Wednesday, 31 October 2018

The "Bombay burger",potato in a bun

The Bombay burger with all the trimmings
Alternatively spelt Vada Pao, Wada Pav, or Wada Pao, is a vegetarian fast food dish native to the Indian state of MaharashtraIt.The Vada Pav is my new go to comfort food.
Spherical patties, made with mashed potato mixed with masala spices, green chilli and, occasionally finely chopped raw onion,deep fried in hot oil and then sandwiched in a wodgy bun called a pav, and slathered with some green chilli-coriander chutney with fried green chillies  and dried garlic chutney,spicy lasun khobra on the side.What´s not to like.A perfect contrast of tastes and textures: the chewy blandness of the pav acting as a perfect foil to the piquant crunchiness of the vada.The vada pav is a delectable carb overload – that instant energy boost that we all so often need. 
This snappy little snack is synonymous with the city of Mumbai. The dish is believed to have been invented in 1966 by a Mumbaikar, Ashok Vaidya, who opened the first vada pav stall opposite the Dadar train station, through which hundreds of thousands of workers – often in need of a quick, inexpensive snack – passed every day on their way to the textile mills in suburbs such as Parel and Worli.Eat you hearts out slum dog millionaires.
Ironically, both of vada pav’s main components – the potato and the bun – are European imports, brought into India once again,yes you´ve guessed whats next, by the Portuguese around the 17th Century. The only key ingredient originally belonging to the region – or even India – in the dish, is the besan (chickpea flour) in which the potato mix is coated before being deep-fried.Macdonalds´tried to emulate it with their McAloo Tikki burger but it could not be more different from the beloved vada pav. Not only does it not match the spice levels of the home-grown vada pav, but it also leaves little room for artistry. The flavour of vada pav depends entirely upon the whims of the cook, with every vendor claiming to have a secret recipe or a special ingredient that makes his vada pav unique: a pinch of ground masala, or a topping of choora (the crispy crumbs left at the bottom of the frying pan) along with the quality of his vada.
 Vada pav as spotted by Grace Dent in Leytonstone, East London

Calling it the ‘Indian burger’ immediately gave it an aspirational value and licence to be copied the world over.Schezwan vada pav  and the Nacho vada pav (topped with tortilla chips,inspired by Mexican cuisine)).
Beats a soggy sandwich on the train home from work, I´d say? 

To make 4
350g potatoes or 2 large to medium sized potatoes
6-7 garlic +1 to 2 green chillies,crushed to a paste in a pestle and mortar 
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch turmeric
7-8 curry leaves
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Flor de sal as required

1 to 1.25 cups gram ( chickpea flour )
pinch of asafoetida
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
pinch baking soda
1/2 cup water or as much as required
salt to taste

1 cup coriander leaves,chopped
2 garlic cloves,chopped
2 to 3 drops of lemon juice
2-3 green chillies,chopped
salt to taste
Grind all the ingredients with a little water till smooth.
Avoid making a watery chutney.

This spicy and piquant dry chutney is made from garlic,dessicated coconut,sesame seeds and red chilli powder.It is also called lasun Khobra chutney.Everything is mixed and then pounded in a pestle and mortar to a coarse dry mixture.Both the flavours of dessicated coconut and garlic is felt distinctly in this chutney.The spice and heat comes from red chilli powder.I used my own ground piri piri to give a bright deep red clour to the chutney

1 tsp peanut or sunflower oil
20 to 24 garlic cloves or 1 tbsp small garlic cloves
2 tsp white sesame seeds
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 tbsp dried red chilli powder,or add as required 
salt to taste
Pound all the ingredients in a pestle and mortar.Next in a spice grinder,grind the ingredients in intervals of 4 to 5 seconds and stop. Do not grind at a stretch as then the oil will be released from the coconut and sesame seeds.You can use the pulse otion on your grinder to achieve this.Grind to a coarse or semi-fine mixture.Spoon the dry garlic chutney into asmall glass jar or bowl.Cover tightly and refrigerate.

Boil 2 large potatoes about 350grams till they are completely cooked.
Peel  and mash them with a fork in a bowl.
Heat 2 to 3 tsp oil in a small pan.Add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and crackle them.Add 7 to 8 curry leaves and asafoetida.Stir and sauté for about 5 seconds.
Add 6  to 7 garlic and 1 to 2 green chillies,which have been crushed in apestle and mortar.Add 1/8 tsp turmeric powder.Stir until the raw aroma of garlic goes away.
Pour this seasoning into the mashed potatoes
Add 1 to 2 tbsp chopped coriander and some salt.
Mix everything well and then make small to medium balls from the mashed potato mixture.Flatten these balls a bit.Cover and keep aside.
In another bowl,make a smooth batter with the gram flour, turmeric powder,asafoetida,baking soda,salt and 1/2 cup of water.The batter should not be too thick or thin.If the batter becomes thin,add 1 to 2 tbsp gram flour.if the batter becomes too thick,add 1 t 2 tbsp water.Keep aside
Heat oil for deep frying
Dip the slightly flattened potato balls in the batter and coat them evenly.
Gently drop the batter coated balls in medium hot oil.
Depending on the size of the fryer you can add more or less of the vadas while frying.
Deep fry the vadas until evenly golden.
Drain them on kitchen paper.

