Saturday, 30 November 2019

Blackberry and apple cheesecake

    Blackberries are the essence of country life and have many uses

According to archaelogical evidence,the Neolithic Revolution, also referred to as the Agricultural Revolution, saw a shift to agriculture from hunting and gathering that changed humanity forever.Since these times we have been eating blackberries.There are now as many as 2,000 varieties of Rubus fruticosus worldwide, if you count the naturally occurring hybrids and commercial cultivars. Picking blackberries captures the essence of country life, conjuring up romantic images of rustic walks and country lanes. Children love to eat them and a blackberry picking expedition can prove fruitful for all members of the family.Foragers hunt frenetically everywhere – through hayfields, cornfields, and briars, straining across ditches, staining and scratching their hands as they search. They fill  buckets first with the greener, less ripe berries, and then top them off with the ripest ones. They are more highly prized in western Europe than anywhere else in the world, and collected and eaten most enthusiastically of all in Britain, where blackberrying occupies a special cultural niche as a uniquely rewarding leisure activity.Positive foraging experiences like collecting blackberries can be very rewarding. This is especially true with children, as it also helps to set a life-long interest in nature and natural un-processed foods.After all, wild foods are totally organic, requiring no human intervention to thrive and best of all, you don’t need your wallet to cash in on the yields ( unless of course you are counting on purchasing the cultivated variety). Alas the blackberry season is now all but over and this years’ berries are no longer widespread, and prolific throughout the countryside.However their flavour can be enjoyed for weeks and months to come by making jams, chutneys, wine and infusing vinegars. They can also be frozen and used as desired throughout the year. Berries ripen gradually from August, through September to early-winter.
When they are over however we’re also blessed with the option of the cultivated varieties being available in the supermarkets.
Blackberry and apple crumbles, pies, cobblers, muffins, fools and ice creams are all delicious. One quick, easy and delicious thing to do with blackberries is to make a blackberry coulis.
Blackberry coulis
As the fruits swell and ripen  their sweetness becomes more pronounced and they find themselves frequently combined with  apples for a taste which is the embodiment of the changing seasons. 
 One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother bottling blackberry and apple compote. There were wild blackberry bushes opposite our house, and a couple of old apple trees in the garden, providing her with more than enough to keep her busy each autumn making this wonderful treat to take us through the winter.
This is a deep garnet coloured sauce that you can serve with desserts and it’s wonderful over ice-cream or yoghurt.

250g fresh blackberries       25g organic sugar      25ml lemon juice


Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. 
Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it doesn’t dry out (the moisture from the berries should prevent this). 
Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée. 
Pass through a sieve to remove seeds. 
Use immediately or put in jar and refrigerate.

Blackberry and apple cheese cake with blackberry coulis
20cm / 8" loose bottomed cake tin

250g/9oz finely digestive biscuits
125g/4½oz unsalted butter,
melted, plus extra for greasing
3 tbsp honey

100g/3½oz caster sugar
250g/9oz ricotta
250g/9oz mascarpone
4 medium eggs
125g/4oz fresh blackberries

FOR THE COULIS 250g fresh blackberries       
25g icing sugar      
25ml lemon juice

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

A penne for your thoughts? Sunday lunch gone by

“If you want my gravy, pepper my ragu.Spice it up for Mama....she’ll get hot for you.”                                        — Matron Mama Morton: Chicago, Kander and Ebb

