Friday, 19 July 2019

Poke fun.Barely seared and and cured teriyaki salmon poke

Let’s be frank, the Hawaiians stole the poké (po-kay) bowl from the Japanese and their original“chirasushi”,just as the Japanese borrowed tempura from Portugal.Poke and “chirasushi”, or scattered sushi, are flavours united by the huge Pacific Ocean.
The Hawaiian dish poké was traditionally made by fishermen, combining trimmings from their catch of “ahi” tuna (or sometimes octopus) with seaweed and sweet onions. Serving it on a bowl of rice with soy sauce and sesame oil is a nod to the Japanese migrants who worked on the Hawaiian pineapple and sugar cane plantations in the late 19th century. 
Far more recently, poké’s popularity has been lifted by hipsters and health-faddists. For the former, it fits with their obsession with sriracha, mayonnaise and pickly, fermented stuff, and for the latter with their carb-, gluten-, meat-free urges. As poké slips neatly into both camps’ food arsenal, it has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Gone are the days when pasta restaurants were the only ones where one could choose everything that made up the dish, from the type of pasta to the ingredients and the sauces. The same logic is now available in spaces with poké bowls, trendy Hawaiian bowls that look good on any Instagram feed and are eaten with chopsticks.
They began to become famous a few years ago in cities like New York or London. The Portuguese are among the largest consumers of rice and fish in the world and so the Portuguese cities not wanting to be left behind now abound with establishments where you can poke to your hearts content.
 Having become a dedicated follower of the new fashion of the tropical Hawaiian poké and the delicate Japanese chirasushi, I am stealing the concepts back and making them even better by combining the the smokiness of slightly scorched salmon pieces with the delicacy of smoked salmon,avocado, cucumber and shredded nori for a more interesting poke.
Barely seared and and cured teriyaki salmon poke bowl
150g skinless salmon fillet, pin-boned 
150g smoked salmon
2 spring onions, white part very finely chopped, dark green part finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp minced ginger
1⁄2 tsp shichimi togarashi or dried chilli flakes, plus extra to serve (optional)
1 tbsp soy sauce
3/4 tbsp honey
1 dessert spoon sesame oil
150g sushi rice, well rinsed
2 baby baby cucumbers, sliced into rounds
dessert spoon rice wine vinegar
1 small ripe avocado, sliced
1/2 sheet nori, shredded

Cut the salmon into 1.5cm cubes and place in a bowl. Add the white part of the spring onion, garlic, ginger, shichimi togarashi or chilli flakes, soy sauce, honey and 2 teaspoons of the sesame oil and toss until well combined. Set aside in this pimped-up teriyaki sauce to marinate for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the rice in a saucepan, add 500ml water and bring to
the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stand, without removing the lid, for 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. Stir through the dark green part of the spring onion and the remaining sesame oil.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the marinated salmon and cook, turning, for 1–2 minutes or until the sides are slightly scorched. Remove from the heat.
Toss the cukes with the vinegar in a bowl.
Divide the rice among four bowls and top with the smoked salmon, scorched salmon, cucumber, avocado and shredded nori. Scatter over extra shichimi togarashi or chilli flakes, if desired, and serve.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Todo retrato conta uma história,por trás de cada prato um outro.Every picture tells a story,behind every dish another one.

Homage to a time honoured tradition,cured sardines on a washing line
Todo prato pode contar mil de histórias, se houver alguém para prestar atenção. No entanto, a culinária de Portugal é mais narrativa do que a maioria, uma complexa tapeçaria de invasões e colonizações que escorrega e desliza entre continentes e religiões. 
Tal como muitas tradições em Portugal, as técnicas e técnicas mais populares e consagradas pelo tempo permaneceram connosco ao longo de muitos séculos, desde o período do domínio dos Mouros em Algarve.

A secagem em ar livro, utilizando sol e vento, tem sido praticada desde a antiguidade para preservar alimentos. A água é normalmente removida por evaporação (secagem ao ar, secagem ao sol, fumo ou secagem ao vento). Não sao se ainda é uma prática existente aqui no Algarve, e outras partes de Portugal, mas lembro-me claramente há doze anos de ver os senhores mais velhos da aldeia aqui a pendurar peixes para secar ao ar e ao sol nas linhas municipais de lavagem fora dos balnearos publicos.Para saudar este tradição tempo honrado eu criei um prato para ser incluído como parte do nosso menu de degustação,( uma coleção de pratos inspirados e influenciados pelos nossos doze anos de vida aqui em Portugal.
Every dish can tell a thousand stories, if only there’s someone to lend an ear. Yet Portugal’s cuisine is more narrative-heavy than most, a complex tapestry of invasions and colonisations that slips and slides between continents and religions.
Like many traditions in Portugal, the most popular and time-honoured skills and techniques have remained over many centuries dating right back to the period when the moors ruled El al Gharb, the Algarve.
Open air drying using sun and wind to preserve food has been practiced since ancient times .Water is usually removed by evaporation (air drying, sun drying, smoking or wind drying).I dont know if it is still an existent practice here in the Algarve and other parts of Portugal,but I quite clearly remember twelve years ago seeing the older gentlemen of the village here hanging pepared fish up to dry in the air and sun on the municipal washing lines outside the balnearos publicos (public bathhouse)To compliment this time honoured tradition I have created a plate to be included as part of our up- coming tasting menu, a collection of dishes inspired and influenced by our twelve years of living here in Portugal.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Get the mojo working

