Monday, 25 September 2017

In praise of celery

"Celery raw develops the jaw, but celery stewed is more quietly chewed". 
~Ogden Nash. 

For some reason, celery is an undervalued vegetable, ...Julia Child was a big fan…and so am I.My grandmother used to serve braised celery  a lot and thats where my taste for it stems from. You've got a bundle of celery in the back of your salad drawer. (Go check. You do.) This is what you should do with it.  Braising mellows this stalky vegetable and brings out a rich, savoury flavour. The cooking broth reduces to a shiny glaze and while the celery tenderly yields to the tines of the fork, it still has a bit of crunch left (nobody wants to eat mush). Serve it alongside a roast chicken for a truly lovely and simple dish.
For many people, celery is best used as a garnish, part of a salad,served with a tray of dips or perhaps to stir a Bloody Mary. But celery deserves more than being a bit on the side,it stands up well to taking centre stage.How many know that by carefully drying the leaves in the oven you can then flake them and make a flavoursome Flor de sal.Celery is a staple of the Mediterranean kitchen,particularly Italy, and makes a wonderful minestrone.Don´t stop at one stalk when you make soup, it packs a wonderful
herbal flavour.Try a green genie smoothie to kick off your day.My Japanese tuna and brown rice salad detox that i posted earlier this year was a big hit.Celery leaf and almond pesto is another tasty way of making use of every part of the vegetable.....and finally for those of you who beggar belief my favourite if a litle crazy sandwich filling is peanut butter with celery and cream cheese as tried and tested by James Ramsden in the Guardian
Quick braised celery
1 head of celery,trimmed,de-stringed and cut into 7.5cm pieces (3 inch)
25g (1 oz) butter
1 medium onion,peeled and thinly sliced
75g (3 oz) carrot,peeled and thinly sliced
225ml (8fl oz)  marigold vegetable bouillon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley,celery leaves for garnish
salt and freshly milled black pepper
First of all melt the butter in the frying pan and begin to cook the onions for 3-4 minutes over a medium to high heat, until lightly golden, then add the carrots and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Now add the celery and continue to fry for 5 minutes more, or until everything is slightly browned at the edges. Season with salt and black pepper, then pour in the hot stock and place a lid on the pan.
Turn the heat down and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are almost tender, then take the lid off and increase the heat to medium and continue to simmer till the liquid has reduced and become slightly syrupy – about 5 minutes.
Serve the celery with the juices poured over and sprinkled with the parsley.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

You just can´t beet them

 "I have always loved hamburgers, but the taste of vegetarian hamburgers isn't anywhere close. I would like to know if there is any way to reproduce the flavour of meat, using no meat in the process?" 

