Sunday, 26 November 2017

Stir-up sunday,Bolo Ingles não é

…Mrs Cratchit entered, flushed, but smiling proudly, with the pudding like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. 
Portuguese readers,to avoid disappointment, look away now, as what follows is how to make a "proper" Christmas fruit cake.Receita Bolo Ingles não é.
From the the Anglican pulpit this Sabbath, the last before Advent, English churchgoers will hear an unintentional reminder from the Book of Common Prayer that it’s time to make the Christmas cake and pudding. “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” starts the Collect of the day.
And yet the tradition of Stir-up Sunday, with the whole family gathering in the kitchen to pummel the mixture and make a wish, appears to be going the same way as church attendances.There is a self righteousness that the church of England dispenses to its flock that they must do what they ought to do and be seen to be doing it.Family values must be adhered to at all times.This preaching has fallen on deaf ears.It seems nowadays that most British children have never stirred a Christmas cake batter mix. The nuclear family now buy pre-made puddings.
Inspired by rising sales of everything from whisks to wooden spoons,John Lewis, the secular Angel Gabriel of Christmas television ads, is doing its best to revitalise this tradition. Its gastronomic arm,Waitrose, encourages its middle class clientele to buy plum puddings.In my day it used to be labels such as Mrs Peek.Yes, there really was a Mrs Peek! Wife of the founder of Peek Frean Biscuits. In 1898 Mrs Peek's first pudding was launched, influenced by her childhood and the society she lived in.Todays shopper is now more likely to be tempted by more glamorous celebrity branded puddings, carrying names such as Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver or royal cake maker Fiona Cairns.
Some words of advice from Royal cake maker Fiona Cairns

Fruitcake is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and soaked in spirits. A cake that simply has fruit in it as an ingredient can also be colloquially called a fruit cake.Like the proverbial chalk and cheese,oil and water and the grape and the grain, these things just don´t go together, and could never mix together. So bearing this in mind, what can I put in my Christmas cake this year that would be a break with tradition and make for something more innovative? Last year I included fresh figs and consequently ended up with a cake that had a very short shelf life.Oh what a hardship.It just had to be eaten quicker.Ok, I have cogitated, deliberated and a decision has been reached.My controversial ingredients are going to include  amaretti biscuits to pack a proper almond punch,salted cherries and Elvas plums for syrupy stickiness, amongst others.This year I am making a small cake and was in a bit of a quandary as to how to downscale my ingredients from my usual recipe for a 10inch / 25cm diameter cake.No worries Delia to the rescue.I will let you know how I get on.If you are left with too much batter for your selected size of tin,use it up to make mini Christmas cup cakes.
Plum Cake
makes one 15cm ( 6 inch ) round or 13cm (5 inch) square cake tin
Preparation time30 minutes ( plus overnight optional)
Cooking - 3- 31/2 hours

4 oz currants
soup spoon mixed spice
pinch salt
2oz /55g glace cherries,rinsed and finely chopped
2oz/55g mixed peel,finely chopped
4oz/110g Elvas plums(de-stoned weight)
2 oz/55g dried apricots,chopped
2 oz/55g Dried figs,chopped
2 oz/55g dried plums,chopped
2 oz/55g salted cherries,de-stoned
Amaretti biscuits
3 tbsp brandy
4 oz/110g plain flour
freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz/55g blanched almonds,roughly crushed
4 oz/110g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses ( I used the syrup from the Elvas plums)
4 oz/110g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 grated rind of a lemon
1/2 grated rind of an orange 
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark3 ( 160ºC, 325ºF )
Sieve together the flour, spice and salt. In a large bowl mix together the fruits, nuts, peel and spiced flour coating all the fruits with the flour.In a second bowl cream the butter and sugar until quite light in colour. Beat in the eggs then the molasses, lemon and orange zest.
Combine the two mixtures in one bowl. Mix well, adding enough rum or brandy to arrive at a soft dropping consistency. 
Butter and line the bottom and sides of a
15cm round or 13cm square cake tin with double buttered paper. Fill with mixture and level the top. bake for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to gas mark 1 (140ºC, 275ºF ) for a further 2- 21/2 hours.Test with a skewer to see when the cake is done. Leave to cool. Store for at least a month, spiking it with rum and or brandy once a week. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

