Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Cashew and squash linguine,supporting sustainable farming

What do international development and fine dining have in common? At first glance, not much. But if you ask what is fundamental to the success of both,the answer is clear: agriculture. Chefs for Change is a  movement uniting the world’s best chefs with the world’s most remote communities in transforming lives through sustainable farming.
Each elite chef joining the movement commits to act as an ambassador for a development project that transforms lives of rural food producers through sustainable farming.Farm Africa has had the privilege of being the official charity partner for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards for six years.What does this all mean and why is this issue so important?
Today, almost half of the world’s extreme poor live in sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority work in agriculture.
Effective agriculture has the power to change lives. It underpins prosperity, food security and stability the world over. Farm Africa focuses on transforming agriculture and managing natural resources sustainably.It champions a holistic approach that boosts yields, protects the environment and connects smallholding farmers to thriving markets.
This recipe is inspired by Farm Africa’s Cashew project and came winging its way across the web from South Africa where our friends Barbara and Chris are enjoying the sunshine at the moment.It instantly appealed and I put it on my "to make list."
Farm Africa is working with farmers to rejuvenate old cashew nut trees whilst simultaneously planting new seedlings. With thriving trees, farmers can increase their incomes and create more prosperous futures for their families.Farm Africa reduces poverty in eastern Africa by helping farmers grow more, sell more and sell for more.So if you make this dish spare a thought for this great organisation while you enjoy your meal.If you are in a position to give your support please do.Working together, the hospitality industry has the power to transform the lives of the world’s most remote rural communities. If you are a chef or work in the hospitality industry and are passionate about harnessing the power of food and agriculture to build a better world then Chefs for Change want to hear from you! Find out more about the movement by visiting the Chefs for Change website

Cashew and squash linguine
230g linguine
130g raw cashews, soaked for at least 6 hours
230ml vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
100g cooked and mashed butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Drain the cashews from the soaking water. Combine the soaked cashews and 1/2 cup of broth in a blender, and blend until completely smooth.Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, and then add the rosemary and cook for another 30 seconds.Pour in the remaining broth, blended cashews, pumpkin, and all spices. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, until all the ingredients are warmed and incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.To get the sauce extra smooth, blend it again at this point, but it is not necessary if you’re crunched on time.
Stir the sauce into the cooked pasta. Serve warm with extra cracked black pepper and/or additional chopped fresh rosemary.

It was like Sate meets Alfredo.The soaked and ground cashews make a creamy sauce without there being any butter,cream or eggs.Warming flavours of African spices, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon make this dish really special.It reminded me of dishes we had eaten all those years ago on the spice island of Zanzibar.I added a little of the pasta cooking water to the sauce before I drained the pasta. This gave it a slightly creamier texture.The recipe did not specify how the squash should be cooked but I oven roasted it in small cubes with some salt, pepper, chilli powder and ground coriander.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Gujarati gougeres, peas kachori (matar kachori )

These delicious balls of pea-green joy are an old Gujarati delicacy that are easy to tear apart and wolf down. Forgive the authors licence in calling them Gougeres as they are nothing like a gougere ( choux pastry buns filled with cheese) except in appearance, but I could not resist the visual resemblance. Serve them with a mint and yoghurt chutney on the side. They can be made on the spur of the moment almost entirely from items you may well already have in the freezer and store cupboard. If you don’t have a food processor, use a pestle and mortar and a potato masher.
Matar kachori are a flaky crisp fried (or in my case oven baked) pastry, filled with a spicy pea filling.In Hindi matar means peas and kachori is the flaky fried or oven baked pastry.They are like spicy empanadas.The filling can be varied from savoury to sweet,from potato and peas to lentils and even onions.These make a nice warm mid brunch or evening snack served hot with some spicy coriander chutney and of course an aperitif.I was half tempted to warm them through for breakfast.Well it is still winter after all,and whats wrong with bringing a bit of spice to the breakfast table.
Kachori, or other filled dough dishes, is a concept that’s known and loved in most cuisines around the world. I have done a few types of these; Polish pierogi, spring rolls, potstickers, pastillas and empanadas and I’m already scheming another dish that will happily sit in this category. Watch this space!
Pea Kachori
For the pastry
1 cup all purpose flour 
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1/4 cup warm water

½ tsp baking powder
In a bowl mix  the flour salt and baking powder,add the warm water,bring together to form a dough ball and keep wrapped in a damp towel until ready to use.