slice the pav or bun without breaking it into two parts and keep aside.
spread the green chutney on the sliced bun.Sprinkle some dry garlic chutney and then place the hot batata vada sandwiched between the bread slices.Serve immediately or else the braed will become soggy.You can also serve some fried green chillies and more of both the chutneys with it.Alter the amount of chutneys you spread in the braed according to your taste and liking.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Bochechas de porco com puré de nabo,cerezas amarenas, com feixes de feijões franceses finos e bacon

 Pigs cheeks with turnip purée,amarena cherries, bacon and french bean bundles
Amarena cherries, now there´s an opportunity not to be missed I thought. A special offer in the supermarket sent me over the edge of reason and I bought more jars than I will need this side of Trump sending the world into a catastrophic food shortage. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed to find some additional recipes for these delicious bitter-sweet balls of shininess.
Winter is a wonderful time in the Algarve. We get to choose from a wonderful range of winter vegetables. I decided to put a childhood ghost to rest and cook some turnip. As a young schoolboy ,I was not a big fan of turnip. The peppery taste should work well with some slow cooked pork cheeks and I thought that the cherries would balance the flavours too.An umami of salt, fat, sweet, sour, acid and heat was about to erupt.(and I believed that my numerous jars of cherries would balance the flavour in almost anything at this stage).The thespian firmly reminded me that I don´t do and never have done fruit with meat.Correct indeed ,but time to lay another spirit to rest.
Bonus recipe: I also found some fine french beans,some kind of rarity here, to go with this dish.Keeping the pork theme running through I made them into bundles and wrapped them with some streaky bacon (above) which worked really well too. 
Bochechas de porco com puré de nabo,cerezas amarenas
Serves 4
olive oil
pig's cheeks 8, sinew removed
onion 1, roughly chopped
bay leaves 2
celery 1 stick, roughly chopped
white wine 125ml
Somersby cider 250ml
chicken stock 200ml
turnips 3 medium (about 700g), peeled and roughly chopped
whole milk 250ml
green beans 200g
smoked streaky bacon 4 rashers

150g of amarena cherries in syrup
      Heat a splash of olive oil in a large casserole and brown the cheeks, in batches, until golden brown, then remove to a plate. Tip in the onion, bay, celery and wine, and bubble for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the cheeks back to the pan along with the cider and chicken stock, bring to the boil then turn down and simmer over a low flame, covered, for 3 hours or until very tender.
      Remove the cheeks and keep covered with foil on a plate. Pour the sauce through a fine sieve into a pan,add some syrup from the cherries and reduce until thick and sticky, then add the cheeks back in. Reheat to serve.
      Put the turnips into a pan and pour over the milk. Bring to boil then simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until very soft. Purée in a food processor with some seasoning, then tip back into a pan and reheat to serve.
      Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes, then refresh in iced water. When cool, divide into 4 piles. Wrap each bundle in a streaky bacon rasher and put onto a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.
      To serve, spoon turnip purée onto the middle of each plate, then add the bacon-wrapped beans and pig’s cheeks with plenty of sauce. Finish by scattering the  cherries on top.Serve on plentiful plates and tuck in.

        Wednesday, 24 October 2018

        "SIMPLE" Anchovy and foraged samphire spaghetti

         simple as......

        Leafing through my copy of the latest Ottolenghi tome "SIMPLE", I stumbled upon a recipe that contained two of my favourite ingredients, samphire and anchovy.
        Oh Yum!!! I felt tonights simple supper in the making and how simple would this be to create something so Algarvian, and with the key ingredient ripe and ready just a stones throw away.I headed down to the Sapal and foraged my first ingredient, samphire (salicornia europea). I have always had a taste for samphire grass well before the present mania for eating the hedgerows.Available almost all the year round,this is wild food for free globally.Anchovies are always on the shelf of my store cupboard and I was recently given a bag of Aleppo chilli flakes.There are very few things in an Ottolenghi cookbook which aren´t improved by a dusting of these.Add the anchovies, some garlic, lemon,parsley and white wine and you have the makings of a super supper packed with a really salty punch.
         Freshly foraged salicornia
        Anchovy and foraged samphire spaghetti
        This dish was something well worth trampling through the dry dusty mud for
        serves four 
        75ml olive oil
        30g anchovy fillets in oil,drained and finely chopped ( about 8 or 9  )
        11/2 tsp Aleppo chilli flakes,plus extra to serve
        1 garlic clove,crushed
        1 lemon,finely grate the zest to get 1 tsp,then cut into 4 wedges to serve
        20g parsley,finely chopped
        100ml dry white wine
        250g spaghetti
        250g foraged samphire,( salicornia ) 
        salt and black pepper
        Put the oil into a large sauté pan and place on a medium heat.
        Once hot,add the anchovies,chilli flakes,garlic,lemon zest,half the parsley and agood grinding of pepper.Fry gently for 5 minutes,stirring frequently,until the anchovies have melted into the oil.pour in the wine and cook for 4-5 minutes,until thesauce has thickened and reduced,then remove from the heat and set aside while you cook the pasta.
        Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente.Thirty seconds before the spaghetti is ready,add the samphire( to the same pan the pasta is cooking in).Reserve a couple of ladles of the pasta water,then drain the pasta and the samphire.return the sauté pan of sauce to amedium heat.add the cooked spaghetti and samphire and toss to combine.If you need to loosen,add a little  of the reserved pasta water.Stir through the remaining parsley and another grind of pepper,then divide between four plates.Finish with a sprinkling of the extra Aleppo chilli flakes and serve with a lemon wedge on the side.

