Tuesday, 31 March 2020

A simple Thai supper

"Da thirteen in the Big Broother Hoose...": Wuh hev been telt tuh sta indoors.
Ye knaa what ah mean leik. Wuh havin puh-tay-ers fo' wor tea,alreet. Cannit waitt!!!......
.....Without further ado lets go to the diary room and see what we´ve been cooking up behind the closed doors of solitary confinement.
Fans of the classic Thai fishcakes will love this chicken adaptation. Forget fish cakes, it's all about chicken.They are not only incredibly more-ish, they're also a cinch to make.A light and healthy supper that's a great variation on the chicken theme,and if you want an even quicker option you an use the left over chicken from that Sunday roast too.

4 small chicken breast fillets (about 600g total), roughly chopped
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons gluten-free Thai green curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons palm or caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup coriander leaves
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Place the chopped chicken in a food processor with the egg, curry paste, fish sauce, palm or caster sugar, lime zest and juice, and coriander leaves, then process until just combined. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the shredded kaffir lime leaves. Use wet hands to form the chicken mixture into 12 small cakes.Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
Cook the chicken cakes, in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden brown and cooked through.

To make the meal more substantial serve the chicken cakes with this hot and sour soup.
This is a Thai restaurant classic which tastes even more delicious homemade and it’s incredibly easy to make. You will only need about 20 minutes from start to finish and you’ll be left with a flavourful restaurant quality soup that will leave you licking the bowl!The best thing about this soup is how versatile and customizable it is. Make it vegetarian by skipping the chicken. Add pork instead of chicken if that’s what you prefer. Like more heat in your soup? Just add more chilli peppers.

Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup
3 cups chicken stock
4 slices fresh ginger
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn (substitute with lime zest)
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2" lengths and bruised (substitute with lime zest)
1 fresh hot chile pepper, sliced (I used 2 large slices)
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes (or 1 whole tomato, cut into wedges)
One 15-oz can straw mushrooms (or handful fresh sliced mushrooms)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 lime, squeezed (about 2 tablespoons lime juice)
fresh coriander leaves

In a pot, add the chicken stock, ginger, kaffir lime, lemongrass and chile slices. Bring to a simmer, cover, and then turn the heat to low. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out and discard the spent herbs. (You can taste the soup at this point, if you would like it more spicy, keep the chile pepper slices in the stock and discard just before serving.)
Add in the chicken pieces, cherry tomato and mushrooms. Bring back to a simmer on medium heat and then cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and cilantro leaves.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Saturday, 28 March 2020