OMG: I saw this question on a thread in the Guardian newspaper recently.The article in particular was how to cook vegetarian scotch eggs.Why oh why oh why would you want to? I just dont understand the reasoning behind converting classic meat dishes into meatless ones.Vegetarian scotch eggs are to me a contradiction in terms.
Isn't the point of a scotch egg the sausage meat? As soon as you remove the sausage meat, it is no longer a scotch egg.If you remove curry powder from a curry, is it still a curry? or is it a stew?If you want to eat a scotch egg but don't want to eat sausage meat well then surprise surprise, you're not actually eating a scotch egg.
If you were a vegetarian I can understand that you might prefer something even less like the original meat-based version,but to try and create a meatless version of the same thing makes no sense to me.
mock duck
Supermarket and health food stores have abounded with these kind of products ever since Linda Mc Cartney  unleashed these kind of replicants on an unsuspecting market.Why unsuspecting? Because many of these meat replicants are soy-based  or gluten-based.Wheat gluten, especially, is often the basis for imitation meats resembling beef, chicken, duck (see mock duck), fish, and pork. When cooked in broth, gluten absorbs some of the surrounding liquid (including the flavour) and becomes firm to the bite.
Often referred to as “fake” meat, (author Trumps at this point) these products are actually quite real. They are not imaginary or inedible, but strikingly realistic versions of animal products in every form. A look back at the etymology of the word “meat” actually shows us that it is rooted from the Old English term, “mete,” which literally meant “item of food.” Semantics aside, this leaves some non-vegans like myself to wonder why vegans, who eschew all animal products, would want to eat foods that have the same tastes and textures of animal flesh?
The answer is quite simple once you understand why people choose to remove animal products from their lives in the first place. As it turns out, vegans did not stop eating animals because they didn’t enjoy the taste. Who doesn’t enjoy the taste of a juicy hamburger, or a few slices of bacon? However, vegans chose to stop consuming and using animals on an ethical basis. (It should be noted that there are some people who eat a plant-based diet for health reasons, but these people are not “vegan” as they still use animals in other ways.)Don´t get me wrong I am definitely not a vegetarian, but I do love vegetables.I have to admit to trying a vegetarian lifestyle while a student. The flavour of meat cannot be replicated by vegetables, but there are definitely certain things you can do to help gain flavour -Vegetarian spaghetti carbonara is one example where pistachios are used very successfully to replicate the taste of pancetta.Smoke seasoning using liquid smoke is a commonly used method for acquiring flavour.When you think burger you think char-grilled, so sparingly using liquid smoke, because it is very concentrated, can give you that enhancement you require.Grill seasonings and rubs like chermoula, chimichurri, mesquite and hickory will impart nice flavour.When it comes to texture and you are thinking of something meaty without the meat,mushrooms are an excellent option,provided you like them.
Mushrooms provide a meaty,chewy consistency and are also great conduits for absorbing flavours. There's always much room for mushroom in my cooking repertoire!Make a sandwich with thick slices of stir fried portabello mushrooms for a beefy like option.
Again in sandwiches use dairy provided you are not going "vegan", using cheese as you would with meat is excellent in providing that extra "oomph"I'm not opposed to vegetarians, but I do feel that meat has played a huge part in the evolution of the human species. I believe it is your freedom to choose whatever you want to eat. In the end, my advice is to really expand your horizons for flavour and adapt to all the wonderful veggies this world has to offer. Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines usually have great choices for vegetarian options. Also, if you are philosophically ok with being a pescatarian, seafood options are plentiful.

Beetroot burger and Beetroot Kofte

The secret to the perfect beetroot burger,in one single word – roast. There is no other cooking method to better enhance the flavour and get the most out of your beetroot than roasting them.Cheaper, too, than a steak, is worth noting. Sustainable, healthy, delicious, – what’s not to love?
Makes 4 half pounders,8 quarter pounders or 36 Kofte

3 medium-sized beetroots (500g approx )
3 tomatoes skinned and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
150g/ 5oz onions peeled and thinly sliced
1clove of garlic peeled and crushed
6 desertspoons of good quality sherry vinegar
Valdespino, Lustau or Pedro Ximenez
salt and pepper

300g / 10oz yesterdays bread
Tbsp soya sauce
3 cloves garlic crushed
large handful chopped fresh coriander
200g soft goats cheese
3 small hot chillies with seeds,chopped finely
1  banana shallot,finely chopped
Wash and trim the beetroots. leaving the roots intact so the colour doesn´t bleed. Bake them in individual foil parcels in a medium oven until cooked, pierce with a skewer after 45 minutes. Skin and slice them thinly as soon as they´re cool enough to handle. Chop the tomatoes coarsely.Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic gently until softened but not coloured. Pour over the vinegar, and add the tomato,beetroot slices and seasoning.Cook with a lid on very gently for an hour. Check the moisture level from time to time.Allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Crumble the bread into a large mixing bowl.Stir in the beetroot mix.Chop the,chillies and coriander and add to the mix.Crumble in the goats cheese.Form the mixture into patties the size you want or if making Koftes roll them into bite sized balls.Note: If the mixture is too moist add some breadcrumbs until you achieve the desired consistency.Reserve in the refrigerator over night or for up to 3 days.The burgers can also be frozen.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Carpaccio lombinho de atum em pimenta queimada - Carpaccio of pepper seared tuna loin

