Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Green Harissa.The new pesto

 Green spaghetti(recipe below)
You will always find a selection of hot sauces in my refrigerator. Each one has a different level of heat.  Some are very pleasant and give that little kick, while others will give you tunnel vision and make the tears run down your cheeks. I once found  a hot sauce in my refrigerator which might well be called “xxxextra chili habanero”, my recommendation is  for you to stay away from this one.
There is a difference between “hot” and “spicy” food. Hot will burn and spicy will have a mellow pleasant heat that add tons of flavour. Spicy food has a perfect mild kick to it, so you can still enjoy all the flavours and ingredients in the dish.
Whenever I want a little heat in my life, I reach for the jar of harissa.This is one of my favourite sauces. Harissa, pronounced “ha-riss-ah”, is a North African condiment which is most commonly from Tunisia.The name Harissa comes from the Arabic harasa, meaning ‘to pound’ or ‘break into pieces'. It is not far from a straight translation of the Italian pestare, to 'pound' or 'crush' - which is where we get the word 'pesto' from.Moroccan and Tunisian cooking is all about spices and flavour. That can be said about every cuisine, but at the end of the day it has more to do with what you do with the spices then anything else. It’s amazing what spices can do, if used right.  A pinch of this, a pinch of that and you’ll discover it’s really all about a few ingredients that can make the difference in a great meal.
 There are plenty of high end brands of harissas like belazu out there, however, making harissa at home gives you the chance to play with the flavours and the level of heat.
The heat can be varied according to the type of chili pepper used in the making of harissa. I have been making my own harissa for years with red chilli varieties and have stuck to just one recipe.
 I came back to harissa and decided to look at it from a different flavour point.I  thought I would try a different one,which uses green chillies. Never one to leave well enough alone, I made some tweaks, and after playing around a bit have come up with a version I'm quite happy with. It's very fresh and green tasting, with a mildly bitter edge, a pleasant spicy heat, and just enough tang to balance it out. The flavour is wonderful with grilled vegetables or mixed with a cream cheese and then diluted slightly with some chicken stock. It also works well to brighten fatty or rich foods, like grilled steak or eggs in any form. I'm thinking about stirring some into sour cream or Greek yogurt for an easy crudité dip. Or maybe,definitely maybe, I'll toss some with stale bread and tomatoes for a panzanella. I bet if you give it a try you'll think of some great ways to use it, too.  
Green harrisa is a serious condiment that I like to use as a sandwich spread, add to roasted vegetables, use as a rub for meats and fish, or it can even be spooned over scrambled eggs, rice and pasta to enhance flavour.This recipe is using three de-seeded jalapeños and one jalapeño with seeds, creating a milder version. If you want a hotter version, use only jalapeños peppers with the seeds, I promise you will know the difference. If you want it even hotter, use serrano chilies. They are about twice as hot as jalapeño peppers.
Experiment with peppers, using different kinds, like a Serrano or try a Thai pepper, they are small in size but big in heat. Explore and see what kind of pepper you like.
This is basically a version of Thai Sriracha with another layer of flavour created from herbs and spices.The version below is a mild flavour enhancer as opposed to blow the roof off blinding hot.Its a great starting point which you can build on until you get to the level of heat that suits you.

  Avocado sandwich 
with green harissa

Toast your bread(optional). Mash up the avocado with a pinch of salt. Spread a few spoonfuls of harissa on one side of the bread and mash half the avocado into the other side of the bread. Layer some shredded romaine lettuce and herbs or seasoning of your choice,Plenty of flor de sal and freshly ground pepper and close up your sarnie to enjoy or pack for an adventure.

  • Dollop on eggs or avocado toast
  • Mix with yoghurt as a marinade
  • Add into burger mix
  • Marinade meat, fish and vegetables
  • As a sandwich spread instead of butter
  • As a pasta sauce
Green harissa
Serves four to six.Make the green harissa by placing all the ingredients in a food processor. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of black pepper and work to a smooth, runny pesto consistency. Set aside.
    2 green chillies seeded if desired (or just a few seeds) 
    1 tbsp cumin  dried cumin
    1 cup fresh coriander
    1/2 cup fresh parsley 

    1 tsp ground coriander
    ½ tsp ground cardamom 
    2 spring onions
    1 clove garlic minced or grated
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    160ml olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon

    Green spaghetti
    1 tbsp green harissa,as above
    50g cream cheese
    1/4 cup chicken stock
    salt and pepper
    150g spaghetti
    1 green chilli shredded as garnish

    Place the Harissa, cream cheese, and chicken stock in a blender, and blend until smooth. season to taste with salt and pepper.
    Cook the pasta until al dente, and reserve a small cup of the pasta water when draining the noodles. Toss the noodles with the blended sauce, and if it’s too thick, thin it out with a little pasta water. Serve and enjoy! 

    Monday, 13 July 2020

    Food that makes you feel like you are on holiday

    In a year when any form of travel was made suddenly and indefinitely off-limits, the meals we make have taken on a whole new significance. We may not be able to physically travel, but we can certainly transport our palates. So far under lockdown I've taken your tastebuds to Italy,Turkey,Morocco and even to your virtual back gardens as we learned to BBQ indoors.While we may still not have access to the sun and sand of our planned holidays, we can bring some summer to our kitchens with a few glorious recipes from are some suggestions from the back catalogue.
    All the recipes are made for sharing, making them reminiscent of the perfect picky meal at the end of a day on the beach. Without actually flying there, this is the closest you can safely get to travelling – and it's worth the culinary trip
    So simple to put together
    An Iberican mezze
    ( Octopus salad,Chouriço,Jamon Serrano,Queijo fresco )

    A simple platter of Pasteis de bacalhau (codfish fritters) 
    with chilli dipping sauce, on the garden table will do the trick admirably 

    Pataniscas de bacalhau Tailandes
    Pataniscas originated in the Algarve: 
    There are a few versions around, 
    but this is certainly the sort of salt cod dish you can modify. 
    I have put a certain Thai stamp on mine.

    500g flaked salt cod, desalted and reconstituted
    6 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped 
    or 1 stalk lemongrass finely chopped
    1teaspoon Nam Pla ( thai fish sauce )
    Handful of fresh coriander leaves
    2 small hot red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
    3 spring onions finely chopped
    75g fresh bread crumbs
    a little flour
    oil for shallow frying

    Put the fish, Kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass, if using, fish sauce, coriander leaves, chillies and spring onions into a food processor.Blend briefly then tip into a bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs and enough flour to bring the mixture together, it should be firm enough to be able to shape into flat cakes or balls. Mould the mixture with your hands into patties, cakes or balls, to the size you require. The above quantity will make 12 5cm patties. Dust these with a little flour, then fry them in shallow oil till crispy and golden about 3-4 minutes each side.
    Serve as a starter, canape or snack with a pot of chilli dipping sauce

    Ready for more? Imagine yourself in down town tapas town San Sebastian

    Piri Piri Pequillo Pepper and Almond Dip with Marinated Anchovies
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    2 shallots, finely diced
    1 cup bottled pequillo peppers
    1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (maybe more if you use more almonds)
    1 teaspoon piri piri oil
    1/3 cup roasted salted marcona almonds
    4 tablespoons olive oil (you may need more if you use 1/2 cup almonds like I did)
    baguette or small rustic bread slices

    Cook the garlic, shallots, peppers, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil on the stove over medium-low heatuntil the garlic and shallot are softened but not coloured. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.
    Grind the almonds in a mini food processor. After pulsing once or twice, add the remaining three tablespoons olive oil and process until the almonds are creamy.
    Stir together the almonds and cooked pepper mixture in a serving bowl. If the dip is too thick for you, add a bit more olive oil. I added one or two more tablespoons of oil and one more tablespoon of vinegar to get a slightly thinner consistency.
    Serve spread thickly on baguette slices topped with marinated anchovies
    Fire up the barbecue.Tuck in to a smoky grilled octopus salad.Flame red romesco plays with the rich syrupy hues of a citrus balsamic reduction.
    Let the barbecue begin and Mediterranean flavours abound

    Grilled octopus with Romesco sauce,wild rocket salad 

    and citrus balsamic reduction
    Serves 8

    Romesco sauce
    3 dried nõra or choricero peppers
    I red capsicum or bell pepper
    I Roma (plum tomato)
    5 cloves garlic

    1 cup / 250 ml extra virgin olive oil
    1x!nch /3 cm thick slice of day old bread
    1/4 cup/35g hazelnuts
    1/4 cup 75 ml sherry vinegar
    lemon for squeezing
    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Re-hydrate the nõra peppers in boiling water,having cleaned out as many seeds as possible.
    Roast the red pepper in a roasting tray with the tomato and cloves of garlic until the skin of the pepper is charred.Put in a sealed plastic bag until cool then remove the skin.When the tomato is cool deseed and remove the skin.
    Purée the pepper, tomato, nõra peppers and garlic.Pulse slowly, gradually adding the oil until smooth.Tear the bread into pieces then add to the mixture along with the hazelnuts.Purée again.Season and add the vinegar and squeeze of lemon.Add one teaspoon cayenne pepper.Adjust the seasoning.

    The octopus
    1 raw octopus,around 900g /2lb
    I bottle white wine
    1/2 cup /50g black peppercorns
    1 tablespoon tomato puree

    zest of 1 orange
    Heat a large pan with a little oil.Bring it to smoking point,then sear the octopus on both sides until it turns a rich red color.Once red on both sides,add the wine,peppercorns,tomato paste and orange zest.Braise until tender,about one hour. Allow the octopus to cool fully.Slice into pieces, removing the eyes and beak and mushy parts within the head,(if not removed already) making sure you keep the tentacles intact.
    Marinate the octopus pieces in half the Romesco sauce (recipe above)overnight if possible.Keep the rest of the sauce for serving.

    Balsamic vinegar dressing
    1 shallot,diced
    1 clove of garlic,minced
    1 teaspoon dijon mustard
    1/2 cup /125 ml balsamic vinegard
    11/2 cups 575ml extra virgin olive oil
    Flor de sal and cracked black pepper
    lemon for squeezing
    Combine the shallot,garlic and mustard.Add the vinegar and whisk in the oil.Season to taste with cracked black pepper and salt and finish with squeeze of lemon.

    Citrus Balsamic reduction
    2 cups /500ml balsamic vinegar
    1/2 lemon juiced
    1/2 small orange juiced
    Mix the vinegar and lemon juice then reduce by half over a low flame.Be careful not to over reduce or scorch the vinegar

    For the salad
    Marinated octopus pieces
    1 orange,zest julienned juiced
    4 or 5 handfuls of wild rocket
    remaining romesco sauce
    citrus balsamic reduction
    balsamic dressing
    Place the marinated octopus pieces on the barbecue or griddle pan.Char the octopus pieces until heated through,being careful not to overcook or burn the smaller part of the tentacles.Remove from the heat. Pour the orange juice over the octopus and allow to rest.
    Toss the rocket and zest in a bowl.Season with salt and pepper and dress lighty with balsamic dressing.Toss again.Slice each octopus part into 3 - 4 pieces and toss with the salad.

    On 8 serving plate,spread small amount of romesco on the bottom along with a small amount of citrus balsamic reduction.Place tossed salad over the romesco and balsamic allowing a little of each to be seen.make sure to layer all the ingredients so every little bite has everything in it.

    ....and when all is said and done to sign off,what better way to end a sunshine meal, without cooking, than some pretty in pink Paraguyo peaches and ......
   Aperol spritz 

    saúde,cheers,santè,chin chin!!!

    Saturday, 11 July 2020

    Raízes com uma história / “Roots with a Story”

    Açorda de marisco,a legacy of  the Arab occupation of the Algarve

    Going back to my migratory roots 10 years ago, I wrote a blog post endorsing an article that had been published in Jornal do Algarve "Turismo culinario pode render milhoes."The essence of this article was the encouragement of restaurants to uphold the culinary heritage of the Algarve and serve some more traditional and unusual Algarvian dishes.That was 10 years ago now and over that period we have seen a certain osmosis of what forward thinking chefs have been serving.
    One particular example that has demonstrated this empathy is Restaurante Cha com Agua Salgada.The menu Marco Jaco set up for them and consequently developed annually was always about holding on to a wealthy gastronomic legacy.He brought back the old but made it new.It was a creative way of looking at traditional dishes and giving them a new lease of life.
    The Algarve has a forgotten culinary archive that chefs and restaurants have overlooked, in favour of more touristic food like "Chicken Piri Piri". Now is the time to tap into this legacy and reinstate some culinary classics.Delving deep and reinventing menus is the way to attract a wider more food discerning foreign clientele.

    Portugal has always been a country of hopes and as we come out of lockdown Gastronomic consultant Teresa Vivas, who works to promote Portuguese cuisine worldwide, sees a glimmer of hope amid the current crisis. “From the identity perspective, Portuguese cuisine will likely become even more authentic and traditional. After focusing so much on mass tourism, it can be an opportunity for us to look even further inward,” she says. “I am very hopeful that our gastronomy will end up renovated and more genuine than ever.” 
    Before the approving gaze of the outside world fell upon it, traditional Portuguese cooking was, like many great cuisines, by and large considered the stuff of home eating, not serious restaurant fodder. “It’s not that Portugal has never been very proud of our cuisine, quite the opposite,” says chef José Avillez, whose 18-restaurant empire includes Lisbon’s much-lauded Belcanto. “The fact is that many of us had few points of comparison, and it’s more valuable to hear these things from foreigners. It was pride without validation.”
    The creative side of Portuguese cuisine depends on gastronomic tourism.  More innovative takes on traditional cuisine often end up relying on the foreign patrons; without their financial support, many of the more experimental Portuguese restaurants’ days are numbered.“Without visitors, our gastronomy is at serious risk".If it is not dynamic, it can stagnate”
    Integrating the work of Portuguese chefs with current trends worldwide is essential for the positive evolution of the country’s gastronomy — and that’s awfully hard to do without worldwide travel. If you look at some of Portugals leading chefs today they have all travelled and worked in other countries before becoming the big names they are today back in their own country. Avillez, considered one of the major references in Portuguese food,emerges from the pandemic only partialy scarred because of his adventurous soul and his out-standing taste recognized throughout the globe. He is number one of the top 10 chefs in Portugal, closely followed by Nuno Mendes, Henrique Sá Pessoa, Vitor Matos, and Kiko Martins.
    And then look at some of the top chefs working in Portugal today that are not Portuguese by birth but migrated from other countries and achieved Michelin stars here in Portugal. Hans Neuner, Ljubomir Stanisic,Willie Wurger.And it’s not just the chefs and restaurateurs. The Portuguese restaurant boom had a positive trickle-down effect on purveyors, farmers, and an entire ecosystem of ingredients — a relationship that works both ways. With fewer restaurants to sell to, farmers — many of whom specialized in growing specialty ingredients key to Portuguese cooking in particular — may have to scale back their production or stop entirely. The same goes for fishermen, bakers, and other small suppliers, all of whom bet their livelihoods on the continued rise of the Portuguese food scene. Before COVID-19 shut off the tap of international tourists, Portugal was well on its way to becoming one of the world’s top culinary destinations: The New York Times included Portuguese cities on its 52 Places to Go list in 2017 and 2019, and the World Travel Awards named it the best European destination for the last three consecutive years. Eater dedicated a full guide to eating in Lisbon in 2017, and in 2020 appointed Porto, the country’s second largest city, among the world’s 19 most dynamic food cities in the world.The untranslatable Portuguese term saudade,a melancholic longing or yearning for the past, resounds here and perhaps it is not so far into our new future that restaurants can re-achieve this status again.As I am writing this,  Algarve business associations are sending out an SOS to the Portuguese government to “intensify diplomatic efforts with countries” – particularly the UK – to win Portugal vital ‘air bridge’ listing.They warn of thousands of insolvencies if this current travel corridor catastrophe isn’t fixed fast.
    Well Bravo!!! Its not all doom and gloom, one Algarvian resort has embraced this call and answered Portugal´s prayers.VILA VITA Parc Resort and Spa has reopened the doors of its restaurant Atlântico with a renewed identity that places the Algarve’s traditional roots and ingredients at the core of the menu, supervised by Chef Pedro Pinto. This redefinition of the cuisine at Atlântico reinforces and complements the resort’s sustainable philosophy to highlight and support the richness of Portugal’s gastronomic heritage.

    Atlântico restaurant returns from lockdown with a focus on ‘roots’. Gastronomic and cultural roots that the Algarve has collected over centuries, from the time of the conquests and discoveries, that translate the typical ingredients -  some albeit forgotten – and supplied from home grown vegetable gardens, small producers and local purveyors, into remastered traditional recipes from the Algarve.Favouring 100% organic products from local producers and respecting Nature’s seasonality, the new Atlântico menu highlights dishes such as Beetroot Tartar (forest berries, pickles, strawberry mustard from “Quinta da Saudade” and Algarvean goat cheese); Carolino Rice from Alcácer do Sal (scarlet prawn and bivalves infused with aged eau de vie and coriander), Crunchy Oysters from Ria Formosa (Atlantic seaweed, lemon and Kashmir curry), BIO Cozido Portuguese Stew (chickpea, sweet potato, grass pea, turnip, kale, Alcobaça pear and vegetable sausage), Middle Eastern Wheat Bulgur (slow cooked organic lamb shoulder with Marrakech seasoning) or Ray fish from Olhão (cockle migas, lemon and watercress). For those who prefer to be surprised, there is also a Chef’s Tasting Menu, “Roots with a Story”.

    Dynamic, creative and elevated quality define these dishes which are only conceivable “thanks to an organic cuisine, focused on the flavour of the ingredients and inspired by Nature itself” affirms Chef Pedro Pinto, whose professional training has taken him through various Michelin starred restaurants, such as AbAC in Barcelona ***, Vila Joya ** in the Algarve, or The Yeatman** in Porto.
    Atlântico restaurant, offers a wide variety of gastronomic options, based on the “farm to fork” philosophy, respecting seasonality, production and local farmers. Many of its organic produce, including meat, originates from the resort’s sister property – and beautiful countryside farm estate and winery in the Alentejo, Herdade dos Grous.
    It may well not be cheap but its possibly just the ticket we need right now. Here´s hoping more will adopt this approach.As we unfurl our napkins again lets raise a glass and recreate that buzz of animated conversation and atmosphere.
     Restaurateurs have balked at the visual effects of expensive acrylic screens, saying they will detract from the look of their establishments and make clients feel uncomfortable. Another lament has been that there is no longer the buzz of animated conversation in dining rooms, or queues waiting at the door for the chance of a table.Mood. Buzz. Atmosphere. Call it what you wish.At the end of the day it is not the hand sanitiser gel packets that are now a part of the place setting but the innovative food that will be the one thing most likely to bring us back to a restaurant, and it’s the thing we’ve missed most in lockdown.

    Wednesday, 8 July 2020

    The best spears of my life Seared tuna loin with asparagus salsa

    Summer is here, and asparagus is abundant in the market. The narrow, green spears are prolific this time of year, and I never overlook the opportunity to choose organic produce. This recipe is no exception.This unusual salsa is full of ingredients I love, and tastes that do not disappoint.With all the distractions of the last few months I had forgotten about the crunchy perfection that is asparagus.Zesty with lime, this asparagus salsa side will remind your taste buds too.
    I transformed my spears into a light and refreshing seasonal salsa! This zingy recipe is low calorie, but full of flavour.
    If you like to eat your asparagus raw and the quality is good enough albeit but with this recipe I would recommend you blanch the asparagus first so it's tender to your liking.
    Seared tuna loin with asparagus salsa
    200g tuna loin per person
    FOR THE MARINADE (serves 4)
    3 tbsp soya sauce
    juice of 1/2 lime
    1 tbsp rice vinegar1 tbsp sesame oil
    1 pinch of Piri piri flakes 6 thin slices of fresh ginger
    2 garlic cloves crushed
    In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the marinade.
    Turn the loin of tuna thoroughly in the marinade mix.
    Refrigerate for at least 1 hour but not more than 6,turning once or twice.
    Heat a frying pan or griddle over a high heat. Drizzle the olive oil over the tuna  and grill for 1 minute on each side. Remove the tuna and set aside to cool.
    For the asparagus salsa
    1 bunch organic ( if available ) asparagus, woody ends removed
    ½ red chilli, seeds removed, cut into small thin strips
    ½ red onion, finely chopped
    ½ cucumber, peeled and seeds removed, cut into 1cm/½in cubes
    3 heirloom tomatoes, skinned and seeds removed, cut into 1cm/½in cubes
    ½ lime, peeled, pith removed, finely chopped
    2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
    few drops Tabasco sauce
    salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

    Reserve 5cm/2in of the tips and slice the remaining stems into thin rounds.Blanch the asparagus rounds and spears briefly.Drain and set aside. Slice the tips thinly using a Japanese slicer or vegetable peeler and set aside.
    Mix the asparagus stems, chilli, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes and lime together in a bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and a few drops of Tabasco sauce, to taste. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
    To serve, spoon the salsa onto serving plates. Slice the tuna and add about four  slices to each serving plate. Sprinkle over the coriander and top with the asparagus tips.

    Tuesday, 7 July 2020

    "Bang" "Bang"

    If a wine “travels well” it means that it reaches its destination with its original quality intact. The same cannot always be said for recipes, which are adapted to suit local tastes and available ingredients. Bang Bang Chicken has been botched pretty badly over time by different chefs trying to replicate the original dish, but this recipe is my effort to revive the original. I hope you like it? Bang Bang Chicken is a dish of shredded chicken, julienned cucumber, and a spicy sauce. Don’t mistake this for the countless Americanized versions you might see online, which is basically fried chicken topped with mayonnaise. That version may be tasty, but it’s definitely not Bang Bang Chicken.
    This spicy dish of poached chicken in a nutty, sweet, sour, hot chilli sauce has travelled all the way from northern China to become an all time restaurant favourite. No wonder,here is a dish that if made properly,would fit very well on any restaurant menu.I remember well the  racy version they served up at The Ivy, for instance, it called for for shredded, smoked chicken with a warm sauce of peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil and vegetable oil.However you can not improve on the original and I thought I better consult the oracle of Chinese cooking, Fuschia Dunlop´s book  The Food of Sichuan.
    Bang bang chicken appears on countless Chinese restaurant menus in the west, but usually only as a shadow of its authentic self. In southern Sichuan, where the dish originates, the base seasoning of sesame paste is jazzed up with sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, chilli and sesame oils and Sichuan pepper to make a lip-tingling sauce. The dish is said to have originated in Hanyang Ba, a town near Leshan that was once known for its chickens: free-range birds that fed on insects, stray grains and leftovers from the local peanut crop. In the early 20th century, Hanyang street vendors sold chunks of cooked chicken meat draped in spicy sauce as a snack.
    The dish became known as bang bang chicken, because of the sound their wooden cudgels made when hammered down on the backs of cleaver blades to help them through the meat. It began to feature on Chengdu menus from about the 1920s, though here the cudgels were used to whack the meat directly, loosening the fibres so it could be torn into slivers by hand.
    I have found this recipe one of the most difficult to commit to paper, because I have enjoyed so many different versions of it. If you like, you can serve the chicken on a bed of slivered lettuce or as I have done with an improvised smashed cucumber salad.Without detracting from the dish I jazzed it up  by serving a crunchy fried vegetable crumb as a topping.For me it was that extra element that made it sparkle.
    Bang Bang Chicken
    400g cold poached chicken meat,off the bone (see below)
    4 spring onions, white parts only, cut into fine slivers (optional)
    30g roasted peanuts 
    2 tsp sesame seeds
    1 - 2 Medium Size Cucumber, shredded (optional)