A good sense of houmous, The Panissa and Revithosoutzoukakia mystery

Chickpea Patties with Thick Tomato Sauce – Revithosoutzoukakia

“Perfect recipe, sir? Oh, I’m sorry. There is no such thing as a perfect recipe".  
A good mystery should be a treasured find, and I think I unearthed that treasure while dining out with friends recently.I want you to accompany me on an adventure as I try to uncover the truth and track down the source of a dish we recently ordered in that restaurant. Nothing works up adrenaline for me like playing the part of  a hard-hitting detective tracking down a recipe. Nothing excites the logical parts of my mind like trying to be a skilled sleuth, unravelling the convoluted trappings of a masterchef´s intrepid schemes.As a bumbling detective I love to unravel more than one veritable stew of palatable secrets, ending up solving the enigma. It was hard for me  to whittle down which of the great detectives that have been created for humanity by the minds of writers throughout the years, I would be.Was I Julienne Poireaux, Hercule´s long lost transgender sister, portmanteau in hand, or would I be a culinary Columbo getting the job done only in part because of my tendency to talk too much? Do I seem to be a bit of an airhead,though in reality having a keen attention to detail and a quick wit that helps me piece together the ingredients of the chef I am investigating? I would rather hope for the latter.
My investigation took me from a gastro bar in Tavira,Portugal to  Liguria,to Noli, a small  village on the Ligurian coast, not far from the larger city of Genova. This little village on the Italian riviera is home to panissa, a fried appetizer made with chickpea flour.The investigation then continued to Exampela, a village on the island of Sifnos, birthplace of one of the most influential cookery writers of modern Greece.Nikólaos Tselementés was a Greek chef of the early 20th century who created a recipe called revithosoutzoukakia, from the Greek word revithi which means chickpea.You can see where this investigation is going.The suspect in question called itself "deep fried chickpea cakes with houmous and tomato emulsion" My initial enquiries found that there are two types  of panissa in Italy.There is  a version from Piedmont that is a completely different dish to the panissa served in Liguria. Panissa from Piedmont is a type of risotto with dried beans and sausages, whereas panissa from Liguria is a fried appetizer made with chickpea flour.  Who knows how two such different recipes came to have the same name! You certainly can’t mistake one for the other, even on a dark night.My next discovery was that this type of Ligurian polenta involves a cooking method not for the faint-hearted or weak-armed and  has never really been associated with being formed into patties or cakes of the type we had sampled, so step two of my investigation drew a blank.Delving further into culinary realms I unearthed a Greek recipe called revithosoutzoukakia from the Greek word revithi which means chickpea.The chickpea patties are made with a combination of the chickpeas along with fresh tomato and then drenched in a rich red sauce made with tomato paste and olive oil.This seemed more like what we had been served in the restaurant.The hunt for the killer recipe was narrowing in.Always fascinated by fusion, what I deduced was that we had eaten a  dish that brought together an Italian regional cooking method combined with a strong Greek recipe served in a modern Portuguese gastro bar. I had finally unwrapped my gourmet detective mystery.Now I had to take my evidence to the lab for analysis and scrutiny, and test my findings.The dish posing as  panissa we had ordered in the restaurant now appeared  to be some sort of mutant. What we had sampled was lacking in flavour for a start, there was not one ingredient that our strong palates could detect.
What I must clarify first is, was the offending suspect covered in an emulsion at all or was it a sauce masquerading as an emulsion?
 I ask you jurors, what do mayonnaise, hollandaise, and vinaigrette have in common? They’re all emulsion sauces, which means they get their luscious mouthfeel from fat suspended in water. But we all know that fat and water don’t mix, so emulsified sauces are always on the verge of “breaking,” or separating (as you can see from the pictures). Knowing the science behind that separation can help you prevent it, and create a smooth sauce.Ahh I am getting somewhere.
What exactly is an emulsion sauce? 
Emulsion sauces are made by mixing two substances that don’t normally mix. To do this, you have to break one of them into millions of miniscule droplets and suspend those droplets in the other substance by vigorously whisking, or better yet, blending them in a blender or food processor. 
When two substances don’t naturally mix, it’s because the molecules of each are more attracted to themselves than to the others, so even the most thoroughly combined emulsion sauce will not stay combined for long. To prevent separation, a substance called an “emulsifier” is often mixed in. Emulsifiers, such as egg yolks and mustard, are made up of big, bulky protein molecules. When combined with fat, like oil or butter, and watery ingredients, like vinegar, lemon juice, and of course, water, these molecules get in the way, making it harder for like molecules to find and bind to each other. Therefore, there’s a better chance that the emulsion will hold. 
Some of the most common emulsion sauces are vinaigrette (oil suspended in vinegar, sometimes emulsified with mustard), mayonnaise (oil suspended in lemon juice and water, emulsified with egg yolk), hollandaise (melted butter suspended in lemon juice and water, emulsified with egg yolk), and beurre blanc (butter suspended in white wine vinegar, emulsified by the milk solids in the butter).So I can now safely say that the substance our suspect was covered in was a sauce not an emulsion.
Having pieced all my evidence together I now set about creating what I thought was an authentic, not counterfeit, dish.

Chickpea Patties with a houmous and tomato emulsion – Revithosoutzoukakia

The Greek cuisine and diet provides an abundance of vegan recipes, and this is one of them. Greek cuisine is known for many vegetable patties and one of them is the chickpea patties which are very similar to the famous falafel, but a bit softer in texture. This recipe though is a bit different.As I mentioned above the cooking method for making an authentic panissa is "not for the faint-hearted or weak-armed" so I have taken a short cut and blitzed cooked chickpeas in the blender combined with tomato, rather than cooking chickpea flour with water and turning it out to set as in the traditional Ligurian tradition.
For the Patties
3 cups boiled chickpeas (canned or boiled from dry)
1 medium tomato
½ cup parsley
2 garlic cloves minced

¼ cup water
½ cup all purpose flour or more as needed plus more for coating
½ teaspoon baking soda
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for frying 

For the sauce
2 teaspoons tomato paste
heaped tsp houmous
½ cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sugar
Salt/pepper to taste


In a food processor mix the chickpeas and tomato, do not over mix, the mixture should be grainy.
Add the garlic, parsley, 1 tablespoon olive oil, water, salt, pepper and baking soda and blend. Again do not over mix.
Place the mixture in a bowl (dough will be very sticky) and add flour, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Knead with your hands, the dough should be soft but firm enough to shape into patties.
Roll into balls , flattening them a bit, using about 2 teaspoons of the mixture for each patty. Coat with the flour.
Heat olive oil in a pan (oil should be about ¼ inch deep in the pan).
Fry the patties about 2 minutes on each side.
Remove and place on paper towels to absorb any oil and set aside.
Begin the sauce by heating the tomato paste, olive oil and water along with the sugar, salt and pepper in pan, let it come to a boil and then lower the heat.
Add the chickpea patties to the sauce and spoon the sauce gently over the patties.
Heat for a 1-2 more minutes and serve.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Arroz verde-authentic green rice