I first tasted pepper seared tuna in the restaurant of that avatar of stylish exclusivity, Ian Shrager´s Paramount hotel in New York.Those were the days.Business trips on expenses.I doubt if I could afford to stay there now.But I do remember vividly this pepper seared tuna salad.I had never made it until recently but it is such a timeless classic that I now include it on our villa outside catering menu.It is great standby and can be made well in advance and stored in the freezer.I make a whole piece of loin at a time and always keep some in the freezer.It needs to be frozen anyway after you´ve cooked it and then semi de-frosted to achieve the finest cuts of carpaccio.
Lombinho de atum em pimenta queimada
1 pedaço lombinho de atum, Tuna loin
pimenta preto em grao
Rest the piece of tuna loin on an oval plate just a little larger than the piece of fish.With your pepper grinder cover the all sides of the loin in coarse grain turn the loin as you do it to ensure maximum coverage.sear on a very hot griddle pan turning on all sides.Store in freezer until ready to use.Semi-Defrost to a point where you can slice off wafer thin slices with a very sharp knife.Return what you do not need to the freezer for another time.

Monday, 18 September 2017

De uvas a passas,from grapes to raisins.

This summer we had a glut of  grapes in the garden.I had been giving the surplus  away to neighbours until I hit on a brainwave.Sun dry them and stockpile the dried fruit for when it is needed  most, in the winter.
Sun-dried raisins are a delicious natural resource and an addition for many recipes, such as fruit cakes, cookies, salads, scones, granola and even ice cream.Its time to expand your horizons, and at the same time save some money.Raisins don`t come cheap in the months leading up to Christmas.Casting my mind back to 2011 I posted a blog on how to use the dash board of your car in place of an oven or expensive dehydrator.Well this is exactly what I am doing with our overabundance of grapes.Its easy peasy if you just follow these 7 simple steps.

Start with fresh green or purple grapes. Be sure they are fresh, ripe, not mushy or       otherwise blemished. Check them carefully.

Remove the larger stems from the grapes and wash them thoroughly. Do not remove all grapes from the stems.  

Place them on a shallow baking tray lined with baking parchment. You can use a wooden, wicker, bamboo, or plastic tray that is slatted, so air can circulate around the fruit. 
 Semi dried grapes dehydrating in the car

Put the trays on the dashboard of your car, roll all the windows up and park in the sunniest spot you can find. It's best to start in the early morning and finish when the sun sets. take the trays inside at night.
Let them sit out in the sun for 2-3 days, or until dry (taste test). Rotate the fruit and/or trays to ensure even exposure to the sun. 

Remove dried grapes gently from the remaining stems and store in a dry airtight container in a cool place.

and something to look forward to.......
The Portuguese way to bring in the New Year is by eating 12 raisins accompanied by a glass of champagne, one for each month, and making a wish with each one. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