For the filling
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 cup frozen peas,
cooked and blitzed in the processor
½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander 
½ tsp dry mango powder,or substitute tsp of lemon juice 
½in piece root ginger, peeled and mashed to a paste in a pestle and mortar
1 fresh green chillies,
finely chopped and mashed to a paste in a pestle and mortar
Tbsp garam,chickpea flour
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp sunflower oil
1¼ tsp garam masala
¾ tsp salt

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and fry the cumin seeds over a low heat until fragrant Stir in the ginger and green chilli paste and the rest of the spices.Stir in the flour and sautée for 2 to 3 minutes.Stir in the peas and mix well to combine.
Make 8 balls from your previously made dough.Roll out into 3~4 inch rounds add a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each ring.brush some water round the edges and then bring the edges together like a purse and press the edges downwards and roll into 8 equal balls.oven 200C for 40 minutes until golden.  

Monday, 21 January 2019

Cranachan Cheese Cake,not just for Burns Night – but it is a very good excuse

".....In every job that must be done
there is an element of fun...

....the task you undertake becomes a piece of cake
....Just a spoonful of sugar helps the cranachan go down"

Cranachan: the uncontested king of Scottish desserts, or are there other pretenders to the crown? Unless your clan name is MacDonald and your family is one that celebrates Burns Night annually, you may well have missed sampling the Scottish whisky-spiked, raspberry-dotted, toasted pinhead oats and cream dessert known as Cranachan.
A traditional Scottish Cranachan is a very quick, easy recipe and is also a very festive recipe, so is perfect for any celebration and especially at Christmas, Hogmanay and rounds off a Burns' Night Supper beautifully.
 Scotland has a wonderful relationship with desserts and none more so, or more traditional, than with a spot of Scottish Cranachan. You will sometimes hear the dessert called 'crowdie,' as the cheese of the same name was sometimes used instead of the whipped cream.
From historic staples such as porridge, haggis and whisky through to modern creations like craft gin, haggis pakora and dare I say it, the deep fried Mars Bar. Scots have never been afraid to experiment and create new things and through the ages have provided the world with a love affair for some of its better known (and perhaps more infamous) creations.

Read more at:
From historic staples such as porridge,haggis and whisky, through to modern creations like craft gin,haggis pakora and dare I mention it, the deep fried mars ba, Scots have never been afraid to come forward to experiment and become masters of re-invention.Through the ages they  have provided the world with a love affair for some of its better known
( and perhaps some more infamous) creations.
From historic staples such as porridge, haggis and whisky through to modern creations like craft gin, haggis pakora and dare I say it, the deep fried Mars Bar. Scots have never been afraid to experiment and create new things and through the ages have provided the world with a love affair for some of its better known (and perhaps more infamous) creations.

Read more at: origins, however, do have a cheese of sorts in the original recipe.“It’s an ancient Scottish traditional dish and it used to be called Cream Crowdie. Crowdie—a soft and spreadable cheese,similar to ricotta or cottage cheese.Cranachan owes its origins to Crowdie,originally a popular breakfast in old days Crowdie cheese was served with lightly toasted oatmeal,cream, and local honey. “It would be mixed up together and wouldn’t be too thick. Raspberries,when in season, might be added to this.Please note there was an absence of Whisky at this stage of Cranachan´s history due to the time of day it was being served,mind you I have never known a scotsman turn his nose up to a wee dram at any possible opportunity.
So what exactly is cranachan?A layered pudding of just-whipped cream,toasted oatmeal
(pinhead, preferably),and raspberries that have been soaked in whisky and honey. There have been sightings on occasion of versions done with whisky-soaked raisins as well, making it more akin to a wintry Christmas pudding than the fresh, summer-centric dessert it was conceived as.Once again probably the whim of a Scottish chef who had no raspberries to hand.

Cranachan: not just for Scotland and not just for Burns Night this Friday – 
but it is a very good excuse.

