Sunday, 9 October 2016

Now avocados with a nod to the past

Every year more and more people discover the avocado.Avocados can be propagated by seed, taking roughly four to six years to bear fruit, although in some cases, as in mine, seedlings can take 10 years to come into bearing.
they were not to be
We planted our first avocado tree 10 years ago and eureka we we thought we had our first fruit this year and a serious harvest to contend with.Alas all the fruit fell off the tree when they were very small.Our diagnosis from research was that it was a lack of water.

The variety most common in Portugal is "Bacon."Developed by a farmer James Bacon in 1954. Bacon has medium-sized fruit with smooth, green skin with yellow-green, light-tasting flesh. When ripe, the skin remains green, but darkens slightly, and fruit yields to gentle pressure. It is cold-hardy down to −5 °C (23 °F).
 Most of us have fantasies of strong and spectacular plants surging from a sturdy pip we have saved.For many years in Britain,the avocado pear remained a gourmet fruit, known and loved by the rich and well-travelled,who were used to dining in restaurants. By the late 1950´s it had begun to appear on less exalted domestic dining tables and its aficianados, like my mother, were quick to spread the word of their new discovery.In addition to this the avocado soon took off as the "in" colour for home decorating, paint wallpaper,bathroom suites, glassware, tableware and much more.

I remember my mother serving Avocado vinaigrette as a starter to her dinner guests.My father turned his nose up at it,but for many others like myself, eating this dish may well have been their introduction to avocados.
Avocado Vinaigrette had become a traditional recipe for an entrée, which acknowledges that so scrumptious is the avocado that it is in little need of embellishment. 

The Avocado: Cut the avocados in half lengthways and gently twist the halves to separate. To remove the seed, insert a sharp knife into it, then twist and lift out.  Brush the surfaces with lemon juice and place the avocado halves on 4 serving plates, shake the dressing again and drizzle it evenly over the avocado halves.
Serve with buttered toast triangles (so retro)

Adapted from a recipe in The Readers digest family recipe scrapbook

I thought I would take inspiration from my mothers way of serving an avocado which is now laughably passé and turn it into something more "now", and hopefuly more in keeping with how we like to use and eat avocados today  -an avocado vinaigrette,same  name but a completely different way of serving it.
The avocado in this dressing makes it so silky creamy that you’ll have a hard time believing there isn’t dairy in it. Use your favourite extra virgin olive oil and fresh, bright lemon juice and you’ll have a new "house" dressing. This stuff now lives in a bottle (I like having bottles of homemade dressings) in our fridge. 
I am now quite open to a generous libation of some of that vinaigrette on any one of my standard  green salads
 Avocado vinaigrette
 Makes: 1 cup dressing
(this will leave you with plenty to jar up and store in the refrigerator)
1 ripe avocado
Juice of one lemon 
300ml extra virgin olive oil
125ml white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Flor de sal
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
generous sprinkling of Herbes de provence

Salt and pepper, to taste
Make the vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a food processor until well emulsified.
     The inspiration - Restaurant Maison es in Wan Chai Hong Kong
    Thai - ger prawn cocktail 
    loosely inspired by Restaurant Maison es in Wan Chai Hong Kong
    Serves 3
    A modern, lighter version of the retro starter, prawn cocktail.
    The prawn cocktail has been around now for a good 30 years, and has spent most of it coming in and mostly out of fashion.The mixture of lettuce, prawns and Marie Rose sauce has seen countless amounts of tinkering, not all of them well judged, and now tends to make its appearance with something of an ironic wink.In this southeast-Asian-influenced version Chinese leaf replaces the lettuce,french beans are introduced along with sriracha sauce fresh chilli and Thai fish sauce.
    The perfect way to start an outdoor lunch. Now leaving its 70s baggage behind, it can get on with being what it is – a thoroughly delicious salad.  

    60g Chinese leaf or white cabbage, finely shredded
    20g Thai basil, chopped (or half tarragon, half mint if you can't get it)
    9 raw tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined (leave the tail fan on three of them)
    60g French beans, topped, tailed and cut into 1cm pieces
    80g cherry tomatoes, halved
    1 avocado cut into dice
    cayenne pepper
    ½ lime

    For the sauce:
    3 tbsps mayonnaise
    1 tbsp sriracha sauce
    1 tbsp finely chopped fresh red chilli
    1 tsp fish sauce
    juice of ½ lime
    Mix the cabbage and nearly all the basil and put in the bottom of three martini glasses. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Plunge the prawns into the water, turn the heat down and poach for four minutes. Leave them to cool on a plate. Scatter the French beans and tomatoes on top of the cabbage.
    Mix together all the sauce ingredients. Roughly chop six of the prawns (the ones without the pretty tail bits) and stir into the sauce. Divide the mixture between the glasses, then scatter on the last of the basil.
    Top each glass with your presentation prawn and a sprinkle of cayenne, and finish with a wedge of lime and perhaps a cocktail umbrella for decoration?

    NOTE:Avocados do not "ripen" on the tree, that is, they do not get soft while on the tree. Once you pick an avocado, it takes about 7 to 10 days for it to soften when left at room temperature. You can speed the process up slightly by placing the avocado in a bag with some other ripe fruit (like an apple) or slow the process down by keeping the fruit in the refrigerator.