A bit on the side puttanesca runner beans

The original photograph of Ed Smiths recipe puttanesca runner beans from his book "On the side"
Aside from salads, which are normally served on the side, I am so often at a loss as to what I should serve alongside the main course.I have always been a lifelong fan of 'bits on the side' and when I stumbled upon this illuminating book on Amazon, I researched it further on google books and before long it was in my shopping basket. This is the cookbook that you didn't know you needed until you got it! (Ho Ho Ho Christmas is coming and an original cookbook always makes a good gift for a foodie ) Full of stunningly original recipes for 'side' dishes, with gorgeous photography and layout.This is going to be jumping on and off my bookshelves and will I am sure end up being one of the most thumbed tomes in the library. It has an excellent index and then lists of what goes with what - for example if you are roasting chicken it will suggest the side dishes that would go particularly well with it.Ed Smith,the multi award winning author of this innovative book is a former City lawyer turned trained chef.He is also the author of the influential and award winning website a look,it is  a food journal regularly updated with restaurant reviews, recipes and cookery news and The Guild of Foodwriters shortlisted it for its 2016 Best Blog award.
He starts the book by saying "this book will change how you think about your meals," it will.For me this book is revolutionary and revelationary at the same time.I think this is the book we have waited a long time for,myself certainly.Its going to take me a while to work my way through this book, meanwhile I made a start with the recipe above.As soon as I perused the book this recipe jumped out at me.I love puttanesca and what a way to elevate a dish of runner beans from a humble bit on the side to giving it centre stage.
Puttanesca runner beans
Runner beans and tomatoes are a pretty classic summer match.This recipe embellishes the runner beans with a puttanesca sauce, including chilli, olives and capers.This is a sort of exception to the other recipes in the book,where the side dish actually becomes the main by being served with a loin of white fish. You won’t need to serve anything alongside it.It is a composite dish and joyous too.
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil 
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove,crushed 
1 mild red chilli,deseeded and finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2tsp golden caster sugar
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1tsp balsamic vinegar
15 basil leaves, torn
3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
15-20 black olives
2tsp capers,rinsed and roughly chopped
300- 400g runner beans
Flor de sal

Start by making the sauce. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook gently for 4–5 minutes without allowing it to colour, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 2 minutes more before pouring in the chopped tomatoes. Half-fill the tomato tin with water, swill and add to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, add the sugar, dried herbs and balsamic vinegar, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. Season the sauce with a good pinch of salt, two thirds of the basil leaves and two thirds of the olive oil.
Meanwhile, pit the olives by tapping them with the bottom of a cup or mug to crack the flesh, then pushing the stone out. Discard the stones and roughly chop the olives. Add these, along with the capers, to the sauce once it’s been cooking for 15 minutes.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the stringy thin edges of the runner beans, then cut them on a slight angle into 5–6cm lengths. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the beans and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until tender but not dull or soggy. Drain and set aside. You could mix the beans and sauce together at this point and serve from the pan. However, I prefer it when the two are not fully combined: place a couple of spoonfuls of the puttanesca sauce in the base of a serving bowl, pile the drained beans on top and spoon the rest of the sauce over this. Toss the beans in the sauce just a little, before finishing with the remaining basil and olive oil.

SIDE BY SIDE:Having made this beautiful and delicious recipe  I thought I would take the concept of this book and see if I could make a modest potato salad into a veritable side dish.I hope I can follow the principle with many more.Its so true what the author said at the beginning of the book"this book will change how you think about your meals,"It really does.
New potato salad with garden cherry tomatoes peas and mint pesto
Serves four as a side dish
400g small new potatoes,kept whole and boiled
24 cherry tomatoes,kept whole
125g peas shelled

generous handful of mint leaves approx 30g
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
3-4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 dessert spoon of honey
Put all the ingredients in a processor and liqidise.Taste and adjust the seasoning
To assemble the salad
Toss the cooked potatoes in a tablespoon of the mint pesto.
Stir in the tomatoes.Assemble in individual salad bowls and sprinkle with a carpet of peas.Tear or shred some chourlço or crispy bacon on top for garnish (optional)

Monday, 4 September 2017

Desvende o segredo da cataplana Algarvia.Unlocking the secret of the cataplana

 Cataplana de mariscos tipico de Ligia Madeira,Tasca Medieval Castro Marim
Its hardly surprising that  the icon of traditional Algarve cuisine, the cataplana, finds its roots in the Moroccan tajine. It is a form of steam tight cooking,not dissimilar to a pressure cooker. In fact to many the cataplana is seen as a precursor of the modern pressure cooker.Its peculiar shell shape guarantees a slow cooking, at low temperatures.These famous artesan braziers particular to the Algarve were initially produced in zinc, and later would change to copper because of it being a better conductor of heat and ability to give that unrivalled flavour to the food.Copper is still used today, along with aluminum and stainless steel.From fish to shellfish, from meat to game, or a combination of both,the famous pork and clams recipe (see below)
The cataplana excels itself in a giving the cook a result that brings a delicious broth, that is at the same time both intense intense and healthy. The brilliant  shape of the vessel itself causes a stir every time it is put on the table.As for when the lid is opened and the intense vapour released, a secret treasure trove of deliciousness is revealed.