Is time worth more than small pleasures that pass us by? The crunch of raw vegetables against a steel blade,the fragrant and heady aroma of hand torn basil. The pungent tear inducing sting to the eyes of finely sliced onions.These are fabulous sensations that I feel give a dimension to food prep. Certain rules must be observed however- we know basil must be hand torn not subjected to the steely precision of a knife, otherwise it will bruise.Lemon juice is essential to stop avocado discolouring.A happy medium can be achieved however between hands-on cooking and labour saving devices.
Grinding your own spices for example, has the advantage of price: it’s much cheaper and less time consuming to buy bulk spices in their whole form than air dry peppers and chillies, parsley, mint and fruits in the sun.A bag of freshly ground spices can save you so much time and effort as long as you make sure you use it pretty pronto and dont let it slip to the back of your spice rack for months or even years.
Second rule of thumb is to ensure you buy from a reliable source with a responsible use by date on the product.You just dont know how long those unstable stacks of glass jars you always knock over in the supermarket,have been sitting there under bright lights.
 I have always bought my dried herbs,seasonings and spices from Algarve spice.They always have something new to offer each time we visit their stall.At the recent Mercadinho de Verão em Cacela Velha the promotion was Mojo  verde.Once sampled there was no looking back, this seasoning is a spark of genius.
Mojos (pronounced "MO-hos") originated in the Canary Islands and are sauces made with vinegar,fresh herbs, garlic,chilli and oil. They are served cold as an accompaniment to potatoes, meat, and fish.or just as a dip to dunk your fresh bread into. There are generally two versions: mojo rojo (red sauce) and mojo verde (green sauce), and they can sometimes be spicy.The red one always more so than the green.
Fresh coriander, parsley ,green chilli and  cumin gives this mojo an intense flavour and deep green colour, but it does not add too much  heat. Make this mojo ahead of time,just add some extra virgin olive oil and store in a tightly-sealed container and refrigerate to have on hand as a sauce to serve with lunch or dinner dishes.This is not to be confused with its  visually similar counterpart chimi churri. Its great with prawns but I have to say my favourite way to get my mojo working is with new potatoes cooked in lots of Flor de sal so they go wrinkly and then soak up the sauce.I buy bags of tiny weeny new potatoes in the market and our dinner guests love them and on one occasion there was even a request for "those tiny little herby new potatoes we had last night."So glad you enjoyed them Dhr.Van Delft.

1/2 Kg of small potatoes
100 gr of coarse Flor de sal
handful mint leaves

Green Mojo Sauce
1 tbsp mojo verde dry seasoning 
1/2 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil 
Spanish sherry vinegar (to taste)
Mojo prawns with baby potatoes 
green beans and mojo dressing
serves 2
The dressing on this salad really brings it all together ,the piquancy of the mojo and the saltiness of the capers with the freshness of the herbs will give you a little pick-me-up during your day.
400 g shelled raw prawns 
100g green runner beans
top,tailed cut in half and then sliced again lengthways   
500g Baby potatoes
Make up 1 quantity of green mojo sauce as above.
pour half the mojo over the prawns and save the rest.Set aside in the refrigerator to marinade until ready to cook.
Boil the potatoes with the salt and mint ( 20 mins or until tender)Set aside to cool.
cook the runner beans and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile in a bowl large enough to take all the ingredients make up your mojo dressing.
Mojo dressing
1/4 cup basil leaves
!74 cup flat leaf parsley
1/2 tbsp capers
tsp dijon mustard
sherry vinegar to taste

When ready to serve, toss the potatoes in the mojo dressing,add the green beans and finish with the prawns on top

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Turks-mex pork koftas with sweet-and-sour onion petals and brava less potatoes

Lamb mince is the preferred meat for koftas but as a pork enthusiast, I thought I’d make these boundary-less koftas with pork mince instead.There are countless variations around the globe, but they’re all based around a fatty, juicy, unctuous piece of meat on a skewer and a set of condiments that are ideally matched to it, as well as to each other.
 This version is Tex-mex which has been tweaked to the Turkish palate,Turks-mex  I call it. Pork is healthier, leaner yet equally as delicious. Spiced with cumin, cinnamon, all spice, black pepper and cayenne, these plagiarised koftas are not falling short when it comes to flavour. Garlic and the crucial herbs, aromatic mint,peppery parsley and crushed coriander bring these koftas to life. The infusion of the dried thyme, chilli flakes and lime zest are what make this dish so special. But what would you serve them with? Some sweet and sour Ottolenghi onion petals, swimming in a tart pomegranate syrup.They are a perfect companion to grilled meats, because they cut through the fattiness like a knife.You could serve some creamy guacamole for dipping on the side,but I opted for some roasted red potatoes with an aioli sauce,omitting the spicy tomato sauce that would have made them bravas.
 I wanted to do it without frying them.  Of course, I am not saying you cant fry them, but I try to avoid it when possible (except with the croquettes, there is just no way around that one).  I used a trick to make these potatoes really crispy even though they are baked –  Baking soda!  Its magic.  First you give the potatoes a quick par boil in water with baking soda, then you bake them.  The baking soda breaks down the cells of the potato which creates more surface area, so they almost make their own coating that gets them extra  crisp in the oven. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen for that little gem.
Turks-mex style pork koftas 
makes 8 kofta kebabs
500g Pork Mince
2 Garlic Cloves, minced

50g breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, Finely Chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Mint, Finely Chopped 

½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon 
½ Teaspoon Ground Allspice 
1 teaspoon pul beber, Aleppo chilli flakes
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin,
1 Teaspoon cayenne

1 Teaspoon turmeric
finely grated zest 1 lime
4 spring onions, finely sliced
1tsp dried thyme
1½ Teaspoon ground Black Pepper
1½ tsp seasoned Flor de sal

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Soak your wooden skewers in cold water for at least 15 minutes.
Set your oven to 180c and a line a baking tray with tin foil. Smear a tablespoon of oil over the foil to help prevent the koftas from sticking to the bottom.
Place everything in a large bowl, and get your hands in there only if they are clean and begin to mix all of it up, making sure all those spices get over all the mixture.
Once thoroughly combined, roll up 8 equal balls. Begin to roll them between your palms into a cigar shape once you have the shape stick the skewer through the middle. Continue 
till they are all done. They roughly come out about 4 inches long. shape into fingers or patties and carefully place them on the oiled baking tray.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

Ottolenghi Sweet-and-sour onion petals

500g golf-ball-sized red onions (about 12), peeled and halved lengthways
75ml olive oil
Salt and black pepper
400ml 100% pomegranate juice
3-4 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Heat the oven to 220C /425F/gas 7. In a large bowl, toss the onions with two tablespoons of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until softened and charred, then leave to cool.
While the onions are roasting, bring the pomegranate juice to a boil in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Turn down the heat, then simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to about 70ml and is the consistency of a loose maple syrup. Leave to cool; it will thicken as it sits. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the chives with the remaining 45ml oil and a good pinch of salt.
Pour the pomegranate syrup on to a large platter with a lip, and swirl it around to cover most of the plate. Use your hands loosely to separate the onions into individual petals, then scatter them haphazardly over the syrup. Spoon over the chive oil and serve with the grilled kebab.

Friday, 5 July 2019

O taco com tentaculo e favas Algarvia

I am currently developing a new tasting menu.When Luciana Bianchi stayed here in July 2017 she convinced me that a tasting menu should tell a story not just be a self indulgent evening where a chef shows off those which he considers to be ten of his best dishes.It has taken me all of two years to get my head round what the story behind a Casa Rosada tasting menu should be.The penny finally dropped and I decided that it would be a perfect chance to showcase a selection of the finest classic Portuguese dishes that I have learnt to love and cook over the last 13 years.Each one has a story. The menu will be called "Uma historia culinaria"and will take the epicure through the history and development of Portugal and Spain in ten dishes.Along the journey, among many other themes, there will be an opportunity to discover and enjoy what the Portuguese took to Japan in terms of cooking and how Vasco de Gama´s legacy from the spice trails  influenced the way we cook in Portugal today.Some of the dishes came easily to me and I have ended up with too many to present.The recipients of the menu will be epicures not Gourmands, (I hope).So now the whittling process begins and for two of the themes I have combined two classic dishes to make one plate.The most revered octopus in Portugal comes from Santa Luzia, a small village near Tavira in the Algarve. The locals proudly call it the octopus capital, and on the other side of Tavira is the coastal town of cabanas where Noelia,whom I consider to be the most intuitive cook in the region, taught me how to cook "favas algarvia" (broad beans with portuguese chouriço) one of my favourite dishes on her menu.So with too many dishes to present I have found a way to highlight octopus from  Santa Luzia with the classic favas algarvia,brought together on one taco shell. 
"Favas à Algarvia"
serves 4-6
500g (1lb) shelled fresh (or frozen) favas (broad beans)
(about 3kg/6lb12oz in their pods)
2 tbsp olive oil
160g (53/4 oz) Chouriço sausage,chopped
1 small red onion,chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
125ml(4 fl oz /1/2 cup ) white wine
handful of mint and coriander leaves torn
splash of red wine vinegar

Rinse the shelled beans and put them(or the frozen beans if using) in a pan of lightly salted boiling water and boil for about 5 minutes.Drain and peel off the outer skins.many of them will split in half but that´s fine.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and sautée the sausage chunks for a couple of minutes.Add the onion and cook,stirring,for a few more minutes until the mixture is sticky and the sausage is brown.
Add the garlic and stir until you start to smell it,then add the white wine and a couple of twists of pepper.Cook until the wine has evaporated a bit,then stir in the broad beans and cook for acouple of minutes over a high heat so the flavours mingle.There should be just a bit of sauce in the bottom of the pan.Stir in the mint and coriander at the end with a splash of red wine vinegar.Check for seasoning and spoon over a warmed through taco.Top with a portion of grilled octopus tentacle.Serve.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Take a break. Frozen organic Yogurt Bark with fresh blueberries and rasberries

Survive the heatwave.Frozen yoghurt ,blueberries and raspberries,whats not to like? Inspired by, and a new take on, a retro dessert from The Ivy.
 Back in the nineties,it was the simplest and most moreish pudding you could ever have wished for.Served up in every house you were invited to, it was the go to dinner party classic. All you had to do was keep a bag of mixed frozen berries in your freezer.When you wanted to wow your friends you just put some frozen berries on to dessert plates and leave them at room temperature to lose their chill for a few minutes.A white chocolate and cream sauce was then poured over them before serving. This reinvention is even simpler and can be served at any time of the day.Frozen yoghurt bars studded with gorgeous blue and red berries. This is so straight forward, even a child can do it.A very “cool” recipe for summer: cold bars of organic blueberry yogurt, with fresh blueberries and raspberries.Make a batch and its always to hand in the freezer when you feel like snacking.Just break a bit of bark off to make the perfect lazy breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack or dinner dessert with a difference.

