Friday, 24 February 2017

"Carnaval" 2017- Mardi Gras, creole jambalaya (on the bayou)

"Good bye Joe,me gotta go,me-oh-my-oh"..... Needless to say I won’t be going down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and chances are most of you won’t be either. Neither will I be "picking guitar,filling fruit jars or being Gay-oh".I will most likely be staying home and tossing up one idea or another on the theme of pancakes.Others of you,I know, will have been throwing Oscar night parties and celebrating with popcorn on the sofa.But "Son-of-a-gun, we'll still have big fun" with some colourful Creole food this weekend.
Enter Jambalaya, a quintessential New Orleans classic. Jambalaya is a French word that means ‘jumbled’ or ‘mixed up’.Think of jambalaya as the love child of paella and risotto.There are two general kinds of jambalaya:  Creole and Cajun.  What’s the difference?  The main difference is tomatoes.Creole jambalaya, also called “red jambalaya” uses them, Cajun jambalaya does not.  Another difference is the order in which the ingredients are prepared.  But both utilize what’s referred to as the “holy trinity” – onion, celery, and bell pepper (usually green).this particular jambalaya is the Creole version.
An important element in this dish is the homemade Creole seasoning. The flavour will be fresher, bolder, better.  If you have the herbs and spices on hand to make it, your taste buds will thank you.

Authentic Creole seasoning  This will give you more than you need for the recipe and you can keep the rest for other creole and cajun recipes 
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika.
2 tablespoons salt.
2 tablespoons garlic powder.
1 tablespoon black pepper.
1 tablespoon onion powder.
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper.
1 tablespoon dried oregano.
1 tablespoon dried thyme.

Soffrito- The colourful beginnings of Creole jambalaya

Creole Jambalaya  
serves 4-6
Hello, New Orleans! Mark Twain once said, "New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin." Speaking nutritionally, meat-heavy jambalaya is a misdemeanour. But toss in chicken instead of smoked sausage and pick a leaner cut of bacon — keep the prawns, of course — and you can dine with a clear conscience. 

350g raw tiger prawns,peeled
350g diced bacon

225g chouriço picante,skinned and sliced
225g boneles skinless chicken, cubed  optional
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil


1 large onion, sliced
2 sticks of celery,chopped 
1 green pepper,deseeded and chopped

1 tbsp creole seasoning, see above

1 tsp pimenta da jamaica (mixed spice)
25g unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic,crushed

1 red pepper deseeded and chopped
1 red chilli deseeded and finely sliced
225g tin chopped tomatoes
6 tbsp tomato purée
2 bay leaves crumbled
500g Malandrinho or risotto rice
1.5 litres chicken stock
Heat the oil in a large paella pan.Season the chicken,if using and fry with or without the sausages until golden brown and the oil is being coloured from the chouriço.remove from the pan and set aside.Fry the prawns until coloured, and set aside.
In the same pan melt the butter and add make a sofrito with the "holy trinity" ( onion, celery, and green pepper),as they soften add the creole seasoning, garlic, red pepper and chilli.Keep frying until all the vegetables are nicely coloured.Add the meat mixture and stir well to mix.Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée.Stir well again to amalgamate.Stir in the rice until transparent,about two minutes.Pour over the stock and bay leaves.Bring to the boil and cover tightly,simmering for 15 minutes or until the rice is tender but still separate.Add more liquid from time to time if necessary.Turn off the heat stir in the reserved prawns and leave for about 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.Serve garnished with some chopped parsley.
"Good bye Joe,me gotta go,me-oh-my-oh".....

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sopa de tomates secos ao sol com alecrim e batatas

A simple amalgam of potatoes and tomatoes, perfumed with rosemary.Who would have thought that this unexpected combination would deliver a delicious creamy soup.The potatoes cook and break down to a coarse yet creamy purée,while the tomatoes provide bright colour and a tart - sweet flavour.
The sundried tomatoes give it an earthy, smoky flavour which beefs it up, and if you add a Parmesan rind to the cooking it melts down, imparting a subtle complimentary tang.

