Thursday, 29 November 2018

O spirito de cana,uma receita antiga,um inovãçao de tradiçao

                                        Medronho Açucarado em aguardente
The Portuguese have become very skilled at distilling the fruit of the arbutus (Medronho) in late winter, after weeks of fermentation, to create the famous Algarvian liqueur.
Medronho trees grow wild on poor soils in rural regions of Portugal and the inner Algarve.There is no commercial plantation and the fruits are mainly hand collected by local farmers, and processed privately. Therefore, the best Aguardente de Medronhos is not necessarily found in supermarkets, but instead bought directly from these farmers. Very few farmers have a license for distillation, but are tolerated by the authorities to keep this traditional Portuguese specialty alive.
Although not as well known as the famous regions of Cognac and Armagnac, the third of the only 3 regions designated for the production of spirits in the world surprisingly is Portuguese,the region Lourinhã, a municipality northwest of Lisbon.If the truth be known,I made this experiment partly because of the masses of arbutus berries on our tree that were succumbing to the appetites of the birds.They were in season and I always feel increasingly guilty if I don´t do something to save them .I suspect however they will turn out to be peachy keen and I will end up making this recipe every year.
I have adapted this seasonal Algarvian recipe to make it both accessible and more affordable.I am giving you the recipe in its original form followed by my adapted version.In its original form the recipe uses two different types of aged Portuguese fire water (Aguardente vinica,brandy, and aguardente cana,rum )Aguardente de cana can cost from €30 to as much as €250,and an aged aguardente vinaca could set you back a bit too.So you can see why I was looking for an alternative that would supply the same sort of flavour.My first solution was to use a cachaça rum from Brazil,but then I came over all Cuban when I found two bottles of white and dark rum respectively in our larder.Almost like for like, this would fulfil what the recipe set out to achieve.Well I hope so,anyway i will get back to you on that.
Medronho Açucarado em aguardente
500g de medronhos
500g de açucar amarelo
500ml aguardente vinica
500ml aguardente de cana
100ml water
raminhos de funcho fresco
Dissolver o açucar na agua e levar ao lume até fazer "ponto de sarope" - uma calda espessa.Deitar sobre os medronhos,adicionar as aguardentes e, finalmente,os raminhos de funcho fresco.Deixar em infusão em frascos de boca larga,pelo menos 15 dias decorridos os quais ser pode consumir.
*Esta bebida preparar-se como qualquer licor.Quanto mais tempo estiver em infusáo melhor.Pode mesmo ser guardado durante um ou dois anos
Medronho preserved in rum and syrup
 500g arbutus berries
500g golden caster sugar
500mlWhite rum or cachaça
500ml aged rum
100ml water
Dissolve the sugar in the water and and heat over a medium flame until the sugar has formed a syrup.Put the arbutus berries in a kilner or mason jar big enough to accomodate the liquids as well.Pour over the syrup followed by the two types of rum.Use a plastic strainer slightly smaller in diameter than the jar itself to make sure the fruit remains submerged in the liquor.Leave the fruit to infuse for 15 days or up to two years.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Bhajias you just cant beet

 Colourful beginnings of bhajias

The British,a nation never renowned for its subtle taste,has always crowned the pungent onion "bhajji" the supreme king of pakoras.
Bhajia/Bhaji/Bhajji/Bhaaji is a crispy fried snack which can be cooked using onion, potato, spinach or any vegetables. Bhajia consist of chopped onions incorporated into a batter of rice or gram flour, spices and herbs, then fried in oil until golden.I have already posted a recipe for authentic bhajias on this blog and dispelled the myth of the Brits idea of what a bhajji should be.So if you can cook an authentic bhajia using almost any vegetable, why not beetroot or carrot.Using my tried and tested recipe here is a way to
make your bhajias brighter, with beetroot or carrot because they're fun and pretty and, they still taste amazing too.This is a glorious colourful intertwining of crispy roots spiced to perfection.