        Friday, 19 October 2018

        Soufle de bacalhau rising to the occasion

        That iconic Portuguese ingredient with a touch of the French cuisine
        Nothing comes with a trickier reputation to make than a soufflé. But I've since discovered the truth about soufflés: their reputation for being disaster-prone and finicky is undeserved. Don´t be put off, you can rise to the challenge.There was a time when the idea of making a soufflé was the furthest thought from my mind. Just seeing the words "eggs, separated" was enough to ward me off. Though how a thick white sauce with beaten egg whites folded into it ever became the most intimidating recipe in the world has always puzzled me.Silly, I know, but I remain amazed and delighted when a mixture of cheese or whatever and hot air works. It feels more like magic than cooking.The simple combination of eggs, milk, cream, seasonings and air, given the ­Montgolfier treatment with a blast of hot air, is one of the great culinary milestones.Make soufflé when you have guests, certainly,not least because it adds a certain theatre to the proceedings. Throughout food history, soufflés have been given a bad rap. They have been called difficult to make, and fall or collapse at the slightest touch. This is not entirely true. Soufflés can be time-consuming, but they are not altogether that difficult to make. The myth about them falling when there is a loud noise or a slight bump is entirely false. Soufflés will inevitably collapse, not because of being bumped, but because the air that is whipped into the egg whites, which has been heated by the oven, cools, so the soufflé falls. That’s why they are best served immediately. There are three main parts to a soufflé – a base, flavouring ingredients, and egg whites. The base is heavy and starch-thickened, usually a pastry cream or white sauce. If egg yolks are used in the recipe, they are usually usually included in the base. The flavouring ingredients,in this case salt cod, are also added and cooked with the base.There is something inherently thrilling about pulling a light, barely quivering souffle from the oven: on the one hand so pure, on the other so wanton. Souffles are ingeniously versatile, and make all sorts the stars of the show, from all things savoury to all things sweet. And the results always look fabulous. Most of all, a souffle is a brilliant bet for a low-cost, delicious dinner, as here, where cured fish is offset by the acidity of  creme fraiche.Codfish Soufflé is a sophisticated way of cooking codfish, an ingredient that is indisputably one of the symbols of the Portuguese gastronomy.This Codfish Soufflé is an exquisite recipe that combines the iconic Portuguese ingredient with a touch of the French cuisine but has that je ne sais quoi pas a bout de souffle.
        Codfish Soufflé
        200 g of codfish
        1 onion finely chopped
        2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
        2 cups ( 500ml milk )
        50 g flour
        50g butter
        3 egg yolks
        4 egg whites
        1 tbsp creme fraiche
        Nutmeg, paprika, butter, salt and pepper

        Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Butter and flour the inside of a souffle pan, or 6 individual ramekin dishes
        Be sure to soak the salt cod for at least 2 days in the refrigerator, changing the water several times. Flake the fish into small pieces and sauté briefly in 1 tsp of butter, until the fish is just done, about 2-3 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.
        Sauté the onion in the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan until the butter has stopped bubbling.  Add the flour, stirring the mixture together until it is a smooth consistency and just begins to change color.  Add the warm milk slowly, whisking more or less constantly, and cook until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.  Remove from the heat.  Add salt (if using salt cod, add carefully: you may not need more), pepper, and nutmeg. Let cool for 5 minutes.
        In the meantime, prepare the egg whites.  Beat the cold egg whites with an electric mixer until medium firm peaks form. Take the egg yolks, separately, and beat roughly with a fork.
        Add the yolks and the cod to the flour-milk mixture, stirring them in to blend.  Fold in the egg whites gently, allowing the air to remain in the whites.  Turn the mixture into the souffle pan or ramekins if using and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top is fluffy and lightly browned.

        Wednesday, 17 October 2018

        The Kitchen timer is ticking,and the recipe still does not work

        This post is inspired by what I have recently read
        in both the Portuguese national press and British expat rags
        published in Portugal.There is no recipe content in what follows
        The best definition of Brexit was presented by Pascal Lamy, when he considered that "to extract an egg from an omelette" was the perfect metaphor.Well the kitchen timer is ticking and
        tonight, as they sit down at the Brussels working dinner table, the 27 EU leaders will outline strategies for the next steps, in the "more than likely" case of not still not being able to extract the egg from the omelette.Will there be a recipe for success and will it be enough to impress the 27 judges? Or will they need more time to transition through coffee and petits-fours before "Please sir can I leave the table?"