I always think you should really go for it,push the goat out and create a pudding that makes everyone happy,That does not necessarily mean reinventing the wheel, but sometimes the classics are the best,and all they need is a little modern or proprietary twist to make them outstanding.I have applied many twists here.First of all cranachan is not traditionally served in the form of a baked cheesecake.Having tasted an authentic Crowdie cheese I felt confident enough about using ricotta as a substitute alongside mascarpone.The big twist however was taking the risk of giving the cheesecake an entirely more Scottish flavour by giving it a biscuit base made from oatcakes and honey.The recipients of this glorious pudding were in consensual agreement that this worked and would be applying the twist to other cheesecakes.Oh and before you take me up on it, my version omits the whisky.It didn´t seem right in this incarnation.

Thoroughly modern Cranachan
20cm / 8" loose bottomed cake tin
    250g/9oz finely-milled oatcakes
    125g/4½oz unsalted butter,
    melted, plus extra for greasing
    3 tbsp honey

      60g/2¼oz pinhead (coarse) oatmeal
      100g/3½oz caster sugar
      350g/12oz crowdie or ricotta
      350g/12oz mascarpone
      4 medium eggs
      200g/7oz fresh raspberries

        500g/1lb 2oz fresh raspberries
        50g/1¾oz icing sugar
        about 24 extra raspberries for decoration
          When it comes to the food at Christmas, I always think you should really go for it – push the boat out and create a standout meal that makes everyone happy. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel – sometimes the classics are the best, and all they need is a little modern or personal twist to make them outstanding.

          Read more at:
          When it comes to the food at Christmas, I always think you should really go for it – push the boat out and create a standout meal that makes everyone happy. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel – sometimes the classics are the best, and all they need is a little modern or personal twist to make them outstanding.

          Read more at:
          When it comes to the food at Christmas, I always think you should really go for it – push the boat out and create a standout meal that makes everyone happy. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel – sometimes the classics are the best, and all they need is a little modern or personal twist to make them outstanding.

          Read more at:
          When it comes to the food at Christmas, I always think you should really go for it – push the boat out and create a standout meal that makes everyone happy. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel – sometimes the classics are the best, and all they need is a little modern or personal twist to make them outstanding.

          Read more at:

          Thursday, 17 January 2019

          Yesterday´s bread today´s gnocchi

          crispy bread gnocchi with sausages in a spicy tomato sauce
          "Food waste is one of the biggest problems of our century and our generations cross to bear.Almost one billion people are undernourished.One third of the food we produce globally is wasted every year, including nearly four trillion apples".
           Yes four trillion.Just think how many tarte tatins we could make? If we dont do something now and make some positive changes to the way we treat food,things will only get worse.
           With a little bit of effort and creativity, salvaged, overripe or bruised and beyond expiration dated food,as well as scraps and trimmings,that would have otherwise been thrown away can be turned into not only edible but delicious dishes.
          Anyone who is interested in cooking has a social responsibility more than ever before.We are responsible for the community at large. It is important for us to support artisan producers,the farmers and the cheesemakers.There is much more we can do to make our world a better and more delicious place.We were given for Christmas, a copy of Massimo Bottura´s book "Bread is Gold, extraordinary meals with ordinary ingredients".
           This book is a call to act, a wake up call.A way to look at what is happening in the world and find solutions to fight the terrible tonnes of food waste we put out there every day,with absolutely zilch regard to the homeless sleeping rough on the streets of big cities.It is an absolute disgrace. Each time we throw left over bread away our conscience should be pricked that as consumers we could have done something to prevent that food from being wasted.Perhaps for a start we should only buy what we know we will consume within that foods lifespan.
           This book gives us everyday recipes using all those discarded,undervalued,and neglected ingredients that play a central role in a kitchen, bread, cheese,milk etc.It is about making nourishing meals from what we would normally waste, like chickpea water.
          The most valuable lesson you can learn from this book is to make the most of everything and to never throw anything  edible away.I have learnt to make pesto with popcorn instead of costly pine nuts.I have learnt to make a ragù out of almost anything and everything.Like Massimo I will never look at a banana in the same way ever again,having learnt that I can make chutney out of banana skins.Brown overripe bananas make the best banana bread.Ice cream,one of the great joys in life is one of the best ways to reclaim ingredients that are no longer perfect.
          The resounding message that comes from this book, loud and strong, is "Improvise,experiment,and cook with urgency".This book is a guide and a starting point for cooking out of your pantry and refrigerator.It is noticeable since Christmas how our food bills have dropped dramatically.
          Many of the recipes in the book come with condiments,sauces and side dishes and all these elements can be taken as individual elements and applied in a different context.The first recipe that caught my eye was fish soup with bread gnocchi.
          I know stale bread dumplings mightn't sound too appetising, but swimming in a rich piquant tomato sauce they are an absolute delight. Comfort food at its finest I would say.
          I passed on the fish soup as it would mean me making a special journey to the market to buy fresh fish.So I took the bread gnocchi made from yesterdays loaf and served them as they would have been served with the soup but instead I used sausages I had in the refrigerator and made an Italian style tomato and sausage based stew ( salsicce al sugo di pomodoro).This is a dish I would  normally have served with mashed potato. I awarded myself brownie points for being resourceful.As I said this book is about improvising and experimenting.Having made the "Gnocchi" from the book I found another similar, but more traditional Italian recipe for bread and pecorino dumplings,so I tried this too,but with more cheese and without the sausages.
          To make the bread gnocchi from"Bread is gold" 
           Bread Gnocchi are typical from Trieste, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region near the border between Italy and Slovenia.They are typically served  two ways ,either in broth or sautéed with butter and sage