If you’re trying to use up a whole mess of leftover pulled pork from something else, you’re in the right place! and if you've never thought of putting pulled pork and pasta together, prepare yourself for a hearty, heavenly plate of  left over perfection.Pulled pork ragu is one of those deliciously comforting, slow-cooked hearty meals that warms you up from the inside out. It makes all the dreary wearies go away,and brings back memories of sunday lunches gone by. The only drawback? It takes like forever to cook. At least 4 hours. But by using leftover pulled pork, you can pull together a fast and comforting meal in just about 45 minutes, making it perfectly doable when you need a bit of savoury comfort for a weeknight supper.Obviously if you have the time a longer slower cook will bring more tenderness.
Those with Nonnas will know the aroma well, recipes vary from family to family, but the tradition is the same.The choice of pasta is yours.There is no more perfect union in all gastronomy than the marriage of Bolognese ragù with home made tagliatelle and for me
ragù is irreproacable with such boxed,dry pastas as rigatoni,conghiglie or fusilli.Take heed,meat sauce in Bologna is never served over spaghetti.Spaghetti bolognese is entirely the invention of Britain and the countries that constitute the commonwealth.
To make this recipe you’ll need a casserole or other heavy bottomed pan. You’ll start by sautéing some onions in your fat of choice, and then adding in a little garlic. Add a few glugs of dry white wine for complexity, and then add the leftover pulled pork along with some crushed tomatoes, tomato purée herbs, and some soya sauce. Simmer, simmer, simmer…’bout 45 minutes should do it. 
Pulled pork ragù
tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 onion chopped
I large carrot
1 stick celery
2 cloves garlic ,minced
125ml dry white wine
500g San marzano/Roma tomatoes,skinned,deseeded,chopped
2 tbsp tomato passata
2 cups cooked, shredded pulled pork,from shoulder tenderloin or ribs
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp torn basil
2 tbsp soya sauce
Put the oil,butter and chopped onion in the casserole,turn the heat to medium and sautée the onion until it becomes translucent.Add the garlic,carrot and celery and a large pinch of salt.Cook for about 2 minutes,stirring the vegetables to coat them well.Add the wine,let it simmer gently,stirring frequently,until it has evaporated,then add the tomatoes,passata,herbs and shredded pork.Stir thoroughly to coat all the ingredients well.When the mixture starts to bubble,turn the heat right down so the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers,with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface Cook uncovered for at least 45 minutes ,then check the consistency.If you have the time the longer you cook it down the more intensity of flavour. While the sauce is cooking,you are likely to find that it begins to dry out.To keep it from sticking,continue the cooking adding a little water when necessary.At the end you are looking for a thick consistency with no water at all left.stir through the soya sauce,taste and correct for salt.
to serve toss with the cooked pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan on the side.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

What's not to comprehend? ..... Amarena cherry chocolate cup cakes

Some things are just meant to be together: butter and toast, cheese and crackers, ketchup and chips, and chocolate and cherry. There is no denying that this sweet and tart couple is always a recipe for success.
This is another of those corporate recipes.I found it on the Lindt chocolate site.My last foray into the corporate world of baking,as you well know, ended in tears and was using a recipe from German supermarket chain Aldi.If you remember I ended up binning two batches and getting no comfort from Aldi´s Customer service department.The ingredient list of this latest one started "2 each eggs." I was a little bewildered and ready for something to go wrong further down the line.After the batter list ended,the ingredients for the icing began "serve the any leftover with the cupcakes".Now I was really confused.This was not a google translation much as it appeared to be.Was this just English as she is spoke? The ingredient list ended "For example words or names made from tempered chocolate".What on earth was meant by that? 
 Moving on,the batter turned out to be the perfect dropping consistency that I expected it to be, but the cooking time was wrong. 12-15 minutes did not conjure up a cooked muffin.After 15 minutes I opened the oven to a muffin pan of chocolate soup. Ottolenghi cooks his for 20-25 minutes.I put them back in the oven for a further 15 minutes,30 minutes in total then let them cool in their case completely before I attempted to ice them.The recipe made 16 but I lost two in the process of removing them from their moulds.They were exceptionally delicious but very crumbly, but I guess that is how a cup cake should be. Here´s the recipe see how you fare? Something for the weekend?
Amarena cherry chocolate cup cakes
2 each Eggs
60g Butter, unsalted
100g Caster sugar
200g Chocolate Sauce (from below)
80g Plain flour
60g Almond meal
20g Cocoa powder
2tsp Baking powder
Pinch Sea salt

180g Lindt Dessert chocolate 70%
140ml Milk
65ml Vegetable oil
2 Tbsp Amarena syrup
Serve the any leftover with the cupcakes. 
170g Butter, unsalted and soft
340g Pure icing sugar, sifted
Little Flor de sal
2 Tbsp Amarena syrup 
8-10 Amarena cherries, halved

Little red food colour
Top with a cherry
Chocolate decorations

Preheat the oven to 180°C
Combine the milk and oil and warm to just under boiling point.
Mix in the chopped chocolate and amarena syrup.Mix to a smooth sauce using a stick blender.
Set aside to cool.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift together the plain flour, almond meal, cocoa and baking powder.
Fold into the batter to incorporate.
Mix In the chocolate sauce and salt.
Divide Into paper cup lined cupcake tray.
Bake For 12-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Put aside to cool fully. 
For the icing
Place soft butter into the bowl of your electric mixer and with a whisk attachment whisk for about 6-7 minutes, until light.Scrape down sides a couple of times. Sift icing sugar and add little by little on medium speed. Add pinch of salt, vanilla, Amarena syrup, chopped cherries and colour if using.
Use at room temperature.
Top each cupcake generously with icing and decorate with chocolate and top with a cherry.  