Beetroot bhajias
makes approximately 20-30 small bhajias of the size required.they should not be the size of tennis balls.
1 medium onion
100g beetroot
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
1 level tsp chilli powder
1 level tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp fresh coriander chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp dried thyme1/2 tsp lemon juice
6 tbsp rice flour
3 tbsp garam flour
1/2 tsp flor de sal
2 tbsp cold water
Oil for deep frying

Peel the beetroot and grate it coarsely into thin matchstick pieces. Peel and very finely slice an onion as thinly as you can.Mix with the grated beetroot.Finely slice a red and a green chilli.Toss the chilli, onion and beetroot together with the chilli powder,coriander, cumin,thyme,turmeric and lemon juice.
Sift the flour with the salt.
Heat the oil in saucepan deep enough to hold oil for deep frying or a deep fat fryer.
Mix the 2 flours slowly into the  beetroot and onions and rub it with your fingers,until the mix is firm and sticky.Add the water and mix for a further 1~2 minutes.Check for salt, it is likely you will need to add some at this point.
Keep a strainer ready over a bowl for draining the bhajias when ready.
With your already messy fingers put small dollops of the batter into the oil to fry.
Do not put too many in the oil together when frying or else you will have soggy bhajias.
Each bhajia should be no bigger than a small fritter,approximately 2.5cm.
Do not keep the oil too hot.Let the vegetables fry for 3 or 4 minutes until they are crisp. 

The fritter should fry slowly so that it gets crisp and golden.If the oil is too hot the bhajias will fry too fast and remain raw and gooey inside.If you then try to refry,they will burn,remain soggy and taste bitter.
On the other hand, if you want to serve them later,you can half fry and remove them.Fry when you are ready in hot oil this time.If the oil is not hot when refrying,the bhajias will absorb too much oil.
Serve the bhajias with any chutney of your choice.

You can use the same recipe to make carrot and beetroot bhajias.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Os animais de alfândega-Tagliata

We are creatures of habit and sometimes we have a hard time changing them. Being such we tend to resort to using the same tried and tested products for our everyday meals. Normally we prepare recipes with the ingredients that are best known to us, and that sit most comfortably on our palates.  
 I acknowledge this fact as not all bad and that in some part it has its logic. Because there is something we like, then why the need to change it? On the other hand, if we spend a little more time to observe and question whats on the supermarket shelf, we might find that we can take what we cook to another level. But is this staying within our comfort zone or just a lack of risk taking? Innovation by trying new products allows us to expand our range of tastes and gastronomy in general.
`People are gradually getting more adventurous, but traditional options are still by far the most popular´
                 Emma Weinbren, the Grocer
Take for example our choice of pastas or noodles.Most domestic store cupboards are limited to the bog standard favourites, Spaghetti,lasagne, penne,macaroni and sometimes pappardelle. Though there are hundreds of different types of noodles, pasta can be organized into different groups. Cooks use different shapes and sizes of pasta for different purposes. For example, different shapes hold different sauces better than others.
 tagliata pasta
Pappardelle pairs beautifully with heavy rich sauces. Tubes and hollow shaped pasta,penne,(“Quills” or “Feathers”) rigatoni,are shorter. Ground meat sauces like Bolognese, or hearty meat and vegetable sauces are perfect for these.  Their thicker texture also makes them perfect for baking with cheese.(Penne Arrabiata and Mac and Cheese.) Soup pastas (orzo, ditalini, acini di pepe), stuffed (tortellini, ravioli) and special shapes (farfalle, fusilli).. 
One thing that varies is how much of the sauce adheres to the pasta, especially for pasta shapes that have ridges or hollow areas. Sometimes you'll have a sauce where you'll want chunks of it to stick to the pasta, and sometimes you just want the pasta to be flavoured by the sauce, but eaten more by itself. My rule of thumb usually is
"Chunkier the sauce, shorter the pasta. Smoother   the sauce, longer the pasta."
Over the years I have introduced myself to some these more unusual pastas and shapes...
Acini di Pepe
Sometimes referred to as pastina, acini di pepe means “peppercorn” in Italian, alluding to its miniscule size and rounded shape, which makes it versatile enough to be welcome in a wide range of dishes. Make it the mainstay of a cold salad or sprinkle it into a piping hot soup.
FideosIf you think pasta belongs only to the Italians and noodles to the Asians, think again. In Spain, pasta talks Spanish and the word is fideos (fee-DAY-ohs). Fideos (fideus in Catalan) are thin, round noodles, the sort you might put in chicken-noodle soup. They range in thickness from threads of angel hair to spaghetti-like cords. Fideos go into soups, casseroles and,surprise surprise, even paella.Instead of being cooked in a pot of boiling water, then being sauced, the fideos cook right in the sauce, soaking up the flavors. And "al dente" is not a Spanish approach! Fideos are cooked until completely tender and toothsome.
Italian for “little ears,” orecchiette are shaped like pasta bowls, rendering them perfect for collecting sauce. This pasta goes well with heavier sauces rife with meats or veggies, as with this recipe for , orecchiette com cime di rapa, as their shape is perfect for catching both. 

