Sunday, 26 May 2019

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Can I let you into a little secret,that is if you dont know it already? What is the origin of Charlotte? When taking a closer look at history she was not French born and bred. Charlotte was created in England in the early nineteenth century and was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. Originally, this dessert was prepared in a high pan with flared edges lined with bread and butter and filled with apple or plum compote. This dessert was then baked in an oven for a long time, similar to a pudding.But how did we go from a British dessert that looks nothing like a Charlotte to the French specialty that we know and love today?
We owe Charlotte to Antonin Carême, aka the “king of chefs and chef of kings”, the precursor of Haute Cuisine. It is in the kitchens of the Prince Regent George IV that Antonin became familiar with Charlotte. This is where he changed the recipe for this dessert and started using ladyfingers, the same ones that he adapted from their original round shape to their elongated shape produced today. Russians love French culture and cuisine, it is a known fact.
He called this creation the “Parisian Charlotte” to differentiate it from the English dessert. Thereafter, Antonin worked in the kitchens of Tsar Alexander and he renamed it “Charlotte Russe” which is the other name by which we know it today.
It was extremely popular and fashionable during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. My mother used to regularly make Charlotte Russe for her dinner parties when I was young.As was traditional, she included alcohol, such as sherry or brandy, and candied spices.As a child I therefore was never allowed to taste it, not that it really appealed to my prepubescent palate anyway. Her recipe was, I believe, a classic Mrs Beeton recipe and although recognisably similar in texture,it bore very few palatable similarities to the Charlotte Russe or fridge cake that has been popularised today.So with the summer season almost upon us how about a show stopping version with strawberries, rasberries and lashings of cream,hurrah!!
Charlotte de morangos
This incarnation pings with pastel colours and chimes with some of the finest flavours that have ever been collated. But this is much more than a collation, it adds old-world solidity to a classic pudding with an aerated buoyancy of textures. What makes this dish so enjoyable and still so gladsomely alive today is how closely it adheres to those distinctive and traditional, celebratory tastes. It carries with it lashings of new wave energy and colour which its predecessor lacked.
200g lady fingers
300g strawberries (puréed)
80gstrawberriescut int pieces
2 greek yoghurts (2x115g)
2 tsp strawberry jam home- made if possible
6 leaves of gelatine
3 tbsp water
200ml cream
1 soup spoon lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla sugar

To decorate:
sliced  strawberries

Line with plastic clingfilm a 16cm in diameter loose bottomed cake tin (10cm high).Cut your lady fingers to the height of the tin, and set them aside while you make the filling.
Wash the strawberries and reduce to a purée.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.Squeeze out all the water and transfer them to a heatproof metal container with 3 soup spoons of warm water and place over a low flame.If it does not dissolve immediately, raise the heat slightly.Leave to cool a little.In a bowl mix together the strawberry jam with the yoghurt, stir in the gelatine and beat well to amalgamate.In another bowl beat the cream to stiff peaks with the vanilla sugar.Stir the cream into the yoghurt ashallow bowl pour some licore de morango (strawberry licore) I used some rum that I had been macerating arbutus. Dip the lady fingers one by one very briefly into the licore and then stand them up round the edge of your cake tin.Dont let them soak too much or they wont stand up.Pour the yoghurt and cream mixture into the inside of the wall of biscuita and leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Variations on Charlotte Russe:
Apple Charlotte – It is a golden-crusted dessert made by baking a thick apple compote in a mold lined with buttered bread.  This dessert was originally created as a way to use leftover or stale bread. Some historians think that this sweet dish took its name from Queen Charlotte, known as being a supporter of apple growers.
Charlotte Malakoff – It has a lining of ladyfingers and a center filling of a souffle mixture of cream, butter, sugar, a liqueur, chopped almonds, and whipped cream.  It is decorated with strawberries.
Cold Charlottes – They are made in a ladyfinger-lined mold and filled with a Bavarian cream.  For frozen charlottes, a frozen souffle or mousse replaces the Bavarian cream.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Roasted garlic,a free pass into a world of condiments