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Oh for Ottolenghi!!

Fish kofta in ancho chilli and tomato sauce
Oh Yotam, where would be without you? Mealtimes changed when you came on the scene.I am sure more than a few people,myself included, have a culinary crush on you.
 Hardly a week goes by when this household does not cook up at least one, if not more, Ottolenghi inspired dishes.You are the man who by default was responsible for "sexing up vegetables."Caveat:you are-gasp!-not vegan.It is no secret that you–are a meat eater, however you credit the publishers restrictions of your original column "the new vegetarian" with aiding your meteoric rise to success. There really was no fabulous vegetarian food before you came along.Perhaps someone can now take a leaf out of your book and make dull new wave populist vegan food fabulous for us too.
You abandoned the word ‘vegetarian’ and just gave us wonderful food,you just omitted the meat and fish. It’s not about not having something in a dish. It’s not about what you omit or include, it’s just about celebrating vegetables as they are,and this is what you did. Your thinking was, ‘this wonderful dish would go with some pork chops’.It didn´t bother you.You have got a way with vegetables that makes even omnivores want them, and that to me is an even bigger coup.Recently you guaranteed us that we wouldn´t miss the dairy and eggs commonly used in doughnuts.Instead,you gave us a doughnut recipe with olive oil, which made them rich velvety and vegan amenable.And now I have to get onto the subject of your fish koftas.You have three inspired ways with these and they are all genius in their own right.Two with fresh white fish and one with canned fish.
In the first you have them swimming in a warm tomato chilli gravy,which has a bit of a kick eh boy.The second is spiced, citrusy and aromatic using canned fish, and in the third you serve them simply seared,finished in the oven and served up with a beetroot.What more can I say but I love them all.
Fish kofta in ancho chilli and tomato sauce 
Serves 4

For the kofta
500g firm white fish (such as cod), boned and skinned
4 spring onions, finely chopped (60g net weight)
10g fresh fenel fronds, roughly chopped, plus extra picked leaves to serve
handful fresh coriander,chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1½ tsp lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
30g panko breadcrumbs
3 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce
15g dried ancho chilli (about 1½ chillies), stem removed
2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped (150g)
60ml olive oil
1 green chilli, halved lengthways
1 tbsp tomato paste
3-4 plum tomatoes (400g), roughly grated and skins discarded (300g net weight)
300ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp caster sugar
25g coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
First, make the sauce. Put the ancho chilli in a small bowl, cover with plenty of boiling water, and leave to soften for 20 minutes. Drain, discard the liquid, roughly chop the chilli then put in a food processor with two-thirds of the fennel and cumin, all the garlic, onion and two tablespoons of oil, and blitz into a coarse paste.
Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to a large saute pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the ancho sauce, green chilli and tomato paste and cook for seven minutes, stirring often, until softened and fragrant. Add the grated tomatoes, stock, 200ml water, sugar, half the coriander, one and a quarter teaspoons of salt and a good grind of pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Keep warm on a low heat until needed.
Meanwhile, make the kofta. Chop the fish by hand into roughly ½-1cm pieces. Put in a large bowl with the spring onion, dill, chilli, lemon zest, egg, panko,coriander, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and mix well to combine. Form into 12 round fish cakes, roughly 6-7cm in diameter and about 55g in size. Make sure you press and compact them well, so they stay together when frying.
Add one and a half-tablespoons of oil to a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add half the kofta and fry for five minutes, flipping halfway, until deeply golden on both sides. Transfer to a plate, then repeat with the remaining oil and kofta.
Bring the sauce back to a simmer on a medium-high heat. Add the kofta, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside for about five minutes, top with the extra dill leaves and serve directly from the pan. 