Tagliata with mushrooms and bacon
The recipe that I made here was with tagliata (see picture above), a departure from the more well-known types of pasta: noodles, macaroni, feathers, or spaghetti. The tagliata pasta has a curious shape( the Italian word literally means cut ) so it is a shortened version of tagliatelle and cooking it with an al dente texture, allows the appreciation of an exquisite texture and flavour.I love my bacon. I love my mushrooms. I love my garlic, and  I love my cheese.
Put them together with my favourite carb, and you have a meal I could eat day in day out. I might have put in a wee extra clove of garlic, but I do love my garlic. So, if you can handle it, I recommend doing the same.
Whipping cream,about 200ml
Chestnut mushrooms

Bacon lardons or small cubes of bacon
Dried chilli flakes

Grated cheese of your choice

Heat some oil and butter in  a pan. Add the onion, garlic, chopped. once it begins to change colour add the bacon and dried chilli flakes.Sauté well and reserve.
In the same pan you used to sauté the onion and the bacon, add some extra butter and cook the mushrooms.When the mushrooms start to release their juices then add the cream.Agitate everything well, then return the refogado /sofrito that had been reserved to the pan.Stir again to amagamate everything.Add the pre-cooked pasta and coat well with the sauce.Add the cheese of your choice, I used parmesan.Let rest for a minute then serve.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Stew-pendous Chambão de vaca en daube