        In June 2016, a referendum in the United Kingdom led to a result that surprised a Europe in crisis.A misinformed populace woke up in disbelief to what had just happened.Some people considered the result of 51.9% "ambiguous" in favour of leaving, compared with 48.1% who would prefer to continue to be part of the community. There were those who considered it an opportunity to clarify the relationship: "They will now have to say what they want."On March 29, 2017, the British ambassador, Tim Barrow, the UK's permanent representative to the European Union, crossed the street on foot. He was holding the folder containing the divorce letter. In his discreet parade, Barrow was aware that each step, approaching the Justus Lipsius Building, the seat of the European Council, removed his country from the community space created in the aftermath of World War II, based on the idea that trade and cooperation between States, would lessen the belligerent impulses of the different powers".
        Forty years before the British had voted to join a, “common market”. This worked. Since then though it has grown into this great uncontrollable monster created by a group of individuals as a private club, furthering their own interests for power without any redress to those outside their circle. 
        At the first European summit, after the fateful outcome of the referendum on 28 June, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa suggested a "friendly" and "unhurried" divorce, having attributed the UK decision to "causes very similar to those which are fostering the emergence of "populism" in several European states and that is where we have to attack. " The Portuguese prime minister called for a "friendly" and "unhurried" Brexit.The formalization of the request for exit from the United Kingdom of the European Union was the most awaited issue by the 27 at that summit, but David Cameron declined to refer to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, leaving the matter postponed to the next government.Since then, meetings of the 27 have become commonplace to define strategies and next steps, not unlike what will probably happen tonight.

        "How do you see the British prime minister in Brussels? 
        And how did we get here?"
        From that article headline, what is being said in London about the British prime minister in Brussels, Theresa May is seen as the prime minister with the "most difficult" of positions in the world and "nobody wanted to be in her shoes, "and in that sense she" is a brave woman. "But the leader of the Conservatives is also seen as" the biggest disappointment one can have about a leader, "confessed a high representative of the European summit to TSF. "The woman comes [to the summits], sits down, reads a leaf and says nothing," added the same source, lamenting that she "does not present an idea, nothing." "It is not clear what the political thought of that woman is ,It's a disaster and it's conducting negotiations in a disastrous way.Another opined " "Theresa May comes up for air. She would like it to be known that she hopes to end freedom of movement within the European Union. She will remove – just like that! – UK citizens right to work in France or retire in Spain as that, she has decided, is what we want. She seems weirdly proud about it, too, a little bit “Look what you made me do.” I personally hope that the EU stands strong and insists on freedom of movement being central to any access to the single market. Even though the UK's refusal of this might put my life here in Portugal in jeopardy. The one thing your average European citizen gets out of the European Community is freedom of movement, sod the economy and trade, for your working masses the chance to go anywhere and better your life from your own hard work is the prize for being a member of the EU club. But no member of the British public asked for this. No one made her do it other than the peculiar tribe to which she has pledged allegiance.
        "Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock "The Time Is Ticking" the European Union's chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, has subtly used to show the British side that on March 29, 2019 time is up and "with or without agreement" the United Kingdom will become a seperate entity. As time passes and deadlines for closing negotiations are shortened, the conclusion among those who lead in Europe is that the non-agreement is a reality that seems increasingly close and a scenario "more probable than ever" .
        "It is truly incredible the imperialist attitude of the British. The Empire is over. Haven't you understood? Portugal is a sovereign country, and you don't respect us. You don't learn the language and make no effort to integrate. You take advantage of our country and you don't put in nothing. You love the Portuguese? Which? The ones that live, study and work in the UK (aka: bloody immigrants)? Or the ones in Portugal?"
        Portuguese expat working in UK

        "What have you done?"
        The morning after the bombshell I felt plain ashamed to be British.What have you done, our Portuguese friends cried. We haven´t done anything, our misinformed compatriots have made the biggest mistake ever,we replied.The British have always had an in bred attitude that they are better than everyone else and set apart, and very definitely an almost instinctive dislike of 'Johnny Foreigner'. This is thankfully getting better with younger generations, as shown by referendum voting, but some of my generation and my parents were brought up to feel superior. You know the sketch with John Cleese and the Two Ronnies? Well Ronnie Corbet would be looking down on the foreigners. Even my dad who is a lovely bloke and would never have thought of himself as racist called the nurse that was looking after my mother a "blackie" and ironically he was complementing him at the time! It was just so automatic to call him that, that he didn't even think about how insulting that term is. When I read in expat rags the comments of British people living in Portugal saying that 'Brexit' was a good or necessary thing, I just feel sick. Sick that I am British and that the country I was brought up to be proud of could do what it has done, and that I have no choice in it. The whole campaign from both sides was about what was best for Britain, as if it really were just an island with no effect on the continent it almost touches. No thought or question of what is best for everybody. How selfish and how arrogant, how shameful. But also, how British. The UK had the best deal of all the countries in the EU and still wanted more, The comfortably retired need to realise this and realise that they are not going to have their cake and eat it, in fact their cake may well shrink in size and become a muffin and they won't get to choose from the cake stand anymore. Lets just hope their grandchildren are lucky enough to have a slice,but because that is an even greater worry. The British now need to start trying to make amends for the damage they have done, whether a "Leaver" or a "Remainer" and especially if living in another European country. Start being a European and part of the continent you are tethered to. Learn the language.It is disgusting how so many of you can't be bothered "oh just can't get it, I've tried but they speak so fast", if I had a euro for every time I have heard that! It's not rocket science, all you have to do is buy a phrase book and be part of the community you are in. Try and make contact and stop treating the Portuguese as if they are all waiters, and stop thinking you are better than them because back 'home' you have 'proper fish n chips' rather than Bacalhau. I have been here for twelve years and seen Brits come and go,from the real world of Portugal, isolated by their pensions, or British incomes, unfairly disillusioned by Portuguese medical practice  always bloody complaining. Stop it now, this is Portugal,one of 27 countries in the European Union, not a theme park. 