    For the sauce 
    2 tbsp sesame paste
    ½ tsp salt
    1½ tsp caster sugar
    2 tbsp light soy sauce
    1½ tsp Rice vinegar
    ¼-½ tsp Ground Timut pepper or Sichuan
    4 tbsp chilli oil , plus 1-2 tbsp sediment
    4 tbsp sesame oil 2 tsp
    For the poached chicken 
    1 whole chicken, to give 800g boneless meat
    20g ginger
    2 spring onions, white parts only
    To make the poached chicken, let the chicken come to room temperature before you start. Lightly smack the ginger and spring onion whites with the flat of a cleaver blade or rolling pin to loosen them.
    Pour enough water to immerse your chicken into a lidded pan that will hold the bird snugly, and bring to the boil over a high flame. Lower the chicken into the water, return it quickly to the boil and then skim. Add the ginger and spring onion whites, half-cover the pan and turn the heat down so the liquid barely murmurs and poach for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken; if any of the bird sits above the water level, turn it halfway through.
    Pierce the thigh joint deeply with a skewer to see if it is done: the juices should run clear, not pink and bloody. When the chicken is just cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside to cool before chilling until needed (to arrest the cooking quickly and keep the skin taut, immediately immerse the bird in a large pan or bowl of ice water). The flesh should be moist and silky.
    For the bang bang chicken, if you want to be traditional, pummel the meat with a rolling pin to loosen the fibres, and then tear into bite-sized slivers; otherwise, simply tear or cut into bite-sized slivers or strips.
    Toss with the spring onion slivers, if using. Roughly chop the peanuts: the easiest way to do this is to gather them on a chopping board, lay the flat of a cleaver blade over them and press firmly to break them up a bit, then chop them into smaller pieces. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry wok or frying pan over a very gentle heat, until fragrant and tinged with gold.
    Next make the sauce. Dilute the sesame paste with a little oil from the jar and about 2 tbsp of cold water: you should end up with a paste the consistency of single cream – it needs to be runny≈enough to clothe the chicken. Place the salt, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and mix well.
    Shortly before serving, pile the chicken on to a serving dish and pour the sauce over it. Garnish with the peanuts and toasted sesame seeds.

    For the crispy fried vegetable crumbs

    Grate raw beetroot, carrot, celeriac and red onion, toss in flour, add spoonful of water to make a batter,deep deep fry till crisp.Allow to cool to the touch then crumble into large crumbs

    Saturday, 4 July 2020

    Dispelling the myth: a national act of self harming

    “Countries that are friends treat each other differently.”Why?

    Being left off the travel safe list is a decision here in the Algarve that everyone regrets and does not understand in light of the facts.The decision is a disgrace, deeply unfair and penalises not only Portugal but the Algarve in particular.Many now are gutted that Portugal has been excluded from the list of countries they can travel to without quarantining on their return home. The Portuguese have worked so hard at preparing for overseas visitors.British born Portuguese residents like ourselves and Portuguese friends alike, have everything in place to manage visitors safely. It seems Portugal has been singled out by their oldest ally. It’s a bitter pill to swallow !
    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was called upon to “Get his finger out” and “Give a nation that has done very well in fighting this virus a summer season from the start of July”.Chance would be a fine thing.When his father Stanley Johnson flauntingly ignored all advice to travel to his second home in Greece via Bulgaria,confidence waned yet again.
    The UK is still living in the past.They NO LONGER rule over a large part of the world as they used to in the days of empire and slavery.Time moves on, and they should move on with the times.The "experts" (ex is the unknown and a spert is a drip under pressure) are totally engrossed in their own glory.
    We have lived in Portugal for some 14 years now and never had any health problems here in the Algarve, including with Covid 19.This decision is a mistake by the British Government, which could have been avoided if it simply listened to the 18,000 British residents who live in the region and who can witness in first person the example set during the pandemic in Portugal.
    The only problem with the econo monkeys is that they think/know that UK currency would be leaving the UK instead of going into their own coffers. Economy surpasses lives.Throughout this whole pandemic, may I call him Mr Johnson, has megaphoned his way through his own interpretation of what was being said abroad and provided a nation of shopkeepers with a pretty poor translation. It amounts to a national act of self-harming.As Portugal´s prime minister Antonio Costa succinctly put it  "Generals are not exchanged in the middle of a battlefield....but no club can play the champions league with a team that only loses"
    Imagine your first love affair with a handsome Al Garvey.It was a holiday romance you always wanted to return to.Along the way you dabbled with others.You perhaps foolishly snogged Benny Dorm back in the day or had a fiddle with a potentially good package  that was Agios Nik (olaos) and a summer fling with Swiss Jung Frau Joch just didn´t do it for you.The larger the package never necessarily meant the more promising the potential.So it is often first love that comes full circle.When the Al garve takes your head on his shoulder
    and offers you  a passionate and warm embrace,your knees buckle and you start breathing in a whole new way.You wake up to realising that you don´t quite know why you had a snog with any one else before.
    Soon after arrival you experience the country is full of amazing things: historic sights, killer wines, breathtaking landscapes, and some of the finest beaches in the world.