4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion finely diced
6 medium,red, ripe tomatoes, peeled,seeded and puréed coarsely
30g home made sundried tomatoes
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
Flor de sal
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into dice
500ml vegetable stock
Parmesan rind (optional )

Place the olive oil and onion in a large saucepan.Cook over a low heat until the onion is tender and golden.Add the sundried tomatoes, tomatoes,rosemary and salt to taste. Cook at agentle simmer for 5 minutes.Add the potatoes and stir.Cook for a further 5 minutes.Add the stock and bring to a boil.Adjust to a simmer..As the potatoes become tender,break them up with the back of a wooden spoon until a coarse purée forms.
Cook the soup with the parmesan rind if using, for about 45 minutes,or until it is thick and the flavour deepens.Ladle into soup bowls and serve.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Four pepper chicken with sticky pineapple sauce

Carnaval and Mardi Gras are fast approaching.What better way to get in the mood than with this platter of Cuban inspired chicken in a sweet,tangy glaze. Out to dinner at friends´ house the other night I enjoyed the chicken they served up and particularly the gravy boat with extra sticky sauce.I asked her for the ingredients she had used and set about working to re-create the flavours of her recipe. I started by making a marinade and decided that when I removed the chicken from the marinade I would then reduce it down until I had a sticky tangy sauce.The chicken pieces I roasted in a tray with some olive oil.Thank you Sandra for the inspiration.
Four pepper chicken with sticky pineapple sauce
!.5kg chicken jointed into 8 pieces,skin on ( breasts thighs wings and drumsticks ) 
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
150ml pineapple juice
heaped tsp of mixed peppercorns,red,green,white and black
1 whole head of garlic,cloves crushed
1tsp hot chilli flakes
1 tbsp honey
1tbsp lemon juice
Flor de sal
Pre-heat the oven to 200C / 400F
Grind the peppercorns to a coarse powder in a pestle and mortar.Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and toss the chicken pieces in it until well coated.Transfer the chicken pieces and any remaining marinade to a tupperware container and put in the fridge for six hours or overnight.Remove the chicken pieces,retaining the marinade, and transfer them to a roasting tray with a little extra olive oil and roast in the pre-heated oven for about 1 hour or until the chicken is nicely coloured and glazed.Just before the chicken has finished cooking reduce the reserved marinade in a small pan until thick and sticky.Remove the chicken pieces from the oven and serve them on top of Rosemary roasted potatoes pouring a coating of the sauce over. Put the remaining sauce in a gravy boat for anyone to help themselves to extra. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Living la vida lentilha

Having recently unearthed  a scrumptious recipe for  red lentil soup, I am continuing to keep my finger on the pulse and see what else one can do give the lentil back its rightful place in modern gastronomy.In the seeming absence of the lentil on Portuguese restaurant menus I am going loco and thought I would investigate what has happened to lentil recipes in the Portuguese culinary tradition.As I had already suspected, all the recipes I found were not mainstream and were mainly hearty soup and stew recipes from rural regions.Lentils have always been a cheap and nutritious means of filling the bellies of peasants and workers, so this figures.But why are todays chefs  not incorporating this masterly legume into the pulse of their repertoire? This still surprises me, given that in this day and age when peasant dishes have become fashionable,plebs and plummies share the same dishes with a certain aplomb and bonhomie at tables alongside each other in restaurants.
I found out that In Brazil it is tradition to eat  the  Lentilha de ano novo ( "New Year lentil" )just before the year turns. This habit was brought by the Italian immigrants, and according to their belief, the lentil appropriately attracts good fortune for the coming year.This recipe seemed rather familar to me and resembled a hearty winter dish I used to cook back in England, with lovely spicy Italian sausages, puy lentils and winter root vegetables,parsnip,carrots,turnip,celeriac squash and beetroot.It was time to rootle in not only my own archives but the archives of Portuguese cuisine,only then would I come up with a recipe to put the good old legume back up there on the map alongside the chickpea, the bean and the pea. The smattering of Portuguese recipes I was lucky enough to find all included variations on the nations vast selection of smoked sausages.
Paio com lentilhas
Estufado de lentilhas com alheira
Lentilhas de ano novo
Well will all this nosing about in the annals of lentilhan history,who do I think I am (call me Sherlock why don´t you) I was now ready to put pig and puy to pot.A last glance through Stéphane Reynauds Pork and Sons threw up a classic French peasant dish of pork and lentils which not only used smoked sausage, but various other cuts of pork, Hock, smoked shoulder and salted spare ribs.No more messing, I was finally ready.My recipe was going to be primarily Portuguese but with some Italian and French influence.


Salpicao,smoked with the wood of holm oak

Smoked Azorean linguica
Smoked belly pork
Lentilhas verdes com enchidos fumados 
e legumes de raiz de inverno
( Puy lentils with smoked sausage and winter root vegetables )