Daubes,Bourguignons, Pot-au-feu ,Irish stew Carbonnades, Feijoadas, Stifados, Spezzatino di manzo, and Osso Bucco, wherever you are, start stewing! The great winter warmer starts here.There is nothing any more comforting and wonderfully tasting as a big pot of beef stew on a chilly day! I just love it.When it’s starting to get chilly outside, get in the kitchen and turn it into the warm hub of your home.The joy and warmth of a homemade stew wafting around your house is second to none.A good slow-cooked beef in ale stew is a thing of beauty and known to cure all ills, with just a smidgen of fresh thyme and a bayleaf, and perhaps some mushrooms for extra meatiness.Oh dear i´m getting to sound like that person who always says "that probably could have benefited from a mushroom"
There is this thing that happens in English,where brands are so commonplace that they become a common noun or verb:Tupperware,Tagine, Bandaid, YoYo,Hoover,Granola are some examples. So it is with cooking and the French, where the cooking vessel becomes the name of the dish – casserole, poêle and, as in this case, daube, which is a terracotta cooking vessel from Provence.
a traditional daubiére
What distinguishes a traditional daube from a stew is that a daube would be cooked in an earthenware vessel called a daubière, which is shaped in such a way as to inhibit evaporation of the cooking liquid. Cooks would even go so far as to seal the lid of the pot with a paste made of flour and water. Daube was also served in the daubière.
There are many variations on the basic daube recipe, mostly based on the region of France where they originate.
It's possible to replicate the daubière effect using a Dutch oven by placing a piece of parchment paper over the meat while it braises, to help retain the condensation, or use a larger piece of parchment across the whole rim of the pot to produce a tighter seal of the lid.
Chambão de vaca en daube
1kg chambao (shin of beef)
100g plain flour
100ml olive oil
200g  toucinho pancetta or lardon cut into 8 pieces
4 large carrots peeled and cut into large chunks
12 small pearl onions
1 bottle good quality red wine,shiraz for example
1 litre chicken stock
23 fresh bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 bunch thyme
1 vanilla bean
2 all spice berries
2 cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 garlic bulb
1 orange zested
2tsp cornflour  
Cut the beef shin into eight large pieces and dust them in the flour.
In a large, deep, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat, brown the beef on all sides in the olive oil. Drain and transfer the meat to a large ovenproof casserole.
Brown the pancetta in the same frying pan. Add it to the casserole, reserving the fat in the frying pan.
Brown the carrot in the frying pan then add it to the casserole.
Brown the onions in the frying pan and add them to the casserole, along with the remaining pancetta fat.
Pour the bottle of wine into the frying pan and cook over high heat until it has reduced to a syrup. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then add the contents of the pan to the casserole.
Preheat the oven to 120°C.
Tie the bay leaves, cinnamon, thyme and vanilla bean into a tight bundle using butcher’s string then add it to the casserole with the remaining spices, garlic bulb and orange zest. Put the lid on the casserole and cook in the oven for 4–5 hours until the beef is gelatinous and just starting to fall apart.
Whisk the cornflour with 1 tablespoon cold water to make a slurry. Stir the slurry into the casserole over low heat until it thickens. Serve the daube in the casserole at the table.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

"Fake Cheese" The closest food can come to cruelty and punishment,

'Bleeding' vegan burger arrives on UK supermarket shelves

 ....and uses beetroot juice to ooze or “bleed” a meaty red hue

Halloween or having a laugh? When I read this it was time to speak up."Lab created food" in my mind is almost worse than genetically modified crops.
There is so much controversy surrounding dietary choices these days.As a partner of a bed and breakfast offering bespoke dinners, I have to resign myself to cooking for all kinds of dietary requirements.The fact that I have to do it and often enjoy rising to the challenge it is not to say that I agree with, or understand, the many lifestyle choices behind them.Vegan, vegetarians,omnivores carnivores,fish and chippocrytes,lacto vegetarians,ovo vegetarians, pollatarians, pollo pescatarians, fruitarians.A faddist world gone mad? Passing fashion,gastronomic or green politics? Sadly the vegan debate recently lost one prominent British food critic his job as editor of one of the largest selling food tie-in magazines in the United Kingdom,perhaps Europe.
Where did all this nonsense come from? If God had wanted us to have a plant based diet he would not have given us a planet full of livestock.A vegan diet is strictly against animal products,in every form.It is an ethical and humane lifestyle choice.This seems to me to be a way of inflicting punishment on oneself,self inflicted cruelty.To give one example, vegans consider Parmesan cheese to be the anti-christ.
I myself am a sound omnivore,by my definition someone who was brought up to eat everything.Of course there are some foods I dislike and some others that I have intolerances to, but overall I eat most things.It has always vexed me that I will go to a lot of lengths and be more than happy to accomodate vegetarians when they visit my home,but in reverse,why,am I always subjected to having to eat vegetarian food when I visit a plant eating household.Don´t get me wrong here I love vegetarian food and in this way I am a flexitarian.I enjoy cooking it, but why can´t my vegetarian counterparts be more flexible and cook a piece of meat or fish for me when I am invited to their home? I am totally flabbergasted as to why so many vegetarians and vegans have this desire to eat mutations of what carnivores eat.Vegan burgers that bleed,Vegetarian sausages,Quorn bolognese,Quorn Moussaka."The implications of the proliferation of lookalike meats for the global food industry are enormous. The US beef industry has filed a petition to exclude non-animal products from the definition of meat, while in France a law bans vegetarian companies from calling their products sausages, mince or bacon".If you are missing these flavours why change?
‘The terms cheese and steak should be reserved for products of animal origin.’ 
The flexible part of the flexitarian diet means you get the best of both worlds: your favorite carnivore dishes and also inventive vegan creations.Flexitarianism also calls for cutting back on your fish intake, but there's no need to ban it from your diet entirely.I thought I would make an earnest endeavour to take on a plant-based menu for one meal and see how I got on.The meal I chose was lunch, and I decided to make it very simple to both cook and eat.I made a light lunch of vegan leek and potato soup,home baked bread and some home made "fake cheese".The bread and cheese I made with one common ingredient.Who ever would have thought that you could make both bread and cheese from lupins? Amazed? I think you will be.
Tremoço cheese ("fake cheese")
2 teaspoons brewer's yeast powder 
1 tremoços with skins on (bottled) 
2 tablespoons (coffee) salt 
8 teaspoons powdered agar agar*
3 cups  water 
4 tablespoons olive oil
Beat the tremoços with salt, the beer yeast and half the water in the blender until it turns into a thick paste.Mix the remaining half of the water still cold with the agar agar and dissolve well.Bring this mixture to the boil, stirring constantly, bring to the boil and bubble for about two minutes (it will look viscous, if it does not look like that, it will not solidify properly).Turn on the blender again and add the olive oil and agar agar direct from from the flame (it has to be quick as agar agar hardens even faster at room temperature),Beat until thoroughly mixed.Place in a loaf pan or terrine greased with olive oil and leave in a refrigerator until it hardens (about 30 minutes).