          To serve 6
          500g stale bread,chopped
          11/4 cups(300ml) milk
          2 eggs
          3/4 cup (100g all purpose (plain) flour
          1 tsp flor de sal
          freshly ground black pepper
          extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
          1/2 cup (50g) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
          In a large bowl,soiak the bread in the milk for 30 minutes.
          Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC / gas mark 4
          Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
          Squeeze the excess liquid out of the soaked bread.Discard the liquid and return the bread to the bowl.Add the eggs,flour,salt and pepper and mix them thoroughly to form a dough.Shape the dough with your hands to form gnocchi.In a medium pan of boiling water,cook the bread gnocchi until they float to the surface,about 5 minutes.Drain.Transfer the prepared baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the parmesan.Bake until golden brown about 40 minutes.
          Alternatively use this recipe....

          Bread and pecorino dumplings (pallotte cacio e ovo) 

          An iconic dish from the Abruzzo region got its start as a way of using up leftover bits of cheese and stale bread. The mixture is then bound together with egg and formed into balls and, just like meatballs, fried and simmered in tomato sauce. As they simmer, the pallotte swell and absorb the flavour of the sauce. You’ll be surprised how much they actually taste like ‘real’ meatballs. Its a perfect example of how the poor in Italy would take simple, humble ingredients that others might discard and then turn them into something incredibly tasty.

          Originally served as a vegetarian second course to replace costly meat, in these times of austerity this dish is just as likely to show up again as an antipasto.
          3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
          2 spring onions, roughly chopped
          1 clove garlic, skin on, bashed with the back of a knife
          1 clove garlic, extra, finely chopped

          1 small celery stick, finely chopped

          ¼ red or green capsicum (pepper), coarsely chopped
          2 x 400 g tins tomatoes

          salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
          200 ml water

          torn basil leaves, to garnish

          200 g day-old Italian bread (such as pane di casa or ciabatta), crusts removed, cut into chunks

          1 cup (250 ml) water or milk

          2 cups (160 g) finely grated parmesan or pecorino

          1 egg , lightly beaten

          3 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

          3 tbsp roughly chopped basil

          salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

          olive oil, for deep-frying
           To make the dumplings, soak the bread in the milk for 20 minutes or until soft. Squeeze out any excess liquid then, using your hands, break down the bread to a pulp. Add the cheese, egg and herbs and mix to form a sticky batter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
          Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the spring onion, garlic, celery and capsicum and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes or until fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes and water, season with salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 20 minutes or until reduced slightly.
          To cook the dumplings, half-fill a saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium–high heat to 180ºC or until a cube of bread browns in 15 seconds. With wet hands, shape the dumpling mixture into 5 cm balls.
          Add the dumplings to the oil in batches and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Add the cooked dumplings to the tomato sauce, cover with the lid and stand, off the heat, for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the flavours to mingle and the dumplings to soak up the sauce. Reheat if you like or serve warm, garnished with torn basil leaves. 

