Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Plumbrillo, turning it to your advantage

Sometimes mistakes or errors of judgement can work in one´s favour. I recently made a batch of  plum and ginger jam, but having let my attention wander from the preserving pan I carelessly allowed the jam to go a little past setting point, resulting in the jam being of a slightly stickier consistency than I would normally desire.That is the problem with jam making, if you take your eye off it for just one minute it can go horribly wrong.
 Our friend Hilary was staying with us and I asked her if she would pass judgement on it for her breakfast.
Instead of dutifully anointing her toast with the aforementioned jam she admitted to spooning it all out of the bowl and straight into her mouth and was now, perhaps due to a sudden sugar rush, excitedly incumbent with a suggestion. She told me to throw it all back in the pan and continue cooking it until it became more of a jelly, then serve it slathered with chocolate. Her first idea got my brain working overtime and my thoughts immediately turned to membrillo, the quince paste that is practically the national snack of Spain when paired with Manchego, sheep’s milk cheese, and the Portuguese version marmelada partnered with Nisa cheese.Events were moving in my favour and following a little researchI found out that membrillo and marmelada have to be seived so they have a smooth texture.I couldn´t just re-cycle my existing jam I would have to start again from scratch.

1.25kg black or red plums,stoned and quartered
350ml water
500g bag of jam sugar(with added pectin)
75g freshly grated ginger root

Stone and quarter the fruit, then put them and the ginger into a preserving pan.
Add 350ml water and bring to a boil.
Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes until completely cooked down, pulpy and a dark ruby  red colour
Sieve the pulp and its juices through a sieve back into the pan-making sure you get every bit of pulp out of the mix.
Stir in the sugar,then keep stirring over a low heat until dissolved.Turn up the heat and let it bubble for 25 minutes or until you have a thick, dark fruity purée. Keep stirring so that the mixture does not catch on the bottom of the pan.It´s ready when a wooden spoon leaves a trail along the bottom of the pan for a split second before the paste floods back into the gap.
Pour the mixture into shallow ceramic or parchment lined plastic trays, seal, then leave to set.
Serve with triangular wedges of Manchego.
Keeps refrigerated for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Tartine - the new bruschetta?

                                     Mafioso mutton dressed as Mont-Saint-Michel lamb

You say bruSHETta, I say bruSKETta, but where were we during the passing of the bruschetta, now we all say tartine!
A tartine is really just a fancy French name for an open-faced sandwich. It sounds so much more elegant than open sandwich, doesn't it? But the reality is its just mafioso mutton dressed as Mont- Saint -Michel lamb.Most of us are familiar with bruschetta and crostini - toasted,open-faced bread with jolly toppings.And that is exactly what a French tartine is. Just like bruschetta, tartines can be topped with a myriad of flavoursome seasonal ingredients, the only difference being the French twist. The one essential however to a great tartine is the bread.The better the bread, the better the tartine.Sourdough bread is good ,but any artesan bread with a sturdy crumb and a good flavour, that will stand up to the heat of the grill, can be used.Thicker cut slices of bread will produce knife and fork tartines while thinner slices can be hand held. Start your day or end your meal with sweet tartines,strawberries with ricotta and honey or figs and goats cheese with honey for breakfast. Move on to savoury tartines for an impromptu lunch in the garden. Spread your tartines with tapenade, anchovies olives and capers.These are the three secret piquant palate pleasers that will give your tartine that authentic taste of Provence.Lather it with chicken liver pate or foie gras, mackerel pate or creamed cheese and chives with a peppering of radish.There are so many ways to dress up a piece of toast or make a tartine.

Breakfast Strawberries ricotta and honey 

Goats cheese honey and fig 
Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon

Brunch or lunch 

Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Tartine 
Radish chives cream cheese
Chicken liver pate parsley 
Egg avocado and rocket with capers 
White bean purée with horseradish fava beans and rocket presunto de serrano 
Mushroom bacon and spinach

Tartine of roasted mediterranean vegetables with harissa

Equal quantities of red onion sliced,Courgette in chunks, aubergine in chunks and red peppers de-seeded and cut into strips
Slices of artesan country style bread or sourdough 

Harissa paste for dressing the vegetables ( home made or a good commercial brand)

Prepare all the vegetables and put them in a roasting tray.Toss the vegetables with generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil,season with salt and pepper and place in a hot oven 200c to roast for about 40 minutes.Toast the bread on a hot griddle until crispy and cover with portions of roasted vegetables.Top with dollops of harissa paste

Tartine of goats cheese, honey and fig

Fresh figs sliced into thick rounds 

1 log of goats cheese (Chevre or queijo de cabra curado) cut into rounds
Honey for drizzling

Toast the slices of bread on a hot griddle until crispy.Cover each slice with rounds of goats with the slices of figs, drizzle with honey.Serve.