    Saturday, 1 October 2016

    Bata Que Ele abriu outra

     Can you beat it!? He´s done it again.One of the most renowned chefs in Portugal, Jose Avillez, has opened yet another restaurant that is sure to become an instant Lisbon classic.Can you believe it, this 37 year old maestro  now owns seven restaurants, six in Lisbon and one in Oporto.This, his seventh venture, is located in Chiado close to his other foodie destinations, Belcanto, Minibar,Pizzaria Avillez, Café Avillez and Cantinho de Avillez.
    The name of chef José Avillez‘ seventh food project couldn’t be more accurate too; Bairro do Avillez literally translated means Avillez’ neighborhood. It is indeed the beloved neighbourhood of the two-star Michelin chef. His latest food adventure is located in a former convent, the Trindade Convent, which seems to be the perfect place for such heavenly, mouthwatering food, as foodies might agree,or perhaps they might not.
    We ate there for lunch on our last day in Lisbon and we wished we had discovered it earlier! We had, but it was the weekend and we couldn´t get near the place. The punters were being drawn to it like moths to a flame.It was the "the new place" to be seen. A destination for Lisbon ladies who lunch after a fitting or a spot of shopping.Their game given away by the profusion of Paris Lisboa carrier bags packed full of Claus Porto guest soaps on the floor beside the tables. If Eça de queiroz was alive today this would surely be a restaurant frequented by the characters of The Maias.
    I don´t even know where to begin. The menu is full of surprises. First you are given a sheet of paper and a pencil and you basically have to tick boxes to tell the kitchen what you feel like eating. SUCH FUN!!! and like tapas you can repeat this  process as many times as you want.
    Some dishes are rather small but are all quite cheap, very elegantly presented and most importantly, all of them were unbelievably delicious!
    We ordered the Alfacinha de bacalhau crocante, the saladinha de orelha de morcego( bat ear salad more on that story later) steak sandwich,tuna steak with polenta, the aged steak, a selection of Portuguese Charcuterie from his partnership with Manteigaria Silva Espargos e congumelos nas brasas com caviar de beringela fumada molho de iogurte com coentros e hortela ( Grilled asparagus with mushrooms and smoked eggplant. )

    (a direita) Naco de atum com polenta,piso de ervas e pinhões

    (em fundo)
    Alfacinha de bacalhau crocante

    Congumelos nas brasas com caviar de beringela fumada molho de iogurte com coentros e hortela

     The view of the ceiling above

    The view of the ceiling above

    We finished with a selection of Portuguese cheeses 
    and the house chocolate cake baked in its own 
    Avillez branded baking parchment.All these dishes were cooked and presented in ways that are either very interesting or as twists on classic Portuguese dishes.
    On top of that, the atmosphere is  buzzing and you can observe the cooks enjoying going about their work 
    just a pips throw away from one´s table! I can't recommend this place enough, at least for lunch, one of the best meals we have had in Lisbon but not cheap (we didn´t expect it to be ) but for a very reasonable price!
    ( esquerdaBolo de chocolate de taberna 

    Prego de lombo a casa em bolo de caco
    Not everybody it seems was in agreement with us,in particular the Portuguese customers.I doubt this kind of criticism would be levied on Portugal´s national treasure Ronaldo,so why is this outstanding chef who has done more for his country culturally than kicking a ball around been knocked in this way.

    This is what some of the most recent reviews have said about taberna... 

     "Junk food"
    fashion site for tourists. inattentive service, lousy food produced in an industrial canteen kitchen the best style of McDonalds ....

    Buzzy atmosphere, otherwise hit-and-miss

    "The staff are mostly clueless, as if, based on looks or something, they'd been dropped in there at random like in a survival-type reality TV show. The ugliest person there was the only one who seemed to know what he was doing".

    "The customers were better dressed and better looking than the food"

    O atendimento é desorganizado, lento e não prima pela simpatia. Na taberna, as mesas estão tão próximas que quase parecia que tínhamos combinado sair com o casal da mesa ao lado. Fica desconfortável.
     It´s a taberna for goodness sake

    Cobrar 4 euros por dois mini croquetes de novilho é obsceno. Ainda para mais porque a fritura, demasiado intensa, tornou a cobertura do croquete muito amarga.
    O casal da mesa ao lado pediu uma sanduíche de porco em bolo do caco. Ficamos todos surpreendidos com o reduzido tamanho, tendo em conta o preço (9€). De uma forma geral, as doses são muito pequenas.

    What did they expect a whopping great hamburger in an English muffin?

    It appears perhaps we were in a completely different restaurant as I can not identify with any of these complaints.This is a class act of creative modern Portuguese food and I would expect to pay the price for it.We will definitely be returning to continue where we left off and in particular for pica pau and the milho frito and some other great items from this extensive menu.Whats up next Snr.Avillez?

    There he goes! He’s doing again! Opening yet another restaurant that is sure to be an instant Lisbon classic. Popular and respected Portuguese chef José Avillez opens a new restaurant in Chiado, near foodie favorites Belcanto, Minibar, Café Avillez, Pizzaria Avillez and Cantinho do Avillez. The casual venue is aptly named Bairro (“neighborhood”) do Avillez, featuring a variety of areas akin to your local neighborhood.

    Read more at:
    There he goes! He’s doing again! Opening yet another restaurant that is sure to be an instant Lisbon classic. Popular and respected Portuguese chef José Avillez opens a new restaurant in Chiado, near foodie favorites Belcanto, Minibar, Café Avillez, Pizzaria Avillez and Cantinho do Avillez. The casual venue is aptly named Bairro (“neighborhood”) do Avillez, featuring a variety of areas akin to your local neighborhood.

    Read more at: