Monday, 31 December 2018

Bloody ñora!!!! or when Ñora met Mary

  " Bloody Ñora is the girl I love, now ain´t that too damn bad "

Unless your name is Mary Berry,you’ve all no doubt heard of a cocktail called a Bloody Mary. It’s bloody delicious and just what the doctor ordered if you’re having a bit of a ‘morning after the night before’.
A Bloody Mary is just the thing to drink with a turkey sandwich. At its most basic, a measure of vodka is topped up with tomato juice and seasoned with Worcester sauce, Tabasco and lemon juice, but the fine details can be tweaked to your own taste. There is an endless list of tiny twists to the classic recipe, but each addition requires your Mary to be rechristened.While a Virgin Mary lacks booze,a Bloody Fairy requires absinthe.
 Well a few months back I was having one of those mornings, and our dear friends Jane and Patrick were with us.Over a round of pre-lunch drinks Jane told me that she wanted to invent a take on the Bloody Mary and call it a Bloody Nora, and we had a discussion about what would go to make a bloody good Nora.Well ñora peppers would be a start I suggested.Jane had never heard of a ñora pepper,so I explained...
The ñora is an ingredient indigenous of Spanish cooking.Pronounced “NOR-a”, these chilli peppers are from the Capsicum annuum species, which is part of the plant genus Capsicum. They are closely related to bell peppers. These chillis are also known as pimiento choricero , and are sometimes referred to as the paprika pepper because of their intense and sweet-fleshed taste,which is the basis of the paprika produced in Spain.

The Ñora pepper´s appearance is somewhat similar to cascabel chillies, with a heart-shaped body (approximately 1” tall by 1” wide) and a glossy, wrinkled flesh that is dark red in colour.
Native to the Valencia region of Spain, these are the most commonly used chilli peppers in Spanish cuisine. They are rarely used fresh; they impart a deep red colour to dishes whether used whole, sliced or crushed.
  Columbus brought back numerous Capsicum annuum chiles from his voyage to the New World, and it is believed that he left the early ancestor of this chilli with the Spanish monks of the Yuste monastery. These monks then shared it with their brothers in the congregation of La Nora in Murcia, which is where it gets its name. Today, Nora Chillies are primarily cultivated in the Valencia region, which is located on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula fronting the Gulf of Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.
Ñora peppers are used in crab cakes, chorizo sausage, rice dishes like arroz a banda and paella, mashed potatoes, romesco sauce, soups, stews and sautéed vegetables. They also pair well with chicken and seafood, especially cod, octopus and rockfish.And now my friend Jane and I add a whole new meaning and flavour sensation to the Ñora when we introduce her to Bloody Mary.
Our recipe for the perfect Ñora
Makes 2 x 125 ml servings,to make a pitcher multiply 
by the number of servings you require

1 Ñora pepper,rehydrated overnight in 100ml vodka,
(discard seeds and flesh of pepper after infusion)

2 dashes Worcester Sauce
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 dashes of Tabasco

1/2 tsp sriracha sauce
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
150ml fresh or very good quality canned tomato juice
pinch of celery salt

One third fill a glass with ice. Add the pepper infused vodka, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, celery salt Worcester sauce,Tabasco, horseradish and sriracha. Pour on the tomato juice, Stir vigorously then season with black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings.Serve with Victoria Coren-Mitchell´s poker faced muffins.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Curry makes the world go round

Here I am four days after Christmas, in elasticated waist jogging bottoms, cooking turkey curry with a pitcher of Bloody Mary on the go.Its time to regain some sense of normality while struggling with a fridge load of leftovers.Curry makes the world go round.A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound can buy us many different styles of curry from across the globe.And what shouts curry louder than anything? - Christmas left overs.Turkey, pork,vegetables,maybe lamb if you opted for an unconventional Christmas like Ottolenghi proffered.
A jar of mass produced curry paste off the supermarket shelf may well go half way to emulating the flavour you tasted in your local "punjab" "Malabar woodlands""Thai-Chi" "Chutney mary""Pok Pok"or "Sukho Thai" but won´t match the taste of a home made curry paste.
Curry pastes are easy to make from scratch.For years I have been making a Thai green Curry paste.I thought this time I would try my hand at a Thai "red" curry paste.Red curry paste makes for excellent Thai curry, including curry chicken and ​seafood curries, ​beef curry, ​vegetarian curries and fish curry. Or add a dollop of this red paste to flavour Thai soups, noodles or other dishes.Homemade curry paste makes curries way way tastier, and  the process from pestle and mortar to mouth is not a lot more time consuming, and it´s much healthier too!
Home made Thai red  curry paste
1 shallot (or 1/4 cup chopped red onion)
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, minced
1 to 2 red chilies (or 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or 2 to 3 tsp. Thai chili sauce)
4 cloves garlic
1 thumb-size piece ginger, sliced)
2 tbsp. good quality tomato puree or ketchup
1 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tbsp.Nam pla,Thai fish sauce
1 tsp. shrimp paste
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. piri pri flakes
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice 
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process well to create a fragrant Thai red curry paste.
To make a simple curry sauce with your curry paste
1/2 can coconut milk
1 tbsp home made peanut butter
2 tbsp home made red curry paste
3/4 tbsp nam pla ,Thai fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Vegetable stock for thinning (optional)
Put coconut milk in a pan.add the peanut butter,curry paste,sugar,garlic,fish sauce.Whisk over a low heat for 15 minutes or until a desired consistency is reached. You can now add the rest of the ingredients for your selected choice of curry.

Friday, 28 December 2018

The turkey and paxo sandwich tradition,a guilty pleasure

Stuff your face with a leftover turkey and Paxo sandwich, the one that tastes so much better than actual, proper Christmas lunch

It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that dehydrated breadcrumbs and onions aren’t exactly the most wonderful thing a home cook can shimmy to the table with, but the flavour combination of onion, sage and a healthy dollop of butter is a beautiful thing, served with some white wodgy sandwich bread, left over turkey and some bread sauce.If you have no clue what Paxo is, then please don’t unsubscribe when you hear that it is, in fact, a packet mix of sage and onion stuffing.Oh I know, I feel so very ashamed of myself,one who is against laboratory created"meat" made from plant cells.
But, it is the stuff of my childhood, as I am certain it is for many a Brit like me of middle class beginnings! (Like Bisto gravy and Oxo stock cubes, Paxo is a bit of a British institution!).
Paxo stuffing was invented in 1901 by John Crampton, a butcher, who wanted to make Sunday lunches more exciting. And for me as a child he certainly did that.
Available in a range of seven great-tasting flavours, there was a stuffing designed to complement all kinds of meat.
The  favourite for us Brits was Paxo’s traditional Sage and Onion stuffing, the perfect compliment for your roast dinner.
Goodness gracious ,great balls of stuffing

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Rhubarb and ginger liqueur ice cream with home made bourbon biscuits.A pudding to see the New Year in

The gorgeous Grace Dent might well describe this as "less of a pudding, more a rumination on the brevity of the human existence and the farce of maintaining a small bottom".

 A while back our dear friend Kristine introduced  Edinburgh Gin´s Rhubarb and ginger liqueur into our lives.We treated it as a regular gin and served it as a gin and tonic,which was very nice thank you,but we never toyed with the idea of drinking it as a liqueur.Then this recipe came along that changed my way of thinking.Marrying it into ice cream was too much of a good thing to miss out on.An ode to the classic cook’s flavour pairing, sweet spring-crop rhubarb marries with warm spicy ginger.Stir that into a custard, freeze it,serve it up with the contrasting texture and flavour of some home made bourbon biscuits and YUM,who said puddings are too sweet? We tried it out on our friends from the UK last weekend and it was thumbs up all round.The recipe was in the September edition of olive magazine and is a stroke of genius from British chef Chris Boustead of the Islington restaurant and wine shop,Linden Stores.Thank you Chris we will surely come and visit your neighbourhood hangout on our next visit.

3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
300ml double cream
250ml whole milk
174 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp Edinburgh Gin rhubarb liqueur
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar using electric beaters until pale and fluffy.Put the cream,milk and vanilla extract into a pan and bring slowly to a simmer.Pour the hot cream mixture over the eggs,while whisking.transfer back to the pan and cook over a ow heat,stirring until it coats the back of a wooden spoon or reads 86º on a digital thermometer.Pour into a bowl,cover the surface with clingfilm and cool completely,then add the rhubarb liqueur.Pour into an ice cream machine and churn until frozen.
100g butter
40g plus 1tbsp caster sugar
10g soft golden sugar
1 egg,beaten
150g plain flour,plus extra for dusting
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
Using electric beaters ,cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.Add the egg and remaining dry ingredients, then beat until a stiff dough forms.Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180c/gas 4.Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to a large rectangle the thickness of an Euro coin and then cut into 6cm x 4cm rectangles.Put onto baking paper lined trays and prick neatly with a fork.
25g dark chocolate
50g butter
75g icing sugar
50g soft golden sugar
1tsp whole milk
10g cocoa powder
Melt the chocolate and then cool.Beat the butter and sugars with an electric whisk until soft and fluffy,then add the milk,cocoa and melted chocolate.mix well and put into a piping bag.pipe the filling onto four of the biscuits,then sandwich with four more.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Thumbprint Chocolate Truffles,a last minute gift

Still searching for some foodie Christmas presents? Forgotten to buy someone  a present? Someone turns up unexpectedly with a present and you feel you need to reciprocate? Perhaps you just fancy having some home made munchies to indulge in front of that classic Hollywood movie matinee.The answer is simple,make your own.
It’s perhaps unlikely that I or any other dear food-loving individual would waste any chocolate cake but it does happen.Many of us bake cakes and many of us end up with some cake cut offs. A good number of people tend to throw the cut offs away for a simple reason,they don’t know what to do with it! However, there is no need for that!
One way to use leftover chocolate cake is to make truffles and you can play with the rest of the ingredients to have some fun.I topped mine with candied fruits and assorted coloured sprinkles.What a gay day I had.Happy Christmas everyone!!!!!
Thumbprint Chocolate Truffles
    200g dark chocolate
    250g chocolate cake, crumbled
    150g heavy cream
    Assorted candied fruits

    Chop chocolate roughly into pieces and melt them in a bain marie.
    Heat heavy cream in a small saucepan until it boils.
    Mix heavy cream in with the melted chocolate.
    Pour it on crumbled cake.
    Mix them until combined well.
    Let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
    Then take pieces from it with the help of a small spoon.
    Make balls from these pieces.
    Place pieces of candied peel on each of them and press them gently with your thumb.