     One thing I always used to say it lacked was good marketing, but that was over a decade ago—that was then. Even as the country has evolved into a bona fide tourism hotspot, its residents remain humble salespeople. Their style of hospitality is warm and modest, tied more to an eagerness to share their traditions than to any capitalist desire.
    My motivation is therefore to fight for my beliefs and for Portugal. Given that I do not have direct access to influencers ,so on this matter I  hope that I can  influence people (as people matter in this world) hopefully through this blog. I also believe that we have to support each other as people at this time in anyway we can, no matter which side of the pond you are from or reside.As part of a recent tour, some ‘influencers’ were singled out by the Algarve tourist board to visit the East Algarve, taking in Alcoutim, Olhão, Vila Real de Santo António, Castro Marim and São Brás de Alportel to discover some of the Algarve’s hidden gems, “often forgotten, albeit unfairly”.
     The simplest route as I see it is to fly to Sevilha and then drive, coming in at  the back garden gate of the Algarve,The Guadiana river crossing re-opened this week after borders with Spain and Portugal had been closed for three months.
     And how long I ask before some of our enterprising airport transfer companies offer to pick you up from Sevilha and take you to back for your return flight. It's only two hours away,direct fast motorway all the way.
     Portugal and its people need tourists to live and survive through this pandemic and indeed tourists need Portugal for its safeness, beautiful resorts, friendly people and a cheap holiday to recover and relax after being in lockdown for so long. As such the introduction of an Air Bridge between the countries would have helped both Portugal and UK residents in my world. There should be no sense of discrimination regarding Portugal in the resumption of flights from the United Kingdom based on the increase in cases of Covid-19 in the Lisbon region.

    "Portugal continues to have a mortality rate much lower and a much higher rate of testing than that of the United Kingdom.Track and trace was in place from the very outset.The Algarve remains the same destination (as before Covid-19), with much to offer its visitors, but even safer and better prepared than before to welcome those who choose to spend their summer holiday here". 

    “We were clearly penalised for speaking the truth. Is it safer to travel to countries that test half, or even a third, or prefer to vacation in a country that is truly committed to preserving public health and tourism?”said João Fernandes, President of the Algarve Regional Tourism board.

    Wednesday, 1 July 2020

    Cool as a Cucumber

    Beyond cool, Ottolenghi´s Cucumber salad with brown butter croutons
    Cucumber sandwiches: are you a fan, or are they a silly Victorian affectation that deserves to go the way of the top hat and the whalebone corset? And if not, what do you like to do with this most refreshing of summer crops? My grandmother told me never to peel a cucumber,for the sake of the family´s digestion (being the "refined lady" that she wasI think she meant wind).I still don´t to this day,unless the skin is knobbled or notably coarse,because I prefer cucumber that way,and as you well know I cannot bear to waste anything edible.There seem to be plenty of people out there whose grandmothers told them the opposite,who never ate a cucumber without peeling it first for precisely the same reason that I was told to peel mine.With a burpless cucumber, I suppose it does not matter.One should be guided by recipe and the occasion.

    Cucumber sandwiches for Lady Bracknell, obviously must contain peeled slices of cucumber, whereas a dish making use of boiled cucumber"boats" requires that the skins should be left in place.One moot point is whether, like aubergines, to salt cucumber slices in advance,in the French manner (again I think this brings us back to the flatulence issue),or to leave them be.You could I suppose adopt the half practice of peeling them downwards in strips, or take a heavy pronged fork and pull the tines down the length of the beast.This makes an attractive edging,less lumpy than the plain peel and less wasteful than the denuded style. Then again I have always thought life´s too short to carve a radish and throw it in iced water to make it look like rose, so why try and zhoosh up a cucumber.Next up, whether to salt or not to salt,the answer is simple,it´s entirely up to you.Travel and immigration,pre-pandemic, opened our eyes to the cucumber´s possibilities.Sweet-sour dill pickles from Poland,Oh! as an expat what I would give my eyes teeth to get my hands on a jar of Mrs Elswood right now.Package holidays to Spain and Portugal brought gazpacho home to a wider audience and lovely cucumber and yoghurt salads reminded us of sunny times spent in Greek, Turkish and Cypriot tavernas.The French taught us how to cook lovely creamy dishes like cucumber vichysoisse, as well as Doria cucumber garnish for sole or other fish.This all seems a long way from cucumber sliced thickly into rather boring salads, and cucumber with salmon that was all that many people knew of back in the Thirties.