500g selection of mixed root vegetables diced 
Beetroot butternut squash turnip celeriac carrot 
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
350g puy lentils
100g smoked belly pork,rind removed,cut into chunks
150g salpicao or alheira, cut into chunks
4 smoked linguica sausages cut into four pieces each
vegetable stock
In a pestle and mortar grind the chilli and coriander roughly.Peel and cut the butternut squash into small chunks.In a bowl toss the chunks and linguica sausages with olive oil and then sprinkle over the ground spice mix of chilli and coriander.Tip out onto a roasting tray and roast in the oven until the butternut squash is tender to a knife point and the sausages are browned.Set the sausages aside and when cool enough cut each sausage into four pieces.Set the butternut squash aside.
In a heavy frying pan sauté the mixed  diced vegetables. in some olive oil.when they begin to colour pour in the lentils and smoked belly pork.Add enough vegetable stock to cover.Tuck in a few bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.Add the linguica,salpicao and reserved butternut squash and continue cooking until the lentils are tender about 10 more minutes.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Local hero

                                 Award winners Jorge raiado and João Rodrigues   © Sul Informação

Everyone remembers the Algarve for its sun drenched summers when they visit the region for their annual holidays. But the Algarve has so much more than sun and beach, it has products and projects with qualified entrepreneurs working behind them.These entrepreneurs strive with their wealth of diverse experience to put this region on the map, establishing a reputation it rightly deserves.As small businesses we all work together to build "this Algarve". It is often difficult when support and promotion of the region is ignored and lacking by bodies who are only interested in "corporation tourism.The Algarve is a far cry from these quangos who sit at desks far away, coming up with ludicrous plans for a region they have only their own ideas about.It is up to us therefore to be even more responsible not only for what we do, but also to promote everything around us, everything that matters - and there´s one hell of a lot here in "our Algarve"! No one is more qualified in this than Castro Marim local hero, Jorge Raiado of Salmarim,who has just been honoured by the specialized magazine Revista Wine-Essência do vinho.  Every year personalities and projects in the areas of wine and gastronomy are distinguished.This year the prestigious award of Produto artesanal do ano (The best artesan product of 2016 in Portugal ) went to Jorge and Salmarim.

Salmarim is the apple in the eye of a family-based company which Jorge revitalised and from the beginning took a gamble on.It paid off,he has now come to be known as Castro Marim´s great ambassador of a product and a cause that are now receiving their rightful recognition.
Jorge is one of those entrepreneurs who are never at a standstill and  whose head is always bubbling with innovative ideas.Salmarim is not just another company that produces salt.As Salmarim´s envoy Jorge has taken the Flor de sal, born in the salt flats of Castro Marim, to a world of gastronomy and the great chefs, Portuguese and foreign,who work in Portugal and beyond.This creative  businessman and his small team have already produced innovative products and flavours, such as smoked salt or salt flavoured with lemon, oregano,aromatic herbs, olives and chilli.Alongside Jorge, the Algarve was also recognised in an award given to bartender and mixologist João Rodrigues who has already attracted a lot of attention using liquid salt in his cocktails.Who knows ,we may soon be seeing a future collaboration between Salmarim and the mixologist wisdom of Rodrigues.

Here in Castro Marim we all have a huge debt to repay to our ambassador Jorge for furthering our cause and for his incessant effort in innovation and dedication to the recognition of this product, which continues to season  our food and enhance our lives.Keep up the good work Jorge, as only you know how to do.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Purple reigns

A bit of sunshine on a rainy day
If you are trying to add a little fillip to your life try this as a boost to your health.
The food gurus have told us that purple reigns our diets for 2017.So if purple is the new green
and tangerine tango is passé,this is just what the doctor ordered. A beetroot apple and celery smoothie is the new Green Genie.
Eighteen months ago I was diagnosed with high anxiety ( hypertension ) which was causing high blood pressure and was put on Zolnor. A recent consultation with my doctor informed me that I would be on this medication for  life. I dislike taking drugs and try to avoid them as much as I can, so I decided to try natural ways and diet therapy  to lower my blood pressure. Apart from cutting salty foods  out of my diet (chance would be a fine thing ).Potatoes without salt? ( have a laugh). I have been drinking fresh beetroot, apple and celery juice almost every day and my blood pressure has dropped.Beetroot, celery and apple  juice is now a regular part of my routine.Don´t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you throw away your pills … oh no!! But just try this therapy and then over time you may find the need to take pills for hypertension may become less or like in my case, be under good control the natural way and compliment the medication. Since this juice combo is all natural, no harm really in drinking it  for general health.  The real hypertension lowering ingredients are beets and celery, but the apple adds sweetness to it and makes it refreshing and tasty. Even if you don’t have hypertension this juice is loaded with antioxidants and raw enzymes that will rejuvenate and recharge your system. It ‘s a blood purifying juice that cleanses the system.