      Saturday, 22 December 2018

      Ravioli en brodo and with Alfredo vodey oh dough!

      I want to tell you something and that is, despite what you might think  raviolis are easy to make. I think they would be easy if you have a pasta maker,which I don't. {Update: I do now thanks to my dear friend Janny who has become gluten free and moving house so is giving away things she is not going to use! This is the pasta maker she gave me and I love it and it has changed my life.So much so it has expelled my culinary kryptonite. You know, that one thing that you’ve never made because it’s intimidating or it seems overly complicated. In my case home made ravioli. I love to eat it,especially when it has 
      a pumpkin or butternut squash filling, but it has always seemed like . . .ya know...
       It makes ravioli making SO EASY. Plus if you have two pairs of hands (the casting role of glamorous assistant was bestowed upon the thespian ) and a ravioli cutter to streamline the process,it makes it even easier.
      Ravioli is a perfect last-minute meal for those evenings when you're just too tired, lazy, or broke to head to the supermarket and pick up fresh ingredients. But the difference between prepackaged ravioli and the tender, thin-skinned homemade stuff is about as drastic as that between instant pot noodle and "The real McCoy" ramen; A tin of Campbell´s canned cream-of-mushroom and a rich, complex bowl of homemade chanterelle soup. Sometimes, the shop-bought stuff will do. And sometimes only the real deal will suffice.
      Ravioli with Alfredo sauce
      1 cup whole milk
      1 12 tbsp butter
      1 12 tbsp flour
      3 tbsp parmesan cheese
      12 tsp garlic, minced
      1 dash black pepper
      Melt butter in sauce pan on stove top with medium heat.
      Gradually whisk in flour.
      This will create a yellow paste.
      Gradually add milk, whisking until incorporated and no lumps are present.
      Continue to whisk until hot.
      Usually 3-5 minutes.
      The longer you cook the base (without the cheese) the thicker the sauce will be.
      Add parmesan slowly, again whisking until incorporated.
      Add crushed garlic and pepper.
      Cook for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.
      Remove from heat.

      Luckily, fresh homemade ravioli also happens to be easy to freeze (assuming, unlike me, you don't eat it all), so there's no reason why you can't enjoy it on even the laziest of evenings,and its perfect for those "other suppers" like at the moment when you are not pulling out all the seasonal entertaining stops.
      Tortellini en brodo ("in broth") is a traditional first course for Christmas feasts in northern Italy.This is one of Emilia-Romagna’s typical dishes. Because it calls for only a few ingredients, make sure they are of the highest quality, especially the chicken stock (now is a good time to use any you might have in your freezer).What I did for a quick Christmas week supper was to make something similar but not traditional,I substituted ravioli for the tortellini and delicious it was too.
      Italian brodo di carne is much more delicate than English or French meat stocks. I made my brodo with chicken bones and carcass (brodo di pollo)left over from the weekend.Like a frugal, and indeed sensible, Italian nonna I cut all the meat off the bones after making the stock and put it towards another meal.You can use any combination of beef,veal and chicken stock for a brodo, but avoid lamb and pork.If you don´t have the time or inclination to make it,you can use a good quality bouillon cube or powder in the same quantity of water as the stock.
      Ravioli en brodo
      makes 1.5 -2 litres/3-4 pints/1 2/3 -2 3/4 quarts

      1.5kg /31/4 lb assorted beef,veal and chicken cut into large pieces
      1 onion,halved and stuck with 3 cloves
      1 or 2 carrots,cut into pieces
      2 celery stalks, cut into pieces
      1 fennel stalk or or a few feathery fennel tops
      1 leek cut into pieces
      a handful of mushroom peelings or stalks
      6 parsley stalks
      1 bay leaf
      1 garlic clove, peeled
      1 ripe fresh tomato,quartered
      6 peppercorns
      1 tsp salt
      Put all the ingredients in a stock pot.A about 3 litres/5pints /3172 quqrts cold water,or enough to cover everything,and bring to the boil.The water must be cold to start with,so that the meat and vegetables can slowly release their juices.Set the lid very slightly askew for the steam to escape and turn the heat down to the minimum for the stock to simmer.The best stock is made from liq+uid that cooks at 80ºC/175º F,rather than 100ºC/210F(boiling point.using a slotted spoon,skim off the scum that comes to the surface during the first 15 minutes of cooking.Cook for about 3 hours.
      Strain the stock through a large sieve strainer lined with muslin or cheesecloth.Leave to cool and then put in the refrigerator.Remove any fat that has solidified on the surface.When there are only a few specks of fat left,heat the stock and drag apiece of kitchen paper(paper towel) across the surface,the fat will stick to the paper.
      taste the stock.if it is too mild,reduce over a high heat until the required taste is obtained.Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and keep in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