Icone singular da tradicional culinària algarvia a cataplana encontra as suas raizes na tajine marroquina,á qual vai buscar o tipo de cozedura hermética a vapor.
A peculiar forma em concha garante uma confeção lenta,a baixas temperaturas.,havendo até quem defenda a cataplana como precursora da moderna panela de presss-ao.
Os famigerados artes-aos caldereiros algarvios que inicialmente a produziam em zinco,viriam depois a mudar para o cobre por ser um melhor condutor de calor e imprimir um sabor inigualável aos alimentos,material que ainda hoje é utilizado,a par do aluminio e do inox.
Do peixe ao marisco,da carne á caça, a cataplana desvenda- se num resultado sempre suculento,intenso e saudá vel,além de maravilhar todos à mesa pela sua forma brilhante ..qual arca do tesouro.
Cataplana a algarvia
Serves 6
1 kg ameijoas -clams
500g de camarao ( descascado) - prawns ( peeled )
800g carne de porco -pork
200g presunto sem sal -unsalted ham
100g de toucinho entremeado -bacon
1 chouriço corrente pequeno -small chouriço for cooking
1 copo vinho tinto -cup of red wine
150ml de azeite -olive oil
2 colheres de sopa de banha -2 dessert spoons lard
1 Folha de louro -1 bay leaf
Flor de sal q.b- flor de sal to taste
3 dentes de alho - 3 cloves garlic
2 cebolas - 2 onions
2 colheres de sopa de colorau doce -2 dessert spoons sweet paprika
1 molhino de salsa -small bunch of parsley
1 molhino de coentros - samll bunch coriander
Piri piri moido q.b -chilli flakes to taste

First wash the clams and soak them for 2 hours in cold water seasoned with salt. Dice the pork,ham and bacon, if possible all the same size. Season with salt. bruised garlic,paprika,a glass of red wine,bay leaf and chilli. Stir well and leave to marinate for about 3 hours. Peel the onions and cut into thin half moons. Heat the olive oil and lard in the bottom of the cataplana until melted completely. Add the onions, and lower the heat.When the onion is transparent add the marinated meat, the clams drained and rinsed, prawns, chouriço, the parsley and coriander. Close the cataplana and bring to a medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Breton butter cake and my disdain for making desserts

