Saturday, 28 December 2019

Spicy prawn cakes with coriander drop scones chilli tomato butter and a poached quails egg

Bursting with vibrant flavours of coriander,green chilli garlic and spice

Tis the season… for cocktail parties, family get-togethers, potluck parties, and any other number of opportunities for you to hone your party-food skills. You want options that can be easily passed around, grabbed with one hand, and finished in a few bites; you also want a recipe that’s so memorably tasty people will demand you make it again and again.
Prawn cakes, made by chopping shrimp in the food processor, are great as a dinner option, but with a twist on their shape they’re one of my favourite dishes to make for parties, too. Not only are they easy to make, they’re incredibly tasty and, frankly, much less expensive than crab. (I love crab cakes! I do! But their price feels like you have to make them for "An Occasion", with capital letters, and if you’re not wearing a tuxedo, you’re just wasting everybody’s time.) The best part about prawn cakes is that you can flavour them any way you like.
My Thai-influenced version of prawn cakes is the one I go to most often. A generous amount of fresh coriander gives them a bright, fresh flavour and a beautiful green colour. If you’re one of those coriander haters: (a) dont accept my party invitation; (b) parsley, basil, or mint (or a combination of all three) would be a fine substitution. I also add garlic, spring onions, and sometimes lime zest to the mix.
To deliver spice, I include jalapeños because they’re available year-round, but you can use any hot pepper you like. Thai birds eye chilis or piri piri are a great addition if you prefer the elevated heat. Its always wise to keep things on the milder side when cooking for parties: One person’s “delightfully spicy” is another’s “are you trying to kill me?” (And you can always add more heat with the sauce.)
I like my prawn cakes to have texture, but I also want them to hold together well during cooking, and to have some spring when you bite into them. To get there, after processing the prawns I add a quantity of breadcrumbs piecemeal, until I achieve a texture that  binds the mixture. This gives moist cakes that won’t fall apart.The perils of disintegrating fritters aren’t restricted to those with less experience.So don’t treat it as a catastrophe;put it down to experience.Experienced cooks also cock them up every now and then, as as I myself know only too well.Add breadcrumbs or a little flour to a mix that’s too wet, or egg yolk if it’s too dry. And with starchy stuff like rice or spuds, a tight squeeze when shaping will help hold things together. In other words, if a fritter falls apart in your hands, it’s unlikely to stay in one piece in the pan, so it pays to get the base right first.There’s no one secret to avoiding collapse but, with time, you’ll get a feel for it.

500g 81lb) green ( raw ) prawns,shelled
1 green chilli,chopped
tbsp fish sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 spring onions,finely sliced

grated zest of 1/2 a lime,optional
2 tbsp chopped coriander,roots and leaves
1 cup ( 250ml ) ground nut oil

Place prawns, chilli, fish sauce, garlic, turmeric, pepper and coriander in a food processor and process to a paste.Fold in the spring onions. Slowly add breadcrumbs until you achieve a texture that will hold together in the pan.Shape the prawn mixture with the help of a round pastry cutter, into  mini cakes 6cm (21/4 in) in diameter.Heat the oil in afrying pan until hot.Add the prawn cakes and shallow fry until golden.Remove and drain on paper towels.Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.
Coriander drop scones
makes 6 
2 eggs beaten, plus 1 egg yolk
1 level tsp Flor de sal
ground pepper
tsp chilli flakes or powder
Soup spoon finely chopped fresh coriander
2 heaped tbsp self-raising flour

Juice  1/2 lemon

Make a batter with the above ingredients by pouring the beaten egg gradually into the seasoned flour.Beat in the lemon juice.Brush a hot flat griddle pan or non-stick frying pan with a little butter.
Drop tablespoons of the batter onto this,2 or 3 at a time, turning the muffins as soon as they are set, and let them just brown  on the reverse sides they are still somewhat soft.Keep them warm, wrapped in clean tea towel, in a low oven 250F (130C) or on a hotplate.

Chilli Tomato butter
6 oz ( 175g ) butter, softened
3 tsp tomato purée
pinch of dry mustard
tsp of sriracha sauce
2 tsp lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients to a smooth paste.It should be served soft.You can freeze what is left over for use with grilled fish,chicken or chops.

To serve
First make your scones and keep them warm covered in the oven until ready to use.
Fry your prawn cakes and likewise keep them warm in the oven while you boil your quails eggs.
Place a drop scone in the centre of each plate.Place a small dollop of tomato butter on top of the warm scone and sit a prawn cake on top of the butter so the butter melts.finally place a poached quails egg on top of the prawn cake.

and finally
A cheffy trick for poaching any kind of eggs!!!!
If you have a lot of quail eggs to poach, this is the way to do a batch at a time. This recipe is an example with 6 quail eggs, but it is easy to increase by two or 3 times the quantity 
6 quails eggs
60ml white wine vinegar
600ml water
In saucepan, bring 600ml of water to the boil.
Pour the vinegar into a small bowl.
With a small paring knife, cut open the quail eggs and pour their contents into the vinegar. Leave for 5 minutes. This ensures that the egg white stays together.
Pour the vinegar and the eggs into the boiling water in one go, and turn the heat to low.
Poach for 1 minute and 20 seconds, and then remove from the pan with a skimmer.
Use immediately, or chill in ice water for later use.


Friday, 20 December 2019

The Truth About Brining Turkey

Does brining a turkey really make a difference ?
I am a huge fan of brining poultry!  For those of you that have never tried brining, you simply must. There is just no better way to add moisture and get perfect seasoning all the way down to the bone. In addition to dramatically improving the flavour, the added moisture gives you an extra margin for error in avoiding the dreaded balsa-wood-like dry white meat.
For me the only turkey is a brined one. Not only does it tenderize and add subtle spiciness, but it makes carving the turkey so much easier. You only have  to try this method to be utterly convinced. And I mean to say: how hard is it to fill a pan or large plastic bin or bucket with water and spices and lower a turkey into it? At this time of year, it’s fine just to leave it in a cold place. I sit mine in the back room of the house with the window open. It means everyone freezes, but who am I going to put first – my turkey or my guests? Out in the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one would also be fine, though the pan must be securely covered: if you´ve got a bucket or bin out in the open, cover it twice with foil and then put something heavy on top to prevent animal scavenging.
And, though you might find it hard to believe sight unseen, a raw turkey covered in brine – with its oranges, cinnamon sticks, and scattering of spices – looks so beautiful as it steeps that I can never help lifting the lid for quick, blissfully reassuring peeks.
    1 gallon water (should cover a medium to large bird)
    1 cup salt (or 1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 large lime
    1 lemon
    1 orange
    1 onion (cut into thick slices)
    4 cloves garlic (crushed)
    4 bay leaves
    1 tablespoon thyme (dried)
    4 cinnamon sticks

      Tuesday, 17 December 2019

      Deep fried capers,user friendly bar food, addictive garnish or cocktail food with attitude......?

      .....All of the above.
      Put the word ‘fried’ in front of anything these days and it just sounds so passé,yet these little gems of deliciousness popped up on trendsetting Masterchef this year.
      I’m not talking the little, peppercorn-sized nonpareil variety known as capers (sans ‘berries—because these aren’t berries, but the buds of the plant), no, these were big, mature caper berries, the size of grapes, with their stems still attached to provide a convenient handle. 
      So what happens to them when subjected to the fryer and why should we be bothering?.....Because...The frying brings to life the natural oils in the caper berries, warming them and amping up the already delicious, tart flavour that is present in the berries. The crisp, breaded crust encases everything in a nice little package that can then be grasped by the stem and popped in the mouth. Mmmm, please sir can I have some more .
      Deep Fried Caper Berries

      20 or so Large Caper Berries, Stem-On
      2 Eggs, Beaten

      1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
      1/2 Cup home made breadcrumbs (combined with grated parmesan,optional)
      2 Teaspoons flor de sal

      Drain the caper berries, then set aside.  Next, beat the eggs together until they are nicely combined.  
       Put the flour in one bowl, then set the egg mixture next to it, then in the last bowl combine the bread crumbs and garlic salt.  
      First dip in the flour,then the egg mixture.Repeat the first two steps,then dip in the breadcrumb mixture
      When you are finished, you should have a nice, well-coated berry with no gaps in the breading.
      Reserve on the breadcrumb plate and repeat with the rest of the berries. 
      Heat your deep fryer with vegetable oil or peanut oil to 375F...
      ...then fry about half your berries for around three minutes or so, until they are golden brown.  Repeat with the other berries. 
      Drain on paper towel,and allow them to dry and then serve immediately.  They are best when they are hot from the fryer, and their internal oils are still hot. 
      Variation on the theme: You can get some pitted Greek or Kalamata olives and treat them the same way;  that is, batter and fry them using this recipe.  They won’t have a little stem-handle, but they will taste out of this world.  Do this and mix some in with the caper berries for an out-of-this-world experience.  