Tartine of strawberries ricotta and honey

Thick slices country bread or sourdough
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1 tsp honey
6 oz strawberries, washed and sliced
4 leaves basil, cut into chiffonade optional

Toast slices of bread on hot griddle until crispy. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk honey into ricotta until combined and mixture is light and airy. Divide ricotta between warm toast slices and top with strawberries and basil if using.

Find the best tartines in the Algarve, made fashionable again by Bruno at
La petite france R. Poeta. Emiliano da Costa 37, 8800-357 Tavira


Friday, 15 July 2016

Nascido por trás do véu - Born behind the veil

stuffed roasted beetroot with beetroot gazpacho shot
In my latest culinary beetroot adventure I have wrapped a caul of parma ham around it.
The birth caul or veil is a full face mask which may be sometimes found covering the face of a child at birth. Such births are quite rare, something of a phenomenom, and they hold special significance for the child born in such a manner. There are many stories and myths about the caul, many of them erroneous.The correct name for those who are born with a caul is a Caulbearer. Such people are often referred to as being born behind the veil, as the caul is also referred to as the veil in many cultures, due to it being a face covering or mask.
For those new to the ingredient, caul fat is the thin, fatty membrane that surrounds the stomachs of ruminants like cows, pigs, and sheep. It's a thinner-than-paper sheet that has lines of fat running through it in a pattern that sort of looks like it was made by a drunk spider. Although delicate, it's easier to work with than sausage casings, and doesn't come with any of the funky odour of animal intestines.I was lucky enough recently to lay my hands on some extremely thin sliced prosciutto de parma. It was so thin it almost resembled a caul and it inspired me to swaddle it around some roasted beetroot that I was planning to stuff with a three cheese mousse and serve as a starter on the casa rosada dinner menu.
Roast beetroot is a year-round staple here at casa rosada , fantastic for tossing in salads, quick starters, or making into dip sand soups. I roast several at once by wrapping them in foil and tucking them into the oven to cook alongside whatever else I might be cooking. Then the beetroots are ready for whenever they are needed. 
Beetroot doesn't have to be roasted, and is actually quite delicious grated and eaten raw. But roasting transforms it from something crunchy into something silky and tender. Though it requires a hot oven, I prefer roasting over boiling or steaming because roasting concentrates the flavours and brings out its sweeter side.
This roasting method works for any kind and any size of beetroot. Pick ones that feel hard in your hand, never soft or squishy. If you have the choice, pick bunches with their big leaves still attached. The greens wilt down beautifully and can be added to stir fries, frittatas, pasta dishes, or anywhere else a little extra green might be welcome.
Once roasted, they will keep refrigerated for up to a week. I keep them in one big container and slice off just what I need for whatever I'm making.
What are your favourite ways to use roasted beets?
Roasted beetroot with a three cheese mousse 
wrapped in a caul of presunto de serrano

4 medium sized beetroot
170g requeijao
75g chevre
50g parmesan
1 very thinly slice  of presunto serrano per portion
pistachio nuts coarsely chopped
rocket leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Coat beets lightly with oil.
Wrap beetroots in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes.
While the beetroot are cooling prepare the cheese filling by mixing the three cheeses and whipping them together until you have a mousse like substance.
When cool and ready to serve, make a circular incision in the top and cutting around towards the centre carefully remove a chunk from the centre of the beetroot.continue scooping out more flesh from the cavity and discard or eat it.Carefully fill the cavity with the cheese mixuntil paeking slightly above the level of the top of the beetroot.Now carefully wrap the parma ham tightly around the outside of the beetroot and smooth it flat with your fingers. Place in the centre of a serving plate with some rocket or salad leaves of your choosing and place the stuffed beetroot on top.Sprinkle a dusting of chopped pistachio over the top of the stuffing and around the plate.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Spritzer,uno tinto de verano por favor