With all the rumpus surrounding my recent coronavirus post and having been on the receiving end of the vented wrath of an extremely upset lady in Horsham UK, I thought I better post something plainer. Plain rice is just that: plain. I think it sometimes needs a little push and some TLC to transport ones tastebuds from the land of the bland to a place where rice's true potential shines through? 
This Mexican Green Rice is the perfect counterpart to the Portuguese Arroz de tomate malandrinho.  They use similar techniques; once you’re familiar with one of them you’ve always got the option of making the other one just by swapping out the puree.
Of course, this batch also comes with the alluring smell of roasted poblano peppers infiltrating your house. This can be reason alone to make the recipe, but ending up with a delicious, authentic batch of green goodness helps too.Lets face it how many of us are racing through those jars of rice in our store cupboards these days?


The poblano peppers are the key to this recipe. I also added  a handful of spinach  but you can consider that optional if you are making it for the first time.
Start by roasting the two green beauties.
These poblanos will need 20-25 minutes in a 400F oven.  You can flip them halfway through the roasting period if you want.
You’ll need to add a few tablespoons of the stock to get the blender contents rolling.
Combine well but it’s okay to leave it just a little chunky.


Arroz verde malandrinho

1 cup arroz malandrinho rice
2 poblano peppers
10-15 sprigs cilantro
1 handful spinach (optional)
1/2 onion
1 garlic clove
2 cups good quality stock

1/2 teaspoon salt
olive oil


Roast the poblano peppers in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You can flip them over halfway through the roasting period if you want.
De-stem and de-seed the poblanos. Add them to a blender along with 10-15 sprigs of cilantro, a handful of spinach, 1/2 onion, and 1 garlic clove. Combine well.
Add a dollop of oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup of rice and cook until opaque and starting to turn golden brown, stirring regularly. This should only take a couple minutes so keep an eye on it to prevent burning.
Add the blender puree to the rice and cook for a couple minutes, stirring regularly. Add 2 cups of stock and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Give a stir and cover the rice, letting it sit in its own steam for a few minutes.
Take a final taste for salt level, adding more if necessary. Serve immediately and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.


Sunday, 22 March 2020

"Flatten that curve", lose weight with Bojo

     Keep fit like Bojo 
"Don't go shopping, but you can go out for exercise" - Yeah, well done Boris!
One always need wine to keep fit
BEING STUCK AT HOME can suck.With the COVID-19 coronavirus causing companies to shut down workplaces, and governments urging people to stay away from crowds, you could wind up spending the majority of your time at home for the immediate future.Last week I gave you a 28 day lockdown larder meal plan.
I soon realised this is no good without an exercise plan to support it.So the keep fit with Bojo plan  "sends the virus packing". Some breakfast ideas and smoothie recipes will also help to keep you healthy.
While it shouldn't be your most pressing concern, what this means is that you'll have to skip out on going to your local gym,or taking that daily jog or walk. If you've been forced to join the legions of work from home employees against your will, it can feel even tougher to get up and moving in the same space you've been lolling on your laptop in those favourite pair of sweats or onesie.
If you dont have a killer home gym, don´t worry—there are endless options available to you if the only place to get your sweat on is in your living room. Don't know what to do? There's an app for that.I counted at least twenty for both sexes on my phone this morning.While checking out apps on your phone set your step and calorie counter and set yourself a daily goal.If you're looking for simple ways to stay in shape indoors, bodyweight workouts can be completed just about anywhere, anytime, at any fitness level. Don't spend your time inside on the couch doing nothing—get up, get moving, and stay healthy,like Bojo (NOT).Here are 6 suggestions of how to get your Bojo working again.....
Running on the spot
This is a terrific way to burn calories.If you have the space you can do circuits of the kitchen table.This is something I have adopted.

YouTube Workouts
There are a lot of workout routines on YouTube. You can search “workout,” or you can search by the specific type of workout that you would like. This eliminates the need to use workout DVDs, and it allows you to mix up what you are doing to avoid boredom and lose weight fast. YouTube is also great if you want to do a traditional workout with push-ups, squats, and crunches, but are unsure on how to properly do these types of exercises. There are tons of videos that instruct you on how to use correct form as you exercise.


Water Bottle Weights
If you are looking to do some arm, shoulder, and back strength training, you can make your own weights by filling up water bottles. If using water bottles becomes too easy,increase the size of the bottles. You can tailor the exercise to your level by filling the bottles to the exact weight that you need. For a greater challenge, increase the water amount just a little bit each time you workout.


Cleaning
Cleaning can be very physical, especially hoovering, mopping or even better surface scrubbing. Instead of going out to ride your bike or go for a run, set up a house cleaning schedule and clean your house instead. You might as well kill two birds with one stone!


Hallway Lunges
Instead of stepping back into place as you normally would with lunges, step forward, and continue until you have made it all the way down the hallway and back. You will feel feel the intense burn in your legs with this workout.