´Doing a tiborna´

sweet breakfast tiborna with orange and cinnamon
Simple food,fast, with lots of flavour, just as I like it.There is nothing better than making a tiborna.Tiborna is to the Algarve what bruschetta is to Italy.It is the name given to a type of open sandwich made with freshly baked bread, rubbed with garlic and soaked in unctuous extra virgin olive oil.It is great when good old customs return and this is a perfect example.Bread was traditionally the foundation of the Algarvian diet, and no table today is complete without it, alongside copious amounts of good wine and olive oil.Tibornas were traditionally made to celebrate the first sampling of each year´s olive oil production(around this time).Tibornas were usually made from bread toasted over hot coals.Today tibornas are eaten wherever and whenever, and feature on many restaurant menus.However, until recently they were traditionally only made in the autumn, to coincide with the first olive oil pressing.
And so the tiborna began life as a means of tasting olive oil,an activity carried out in a spirit of celebration.Soon other petiscos(snacks,tapas)were added until ´doing a tiborna´
came to signify a whole gourmet celebration.Nowadays by innovating the age old concept in the very same way that tapas evolved, it has very much become a type of bruschetta.Toasted bread with chopped tomatoes,oregano and olive oil is something very Portuguese,very simple and very close to its Italian counterpart.But lets see where more innovation could takes us.There are many different types of tibornas in the Algarve,from the most straightforward (with olive oil and garlic) to the more sophisticated (with orange juice,sugar and cinnamon.The preparation process for the sweet version was the same as for the savoury.The dish is as simple as this:Grill the bread,soak it in orange juice,quickly drizzle it with the new olive oil and top it with a generous sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.The tibornas would then be lined up on a platter,stacked one on top of the other and eaten warm.The slight acidic taste from the orange juice countering the sweetness of the sugar.It adds a whole new dimension to breakfast.
Some other savoury suggestions for topping a tiborna
Tiborna de queijo com nozes e pêras camarelizadas 

(cheese,nuts and caramelized pears)
Tiborna de queijo de cabra com alecrim e mel 

(goats cheese,with rosemary and honey)
Tiborna de atum grelhado com ovos e abacate

( grilled tuna and an egg and avocado salad)

Friday, 10 November 2017

Rose apple tarts,a thorn in my side

Como uma rosa que cresce Corrigir
Apesar de tudo isso
rosa Um simples entre espinhos

Uma rosa entre os espinhos
Like a rose that grows
In spite of it all
A simple rose among thorns

Dulce Pontes
With great expectations, I first saw this recipe being executed on the recent series of Masterchef, and then found it replicated all over pinterest.I researched the recipe on line,but must have taken a rose coloured view of its potential.Not every one in life is a winner.I started off with an unduly cheerful, optimistic view of things.All this was soon to change and become a thorn in my side.Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. For a start I think I need a better mandolin,however my fingers are still here and in one piece.I then realised the recipe required a Microwave.I have never owned or even used one,so what would be a good alternative way to soften the apples, pre-rolling.Thinking on my feet I decided I´d toss all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat.I left them too long and the wilted rather than softened.Oh dear not a good start.Maybe sautéing them in a skillet might have been a better alternative? I rolled out some of my own home made pate sucrée (sweet pastry)in place of the pie dough in the recipe,for which there was obviously a good reason for using(tried and tested and all that)My substitute was completely unsuitable.I pressed on regardless and tried to roll rose shapes from my soft apples.This step I managed remarkably well given the previous circumstances.I created rose like-NOT!!!! fillings for my pastry cases and then discovered I had made too many pastry rings for the roses.Recipe said 9 mine made 8,but I had already filled my 12 round Muffin tin.Thinking again I filled two with lemon curd and two with plum Jam.Into the oven they went and looked lovely when they came out 30 minutes later, but looking nothing like the original authors pictures.Oh dear, I needed a microwave again to soften the strawberry jam for my glaze.What the heck,my home made jam was more like confiture so brushed over the tarts beautifully.No instructions on how to remove the tarts from the muffin pan,so my improvised thought was leave them to cool completely on a wire rack and the see what happens.When cold I prised them out of the muffin rounds losing some of the pastry casing as I went and a couple collapsed completely.Once again my disdain for baking was proven.A thorn in my side that's all it'll ever be.
Rose apple tarts (as I should have made them)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 3 tbsp ice cold water
    for the filling
  • 2 apples (Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honeycrisp etc)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (see note below)
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
for the dough
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Add in the cubed butter. Work the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingertips until the mixture looks like a coarse meal and there are no pieces of butter larger than the size of a pea. Add in ice water and stir to combine. The mixture should just come together into a ball, add additional ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if dough seems dry.
Form the dough into a disc, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.
On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4" thick. Use a biscuit cutter, a cup or a bowl about 3 1/2-4" in diameter and cut out rounds of dough. Fit each round into the cup of a buttered muffin tin, pushing the dough up the sides. Chill dough while the filling is prepped.