We have guests arriving tomorrow evening and they have booked in for dinner.I aways try to avoid cooking dinner on Sundays for several reasons.There is no market so no fish.I dont like serving up day old fish, and even with a meat option, the butcher is open but it is the end of the week and you can not be sure,in fact you can almost be certain that the meat has been held over from the day before.Those reasons aside they are arriving late and I fully understand that they would like to acclimatise slowly without the unnecessary hassle of having to find a local restaurant,something of which we always help with recommendations.
Most of the time I don't want anything sweet. I have never had a sweet tooth. Even as a child a small piece of my mothers dark bitter cooking chocolate would suffice. 
Not only that, but as with many chefs I have a certain disdain for making desserts. It’s not that I don’t like to make them but that these grumblings occur because I procrastinate planning the rest of the menu first. It is like opening the dishwasher to to put in the dirties only to find you haven’t yet put away the clean ones. I cant explain this other than it's why the god invented pastry chefs.
Well decision time came and I decided to serve as dessert my recently made Parmesan ice cream.Last time I served it up inside a partially hollowed out dessert pear.It was the thespian who came to the fore with a suggestion of a Breton butter cake,something that I had never heard of.From the land of lace, seaside resorts, crêpes and cider,and the home of Merlin, the magician of Arthurian legend,this cake, made with just a few ingredients, has a wonderfully dense texture similar to shortbread. It suited the bill for dessert,and topped with a q spiced pear confit  it would be even better.I might even give it a go for breakfast.
I like shortbread and that compliments ice cream so I went for it. Pretty calorific I thought, as I read the recipe, 225g of butter and six eggs, but what the heck.I followed "Irish Cooking Queen," Rachel Allen´s recipe,greased my cake tin, lined the bottom with a disc of baking parchment,made a stiff dough,pressed it into the tin,glazed it with the eggwash i had prepared earlier and put it into the oven for 30 minutes.Hey Ho after ten, smoke is belching out of every orifice of the oven.My breton butter cake had seepage that was dripping onto the bottom tray of the oven and burning.Too darned hot to do a salvage operation at this point at this point.I just had to wait and pray (this is exactly why I have never wanted to be a pastry chef )30 minutes was up, I removed it from the oven, the skewer test came out clean,ten minutes cooling in the tin,a little bit of help from a sharp knife round the edges and Hey presto I had a lovely Breton butter cake cooling on the rack,ready for tomorrow.

Rachel Allen´s ( Ballymaloe ) Breton butter cake
serves 8-12

1 egg yolk, for the glaze
225 g plain flour, sifted
225 g caster sugar
225 g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
6 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter the sides of a 25cm cake tin and line the base with a disc of baking parchment.
Whisk together the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of water for the glaze and set aside. Either in a large bowl using a wooden spoon or in an electric food mixer using the paddle beater, mix together the flour and sugar, then add the butter and egg yolks and beat together until the mixture resembles a stiff dough.  Press into the prepared tin, and flatten with a spatula. Brush with the glaze, then decorate by drawing a fork across the cake in a criss-cross pattern of lines, each set of lines roughly 5cm apart in a sort of chequerboard design, following the traditional style for the cake.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until it is a deep golden colour and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges using a small, sharp knife and carefully remove the cake from the tin before placing on a wire rack to cool down completely.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A warm melon salad prawns and paraguyo peaches

It was open the door of the aircraft WHOOOOOOSSHHHHH hot air syndrome here yesterday,33º and I was gasping for a dish that would revive rather than refuel.Neither of us have ever been ones for combining fruit with savoury, but the thought of a refreshing salad with ripe melon,prawns and paraguyo peaches is exactly I wanted.I saw British chef James Martin cook something similar on the TV recently.Ham and melon in a savoury context is an age old classic,Feta cheese and pecorino, too but prawns and melon? This is going a little off piste but it works.Mr Martin called it "a spur of the moment creation "a riff on a summertime theme".The most interesting thing for me here was that he sautéed the melon  to create a warm salad (with no leaves).I did not have any tarragon or rasberry vinegar to hand, which was how he dressed his salad, but I came up with the idea of another classic combo.Ginger pairs beautifully with melon, so I set about creating a zingy ginger based dressing and made one more innovation which was to spice up the prawns a tad.I marinaded them in a wet chimichirri mix.
A warm melon salad with chimichirri prawns
2 small different coloured ripe melons,galia and canteloup or charentais
400g peeled cooked prawns
2 ripe paraguyo peaches,peeled stoned and diced 

1 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon chili oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Combine soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, chili oil, lime juice, vinegar and onion powder in a blender. Process until evenly combined. Chill before serving.

Start by making the salad.Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds.With a sharp knife cut the fruit away from its outer skin.Cut the melon into bite sized dice.
Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil.Cook the prawns and their marinade until nicely coloured. Add the melon dice.Fry quickly for 1 minute,shaking the pan.Remove to a bowl and add the peaches.Gently toss everything together in the dressing.
Arrange the salad on a platter and serve immediately.Bom apetite