      Wednesday, 19 December 2018

      Bon bon de morcela recheado de maça em casca almendra crocante

      As Christmas creeps up on us we need to have some witty surprises up our sleeves to make our parties go hmmmmm.How about a Spanish take on a scotch egg? A spin on an almond coated chocolate truffle? Intrigued? I think you will be.
      This black pudding bon bon can be served as a canape or appetizer  as part of a meal that is created to entertain our friends and family,or why not, indulgently, even for ourselves? I can assure you that this blood sausage with roasted apple pulp, once you´ve prepared it for the first time, will make you want to make it again.It is rich and leaves such a good taste in your mouth that you will find it difficult not to repeat it. I was always  the one who opted for the soft centres when the chocolate box was passed around and I must warn you that as its name suggests this is a savoury incarnation of a chocolate and therefore the taste that stands out is sweet; but  the crunchy touch of the almond crocante and the mellowness of the roasted apple pulp in the centre, I can assure you sceptics, is well worth a dare to try.
      Bon bon de morcela recheado de maça 
      em casca almendra crocante
        2 morcellas 
        1 dessert apple,Pink Lady,Jonagold or Braeburn
        125g almond crumbs
        1/2 cup flour
        1 beaten egg

        oil for frying
        Wash and dry the skin of the apple well.Place in a baking tray. Bake at 180º for approximately 30 minutes or until the apple appears to acquire a nice tan colour.When the apple has finished roasting, place the apple on a flat plate and remove the skin with a spoon, remove the pulp little by little discarding the core and pips.With the pulp prepare small balls the size of a hazelnut.
        With a thin knife make a vertical cut down each side of the morcela and then remove the skin. Divide the morcela into the number of portions you require, depending on the size you prefer of black pudding truffles to be.Roll the portions out flat with a rolling pin.
        With your hands mould the meach portion and give it a hollowed out shape in which to be able to place a portion of roasted apple pulp. With the help of your hands, gloved or clean, cover the apple pulp and make a spherical shape enclosing the apple.
        Roll each truffle in flour,then the beaten egg and finally the almond crumb.Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer and with a spider or slotted spoon lower the truffles into the oil.
        Do not put too many in the oil together when frying.
        Each truffle should be no bigger than a golf ball,approximately 3-4 cm.
        Do not keep the oil too hot.Let the truffles fry for 3 or 4 minutes.
        The truffles should fry slowly so that they get crisp and golden.If the oil is too hot the truffle will fry too fast.

        They can be served either hot or cold,and can be made in advance and then re-heated in the oven before serving

          Tuesday, 18 December 2018

          Pinhoada,torrão natal

          Let the celebrations begin! Nothing says Christmas like the pop of a cork, fresh fruity flavours and a toast to great friends, and of course sweet treats for under the tree? Yes, please!
          Pinhoada is a very common confection at this time of year in Portuguese fairs and markets, being made with pine nuts and honey. The name derives exactly from the fact that the pinhão is the core ingredient of a recipe that is so easy to make.
          Although widely known across Portugal, this delicacy is typically Alentejan, being a typical creation of Alcácer do Sal, one of the regions of Portugal with the largest production of pinhões.Alcácer is known for the production of salt, pine nuts and rice but there are also interesting wines, artisanal honey, canned fish,other regional sweets, and much more.My favourite discovery however was "pinhoada,” this highly-addictive nougat made with local pine nuts and honey. There're many good reasons to visit the wonderful town of Alcacer do Sal,but the taste of the pinhoada is justification alone.The proliferation of pinhoada across the country may have been due to the fact that Alcácer do Sal is an important road junction in southern Portugal; the pinhoada thus became a popular sweet, sold to travellers passing through the area, and thence quickly became well-known and sought after throughout the entire country. 
          200 ml of honey
          200 g of pine nuts
          Delicate oil for greasing

          Lightly toast the pine nuts in the oven, spread them on a smooth surface and let cool.Put the honey in a pan and simmer for 2 minutes on a low heat.
          Stir in the pine nuts and boil for another 2 minutes. 

          Remove from the heat and, with a spoon, spread the mixture over a smooth surface,lined with a sheet of baking parchment  previously greased with a little delicate flavoured oil. 
          Cover with a second sheet of baking parchment and with a rolling pin, roll across the top form a uniform layer. 
          When the pinhoada is cold, cut it into pieces or break into shards with a heated knife. Place on paper or cellophane and wrap.

          Monday, 17 December 2018

          Malted Chocolate brownies with flor de sal, Horlicks re-invented.