Frozen organic Yogurt Bark
with fresh blueberries and rasberries

The Ingredients
Organic Blueberry Yogurt
Fresh blueberries
Fresh Raspberries
chopped nuts optional if you want to make it more "barky"

How its done
On a flat pan, suitable for the freezer, lay a base of  organic blueberry yogurt without removing much, so the colors don’t mix. Add fresh blueberries and raspberries on top, and freeze it all for at least six hours. When it’s frozen, take it out of the container and split it into small portions with your hands.
Add pistachios or your favourite nutty obsession for a bit of crunch 

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The little green salad

A little green salad can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be

Sometimes I think of this blog as an ever-expanding cookbook and very often I feel that certain gaps need filling. So what’s missing? Yesterday as I was throwing together my interpretation of what I consider to be a standard green salad, I realized what is missing is a side salad recipe. Every cook needs a little green salad recipe in their repertoire, in the same way as every style conscious woman needs a flattering little black dress in her wardrobe. They’re both fundamental building blocks.There is perhaps nothing worse than a boring bowl of green leaves served at a table with a meal.I know it’s hard to get over enthusiastic about salad and let’s be honest salads do not generally excite people.The main ingredient in a green salad is the lettuce. But just as lettuce by itself does not a salad make, using only one kind of lettuce in a salad can be dull, and a dull salad means a missed opportunity.A perfect green salad strikes just the right balance of textures, flavours and colours. Colours? Should a green salad just be composed of a perfect blend of ONLY green ingredients ? It appears not.Red onion, radish and tomato all seem to pop up on "green" salad recipes.More often than not, a green salad is eaten as an accompaniment to another dish – often a wildly unsuitable one. No, a green salad is meant to accompany just-warm or room-temperature foods. It works best with either a good steak, or as a counterpoint to rich and/ or salty foods where the salad acts as a consistent,complementary palate-cleanser.That all American classic combo soup and salad is exactly what I´m talking about.The French will often eat a green salad as a separate course. Throw an oeuf mollet at it and let some crispy lardons do the talking and you have a meal in itself. So here´s what we have if we decide to go green.The choice is yours on the green leaf front ...Green leaf, baby gem,crunchy Cos or Romaine Lamb’s lettuce, Mizuna, Butter lettuce,iceberg,watercress,rocket and spinach are just some of your options.If you want some vegetables for a contrasting texture add.....French beans,asparagus,avocado,fava beans,green olives, endamame beans.Just make sure your broad beans dont still have their knickers on .There is nothing worse than a broad bean still in its skin looking like pants that have greyed with age.To add a bit of colour use Oak leaf lettuce (feuille de chêne as the french call it) radish, slivers of red onion,cherry tomatoes,kalamata olives. Finally,the dressing:KEEP IT SIMPLE,lemon, olive oil and some parmesan should do it.For best results, use a vinaigrette dressing,mayo-based dressings are way too heavy for this kind of salad,although,as you know I´m a great fan of Caesar.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

O bolo chocolate da fraude com azeite e flor de sal

It was the Thespian´s birthday this week, and we all know how much he loves his chocolate. Although he has been a little abstemious of late, I thought I would surprise him with a chocolate cake.This is an amazing cake for cheats.The olive oil keeps it lovely and moist, it might have something to do with the subtle, earthier quality olive oil imparts in chocolate. Typically, any good quality oil could be used but I opted for an extra virgin olive oil that imparted a slightly sweet and fruity flavour, with an almost imperceptible presence of bitter and spicy notes. Instead of real chocolate you use cocoa powder.The proportion of cocoa powder to flour in the recipe is relatively low; it yields a rich brown cake, but not one chocolatey enough to please the likes of me. I changed the proportions of the specified cake tin to make it taller and tweaked the cocoa quantity to lend more dominance and ended up with a nearly pitch-black cake. I found in this the perfect chance to realize my chocolate olive oil cake dreams. I think we should all stop what we are doing right now and make this,especially when flecked with Flor de sal.How can you possibly resist ?
He loved it!!!!
Cheats Olive oil chocolate cake
Serves 10
7 eggs separated
1 cup caster sugar
425ml (1 2/3 cups) delicate flavoured olive oil
1 cup self-raising flour,sifted

13/4 cups cocoa,sifted
125ml (1/2 cup) warm water
1/4 cup sugar when beating the egg whites

Preheat the oven to180C(350F)
Beat the egg yolks with caster sugar until fluffy.If the mixture tends to be thick,add 1 tablespoon of warm water.This will help the mixture turn fluffy again.
With the beater on medium speed add the olive oil bit by bit,as you would making mayonnaise.Add the dry ingredients to the mixture on low speed and beat until completely combined.Add the water.Whip the egg whites until thick,add the sugar and beat until it dissolves.Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl and gently but swiftly fold in the egg whites.when well combined pour into a greased 8x8inch(20 X 20cm) square cake tin. and bake for 1 hour until cooked.