        Monday, 15 October 2018

        Game of scones

        There exists a battle as old as time, two powerful forces vying for the souls of humanity. No, not the battle of good versus evil, something even more important – sweet versus savoury.The war between sweet and savoury is on in a Game of Scones. Just as there will always be a left and a right , there will always be those who prefer sweet to savoury, and vice versa.Savoury scones are much like tea scones but served instead as antipasti or with early evening aperitifs or cocktails.The combinations are infinite and instead of tea,inevitably wine worthy.Sometimes something a little more savoury is what really hits the spot.Savoury scones such as these are a great option for pairing with soup instead of the more customary bread. They work as a wonderful vehicle to sop up those last little bits of soup without being too over-filling. Also, the flavour of the scone itself can help balance out an overly sweet or savoury soup. Since there are about as many ways to make savoury scones as there are ways to make soup, the combinations are only as limited as your own imagination.
        Cheesy Chouriço mini scones  
        The perfect companion to any soup.
        These little nuggets of cheesy tangy spanish flavour are irresistible so make sure you make plenty because this little renegade here started eating those scones as soon as they hit the cooling rack.
        50g diced
        1 pinch dried rosemary
        125g self-raising flour
        25g butter
        50g grated Iberican cheese
        100ml milk

        Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
        Fry 50g diced chouriço on medium until crisp, then drain excess oil on kitchen roll. Add 1 pinch dried rosemary to 125g self-raising flour and rub in 25g butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
        Mix through 50g grated Iberican cheese and the
        chouriço until well combined. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in 100ml skimmed milk, then mix to a dough with a blunt knife.
        Knead on a floured surface, flatten to about 2.5cm thick, then cut out 2-3cm rounds with a cookie cutter. Repeat until all the dough is used. Arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper, brush with milk and sprinkle with more grated cheese.
        Bake in the oven for 8-10 mins until golden and risen.
        Avocado and feta scones 
        When thinking of Avocados you may automatically think guacamole or burritos and salsa…
        Don’t think that is where they only belong.Although I could dip my corn chips into some right now I decided to turn my hand to a savoury scone.Because of the moisture in the feta the dough is fairly wet when it comes together so you may need to add a little more flour in increments until you achieve a scone like consistency.The Feta is a salty cheese so be careful not to add tto much extra saltThese scones have a more subtle flavour and bear a closer resemblance to more traditional scones.they lend themselves to having a filling added.They are delicious sliced and spread with butter, but if your taste buds are a little more ambitious,below are some of my suggestions.
        ½ cup Hass Avocado ,mashed
        ½ cup Feta Cheese, crumbled 

        ¼ cup chopped fresh Coriander
        ¼ cup milk

        2 eggs + 1 egg white for egg wash on top
        2 Cups regular flour

        1/2 cup self raising flour
        3 teaspoons baking powder
        1 teaspoon salt

        Begin by mashing the avocado and getting it a bit smooth (some lumps are ok, you don't need to puree it). Combine the flour, baking powder, salt with avocado and blend with a party cutter. Add milk, eggs cilantro and cheese (crumbled)
        Roll the dough on a floured surface and cut into desired shape. You can pat it into a square and cut the scones into triangles or roll with a floured rolling pin and use a biscuit cutter. My dough was about an inch thick and cut in 4cm circles.
        Place on baking sheet, brush on egg wash (egg white mixed with 1 Tablespoon water) on tops of scones. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Until a toothpick does not come out sticky, but don't over bake them.

        FILLINGS THAT ARE UP TO ANYONE`S fantasia-"Imagination" 
        As an alternative to butter spread them with a light lemon mayonnaise.Making mayonnaise at home is quite simple.Commercially produced mayonnaises contain all manner of strange ingredients not to mention sugar.I used to  watch my mother whip up fresh mayonnaise in minutes by hand,using nothing more than a wooden spoon for beating the oil into the egg.I prefer to make it in a blender,however.It is quicker this way,even for a novice.
        Green mayonnaise-Add parsley capers and cornichons to your basic mayo
        Caper butter
        Sundried tomato olive and basil tapenade
        Green olive tapenade
        Homemade sundried tomato pesto
        Chilli Coriander jam
        Mustard and mascarpone

        The list goes ever on but at the end of the day its all down to personal taste and favourite flavour combis.

        Wednesday, 10 October 2018

        Exótica e muito saborosa! Figuero da India.Que delícia o pequeno almoço acabou de se tornar

         Home made Indian fig jelly spread on toast for breakfast....YUMMMMMM

        Followers in colder climate zones will have to excuse my temporary bout of Opuntia (Prickly Pear cactus ) mania, but I’ve had a hell of a lot of cactus fruit to deal with this last couple of weeks.I´ve juiced and I´ve jammed and I´ve jellied and next year I’m going to take a crack at creating some other preserves,Indian fig gazpacho, fruit pies, a jelly topping for cheesecake, cocktails, licores —and who knows? Que delícia.
        My love affair with the opuntia began one Saturday afternoon in September when I was shopping, and local producer Nelson Ventura from Herdade de Malhada,Alcoutim was promoting the fruit in our local supermarket.Having got into conversation with Nelson,I wrote an initial blog and am now finding out further information about this unusual and intriguing fruit.He very kindly dropped off a box with six kilos of them for casa rosada to try out on our guests.Thank you for that O senhor,muito gentil de sua parte.Opinions differed from o nobre para o delicioso, the sublime to the delicious,but pip content came up high on the points of view list.I made delicious juice which I blended with pomegranate to up the exotic content and then I came up with an exotic jam with just a hint of pomegranate which will be just one new addition to the casa rosada breakfast table. My "romance" with the prickly pear is turning out to be a long,and well, fruitful one.

        Geleia Figo da India
        Unlike many other cactus jelly recipes on the internet that I have tried unsuccessfully, this one works. The proof is pictured above.
        2 1/2 cups prickly pear cactus juice
        1/2 cup lemon juice
        5 cups sugar
        1 box of powdered pectin
        (18 teaspoons-note that not all pectin brands contain the same amount in a box, so measure it out to make sure)

        Wash Peel and scoop out flesh from the fruit.Blitz the fruit in a processor or with astick blender in a cylinder. Use a fine colander or sieve to strain liquid from the juiced fruit. 
        Combine strained fruit juice and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until solution is boiling.  Once boiling add sugar and pectin and stir constantly.Continue to keep mixture at a rolling boil for ten minutes,or until jell point is reached then remove pan from heat.  If canning jelly, ladle into sterilized jars.Prickly pear jelly may take up to two weeks to gel inside the jars.  If using for fresh jelly, cool jelly and store covered in the refrigerator for up to one month.

        Sunday, 7 October 2018

        Hommage to Ayamonte Puntillita taco with pico de gallo

         Puntillitas fritas (deep fried baby squid) from Ayamonte
        I feel we are so lucky to be Andalucia´s close neighbours.All it takes is a short boat ride across the Guadiana river from Vila Real de Santo Antonio and there we are, En Espanha.We park the car,board the boat and alongside passengers of various nationalities we experience a ferry boat journey that gives one a real feeling of travelling to another country.It cant be compared to a real cruise but the twenty minute crossing to the other bank of the river is equally relaxing.As one gazes back to the castle of Castro Marim and its fortress we are reminded of other times when the two countries were not so united as they are today.We also imagine what it was like when none of us belonged to the Eurozone and the Portuguese imposed a border guard to combat smuggling.There is even something romantic and a little bit nostalgic,"saudade", about it.Nowadays if we make the 9.5km journey by car (10 minutes)it is usually to combine buying cheaper petrol and to do a big shop at the Mercadona supermarket, followed by a light tapas lunch at Orta and pick up some fino sherry,sausage and whatever other frivolités take our fancy.Breathing the air of Spain and soaking up a totally different architectural style is a novelty in itself and the attraction of tapas beckoning from every calle you walk along is irresistible.Fabio´s incredibly intelligent take on tapas at LPA is an offer not to be refused, or perhaps a more old-fashioned type of tapas at award-winning Casa Barberi overlooking the marina.This restaurant with its sunny terrace celebrated its century this year.The cuisine is real tapas by real old school waiting staff in a charmingly traditional way.Pinchitos ,puntillitas,pulpo and boquerones make you feel you are in another country and having fun.Ayamonte always welcomes us foreigners from across the dividing water and makes us feel at ease.At the end of our excursion when we are wanting a little more silence in our ears,that´s when we feel like returning home and we´re in luck because Portugal is right there."hasta pronto" it says as the ferry pulls away from the quay.Dont you worry Ayamonte we will be back soon,for sure.Meanwhile back home I Rustle up a simple supper to remind us of wonderful hours spent on the other side.When O cozinheiro draws inspiration from Fabio with a bit of traditional Ayamonte thrown in,anything could happen.Here is my hommage to Ayamonte.
        Pico de gallo
        Pico de gallo is one of those staple recipes that everyone should have on hand, and it must always be  homemade!  It’s easy, healthy and flavoursome. It can be served with tacos, quesadillas, on top of grilled chicken or fish, or just plain with tortilla chips and a cold aperitif.
        Although Pico de gallo and salsa contain similar ingredients, salsa is more of a “sauce” with more liquid in it, where pico de gallo contains very little liquid and is made with fresh, uncooked ingredients.
        There are tons of different ways to make salsa, with a variety of cooked, roasted or uncooked tomatoes, peppers, spices and other ingredients.
        Pico de gallo, on the other hand, always contains the same ingredients: fresh and uncooked tomatoes,red onion,coriander and red chillies.
        Puntillita (
        baby squid) taco with pico de gallo
        It can be made in just 10 minutes with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, red onion,and fresh chilli.
        FOR THE PICO DE GALLO  (Makes about 4 cups)
        5 Roma tomatoes , diced
        1/2 cup red onion , diced
        1/2 cup fresh coriander , chopped
        4 small red chilli, veins and seeds removed, diced
        1 - 2 teaspoons lime juice , to taste
        splash of olive oil
        splash of balsamic
        salt , to taste

        Combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeño in a bowl.
        Season with salt and add lime juice to taste.
        Top on your favorite taco recipe or serve with chips.
        Pico de gallo is best eaten fresh, within 12 hours of making it. Store in the fridge.

        Puntillitas fritas
        For 4 portions

        4 corn or flour tortillas served warm
        Puntillitas 250 g
        Flour 50 g
        Flor de sal 4 g
        To make the little puntillitas well ,and be crispy and not oily, you have to do several things with them, before frying. First, wash them well under the tap,the drain them in a colander. Once clean, it is advisable to dry them well, so that they do not splash and spit  during frying and so that they take the flour well without weighing it down.The second part is to remove the quill and the interior, an easy task that is done by pressing the sheath as if it were a tube of toothpaste. This is easily done.When clean, to dry them, spread them on a dishcloth and cover them with another, or use kitchen paper, which is perhaps the best option since very often they still contain some ink and can stain the cloths.Once they are clean and dry,salt them by sprinkling fine sea salt over them and passing them through the flour. If you do not have a sieve to sift them later to remove the excess, it is best to bathe them well in flour and then shake them in a colander or a vegetable strainer with jerky movements that eject any excess flour.Meanwhile,heat the oil, or turn on the fryer at 170º, to enable  quick frying at high temperature, which will ensure the little chaps are crispy and do not take on too much oil. Once golden, drain them on absorbent paper and serve them immediately with the pico de gallo on the tacos. 

        Thursday, 4 October 2018

        Why were our parents and grandparents healthier?

        Growing Communities’ Farmers’ Market, north-east London The UK’s only 100 per cent organic farmers’ market is held weekly at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, north-east London. All farmers are either organic or bio-dynamic and come from within 100 miles of Hackney. They bring in products such as greenhouse salad leaves, aubergines and peppers, organically farmed trout, lamb and chicken. Every Saturday,

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        Growing Communities’ Farmers’ Market, north-east London The UK’s only 100 per cent organic farmers’ market is held weekly at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, north-east London. All farmers are either organic or bio-dynamic and come from within 100 miles of Hackney. They bring in products such as greenhouse salad leaves, aubergines and peppers, organically farmed trout, lamb and chicken. Every Saturday,

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        Unspoilt,undeveloped, the "green and pleasant farm land" of my childhood
        There is a certain romantic lure of nostalgia these days,particularly where food is concerned.In the Great Britain of the 1950´s rationing created a postwar generation that was very well-nourished,but also completely resourceful.In the words of the writer Michael Pollan“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food".
         As a British expat I often find myself taking a defensive stand against certain criticisms of
        that nations gastronomy.There was more to British eating than anyone who had not grown up there could possibly understand.The best British cooking,historically speaking,has been served not in restaurants, but in family homes where once dutiful mothers, not today´s egotistical masterchefs, took charge of the stove.As Jane Grigson puts it in one of her luminous books on British food,"our classical tradition has been domestic,with the domestic virtues of quiet enjoyment and generosity." And it may well be that I belong to the last generation of Britons to have proved this, putting it to the test it in another nation´s gastronomic culture.
        Its true I was sent away to boarding school and traumatised as a child, as many of my compatriots must have been, by school meals and their malicious determination to remove all possible pleasure from the act of eating.I always remained unamused by the notion of suet puddings.Bread and butter pudding left me ready to retch at the refectory table.The stodge and slop we were presented with was pretty revolting.I have to say my schooldays were a rather dreary procession of spam fritters,tapioca and queen of puddings.
        The less said about the meanness, the sensual poverty of British institutional catering,the better.In all its grim faced reality, that word"catering" is to me one of the ugliest in the English language,and has no precise equivalent in any other,as far as I know.
        But there were good memories too.I recall accompanying my mum to buy cheeses from the shop that sold nothing but cheese, butter, bacon and pickles. The cheese was cut with a knife and wrapped in greaseproof brown paper."This is a cheese shop,there is nothing for vegans here."
        What I remember best, however,was the solid, savoury repertoire of my mother´s home cooking.Joints of roast meat,with their various home made tracklements.Steak and kidney pudding and pie,two applications of the same ingredients producing dramatically different results.Cottage pie, meatloaf,fish pies.Sometimes we were treated to pheasant  if someone carelessly ran one over in the road or my father popped a pigeon with his rifle ( yes I know, less said the better).Turnips and swede were often found rolling in the road having fallen from a farm trailer.Vegetables were from the garden, leeks, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, courgettes, spinach and new potatoes boiled and glistening with a little butter and chopped fresh mint and curly parsley.My father would bring in heads of lettuce for our lunch or to be interleaved between two slices of brown bread with salt and pepper for a most delicious and oh so frugal sandwich.Gooseberry fool, rhubarb crumble and an endless parade of sweet puddings, rice, summer pudding.My mother, for her sins, rustled up the occasional anglicized curry with sultanas and chopped boiled egg.This was about as far as our palates would allow us for the moment, but the horizon of the exotic was not too far away.Spaghetti bolognese,paella ,coq au vin,it would not be long before we would be wanting more.There appeared to be no restaurants in those days,or at least that was what it seemed to one little whipper snapper,who´s first visit to a restaurant was when he was 12 years old.
        On a number of issues – particularly food waste, but also obesity, nutrition, cost, pleasure even – there is much to admire in how our grandparents ate. In an era of limited choice and tight budgets, they made a virtue of the necessity to cook with whatever fresh ingredients were available. My parents cooked almost ‘sustainably’, and cooked every day for themselves, one of life’s best skills, and they never threw leftovers away. To that extent, I follow in their footsteps of being frugal and thrifty.
         I remember my grandmother´s kitchen; you went into her fridge, everything was covered with a saucer, she threw nothing away … we’re a bit lazy in that respect these days but we should take note, she lived to the grand old age of 98.She did not have a mobile phone."What is cholesterol? "she would say.
        The so called United Kingdom appears to have lost home economics in a lot of schools.School lunch boxes are under scrutiny,which is a good thing.Banning them is perhaps a little draconian but the responsibilty for its contents should lie at the beginning of the day with a responsible parent.
        Our sanitized world does not allow the immune system of the young to fully mature.For babies, breast milk was valued and it was always in season. I believe that breast feeding (which my Grandma always did) helped to build up their immune systems,and at the same time if you introduce something into the diet at an early age, then you’re less likely to become allergic to it.
        Nowadays children can be hard pressed to identify the name of certain vegetables that are put before them.I remember having an encounter with a check out girl in a well known English supermarket whose brand shall not be named about what a courgette was.She sat behind the till waving this courgette in the air as she rang for a supervisor. "what you call dis  vegetable?"(great example of customer training skills and modern day literacy).
         Nothing more reassuring than home grown potatoes
        For my parents generation,buying processed food was not an option.They didn’t eat GMOs, food additives, stabilizers and thickeners.Food was not yet treated with additives, antibiotics and hormones to help preserve shelf life and pad the pockets of food producers at the expense of the consumer’s health.There was no such thing as bag salads let alone leaves that had been washed in chlorine and then put in a bag  filled with a gas that keeps them fresh for longer. Apparently this also removes most nutrients from the lettuce. If truth be known the lettuce itself adds this gas to the package.
        "Nose to tail" People ate the whole animal, which included mineral-rich bone broths and organ meats.Animal bones were saved or bought to make broths and soups, and organ meats always had a special place at the dinner table. These foods were valued for their medicinal properties, and never went to waste.Nowadays people don’t have the time to shop let alone the time to cook. Can someone explain to me at this point why boil in the bag fish is a "convenience" food.It takes longer to cook than a piece of fresh fish bought from the market which has double the nutrients. Everyone says England is a more unhealthy nation than ever, and yet not many are doing anything about it.
         In the 1950’s food came from farms and small markets, and because food preservatives were not widely used yet, food was fresh. Because of the lack of processed food, diets were nutrient dense, allowing people to get the nutrition they needed from their food.Today people aren’t taught how to shop.Our grandparents did not fall victim to fad diets, food marketing, calorie counting, and other detrimental dieting habits that are popular today (in part because the marketing infrastructure didn’t exist yet).Talk of cholesterol levels was yet to come and considered stuff and nonsense by that generation.
        Because of this blindness to the truth, they had a healthy metabolism, and ate according to their body’s needs and cravings.They cooked food at home, using traditional preparation methods from scratch.Eating out was a rare luxury.Back in the 1950s rabbit meat was as common for dinner as chicken is today. It is the meat, not veganism, that got many people and their children through the lean times of the Depression.Lucky for our grandparents, these habits actually increased their health.
         Growing communities the Uk´s only 100% organic farmers market which  supports small, sustainable farms almost all from within 60 miles of London.
         The mobile butcher,baker and greengrocer used to pass by our house once a week with their very own grown produce.If you were lucky enough to live in the country, growers had stalls by the road selling fresh farm eggs and inviting you to pick your own strawberries and other fruit from their fields and orchards.My father grew prolific Jerusalem artichokes and sold them to local green grocers.I Was very encouraged when researching this post to discover that the farm shop in the remote Essex village where I grew up is still thriving.