Try it whenever you go down the hall, or from room to room. If that gets too easy for you, hold weights in your hands to make the lunges more challenging.

Stair Stepping
Stair stepping is a great exercise to do in your home, even if you don’t have a set of stairs available. Find the biggest book you own (or a sturdy chair),  put it in front of the TV, and step up and down while watching your favorite programme. You may not work up a sweat, but you will be keeping your body active and healthy.

 Waist disposal...Who you gonna call - fat busters
If your belly like mine is looking more like like a large laundry bag than a washboard,we need to lose enough girth to get into those favourite Ted Baker slacks again.We have to burn off excess middle body fat.No diet known to man will blast fat off a particular body part. A million sit-ups and crunches are not going to do it either.
Aerobic exercise is the answer, not something I´ve ever been very good at, but the good news is, its possible.All it takes is some time, discipline and you can do it at home.
Dancing is an excellent way to burn calories, and get your heart rate going while having fun. If you are in the privacy of your own home, there is no need to look like a complete twat in public or to feel embarassed in front of the professional leading a dance class .
To get rid of the `pot´ belly  concentrate on what goes into you cooking`pot.´Plan some nutritious healthy option meals for the next couple of months and that hopefully will help with fat loss and at the same time compliment the exercise programme that you intend to put yourself through.




Start the day with a power breakfast of banana,strawberries, cherries, granola,home made yoghurt and freshly squeezed orange juice. 

Smoothies, the perfect power breakfast in one glass, so quick and easy to prepare
You can blend your favorite fruit with any of the following:
Milk, sorbet,Kefir or yoghurt for a calcium rich drink.
Try some of the following combos:

1/2 cup beetroot
1/2 cup cucumber
1 carrot
1/4 cup apple concentrate


1/2 apple
1pomegranate
1/2 banana
30 red grapes de-seeded
also try  
Apple/ginger
banana/pineapple/lemon juice

Purple reigns
1 beetroot
2 Stalks celery (preferably organic)
1 apple,Fuji,Jonagold Pink lady,Starking
Quality apple Juice

Chayote Smoothie
1/2 chayote
1/2 granny smith apple cored and de-pipped
2 cups green melon
1 celery rib
1 tablespoon honey optional
Juice from one lemon (only if making in advance)
Spring Water (if you want it thinner)
Blend all the ingredients.  If it is too thick, then add water,or if you prefer coconut water
 
The Green genie
1 Large green stick of celery
1 apple
a quarter of a pineapple
juice of two limes
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger,minced
Put it all in a juicer or blender and blitz

Monday, 16 March 2020

Store cupboard living.-a menu plan for self isolation

16th March 2020: Dear diary,today I went to the local supermarket where controlled entry(one in one out) with a numbered ticket has now become the procedure.I dutifully stood in line outside and when my number was called I was issued with a pair of plastic gloves and proceeded to do my shopping.Once inside all the fresh food counters had a temporary railing half a metre distant from the actual counter.Self service produce now had to be requested from an assistant who wore a protective mask and gloves.Some shoppers were wearing masks and the mood was silent and sombre.I found it all mildly reassuring and the situation I found myself in instilled me with confidence in the way things were being managed here.It brought to mind what my mother must have experienced in the days of rationing.I was there to stock up without stock piling, what we would need to avoid the normal daily outing to buy fresh produce.Things would change over the coming days/ weeks/ months and I wanted to have a larder that would supply all eventuality.
Our cupboards contain all sorts of things that, with imagination, can be turned into delicious dishes.If coronavirus forces you to self-isolate,or if you are in quarantine, you’ll need to make the most of what you already have in your kitchen and you´ll more than likely be searching for some extracurricular domestic activities.So instead of being a slave to your mobile phone become a slave to the kitchen.Beating the s..t out of a cast iron pan or an energetic ten minutes kneading dough can not only pass the time but relieve any stress build-up as well.
A well-stocked kitchen cupboard is your best friend and that if you look after it, it will look after you. Now, even more than ever, as the coronavirus outbreak forces thousands of us into self-isolation,here are some ideas for what to cook if you are forced to rely on what you already have, rather than popping to the shops for ingredients.Puy lentils are a food of the gods for omnivores and vegans alike, Coronavirus or no virus.By eating our way through our reserves of pasta we do so in solidarity with Italy.Knocking up a store cupboard paella ( with or without meat ) gives us an affinity with our lockdown friends and neighbours in Spain.So before you self isolate, do one big shop that will last you twenty eight  days.To survive your time in solitary confinement you need a well stocked larder of dried goods,canned produce and grains.A salad drawer full of fresh vegetables and a freezer full of freshly frozen meats and fish.Make sure you have plenty of space in your freezer because many of the dishes you cook can be made in larger quantities and frozen in portion control.And don´t forget that box of fish fingers.Nobody is going to knock you for having a fish finger sandwich,soft white bread and lashings of ketchup.A simple supper of fish fingers chips and peas never goes amiss in o cozinheiro´s household.
 So these twenty eight recipes I have given you below will perform absolute alchemy on pantry staples, turning them into soul-warming, comforting deliciousness for you.