1 beetroot
2 Stalks celery (preferably organic)
1 apple,Fuji,Jonagold Pink lady,Starking

Quality apple Juice

Core the apple and chop into small chunks, dice the celery,grate the beetroot.
In a tall cylindrical container place all the ingredients and add a proportion of 1/2 apple juice to the solid ingredients.With a stick or hand blender blitz until you have a smooth consistency.If required,thin accordingly with more apple juice and blitz again.
Enjoy the benefits. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

I crave chocolate cake.... Eu anseio bolo de chocolate

What happens when you google I crave Chocolate cake-"recipe"?You get a recipe for "Chocolate craving cake" -simple as.  It got me thinking.What is the difference between wanting and craving? Take for example in Portuguese, to want is "querer" and to crave is "ansiar" O primeiro não descreve com precisão o desejo,( the former does not accurately describe the craving).
There is a difference between craving and hunger.When you’re hungry, you'll want any type of food, and any type of food will satisfy that physiological requirement,then you'll no longer have to eat because the goal has been accomplished — your natural hunger has been satisfied.
 When you experience a craving, it’s for a specific food.Unlike hunger, cravings and overeating aren't instinctive. You don't need that specific food you crave. But even after that five course meal your head is telling you that its all about I need it right now and no I can´t do with out it and I am going to find a way because I have to have it. Nothing else will do.
Enough said. Language lessons aside it was Sunday afternoon and I MUST HAVE  chocolate cake.
Chocolate craving cake 
courtesy of I am a baker
This recipe is so simple and satisfies that "must have" temptation within the hour

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water ( she used coffee)

1 cup chocolate broken up
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F /200c. Line an 8x8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with parchment paper and grease sides and bottom.
Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in processor.
Add in egg, milk, oil, and vanilla and mix on low until incorporated. When mixed in increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes.
Add in boiling water and gently stir.The batter will be very thin.
Pour batter into prepared dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then continue cooling on a rack until room temperature.
While cake is cooling, make the frosting.
In a bain-marie, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring after each heating, until they are fully melted.
Add the sour cream and vanilla and stir by hand until frosting is well combined and fluffy.
Spread over cooled cake.

 The best way to get rid of a temptation, is to give in to it!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Escabeche De Cebolla vermelha

It is a great feeling to prepare foods that you know are good for your wellbeing.It is even more rewarding when positive results are achieved thereafter.This can often be a very time consuming objective,but if you have time to cook for yourself, which is a position I am in at the moment it can also be very therapeutic. We are 3 weeks into the New Year and I am now on my second batch of Kimchee which I just love.My favourite way of eating it at the moment is wrapping it up in a light and fluffy omelette.Try It.
I have always had a penchant for pickles and I said there would be more on the story of on trend pickling and fermenting. Keeping to my word, here is a seasonal dish which  includes the bitter juices of Seville oranges. Every year at the end of January the trees are laden with Seville oranges, and apart from the annual marmalade making (groans silently to himself) I have to think of new ways to use up the substantial crop before they all fall to the ground and rot.Well this year, Yucatan pickles have come to my attention, saved me from writers blog,and taken me down Mexico way.
The principal here is a traditional  escabeche. Escabeche is the name for a number of dishes in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines which can refer to a dish of fish, chicken, rabbit,pork or vegetables marinated and cooked in an acidic mixture (vinegar) and usually coloured with pimenton (Spanish paprika) or saffron. It is well represented in Portugal, and France too.
Yucatán-style pickled onions are actually pickled in Seville orange juice, giving them an altogether different flavour to the vinegar-style onions served up in other parts of Mexico. These are made by pouring hot vinegar over sliced red onions. In this case, heating up the citrus juice will cause it to lose its fresh flavor, so, instead, the onions are first softened in boiling water flavoured with black peppercorn, bay,cumin seeds and dried oregano. They're then drained, covered with the citrus juice, and seasoned with salt. When you first make them, they'll have a very pale pink color, but that colour deepens as the onions rest in the fridge.
  • Par-cooking the onions in water softens them while allowing you to keep the bright, fresh flavor of the citrus juice uncooked.
  • Using a combination of grapefruit, lime, and orange juice replicates some of the floral, bitter aroma of Seville oranges if they are unavailable.
Escabeche De Cebolla vermelha
You wil need 1 x 0.35ml kilner jar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
15 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 bay leaves
1 tsp Flor de sal
1 cup freshly squeezed seville orange juice

Place onion, peppercorns, cumin,  oregano and bay leaves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, drain carefully, and transfer onions to a sealable container, such as a Kilner or Mason jar.

Add citrus juice. Onions should be submerged at this point; if they aren't, top off with extra  juice. Stir to combine, season to taste with salt (they should be quite salty—use about 1 teaspoon Flor de sal , cover, and refrigerate until colour deepens, about 4 hours. Onions can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Do not eat peppercorns, or bay leaves.
They are a great addition to, sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs, as well as more traditionally, fresh seafood. Make a lot—you're going to want to pile these on everything.