    Yogurt-based cucumber soup

    Creamy, herby and drinkable,ready after a few minutes in the blender
    When it’s too hot to cook,you can opt for a liquid lunch.A platable option when it’s too hot to chew is a long, vast tradition of chilled soups to choose from. Be they gazpachos, borscht, or a creamy, yogurt-based cucumber soup seasoned with garlic and herbs, there are few summer lunches as cooling and satisfying.
    To make enough cucumber-yogurt soup for three or four, cut a pound of cucumbers into rough chunks. If you can find cucumbers with thin, unwaxed skins and small seeds — hothouse, Persian or Kirby work well — you don’t need to peel or seed them first. Otherwise, peel and seed at your discretion.
    Put the chunks in a blender with 1½ cups plain yogurt (Greek or regular) and a splash of milk or water, if you like a thinner, brothier, more drinkable soup. You could also use buttermilk or kefir without the water.
    Add ½ cup soft herbs (dill, basil, mint, parsley, tarragon, chives or a combination), 2 spring onions (or ¼ cup sliced red onion or shallot), 1 peeled garlic clove, and ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and sherry or white wine vinegar.
    This is your base. You could whirl it up as is, garnish bowls with some good olive oil and flaky salt, and have a lovely, simple meal.
    Or you could go further, adding a few seasonings and garnishes to deepen the flavours. To the blender, you can add any or all of these, to suit your predilections: 1 to 2 anchovy fillets, half of a seeded jalapeño or other fresh chilli, a large pinch of ground cumin or coriander, a small pinch of cayenne, a squeeze of lime juice and some grated zest. Play around, tasting as you go. Cold soup is forgiving.
    Ottolenghi Cucumber salad with brown butter croutons 
    ( pictured above ) 
    Fun playful cucumber salads are everywhere at the moment but this one is the icing on the cuke.It is a play on a traditional cucumber sandwich, but in salad form, incorporating its three key components: cucumber, bread and butter.

    Prep 15 min
    Cook 25 min
    Serves 4 as a side
    65g unsalted butter
    150g soft white bread
    (about 3-4 slices), crusts removed and discarded, cut into roughly 2cm cubes

    Salt and black pepper
    25g parsley leaves
    , roughly chopped

    15g dill leaves, roughly chopped
    2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
    90ml olive oil
    5 Lebanese cucumbers
    (or 2 English cucumbers), cut in half lengthways, seeds removed, then cut at an angle into rough 2-3cm chunks (620g net weight)

    1 lemon – zest finely grated, to get 1½ tsp, and juiced, to get 1½ tbsp
    Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on a medium heat and, once melted, stir regularly for three or four minutes, until the butter is browned and nutty, then turn off the heat.
    Spread out the bread cubes on a medium oven tray lined with baking paper, scatter with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, then pour the browned butter over the top. Toss to coat, then bake for 10 minutes, tossing once halfway, until golden and starting to crisp up, then remove to cool completely and crisp up further.
    Meanwhile, make a herb oil by blitzing the parsley, dill, garlic, oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a food processor, until smooth.
    When ready to serve, put the cucumber in a large bowl with the herb oil, lemon zest and juice, a third of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and toss until everything is well coated. Add the croutons, toss again, then transfer to a platter and eat right away, while the croutons are still crunchy.

    Saturday, 27 June 2020

    When in Rome........Cannelini bean cheesecake

    When in Rome do as the Romans do? The inspiring Italian born chef Christina Bowerman does just that.She uses ingredients from traditional Roman cuisine and reinvents them in her own innovative style.Working with old recipes she produces her modern day interpretations.Tucked away in the labyrinth of small streets that prepandemic was the trendy area of Trastevere, you will find her Michelin starred restaurant Glass Hostaria.
    I discovered the genius that is Christina through a Televison programme "Rome unpacked" in which art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon and Chef Giorgio Locatelli go in search  of the greatest food and art that they can find off the beaten track, in Rome.
    Beans have always been a part of the Roman tradition.They used to say the Roman army would travel "on their stomach",and what they would carry in their packs would be like cicerchia.Cicerchia (Lathyrus sativus) is a legume that was once widely consumed, while nowadays, it is grown only in central Italy.Cicherchia was like wild chickpeas that the soldiers used to carry in their bags with salt and a little bit of flour. They would cook the beans,add things, and make some bread perhaps, so providing sustenance as they were advancing.This recipe would probably come as  very much of a surprise for a Roman soldier nowadays but drawing on his cultural gastronomic heritage I am sure he could conjure up a memory.A word of warning do not embark on this recipe unless you are looking for a challenge and have plenty of spare time.If you do decide to try it it the effort is more than worthwhile.
    White bean cheesecake with pasta crumb base
    It is almost a scherzo of a cheesecake,a playful jest of what we would traditionally expect from a cheesecake.Are you ready for a savoury cheesecake with a pasta crumb base and a custard of cannelini beans citrus and tahini? This is my interpretation of a Christina Bowerman recipe.For the crumb, she boiled the pasta,dried it, deep fried it, dried it in the oven then crunched it up to make a biscuit base.So instead of biscuits it is pasta.It has a wonderful melt in the mouth mousse like texture that is irresistible to an ever expanding waistline.
    Serve dressed with a green tahini dressing.
    200g spaghetti
    1 tbsp (15ml) extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup (60g) finely ground pasta
    ( or any other type of savoury crust,Crackers,breadcrumbs etc.)

    White bean purée
    1can (15oz,or 420g) cannelini beans
    2 cloves garlic,crushed
    1/4 cup (60g) tahini
    1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
    2 tbsp (30ml) extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 tbsp Flor de sal
    172 tsp black pepper

    350g (12oz) cream cheese
    250g mascarpone cheese
    300g greek yoghurt
    4 large eggs 


    Cook the spaghetti as you normally would following instruction on the packet.
    Drain the spaghetti and dry it on a tea towel.When dry deep fry the spaghetti in batches until crisp and golden.Drain on paper towel and then dry in a low temperature oven(150C)
    remove from the oven and allow to cool. when cool blitz the pasta in a food processor as you would if making a biscuit base for cheescake, until you have a coarse crumb.

    Pour the oil into the bottom of a 10" ( 25cm ) springform pan.
    Using a pastry brush,brush the oil all over the bottom and sides of the pan.
    Sprinkle the pasta crumbs over the bottom of the pan and rotate the pan around so that the bread crumbs cover the bottom and sides completely.Set aside.

    In the bowl of a food processor add the white beans and garlic; process until smooth.Add the tahini,lemon juice,olive oil, salt and pepper and process again until smooth.remove from the bowl and set aside.

