what you'll get a tssssstttt as the batter hits the sizzling butter in the pan.These pancakes are typically pan-fried with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts.I have an aversion to bean sprouts and mung beans so replaced them with Chinese cabbage. It's served with fresh lettuce, coriander and mint, which are meant to be used to pick it up in bits—a sort of reverse-roti experience, if you will.
These are quite messy and traditionally they are served with a dipping sauce.I made the dipping sauce but used it as a cook-in stir fry sauce to give the pork and prawns some ooomph.It made serving and eating the pancakes a lot easier.

As I write this post I have just read in the UK press of the demise of the Findus brand.I have sweet crispy-coated memories of childhood suppers of Findus pancakes and fish fingers.Findus was a household name in the Uk in the 60´s. Findus Crispy Pancakes are to become the latest victim of the horsemeat scandal amid company plans to ditch the brand after 50 years.The iconic Findus name will disappear from supermarket aisles under a rebranding exercise.Lost but not gone I would say.Reminiscences please. RIP Findus. 

Bánh Xèo
serves 4
Bánh xèo is food meant to be eaten with your hands. You’ll always find a big plate of greens with a mix of herbs to go with it. You can substitute any leaves you choose at a pinch, and mint and coriande rare the only must-have herbs here with  Vietnamese perilla if you can source it being the other commonly used one. However you can really throw in whatever you like.
200g rice flour
1 small egg
2-3 teaspoons turmeric, depending on colour preference
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
Spring onions, chopped small about 1-2 cm long

250g cooked peeled prawns without heads, size 45/50 or 60/70
600g  pork belly
1 onion, medium sized, thinly sliced

1 large shallot chopped
Chinese cabbage, torn up or shredded
Vietnamese perilla (tía tô), optional

Dipping sauce (cook-in stir fry sauce)
40ml lime juice
1.5 tbsp sesame oil
1tbsp brown sugar
1tbsp rice wine vinegar
1tbsp soya sauce
1 heaped teaspon hot chilli sauce, (ketjap manis or sriracha)
2tsp grated fresh ginger
1 red chilli chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
172 tsp Flor de sal

Preparing the batter
Combine all batter ingredients except the spring onions in a large bowl for at least 3 hours, or overnight.Put the rice flour,egg,salt and turmeric in a bowl.Slowly pour in the coconut milk,whisking to avoid lumps -You´re after a thinnish crepe batter,so add more coconut milk (or water) if necessary Add the spring onions only right before making the crêpes.

Prepare Fillings
Defrost the prawns if using frozen
Boil pork until cooked through, ( about 45 minutes). Drain, set aside and when cool slice  thinly. Wash and prepare salad greens and herbs
Just before making the crepes fry the shallot in some oil and when softened introduce the pre-cooked pork and the prawns. Pour in the dipping sauce and stir well to combine.Stir fry until well heated through then keep warm on a very low heat while you cook the pancakes.

Making Bánh Xèo - Each crêpe takes about 5-7 minutes
On medium-high heat add 1-2 teaspoons of butter, some spring onions and chinese leaf, chopped
Pour in some batter and quickly tilt and rotate the pan so the batter is evenly spread. Add more batter if it wasn't enough to cover the pan.
As soon as the batter starts to set immediately add a few pieces of pork and shrimp.
Lower heat to medium and wait for the crêpe to become crisp. Fold in half, transfer to a plate and serve immediately with the salad leaves and herbs.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

All about Eve and the Alcobaça apple

Eve´s pudding it was called, and every time my mother made it I would ask her who Eve was? "Eve's pudding is so named as the recipe uses apples" was one of her answers.This never satisfied my inquisitiveness. I had read in my children´s book about Adam and Eve and their sin and it would say that Adam and Eve ate an"apple" The Bible says fruit, but it never says there was an apple, but it really doesn't matter. The original sin was disobedience to God's command, and it leaves ground open for debate as to whether Eve´s Pudding was a biblical reference or whether there was a real latterday Eve who baked a cake which this was named after.Any way it´s all very British and as always nanny knows best.This is one of those puddings that take you back to the days when the cure for all ills came smothered in cream.Warm, milky rice pudding and a blob of red jam was as effective an ointment for a bad time as tea-tree cream was for a cut finger.I remember bland apple sponge from school dinners,but this was not one of those.
Eve´s pudding is one of those "lost nursery recipes that more than deserves a place in the twenty first century.Eve's pudding is a type of traditional British pudding now made from apples and Victoria sponge cake mixture. The apples are allowed to stew at the bottom of the baking dish while the cake mixture cooks on top.So still not having ascertained who the author of this pudding was, another question arises as to whether it is a cake or a pudding? Whatever you decide about Eves "pudding," it will fill every remaining crevice with sweet nannying stodge.The recipe I sourced said "sharp cooking apples".One would be hard pressed in Portugal to find what I assume the recipe meant to be Bramley apples.What I sourced however,in Lidl was some lovely Granny Smith apples from Alcobaça in the centre of Portugal.This reinforced for me the importance attached by Lidl to sourcing Portuguese products.
Apple growing in Alcobaça dates back to 1154, when Claraval monks settled in this region. The Alcobaça apple is famous for its sweetness, perfume and colour. Nowadays, you can find several varieties of this apple: Royal Gala, Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Casanova, Alcobaça, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Reineta Parda.The Alcobaça apple is produced in a small area formerly part the Estramadura region, which is characterized by a temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. The apple has been classified PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) since 1994.

Eve´s pudding

750g sharp cooking apples
3-4 tbsp golden caster sugar
dash of cinnamon
dash of ground cloves

150g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
2 large eggs
80g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
80g ground almonds

Pre-heat oven to 180c /gas 4
Peel, core and cut the apples into rough chunks.Toss them in the sugar, cinnamon and cloves then put them in a pan with 3tbsp sugar and 2tbsp water.Bring to the boil,then lower the heat and let them cook for 10 minutes or so until they are soft but still retain their shape.
Meanwhile,cut the butter into pieces and put it the food processor with the sugar.Beat until light and fluffy,then break the eggs ,beat them lightly and add them to the butter and sugar.If they curdle briefly,add a tablespoon of the flour.
Mix the flour and baking powder together. Add the grated zest of the lemon and orange, flour and ground almonds to the mixture and continue mixing on a low speed till all the ingredients are thoroughly combined and you have a soft,smooth texture.
Pile the warm cooked apples into a deep pie dish or loose bottomed cake tin then smooth the cake mixture over the top. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen and bubbling at the sides.
If you are not convinced about Eve´s pudding,try my more contemporary recipe for Granny Smith apple cake