          Stuck in a nostalgia trap or gravitating toward things that remind us of less stressful times?  Perhaps nostalgia only extends to things that we cared passionately about as kids, like Nutella. Or maybe we just don’t like being reminded of the period in our lives when we had no choice over what time we wanted to go to bed and only had a hot drink as consolation. Many adults my age will remember drinking either Ovaltine or Horlicks as a child, usually served hot at bedtime. For post war generations these malted milk drinks were believed to be a surefire way of putting even the most rambunctious kids to sleep, which of course made them popular with parents.
          Neither of these proprietary beverages had any ingredients that actually caused sleepiness, but the combination of the hot milk warming your stomach and the velvety mouthfeel of the malt definitely contributed to a sense of contentment and drowsiness. Getting me to sleep as a child was an entire process. It started with a warm bath, book reading time, make believe story time and the last sure-to-work trick: a warm mug of Horlicks.It was that moment of weightlessness before nodding off that tasted like the creamy vanilla-wheat flavour of Horlicks.
          The reputation that both drinks have for inducing sleep is ironic when you consider that both drinks were originally conceived as fortifying energy drinks meant to provide extra nutrition for children, the elderly, and sick people. Horlicks was included in the food rations of polar expeditions and given to soldiers during the first World War. Ovaltine was served to athletes during the 1932 Olympic Games and taken along Edmund Hillary’s expedition up Mount Everest.
          Horlicks had a head start on Ovaltine,when in 1873 two English immigrants, brothers William and James Horlick, set up a factory in Chicago to produce a nutritional supplement called Diastoid. It was so successful that in the 1880s they created a powdered drink version and called it Horlicks, promoting it as a nutritional drink for “infants, invalids, the aged and travellers.”
          They were soon followed by Ovaltine, which was invented in 1904 in a Swiss laboratory by chemist Dr. Georg Wander and his son, Albert. They developed a drink using barley malt and named it Ovomaltine, whose name is a blend of “ovo” (from the Latin word “ovum”) and “malt.” However, a misspelling in a trademark application for the United Kingdom caused Ovomaltine to become Ovaltine, which is how the drink is mostly known outside of Switzerland.
          Unlike Horlicks, which was sold widely from the start, Ovaltine was originally only available in pharmacies as an energy booster for fatigued people and was mostly consumed by the upper and middle classes. However, the drink grew so popular that it was eventually exported overseas and made more accessible to a wider range of people.
          Most people’s preferences for either Horlicks or Ovaltine seem to depend on what they were used to drinking in childhood. I came to Ovaltine later in life, and I initially found the chocolate flavour off-putting. I was expecting something closer to hot cocoa, and Ovaltine tasted slightly chalky to me at first, despite the creaminess of the malt. Conversely, people I know who were regular Ovaltine drinkers have expressed their disgust at Horlicks.In the 1970´s and 1980´s the expression `make a horlick´s of something´,meaning ´make a mess of it´, enjoyed some currency in upper class slang.In this context Horlick´s might have represented a euphemistic substitution for bollocks.
          New thinking has informed us that these malted drinks are great when added to desserts, and there is a proliferation of cookie and brownie recipes on the internet featuring Ovaltine or Horlicks as a key ingredient.I don’t drink Horlicks on its own anymore, but
          having recently discovered the Horlicks social cook book I will now be adding spoonfuls to recipes for that familiar malt taste.
          Horlicks has figured this out as well—its website offers suggestions on incorporating the malted powder into some unexpected dishes, including spaghetti carbonara and roast sausages. Maybe, like other objects with a strong nostalgia factor, Ovaltine and Horlicks simply need another medium in which they can be consumed.
           Malted Chocolate Brownies with flor de sal
          Adapted from the Horlicks cook book,the malted element to these brownies add another dimension, making them even more indulgent and irresistibly gooey than usual. Serve with a scoop of ice cream for a decadent dessert or for your own personal enjoyment. I don´t know about you,but I´m ready for bed.funny that.
          dark chocolate 200g, broken into chunks
          milk chocolate 100g, broken into chunks
          butter 250g
          soft light brown sugar 325g
          malted milk powder or Horlicks 5 tbsp
          eggs 4 large
          plain flour 150g
          cocoa powder 50g
          sea salt flakes a couple of pinches
          Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4 and line a 20 × 30cm baking tin with baking parchment. Put the chocolate, butter, sugar and malt powder in a saucepan and gently melt together, stirring occasionally. Lift off the heat and leave for 5 minutes before the next stage.
          Beat the eggs, one by one, into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Sieve over the flour and cocoa and stir in. Scrape into the tin and scatter with a couple of pinches of sea salt flakes – just a little. Bake for 30 minutes on a middle shelf, then cool completely before cutting into squares, or chill overnight for slightly firmer brownies. Serve with a scoop of ice cream.

          Monday, 10 December 2018

          The new putanesca, and deconstructed comfort cooking with Ottolenghi

           Quince, cheesecake with amaretti and hazelnut crumble,recipe below

          Oh is for  Ottolenghi,and what Oh what would we do without him? I have to say I am so obsessed with Ottolenghiness that if there was a fan club I would be the self professed secretary."Ready or not" he says "a month of inevitable overindulgence is upon us." So what we need to allow ourselves this indulgent period is to let comfort cooking ease us into the season gently.Make ahead is always a good start, and he is a master of providing us with recipes in this category.Deconstructed I like too, being able to prepare  all the elements in advance and then, come the time, just compose the plate.Here are two recipes showing the pared-back brilliance of his book "SIMPLE."First up is a simple supper dish which is short on time,has less than 10 ingredients,and is something you can make ahead with pantry ingredients.It´s perfect for the lazy cook and is easier than you think.Its almost a simple take on putanesca.Make the sauce three days ahead if you like and keep in the fridge until needed.
          Second up is not a recipe from Simple but from his Saturday column in the Guardian.
          ´Tis the season of the quince and I will be considering serving this indulgent pud as a lighter alternative to the richness of others.
          Pappardelle with harissa,black olives and capers
          We like this spicy, but Ottolenghi´s given quantity of harissa can easily be reduced.
          I always keep a jar of home made harissa in the fridge.I did not have pappardelle to hand so substituted with tagliatelle.
          serves four
          2 tbsp olive oil
          1 large onion,thinly sliced
          3 tbsp harissa
          400g cherry tomatoes,halved
          55g pitted black olives
          209g baby capers
          15g parsley,roughly chopped
          500g dried pappardelle,(or another wide flat pasta)
          120g greek style yoghurt 
          Flor de sal
          Put the oil into a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, and place on a medium high heat. Once hot, add the onion and fry for 8 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until soft and caramelised. Add the harissa, tomatoes, olives, capers and ½ teaspoon of salt and continue to fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes start to break down. Add 200ml of water and stir through. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid of the sauce and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes, until the sauce is thick and rich. Stir in 10g of the parsley and set aside.
          Meanwhile, fill a large pot with plenty of salted water and place on a high heat. Once boiling, add the pappardelle and cook according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain well.
          Return the pasta to the pot along with the harissa sauce and ⅛ teaspoon of salt. Mix together well, then divide between four shallow bowls. Serve hot, with a spoonful of yoghurt and a final sprinkle of parsley.