165g dark chocolate cut into small pieces
135ml whipping cream
35g unsalted butter diced
1 Tbsp Amarguinha,Amaretto or other almond liqueur

 Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat almost to boiling point,then pour it over the chocolate using a rubber spatula to stir until all the chocolate has melted and come together with the cream.Add the butter and liqueur and beat until smooth.
Transfer the icing to a clean bowl and cover with cling film.Leave at room temperature until the cake has cooled completely and the icing has started to set.You need to catch it at the point where it spreads easily but isn´t hard.DO NOT speed things up by refrigerating.
Spoon a generous amount on top of the cake and swirl with a palette knife

Sunday, 16 June 2019

The slotted spoon can catch the potato!

 Pure summer comfort

Question:What happens when you mix one nations ancestry with another  nation´s deeply rooted traditions?

Answer:One nation´s flavours are in the blood and the other nations are in the method.

There is a classic example of this in a soup most aptly named Réconfort.The name comes from the French word to comfort and restore the body and soul.At first glance this soup appears to be traditionally French,full of bright flavours and even brighter colours but bears a huge similarity to a classic Italian minestrone.Making this soup brought to mind one of my favourite Songs from  "Into the Woods" when Stephen Sondheim gave Jack´s mother the wonderful lyrics
Slotted spoons don´t hold much soup..
....but a slotted spoon can catch the potato!
In terms of a Réconfort soup the particular recipe would not include potato but should include some sort of meat,whether it be meatballs as in this version,shredded chicken or perhaps beef. I suppose it depends what time of year you are serving it and how hearty you intend it to be.This incarnation features veal meatballs.It makes a lovely light summery supper with a difference, and I feel it restores body and soul perfectly.
serves 6
2 white onions,peeled and halved
1 red onion
4 carrots
2 celery stalks,halved
5 garlic cloves
3 large ripe fresh tomatoes,peeled,seeded and coarsely chopped
7oz8200g) parmigiano reggiano rinds
8 asparagus spears,halved
Flor de sal
5oz(140g) orecchiette pasta or other short pasta
9oz(250g) stale bread,cut into large cubes
generous 3/4 cup (200ml) milk
1lb 2 oz (500g) finely minced veal
teaspoon dried oregano
teaspoon dried basil
teaspoon dried parsley
teaspoon dried chilli flakes
teaspoon crushed garlic
Flor de sal
freshly ground black pepper
In a large pan,combine the onions,carrots,celery,garlic,tomatoes,parmesan rinds,and 2 litres of water.Cook over low heat for 30 minutes.Fish out the carrots and celery,slice,and set aside.Continue cooking for 2 hours.Strain through a fine mesh sieve and return to the pan.Cook over medium heat until reduced by one third,about 10 minutes.Add the sliced carrots and celery and the asparagus.Season to taste with salt and set aside.
Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to a boil over medium heat.Add the pasta and cook until al dente.Drain and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the bread and milk and let soak until soft,about 5 minutes.Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid.Return to the bowl,add the veal,the dried herbs and seasonings and mix until well combined.Season with salt and pepper and mix again.Form 24 x  3/4" (2cm)  meatballs.Bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat.Add the meatballs and cook for 10 minutes.Add the pasta.ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Roasted vegetable gazpacho

sunshine radiating from a bowl of soup
I thought recently while making yet another variation on the theme of gazpacho,that I could write a book about it, then I discovered that one was already in existence.On examining the contents of the book I realised that I had never made any of the 50 types of gazpacho on the list.The chief reason I suppose being that most of my recipes were my own creations,or re-interpretations.I have notched up ten gazpachos to date and continue my search for further inspiration.
Gazpacho is a hearty soup that is served cold, making it a perfect way to cool down and replenish the body on a hot, summer day in Andalucía. There is the classic gazpacho recipe, but there are many other variations. Gazpacho is typically served along with the main course, or afterward. Some Spaniards serve it in a glass, as a beverage to accompany the meal. 
Here are my top ten favourites

Cordoban samarejo
Beetroot gazpacho
Ajo blanco
Melon and ham gazpacho
Avocado gazpacho
Cherry gazpacho 
Tomato and Pequillo pepper Gazpacho with Sherry
Indian gazpacho
Watermelon gazpacho
Roasted vegetable gazpacho (above)

My favourite to date has to be the watermelon incarnation.The amazing thing here is that coincidentally it is gluten free.Traditionally gazpacho is made with day old or stale bread.The watermelon gives the soup the same texture.
My most recent venture was the  Roasted vegetable gazpacho from the young Irish chef Mark Moriarty,who cooked the soup at Reffetorio.I had cooked all the ingredients the night before as a side dish for our guests,so all I had to do was add some passata and blitz it all in the blender.The soup would work equally well made from scratch.Here is the recipe.....
Serves 6
2 garlic bulbs
2 aubergines,peeled and sliced 1/2inch (1 cm) thick
4 courgettes,sliced 1/2 inch(1cm)thick
2 red bell peppers
1 fennel bulb,trimmed and thickly sliced
6 canned whole peeled tomatoes
10 basil leaves
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp flor de sal
1/2 cup(125ml) extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350ºF(180ºC) gas mark 4.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Wrap the garlic in foil and bake until soft,about 30 minutes.Let cool,then squeeze out the garlic and set aside.Meanwhile arrange the aubergines on a prepared baking sheet and bake until soft,about 20 minutes,set aside.
Arrange the courgettes on the second lined baking sheet and bake until soft,about 15 minutes,set aside.
Char the peppers over the open flame of the stove until the skin is completely blackened.(If you dont have a gas stove,char under a hot grill.)Transfer to a bowl,cover,and let sit for 5 minutes.peel,seed and roughly chop,set aside.
In a food processor combine the aubergine, courgette, peppers, fennel, tomatoes, basil, garlic, vinegar, sugar,and salt and pulse until smooth.
With the machine running,stream in the olive oil.
Season to taste with more salt.
Transfer to a bowl,cover and refrigerate to chill.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Culinary hedonism