Fish cakes
Tinned tuna makes great fish cakes.Made with coconut milk/mashed potato/small onion/chopped chilli and a small spoonful of curry powder...some chopped coriander too if you have a pot growing on the windowsill. 

Patties
One of the most adaptable things around : you need a base (cooked potato or sweet potato, mashed carrots or beans, tofu), bulk (cooked grains, more veg, chopped nuts, breadcrumbs) and flavour (spices, cheese, herbs, onion, garlic, lemon zest, seeds). Mix to obtain something that holds together nicely, then shape into balls and flatten before refrigerating for one hour. Heat some oil in a pan and fry for three to four minutes on both sides. Serve as you would a burger.

Meatballs and burgers
If you have some mince, either pork, beef or a mix of both you can make batches of meatballs and burgers and freeze them.What is more comforting than meatballs and spaghetti? Fight that RSI you have acquired from too much time on the keyboard by rolling and moulding.See,I told you self isolation can become fun and therapeutic too.If you have some day old bread make home made bread crumbs, this will enable an extended repaertoire of dishes.

Jacket potatoes
There are hundred of toppings waiting to be put on top of a jacket potato and most of the ingredients can be found in a store cupboard
tinned tuna
sardines 
sweetcorn
chilli from the freezer
The list goes ever on......


Things to remember: 
You can freeze butter 
If you've got somewhere cool and dark (ie: not a fridge), go get a string bag of onions  That'll last you for ages
Similarly, for big bags of potatoes 
Try not to buy anything you wouldn't ordinarily use, this isn't the apocalypse - you don't want to have a cupboard with a load of old dried milk and freeze dried egg powder in the back in 3 years time.
Look after yourself in the coming days, keep an eye on neighbours if you can, particularly elderly ones and if you go in to lock down, use it as an opportunity for doing the garden or a DIY project!
If quarantine started next week a typical diet could look something like this.
(You may have to adapt according to what region of the globe you are in)

Week 1:
Monday:
Tortilla-esque cauliflower cake
Tuesday: Teryaki salmon with rice
Wednesday: Tinned tuna fishcakes( make extra and freeze)
Thursday: Pasta Putanesca
Friday: Chick pea patties (serve in burger buns with home made tomato sauce or ketchup)
Saturday: Creole jambalaya.(with or without meat)
Sunday: Roast chicken, roast potatoes and carrots.(save carcass for stock and left over meat for risotto a pie or curry)


Week 2:
Monday: Spaghetti aglio e olio
Tuesday: (dried) Mushroom risotto

Wednesday: Aubergine parmigiana..
Thursday: Chicken curry (any which way)

Friday: Tuna and tomato sauce with spaghetti.
Saturday: Cauliflower cheese.
Sunday: Lamb cutlets (from freezer) with chilli roasted pumpkin rocket and salad

Week 3:
Monday: Chicken skewers with satay sauce
Tuesday:Chilli con carne with spiced butter recipe
Wednesday:Leeks a bras Portuguese style
Thursday: Puy lentils with sausages and roasted root vegetables.
Friday: Tagliatelle with bacon and brussels sprouts pesto
Saturday: Pizza bianca.
Sunday: Paella

Week 4:
Monday: Lasagne (chilli lasagne if you have leftover chilli and leftover lasagne sheets)
Tuesday: Cheesy bread pudding.
Wednesday:Beetroot gnocchi with walnut sauce
Thursday: Sardine Fritters with Sriracha-Soy Sauce
Friday: Spaghetti with home made meatballs
Saturday: Thai pork hamburger
Sunday: Duck confit with pancetta puy lentils

Shopping list to achieve most of the above

Fresh meat,fish ,shellfish for freezer

Dried yeast
Plain flour/ bread flour
Several varieties of pasta
Assorted spices 
Chilli sauce/soya sauce/worcester sauce
Honey
peanut butter( can be home made)
rice ( 3 types ) basmati risotto,long grain
Packet of tortillas (different sizes)
Canned items
tomatoes
chickpeas
beans
tuna 
sardines
olives,capers

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Brummie bacon cakes for brunch

So which is your favourite snap? and what do you think of as bostin’ Brummie fittle?
For those who do not know, “Brummie” refers to someone who´s birthplace is Birmingham (UK), a place not exactly famed for its culinary delights. In fact,people think it’s not much famed for anything at all, even though it gave the world Cadbury’s chocolate, heavy metal music and the Industrial Revolution."Yoo hoo Typhoo" tea was coined in Birmingham as was HP sauce and Bird´s custard,Since it’s the birthplace of the Balti, which revolutionized the British curry, and home to the same number of Michelin-starred restaurants as Budapest,and almost as many as Lisbon, perhaps it should get more credit for its cuisine.I do not hail from the Midlands so can not provide provenance for this recipe but the thespian swears he´s never heard of it,but hey with such a rich history of flavours, it's no surprise that Birmingham and the neighbouring Black Country have had many traditional dishes over the years, some very specific to the area and not eaten anywhere else.
This I believe is a recipe which harks back to a different age though, an era of rationing when these cakes were a great way to eke out a small amount of meat for a hungry family.My mother would have been in hog heaven. This is a perfect weekend brunch dish, delicious with scrambled eggs, or soup.Who cares about its authenticity I like it.
4 rashers of bacon (streaky if you can get it)
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar or similar)
2/3 cup of milk (plus a little extra for glazing)
¼ cup of butter
1 squirt tomato ketchup
½ tsp salt
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

Grill or fry the bacon until crispy, then leave to cool.
Heat the oven to 160c/ 140c fan.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
Sift the flour into a bowl, along with the salt.
Work the butter into the flour with your fingers, until the texture resembles breadcrumbs.
Chop the bacon into small pieces and add to the bowl with half of the cheese.
Mix together the milk, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
Stir the liquid into the flour until it forms a soft dough.
Roll out on a floured surface and form into a circle 7-8 inches across.
Brush with milk and cut into 8 sections.
Transfer to the baking sheet and top with remaining cheese.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Tastes like Heinz

Nothing says home more than a deliciously warming bowlful of Heinz cream of tomato soup. Bursting with rich, satisfying flavour, it's no wonder that this particular soup has earned a special place in our hearts as well as our kitchen cupboards.
Hands up who can´t resist a bowl of Heinz cream of tomato soup? Hands up who wants the very same soup but without the sugar,modified cornflour,dried skimmed milk,acidity regulator etc? Well Anything is possible and here it is.In Portugal these imported products are quite pricey and not that readily available to quell expat cravings, so I decided to make my own, and not only that I had a stab at making my own home made "Heinz style" baked beans(below).I put my culinary Clouseau head on and experimented with several flavour combinations to find out what could achieve that unique Heinz taste but additive free.Well even the thespian was impressed and when it comes to Heinz cream of tomato soup,its hard to pass his finishing post a winner, but he gave it the thumbs up.Currently Kraft Heinz is struggling to adapt to consumers' changing tastes and their aversion to processed food.A sharp slide in sales and earnings has shown consumers trying to embrace plant-based products.My version is not completely vegan,I must admit as it contains butter,but no artificial additives.
It could be Heinz cream of tomato soup
250g tomatoes,skinned, seeded and chopped
300g butternut squash,sliced as thinly as possible (on a mandolin)
60g butter
1 small onion, about 100g,sliced as thinly as possible
garlic,1 clove crushed
celery,1 small stick chopped
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp allspice
250ml tomato puree
Up to 700ml milk as required to dilute
Sweat the butternut squash, onion and celery with the butter in heavy based pan for 10 minutes,add the thyme turmeric and allspice and mix well continuing to cook until fragrant.Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and 300ml water.Turn the heat up and cook covered for 30 minutes.Allow to cool slightly then with a stick or hand blender blitz the soup until very thick and creamy.Slowly add up to 700ml of milk until you reach the desired consistency.You should not need as much as 700ml.

They could be Heinz baked beans
Sometimes home comforts are the things you miss when your abroad  When HJ Heinz sold his first tin of baked beans to Fortnum and Mason in London in 1886, few would’ve predicted the start of a national love affair. Yet 134 years later, baked beans are a staple for millions of Brits – synonymous with cooked breakfasts and student suppers on toast.These days, baked beans are often sold by supermarkets as a loss leader. But in 1886, Fortnum’s displayed Heinz’s tins proudly, as a pricey and exotic American import.
Reading recipes for "baked" beans it seems its only yours truly that actually bakes the beans:  others, faithful to the happily misleading name, stew them instead (though sadly not inside tins, like the real deal).Beans Meanz ...Baked,I say. 