          Quince, cheesecake with amaretti and hazelnut crumble
          This is a deconstructed cheesecake, which makes the process from bowl to mouth a lot quicker. All the elements can be made ahead. The cheesecake itself will keep in the fridge for three days, as will the quince and syrup – simply bring the fruit back to room temperature a few hours before serving, and gently heat the syrup to loosen it. The crumble will keep for two days in an airtight container at room temperature – bake in a very hot oven for a few minutes to crisp up.
          Prep 12 min
          Cook 1 hr 35 min
          Serves 4

          For the poached quince
          1 lemon
          1 large quince (320g)
          70ml red wine
          70g caster sugar
          ¼ tsp ground allspice
          ½ tsp vanilla paste or extract
          1-2 oranges – skin finely shaved, to get 3 strips, then juiced, to get 3 tbsp
          145ml pomegranate juice

          For the cheesecake
          100g goat’s cheese
          30g icing sugar, sifted
          200ml double cream
          ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
          ¼ tsp ground allspice
          ½ tsp finely grated orange zest

          For the crumble
          70g unsalted butter
          50g amaretti biscuits – the hard ones, not the chewy variety
          50g Hobnob biscuits
          50g blanched hazelnuts, well toasted and roughly chopped
          ¼ tsp ground allspice
          Flaked sea salt

          Heat the oven to 190C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Juice the lemon, reserving the squeezed halves. Set aside one tablespoon of juice, then put the remaining juice and the squeezed halves in a large bowl with plenty of cold water.
          Peel the quince, then cut it in half lengthways. Cut each half into eight segments, so you have 16 segments in total, putting them in the lemon water as you go, to prevent them discolouring. Once you have cut all the segments, use a small, sharp knife to remove the core and seeds – the segments will now look like crescent moons.
          Whisk the reserved tablespoon of lemon juice with the wine, sugar, allspice, vanilla, orange juice and peel, 100ml pomegranate juice and 120ml water. Tip the wine mixture and drained quince segments into a high-sided baking dish that’s just big enough to hold the segments without them overlapping too much. Cover tightly with foil, bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 35 minutes, basting two or three times, until the quince is soft and has taken on the colour of the wine. Add the remaining three tablespoons of pomegranate juice and leave to cool.
          Meanwhile, put the goat’s cheese and icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Whisk slowly to make the cheese as smooth as possible, then add the cream, vanilla, allspice and orange zest, and whisk again on medium speed, until the mixture thickens enough to hold its shape – about one to two minutes – then refrigerate.
          For the crumble, gently heat the butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat for about six minutes, swirling the pan from time to time, until the butter begins to foam, turn brown and smell nutty and caramelised. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. Roughly crush the amaretti and Hobnobs, then mix in a bowl with the hazelnuts, allspice, the cooled butter and a generous pinch of flaked salt.
          To serve, spoon a large scoop of cheesecake mix into each bowl and top with some crumble. Spoon the quince and syrup on top, and finish with more crumble and a final drizzle of syrup.

          Friday, 7 December 2018

          Pomegranate,the true forbidden fruit

          Breaking into a pomegranate requires serious strategy. There are approximately a million seeds in there, waiting to break free and adorn your new white t-shirt. But biting into the sweet, tart, juicy seeds hiding in that complicated mess of a shell make it all worthwhile. Wine red in colour,bursting at the seams (thats when you pick them) and flavoured like a strong cocktail, pomegranates (Punica granatum) conjure up our hedonistic desires. The fruit is featured in as many, or more, Greek myths than both olive branches and grape leaves. Based on the historical geography of the Middle East where the Garden of Eden is presumed to have been located, some scholars believe that pomegranates were more likely the forbidden fruit that tempted Adam and Eve,not apples. Ever since, the red orbs and their fleshy, kernel-like seeds have been the muse of history’s great artists, from Botticelli to Picasso. This is the time of year that gives you the chance to try a host of sweet things that you wouldn't at any other time.These are a great and much lighter alternative to Christmas pudding and look festive too.
          Aromatic pomegranate jelly SERVES 4
          pomegranate juice 700ml
          orange peel 4 long strips
          lemon peel 2 long strips
          6 thin slices of fresh ginger 
          green cardamom pods 12
          caster sugar 2 tbsp
          leaf gelatine12g (7 leaves approx)
          sliced oranges or clementines and a few pomegranate seeds to serve
          Pour the pomegranate juice into a pan. Add 4 long strips of orange peel and 2 of lemon to the juice. Crack the cardamom pods open with a pestle and mortar or other heavy weight then add the pods and seeds to the juice. Bring the juice almost to the boil. Stir in the sugar and let it dissolve. Switch off the heat and leave for 10 minutes for the spices and peel to flavour the juice.Soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of slightly warm water. When they have softened to a squidgy mass – a matter of a minute or two – drop the gelatine into the warm juice and stir gently.Pour the juice through a small sieve to remove the spices and fruit, and ladle into four glasses or moulds. Leave to cool then refrigerate overnight.Serve with slices of peeled orange and a few pomegranate seeds.
          Vanilla and yoghurt panna cotta with pomegranate jelly
          makes 5 ramekins or small glass tumblers
          For the panna cotta layer 
          3 gelatine leaves 
          100ml/3½fl oz double cream 
          100ml/3½fl oz full-fat milk 
          100g/3½oz caster sugar 
          1 vanilla pod, seeds only 
          300g/10½oz Greek yoghurt
          Jelly as above