There are few things as memorable as the aroma of home cooking.Summer for me says buxom, sweet beef steak tomatoes in a panzanella salad, the original home for leftovers. They leak sweet juices over your lips and into the golden-brown croutons of fried bread and across huge, breathy basil leaves that are so fragrant they’re practically narcotic.
Just a hint of perfume and food can become powerfully alluring. Just a few drops of a fragrant essence can make commonplace dishes memorable and good dishes great.Vanilla, citric flavours,yuzu, saffron, ginger,and and a spray of cucumber mist or tomato water from an atomiser. How about rose-infused steamed bass,or a peach-jasmine sorbet,
Autumn quinces steeping in wine and bay leaves
Aroma permeates every cuisine, from ancient to modern, in every culture and at every level.Aroma, not taste, is our primary experience of food. Without aroma there is no flavour. By focusing on aroma, we intensify all aspects of food, and immeasurably enhance the experience of cooking and eating.
Lavender takes creme fraiche to another level, while white truffle makes for a haunting perfume.I love a cumin vinaigrette or an orange blossom custard.
I am a firm believer that a dish should deliver on the flavour of its featured said ingredient.If I am perusing a menu and the dish I have chosen says Chilli,ginger or lemon,I expect those flavours to come shining through loud and clear.Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of a scantily clad bowl of pasta or a half dressed salad. 
A Caesar salad should have the strongly defining taste of anchovies and parmesan,not just a coating of a drab mayo.
One of the reasons I enjoy cooking so much is because the result often transports me to another happy time in my life. The taste of homemade raspberry ice cream reminds me of hot summer days as a child picking and eating raspberries and coming home with blood-red hands and not a care in the world.There is a certain joy to peeling beetroot, getting purple hands and spilling turmeric on your jeans while currying flavour.And while on the subject of culinary stigmata, even carrots leave their mark.
Travelling in foreign countries brings with it distinctive smells.The smell of a Portuguese market is completely different to that which you would experience in Borough market, London. Pass by an Italian market with a whole lot of gabbing going on, and you not only get an  entertainment reminiscent of a Fellini film, but the air is rich with exotic and alluring culinary aromas,celery in particular.Vai passagare beneath the window of an Italian kitchen in Florence and a flurry of nonna´s soffrito hits you.Brush past a pot of basil on a terrace or crush the fragrant leaves for a waft of the Med.
People cook their kind of foods in their homes so indian homes are permeated with the aroma of spices, such as curry.The Italians literally reek of garlic,its in their bloodstream for life.No vampires there mother.
You can tell where you are in the world by the smell of food.Sardines grilling outdoors in Portugal.The heady aroma as you walk into a store specialising in Jamon in Spain.The smell of spices emanating from a souk, if its Monday it must be Morocco.There is nothing quite like the smell you get as you enter a French fromagerie or the smell of mint or coriander wafting off a market stall.One of the best scent experiences happens when you walk into a home where the kitchen has been in full use — dinner’s almost ready and the aromas of the ingredients are lingering in every corner of the house.
 fresh from the vine with a distinctive aroma
Lets put it to the test,shall we? I found it quite difficult to choose a particular recipe that would deliver on hedonistic aroma and flavour.Onions sautéeing in butter and olive oil came to mind,curry,coconut and tomatoes fresh from the vine.It was not until yesterday when I made a prawn risotto that it came to me.This Thai inspired recipe is for me definitive.It fills the kitchen with a heady aroma while you make the stock.It answers the head to tail philosophy of using all parts of the shell fish,and delivers on strong independent flavours shining through the finished dish. Chilli,lemon,coriander,garlic,shallot and of course prawn,represented both in the stock and the shelled meat. Stirring can be strangely soothing, as you'll find when preparing this summery seafood risotto.

Lemon infused prawn risotto with chilli, 
peas and coriander
Serves 4
400g raw prawns,in their shells, de-frosted if frozen
3 tbsp olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded, half sliced and half finely chopped

1½ l fish stock, preferably home made
50g butter

2 shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic grated on amicroplane
handful coriander including stalks
300g arborio rice
1 small glass white wine
200g frozen peas
juice 1 lemon, and zest (optional)

Peel the prawns, keeping the heads and shells. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the prawn shells and heads with the sliced chilli until they have toasted and changed colour. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.
Bring the stock to the boil and keep on a low simmer. In a separate pan, melt half the butter over a medium heat. Stir in the onions and sweat gently for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured, stirring occasionally. Stir the rice into the onions until completely coated in the butter, then stir continuously until the rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent.
Pour in the wine and simmer until totally evaporated. Add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring with each addition until absorbed. Stir through the prawns and peas. Continue adding stock a ladleful at a time and stirring the rice over a low heat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slightly firm, starchy bite in the middle). The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not longer. Cook until the prawns change colour. Stir through the chopped chilli, lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Let the risotto rest for a few mins, then serve, topped with the lemon zest.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Conchiglioni pasta with asparagus,almond, and turmeric bechamel