    Pre-heat the oven to 325F / 170c or gas mark3
    In the bowl of an electric mixer,using the paddle attachment,mix the ceam cheese,mascarpone and greek yoghurt until softened,scraping down the sides of the bowl underneath the paddle,and the paddle itself frequently with a rubber spatula,for about a minute.
    Add the white bean purée and mix for a further minute,until completely smooth,add the eggs,one at a time,and mix until combined,about 10 seconds after each egg.
    Pour the batter over the crust and level it with a small offset spatula.
    Take a baking pan that is large enough to hold your springform pan, and is also large enough to allow for water to surround the springform pan. Next, cut a large single sheet of aluminum foil, making sure that it is wide enough to surround all sides of your springform pan.  (Use an extra wide aluminum foil if it is available rather than two narrower pieces of foil to avoid any chance of leaking.)
    Wrap the pan, making sure that the sides of the pan are fully covered by the foil.  Also make sure that you don’t tear the foil as you wrap it.
    Place your prepared cheesecake in the springform pan into the baking pan.  Then, add about an inch of very hot water to the baking pan so it surrounds the pan.  You want to add enough water to the pan to ensure that the water does not fully evaporate during the baking process.(It should come up halfway around the sides of the pan).Bake for about one hour,until the cheesecake is firm around the edges,but still a little bit jiggly in the middle.remove from the oven and remove the cheesecake from the water bath.gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula carefully around the edges of the pan to loosen the cheesecake from the sides.Allow to cool at room temperature.Place in the fridge for at least eight hours till set completely.
    To unmould the cheesecake,gently run a small sharp knife around the edges of the pan.Release the latch on the side of the pan and then lift the ring straight up.Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    What's her name? Si chiama Cristina Bowerman.
    She's very inspiring, the way she works with old recipes.
    Her food is really top-notch.
    Maybe she can cook us some beans, eh? Well, that's Let's hope so.
    Cristina's Michelin-starred restaurant is called Glass Hostaria.
    It's in the trendy neighbourhood of Trastevere in the centre of the city.
    You come from these great, wide avenues into these little almost like labyrinths of streets.
    With all these bars and restaurants, everybody eating and drinking.
    This is it? I'm going to introduce you.
    In this beautiful tavern.
    How are you? Can we come in? Welcome.
    Very well.
    Come on over.
    Cristina uses ingredients from traditional Roman cuisine.
    Today, she's going to cook for us a unique cheesecake.
    A cheesecake? A cheesecake with pasta, with beans, and mussels.
    Are we talking about almost a scherzo on the cheesecake? Exactly.
    Cos it's a joke on the cheesecake.
    That is exactly it.
    Cos we're savoury here.
    We're not sweet.
    This is actually the base of the cheesecake, but let me show you how I did it.
    She boiled it, and then she put it into a dryer, and dried.
    Can I just get that right? The base of the cheesecake - you cook pasta? Exactly.
    You then, when it's cooked Dry them.
    you deep-fry it? Yes.
    Deep-fried it.
    Then you dry it in the oven? And then you crunch it up? So, it's instead of the biscuits? Exactly.
    How thick do you want it? I want it, like, this thick.
    And you need to press it.
    So, now What's this extraordinary? That's the beans.
    That's the beans.
    This is cannellini beans.
    The cannellini beans that have been made into a puree.
    This is what that becomes? Exactly.
    That's exactly it.
    Beans are really part of our tradition.
    They used to say the Roman army would travel on their stomach, and, you know, what they would carry would be like cicerchie.
    They will have Chickpeas? Yeah, like Cicerchie is like wild chickpeas that they used to carry on their bags with their salt - their own salt - and a little bit of flour.
    So, they would do this, like, cook the beans, add things, and make some I don't know.
    Some bread.
    And they would make up something like that, even as they were advancing.
    So, even this would probably very much surprise a Roman soldier, but he would still, in some taste memory, he would know what it is.
    It's going to look like a dessert! Exactly.
    And this is my last touch.
    Smell it.
    Wow! That is Those are mussels.
    Goodness me.
    So, how have you prepared those? I cooked them up, then I dehydrated them, and then I powderised them.
    Goodness me.
    I never heard of that.
    Can you buy this or? No, you have to make it fresh.
    No, no, no, I made them.
    You make it yourself? Yeah.
    So, you're going to have that bean taste, pasta taste, and then you're going to be hit by that sort of flavour of the fish because, you know, like, the mussel, they've got that really fish Rich, fishy flavour.
    That is very ingenious.
    So, when did you invent this recipe? Last month.
    Last month?! So, this is straight off the wheel of time.
    Mm! Can you taste the mussels? Yeah.
    Very strong.
    The mussel comes at the end At the end.
    with the seasoning and And that's the thing that should stay with you.
    What I love also is this crust.
    I have one little more surprise.
    Could you wait just 20 seconds? I'm going to go get it.
    We can wait.
    You can clean up here, so I can put it right there.
    We can eat a bit more of this if you want.
    So Ooh, wow! Cannelloni.
    I want you to taste it and guess what it is.
    Mm! It's some kind of beautiful semifreddo.
    Made of? If you're going to put me to the test, it's like nougat? Almonds? OK, I'll make it easy for you.
    They are all beans.
    That's all beans?! This is a meringue made out of the leftover water from cooking the beans.
    That's a bean powder, and that's a bean mousse.
    You're kidding me! Yes.
    You are kidding me.
    The only different thing is it's an almond outside.
    There is an almond.
    I knew there was an almond.
    Yeah, the green stuff.
    But everything else is a bean? Everything else is a bean.
    You are kidding me.
    So, you can make anything out of a bean, right? Not only.
    You use everything, even the water.
    No, I don't mean I don't mean one.
    I mean YOU can make anything out of a bean.
    Thank you.
    You really can.
    Come on, let's go.
    Thank you.
    This was delicious.
    That was fantastic.
    It's BEAN great.
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