          • This dish tastes even better the next day – if you have any leftovers, that is...

          Tuesday, 15 January 2019

          Parsnips Molly Parkin,nostalgia revisited

          There are legions of dishes named after famous people, Peach Melba,Tournedos Rossini, Chicken Picasso, Beef Wellington, Eggs Arnold Bennett, just for starters. More recently I coined Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch. But Wales can also claim its own place in the world of named dishes with the perhaps lesser known delicacy of ‘Parsnips Molly Parkin.’
          2017 marked the 85th birthday of the colourful journalist, painter and novelist Molly Parkin, who was born in Pontycymer on 3rd February 1932.  Molly Parkin rose to prominence in the 1960s propelled by her influence on swinging London as fashion editor of the Sunday Times.She is credited with championing the early careers of designers including Manolo Blahnik and the Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki.

          But she gained notoriety for her own outrageous dress sense, an addiction to alcohol( I once encountered her propping up the bar in the Chelsea Arts club) and a love life as colourful as her wardrobe.
          As the story goes,according to her memoirs,"Welcome to Mollywood", it was her dislike of parsnips which inspired the dish named after her, and it was in fact created by a fellow journalist.  Denis Curtis, a food writer friend of Molly, who worked for the Daily Telegraph in the 1970s, and knew of her hatred for parsnips.
          Taking on the challenge he invented Parsnips Molly Parkin to persuade her that the root vegetable could be tasty if cooked correctly.  By combining their sweetness with the piquant tang of tomatoes and plenty of cream, Denis changed Molly’s mind and so her dish was born.
          But then this was the 70’s and they did things very differently then… I suppose parsnips were the height of fashion back in the day…?

          How to bake a "Thoroughly modern Molly" 
          The Molly Parkin Classic Parsnip Dish

          2 large parsnips
          2 large beef tomatoes
          1oz butter
          2 tablespoons of mild olive oil
          80 ml creme fraiche
          salt and pepper
          Emmenthal cheese
          • Peel, top and tail the parsnips, discard peelings.
          • With a peeler take fine strips of the parsnips until you reach the woody core.
          • Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan and fry the fine strips on parsnip until it almost turns to mush.
          • Slice the tomatoes into thin slices.
          • Parsnip layer: Place a third of the parsnips in an ovenproof dish.
          • Season: Sprinkle with a little salt, and a good amount of pepper.
          • If the parsnips are sweet (generally in the depths of winter after the first frosts) omit the sugar
          • Creme fraiche: pour over a third of the creme fraiche
          • Tomatoes: layer a third of the tomatoes on top.
          • Make a second and third layer of parsnip, seasoning, creme fraiche and tomatoes ending with tomatoes on top.
          • grate some emmenthal on top.
          Bake for 30 to 40 mins at a medium heat (if using a high bake for less and let rest for 10-15 minutes, it stays extremely hot for a while).

          Saturday, 12 January 2019

          Pie fetishing

           a bold expression of pig

          ‘All culinary traditions have a way of using up bits of animal that might otherwise go to waste, and the pork pie is one of the noblest’