When most people think of pasta the first thing that comes to mind is heavy tomato-based sauces.This particular recipe is a very non-traditionalist approach to the pasta sauces we have become used to, but is light and perfect for a balmy summer supper.It has entirely new-to-me flavour combinations,and offers a refreshingly new alternative from the tomato excess we experience at this time of year.
With  spring fully sprung, we see new produce appearing in the  markets, something that will remain for a few months and we should definitely take advantage of is asparagus. It is one of those symbolic summer vegetables that in May and June I find Irresistible to create dishes with. Low in calories, high in fibre and water, asparagus is a delicate and refreshing product.I picked up some new season asparagus while across the bridge in Spain.Always wanting to be aware of food miles and the origin of the food I am purchasing, I dutifully examined the minimal plastic label attached to my bunch of asparagus,the main stems being held together by a recyclable rubber band.The source I found was a small agricultural cooperative founded 20 years ago on 17th January, 1995, in the region of Ventorros de San José (Loja),Western Granada where a group of thirty farmers devoted to their farming, decided to create a small cooperative aimed to boost the commercialisation of their production.400 kilometres (250miles)from field to plate satisfied my conscious. This bunch of asparagus was ethical and had not been shunted around the world and back again.I was happy and set about incorporating it into a pasta dish along with some local Algarvian almonds and an amped up bechamel sauce.I hope you like it as much as we did.As a possible addition some crispy fried ham or pancetta and some parmesan could have been added.
Serves 6
1/4 cup (30g whole almonds
6oz (180g) asparagus,cut into2-inch(5cm pieces
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper
20g butter
21/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
11/2 cups 350ml milk
1 tsp flor de sal
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
600g conchiglioni rigati,lumaconi or other shell like pasta

Preheat the oven to 325F (160C /gas mark 3).line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Arrange the almonds on the lined baking tray and toast in the oven until golden brown,about 6 minutes.roughly chop and set aside.
In a medium frying pan,heat 5 tablespoons water over a medium heat.Add the asparagus and cook until al dente,about 10 minutes.Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.Meanwhile in a medium saucepan,melt the butter over a medium-high heat until foaming.add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until bubbling,1 to 2 minutes.Remove from the heat and slowly add the milk,whisking constantly,until the mixture is smooth.return to the heat and cook,stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula,until the sauce begins to boil and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon,10 to 12 minutes.remove from the heat and stir in the salt and turmeric.
Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil over a medium heat.add the pasta and cook until al dente.Drain well.Toss with the asparagus and bechamel.Divide among 6 bowls and scatter the toasted almonds over the top.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Collecting lemons by the pound

My windfall at the moment is lemons.I´m having to think on my feet literally as every day  they come tumbling off the tree like a set of yellow balls rolling out of a lemon lottery machine. When life hands you lemons, you can make a lot more than lemonade.You can preserve them Moroccan style or use their acidic zing to brighten almost everything.Who would have thought you can even freeze freshly squeezed lemon juice in ice cube trays to preserve in small amounts. It's nice to have on hand when you forget to buy lemons for a recipe and haven´t got the time to pop out for just that one item.Lemon juice works as a natural household cleaner and it gets rid of odours too.If you have animals, lemon juice is a natural alternative to harmful weedkillers .For natural highlights squeeze some lemon on your hair before going out in the sun A little lemon juice, splashed into a dish at the very end of cooking, can be transformative. Even if its citrus notes are too subtle to notice, lemon adds a bright freshness, a finishing touch. It's a cook´s unheralded secret weapon.Sauces aside they amp up your baking ability.Some tart lemon makes for a wicked tart and while on the subject of tarts my rediscovery of the Shrewsbury pudding tart will dispose of 3 lemons from your glut while at the same time bringing an intense natural colour to your cooking.

If you have a penchant for a lemon tart try Peter Gordon´s and that will use up half a dozen lemons from your surplus.I recently baked a lemon pound cake with a lemon drizzle for double the citric intensity and when I was baking it I realised I had the added bonus of the kitchen smelling like a bakery,with a heady aroma of citrus.

Syrupy lemon pound cake 
Cheery, puckery, and tender, this lemon pound cake is what golden sunshine and happiness would look like if you could slice it and put it on a plate.Pucker up peeps, this lemon pound cake brings a triple threat of lemon and all its glorious tartness. First, there is lemon zest and juice in the batter. Second, the cake is soaked in lemon syrup, and to finish, the cake is coated with lemon icing.Pound and drizzle cake all in one.
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups (350 g) bread flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
Zest from 3 lemons
1/3 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup lemon juice, from about 1 lemon

For the lemon syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice, about 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water