      Saturday, 14 December 2019

      "Oven ready" Lets get breakfast done,.....a little bit of History repeating?

      "It's the darkest hour that comes before the dawn. Be thinking of that, all you who voted against the Conservative Party. We will come back and we are capable of regenerating ourselves," he said. "Now let's go back home and prepare for breakfast."
       Alexander Boris de "Piffle" Johnson,
      on winning the safe conservative seat of Henley- on -Thames, 2001

      It's all just a little bit of history repeating. Eighteen years on and he´s still peddling the same old rather sad joke. I woke up on Friday morning and to dispel my disbelief needed distraction and serious comfort food.Quality time to enjoy "a full english" before the impending armageddon (No more "continental breakfasts so to speak after January 31st)
       Well,que sera sera,whatever will be will be.(The image of Damnatio ad bestias comes to mind). A vision of cowering English men and women injured by their own self infliction being thrown to the lions. A grisly scenario enshrined in popular culture by the 1951 film Quo Vadis.But before poor lambs get led to the slaughter here is what I turn to when I seek comfort (my own history repeating my updated twist on a classic) "Full English"."Oven ready" to go in just 15 minutes.
       Call it what you will, cappucino of baked eggs, total breakfast in a cup, the reality is a twist on oeufs en cocotte, Shirred pleasured you might like to call it. The basics here are a ramekin dish, knob of butter, slivers of bacon, cream, parmesan or cheddar cheese and two free range eggs baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes. The options are endless, with the possible addition of sausage, chouriço,tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach.

      "The full English" in a coffee cup
      serves 4
      25g unsalted butter
      75g cheddar or parmesan (optional)
      8 eggs
      80g button mushrooms ( or ceps, if you want extravagance)
      roughly chopped and fried in butter or oil
      150g bacon, slightly fried and broken into slivers
      1 handful of parsley(optional)
      salt and pepper
      4 tablespoons double cream
      Pre-heat the oven to 200C /400F/gas mark6
      Butter the inside of four cappucino cups, mugs or large ramekins and sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
      layer the other ingredients as follows: mushroom, bacon, parsley, if using, cream and finally crack two eggs per portion on top. place the cups in a bain marie, cover loosely with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes- they´re done when the egg whites are set.For a slight golden glaze, finish under a hot grill for a moment

      Monday, 9 December 2019

      Godsent sticky toffee upside-down pear cake

       Who said puddings should not be too sweet?
      We dont need the maestro Eddie Izzard to tell us that pears are bastards!!!! " Pears can just fuck off too. 'Cause they're gorgeous little beasts, but they're ripe for half an hour, and you're never there. They're like a rock or they're mush". In the supermarket, people banging in nails. "I'll just put these shelves up, mate, then you can have the pear." … So you think, "I'll take them home and they'll ripen up." But you put them in the bowl at home, and they sit there, going, "No! No! Don't ripen yet, don't ripen yet. Wait til he goes out the room! Ripen! Now now now!"
      Well I have had a bag of baby Rocha pears sitting at the back of my kitchen for over a week now.I have tried every trick in the book to ripen the bastards, but will they ripen? heck no."Add ripe bananas or apples to a brown paper bag to ripen pears in 1-3 days",the not so handy hint on google told me To produce ripe pears in just 1-3 days, place a banana or apple in the paper bag with your pears. The ripe fruits give off ethylene gas, which causes the pears to ripen very quickly.Ethylene gas,my giddy arse, its a myth.There they still are, hard as rocks.On Saturday I had to resort to poaching them before i included them in the cake I was making.Today this recipe popped up and who can honestly say they would not die for a killer sticky toffee pudding.For me it is up there with some of those ultimate Christmas recipes, like brandy soaked Christmas cup cakes.This sticky toffee cake recipe is like the classic pudding but in cake form.Whats more it includes pears.The recipe assured me........
      "It works well with any pear no matter how hard or ripe and bruised it is: all will melt into the sticky cake dough, and will become a delicious companion to the rich and sticky, date-flavoured cake".What a godsend.
      Sticky toffee upside-down pear cake
      Serves 6 
      200g dates, roughly chopped
      350ml oat drink or milk
      1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
      100ml olive oil
      150g unrefined sugar
      220g wholemeal flour
      2 tsp baking powder
      1 pinch nutmeg
      tsp ginger
      tsp cinnamon
      1-3 pears
      , cut in half and cored

      Heat the oven to 200C (190C fan)/410F/gas 6½. Put the dates in a saucepan with the oat drink or milk, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. 
      Off the heat, add the bicarbonate of soda and stir for 30 seconds, or until the dates begin to dissolve. Leave to cool, then mix in the olive oil, 50g of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.
      Grease and line a medium-sized cake tin. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the base of the tin. If you have only one pear, slice it and lay it out over the base of the tin; if you have two pears, cut them into large chunks; and if you have three or more pears, put the halves cut-side down in the tin.
      Cover with the cake mixture and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just cooked and springy to the touch. Turn out and serve warm.

      Friday, 6 December 2019

      When the going gets tough,the tough pick up a bacon and cheese bechamel turnover

       Bacon and cheese bechamel turnover,beyond comfort food

      As party season approaches, so does the likelihood of waking up with a hangover –a word or two of advice( O cozinheiro´s cure). If you’ve done your binge drinking on a school night and you have no choice but to report to an office, you need Ibuprofen 600mg, the breakfast sandwich of your choosing, and my condolences.
      If its the weekend then you need the sodium of tomato juice, the sinus-clearing action of horseradish, the shame-erasing magic of vodka (tequila if you want to make it a Bloody Maria).

       Back in the day when I commuted to an office, my strict no drinking on a school night rule did not always work, sometimes getting widdly was unavoidable.So often following a boozy one in London with colleagues and clients, I found myself feeling a little peaky as I stepped out of the tube station the next day. After a hard weeks graft, that project of the last 6 months had come to fruition,it was Friday night and we were all in the mood to celebrate our job well done. I didn’t drink that much in all honesty (2 pints of beer and always avoided the ‘bottle of wine in a glass’ variant ) but it’s a sad fact that I used to get terrible hangovers, hence the rule.
      "when the going gets tough the tough go to Greggs"
      On my way to the office the next morning at the station, salvation came in pastry form.My salvation came in the form of Greggs. Like a homing pigeon (though in reality perhaps more like a zombie) within 60 seconds of leaving the staion a huge selection of sweet and savoury pastrie was on offer before me. I like to think it was cosmic intervention — karma offering me a helping hand, but alas, it was probably the scent of those covered with bacon that drew me there.Recently,not having access to a Greggs and and being subjected to expat hangover cravings I have resorted to the Portuguese version, Folhada mista,and it is the perfect cure for going down nostalgia lane.
      Folhado misto,tudo bem!!!!
      I inhaled the blessed béchamel and ham sensation I’d chosen and in no time at all,soon began to feel more human again.
       So what is it about naughty foods that does that? Old-school wisdom preaches reaching for cold cheesy pizza or a greasy bacon and tomato sandwich to "soak up" the alcohol.The importance of getting some morning-after food in your stomach cannot be overstated. And while the bacon-egg-and-cheese is a nearly perfect food item, but getting one also requires leaving home, and that's just not going to happen when the struggle is real,or your hangover falls on a weekend.
       And while I can’t say this is the hangover cure the world has been waiting for (maybe I should have ordered two...), it is seriously delicious and worth every calorific bite. I decided to replicate the go to Greggs cure in the privacy of my own kitchen.
      My version is very easy to make — especially on account of using ready rolled puff pastry (life’s too short to make your own, I feel). I made a very simple béchamel using butter, milk and flour, mixed with a little strong Dijon mustard and a carefree handful of strong vintage cheddar cheese, spooned it over puff pastry squares and topped it with a couple of slices of pancetta (though smoked streaky bacon would work perfectly too) folding it over on itself and baking until puffed up and golden. 
      Now, lets get down to the clever stuff. While assembling these pastries is easy, they may still prove too traumatic to contemplate making while suffering after that tell tale good night out.Instead, make a batch ahead, once cooled they’ll keep in an airtight tin for a few days (or indeed the freezer) and will be the perfect go-to cure when you’re feeling delicate. Simply pop them into the oven to warm through for 10 minutes, which if your hangovers were anything like mine, may be  about the limit of your capabilities. Taste test proved the room temperature version was tastier than the fresh out of the oven one.
      For four pastries
      1 roll ready rolled puff pastry (I use Lidl´s, which is excellent)
      1pt whole milk
      120g vintage cheddar, grated
      1 heaped tbsp unsalted butter
      5 or 6 tbsp flour
      1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
      Sea salt and black pepper
      12 rashers pancetta / thin cut smoked streaky bacon