          “yum yum, pig's bum”, “pickle me walnuts”,
           “spank me gently with a wet chamois”
           There is something about a pork pie that brings out the Len Goodman in me,and there is nothing I bloody love more than a Melton Mowbray pork pie,and even better,getting the satisfaction from one I have made at home.I love that interplay of crisp, animal fat-boosted hot water pastry, the dense meaty filling, punched up with white pepper, anchovy essence, sage and thyme, and then the jelly, reintroduced back into the tight cavities from which it has leaked during cooking.
          It is a thing of utter joy.But with the stock, the filling and the pastry, making your own pork pie can seem like a daunting prospect. But get stuck in and lo and behold the finished product is a thing of beauty But, why you ask,would this task occur to anyone, with so many good ones around in the shops? Well, let me tell you exactly why. I suffer from ED (expat deprivation)This means I do not have access to an award winning English butcher´s pork pie within walking distance from my home. I am therefore faced with no other option if I am to succeed in satisfying expat cravings,than making my own.
           glazed and ready for the oven
          Rarely have I enjoyed making anything quite so much as I did making my annual Pork pie this year. It was stonkingly good.Kneading that soft, warm dough ready to mould into shape took me back to my art school days of trying my hand on the potters wheel.I was never destined for a career in ceramics I have to say.Twisting the lid into pleats around its circumference,The agonizing consumption of time in trying to get all that jelly in down the funnel but finally that proud moment when you prise your huge heavy porky creation from the shackles of its springform tin and there it is resplendent before you. Making a pork pie is something to file under "a bit of performance". Yet it is undoubtedly a thing of unmistakable homely beauty. Something I always look forward to at this time of year, unlike making marmalade.I now feel committed to making pork pies more often,maybe a pork pie is for all year round ,not just for Christmas.
          The trusted and proven recipe I use
          There are many really helpful step by step videos on Youtube and this is where I started.

          Wednesday, 9 January 2019

          The return of the Spanish inquisition?An omelette and paella divides Europe

          Following research for my recent post on Brussels sprouts I stumbled upon some more culinary troubles afoot in Spain. Certain cooking methods must be respected,and at ones own expense some things are better left unmeddled with. At the end of last year, fears that Spain had become irreparably divided following two inconclusive general elections and almost 10 months of ceaseless political bickering, were allayed after Jamie Oliver united the nation by tweeting his own "twist" on paella. Spaniards were outraged by his decision to re-vamp their country´s signature dish.The rich dish which hails from Valencia,traditionally includes meat,fish, shellfish and vegetables,but not chorizo.The inclusion of the Spanish sausage saw Oliver bearing the brunt of much Iberican outrage.I put this to the test and found the internet abounds with paella recipes that include chourizo.If one can not trust online food retailer La Tienda to purvey authenticity, then something is amiss.They have been online suppliers of traditional Spanish food for over 20 years.I would also trust Sam and Sam Clark,chef-owners of restaurant Moro,in the Moro cookbook they give us an authentic paella recipe, Paella De Cerdo Con Chorizo y Espinaca (Rice with Pork, Chorizo and Spinach),a recipe I have been cooking for years.

          Paella de cerdo con Chouriço y espinaca
          In these times of political turbulence and division it is never a good idea to cause an international incident, particularly in a country that will ruthlessly defend its culinary traditions and territory too.The UK had already been accused by Spain of “treachery” and acting “under the cover of darkness” in an escalation of a war of words over the future of Gibraltar.A few months earlier Simon Manley the UK´s ambassador to Madrid, instead of trying to restore the reputation of Britain´s diplomacy and cuisine, thought he would come up with a novel solution by meddling,live on Spanish TV,with another of the most sacred of Spanish dishes the Tortila de patatas (Spanish omelette).Appearing on the late-night Spanish cooking programme El Comidista ( the food lover), Manley, 49, boldly dismissed suggestions that some formulas should never be messed with.More sparks flew.Not for the first time, the worst transgressors were deemed to be Oliver and those who “commit atrocities” by adding chorizo, cheese, raw onion and, perhaps most egregiously, coriander.In my opinion the secret of a good tortilla lies in the sweetness of the onions and the luxurious softness of the potatoes.When it comes to onion, the cookbooks say a Spanish omelette’s ingredients are egg, potato, olive oil, salt and onion.The issue of whether cebollas belong in the emblematic fried dish runs like a faultline under the nation’s bar stools and dining tables, dividing families and communities and pitting concebollistas (with-onionists) against sincebollistas (without-onionists).Whose side are you on? Should we be on a diplomatic mission to defend the emblematic paella and Spanish omelette or are we having none of it? Are you a concebollista or a sincebollista?