500g / 17.5oz of Haricot Beans
Enough water to cover the beans
2 tablespoons of Oil
1 Diced Onion
1 teaspoon of Salt
1 teaspoon of Mixed Herbs
1/2 a teaspoon of Black Pepper
1 teaspoon of Paprika
1 can of chopped Tomatoes
2 dessertspoons of Brown Sugar
2 cups of Tomato Sauce (Passata)

Place the dried beans in to a large bowl and completely cover with cold water. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to soak overnight or up to 24 hours.
After the beans have soaked, place the onions into a pan with the oil. Add the salt, mixed herbs, black pepper and paprika and give it all a quick mix through. Pour in the canned tomato, add the sugar and tomato sauce. Stir everything together. Drain most of the water from the soaked beans and add the beans to the tomato sauce. Place the lid on the pan and gently cook the beans in a medium oven180C for 2 – 3 hours until the beans are nice and tender. If the sauce becomes too dry add some water to the pan.
Once the beans are tender and cooked remove them from the oven and allow the beans to completely cool down.
When the beans are cooled transfer them into sterilised jars or mason jars and store the beans in the fridge.
I found the beans mature the longer you keep them, so I tend to leave the beans at least 24 hours before consuming them.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Hake rattle and roll


‘In a puddle of curried broth bringing it all together’: hake,potatoes and leeks.

If you find the precipitous climb up the Carlton Hill to Edinburghs most elevated culinary arrival,The Lookout (November 2019) daunting, or you cant stomach the steep hike in what you would normally expect to pay for high end quality food with impeccable service, look no further as Castro Marim´s very own casa rosada is serving up an interpretation of one of their dishes on our new 20/20 menu.Here is our version of what Guardian restaurant critic Jay Rayner described,when eating the original, as......
"A chunk of pearly hake, the flakes sliding away from each other, sits atop an unmanicured mess of gently sautéed leeks, nutty new potatoes and melon-bellied mussels, which are a warming shade of tangerine. He further described it  as coming with “curry”, which in this case means the puddle of buttery broth bringing it all together has been spiced lightly with a garam masala".After tasting it we decided the
melon-bellied mussels in a warm shade of tangerine did nothing for the dish.Further streamlining combined the potatoes to be cooked with the leeks rather than sit uncomfortably as extras on the plate.
Hake,mussels,nutty new potatoes,leeks 
and curry bechamel
225g portion of Hake, per serving
100g leek,trimmmed washed and sliced roughly, per serving
75g jersey royal or baby new potatoes,roughly sliced
Fry the potatoes in butter and oil, (about 15 minutes)over a low heat.add the leeks and lightly sautée for afurther 15 minutes or until until soft and glistening.Season with Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper.Set aside.Grill the fish skin side down until crispy,turn and  continue cooking until flesh takes on a golden hue.(approx 5 minutes)

FOR THE CURRIED SAUCE (for 4 portions)
450ml whole milk
1 onion, with skin removed, and chopped in half
1 bay leaf
1/2 a tsp of nutmeg
50g butter
50g plain flour 

1heaped teaspoon turmeric 
Salt & pepper to season

Pour the milk into a saucepan, and add the onion half, bay leaf and nutmeg.

Gently bring the milk to the boil. Allow to bubble gently for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
While you wait for the milk to infuse, take out a second saucepan and melt the butter over a gentle heat. Once the butter has melted you can start adding your flour. Stir continuously to make a roux.
Next, remove the onion halves and bay leaf from the infused milk and discard.
Gradually add the milk and turmeric to the roux, stirring continuously.
Continue to stir the mixture over a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce has become thick and creamy.

Finally, season with salt and pepper. Remember to keep it on a low heat and stir often until you are using the sauce. If you leave it to go cold or don’t stir it frequently enough, it will solidify.

TO ASSEMBLE
When you are ready to serve,return the leek and potatoes to the pan with a knob of butter and toss them in a little of the curry sauce as they heat through.
Take a large shallow soup plate and spoon over enough curry sauce to cover the bottom,
Make a pile of leeks and potato in the centre and top with the fish.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Corona virus

   Corona was a pandemic!!!!
I remember when Corona was a good thing.Oh yes, like a virus it was infectious alright.
Once it got hold of you there was no turning back. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, a visit from the Popman was almost as exciting as one from the ice cream van. (But not quite.) Even the milkman had a stock of pure orange juice on his float, another good treat.Yes in those good old days we had orange juice delivered to our door.Two bottles of Dandelion and Burdock, a bottle of Lucozade and a bottle of Cream Soda, please. (You’d even get money back for returning the empties.)

Soft drinks have always been extremely popular with schoolchildren,especially with those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s.Corona (every bubble passses its fizzical and R Whites ( I´m a secret lemonade drinker) must have helped rot the teeth of many a youngster like myself,with their varieties such as lemon and orangeade,cherryade,cream soda,Ginger beer(my absolute favourite) and Dandelion and Burdock.For those of you who were around in those years,you  will no doubt be protected against the coronavirus,if like me you drank enough corona fizz.All those bottles of of legendary cream soda must have created enough antibodies in our systems.