        Brookelynne Farm is a family owned and run business by John Carr and Son. Established in 1953,the year after I was born John's father Jack took on the council lease of a 45 acre farm. Since then it has been family owned and has expanded to 150 acres, with John now owning the freehold. Brookelynne Farm relies on traditional farming methods such as crop rotation and manure, in place of irrigation.All animals are fed on crops grown by the farm and all vegetables are grown using manure produced by the animals.What I found even more reassuring was the fact that Brookelynne Farm Shop supplies local schools, restaurants, pubs, village shops and residential homes with high quality fresh produce.My mother used to make and supply home made cream for the Carr family to sell by the roadside with their strawberries during the season.
        My father had plum and greengage trees in the garden.He kept my mother supplied with most of the produce she needed, courgettes,rhubarb,gooseberries,raspberries and tomatoes in his greenhouse,and my mother used to make her own elderflower cordial,gathered from a tree in our garden.
        The sad reality of all this is that today's ingredients have been transformed by a century of hybridization, mechanization, and standardization to meet the demands of an industrialized, cost-minimizing food system.
        Traditional stone-ground cornmeal was replaced by hybridized corn, picked unripe, air-dried, and bashed to powder by steel roller mills, forcing cooks to add sugar when baking to simulate its former sweetness. Tomatoes are bred to be as indestructible as racket balls, and they're picked green, shipped to supermarkets across the country, and get a good zap of ethylene gas so they arrive perfectly round, bright red, and flavourless. Heirloom breeds of pigs, with meat so red it's almost purple and marbled with thick layers of fat, have given way to lean, factory-raised engineered breeds to pass as white meat.I remember the days when a tweet was the sound a bird made.
        Growing Communities’ Farmers’ Market, north-east London The UK’s only 100 per cent organic farmers’ market is held weekly at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, north-east London. All farmers are either organic or bio-dynamic and come from within 100 miles of Hackney. They bring in products such as greenhouse salad leaves, aubergines and peppers, organically farmed trout, lamb and chicken. Every Saturday,

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