THE VERDICT: The cheese was the closest food could come to cruel and corporal punishment.It tasted like cold, bland ,unflavoured and unseasoned polenta.Why would any vegan want to inflict this hardship on themselves?The humane treatment of animals is the issue here,and to eat  "fake cheese" is surely an example of the inhumane treatment of human beings.I suffered such discomfort and indigestion.What I had just eaten was an assault on my stomach.I could think of many ways this recipe might be made moderately acceptable but quite honestly why would I waste the time spent on experimenting.
My thoughts on improvement were the addition of some herbs,thyme or such like and maybe some chilli flakes or dried fruit.I will not however be making this again.In short i will be returning to my trusted bacon and brie sandwich.
* Agar-agar is the vegetarian substitute for animal gelatine, obtained from an algae and composed of 70% soluble fibers. Remember: cheeses are not suitable for vegans and most of the time they are not suitable for vegetarians because they use  animal curd (they can also use pepsin and lipase). This alternative is free of lactose, casein, saturated fat and cholesterol.
Pao de tremoço (tremoço bread rolls)
350 gr self raising flour
200 gr Tremoços
,drained and mashed in a processor
250ml, 50/50 blend of plain yogurt and water,
or vegan alternative
Rinse the tremoços under running water to get the salt out. Then mash with the a stick blender
Put the flour in a bowl. Make a hole in the center and add the blend of yoghurt and water.Knead everything together and add the mashed tremoços.
Knead everything again very well until it is homogeneous.leave for 20 minutes to stand at room temperature.Divide dough into 3 or 4 balls and bake for +/- 40 min at 180c.

THE VERDICT: The tremoço bread rolls were quite palatable and indicative of Irish soda bread,which is not a bad thing at all, but they were a little too worthy for our liking. 
Vegan leek and potato soup 

2 medium or 1 large leek,trimmed of outer layers and damaged part of the green
25g vegan butter
3 medium potatoes,bakers or reds,peeled and coarsely diced
Generous salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
Slice the leeks finely,put in alarge bowl of warm water,and swirl them about to rinse off any dirt.warm water is pretty vital here as leeks often secrete sand and mud,neither of which is ready soluble in cold water.Using your hands or aspider lift the leeks out of their bath and into a colander.Rinse the bowl out thoroughly and repeat the process.If you simply pour the leeksfrom the bol into the colander,all the caarefully washed out dirt will get back on them.(The Roux brothers insist that washing the leeks in warm water improves the flavour) Having made this soup for 25 years I would agree.