          Monday, 7 January 2019

          The vegetable that divides a nation

           zesty shavings, bright green leaves crispy radish, carrot, and creamy dressing

          It is the vegetable that divides a nation, a family,friends, a dinner table at Christmas.Brexit or no Brexit, empires will rise and fall and Brits will still be arguing about whether Brussels sprouts are tasty or just a horrible excuse for food. So how did we end up with this Brussels-hating gene?
          No doubt Brussels sprouts are controversial,and as a nation we will never be reunited again over the issue of Brussels. Personally, I have always loved them but for a lot of people, they're like the friend no-one likes turning up to the Christmas party.I do understand why Brussels sprouts top the list of detested vegetables for many people. They have a sharp or bitter taste that people either like or hate.When they are large, old, or overcooked, they tend to have an obnoxious, barnyardy flavour that some people are sensitive to, whereas others are not.It might also have something to do with the smell,also a tad barnyardy.You can minimize all this by choosing smaller,younger, fresh-looking sprouts.
          Here is my recipe  for people who think they hate Brussels and coleslaw

          Slaws aren’t just for summer; their crunch and creamy, tangy dressing is a welcome contrast to the heartier dishes of winter and a well earned and refreshing respite of what we´ve been fed over the last two years.

          Prep 15 min
          Cook 5 min
          Serves 4, or 8 as a side dish

          For the salad
          300g brussels sprouts, peeled and thinly sliced
          1 crunchy dessert apple, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
          2 semi-ripe small pears,grated with skin on  

          1 carrot, coarsely grated
          4 breakfast radishes, grated
          Juice of ½ lemon
          Salt and black pepper

          1/3 cup slivered salted almonds,for garnish (optional)

          For the dressing
          2 tsp honey
          2 tsp English or dijon mustard
          1 tbsp cider vinegar 

          1 garlic clove crushed
          1 tsp Sriracha sauce
          2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
          2 tbsp good-quality mayonnaise

          Trim the sprouts by cutting the very base off each one, then peel away any tired outer leaves. Put them on a board, slice them thinly, then transfer to a large bowl.
          Add the apple slices and grated pear, the carrot,red onion and radishes squeeze over the lemon juice and season.
          Combine all the dressing ingredients and stir well.
          Trickle half the dressing over the slaw ingredients and toss together. Pile the slaw on to a serving plate, spoon over the remaining dressing and finish with a scattering of salted almonds,if using.

          Wednesday, 2 January 2019

          When "Hoppin' John" becomes "Skippin' Jenny"

          Talking about leftovers,something on all our minds at the moment,how about this one which should make a pretty good move to clear our fridges of seasonal debris.Seems pretty healthy to me and offers loads of room for improvisation. Hoppin' John, also known as Carolina Peas and Rice, is a dish of blackeyed peas and rice served in the American South.Eating Hoppin' John on New Year's Day is thought to bring a prosperous year filled with luck.On the day after New Year's Day,today, leftover "Hoppin' John" is called "Skippin' Jenny" and further demonstrates one's frugality, bringing a hope for an even better chance of prosperity in the New Year.
          Prep 10 min
          Cook 1 hr 30 min
          Serves 4

          2 litres ham stock
          2 bay leaves
          250g black-eyed beans, soaked overnight
          150g long-grain rice
          50g unsalted butter
          50g bacon fat or lard
          100g  ham trimmings or serrano ham, finely diced
          1 small onion, finely diced
          2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
          1 celery stalk, finely diced
          1 small red pepper, finely diced
          ¼ tsp chilli flakes
          1 jalapeño, finely diced
          Juice of 1 lemon
          Salt and black pepper

           variation on the theme of "Hoppin John"
          Put the stock and bay leaves into a pan, bring to a boil and add the drained beans. Simmer until tender – about an hour – then strain and chill in the fridge, reserving the cooking liquid. Bring the cooking liquid back to the boil, add the rice and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain the rice and chill.
          Melt the butter and lard in a frying pan, add the ham, onion, garlic, celery and red pepper and cook gently until tender but not coloured. Stir in the chilli flakes and jalapeño and cook for two minutes.
          Combine this mixture with the beans and rice. Season to taste with the lemon juice, Tabasco and salt and pepper.

          Tuesday, 1 January 2019

          Georgia on my mind.Have a little faith in tradition.