for the filling
Preheat oven to 375F.
To cut the apples and remove the core, place the apple upright and make a cut about 1/8" from the center of the apple - basically making straight cuts around the core. Repeat on the remaining sides, you should have 2 large pieces, 2 small pieces and the core.
Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, cut the apples very thinly into half moons. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and combine with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Pour mixture over the apples along with lemon juice and toss to combine. Microwave apples for about 1 minute, until soft and pliable enough to roll.
Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and combine with remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Brush the bottom of each dough cup with the mixture.
To form the roses, place about 10 slices of apples on a flat surface, laying them out horizontally and consistently with the skin side facing you. Place each slice so it overlaps the previous slice by half. Begin tightly rolling the apples from one end to the other. Once you've got the basic rose shape, pick up the apples and add any additional apple "petals" around the outside, depending on how large you want the rose to be. I used about 12-18 slices per rose.
Put an apple rose in each cup of the muffin tin and bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F until crust is golden and apples are cooked through.
Warm the strawberry preserves in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Brush preserves over each apple rose to glaze.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Going nuts!!! Beetroot Gnocchi with Authentic Italian Walnut Sauce

Walnuts are believed to be indigenous to Persia, but the Romans cultivated them and brought them to Europe, where they were highly revered. This recipe, like most ‘Salsa di Noci’  recipes hails from Liguria, the region in northwestern Italy. High above the Mediterranean, shielded by mountains, Liguria is a fertile region,famous for its basil pesto and focaccia bread. The thick, creamy walnut sauce is often associated with the region’s most famous city, Genoa, and the herb-laden hills to its north. This recipe has become an elusive classic for its rich simplicity and limited presence on menus, but never under appreciated when served.I presented my friend Fabio with  a bowl of home made beetroot Gnocchi served with butter and parmesan.My friend´s ingenuity shone as always and what he said was "I am missing the truly Italian walnut sauce."I took his comment on board and now serve my beetroot Gnocchi with the sauce as a part of our tasting menu.
This recipe for Salsa di Noci is an absolute winner and is often called Pesto di Noci (Walnut Pesto), but  the recipe calls for Greek yoghurt and Ricotta and is therefore not like pesto at all. Therefore, you can always try this without the yoghurt, as it is often prepared in Liguria, or for a slightly different taste, you can substitute some of the yoghurt for mascarpone.
If you want to go non-dairy, add more olive oil when mixing the walnuts, and be sure to reserve the cooking water, as described below. Either way, I think this is one sauce that requires experimentation in order to find the best match to suit your particular palate.
In Italy, this sauce is often served with trennette (which is essentially linguine in Liguria) or with ravioli filled with greens such as kale, called ‘Pansotti’.
Authentic Italian Walnut Sauce
Servings: 6

3/4 cup walnut pieces
1 cup cubes day-old rustic bread
1 garlic clove
3/4 tsp Coarse sea salt
1 pinch Fresh-ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt

crisp fried sage leaves for garnish
Boil half of the nuts in a medium saucepan of water for 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, put bread in a bowl, cover with tepid tap water and let stand for 5 minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water.
Drain blanched nuts.  Remove any loose skins with a paper towel.
Place garlic in bowl of food processor and process until minced.  Add all nuts (blanched and unpeeled), bread, salt and pepper and process until mixture is smooth.  Drizzle in olive oil until mixture begins to look like pesto.  Add ricotta and yogurt and process until mixture is thick and smooth. Set aside until ready to use. You can also freeze it for future meals.Cook the gnocchi according to the above recipe.If cooking from frozen make sure the water is on a steady boil dividing the gnocchi between two pans and allow a slightly longer cooking time,Heat the walnut sauce and pour a little into the base of each bowl. Sit six or more gnocchi on top of the sauce and dust with a sprinkling of parmesan and crispy sage leaves.