Melt the butter in a large solid-based saucepan and add the drained leeks.Sweat these over a medium flame for 5 minutes or so; the leeks should partially collapse and glisten from their coating of butter, but should not take on any significant amount of colour.Add the diced potatoes and sweat for a further 5 minutes,they will start to stick after this time,a sure sign that their sweating period is over.Season judiciously with salt and pepper and add enough stock to cover the vegetables.Stir to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan,turn the heat up high and boil until the potatoes are tender,about 15-20 minutes.Allow to cool a little then liquidise.Adjust the seasononing and reheat if necessary before serving.

THE VERDICT:The soup was delicious. I could not bring myself to pay the exorbitant price for vegan butter, and I am sure that if I had the deepness of flavour would have been lost. 

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Farmer´s market carrot top and coriander root to stem soup

 ceramic soup bowl sold by weight from AROMA ao Kg ,Tavira

Why is it so hard to find a recipe for carrot and coriander soup? I consulted all the usual oracles on my bookshelves and even computer said NO.Well there were recipes there on the internet, but so dull you would not want to bother with them.Well when I get my heart set on something I mean business, and with the chill in the air I wanted a heart warming comfort food.Today the monthly market was in town so I strode off to find my ingredients.There they were laid out before me, sheaves of fresh coriander tied with string, carrots with their  bushy, parsley-like greens still attached,that guarantees that farmer’s market halo of freshness.Why do supermarkets assume you will just throw the tops away so they waste plastic and bag them up. The perkiness and freshness of the greens are a good indication of how fresh the carrots themselves are. But that's not the only reason to buy intact, green-topped carrots. The greens themselves are pleasantly bitter and have tart imparting flavours that can perfectly balance out carrots' earthy sweetness in a dish. (And if the taste alone isn't enough to convince you, think about how many #wasteless points you'll get by using those tops rather than tossing them.) What a crime to throw away carrot tops.Stop throwing them away,and prepare a soup with them that´s full of local flavour, it's delicious! I cast my mind back to a sumptuous soup I used to make from Jane Grigson´s vegetable book
Potage Creçy it was called, in deference to the chalky area of France that carrots are supposed to grow best,But the twist I liked here was that she cited a variation which included fresh orange juice.Today I took it one step further and added coriander roots and carrot tops.
Carrot top and coriander root to stem soup
1 large bunch of carrots with tops,both chopped
Lower stalks from a large bunch of fresh coriander,chopped
1 onion, chopped
60g (2 oz) butter
125g (4oz)diced potatoes
1 heaped tablespoon of rice
1 liytre good quality vegetable bouillon
80ml (4 fl oz )milk
freshly squeezed orange juice to taste
plentiful flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper 
Soften the onion in the butter,add the coriander stems,carrot tops,potato rice and seasoning,stirring the about to mix them well together.Pour in the stock,simmer,covered,until the carrots are well cooked.blitz the whole contents of the pan with a hand blender till you have a rich thick velvety soup,When ready to eat.reheat with some milk and season to taste with the fresh orange juice mixing it in gradually so that it never becomes too strong,throw in a good handful of coriander leaves and blitz the whole lot again until you achieve your desired consistency.

Friday, 9 November 2018

"Simple" Yotam says...