          For the panna cotta, put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and leave to soak for five minutes.
          Place the double cream, milk, sugar and vanilla seeds into a small pan and heat though gently, just enough for the sugar to dissolve, stirring from time to time.
          Meanwhile, put the yoghurt in a large jug, stirring to loosen it up and set aside. Remove the creamy mixture from the heat once ready.
          The gelatine should be soft by now, so lift it out of the water and squeeze the excess water out. Drop the gelatine into the creamy mixture and stir until dissolved. Leave to cool to body temperature for about 10-15 minutes.
          Meanwhile, prepare your glasses. You will need 6 x 200ml/7fl oz  glasses for serving.Set them on a large tray or trays that will easily fit in the fridge.
          Once cool, pour the creamy mixture over the yoghurt and then gently whisk everything together.
          Carefully pour the mixture into the six glasses, dividing it evenly, without allowing any to spill out. Carefully place the tray in the fridge and leave to set for 1-2 hours, or until nice and firm. To start the setting process off quickly, you can always put them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before popping them in the fridge to finish setting.
          Meanwhile, for the jelly layer,follow the recipe above making sure it is really cool so as to not melt the panna cotta on impact.
          Remove the set panna cottas from the fridge and pour the cool jelly over each one, dividing it evenly. Return the glasses back to the fridge for about two hours, or until the jelly is set firm.
          When you are ready to serve, top each panna cotta with pomegranate seeds and sit on a serving plate with a small spoon. These will keep for a few days in the fridge.

            Monday, 3 December 2018

            In pursuit of XO - lence

            my jar of home made XO sauce with a cheekily screen grabbed label  

            Christmas is coming and the store cupboard needs stocking up,but what with?
            I love it when I can easily make something at home and it turns out to be just as good or better than the more expensive manufactured brand. In this particular case a luxury item that saved me €15 or 12,50 British pounds sterling for a 220g jar!!!!
            I’m aware not everyone has a bottle of this delicacy in their kitchens, and may not feel like investing in a whole bottle for an one-off recipe,but while you can pick up a bottle from any well-stocked posh ingredients or Asian aisle of your supermarket, making a good imitation at home is simple,and if you are  a saucepot like me save the pennies in your purse for another day, and for something that is less achievable. And it I hope it will be near-irresistable  for you to simply want the satisfaction of making sauces at home. Either way, I thought you may be interested to make this at home since it’s something that, once you´ve tasted it, will undoubtably become an item that is always in your fridge, not just for Christmas but for life.
            What I am talking about is an iconic sauce hailing from Hong Kong, made from dried seafood (namely, dried shrimp and scallops, AKA “conpoy,”, salty Jinhua ham, shallots, garlic, chili, and oil. It may sound odd, but it is, in fact, epically delicious and an explosion of umami palatability that you’ll want to slather on literally anything and everything you can find.
             Stir fried seafood rice all the better for a dash of XO

            XO is a spicy seafood sauce that makes everything taste better. Fact. It can be used as a rub or in a marinade, served on the side, or used within a recipe.You won’t yet find it widely available in supermarkets, although savvy shoppers may have spotted it in their local Chinese grocer. But, chefs  have awoken to its umami superpowers this year and through press are providing plenty of inspiration for how to use it. It can be stirred through rice, bound through noodles, flipped into stir fries, or smothered over meat,cut through potato salad or even used it to create a chinese bolognese.
             I was mystified as to how to pronounce the name when I first came across it but it turns out that it is named after the ‘XO’, or ‘Extra Old’ designation used to classify Cognac by age. Being able to afford fine Cognac has something of a cachet in certain Asian circles and adopting the two letters as a name was clearly a clever marketing ploy to underscore the expensive delicacies used in the making of this most prestigious of Asian condiments… 
            No question, this sauce is a splurge on quality ingredients, and its glossy flavour can really transform a dish. When I set out to make my version, I decided that since I couldn´t source dried shrimp and scallop, here in the Algarve I'd desiccate the seafood myself. The process is simple, though somewhat time-consuming, and the results are quite exquisite (note that the seafood can be dried and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to a week in advance).I am sure like me once you´ve tapped into this unusual commodity you will be eating it in copious amounts.Bon appetit or as they say in Hong Kong qǐng màn yòng.
            How to make home made authentic XO sauce  

