Tuesday, 21 January 2020

I saw, I drooled ,I hollered.... sesame prawn toasts

We all have our guilty pleasures. I love eating all sorts of different things. It’s true that some of those things are relatively high in fat, sugar or salt, but I never feel guilty for eating them because I get so much satisfaction out of it,so no new year resolutions there mother. And of course there’s another side to this equation, a golden rule that has subconsciously managed my relationship with food my entire life: no food is ‘bad’ food, it’s just the way you eat it.One of my culinary guilty pleasures stems from a childhood introduction into Chinese food.A day out from boarding school with ones parents in the 1950´s was never complete without lunch at the local Chinese restaurant.(I was always mystified by  crispy seaweed).Whether you’re celebrating the Lunar New Year this weekend (the year of the rat) or just looking for a winning winter appetiser,these little chaps are pretty easy to prepare.
Enter sesame prawn toasts: cheap white sliced bread,I know, topped with a savoury prawn mixture, deep fried until golden and crisp. It reads like a nutritional nightmare. But I adore them, because every single crunchy and juicy bite hits the proverbial spot and lights up the sensory centres in my brain. And more importantly,I dont make a habit of eating sesame prawn toasts every day.
And here’s another secret to really enjoying these so-called ‘naughty’ foods: make them yourself. That way you have executive control over what goes in, which in itself must surely be better by virtue of eliminating the artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and lower-quality ingredients that by necessity end up in mass-produced and processed food.
Sesame prawn toasts
Serves 8
(16 pieces)
4 slices of white bread, crusts off and cut into 16 triangles
190g raw king prawns, shells off
1 egg white
2 tsp ginger, finely diced
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 pinches salt
2 pinches ground white pepper
3 – 4 tbsp sesame seeds
vegetable oil, for frying
Blitz together the prawns, egg white, ginger, soy sauce, salt and white pepper in a food processor until you have a bitty paste. Spread the prawn paste mixture evenly over the 16 bread triangles, aiming for a layer of paste that is 3-4mm thick. Generously pat a layer of sesame seeds onto the prawn toasts. Heat 1 - 2 cm of vegetable oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Test that it is ready for frying by dipping in a piece of crust from the bread - it should sizzle and bubble but not turn brown immediately. In batches, fry the sesame toasts. Lower them into the oil prawn-side down for 1-2 minutes, then flip and fry for a further 1-2 minutes until the bread is golden and crispy. Remove onto kitchen paper or a cooling rack, then serve immediately while still hot and crunchy.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Ensopado de borrego Alentejano

I dont know what happened last year.I lost my way,it was like my giddy joie de vivre had been ripped right out of me and I was having a terrible time finding it again.However come October and It was truly amazing what magic, connubials can conjure.Come New year, and my goodness, my system is in equilibrium and has been restored with a vengeance and a Portuguese lamb stew, awakening the tastebuds and bringing me back to the land of the living.With a big trumpet fanfare my Portuguese periplus* continues, circumnavigating my way through the nations colder months and comforting array of regional foods.... Ensopados,feijoadas, chanfanas, guisados,whats not to like? While cold weather continues,scattered rain showers come and go this is the month that prepares us, like Glenn Miller´s famed theme, to get "in the mood" for the coming season.Temperatures have risen slightly and whenever I walk outside that cold north wind that was playing carousels with the fallen leaves and my new blowy hairdo has abated.
So before we pack away our casseroles and bowls of broth its one last chance to make Ensopado de borrego ( Lamb stew ).This classic dish plays an important part in the Alentejo´s traditional recipes although it varies slightly from farm to farm or family to family.
Bom apetite! Um abraço gastronómico.
Enjoy your meal! A gastronomic hug.


Ensopado de borrego( lamb stew )
2 kg of lamb quarters from shoulder, breast,neck and chops cut into pieces
125g of lard
3 onions sliced ​​half moon

1 stick celery,chopped
1 carrot chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves cut in half
1 sprig of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 chili sliced
2 tbsp paprika
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon plain flour
125 ml of white wine vinegar
Slices of grilled artesan bread


Season the lamb with salt.
Add the paprika, garlic, flour, chilli and peppercorns.
Mix everything very well.
In a clay pot, heat the lard and bay leaves.
Let it warm very well.
When the lard is hot, add the lamb and fry until the meat is colored.
Stir from time to time so that the meat cooks evenly.
After the blond meat, add the cloves, onion and chopped parsley.
Mix it all up.
Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, stir again.
Drizzle with vinegar and add approximately 800 ml of boiling water, enough to cover the meat.
Cover and cook over medium heat approximately 40 minutes.
When the meat is cooked and begins to come loose from the bones, remove.
Serve on a platter or large plate over the bread slices.
If you want, accompany it with potatoes boiled in water or in a little broth of the stew.


*Periplus  - a voyage or a trip around something (as an island or a coast) : circuit, circumnavigation,usually accompanied by a log book of the journey.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Pro Brussels?

No matter your feelings on Brussels , 
it’s impossible not to love these Beer Battered Fried Brussels Sprouts.
  I know we’re coming to the end of brussels sprouts season,but in the  farmers market this month,for the very first time, I saw brussels sprouts.Thirteen years ago when we first came to Portugal could we find a brussels sprout,could we heck.Locals had never heard of them and now today they are rolling off supermarket shelves.It just confirmed my thoughts that Brussels are undergoing a renaissance. 

Naughty Naughty! So Naughty! What a naughty way to have your sprouts! These fried veggies, believe me, are sinfully tasty. Deffo  not a recipe for ones who are on veganuary or eating veggies to diet, but an awesome recipe for those who are not, sorry guys.I just couldn’t resist making these delightful little fried Brussels sprouts.It takes the healthy out of the veggies, but they didn't take long at all to deep fry, so they were not oily at all. In fact, I felt they would benefit even more from some sort of accompaniment like an anchovy butter or hollandaise type dipping sauce. But on their own they make really great unique little snacks.
Not only does frying Brussels sprouts mean you get to enjoy a delicious beer breaded coating, but it also gets rid of some of the bitterness that sprouts can be known for. Which is why I think you could even convince a lifelong Brussels sprout hater to eat a few of these bad boys.I am deffo going to put bacon in the batter next time that will convert any sproubting thomas.
 make sure your halved brussels are completely 
dry before frying to ensure maximum crispness
  "Brussels are undergoing a renaissance"
And for you genuine Brussels sprouts lovers, don’t worry; those beautiful green layers are still nestled within the coating.Hello, little bites of heaven, and goodbye memories of those grey overcooked, mums mushy brussels sprouts of childhood.
These totally hit the spot and were the perfect little appetizer. Even though I definitely should have been eating them as a side dish to a meal, I just couldn’t stop snacking. I loved them on their own, but dipping them in  a creamy tangy dressing would bring them to whole new levels.For different flavours add Cajun Seasoning or curry powder to the batter,or dare I say it,bacon.

Beer Batter Fried Brussels Sprouts

serves 8
500g brussels sprouts; cleaned, trimmed, and halved
sunflower oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup cold beer


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add halved brussels sprouts and let cook for 7 minutes. Drain sprouts and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to dry as much as possible.
Pour canola oil in a deep pot so it's about 2" deep and heat to between 365-400 degrees.
While oil is heating, mix flour, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne in a large bowl. Stir in egg and beer.
When oil is hot, work in batches to dunk sprouts in batter and carefully drop in the oil. Let fry for about 4 minutes, until they're golden brown. You'll likely have to adjust burner level to keep oil temperature in the right range. When sprouts are golden, remove from oil and place in a paper towel-lined bowl. Continue until all sprouts are fried.
 Tips for getting the crispiest fried sprouts: Dry sprouts as much as possible after blanching. Water remaining on sprouts may keep them from getting crispy.
Make sure beer is chilled. Room temperature beer may result in a less crispy coating.
Keep oil between 365 degrees and 400 degrees. If oil temperature drops below this, sprouts will not crisp up as they should.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Oranges are not the only fruit

I wonder at the advancements and innovations the Moors brought with them to this region, from their scientific developments (like distillation processes, even though they didn't drink alcohol for religious reasons), to their planting habits (as they invaded, they planted citrus trees as they went, both for the fruit, and the scent - hence Seville's famous orange trees).Well before you utter the word marmalade the bitter orange season is here again.Pupils dilate with excitement when the word goes round that the Seville oranges are in the shops.Once again the house is filled with the citrus smell that I equate with perfect happiness.
Today many people have lost all feeling for what food is seasonal and what is not. Everything is available throughout the year. The bitter or Seville orange is one of the few exceptions. Its season is short, from mid-December to February, and even then unless you frequent the Iberian peninsula this fruit can be  hard to find. If you have found a supplier, buy a great quantity and freeze the oranges you do not use immediately.If you have a tree,even better,or just make lots of marmalade.
If you want to freeze Seville oranges, pour water that has just been boiled over them, dry them well, wrap them separately in foil and then store them in a freezing bag.
 I have made a bitter orange tart. Ideally this should be made with Seville oranges,but if you want to make this when they are not available the trick is to use sweet eating oranges and add the juice of a lime in order to replicate as closely as possible the fragrant bitterness of Sevilles.This recipe involves several steps which can be divided over a few days to split what could be quite an undertaking into a series of small tasks taking just a few minutes each.

Seville orange tart with a blueberry topping
The tangily sharp smooth pale cream is offset by the purple black headiness of glazed berries on top.

24cm x 6cm fluted tart tin

FOR THE FILLING
juice (200ml) and zest of 2-3 Seville oranges
or of 1 eating orange and 1 lime
250g caster sugar
300ml double cream
6 large eggs

FOR THE PASTRY
90g soft unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
3 large egg yolks
175g plain flour

FOR THE GLAZE
1 tbsp arrowroot
50g caster sugar
scant tsp orange juice
125ml water
250g blue berries

Start with the filling,a couple of days in advance.The taste is so much better when the juice and the cream and so forth are left to deepen in the fridge for a couple of days.In a wide-mouthed measuring jug,mix the juice with the sugar,add the zest,double cream and eggs,and stir to combine.Cover and chill for up to 3 days in the fridge or alternatively leave at room temperature for a few hours.
You can also make the pastry in advance.
Cream the butter and sugar together,then add the yolks one at a time.Stir in the flour to form a soft dough,then form into a fat disc,wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and put in a baking sheet.Roll out the pastry to fit the tart tin and line it with the pastry,pushing gently down so that it lies flat on the bottom,leaving a little overhang.Put back in the fridge for a further 20 minutes to rest again.
Roll a rolling pin over the top of the tart tin to cut off excess pastry neatly.
Line the tin with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans.Put the tin in the oven for 15 minutes,then remove beans and foil or parchment and give it another 5 -10 minutes,until the bottom has dried out,transfer to awire rack to cool a little and turn the oven down to 170C/gas mark 3.
Strain the liquid mixture into the pastry case to remove the zest,put back on the sheet in the oven for 45 minutes.( You may find this easier if you more long-winded,if youif you sieve this mixture into another jug and pour from this into the pastry case already on the sheet in the oven with the rack pulled out.
When the tart is cooked,it should be firm on the top with a hint of a wobble underneath.Remove to a wire rack and let cool.Unmould and transfer to a serving plate.
To make the glazed blueberry topping,combine the arrowroot and sugar in a small saucepan,then stir in the juice and water. Put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil,stirring all the time:it should turn clear very quickly.take it off the heat and add the blueberries,then spoon the now-glossy berries over the top of the tart.leave to set for about 10 minutes.Dont worry when slicing the tart its texture is very soft,on the cusp of a custard.  Serves 8

Thursday, 9 January 2020

At your service,the perfect cocktail

Its amazing to think you can find some real gems or pearls of wisdom within the pages of an in-flight magazine.I am far from being a frequent flyer these days but on those rare occasions, I have always managed to pick up some top tips. Past gems have included a much used cake recipe found on a flight to Turkey, the discovery of a go to bar in Paris and most recently a step by step guide to marketing ones business disguised as a cocktail recipe.As a former graphic graphic designer and entrepreneur whose career has dabbled in strategic marketing, this whimsical advert for an award winning marketing agency on the Wirral appealed to my creative side.
Running a successful and much talked about business for the last ten years with a partner from a background in magazines,who excels at social media management alongside myself, a blogger and reasonably competent copywriter, seemed to draw strong parallels with this snippet I instantly made into a tear sheet.(well it was the 27th December and I assumed that the aforesaid magazine would only have a four day shelf life before the seat pocket would be graced with the new January 20/20 edition) and I speculated that another interested entrepreneur like yours truly might not pick up on the absence of this bottom half of the page, back of book entry.
I would pass on this dynamic company´s offer of a free 1 hour business consultation with their  master mixologist and instead would create my own recipe for  a Casa Rosada house cocktail.Last year I put a Bloody Ñora spin on the classic Bloody Mary, so this time I set about applying the revolutionfour principals to a cocktail based on ten years of running a bespoke bed and breakfast in the East Algarve.
It is not just the quality of the ingredients, but also the balance of qualities and attention to detail that makes a cocktail perfect.Time is of the essence and if you throw all your efforts together at once,with out any measure of thought,then you will  end up with something that takes hold of your tongue and just won’t let go, leaving a sour taste in the mouth.You want something that is a simple joy to sip and not something that will cleave your happy hour.Nothing wrong with a true pisco sour ,mind, but we are in the Algarve and not recommending  a jaunt down to Peru for a fresh limón when your next sour craving hits.Casa Rosada would be more likely to mix you up a pink port and tonic of an evening.At Casa Rosada we are always at your beck and call.Why not join us this spring or summer for a relaxing holiday that seems worlds away from Northern Europe but is actually only two or three hours by plane.Check out the current weather temperature on our website,set the alarm early and you could be here for breakfast and a Bloody Mary to boot.
Here is how in ten years we have we achieved that perfect mixology.....
The Casa Rosada perfect mix
100ml Strategic marketing
50 ml clear liquid graphic design
1  x strong branded website design
5ml social media management
Pure natural juice of copywriting
a sprinkle of creativity
1.Preparation is the key.Make sure you have everything in place.Mise en place is of the essence.Lay out all your ingredients in front of you,this will allow you to see exactly what you are working with.Ensure all the ingredients are correct and up to date and the right amounts are measured before starting.
2.Put you strategic marketing into the shaker before adding the graphic design mix, website design and social media management.
3.Mix and shake before adding the copywriting juice for that extra punch.
4.Serve in a chilled glass and garnish with a sprinkle of creativity to taste.Some might finish with an umbrella, but the Casa Rosada attention to detail says the end product really speaks for itself,plus we dont do naff. 
Should you require that much needed R and R and a lot of TLC contact us now If its a business consultation you require contact www.revolutionfour.co.uk

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Chocolate and hazelnut pavlovas with cream and berries

I am a big fan of Nigella Lawson’s mini Pavlovas so when I saw this recipe for something similar in Marie Claire Zest,but  with the added bonus of nuts and chocolate, I just had to give it a try. Well they were even better and tasted deliciously like Ferrero rochers. As you can see, I topped mine with raspberries,and blueberries. They are ideal in that you can make them in advance and just assemble them with whatever fruit is available at the last minute, making them the perfect pud for friends.
Chocolate Nut pavlovas with Cream and Berries
3 egg whites
200g caster sugar
2 tablespoons dark cocoa
2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts
50g flaked almonds
150ml cream, whipped
500g mixed berries
Preheat oven to 150c. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat until the mixture is white & glossy. Fold in the cocoa and ground hazelnuts, then spoon the meringue into 6 large dollops on the tray. Using the back of a spoon, create a dip in the top of each meringue. Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 45 minutes. Turn off heat, but leave the meringues to cool in the oven wi the door ajar. Serve topped with whipped cream and berries.

TOP TIP: Fat. Fat is the enemy of whipped egg whites. Get fat in your whites and no matter how long you beat them, they will never fluff up. Fat hides in wooden spoons. Wooden spoons also have a texture that food clings to, good if you're mixing a pudding batter but not if you're trying to form quenelles.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Yesteday´s brunch todays supper, a Sicilian snack

Arancini were once just a way to use up uneaten risotto. The lesson here is: we should all cook more risotto than we need, so it too can be formed into blissful croquetas and fried until crisp and golden. I’m a big fan of street food – all those robust flavours, frugal ingredients, and eating with your fingers is my idea of culinary heaven. But it’s a long time since I followed my nose through a smoky street food market,but this will suffice.
I have made and eaten arancini every which way but it had never occurred to me to turn one of the world´s classic breakfast dishes into breakfast arancini.
Traditionally these typically Sicilian snacks are are filled with different stuffings,such as minced meat or vegetables,but why not kedgeree?
Arancini di Kedgeree
1 quantity of left over risotto
plain flour for dusting
2 eggs beaten
breadcrumbs for coating
sunflower oil for deep frying

Take a little of the risotto and form it into a ball,about 15g is agood size but for amore substantial snack you can go up to the size of a golf ball..You will find it easier if you wet your hands with cold water. Dust with a little flour,then coat with beaten egg and finally coat in the breadcrumbs.Repeat the process for each ball.
Heat some oil in a large deep saucepan or in a deep fat fryer.Add the risotto balls a few at a time and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot or cold.
A good New Years resolution
With millions of people in Europe now unable to afford the food they have been used to eating and global food prices set to rise as climate and other pressures increase, tackling food waste in the kitchen is at least a very good place to start.We are all guilty at some time or another of over shopping or impulse buying,but then there is always a recipe for that lost soul that is in the vegetable box or sitting on the fridge shelf.Think about it.Ready meals are not as wholesome or as cheap as they are made out to be.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Hindsight is (always) 20/20 vision

Having been in poor old blighty for Christmas, New Years Day lunch was supplemented by the fruits of my last few weeks labours from the Casa Rosada store cupboard.After a spicy jug of the thespian´s Bloody Mary, we sat down with friends to a hearty lunch, which included my annual home made Melton Mowbray pork pie, Bloody Mary muffins,Chouriço and manchego scones,Iberican cold cuts,including mini fuet, a Catalan thin, dry cured,chippolata type sausage of pork meat in a pork gut. The most famous is made in the comarca of Osona and is also known as Vic fuet. It is flavored with black pepper and garlic, and sometimes aniseed, but unlike Chorizo contains no paprika.
We drank Munir,Catarratto, a fresh biologic wine grown on the sunny vineyards of Sicily.


 Asian style Kedgeree was  made with an expat favourite craving, smoked haddock, and we ended with chocolate and hazelnut pavlovas (more on that story later Kirsty) - patience is a virtue.Well its a new decade and its time to start as one means to go on,so I am going to leave you with a  New Year idiom. 
 It is easier to clearly re-evaluate past actions or decisions than when they are being made or done; things are much clearer to us now and more obvious to us than when the choice was put to the " the people".Well,"it was the will of the people", "the people spoke" didn´t they all "17.4 million of them".
 In hindsight things might have seemed obvious then are  not  so obvious now. 20/20 vision enables us to evaluate past choices more clearly than at the time those choices were made. 
Happy New Year Everyone!!!!!