 “red wine of summer”   Cheers!
As a child growing up I remember my first taste of wine: heavily diluted with water and from memory, served in a sturdy tumbler. I felt proud to be sophisticated enough to drink the same thing as the grown-ups.Little did I know this was the beginning of the end of the slippery slope to a lifetime of enjoying wine a little too much.
In the last twenty years or so, wine spritzers have fizzled out. They went from cool and refreshing to sliding completely off the bar menu. What started the spritzer’s fall from happy hour one will never know, but the bubbles burst and I think its time to make the hour happy again.
Wine spritzers are light, but still take the edge off. They bubble, without the need for pricey Champagne. They can be made with red or white — and gussied up by adding berries fruit, herbs and spices.
A spritzer is a long drink made by adding soda water to white wine.The concept has been around for for over a century( hock and seltzer was a popular nineteenth century drink),but the term spritzer is a modern derivative. It seems to have been coined in American English in the 1950´s, as an adaptation of the German word Spritzer,meaning  ´splash` and influenced also by the German adjective spritzig,fizzy,sparkling.
The word "spritz" on its own is a generic term linked to the 19th century Austro-Hungarian practice of adding a splash ( spritz) of water to northern Italian wines. Rumour has it the strong wines made in their Italian territories were too bold for the refined Habsburg palate, so a dash of water was used to mellow out the wine.The Spanish developed sangria mainly for the tourists, but kept an alternative on the cocktail bar for their own libation.Known as tinto de verano, literally “red wine of summer” it´s essentially a wine spritzer of sorts, made from equal parts red wine and gaseosa,orlightly sweetened lemon-lime soda similar to Sprite or 7-Up,but to my palate more interesting.Tinto de verano is far less boozy and because it does not contain such expensive ingredients (triple sec etc)cheaper than its touristic counterpart and more commonly known bevy.Not always featuring on cocktail menus, you may have to ask for it. Standing out in the crowd is a good thing.
Over the past few years,riding on the back of the gin revival and new wave of cocktail bars,  these fizzy, summery drinks have reclaimed their rightful place at the table as cocktail enthusiasts have explored the varied (and storied) traditions of the European spritzer.Now there’s a whole world of spritzy cocktails out there that pair wine with carbonation,first up..........
Tinto de verano
1/2 cup red wine, any red wine, preferably Spanish
1/2 cup gaseosa, or lightly sweetened carbonated lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7-Up
Slice lemon
1. Toss a few ice cubes into a tall glass. Pour in the red wine and then add the soda. Toss in the lemon slice. Sip immediately.

I came to all this by default when my body suddenly decided this late in life to reject white wine.Suddenly white wine sent my stomach into shock waves. My drinking habits were now confined to the parameter of red wine and Rosé.I have always enjoyed a good red wine,though not my first choice, but mainly in the winter when it is comforting rather than refreshing.In the last few weeks when the fierce heat of summer arrived I have found drinking red wine at room temperature not to my liking.What could I do? I decided to put a new spin on this century old practice to create a refreshing thirst-quenching summery red wine spritzer.I wanted to find a solution that would be a substitute for sugary drinks like lemonade and soda, so sparkling water was a must.
In order to keep flavour and not dilute too much, I married the concept of the whiskey sour, which has also been around since the 19th century, with the more modern tinto verano and reclaimed from its nostalgic purgatory the sour element of the old English gimlet. I whisked the whisky out of the equation and found a recipe for a home made sour mix.The recipe has an easy to remember formula for good measure(  excuse the pun)1/2 and 1/2 sour mix and red wine to 2 parts sparkling water.

Red Wine Spritzer

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes
Makes 2 drinks

1/2 cup homemade sour mix (recipe follows) or lime cordial 

2/3-1 cup sparkling water 
1/2 cup red wine

Fill a Tom Collins glass or other tall glass (like a highball ) with a handful of ice cubes. Gently stir 1/2 cup sour mix and 1/3-1/2 cup sparkling water into each glass. Top each with 1/2 cup red wine; if you pour gently, the wine will float on top of the sparkling water, slowly bleeding into the cocktail as the ice melts. You can choose to mix the wine into the rest of the cocktail or let it slowly meld together on its own. Enjoy then mix yourself another

Homemade Sour Mix 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes

Makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar 

1/4 cup water 
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons) 
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 2 limes)

Stir the sugar and water together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved and the syrup is clear.Pour into a heat-safe jar, like a Mason jar, and cool to room temperature.
Stir in the lemon and lime juices.
Sour mix will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Oui Cést muy perfecto,É muito perfeito,ou foi-lo?