           Matsoni: The easiest yogurt You’ll ever make
          Many of the predictions about what we’ll be eating and drinking in 2019 point to a calm, restorative and potentially grim time ahead. Then again,I am always wary of these forecasts from wellness market analysts always arriving with a clean, healthy pine scent of New Year’s resolutions.So what's the forecast? 
           As the obsession with digestive health dovetails with the fascination for fermenting, kimchi, sauerkraut and all things pickled will work their way into new territory. Smoothies with kefir will be popular, and kombucha may well start showing up in unexpected places like salad dressings. 
          On the downside it looks like we'll be bombarded with products designed to encourage  us to buy and eat more things from labs.For some of us maybe, but I for one will be campaigning to stop  engineered proteins from being called “meat".
          However, anything to do with your gut flora means that you can be ready for more ways to ingest probiotics and prebiotics and foods designed to improve the bacterial health of your intestinal tract.I´ve found just the thing for this, and it´s delicious too.It´s called Matsoni: The easiest yogurt You’ll ever make,that is if you are a yoghurt maker.
          It doesn’t get easier than matsoni, or the many other traditional yogurts that culture best at room temperature. Just whisk starter culture with milk,leave it in a warm spot in your kitchen, come back in one to two days, and it’s done.You’ve made Matsoni.
          Matsoni and other easy, room temperature yogurts require a longer period of fermentation.  Where Greek, Bulgarian and other thermophilic yogurts require only eight to twelve hours to culture properly (you can culture them up to 24 hours, if you like), Matsoni should be cultured for about 24 hours and up to 48 hours.  After 24 to 48 hours, the beneficial bacteria present in the matsoni starter will cause the milk to transform from liquid to a syrupy, semisolid mass, and that,my dear real food lovers, is the easiest yogurt you’ll ever make.
          what?!? you expect me to leave milk on my counter for two days? Well, yes, I do.In a time when everything is being pasteurized, purified within an inch of its life and chilled to preserve freshness, it’s easy to forget that, yes, there was a time before refrigeration.  And it wasn’t that long ago.  Simple techniques like culturing milk into yogurt helped to preserve foods for long-term storage.
          The bacteria naturally present in Matsoni will prevent spoilage as they do their magic turning milk into yogurt.  Remember, these are lactic acid bacteria; that is, they turn sugar into acid.That acidic environment preserves the milk, is responsible for yogurt’s characteristic tartness, and that prevents spoilage by opportunistic or pathogenic microorganisms.
          My dear friend Janny returned recently from Georgia bearing tidings of comfort and joy, and as an added bonus she brought with her a live culture of this Caucasian fermented yoghurt.Funny that because one of my premonitions recently has been that we are going to hear a lot more about things Caucasian this coming year....I feel a song coming on
          "Georgia, Georgia...", 
          Only the other week I read extensive coverage on two consecutive days by Guardian journalists plauditing what they found there,only to be endorsed by our friends who had just returned from Tbilisi.Sprawling food markets purveying some of the key components of Georgian cuisine:
          "burstingly ripe tomatoes, heaps of blue-purple plums, aubergines and veritable forests of herbs and edible flowers – parsley, tarragon, dill, purple basil and marigold – with spices and salt mixes piled up on tables like little volcanoes of flavour".
          Well I am already hooked on making their yoghurt or Matsoni as they call it.I am sure it wont be too long before I am mastering the art of making khinkali dumplings,Khachapuri (Cheese Bread) Phkali ( Vegetable Mousse)and lots of healthy applications of walnut paste and sauce.Look out for these recipes popping up on O Cozinheiro in 2019
          So what else can we expect to see and eat in the coming year?
          Traditional sauces from Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, such as pomegranate molasses and tahini, will be finding "innovative applications."but also ancient traditional foods from other far-off lands,like Matsoni for example.
          My other premonition,Oh no I´m starting to sound all Mystic Meg is The new foil or parchment wrapped supper.Remember your first Boy Scout or Girl Guide camping trip? With barely any cleanup and a deep whiff of nostalgia,trust me cooking dinner in foil packets is poised for a resurgence of popularity.Olive magazine and Good Food will be full of it in the months to come.Searches for “foil-pack dinners” have jumped nearly eightfold in the past six months.Bye bye boil in the bag. Buy yourself a nice piece of fish Get the aluminium roll out wrap the fish with some veggies and hi ho silver bream you have a lovely supper in next to no time.
          Have a little faith in tradition this year.
          Happy New Year to all of you!!!!