 Roasted Garlic and Avocado Toast,(recipe below)
"A condiment  is a spice, sauce, or preparation (such as onions) that is added to food to impart a specific flavour, to enhance the flavour, or, in some cultures, to complement the dish. The term originally described pickled or preserved foods, but its meaning has changed over time".
Being a loyal and faithful cook,my garlic press is the "chosen one" But if I ever do find myself stranded on a garlic-growing desert island with just a match, some tin foil and a pan of water, I'm just about fickle enough to survive and cook the next meal,without it.
I love my garlic press,I do; in fact, it is probably my one true desert island gadget. But I'm happy to put it aside whenever the smell and sweet taste of slow-cooked garlic is called for.
We all know garlic can overpower a dish with its pungent, sometimes spicy flavour, but with a quick sit in the oven garlic takes on a whole new quality of rich, sweet, melt-in-your-mouthness. I love to use roasted garlic in homemade pesto, garlic butter, or stirred together with olive oil and brushed onto bread to make bruschettas, or tossed into pasta. In fact, there’s really no wrong way to use it.You can put it on spoons.Wait, who said spoons? Feeling poorly? That’s okay. Roasted garlic cures all ailments.With a spoon, so you can spoon feed yourself this delicious unctious paste.You´ll be on the road to recovery in next to no time.
As the garlic roasts in the oven, it becomes extremely mild. So mild, in fact, that you can eat it plain. It becomes soft, buttery, slightly sweet, with a rich, deep garlic flavour. Because of its soft buttery-ness when mashed, it becomes the perfect spread.I feel a batch of garlic and lime hummus coming on. 
Recipes for baked, roasted or braised garlic often come with a pre-emptive disclaimer that the quantity of garlic cited is not a typo:  whether it's a recipe that uses one head of garlic or a whopping 44 cloves, and  David Leites Chicken  uses another 40 cloves of garlic. Make this a few times and you'll be all well on your way to garlic utopia. Prego no Pão has been the most popular and widely eaten sandwich in Portuguese cuisine for many years,each one containing at least 6 cloves of garlic.
… How can a dish handle so much of this pungent little allium? Go to the market, pick up fifty heads of garlic, roast every single one of them, and bask in the perfection that ensues.
The magic, of course, is in the cooking method, and the transformative effect of some high heat and a little oil. This breaks down the fructose chains in the bulb and converts them into something mellow and sweet. The savoury, nutty, almost meaty result never ceases to delight me.

1.Lop off the top fifth of the head, so that the cloves appear in cross-section

2. wrap it in tin foil with a little olive oil and cook in a hot oven for about an hour

3. Remove and gently squeeze out the soft, sweet unctuous cloves

From here, you've got a free pass into a world of purées, sauces,spreads, dressings and mayonnaises, all characterised by a mellow smoothness that makes them receptive to being spread on toast with something salty such as crumbled feta or chopped anchovies. This method is also fantastically effective for vegetable mashes and stews.

Roasted Garlic and Avocado Toast                                                 
The perfect thing to pair with this wonderful roasted garlic? Whole wheat toast and a ripe, sliced avocado topped with a little salt and pepper. The avocado has a super mellow flavour, so it doesn’t overpower the roasted garlic, allowing you to still taste everything.The flavours of the garlic and avocado pair so well together, and it tastes like you are eating something rich and decadent when you aren’t. It just ticks all the boxes Whole wheat toast? Tick Healthy. Garlic? Tick Healthy. Avocado? Tick Super healthy.

1 head garlic, cloves removed (but left UNPEELED)
½ - 1 avocado
2-3 slices of whole wheat bread
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place the individual, unpeeled, cloves of garlic onto a sheet of aluminum foil
Drizzle your olive oil on top of the cloves, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper
Close the foil around the garlic cloves, creating a little pouch
Roast for 25-35 minutes, or until the garlic cloves are very soft when pierced with a knife
Set the garlic aside until cool enough to handle
Squeeze the garlic out of each clove and into a small bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth
Slice your avocado in half, remove the seed, and carefully scoop out each half, leaving it as in tact as possible. Slice the avocado halves into thin slices - you will need about ¼ - ½ of an avocado (depending on the size) for each toast
Toast your bread slices in the toaster
To assemble, spread 1-2 teaspoons of roasted garlic spread onto each slice of bread (amount will depend on garlic preference - I used 2 teaspoons). Next, add your avocado slices. Top with a little salt and pepper, and serve.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Boozy Pelargonium scented strawberry confiture