 Apricot parfait with chocolate soil

I have to say with the opening of La petite France in Tavira that I have become a bit francophiled. Along with this and the help of our annual bountiful gift of select organic apricots from our neighbour Eglantina at Companhia das Culturas I have unearthed a wonderful recipe for an apricot parfait.It really is "C'est parfait."The recipe I have always used in the past has been a Dan Leppard recipe for honey and almond parfait which I serve with poached or pan fried apricots on the side, and is made in a loose bottomed cake tin which I the adapted to a loaf pan version and then sliced. This parfait however makes apricots the star ingredient and I have to say is simpler to make. It can be made as individuals and kept in the freezer until you are ready to serve.
It can be made with any fruit and is similar to an ice cream.Perfect for  summer entertaining.
Just as a footnote........something that happened to me when I came to make this recipe
    Well it's happened to the best of us: you pull out all the ingredients needed to bake your favourite recipe when all of a sudden you realize all you have in your store cupboard is plain old granulated sugar. But the recipe wants fine, powdered or maybe even brown sugar. So does that put paid to your baking?
    Not at all. If the recipe calls for caster, confectioners, or brown sugar, you can actually make any of them at home from regular white sugar. If you don't have it in the house, you don't have to run out to the shops—you make it yourself,so I found out when it happened to me.If it happens to you, all you need is a coffee grinder or food processor and a bit of ingenuity:
    Superfine or caster sugar
    For one cup: Grind one cup and two teaspoons of white granulated sugar in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds. Also called caster sugar, this is simply sugar that has been ground into finer crystals than regular granulated. This makes for sugar that is lighter in weight and dissolves more quickly. It's often called for in recipes like meringue or angel food cake that are known for being light and airy.
    Apricot parfait with chocolate soil
    For the apricot base:
    400g apricots (8)
    150g caster sugar
    1 vanilla pod or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
    For the meringue base:
    2 egg whites
    225g caster sugar
    100ml water
    For the whipped cream:
    300ml double cream

    1 packet of crunchy chocolate brownie biscuits crushed
      Preparation Time: 25 minutes (+ 12 hours chilling)
      Cooking Time: 20 minutes
      Serves: 7-10 
      Preheat the oven to 200°c.
      Cut the apricots in half and remove the stone, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds, weigh out the sugar for the apricot base.Mix the vanilla seeds into the sugar, then tip the mixture into a roasting tin and place the apricot halves, cut side down, into the sugar. Put the roasting tin into the oven for 20 minutes.
      Remove the apricots from the oven and allow them to cool in the roasting tin while you make the rest of the recipe.Put the water and the sugar for the meringue base into a saucepan over a medium-high heat and stir it to dissolve the sugar.
      Once the sugar has completely dissolved, stop stirring, turn up the heat and leave it to boil for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the egg whites into a large bowl and whisk them until they have reached the soft-peak stage, i.e. the marks left by the whisk in the egg whites are soft and rounded (if you don’t think you are able to whisk the egg whites in 5 minutes, either do it before boiling the sugar or buy an electric whisk). 
      When the sugar has boiled for 5 minutes, quickly take it off the heat, start whisking the egg whites again and slowly pour in the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream.
      Continue to whisk the egg whites for about 5 minutes before putting them to one side.
      Transfer the apricots from the roasting tin to a bowl, setting aside a few tablespoons of the syrup for later. Using a potato masher, mash the apricots until they have formed a coarse pulp. Put them to one side.  Put the double cream into a large bowl and whisk it until it has reached the stage between soft peak and stiff peak. Then put that to one side. Pour the apricot mixture into the egg white mixture and stir them together. Tip the double cream into the egg white and apricot mix and stir it all together. Pour the mixture into moulds and put them into the freezer for at least 12 hours until they have set solid.
      Remove the parfaits from the moulds and serve. I served them with some crushed chocolate brownie cookies and some syrup I had set aside.

      Friday, 1 July 2016

      Polvo à Lagareiro /Octopus Lagareiro

       Polvo à lagareiro as served at casa rosada

      Any country worth its place in its lonely planet food guide prepares delicious octopus. Japan, Portugal,Spain, Greece, Italy, France, in no particular order, each of these countries have at least one or more beloved ways to prepare the ocean´s most popular cephalopod. If you have never prepared something that has six legs more than a chicken, it can seem a bit daunting,but don´t chicken out just yet.
      Googling endeavours bring up such extraordinary revelations as boiling it in coke, toe-dipping the tentacles to a count of three.Perhaps the whackiest revelation was in a magazine which suggested you bake the frozen octopus without the addition of water.Given the price of octopus and the possible margin of error I think I will pass on this one, even though the author guaranteed tenrinho  (tenderness) in the end result.
       The old trick of banging it on the rocks to tenderize it has long since been replaced by freezing the octopus before cooking,so in general it is easier to work with good quality frozen octopus than with fresh one.So calm your nerves and get yourself ready to buy the octopus.Look for good frozen octopus in well stocked supermarkets, or if you have the luxury of a spacious freezer get your fishmonger in the market to supply you a fresh one.Bring it home and freeze it for a couple of days.When selecting your cephalod,make sure it has double rows of suckers on the tentacles,this is a sign of its quality.Frozen octopus actually cooks up twice as tender as fresh; the freezing and thawing process kickstarts the tenderizing process.Something to also bear in mind when making your choice is the weight.Octopus will cook down considerably.Allow a 5–7 lb.(3.2kg) octopus for an 8-person first course.Well its time to get over your fears.Octopus is much easier to cook at home than you think.The Nigel Slater technique has never failed me.Take a large pan of  water and I mean large (at least 10 litre capacity) for a 1.5kg Octopus.Wash and clean the octopus thoroughly under cold running water,looking for any sand wedged in the suckers.Leave it to soak for a few minutes while you prepare the stock.