            180g medium sized raw prawn (about 9 headless before peeling)
            180g fresh scallops (about 3)
            4 tsp Flor de sal
            4 large cloves garlic, peeled
            1/2 inch fresh ginger,
            2 whole serrano chiles, stemmed and seeded
            4 ounces good quality air cured ham,prosciutto,jamon iberico
            1 tbspdark brown sugar
            1 cup peanut oil
            1 tsp soy sauce
            1 tsp black sesame oil

            Peel the prawns, discarding their shells.
            Using paper towels, blot the prawns and scallops until dry and tacky. Cut the prawns in half lengthwise, removing the dark blue vein down the back as you go. Slice the scallops horizontally so each is in 4 thin rounds.
            Transfer the seafood to a small mixing bowl and, using your fingers, combine it very thoroughly with the salt.
            Lay the sliced and salted seafood in a single layer on a large, clean kitchen towel and lay another one on top. Cover the top towel with a board and weight which combine to equal about 5 pounds (2.5 kg). Let the seafood press at room temperature for 3 hours.
            Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack over a rimmed baking tray and cover it with a thin coating of vegetable oil.After the 3-hour drying period, move an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 200 F. Lay the pressed seafood on the rack in a single layer. Place the seafood in the oven and prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let the seafood dry for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The edges of the scallops will be slightly brown, and all of the seafood will be dry and leathery, but not stiff.

            To make the sauce. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, mince the garlic and ginger until they stop whirling inside the machine. Add the chillies, prawns and scallops, ham, and sugar and process until very fine, running the machine for about 1 to 2 minutes and stopping to scrape down the edges of the bowl as needed.
            Scrape the entire contents of the food processor bowl into a medium skillet, add the vegetable oil, and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium heat, and once the mixture starts to sizzle, lower the heat as needed to keep it bubbling, but not splattering. Stir it frequently, scraping up the solids from the bottom, until the sauce becomes very dark coffee brown all over, about 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir to cool slightly. Once the bubbles have subsided, add the soy sauce and sesame oil and stir to combine.
            The sauce is ready to use right away, though it will become even better after you allow the flavours to meld for a day. Scrape the sauce into a container with a tight-fitting lid and let it sit at room temperature for 1 day before refrigerating. The sauce will keep at least 3 months refrigerated, and several months in the freezer.

            Saturday, 1 December 2018

            Orecchiette alle cime di rapa, lend me an ear

            Orecchiete(from Italian orecchia, meaning 'ear', and -etta, meaning 'small')

            This is quite possibly the most iconic recipe from the region of Puglia.Orecchiette with turnip tops are the Apulian recipe par excellence! Who does not know or has never eaten a nice plate of orecchiette with turnip tops?
            Cime di rape is a green leafy vegetable grown in Puglia in winter, also known throughout the world as broccoli rabe, rapini or turnip tops.It is packed with flavour and, as the vegetable cooks, it becomes creamy in texture.At a pinch broccoli can be used as a substitute.This is probably one of my all time favourite pasta dishes. The remarkable thing about it is how the greens almost melt together with the pasta. This comes from the old Pugliese technique of boiling the pasta and vegetables together and then sautéing them in garlic, oil, and anchovies. If you’re not a big anchovy person, don’t worry; once they’re melted into the oil, the flavour is so subtle that you’ll barely notice. If you’re making this dish for people who don’t love anchovies, don’t even tell them they’re in there! They’ll never know! Wherever you are in the world as long as you can source the key ingredient,Orecchiete then the rest,the greens are most probably growing around you and if not you can substitute.
             If you are in Portugal you can use Grelhos in place of the cime di rapa that one should use if being authentic,and in the tradition of Doce conventuais would probably be called "priests ears". In America they use rapini or broccoli rabe ,which in Spain is called bimi.Preparing this dish  is really easy and the result is absolutely amazing.Enlivening the taste of turnip tops are garlic and chili that create a really irresistible sauté.
            Orecchiette with turnip tops
            Ingredients for 2 people:

            orecchiette: 250g
            200g broccoli rabe,cime di rapa,bimi,rapini,grelhos
            olive oil
            Garlic: 1 large clove thinly sliced
            Half long red
            chilli chopped finely, plus extra dried flakes (optional)
            6 anchovy fillets

            For de sal
            toasted breadcrumbs for garnish
            Discard the tough bottom part of the cime di rape and chop the rest roughly on the diagonal.
            Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the garlic,cook gently till golden.
            Toss in the anchovies and stir until they melt into the oil,then stir in the  chilli  Cook, stirring, allowing everything to soften, for about 5 minutes.
            Add the cime di rape and combine well.
            Season to taste and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the cime di rapa has wilted.
            Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette in boiling salted water until al dente.
            While the orecchiette is cooking, skim off about a ladleful of the white, starchy pasta water and add it to the cime di rapa sauce, stirring to combine.
            Drain the pasta well and add it to the sauce in the pan and combine well.Continue cooking until the orecchiette is coated and cooked.
            Transfer to a communal serving bowl, sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil.
            Your orecchiette with turnip tops are ready and the original Apulian recipe does not include the addition of cheese ...Season to taste and serve.