 Yum yum-ollenghi
I am just love love loving my new Ottolenghi.This is the third recipe I have cooked from his new book and if you are lucky enough you will not need to even buy the book as I keep trying and testing and posting the results right here. The book is exactly what it says it is "SIMPLE."For this recipe "Squid and red pepper stew" I made a couple of minor changes.I had some prime baby octopus from the amazing Olhao market and decided to substitute this for the squid.He suggested serving the dish with rice or cous cous but I decided to add potatoes to it, making it a one pot dish and something I remembered from a Portuguese recipe that I had previously cooked "Octopus with red wine and potatoes" The only other change I made to the recipe was to use piri-piri flakes in place of the caraway seeds and allspice.The result delivered big on flavour and one I will definitely return to.Meanwhile I am bookmarking my way through the pages, and think next up will be a pasta dish or "Pork with ginger,spring onion and aubergine." Mind you I`m quite tempted by the "Fish cake tacos with mango and cumin yoghurt".I´ll keep you posted.
Squid or octopus and red pepper stew
Served 2 as a main course
80 ml olive oil
1 onion sliced into pinwheels about 1cm wide
I large red pepper,halved, core and seeds removed,cut into long slices 1 cm thick
2 garlic cloves,thinly sliced
( 2tsp caraway seeds, 3/4 tsp ground allspice) I used a sprinkling of piri piri flakes
1 kg baby squid,cleaned,skin removed,cut into 1.5cm strips (500g) I used Octopus
6 new potatoes, peeled and quartered
1.5 tbsp tomato paste 
3 bay leaves
1tbsp chopped thyme leaves 
150ml red wine
1 small orange,zest finely grated to get 1/2 tsp (optional)
salt and black pepper
Put the oil into a large sauté pan,for which you have a lid, and place on a medium high heat.Add the onion and red pepper,along with 1/3 teaspoon of salt,and cook for 5 minutes,stirring from time to time.Add the garlic,caraway seeds,allspice,(if using)and a really good grinding of black pepper.Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes,until everything is nice and soft.
Add the squid or octopus,and potatoes,if using, cook for 5 minutes,then stir in the tomato paste,bay leaves and thyme.Cook for another 2-3 minutes,then pour in the wine.Reduce the heat to low and allow everything to simmer away,covered, for about 30 minutes,stirring a few times,until the squid/octopus is cooked and soft.If the sauce is turning dry towards the end of cooking,you might need to add a tablespoon or two of water.Add the orange zest just before serving if using,and give everything a final gentle stir.

Monday, 5 November 2018

The Sage Maven

With its alluring, downy, grey-green leaves and lingering depth of flavour, it's hard to resist the pungent appeal of sage.Our garden has been a rain forest of sage this autumn and it was time for a severe cutting back,which only means one thing plenty of work for the herb task master here.Along with parsley, it's perhaps the herb most leant on by English cooks to give a savoury punch to stews, sausages and stuffings. Long before England´s dalliance with basil, coriander and more exotic flavourings, sage stole the English hearts and starred in some of their favourite dishes.Or did it? Well when I went to consult the arch English oracle Elizabeth David on the subject of sage how surprised was I with what I unearthed.Gastronomic Maven Elizabeth David is pretty damning in her book Summer Cooking:
 "Of that very English herb sage I have very little to say except that… it seems to me to be altogether too blatant, and used far too much; its all-pervading presence in stuffings and sausages is perhaps responsible for the distaste for herbs which many English people feel." 
 She liked the dried stuff even less:   
 "It deadens the food with its musty, dried blood scent."
Oh dear. That qualifies as a rant, doesn't it? in "Spices,salt and aromatics in the English kitchen", she expresses her distaste for rosemary too 

"With sage,this figures in my kitchen as a decoration only-with their grey-green and reddish leaves both herbs are beautiful in a jug of country flowers,but in cooking I don´t want either"........many Italians stuff joints of lamb and pork bursting with rosemary,and the result is perfectly awful.The meat is drowned in the acrid taste of the herb and the spiky little leaves get stuck between your teeth".
Grow some, chop some, cook some, eat some – I hope you'll do all you can to increase their pervading presence. Don't let Elizabeth David talk you out of it.
So having remembered that La David was never one known for her subtlety or lack of nuance I moved on. Saltimbocca,sausages,sauce, I thought,Sage is a great companion to pancetta, bacon and pretty much anything porky,so what I ended up with was a very tasty side dish of french beans and bacon.