      COOKING TIP: never ever salt the water.The octopus secretes plenty of salt from the sea.

       A memorable lunch that inspired me to cook Polvo à lagareiro 
      as served at Restaurante Fábrica do Costa

      1 small onion
      1 small carrot
      3 bay leaves
      6 black pepercorns 
      Bring the water to the boil.Peel the onion and slice it thinly.Scrub the carrot and slice it into thin coins.Add the onion ,carrot,bay leaves and peppercorns to the water.
      Dunk the monster into the boiling water.As soon as it returns to the boil,lift it out ( yes i know,unfortunately no tips here for handling a slippery cephalod with tongs and other assorted batterie de cuisine) leave it for a few seconds then return it to the pan. Repeat,then leave to simmer for about 40 minutes.Test it for tenderness by slicing off a tiny piece.If it is still tough,leave to simmer for for anything up to 30 minutes more,making the sign of the cross over your chest hoping for success.If it isn´t tender then, it probably won´t ever be.

      Polvo à Lagareiro /Octopus Lagareiro
      com batatas a murro
       Lagareiro is the name given to the owner of an olive oil press and this has now become  the name of a style of cooking fish which has many variants but typically ends in dressing the fish generously with extra virgin olive oil  after grilling or roasting.This is probably one of the most delicious octopus dishes in the world and certainly my favourite.

      1 polvo médio/grande de 2 kg cozido como acima

      Em uma panela grande coloque água para ferver
      Coloque o polvo e deixe cozinhar até que fique macio
      Deixe por cerca de 30 a 40 minutos e escorra

      Acenda a churrasqueira e deixe em brasa com temperatura alta

      Pegue o polvo, pincele-o com azeite e coloque na grelha
      Deixe até que ele fique dourado e crocante por fora

      As batatas ao murro
      Pegue oito batatas pequenas tipo sauté
      Lave bem e não descasque
      Coloque as batatas em uma forma e cubra com sal
      Leve ao forno por aproximadamente 40 a 50 minutos até que fiquem macias

      Pegue um pimentão vermelho/amarelo, tire os caroços e corte-os em fatias grossas

      Pegue uma cebola, descasque e corte em quatro pedaços
      Disponha em uma forma e regue com azeite
      Leve ao forno 200ºC por cerca de 40 minutos até que fiquem macias
      Montagem do prato:
      Pegue as batatas e tire todo o excesso de sal
      Amasse-as, “dê um leve murro” para que elas estourem as beiradas
      Disponha as batatas no prato, coloque o polvo por cima, enfeite com os pimentões e com as cebolas
      Acrescente algumas azeitonas pretas e regue com azeite de boa qualidade
        Octopus Lagareiro
        with batatas ao murro (English)

        2kg octopus cleaned tenderized and cooked as above
        8 small new potatoes
        1 red pepper,
        1 green pepper,1 yellow pepper

        black olives
        olive oil
        Flor de sal

          Heat the grill until smoking hot
          Take the octopus, brush it with olive oil and place on the grill
          Leave until it is golden and crispy on the outside 

          Preparing the punched potatoes (ao murro) 
          Take eight small potatoes. Wash well but do not peel
          Place the potatoes in a baking tray and cover with salt
          Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes until tender
          Take the red / green and yellow peppers, remove the seeds and cut them into thick slices
          Take an onion, peel and cut into four pieces
          Arrange in another baking tray and drizzle with olive oil
          Bake 200 ° C for about 40 minutes until tender

          Assembling the dish:
          Take the potatoes and remove any excess salt
          Knead them, "give a light punch" so that they burst the edges
          Arrange the potatoes on the plate, put the octopus on top, garnish with the roasted peppers and onions
          Add some black olives and a generous libation of olive oil.