THE VERDICT:these are very rich but would make a delicious tapas item or sharing plate

Fish koftas in tomato and cardamom sauce 
serves 4
This dish,is inspired by a dish created by Moroccan Jews in Morocco.On first inspection, this dish looks like herb-flecked meatballs in tomato sauce, but the sauce is spiced, tangy and aromatic, and the meatballs are, well, fish balls, made of a combination of mackerel and sardines. Tinned sardines are used here, for ease, but you can obviously substitute with fresh sardines, scaled and boned. You'll also want to pay attention to the total weight or volume of the mackerel: Some types are larger than others. All work here, but you may not need to buy as many fillets. Serve with some couscous or rice and a spoonful of yogurt, if you like.
    For the sauce
    ⅓ cup/75ml olive oil
    8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    3 green chilli peppers, such as serrano, finely sliced (and seeded if you don’t like heat)
    2 large celery stalks, trimmed and finely chopped
    1 banana shallot (or a large regular shallot), finely chopped
    500g ripe vine tomatoes, blitzed in a food processor for one minute (or use two cups canned tomato puree)
    3 Tbs tomato paste
    2 Tbs granulated or caster sugar
    1½ tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp lime zest, plus 1 Tbs lime juice (from one lime)
    8 cardamom pods, crushed in a mortar and pestle, skins discarded (or use a scant ½ tsp ground cardamom)
    3 cups plus 2 Tbs/200ml dry white wine
    2 Tbs/5g finely chopped cilantro or coriander leaves, for serving
    2 Tbs/5g finely chopped dill, for serving

    For the fish koftas
    4 mackerel fillets (from two 500g fish), skin and pin bones removed, flesh roughly chopped into 2cm pieces
    150g drained tinned sardines in olive oil, roughly chopped
    1 heaping Tbs/10g pistachios, roughly chopped
    ½ cup/10g loosely packed roughly chopped fresh dill
    1 loosely packed cup/15g roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves (coriander leaves)
    1 Tbs finely grated zest (from two limes); cut the zested limes into wedges or juice them, for serving
    1 green chilli pepper (such as serrano), finely chopped
    1 egg, beaten
    5 Tbs/70g potato flour, divided
    3 Tbs/50ml vegetable oil

    1. Start with the sauce: In a large saute pan with a lid, heat olive oil, garlic, half the sliced chilli pepper and a good pinch of salt over medium-low heat. Gently fry for six minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft and golden. Remove 2 Tbs of the oil (with some of the chilli and garlic) and set aside.
    2. Add celery, shallot and 1½ tsp salt to the same pan and continue to cook for eight minutes, stirring often, until soft and translucent. Increase the heat to medium, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, cumin, lime zest and juice and the cardamom and continue to cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the wine, 350ml water and ¼ tsp salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, turning the heat down if the sauce bubbles too much, and stirring once in a while.
    3. While the sauce is simmering, make the fish koftas: Add fish, pistachios, herbs, lime zest, chilli and egg to a bowl with 3 Tbs potato flour and ⅛ tsp salt and mix together well. Grease your hands with a little oil and roll the mix into approximately 12 golf-sized balls (about 45g to 50g each), applying pressure to compact them as you go. Add the remaining 2 Tbs flour to a plate and roll each ball in the flour so they are coated.
    4. Heat vegetable oil in a large, non-stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the fish balls and cook for about five minutes, turning throughout until all sides are golden-brown and crisp. Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside if it finishes before you finish the koftas.
    5. After the sauce has been cooking for 20 minutes, transfer the balls into the sauce, drizzling over some of the frying oil (or return the sauce to medium heat). Cover the pan with the lid and cook for four minutes, until hot.
    6. Remove the lid and scatter the herbs and the remaining fresh chilli over the top, then drizzle with the reserved garlic and chilli oil. Serve hot, with lime juice added to taste, or with lime wedges alongside.