      Remove the pastry in its packet from the fridge 1hr before you need it, it needs to come to room temperature.
      Preheat your oven to 190°C.
      Put the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat off.
      In another (large) saucepan place the butter and melt on a high heat, then add the flour— enough until you have a firmish ball a little like the consistency of mashed potato — then turn the heat down to low.
      A ladle at a time add the milk to the roux you’ve made and whisk in, continuing to whisk for a couple of minutes after all the milk is in, to make sure the mix is smooth.
      Add a generous scrunch of sea salt and black pepper, mustard and and stir until melted, then turn the heat off.
      Cut the pastry sheet (the lidl one makes 4 squares exactly) into large squares.
      Spoon the béchamel out onto the centre of the pastries until you’ve used it all up, then lay 2 slices of pancetta over each diagonally.Divide the grated cheese between the four turnovers

      Bring the opposite corners up and brush a little of the beaten egg over one corner, folding the other corner over the top attaching it to it. Repeat with all of the pastries and then brush all the exposed pastry with the beaten egg.
      Place into the oven for 20 minutes, and if you feel inclined 10 minutes in remove from the oven and grate a little Parmesan over the fold of each pastry

      Tuesday, 3 December 2019

      "Seaside" Wines for an Algarvian Christmas

      Whether you're passing the Brussels, bacalhau , side salad  or bûche de Noël you need to think seriously about wine pairings at Christmas.Ripe brambly fruit, orange peel, Christmas spice, and potpourri are just a few of the notes I would be looking for in a, full-bodied red.One wants spicy and savoury with hints of plum rasberry,violets and rosemary,it need to knock the new cashmere socks off both New and Old world drinkers.
       In contrast my choice of white should offer clean fresh citrusy, perhaps unoaked and crisp notes.They may strike you as sharp, even acidic, but it is an acidity that dissipates in contact with a raw oyster or a bowl of clams and ham. Clean as a whistle, crisp – a word freely bandied about by wine writers, someone I am not,and never will be, but when I read the word crisp in association with wine I am mystified.
       “Crisp” to me is for freshly starched bed linen or cos lettuce, not is perhaps slightly more illuminating than “mineral” which implies slatey or the adjective  petrolly which conjures up carbon monoxide fumes.

      When I think of Christmas fare, I imagine rich round roasted items like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, whipped potatoes, butter, butter and more butter.
       With the whole family gathered for the holidays, it’s essential to have  affordable, versatile, and most important of all, crowd-pleasing wines. 
      First of all lets not forget fashionable albariño from Spain’s Atlantic coast (and its Portuguese cousin, alvarinho) The Iberian Peninsula’s greatest white grape variety is taking hold around the world
      Then there is the other part of the variety’s original home, across the border from Galicia into northern Portugal, where alvarinho is widely used as a blending component in the improving, zesty, often-gently spritzy, light whites of Vinho Verde, but is also increasingly made as a single-varietal,in such  graceful, vital, subtly flora strains as Allo (above) from the house of Soalheiro.Average Price (ex-tax) €5.20 Casa Rosada would be happy to put this on its Christmas table.
      Wines that are good with seafood are often actually made near the sea. I have become a great fan of these "seaside" wines, in particular the fast growing varieties of  the Algarve.Our new favourite this year is So blanc from Rui Vrginia´s house, Barranco Longo.So Blanc is "So beach," it conveys memories of that  southern Portuguese heat; enjoying poolside conversations with friends enjoying  hours of sunset. This Algarve sauvignon blanc offers citrus, passion fruit, leaving on ones nose feeling of unbelievable freshness. I always liken Pedro Ximenez to christmas pudding in a glass.So this must be the Algarve summer in a glass.Average Price (ex-tax) €9.95
      For the most demanding of christmas tables I would go for Barranco Longo´s Petit verdot
      ( above right). Deep coloured,with balsamic tones.Smoky black fruits and blackcurrant are all present here with a beautiful peppery finish.Average Price (ex-tax) €15
      BEST BUY
      For a value for money option I would plump for these two wines from the particularly cool microclimate of Villa Alvor, a place where Algarve wines are born and bred.
      A blend made with the best white varieties of the Algarve – crispy and fruity – the embodiment of this terroir that finds its twin in the maritime influenced limestone soils of Provence. An elegant White wine that will remind you of a salty sea-breeze and that will delight your senses in every tropical note including passion fruit.A Portuguese wine perfect to pair with Algarvian cuisine.Arinto, Sauvignon Blanc, Antão Vaz and Verdelho Price (ex-tax) €6.95
       The red has a  gripping structure that is the result of the limestone soils of the property where it is produced.
      Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Aragonês and Trincadeira 
      Price (ex-tax) €6.95