Its hard to believe I know, and our our guests are always surprised too,to find that strawberries are at their peak here in the Algarve in March.They are now coming to an end and I am happy that I had put my preserving pan to good use while they were in season.But jam or confiture? that was the question.
In a classic jam, the fruit is diced small and partially mashed before cooking, and the suspending syrup is thick and opaque. Confitures and preserves are kissing cousins: whole or elegantly sliced fruit suspended in syrup is a confiture, which comes from the French verb confire, meaning “to preserve.” In confitures, the fruit is shown to great advantage, glistening in a clear gel; the texture tends to be looser than that of jam.So here it is, an oh so easy confiture recipe just in time for picnics,Wimbledon and the Holidays! ...You never know when a bit of boozy strawbery confiture could come in handy.More on that story later,Kirsty.
Boozy Pelargonium scented strawberry confiture 
Makes 2 x 450g jars
Adding scented pelargonium (geranium) leaves to the jam, as the Greeks often do, enhances the flavour. If you can't find them, adding black pepper is a delicious alternative – it cuts the sweetness of the jam.
  • 900g fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 4 scented pelargonium leaves, or a good grinding of black pepper
  • 250ml Vodka
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 900g granulated sugar, warmed in the oven
Place a saucer in the fridge, ready for when you come to test for setting point later on.
Put the strawberries and pelargonium leaves (or pepper) into a large glass bowl starting and finishing with a layer of sugar, heavy-based, stainless steel pan and use a potato-masher to squash the fruit slightly. Don't push too hard - you just want some of the fruit to release a little juice, not to be completely flattened.Pour over the vodka,cover with a clean cloth and leave to stand overnight.
The next day,drain the fruit sugar and liquid into a preserving pan.Add the lemon juice and bring to the boil and boil rapidly for a few minutes or until it reaches 116ºC (240ªF) on a sugar thermometer.Add the strawberries and lemon juice.Bring the boil and boil for 18-20 minutes or until setting point is reached 104-105°C. Remove the leaves.
Pull the pan off the heat and test for setting point. Take the saucer from the fridge and place a teaspoonful of the jam on it. When cool, it should wrinkle when you push it with your finger.
Cool slightly and pour into dry, warm, sterilised jars (you can sterilise them in a very hot dishwasher, or boil them in a pan of water for 10 minutes). Cover with a wax disc, then seal and label with the date. This jam will last for several years. Once opened, store in the fridge.
Don't make strawberry jam in huge batches; it's harder to get it to set, and with endless boiling you lose the freshness of the flavour.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Let them eat hake. Pan-fried fresh hake fillet topped with squid and a vibrant, zesty gremolata crumb