For the icing:
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 Preheat oven to 325°F.
2 Prep the pan: Butter the bottom of a loaf pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper so it covers the bottom of the pan and goes up the long sides of the pan like a sling. The short sides shouldn’t be covered. Leave enough parchment hanging over each side so that you can easily lift the loaf out of the pan.
3 Whisk dry ingredients: Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
4 Begin making the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, butter, and lemon zest on medium to medium high for 8 minutes. Stop occasionally to scrape down the bowl.
Add the sour cream and beat for one more minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. One at a time, add the eggs and egg yolk, scraping down the bowl between additions.
Add the lemon juice and beat for 1 more minute scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through, and once more before adding the flour.
5 Add the flour to the batter: Set the stand mixer to stir (or the lowest setting) and add the flour mixture. Stir for about 1 minute or until the flour is just incorporated. Shut off the mixer and remove the bowl.
Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and finish folding the ingredients together. The batter will be thick and velvety.
6 Bake the pound cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
7 While the lemon cake bakes, make the lemon soaking syrup: In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, combine sugar, lemon juice, and water. Stir occasionally and bring to a low boil.
The syrup is ready when it looks transparent and is no longer cloudy. This should take about 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool.
8 Soak the cake with syrup:  Once the cake has finished baking, remove it from the oven. It will have a slight crack down the center. That’s ok. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
With the cake still in the pan, pour half of the lemon syrup over the entire cake. Let it soak in. Then pour the remaining syrup over the cake. Let it continue cooling in the pan for another 15 minutes.
Run a knife along the ends to help release the cake. Use the parchment sling to lift the cake out of the pan, and set it on a baking rack to let it cool completely.
9 While the cake cools, make the icing: Melt the butter,add the powdered sugar. Whisk together while adding the lemon juice one tablespoon at a time.
10 Frost the cake: Once the cake is completely cool, pour the icing over the lemon pound cake. Gently spread the icing so it completely covers the top. It should be white and thick. Slice and serve.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Box clever

There is a clue in the dressed leaves on which the box has been sitting
I was watching a cooking show on television the other day and it just came to me.A new twist on how one presents a Caesar salad.The chef on the show was deconstructing the Caesar.It looked delicious but involved a sous-vide egg mayonnaise,a lot of work for a go-to meal that should be ready in less than 20 minutes, something that should be straight forward and simple.What do I know?
I've never been a fan of elaborate, vertical food presentation or stacking,that´s best left for a club sandwich and there is a good reason why it is held together with a skewer.
 Well imagine you are seated in a restaurant apprehensively waiting for your food to arrive and suddenly you are presented with a teetering assemblage of ingredients,which you then have to figure out how to approach the task of getting it from plate to mouth.
Do you start picking ingredients from the top? Pierce through everything and hope for the best? Being  impatient to get stuck in I usually take a fork to the pile and give it a good topple,ruining the chef´s precious presentation.  
To me, the best plating is when the plate continues to look good even after you have eaten half the plate, not when it looks like a demolition site before you have even begun.Aha demolition site,I know I have just dissed it but I think it could become part of my plan.I have created a clearly organized and systematic way of eating a Caesar salad that no one has ever dared come up with before.The actual salad is served,concealed in a toasted bread box with a lid.That is the first stage.It provides a bit of theatrical suspense before you take the lid off the box.
Lid removed,the promised pleasure of eating a delicious Caesar salad lies before you
Then there  is a bit of a surprise as to what is inside.There is a clue in the dressed leaves on which the box has been sitting
.The box and the lid form the crouton part of this illustrious salad. Curiosity gets the better of you, you remove the lid and hey pandora,its not what you expected.No misery or evil like the Greek story that unfolded centuries ago but the sheer delight, joy and promised pleasure of eating a delicious Caesar salad lies before you.The next stage is what appeals to me most is smashing the box with knife and fork and breaking what initially was perhaps the worlds largest crouton into smaller bite sized fragments.This is when the resulting plate starts to look like a demolition site and you can begin to clean it up,
such fun!! 
the resulting plate starts to look like a demolition site

Here is how its done 

Take a standard white sandwich loaf 

Remove the crust and make rectangular loaf with straight sides

Cut a  slice 2" (5cms)thick 
and trim it to make a 9.5cm cube

With a circular pastry cutter ( 8.5cm diameter)
Cut into the cube to the depth of the pastry cutter
Carefully remove the cutter taking the circle of bread within it out of the cube.
Set the circle of bread aside this will form your lid.
With a teaspoon carefully round off the inside of the cube 
to make a bowl like shape and discard the resulting crumbs.

Line an oven tray with baking parchment
place your bread box  on the parchment and brush all over,inside and out
with olive oil.Do the same with both sides and the rim of the lid.
cut the remains of the loaf into thick slices and then into strips.
Cut the strips into bite size cubes and put them in a bowl 
with a few tablespoons of olive oil.
Toss well to coat them all over.
Transfer them to the baking tray with the box and its lid.

Transfer the tray to a medium hot oven and toast all the bread elements 
until golden brown and crisp
Remove from the oven and cool.
This can be done in advance.The toasted bread and croutons 
will keep in an airtight container for about a week.

While the bread is in the oven prepare the Caesar salad

2 cloves garlic
4 anchovy fillets
1Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 eggs plus two egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon
125ml white wine vinegar
250ml extra virgin olive oil
300ml sunflower oil
Blend all the ingredients in a processor 
until smooth and creamy. 

Roughly diced cooked chicken breast or whole anchovies
1 large head crisp cos or romaine lettuce, centre stems removed
and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
⅔ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, toss the torn up lettuce with the croutons and chicken. Add the dressing to taste, reserving any extra for another use. Add the Parmesan and toss again so the cheese and chicken adhere to the salad leaves.Serve immediately.