Green beans with sage and pancetta
serves four as a side dish
400g green beans, tailed
20g butter
200g pancetta, cut into small cubes
20 sage leaves, 8 finely shredded, 12 left whole
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil (or rapeseed oil)

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Cook the beans until just al dente, about four minutes, then drain.While the beans are cooking, warm the butter in a large frying pan and sauté the pancetta until it begins to take on some colour. Add the shredded sage leaves and fry for another minute. Tip in the beans, season, and give everything a good stir. Keep warm.
In a small frying pan, warm the oil over a medium-high heat. Sauté the whole sage leaves for a few seconds until crisp, scatter over the beans and pancetta, and serve.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Frango pontinha no forno

Can you even believe that it’s November,and the clocks have gone back,and its dark by five o´clock? I seriously cannot even wrap my brain around it and that’s probably due to the fact that I’m used to residing where it’s 85 degrees with 100% humidity and SUN every day.The following dish I feel fits the feeling you get with the shift in the seasons: summer starts to feel like a distant memory and the craving for richer, more comforting foods kicks in.It's a 30-minute, no fuss, kind of chicken dinner.I think it’s great for autumn. The flavours of the thyme, garlic and chive mixed with the punchiness of the paprika makes it a taste sensation.
I love the idea of everything in one pan and wham bam, your dinner is done! What I don’t enjoy is when the recipe asks you to cook the pasta, rice, chicken or other ingredients in a separate pan and then add them to the skillet.Not so this recipe,which also introduced a new ingredient into my repertoire,massa pontinha.
This rice looky likey shouldn't just be reserved  for soups - ‘massa pontinha’ (tiny pasta which looks similar to orzo or risoni ) is a versatile pasta that's fantastic in everything from salads to casseroles and side dishes.
Massa pontinha is available in the pasta aisle of most Portuguese supermarkets.Half a 250g packet will make enough for around four people; it’s very cheap too.

It looks like large grains of rice but is actually a type of pasta.Like most dried pasta, pontinha is made from a mixture of durum flour, semolina and water, which is kneaded into a dough before being rolled flat and shaped. The result is a creamy coloured, oval-shaped pasta with distinctive pointy ends.
Although massa pontinha is classified as a soup pasta,for a simple salad combine cooked pontinha with olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, basil and pine nuts, then sprinkle with parmesan to serve.
Alternatively, try stuffing aubergine and or peppers with cooked risoni, zucchini, semi-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs, and bake in the oven.
You don’t need to cook risoni when including it in soups or stews – simply add it to the saucepan eight to 10 minutes before the dish has finished cooking. When using it in salads and other dishes, cook in a saucepan of salted boiling water for eight to 10 minutes or until al dente.
Frango pontinha no forno

Serves: 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

1 tbsp home made pesto diluted with olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 courgette, trimmed and diced
1 aubergine, trimmed and diced
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
250g pontinha /orzo
400g chopped tomatoes
250ml chicken stock
400g chicken breasts, cut into 1cm slices
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Salt and black pepper
Small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Small bunch chives, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Melt half the oil in a heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for one minute, then add the courgette, aubergine, oregano, thyme and two chopped garlic cloves. Fry for five minutes, until the vegetables are starting to soften.
Add the tomato puree and orzo and mix to combine. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring regularly. Put the lid on and slide the dish into the oven.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the sliced chicken and the remaining chopped garlic clove. It is more important at this stage to colour the meat than to cook it through.
Sprinkle in the paprika along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss the whole lot together.
Remove the pasta from the oven and carefully take off the lid, stir in the chicken, slide the lid back on and bake for 10 more minutes. Then take the dish from the oven and stir through the parsley and chives. Serve straight from the dish.