You really can have your hake and eat it! When in Portugal just ask for pescada and if you pop across the border, the order of the day would be Merluza.
Mild, sweet and sustainable, this underrated fish that’s so big in Spain and Portugal deserves pride of place on your dinner table.
Hake always reminds me of an undervalued and misunderstood European pop star who tops the charts in Japan or Azerbaijan but remains relatively unknown in their home country.Perhaps this is why while living in England hake passed me by, it never made an appearance forefront of the fishmongers slab.
 It’s a shame because now I have discovered it properly, it is truly a fine white fish and one the Spanish and Portuguese go mad for. If truth be known these two countries snap up tonnes of the Uk´s supplies of finest hake, for which they are willing to pay much higher prices than they command on the domestic market.Not for much longer I hear you say. Why, I wonder, is a fish revered in one European country yet largely ignored in the others? The question arises whether there is enough hake in European waters to satisfy this enormous demand.
The mild, flaky flesh cooks to a moist and meaty texture with tender flakes that are deliciously sweet and clean-tasting. Line-caught or fish caught by gillnet are best, as trawled fish can be flabby and difficult to fillet without falling apart.
They are usually best cut into steaks or cooked on the bone. Tail pieces can be a bit tricky as they don’t keep their shape well and are hard to turn over when frying. However, the fish can be poached,steamed, baked or fried and lends itself beautifully to baking en papillote (wrapped in greaseproof paper parcels). It also combines beautifully with other fish in mousses and fishcakes.
Chef Nathan Outlaw suggests that hake make the best fish fingers when they’re coated in flour, egg and Japanese panko breadcrumbs, while Jamie Oliver pairs crispy hake fillets with soft braised artichokes, peas and bacon. At Moro in central London you will find a popular Spanish favourite Merluza en salsa verde (hake in a green parsley sauce, often with clams).Another one of the great stars of the northern Spanish cookbook is merluza à la Gallega (poached hake with boiled onions and potatoes served with a sweet pepper sauce), along with merluza à la sidra (hake cooked in cider). In Cadiz, a local speciality is caldillo de perro (dog soup), which traditionally combines hake with bitter Seville oranges.In Portugal, filetes de pescada (hake fillets) are first marinated in lemon juice, garlic and salt before being fried in a light batter, while pescada com todos (hake ‘with everything’) includes just about every ingredient in season, from greens to carrots, onions, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar.
My dish today is a pan-fried fresh hake fillet topped with calamari rings and a vibrant, zesty scintilla of gremolata crumb with fresh chilli.
And now a word about Gremolata.
Gremolata is one of those things where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.Yet, using just three common ingredients you have in your kitchen, garlic, lemon and parsley, and simply finely chopping them together, it becomes your secret ingredient. Sprinkled over any number of dishes, it will make every mouthful pop with its fresh flavours. A few twists of freshly ground black pepper and your mouth will think it had gone to umami never-never land. Sprinkle it over grilled or roasted vegetables, baked or grilled fish, chicken, or lamb. 
Garlic Since the garlic is raw, you want it as fresh as possible. Old garlic will be yellow and sticky, often with a green shoot growing out, and it will smell strongly and slightly acrid. Fresh garlic will be white, plump, and while its scent will be unmistakably garlicky, it will still smell fresh. If you only have older garlic, remove the green stem and blanch it for a few minutes in boiling water to remove some of the acrid taste.
Lemon Use organic if at all possible, since you will only be using the zest. (The zest-free lemon will keep a few days which leaves you plenty of time to do something with the juice.) The lemon zest adds acid, zippiness and brightness.
Parsley Use flat leaf parsley if available, and wash it well. Most importantly, be sure it is completely dry before you start chopping it. If possible wash and dry it a few hours before you use it and then wrap it in a towel to absorb the last few drops of water. If the stems are thin and subtle, don’t worry to much about including them. If the stems are thick and tough, you’ll want to pluck the leaves. Chop the parsley as finely as possible. Parsley adds a clean, fresh, herbal note. 
Makes about 1/3 cup
1 small bunch parsley, washed and dried (enough to make 1 cup loosely-packed)
1 clove garlic, papery skin removed
2 organic lemons, washed and dried
Chop the parsley until it is the texture you want it.I prefer a more rustic chopped gremolata as a general rule.First grate the garlic with a microplane over the parsley followed by the lemon.The order is not essential but by grating the garlic first the lemon then deodorizes the microplane for you.Set aside for the flavours to meld until you are ready to serve it. 
You can substitute other ingredients.Parsley, garlic, and lemon make up the classic gremolata, but you can certainly switch things around to suit your dish. The garlic can be replaced with shallots, for instance, or the lemon with another citrus such as lime. Consider a mandarin orange and mint version, for example, or coriander, lime and shallot. Or mix in a few fresh herbs or a small amount of red chilli finely chopped without the seeds.I added dried toasted breadcrumbs to my gremolata.
Place calamari rings, 15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil, 1 tbsp of the gremolata,1/2 red chilli deseeded, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to coat .
Marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat remaining oil in a frying pan until very hot.
Remove calamari from marinade, drain well and fry in hot oil for 2 minutes. Add reserved marinade and and mix well. 

Heat a large non-stick pan with a dash of oil over a medium heat
Make sure the skin of your hake is completely dry
Season the fillet of hake with salt and place in the pan, skin-side down
Leave the hake fillet for about 3–4 minutes until the skin has become crisp, then turn over and cook for a further minute
To check the fish is cooked insert a metal skewer into the thickest part of the fish, it should go through easily and be warm to the touch
To assemble the dish spoon a generous portion of steamed spinach onto the middle of the plate.Place the hake on top of the wilted spinach and spoon some calamari rings over the fish.Finish by scattering the dish with your gremolata crumb.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Thai tuna burgers with wasabi lime coconut coleslaw

Sometimes a beef burger can be too heavy, but seafood is the perfect alternative. When you think about a juicy burger, chances are you’re thinking of one that’s made with beef. But while there’s a time and place for those juicy gourmet burgers, sometimes you want something a little different. Luckily, you can make a patty out of almost anything.Salmon burgers I have to say "don´t impress me much."
If you're after healthy but delicious then these tuna burgers are quick, tasty and perfect for a barbecue; and food always tastes better when you have made it yourself.
As a mouthwatering alternative to the beefburger, the tuna burger has a lot going for it. You still get a nice chunky bunful to sink your teeth into, but with the added advantage of it being all round healthier and better for you.Tuna is high in vitamin B12, which stimulates the brain's production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you relax.
 These offbeat tuna burgers were loosely inspired by a Thai fried white fish patty called tort man pla. The mayo is inspired by something we ate at LPA the other week. Use best-quality tuna so you can serve the burgers medium rare.The fresh cool coleslaw balances the rich meatiness of the tuna.
Thai tuna burgers with wasabi lime coconut coleslaw
To give this recipe your own unique twist, you can always add more or different ingredients to the tuna mix.
Makes 4 
600g (1.25lbs)best quality tuna steak   
1 tsp sesame oil 
tbsp soya sauce
tbsp Thai fish sauce(nam pla)
heaped tsp sriracha sauce or chilli sauce
heaped tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
tsp ground cumin
2tsp fresh ginger,grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
tsp piri piri flakes
tbsp sunflower or nut oil
Roughly chop the tuna and put in a food processor.Pulse until fairly fine.
In a large mixing bowl combine the tuna with the rest of the ingredients until well amalgamated.With the help of a pastry cutter form into four equal 9cm patties.Set aside in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until ready to cook.

Heat oil in a large nonstick pan over a medium heat.Cook patties to medium rare,about 2 minutes per side.Spread mayonnaise on cut sides of each burger bun.Divide burgers and slaw among bottom halves of buns.Sandwich with top halves

1/2 cup radishes(3-4) grated
1/2 cup carrot grated
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 spring onion shredded
Mix carrot,radish,spring onion and cabbage in a medium bowl

Tbsp home made mayonnaise
dsp wasabi paste
dsp coconut oil
Tbsp dessicated coconut
juice and zest of 1 lime
Put all ingredients in a small food processor and blitz.Adjust to taste and achieve desired texture by adding more coconut oil if necessary.You should be looking for a dropping consistency.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Tasting time is here again,the skies above are clear again

The scene is set,the tables are dressed

A taster of what´s to come
Friday night saw the presentation of the new seasons menu at Cha com Agua Salgada when we embarked on an adventure in experiencing some delicious and inventive new dishes Chef Marco had created for us to try and give an opinion on.
Sandra Gomes, Paolo Esteves and Chef Marco Jacó have built up something so solid here in the East Algarve, and every time we visit it just gets better and better.This is their eleventh year and I have a premonition that this could be one of the finest menus they have presented to us so far.We were served the first four offerings with our sangria of Rozes porto branco extra seco before we were seated.The evening kicked off with a pea and parmesan cappucino with crunchy Algarvian "chouriço".I am a firm believer that a dish as described on paper should deliver on the flavours it conveys and if this was the most serious of pea intensity I might ever of experienced.This was truly flavourlicious.Hats off to "Tea with salty water" guys.Give me a moment.
Chef Marco was clearly on a roll already and we waited with unintentionally punished palates for what was to follow.Some black Iberican pork "paiola" followed, supported by some foraged country flavours.Then came sautéed sea scallops sitting proudly on a sweet and sour  sweet potato concoction,which I did not feel did any justice to the beautifully tanned scallop and its nestling companion, a bolinho of port wine butter.

 Sea scallop with port wine butter, black Iberican pork "paiola" 
and smoked swordfish bruschetta

The smoked swordfish bruschetta with creamy cheese,chives,cornichons and rocket triggered the first of the many times throughout the evening that I would say "I will definitely be returning for all of this".We sat down to a grilled grouper fillet with a delicious chickpea puree and steamed broccoli that so worked.

grouper fillet,chickpea puree and steamed broccoli

Two examples of quaity meat were put before us towards the end of the 10 course degustation.The grilled, matured ribeye steak with an interesting twist on dauphinoise, introducing bacon, was five star ,as was the Duck breast with  a gorgonzola puree that finished the plate off perfectly.The pineapple chunks were a statement in themselves but totally unnecessary.Sorry but I dont do fruit with savoury,but thats just me.Duck a lórange,fie.

Duck breast with grilled pineapple chunks and gorgonzola purée

The repeated message that came across quite clearly with practically every course was that if you have the finest ingredients they will shine through without too much interference from what ever else is on the plate. I have to say for one who is not a"pudding person" the pudding that shone for me was the combined textures of a maracuja( passion fruit) mousse,chocolate and a coconut ice cream.Genius on a plate.

Maracuja mousse,chocolate and a coconut ice cream

"Please sir, may I have some more".I am just going to have to be patient and wait till this fantastic menu is launched in June.Thank you,as always, from all of us to Paolo, Sandra and of course Marco and the team.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

"This calls for some tonic wine and a sponge finger"

   "Oh, I am pleased, this calls for some tonic wine and a sponge finger" .
                                      Yes Mrs O. I should jolly well think it does".
Cake Yes. Cake, we all like a bit of cake, don’t we? I know I do. I love, I do I love a bit of cake. I do. I just like cake. I’m one of those people. I come home and all I want, I just love cake. I just love cake, I just love a bit of cake. CAKE. I love a bit of cake I. Cake. Lovely. Oh My God, Is That Chocolate Cake? Give It To Me Right Now Cake. Or The Nothing Is Ever Going To Be Okay Again If I Don’t Have Chocolate Cake Cake. Or The I Want Marjorie Dawes Chocolate Cake Cake. Really, I tried to come up with a less cumbersome title, but “chocolate cake with chocolate frosting” doesn’t convey the urgency with which "I want cake and I want it right now "requires. The cake in question required sponge fingers and I had a packet  coming up to their "use by date", magdalenas left over from my last trip to Alimentación Orta in Ayamonte.What I did not realise was what defines a sponge finger.To the best of my knowledge a sponge finger was what I knew from childhood as a "Lyons" trifle sponge,very similar to a magdalena. How wrong could I be, a sponge finger apparently is what I was brought up to call a boudoir biscuit or ladyfinger.
Ladyfingers, sometimes known by their Italian name savoiardi,, sponge fingers in  English, or as Boudoir in French, are low density, dry, egg-based, sweet sponge biscuits roughly shaped like a large finger.
Having a passion for everything Italian I was also au fait with the name savoiardi,but how come these biscuits bear no physical resemblance to anything at all sponge like. They are  crisp, dry and crunchy,where as magdalena sponges are soft moist and crumbly.well I know where my preference lies.
In Portugal they are biscoitos de champanhe ("champagne biscuits") or palitos la reine.
In the UK sponge-fingers are called "boudoir biscuits", "baby biscuits",or "boudoir fingers"
In France: boudoirs or biscuits à la cuillère ("spoon cookies/biscuits") 
and in Italy: Savoiardi. 
For me there seems to be an orthographic uncertainty that has beset this expression in that one other type of food has shared the same name ,bhindi or Okra.Well its hardly a wonder i can´t tell a sponge finger from a so called lady finger.
 So without any further ado,I thought stop meddlin Madeleine and lets get baking.The recipe also embraced almonds, perfect and very Algarvian,Moorish too.
I followed the recipe using my magdalenas,and as it turned out it just might be the best chocolate cake I had ever made from scratch. 
Its a week later and I have made it again following the same recipe but using so called lady fingers and the verdict was.....Not much in it but the version with the magdalenas seemed slightly lighter and wetter.The latter with the lady fingers had some texture to it as the biscuits dont crumb fully.The choice is yours.

6 sponge fingers
300g quality dark chocolate,in small pieces
150g butter
165g caster sugar
4 eggs
125g ground almonds
3 tbsp orange liqueur
Preheat the oven to 180ºC.Grease a30 x 20cm baking tin and line with baking paper.Crumble the sponge fingers and spread a tablespoon on the bottom of the tin.Melt the chocolate in a small bowlover a large pan of boiling water.In a bowl,whisk together the butter and the caster sugar with an electric whisk to a creamy consistency.Add the eggs one by one,before adding the rest of the crumbled biscuits,along with the ground almonds,the melted chocolate and the liqueur.Mix well.Pour the mixture into the lined tin and bake for 40 minutes.once baked,leave to cool completely in the tin.       
40g dark chocolate,in small pieces
30ml whipping cream
10g unsalted butter
1 tbsp almond liqueur 
While the cake is in the oven,start making the icing.It will take time to set and become spreadable.Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.Pour in the cream and using a rubber spatula, stir well until all the chocolate has melted.Add the butter and almond liqueur and beat until smooth.Leave at room tempearture until the cake has cooled down and the icing has started to set.You want to catch it at the point when it spreads easily but isn´t hard.Do not try and rush it by by refrigerating!spoon a generous amount of icing on top of the cake and shape with a palate knife.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Tonkatsu Pork with Asian Slaw

Tonkatsu is one of the most beloved “western style” Japanese foods.It is a pork steak breaded with flour, egg, and Panko (bread crumbs), then deep fried.  It’s not the healthiest food, but rather comfort food. It elevates plain pork chops from dry, lean cuts of meat to a juicy, crispy dinner you never forget. 
Tonkatsu sauce is a thick and fruity brown sauce used in Japan as a topping for katsu dishes like tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), chicken katsu, and korokke (potato croquette); as a dipping sauce for kushikatsu (deep fried skewered foods); or as an ingredient to make yakisoba (fried noodles). Based on Western Worcestershire sauce, tonkatsu sauce is also called “usuta sauce” when it has a thin, more liquid texture, or “chuno” sauce when it has a medium-thick texture.
1 Tablespoon mirin or sweet sherry
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
pinch of sugar
pinch garlic powder

In a small bowl,bring all of the ingredients together and mix well.Serve with tonkatsu, chicken katsu,korokke, or even dip your fries in it!

2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
3/4 cup crispy bread crumbs
4  (3/4-inch) boneless pork loin  (1 lb), trimmed
1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
Cooked white rice, if desired
In small bowl, mix Sauce ingredients; set aside.
In large bowl, mix Slaw ingredients; set aside.
Place flour in medium bowl. In another medium bowl, beat egg. Place bread crumbs in shallow bowl or pie plate.
Dip pork chops into flour; shake off any excess flour. Dip pork into egg mixture, then dredge in bread crumbs. Discard any remaining flour, egg mixture and bread crumbs.
In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Reduce heat to medium. Cook pork chops in oil 4 to 7 minutes, turning once, until breading is golden brown and meat thermometer inserted in center reads at least 145°F. Serve pork with sauce, slaw and rice, if desired.

Chinese leaf or any other green cabbage
Spring onions
Shred the cabbage.slice shallots and spring onions,grate carrots
Mix together the sesame oil, garlic, sugar, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and ketchup.
Combine mayonnaise mixture, cabbage, carrot,shallot and spring onion.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Spring on the plate.A bruschetta of spring vegetables

Dear diary:back from the market and I am sitting at the kitchen table podding favas.Some might say its time intensive, but the benefits that are gained from podding your stress away outweighs everything.I Look forward to it as a relaxing, meditative pause in my day and twenty minutes later, with a bowl of vibrant green pulses, I´m half way to preparing  dinner.The challenge of preparing spring vegetables is in preserving their fragile colour, texture and sweetness. The best approach I think is to sautée them gently with onion, garlic and olive oil; the vegetables cook gradually in the water they render. Since the cooking time for each one varies, simply add the next vegetable when the previous one has lost some of its crunch but is not softened to the core; the flavours will remain distinct yet also blend harmoniously.Spring vegetables are most flavourful when served lukewarm.
 This simple, spring-forward appetizer is all about using the stellar spring ingredients available in the East Algarve.....any of the following can make up a delicious topping for a bruschetta..Fava beans, asparagus, haricots verts,baby leeks,courgettes,asparagus,peas, spring onions and new season garlic.A drizzle of honey over the top makes a perfect dressing.Beyond delicious I would say.

Bruschetta of spring vegetables

500 g new season fresh broad beans (podded weight)
3 tablespoons requeijao or creme fraiche
1 Small green chilli, chopped
about 12 fresh mint leaves, picked and chopped
a few pinches of hot chilli (optional) 
juice ½ a lemon
1 level tsp of fine sea salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper 

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the favas and cook until tender. Drain and refresh in iced water.remove shells Blitz the favas, Requeijao or crème fraîche and a little seasoning together in a food processor.

Choose your combination of vegetables from what is seasonally available and soften them lightly with shallot and olive oil.They really dont need much cooking.Leeks,spring onions and celery should be finely shredded.Asparagus and haricots verts can be steamed or boiled separately and then used as a topping.The same goes if using peas and when cooking the favas keep some back for garnish also.

Cut a generous slice of artesan bread or rustic baguette, drizzle with olive oil, rub  all over with raw garlic,especially the crusty edges. Spread a generous layer of the fava purèe all over the bruschetta then layer your softened vegetables over the top.finish with peas, favas and finally spears of asparagus.Drizzle with honey(optional)

    Friday, 3 May 2019

    A influencia da minha mae, empada de legumes e borrego

                                                                                                         PHOTOS:Jane Bryan,Instagram hoxnejb

    I wonder what it would be like if I did not enjoy cooking and eating. The answer is obvious, I certainly would not be such a happy or motivated person. It is something that gives me immense pleasure, to have been blessed with sensitive taste buds and to enjoy eating. To be able to separate each ingredient, feel its texture, experience the sweet and salty, the bitter or the acid. I have my favourite ingredients, the ones I could not do without, those I use repeatedly  which are what I call my  store cuboard staples,and those that I dislike or have an allergy to which I can count on one hand.My mother taught me not to be a fussy eater. I will search far and wide if necessary to find that perfect ingredient or to forage a rare herb ,or purchase a particular spice or seasoning. I always like to experiment, try recipes from other cuisines, from other countries, from other cultures. and for that there are books that pile up on my bookshelves, the recipes that are being marked with post it stickers and waiting in line patiently for the day they will come to fruition. However, I will never lose that matriarchal influence. It was with her that my love of cooking was born, the typical dishes cooked on her Raeburn or Calor gas stove.I find it reassuring that I still cook today with bottled gas,here in Portugal.She was the mother of leftovers and thereby became the mother of invention.I think she would be proud of this pie that I have created from Easter leftovers.It can of course be made from scratch with newly purchased ingredients. No matter from where I source recipes, my mothers influence will always remain,whether it be using a preserving pan to make marmalade or using a heavy weight over a cast iron pan to make a pressed foccacia or pan bagna sandwich.
    So here we are half way through spring,the days are longer,bringing more light and the birds have started singing again as the sun comes up.The temperatures are now more pleasant, the rain has abated and a whole selection of new fruits and vegetables have begun to sprout and make an appearance on the market stalls.So I´ve been thinking its time for a spring pie, new seasons lamb lamb and a suggestion of vegetables  would bring the smells of spring to the kitchen.Imagine a crisp pastry box stuffed with the goodness of slow cooked tender paschal borrego,the vegetables nicely seasoned with a nod to the Algarves Moorish connection in the form of harissa ,almonds and curd cheese.The vegetables I have chosen can be changed to those of your own discretion,but please I implore you not to forego the butternut squash,to my mind the making of this dish.I have also used a hot water crust pastry here.Most commonly associated with pork pies, hot water crust pastry is perfect for shaping into pie cases because the high quantity of water present makes it hard and strong. The pastry is baked until rich brown in colour and stands up well to wet and heavy fillings. Hot water crust pastry requires the fat to be ‘hot’ when added, rather than chilled as is needed for most other kinds of pastry.

    Lamb and vegetable pie
    ( when moussaka meets a Moroccan shepherd)

    Empada de legumes e borrego
    (um encontro de moussaka e um empada de pastor marroquino)

    Mix the water in a pan, add the butter and stir until it melts,
Add the flour, salt and slightly beaten egg. Knead well until all the ingredients are well attached, the dough takes off from the fingers and is able to form a ball. Reserve.

    Cut butternut squash and carrot into 1cm cubes, arrange in a baking tray drizzle with 2 soup spoons of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and Ras El Hanout and bake for 30 minutes.Reserve.

    Chop the onions and celery finely.With the lamb, sautée in a frying pan with a soup spoon of olive oil for 10 to 12 minutes until soft.
In the same frying pan, add the leek and the the chopped garlic cloves.Add the lamb,season with salt and saute for another 8 minutes until the leek is tender. Add the red wine,thyme and a soup spoon of Worcester sauce and stir to mix and the wine is reduced.Cut the mushrooms into quarters and place them in the same skillet with more oil if needed, season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and all the liquid has evaporated.Add the tomato purée, then season. Simmer gently for 15 minutes until the mixture has reduced.In the same pan add the reserved butternut squash and carrot mix.Mix everything together till well combined. Season with salt, add the requeijao and stir for 2 minutes.

    Divide the dough into three parts keeping one third aside. Form a ball with the other two parts and roll out on a floured surface, enough to line a rectangular shaped loaf pan 24 x 12cms. Line the pan taking care not to cut the excess off.
spread the mixture over the pastry and with the back of a tablespoon press lightly.
Roll out the remaining dough, to a sufficient size to cover the top of the pie and bit more.
Lightly wet the excess pastry on the edge of the shape, all the way around (the water will serve as a "glue").
Put the dough on top, covering the whole shape and with your fingers press it firmly, joining the two doughs and sealing the pie. Cut off excess and set aside. With your fingers make a wavy effect all around and with the remains of the dough make small "leaves" of dough. and position them, gluing them to the surface with water.
With a funnel make a small hole in the center of the pie. This will allow the steam to come out during cooking, preventing the dough from splitting.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the pastry takes on golden colour.
Carefully remove the pie from the pan and brush all over with the beaten egg.
Return to the oven for another 10 minutes.