      Tuesday, 12 November 2019

      The life of pie

      Britain’s greatest gift to the world - the pub.A Sunday lunch in the pub and there’s not a problem in the world that roast potatoes and gravy do not improve, aside from, perhaps, gout, though by that stage you may as well crack on. Its second greatest gift, the pie.I live abroad and when I get those expat cravings, I need a pie.THE PIE - whatever the filling might be - has only just begun,in our house,making its first outings of the year. It doesn't feel quite like pie time yet, and my body is certainly not yet in the "C" word mode. Seasonally I might find my own personal nirvana in a heavenly sweet potato and chestnut wellington: soft, sweet, nutty and perfectly seasoned, with glorious pastry,but as a rabid carnivore only coming second best to a pork pot pie.
      When you have leftover pork roast, reheats, stir-frys, and sandwiches are fine but pot pie turns a second-hand rose into a culinary masterpiece.
      This pork pot pie can be made with purchased pie dough, puff pastry, or your own favourite home made pie crust.I went for the first option because of its ease to work with and it bakes up beautifuly tender and flaky.I hope you like it.
      Pork Pot pie
        For the Filling:
        4 tablespoons butter (divided)
        1/4 onion/1/4 cup (yellow, cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
        1 rib celery/1/4 cup (cut into 1/4-inch rounds)
        1 carrot/1/4 cup (peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds)
        Pinch dried oregano
        Pinch dried thyme
        1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
        2 cubes  good quality bouillon cubes (
        2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (unbleached)
        Optional: 1 tablespoon dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
        1/2 pound cooked pork (cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
        1/2 cup snap peas (can be frozen, cut in half)
        Salt and black pepper (to taste)

        Heat oven to 375 F.
        Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to melt.
        Add onion, celery, carrot, and herbs; sprinkle lightly with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until vegetables are fragrant. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Scoop veggies into a bowl.
        Heat 1 1/2 cups water in microwave on high for 1 minute. Completely dissolve bouillon cubes in water.
        Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking steadily, for 4 minutes.
        Increase heat to medium and whisk in bouillon. Continue whisking until sauce begins to bubble and is quite thick (juices released from the other ingredients will thin it while cooking). Stir in optional wine and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cooked vegetables, snap peas, and pork.
        Assemble the Dish and Bake
        Roll out pie crust. You'll have to use your own judgment here depending on your baking vessel(s), but the pastry should be just over 1/8-inch thick.
        Line  the bowls /ramekins with pastry.Spoon your filling into your chosen vessel/s.Cover the tops with a lid of pastry, pierce with a knife to vent and bake for about 40 minutes until crust is browned.Remove from oven. Cool slightly and serve.
        As always, when working with pastry, make sure your fats and liquids are cold.

        Friday, 8 November 2019

        Roast spiced belly pork with apples ginger and soy

        The flavours in this dish are inspired by Filipino pork adobo*.The Filipino adobo is a cooking process or technique where meat, seafood or indigenous vegetables are braised in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, along with aromatics such as garlic, onions, Szechuan peppercorns,spices,curry powder and bay leaves.
        As many and as diverse are the islands and dialects in the Philippines as are the many ways adobo is prepared.I opted to use pork belly in my adobo as I like its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, but you could easily substitute pork shoulder which, although a leaner cut, has enough ribbons of fat to bring equally delicious results.
        I used pineapple juice, apple vinegar and whole apples to cut through the richness.
        Some might prefer this with more sauce, while others would prefer it simmered dry. Others like it slightly tangy, while some prefer it on the salty side. This version is how I like mine, with beautifully seared pork, a rich and thick sauce to spoon over the meat, and enough grease to warrant a visit to a cardiologist.

        Roast spiced belly pork with apples ginger and soy
        Prep 15 min
        Cook 2 hr 30 min
        Serves 4

        1 whole pork belly joint (800-900g), boneless
        Flaked sea salt
        1½ tbsp olive oil
        1 large onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
        12 garlic cloves, peeled
        40g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
        tsp mild curry powder

        tsp ground cumin
        3 bay leaves
        90ml soy sauce
        250ml chicken stock
        250ml unsweetened pineapple juice
        70ml apple cider vinegar
        2 tbsp caster sugar
        1 tsp szechuan peppercorns, crushed
        3 medium Pink Lady apples (400g), cored and cut into quarters
        2 spring onions, thinly sliced

        Heat the oven to 185C (165C fan)/365F/gas 4½. Use a small, sharp knife to score the skin of the pork in a cross-hatch pattern spaced roughly 1½cm apart, then rub a teaspoon of flaked salt into the skin, push it down into the slashes.
        Put the oil in a large ovenproof saute pan on a medium-high heat, then fry the onion, stirring, for three minutes, just to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, star anise and bay leaves, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly coloured – another three minutes. Add the soy, stock, apple juice, vinegar, sugar and black peppercorns, and bring to a simmer.
        Take off the heat and lay in the pork, skin side up, taking care not to get the skin wet (it should not at any stage be submerged in liquid). Transfer to the oven, roast for 90 minutes, then remove and arrange the apples around the pork, stirring gently to coat them in the sauce and again taking care not to get any liquid on the skin. Return to the oven for 30 minutes, or until the apples have softened but still retain their shape, and the pork is deeply golden.
        Gently lift the pork on to a board, leave to rest for 10-15 minutes, then cut into 1½cm-thick slices. To serve, transfer the contents of the saute pan to a serving dish with a lip, lay the pork slices on top and sprinkle with the spring onions.

        Adobo*Adobo or Adobar is the immersion of raw food in a stock composed variously of paprika, oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar to preserve and enhance its flavor. The Portuguese variant is known as Carne de vinha d'alhos. The practice is native to Iberia, namely Spanish cuisine and Portuguese cuisine.

        Sunday, 3 November 2019

        We do....We did.An October 2019 Portuguese swansong

        All photos:  Ellen Swandiak@hobnob magazine
        Dear diary: Life changed on the 12th October - The thespian and I got married: two years in the planning from August 2017 and what we brought out of the box on 12th October 2019 surprised even ourselves.This is what we do and hospitality is what we have done for the last 25 years.What we achieved that day put paid to all the lows of our worst year on record but heralded the reassurance of a bright new start and optimistic future. Our swansong,our own wedding, was the best thing we could have ever done.We went out on a high.Street food was our mission and micro Glastonbury was what we produced.Talking of which Dear diary,I recall that it looked like we would have no sound system at the point the first guests were arriving.Things can go horribly wrong behind the machinery of wedding planning, but front of house no one need ever know,that is the beauty of it. Worthy farm it was not but worthy salt pans it certainly was.Months of putting together the perfect day was conducted with the precision of a military operation.Weekly online conferences ensured optimum success.

        Planning and executing your own wedding sounds like a match made in heaven,Oh no Dear diary believe me it is ten times more stressful than being paid to put together a clients big day.The fact that the venue and ourselves were located in Portugal and the operations team were in the UK added to the stress factor. Well  in the words of the Divine Miss M "Yah got to have friends to make that day last long" and boy did we have the support of those friends, big time.These stalwarts rallied and when we floundered they rallied again.There was the added responsibilty of at least one third of our guest list having booked flights from far and wide, even New York and there had to be WOW factor to greet them on their arrival.But how wonderful is it,knowing that these friends you have not seen for many years are always there for you,no matter how near or how far,and in the same way you are always there for them.
        The concept was in the capable hands 
        of some of our favourite chefs and caterers.
        Observing it on the day was like witnessing an episode of Masterchef where the contestants have to set up a field kitchen to cater for 60 or more.Fabio pulled out all the stops out to bring our guest tuna hot dogs, oysters and mini foie gras ice cream cones, and that was just for starters.Chef Marco gave us our all time favourite, octopus carpaccio, with grilled tuna,roasted vegetable and popcorn.Taking to the stage, Algarve Caterers Ricardo and Duarte brought us spring rolls followed by some pad thai show cooking and sticky pork bao buns.There was something for everyone, the pad thai could be chicken,prawn,or tofu.Allo allo!! We refreshed our guest palates with the alvarinho grape in the form of a 2018 "ALLO" from Soalheiro and for those who wanted something a little more serious there was vinho tinto Linhas Tortas (tortuous, crooked lines )reserva 2017.Speaking from my own point of view there were most certainly some tortuous crooked lines appearing by nightfall.
        Later on our host Jorge (salmarim) entertained us all with his customary culinary theatre cooking berbigao ( small clams)from the Ria Formosa on a bed of hot salt. What a day it was,never to be forgotten, with all the best highlights captured from his drone in an amazing movie from Fergus.Thank you everyone for making our special day such an amazing one, from my hazy memory.I think sometimes the married couple need to revisit their wedding and see it from the guests perspective.

        Friday, 1 November 2019

        "Os Tavirenses comem dentro da gaveta" Tavirans eat from a drawer

        Piri piri prawns flambéed with maciera and lemon,
         my interpretation ( top ) Restaurant version ( below )
        There is a rare expression sometimes aired in the Algarve that "os tavirenses comem dentro da gaveta" ( Tavirians eat inside the drawer ).According to a one time Taviran town councillor the statement comes from the time when commerial businesses did not close at lunch time. The shopkeeper or trader would put his plate in the drawer of the counter and discreetly eat until a customer entered his establishment. When the occasion arose, he would close the drawer and attend to business, restarting his meal as soon as the customer  had left.Although this expression sounds a little derogatory, it should be noted that it has nothing to do with reality. In fact, Tavira, besides being a beautiful town, has a very hospitable population, quite the opposite of what the statement suggests.We had the good fortune the other night, of Eating in a drawer,so to speak.Opened on 21st March 2018 Come na Gaveta ( Eat in a drawer ) is in,for me, the most iconic municipality of  the Algarve, Tavira, a wonderful sleepy little historic town.On this occasion, eating at Come na Gaveta with friends, I would have been more than proud if it was myself cooking what they served us..We ordered this dish of flambéed garlic prawns with Maciera (Portuguese brandy)Well that clinched it for me.I would return home with the intention of emulating this dish.I turned to my well thumbed copy of Tessa Kiros book Piri piri Star Fish  and soon found a Taviran recipe for prawns with piri piri whisky and lemon.I thought by replacing the whisky with Maciera I would not be far off,but it was not to be.Memory of that night in Come na Gaveta had failed me,there was a distinct flavour missing.I had a second stab at it and this time put vanilla in the sauce.I was there,well not far off the same deliciousness.
        Piri piri prawns flambéed with maciera and lemon
        This makes the perfect tapas item or starter before a main course of grilled fish.Serve with some bread for the sauce and a lemon wedge
        400 g (14 oz) x raw prawns (shrimp) 
        1 x tablespoon olive oil 
        50 g x (13⁄4 oz) butter 
        2 x small bay leaves 
        2 x garlic cloves, chopped 
        1 x tablespoon chopped coriander leaves 
        ground piri piri (or other chilli powder) 
        1⁄2 teaspoon sweet paprika
        a dash of 100% pure vanilla extract 

        3–4 tablespoons Maciera 
        juice of 1 small lemon extra lemons, to serve
        Remove the heads from the prawns but leave the shells on the bodies. make a shallow cut down the back of each one so they take in the flavour of the sauce and devein them. Rinse and pat dry. 
        Heat the oil and half the butter in a large non-stick saucepan until very hot and sizzling. 
        Throw in the prawns and bay leaves gradually, trying not to lose the heat, so the prawns get crusty and golden. toss the pan and season with coarse salt and pepper. When the prawns are nicely golden on both sides, add the garlic, parsley, as much piri piri as you like, the paprika a dash of vanilla extract and the last of the butter. 
        Toss until you can smell the garlic, then add the Maciera. When it’s been absorbed, add the lemon juice and toss it all together.Let it bubble up for a moment, check the seasoning, then use a slotted spoon to lift the prawns onto a plate. Add about 4 tablespoons of water to the pan and let it bubble up to thicken the sauce. Remove from the heat, return the prawns to the pan and toss through the sauce. serve with some bread for the sauce and a lemon wedge or two.

        Well the experience did not end there.We ordered a wide enough variety of Tapas to satisfy all four of us:the best dishes being
        "Pica pau do lombo" with great home made pickles not from a jar,"Tempura de Polvo" Chouriço polenta  and the best sweet potato chips ever ever.Well I have to say i just had to pinch this last one for my home table too......

                     Chouriço polenta,my interpretation ( top ) Restaurant version ( below )

        Chouriço polenta,my interpretation.... 
        Chorizo and manchego croquetas
        You can judge a good restaurant by the way it makes its croquetas – this recipe will make yours equally good. Make the base mix a day ahead, then you can just cook the croquetas to order. Serve with a glass of sherry or an ice-cold beer.
        75 g butter
        75 g plain flour
        500 ml whole milk
        75 g manchego, finely grated
        150 g chorizo, chopped cut into small cubes
        3 eggs, beaten
        200 g fine polenta
        2 litres sunflower oil, for deep-frying, plus extra for greasing
        Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour to make a thick paste.
        Gradually stir in the milk until you have a smooth sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted, then stir in the chorizo and season really well. Scoop into a tray or dish, cool, then chill completely in the fridge. (This can take 2-3 hours, or you could do it the day before.)
        Put the egg on one plate and breadcrumbs on another. Scoop out large teaspoonfuls of the mix and roll each into a ball about 3cm across. Roll the balls in the egg then the polenta. Repeat so you have a double layer of egg and breadcrumbs.
        Fill a pan ⅓ full with oil and heat to 180C (or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds), then deep fry the balls in batches for 2-3 minutes until golden. Scoop out and drain on kitchen paper.