We,unlike those who had it delivered, had to go to the village store to buy our supplies, but I even remember getting very animated when I saw the Corona lorry stopping to make his delivery.Those were the days!!!!Now wash your hands with clean running water,apply soap,lather,scrub well,including between the fingers for at least 30 seconds,rinse well.
.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Viva a vida cubano latino, Pork Pibil Riblets south of the border down mexico way

Ostensibly it is not one of nature's great beauties : a pockled, blotchy thick skin encasing a pale, seedy yellow pulp.
The beauty however of a Seville orange (naranja agria)is that it is every bit as appealing as a lemon or a lime, but with a spicy, flowery fragrance like no other citrus fruit can provide. It can adapt to a wide range of cuisines, from savoury to sweet, while at the same time perking them up with an exotic, fruity tang.
While it may seem a surprise to us Europeans, but the sour orange has been used for generations in Latin America and the Caribbean in mojo, the thin cooking sauce of sour orange juice, oil and garlic that is prized for marinating pork but also makes its way into dishes from salad dressings, ceviches and escabeche.Mojo is to Cuba what salsa is to Mexico.
Our restaurateur friends were on holiday in Cuba earlier this year and my curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see what they might have been eating,and what inspiration they might return with that we would sample on future menus.I have dabbled with many tasty dishes while being on holiday myself.Some have remained culinary romances but many have returned with me and been added to my repertoire.Alfredo, Jansson,Reuben and Victor to name but a few.
 I googled Cuban food and a dish jumped out and took my fancy, Costillitas de cerdo Cubanas (baby pork ribs cooked in a sour orange sauce).Now as you well know I am a curious cook and I like to play with my foods! Food ingredients,that is.It came at just the right time of year too.
What a great idea I thought for using up some of those Seville oranges still left on our tree.Researching further how Latin America uses the bitter orange in their cooking I moved south, down Mexico way, to find an embroidered version of the original cuban adobo style.Pork Pibil Riblets (Costillitass de Cerdo al Pibil) conchinita pibil.Well my plan was now focussed to give Seville orange juice a try,as a marinade for pork using this quintessential Latin Amercan cooking method.
 Pibil, a Mayan word that means buried or cooked underground, is a word describing a popular dish found in restaurants and in homes all over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Pibil (pronounced PEE-beel) is a cooking technique that involves wrapping pork (or another meat) in banana leaves, marinating it in sour orange and achiote—a sweet, slightly peppery red sauce made from annatto seed, a plant found in the tropics—and baking it in a hand-dug barbecue pit in the ground for several hours. The meat becomes beautifully tender, with a subtle smoky flavour.
You may find, like me, that you dont have access to banana leaves and that you aren't up to digging a pit in your backyard and lining it with stones to cook your Cochinita Pibil. So worry no more, for the likes of us there is a solution at hand for both these dilemmas.
 Here is an excellent recipe that focuses on the spices and slow-cooking of the pork without using the traditional pit.If you get the herbs and spices right, the banana leaf wrapper will not be a big deal. I don't think the banana leaves do much, if anything, for flavour. It seems to be more for the steaming process. So my suggestion is using parchment paper and aluminium foil to get good results.I initially thought foil, but then was concerned the acids would react with the aluminium during the long cooking time, so my solution was to double wrap first in parchment paper and then in foil. You'll often see this dish garnished with pickled pink onions.Here is the pickled red onion link on my blog.
Mexican roast potatoes

1.5kg (31/2 pounds) back baby pork ribs
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Granulated garlic powder

For Pibil Marinade(recado)

11/2 cups Seville orange juice

11/2 oz (50g) achiote paste*  
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp piri piri flakes
Flor de sal to taste
parchment paper
kitchen foil
water
Season the pork lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Set aside.
In the blender, combine the Seville orange juice and the remaining ingredients for the pibil recado. Blend on high until very smooth. Set aside.
Put awire rack in the bottom of a roasting tin Line a large roasting pan with a double layer of foil followed by sheets of parchment paper overlapping in a criss cross way and large enough to allow wrapping the ribs up in a tight parcel.
Add 2 cups of water to the bottom of pan.
Place the pork riblets on top of the parchment. Pour the pibil recado over the riblets, making sure they are evenly coated. Cover tightly with the parchment and tie tightly with string, then bring the foil up to wrap around the parchment and pull together tightlyRoast in a preheated 180C oven for 3 1/2 hours or until riblets are very tender. Check for water level after 2 hours.
Once pork is tender, unwrap the parcel, leaving it in the roasting pan. Place back in over for 25-30 minutes to further brown and caramelize the riblets.Serve with Mexican rice or Mexican roast potatoes and the pickled onions.
* Also known as recado rojo, this Latin ingredient is used in Mexican and Belizean cuisines, especially of Yucatán and Oaxaca. It gets its red-orange color from the seeds of the achiote tree, which is native to tropical regions in Mexico and Brazil.
If you can't find it in the shops or online, use this easy recipe to make your own stand-in spice blend at home.
2 teaspoons paprika
½ tablespoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 small garlic clove, minced
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin