Monday, 15 October 2018

Game of scones

There exists a battle as old as time, two powerful forces vying for the souls of humanity. No, not the battle of good versus evil, something even more important – sweet versus savoury.The war between sweet and savoury is on in a Game of Scones. Just as there will always be a left and a right , there will always be those who prefer sweet to savoury, and vice versa.Savoury scones are much like tea scones but served instead as antipasti or with early evening aperitifs or cocktails.The combinations are infinite and instead of tea,inevitably wine worthy.Sometimes something a little more savoury is what really hits the spot.Savoury scones such as these are a great option for pairing with soup instead of the more customary bread. They work as a wonderful vehicle to sop up those last little bits of soup without being too over-filling. Also, the flavour of the scone itself can help balance out an overly sweet or savoury soup. Since there are about as many ways to make savoury scones as there are ways to make soup, the combinations are only as limited as your own imagination.
Cheesy Chouriço mini scones  
The perfect companion to any soup.
These little nuggets of cheesy tangy spanish flavour are irresistible so make sure you make plenty because this little renegade here started eating those scones as soon as they hit the cooling rack.
50g diced
1 pinch dried rosemary
125g self-raising flour
25g butter
50g grated Iberican cheese
100ml milk

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
Fry 50g diced chouriço on medium until crisp, then drain excess oil on kitchen roll. Add 1 pinch dried rosemary to 125g self-raising flour and rub in 25g butter until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Mix through 50g grated Iberican cheese and the
chouriço until well combined. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in 100ml skimmed milk, then mix to a dough with a blunt knife.
Knead on a floured surface, flatten to about 2.5cm thick, then cut out 2-3cm rounds with a cookie cutter. Repeat until all the dough is used. Arrange on a baking tray lined with baking paper, brush with milk and sprinkle with more grated cheese.
Bake in the oven for 8-10 mins until golden and risen.
Avocado and feta scones 
When thinking of Avocados you may automatically think guacamole or burritos and salsa…
Don’t think that is where they only belong.Although I could dip my corn chips into some right now I decided to turn my hand to a savoury scone.Because of the moisture in the feta the dough is fairly wet when it comes together so you may need to add a little more flour in increments until you achieve a scone like consistency.The Feta is a salty cheese so be careful not to add tto much extra saltThese scones have a more subtle flavour and bear a closer resemblance to more traditional scones.they lend themselves to having a filling added.They are delicious sliced and spread with butter, but if your taste buds are a little more ambitious,below are some of my suggestions.
½ cup Hass Avocado ,mashed
½ cup Feta Cheese, crumbled 

¼ cup chopped fresh Coriander
¼ cup milk

2 eggs + 1 egg white for egg wash on top
2 Cups regular flour

1/2 cup self raising flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Begin by mashing the avocado and getting it a bit smooth (some lumps are ok, you don't need to puree it). Combine the flour, baking powder, salt with avocado and blend with a party cutter. Add milk, eggs cilantro and cheese (crumbled)
Roll the dough on a floured surface and cut into desired shape. You can pat it into a square and cut the scones into triangles or roll with a floured rolling pin and use a biscuit cutter. My dough was about an inch thick and cut in 4cm circles.
Place on baking sheet, brush on egg wash (egg white mixed with 1 Tablespoon water) on tops of scones. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Until a toothpick does not come out sticky, but don't over bake them.

FILLINGS THAT ARE UP TO ANYONE`S fantasia-"Imagination" 
As an alternative to butter spread them with a light lemon mayonnaise.Making mayonnaise at home is quite simple.Commercially produced mayonnaises contain all manner of strange ingredients not to mention sugar.I used to  watch my mother whip up fresh mayonnaise in minutes by hand,using nothing more than a wooden spoon for beating the oil into the egg.I prefer to make it in a blender,however.It is quicker this way,even for a novice.
Green mayonnaise-Add parsley capers and cornichons to your basic mayo
Caper butter
Sundried tomato olive and basil tapenade
Green olive tapenade
Homemade sundried tomato pesto
Chilli Coriander jam
Mustard and mascarpone

The list goes ever on but at the end of the day its all down to personal taste and favourite flavour combis.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Exótica e muito saborosa! Figuero da India.Que delícia o pequeno almoço acabou de se tornar

 Home made Indian fig jelly spread on toast for breakfast....YUMMMMMM

Followers in colder climate zones will have to excuse my temporary bout of Opuntia (Prickly Pear cactus ) mania, but I’ve had a hell of a lot of cactus fruit to deal with this last couple of weeks.I´ve juiced and I´ve jammed and I´ve jellied and next year I’m going to take a crack at creating some other preserves,Indian fig gazpacho, fruit pies, a jelly topping for cheesecake, cocktails, licores —and who knows? Que delícia.
My love affair with the opuntia began one Saturday afternoon in September when I was shopping, and local producer Nelson Ventura from Herdade de Malhada,Alcoutim was promoting the fruit in our local supermarket.Having got into conversation with Nelson,I wrote an initial blog and am now finding out further information about this unusual and intriguing fruit.He very kindly dropped off a box with six kilos of them for casa rosada to try out on our guests.Thank you for that O senhor,muito gentil de sua parte.Opinions differed from o nobre para o delicioso, the sublime to the delicious,but pip content came up high on the points of view list.I made delicious juice which I blended with pomegranate to up the exotic content and then I came up with an exotic jam with just a hint of pomegranate which will be just one new addition to the casa rosada breakfast table. My "romance" with the prickly pear is turning out to be a long,and well, fruitful one.

Geleia Figo da India
Unlike many other cactus jelly recipes on the internet that I have tried unsuccessfully, this one works. The proof is pictured above.
2 1/2 cups prickly pear cactus juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
5 cups sugar
1 box of powdered pectin
(18 teaspoons-note that not all pectin brands contain the same amount in a box, so measure it out to make sure)

Wash Peel and scoop out flesh from the fruit.Blitz the fruit in a processor or with astick blender in a cylinder. Use a fine colander or sieve to strain liquid from the juiced fruit. 
Combine strained fruit juice and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until solution is boiling.  Once boiling add sugar and pectin and stir constantly.Continue to keep mixture at a rolling boil for ten minutes,or until jell point is reached then remove pan from heat.  If canning jelly, ladle into sterilized jars.Prickly pear jelly may take up to two weeks to gel inside the jars.  If using for fresh jelly, cool jelly and store covered in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Hommage to Ayamonte Puntillita taco with pico de gallo

 Puntillitas fritas (deep fried baby squid) from Ayamonte
I feel we are so lucky to be Andalucia´s close neighbours.All it takes is a short boat ride across the Guadiana river from Vila Real de Santo Antonio and there we are, En Espanha.We park the car,board the boat and alongside passengers of various nationalities we experience a ferry boat journey that gives one a real feeling of travelling to another country.It cant be compared to a real cruise but the twenty minute crossing to the other bank of the river is equally relaxing.As one gazes back to the castle of Castro Marim and its fortress we are reminded of other times when the two countries were not so united as they are today.We also imagine what it was like when none of us belonged to the Eurozone and the Portuguese imposed a border guard to combat smuggling.There is even something romantic and a little bit nostalgic,"saudade", about it.Nowadays if we make the 9.5km journey by car (10 minutes)it is usually to combine buying cheaper petrol and to do a big shop at the Mercadona supermarket, followed by a light tapas lunch at Orta and pick up some fino sherry,sausage and whatever other frivolités take our fancy.Breathing the air of Spain and soaking up a totally different architectural style is a novelty in itself and the attraction of tapas beckoning from every calle you walk along is irresistible.Fabio´s incredibly intelligent take on tapas at LPA is an offer not to be refused, or perhaps a more old-fashioned type of tapas at award-winning Casa Barberi overlooking the marina.This restaurant with its sunny terrace celebrated its century this year.The cuisine is real tapas by real old school waiting staff in a charmingly traditional way.Pinchitos ,puntillitas,pulpo and boquerones make you feel you are in another country and having fun.Ayamonte always welcomes us foreigners from across the dividing water and makes us feel at ease.At the end of our excursion when we are wanting a little more silence in our ears,that´s when we feel like returning home and we´re in luck because Portugal is right there."hasta pronto" it says as the ferry pulls away from the quay.Dont you worry Ayamonte we will be back soon,for sure.Meanwhile back home I Rustle up a simple supper to remind us of wonderful hours spent on the other side.When O cozinheiro draws inspiration from Fabio with a bit of traditional Ayamonte thrown in,anything could happen.Here is my hommage to Ayamonte.
Pico de gallo
Pico de gallo is one of those staple recipes that everyone should have on hand, and it must always be  homemade!  It’s easy, healthy and flavoursome. It can be served with tacos, quesadillas, on top of grilled chicken or fish, or just plain with tortilla chips and a cold aperitif.
Although Pico de gallo and salsa contain similar ingredients, salsa is more of a “sauce” with more liquid in it, where pico de gallo contains very little liquid and is made with fresh, uncooked ingredients.
There are tons of different ways to make salsa, with a variety of cooked, roasted or uncooked tomatoes, peppers, spices and other ingredients.
Pico de gallo, on the other hand, always contains the same ingredients: fresh and uncooked tomatoes,red onion,coriander and red chillies.
Puntillita (
baby squid) taco with pico de gallo
It can be made in just 10 minutes with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, red onion,and fresh chilli.
FOR THE PICO DE GALLO  (Makes about 4 cups)
5 Roma tomatoes , diced
1/2 cup red onion , diced
1/2 cup fresh coriander , chopped
4 small red chilli, veins and seeds removed, diced
1 - 2 teaspoons lime juice , to taste
splash of olive oil
splash of balsamic
salt , to taste

Combine tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeño in a bowl.
Season with salt and add lime juice to taste.
Top on your favorite taco recipe or serve with chips.
Pico de gallo is best eaten fresh, within 12 hours of making it. Store in the fridge.

Puntillitas fritas
For 4 portions

4 corn or flour tortillas served warm
Puntillitas 250 g
Flour 50 g
Flor de sal 4 g
To make the little puntillitas well ,and be crispy and not oily, you have to do several things with them, before frying. First, wash them well under the tap,the drain them in a colander. Once clean, it is advisable to dry them well, so that they do not splash and spit  during frying and so that they take the flour well without weighing it down.The second part is to remove the quill and the interior, an easy task that is done by pressing the sheath as if it were a tube of toothpaste. This is easily done.When clean, to dry them, spread them on a dishcloth and cover them with another, or use kitchen paper, which is perhaps the best option since very often they still contain some ink and can stain the cloths.Once they are clean and dry,salt them by sprinkling fine sea salt over them and passing them through the flour. If you do not have a sieve to sift them later to remove the excess, it is best to bathe them well in flour and then shake them in a colander or a vegetable strainer with jerky movements that eject any excess flour.Meanwhile,heat the oil, or turn on the fryer at 170º, to enable  quick frying at high temperature, which will ensure the little chaps are crispy and do not take on too much oil. Once golden, drain them on absorbent paper and serve them immediately with the pico de gallo on the tacos. 

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Why were our parents and grandparents healthier?

Growing Communities’ Farmers’ Market, north-east London The UK’s only 100 per cent organic farmers’ market is held weekly at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, north-east London. All farmers are either organic or bio-dynamic and come from within 100 miles of Hackney. They bring in products such as greenhouse salad leaves, aubergines and peppers, organically farmed trout, lamb and chicken. Every Saturday,

Read more at:
Growing Communities’ Farmers’ Market, north-east London The UK’s only 100 per cent organic farmers’ market is held weekly at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, north-east London. All farmers are either organic or bio-dynamic and come from within 100 miles of Hackney. They bring in products such as greenhouse salad leaves, aubergines and peppers, organically farmed trout, lamb and chicken. Every Saturday,

Read more at:
Unspoilt,undeveloped, the "green and pleasant farm land" of my childhood
There is a certain romantic lure of nostalgia these days,particularly where food is concerned.In the Great Britain of the 1950´s rationing created a postwar generation that was very well-nourished,but also completely resourceful.In the words of the writer Michael Pollan“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food".
 As a British expat I often find myself taking a defensive stand against certain criticisms of
that nations gastronomy.There was more to British eating than anyone who had not grown up there could possibly understand.The best British cooking,historically speaking,has been served not in restaurants, but in family homes where once dutiful mothers, not today´s egotistical masterchefs, took charge of the stove.As Jane Grigson puts it in one of her luminous books on British food,"our classical tradition has been domestic,with the domestic virtues of quiet enjoyment and generosity." And it may well be that I belong to the last generation of Britons to have proved this, putting it to the test it in another nation´s gastronomic culture.
Its true I was sent away to boarding school and traumatised as a child, as many of my compatriots must have been, by school meals and their malicious determination to remove all possible pleasure from the act of eating.I always remained unamused by the notion of suet puddings.Bread and butter pudding left me ready to retch at the refectory table.The stodge and slop we were presented with was pretty revolting.I have to say my schooldays were a rather dreary procession of spam fritters,tapioca and queen of puddings.
The less said about the meanness, the sensual poverty of British institutional catering,the better.In all its grim faced reality, that word"catering" is to me one of the ugliest in the English language,and has no precise equivalent in any other,as far as I know.
But there were good memories too.I recall accompanying my mum to buy cheeses from the shop that sold nothing but cheese, butter, bacon and pickles. The cheese was cut with a knife and wrapped in greaseproof brown paper."This is a cheese shop,there is nothing for vegans here."
What I remember best, however,was the solid, savoury repertoire of my mother´s home cooking.Joints of roast meat,with their various home made tracklements.Steak and kidney pudding and pie,two applications of the same ingredients producing dramatically different results.Cottage pie, meatloaf,fish pies.Sometimes we were treated to pheasant  if someone carelessly ran one over in the road or my father popped a pigeon with his rifle ( yes I know, less said the better).Turnips and swede were often found rolling in the road having fallen from a farm trailer.Vegetables were from the garden, leeks, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, courgettes, spinach and new potatoes boiled and glistening with a little butter and chopped fresh mint and curly parsley.My father would bring in heads of lettuce for our lunch or to be interleaved between two slices of brown bread with salt and pepper for a most delicious and oh so frugal sandwich.Gooseberry fool, rhubarb crumble and an endless parade of sweet puddings, rice, summer pudding.My mother, for her sins, rustled up the occasional anglicized curry with sultanas and chopped boiled egg.This was about as far as our palates would allow us for the moment, but the horizon of the exotic was not too far away.Spaghetti bolognese,paella ,coq au vin,it would not be long before we would be wanting more.There appeared to be no restaurants in those days,or at least that was what it seemed to one little whipper snapper,who´s first visit to a restaurant was when he was 12 years old.
On a number of issues – particularly food waste, but also obesity, nutrition, cost, pleasure even – there is much to admire in how our grandparents ate. In an era of limited choice and tight budgets, they made a virtue of the necessity to cook with whatever fresh ingredients were available. My parents cooked almost ‘sustainably’, and cooked every day for themselves, one of life’s best skills, and they never threw leftovers away. To that extent, I follow in their footsteps of being frugal and thrifty.
 I remember my grandmother´s kitchen; you went into her fridge, everything was covered with a saucer, she threw nothing away … we’re a bit lazy in that respect these days but we should take note, she lived to the grand old age of 98.She did not have a mobile phone."What is cholesterol? "she would say.
The so called United Kingdom appears to have lost home economics in a lot of schools.School lunch boxes are under scrutiny,which is a good thing.Banning them is perhaps a little draconian but the responsibilty for its contents should lie at the beginning of the day with a responsible parent.
Our sanitized world does not allow the immune system of the young to fully mature.For babies, breast milk was valued and it was always in season. I believe that breast feeding (which my Grandma always did) helped to build up their immune systems,and at the same time if you introduce something into the diet at an early age, then you’re less likely to become allergic to it.
Nowadays children can be hard pressed to identify the name of certain vegetables that are put before them.I remember having an encounter with a check out girl in a well known English supermarket whose brand shall not be named about what a courgette was.She sat behind the till waving this courgette in the air as she rang for a supervisor. "what you call dis  vegetable?"(great example of customer training skills and modern day literacy).
 Nothing more reassuring than home grown potatoes
For my parents generation,buying processed food was not an option.They didn’t eat GMOs, food additives, stabilizers and thickeners.Food was not yet treated with additives, antibiotics and hormones to help preserve shelf life and pad the pockets of food producers at the expense of the consumer’s health.There was no such thing as bag salads let alone leaves that had been washed in chlorine and then put in a bag  filled with a gas that keeps them fresh for longer. Apparently this also removes most nutrients from the lettuce. If truth be known the lettuce itself adds this gas to the package.
"Nose to tail" People ate the whole animal, which included mineral-rich bone broths and organ meats.Animal bones were saved or bought to make broths and soups, and organ meats always had a special place at the dinner table. These foods were valued for their medicinal properties, and never went to waste.Nowadays people don’t have the time to shop let alone the time to cook. Can someone explain to me at this point why boil in the bag fish is a "convenience" food.It takes longer to cook than a piece of fresh fish bought from the market which has double the nutrients. Everyone says England is a more unhealthy nation than ever, and yet not many are doing anything about it.
 In the 1950’s food came from farms and small markets, and because food preservatives were not widely used yet, food was fresh. Because of the lack of processed food, diets were nutrient dense, allowing people to get the nutrition they needed from their food.Today people aren’t taught how to shop.Our grandparents did not fall victim to fad diets, food marketing, calorie counting, and other detrimental dieting habits that are popular today (in part because the marketing infrastructure didn’t exist yet).Talk of cholesterol levels was yet to come and considered stuff and nonsense by that generation.
Because of this blindness to the truth, they had a healthy metabolism, and ate according to their body’s needs and cravings.They cooked food at home, using traditional preparation methods from scratch.Eating out was a rare luxury.Back in the 1950s rabbit meat was as common for dinner as chicken is today. It is the meat, not veganism, that got many people and their children through the lean times of the Depression.Lucky for our grandparents, these habits actually increased their health.
 Growing communities the Uk´s only 100% organic farmers market which  supports small, sustainable farms almost all from within 60 miles of London.
 The mobile butcher,baker and greengrocer used to pass by our house once a week with their very own grown produce.If you were lucky enough to live in the country, growers had stalls by the road selling fresh farm eggs and inviting you to pick your own strawberries and other fruit from their fields and orchards.My father grew prolific Jerusalem artichokes and sold them to local green grocers.I Was very encouraged when researching this post to discover that the farm shop in the remote Essex village where I grew up is still thriving.

Brookelynne Farm is a family owned and run business by John Carr and Son. Established in 1953,the year after I was born John's father Jack took on the council lease of a 45 acre farm. Since then it has been family owned and has expanded to 150 acres, with John now owning the freehold. Brookelynne Farm relies on traditional farming methods such as crop rotation and manure, in place of irrigation.All animals are fed on crops grown by the farm and all vegetables are grown using manure produced by the animals.What I found even more reassuring was the fact that Brookelynne Farm Shop supplies local schools, restaurants, pubs, village shops and residential homes with high quality fresh produce.My mother used to make and supply home made cream for the Carr family to sell by the roadside with their strawberries during the season.
My father had plum and greengage trees in the garden.He kept my mother supplied with most of the produce she needed, courgettes,rhubarb,gooseberries,raspberries and tomatoes in his greenhouse,and my mother used to make her own elderflower cordial,gathered from a tree in our garden.
The sad reality of all this is that today's ingredients have been transformed by a century of hybridization, mechanization, and standardization to meet the demands of an industrialized, cost-minimizing food system.
Traditional stone-ground cornmeal was replaced by hybridized corn, picked unripe, air-dried, and bashed to powder by steel roller mills, forcing cooks to add sugar when baking to simulate its former sweetness. Tomatoes are bred to be as indestructible as racket balls, and they're picked green, shipped to supermarkets across the country, and get a good zap of ethylene gas so they arrive perfectly round, bright red, and flavourless. Heirloom breeds of pigs, with meat so red it's almost purple and marbled with thick layers of fat, have given way to lean, factory-raised engineered breeds to pass as white meat.I remember the days when a tweet was the sound a bird made.
Growing Communities’ Farmers’ Market, north-east London The UK’s only 100 per cent organic farmers’ market is held weekly at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington, north-east London. All farmers are either organic or bio-dynamic and come from within 100 miles of Hackney. They bring in products such as greenhouse salad leaves, aubergines and peppers, organically farmed trout, lamb and chicken. Every Saturday,

Read more at:

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Figos da Índia Portugueses,uma fruta cheia de benefícios

The fig tree, Opuntia ficus-indica, was brought from America to Europe at the time of the voyages of discovery, having adapted itself to where the weather conditions were more favourable.In Portugal, it was mainly in the Algarve and Alentejo. 
 It is also known as piteira, devil-fig, tabaio or tabaibo or Barbary fig, more commonly the prickly pear.The cultivation of the Indian fig tree in Portugal is only as recent as 2010. Up until then it had appeared wild, on the borders of rural roads and farmland. The only way the fruit was collected was by individuals foraging it.In recent years, orchard plantations have begun to appear throughout most of the country, a professional association has been formed, a cooperative of growers,and new uses have been found, as a result processed products have emerged.
 Nelson Ventura,manager,Confraria do Figo da Índia at a recent tasting in Supermercado Intermarche,Vila Real de Santo Antonio,uma parceria entre a Confraria do figo da india e a empresa Pepe Aromas
Events (fairs, seminars, workshops) have begun to take place.These fruits are virtually unknown and have a limited consumption,something we consider to be a niche market.If growers are going to make a sustainable living by their product it has to have a broader market.There is a growing market for"exotic products", particularly those with organic certification.This is a market which attracts a range of customers, like myself, looking for new,rare and unfamiliar things.
The market for fresh harvested figs as an exotic food item will always be limited.However it is not just the fruit but the entire Indian fig tree that has wider uses than just being part of the food in our shopping trolley.
 The marketing of further applications will support the sustainable farming of this plant.The seeds can be used in the production of oil for cosmetic products and is one of the most sought after oils in the world.The fibre of the Indian fig when dried can be applied to furniture and fashion accessories.The flowers when dried can be used in many infusions with remedial properties and to improve bodily functions.Studies demonstrate positive results pharmaceutically in the treatment and healing processes of cancer psoriasis,eczema,muscle pain,inflammation of the respiratory and digestive tracts,blood pressure, liver,diabetes,atherosclerosis and ulcers.
The young cladodes or flattened leaf like stems are usually considered to be modified branches, and can be used in vinaigrettes for salads, for animal fodder and in processed fruit products.
Harvesting may be a challenge, but growing them is definitely not. They easily reproduce by seed and also by stem fragments detaching and rooting to form new plants. No wonder these plants have now naturalised across Portugal. This might be great for anyone who enjoys making jam, jellies, juice, licores or dressings.Judging by the response I have been getting from our guests here at Casa Rosada, this fig is going to become part of the breakfast table.If we all adopt this fruit in our diets then we can enable an increase in demand and production, resulting in Portugal being able to join other countries exporting the fruit globally.I am sure this could be a breakthrough product in some of the UK supermarkets ,but we must be be quick or Brexit will get in the way.
For a prickly pear mojito and other adaptable recipes click here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Colour my world

You'll never see a dark cloud
Hanging 'round me
Now there is only blue sky
To surround me
There's never been a grey day
Since you found me
Everything I touch
Is turning to gold
So you can colour my world
With sunshine yellow each day

Just what is going on? We are three days into Autumn and it is hotter than August.The last two days the temperature has reached 36º C (97ºF) Well I am sorry, but I dont want to sit down to a meal of hot food in that temperature, so I am still rustling up and concocting salads.When I say salad I mean something that radiates colour on the plate.Music very often accompanies me while I am cooking and I have recently been having some great sixties moments.Back in the day  "Downtown" immediately made me a Peculiar Clark fan and was the first single I ever bought in good old 1965.This was followed by so many more great songs but surprisingly, so many never made the British charts."Colour my world" was just one of these inexplicable misfires.Perhaps it was just "a sign of the times" but what I have never understood is that this single is one of the happiest and most positive songs known to man - in a decade where there were so many such wonders that have left such an indelible impression a lifetime later. By what cruel twist of fate did this magnificent single fail to even touch the chart back in 1967? It's every bit as good as Downtown, and my other two favourites of hers, Don't Sleep In The Subway and I know a place and has all the hallmarks of greatness, both of Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent's brilliant songwriting, and of the 60s generally. The only thing I can think of which might have worked against it is that the public at the time just couldn't associate the sound of the sitar with the voice of Petula Clark.Well back to what I was doing when I spotified the song on my computer.From the very first bar I felt a salad coming on... "Colour your world with sunshine yellow each day"she belted.Construct my everyday salads with lots of different colours, get  creative and have some fun with them, I thought.But what do you call an everyday salad that is bright and colourful? I was stumped for what to call this salad. Polychromatic salad? Spectrum salad? Rainbow salad? I went through a full gamut of words but nothing spoke to me.I thought of that great educational book for kids I Can Eat A Rainbow by Annabel Karmel but still I really couldn’t figure out what to call this salad.I finally ended up naming it Patala salad after its inspiration Petula.
Petula is a feminine name used most commonly in Latin based languages commonly accepted to mean ‘to seek’ or ‘to go forward’ from interpretation of the Latin word Petulare. The use of similar names can be traced back to early Tribal or Sanskrit Languages. This perhaps contributes the foreign or exotic ring to the name Petula. The exact origin of the name is a combination of similar syllables all having in common a mystical, desired or sought after quality.Patala of Sanskrit origin- an underworld kingdom of ageless and shimmering radiance, described as more beautiful even than the heavens or the earth.

on the plate
 This is more of a guideline than a recipe for how to create your own version.The idea is to mix cooked and raw vegetables together. There are no rules but rather a guide to the fruits and vegetables you can choose from each colour to create your own beautiful, fresh and colourful salad.The smoked salmon could be substituted with prosciutto or other type of ham.

Patala salad
1 small oak leaf lettuce,cavolo nero,kale or other dark leaves
6 medium purple potatoes quartered
1 small red onion chopped
2 carrots cut into thin batons 
6  runner beans cut into thin strands
1 each of small red yellow and orange peppers
1 cup fava beans
1/2 cup garden peas
4 breakfast radishes,thinly sliced
12 small cherry tomatoes of assorted colours, red, yellow, orange

1 x 220g packet of smoked salmon

1tbsp creme fraiche
2 heaped teaspoons horseradish sauce
Boil the purple potatoes as you would any potato,drain and set aside.Toss the carrot batons in some oil to coat and place them on a roasting tray in a moderate oven until cooked (about 25 minutes).Lightly pan fry the peppers until they soften.Set aside.Boil the broad beans,rinse and remove their skins.Boil the peas with a little salt and sugar.Set aside.Boil the runner beans till soft but still retaining a bite(10 minutes)Prepare the rest of the vegetables and then make the dressing by mixing the creme fraiche with the horseradish.When cold toss the potaoes and the red onion in the dressing and put in the refrigerator until ready to make the salad.
To prepare the salad,line a shallow salad bowl with the lettuce leaves and spoon the potato and onion mixture to fill the well in the middle.Top with a layer of torn smoked salmon and then mix all the rest of the ingredients and pile up on top.Finish with more smoked salmon pieces.

Purple potatoes/ red potatoes
red cabbage
roasted baked or steamed diced butternut squash
green beans
fava beans
red pepper,yellow pepper
red onion,pickled red onion

Add up to 1/2 a cup whole grains and/or legumes to make it a more substantial and filling, higher-protein meal:
Cous Cous
Brown rice
Pearl barley
Black eye beans
Puy lentils
White kidney beans or mixed beans

The dressing is the most fun part, don’t you think? There are so many choices! My favourite ingredients for creating your own salad dressings are:
Fresh herbs. Cilantro, parsley, basil, mint.
Nut Butters. Peanut, cashew, almond.
Vinegars. Rice, apple cider, balsamic.
Fresh garlic, onion and ginger.
Citrus. lemon, lime, orange.
Sea Salt and Black Pepper.
Miso, tamarind paste.pomegranate molasses
Dijon Mustard,grain mustard,English mustard
Spices and dried herbs. Ginger, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, onion powder.
Soy sauce, tamari
Oils, olive, avocado, sesame,sunflower
If you’re stocked up on all of those ingredients, you can make endless variations of healthy salad dressings. That’s about everything you’d ever need to create salad dressings and just about any other combination you can think of.

More colourful salad Ideas
Chilli roasted pumpkin salad
serves 4
400g (14oz) Butternut pumpkin,peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-3 dried red chillis
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 large juicy cloves garlic
Flor de sal and cracked black pepper
400g (14oz) can of chickpeas (grao bica) drained and rinsed
1 cup coriander leaves
1 long red chilli,thinly sliced
1 cup baby rocket leaves ( Rucola selvagem) 
Put the coriander seeds and dried chillies in a Mortar and pestle.Bash them to a rough the butternut squash in a roasting pan.Toss to coat with olive oil and then sprinkle with the chilli powder.Season with salt and pepper.Roast for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is cooked and golden.Place the pumpkin, chick peas,coriander,chilli and rocket in a bowl.When ready to serve gently toss with the dressing and transfer to serving plates.
Slada Batata Hilwa (Moroccan sweet potato salad)with preserved lemon

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Flor de sal, a tomato and a glass of wine

A tomato is one of those things that you can almost always feel good about eating

Photos:Jane Bryan
Tomate:Dona Isabel
Realizaçao: Jorge Raiado, Salmarim
 A visit to the Sapal in Castro Marim always gives visitors such pleasure and with the added bonus of an afternoon snack and a glass of wine what more could one ask for.This is a simple pleasure that money cant buy.
Afternoon Snack: Salt and Tomatoes
This is seriously the easiest snack ever....oh so simple! Take an idyllic location,find one old landed rowing boat, take your favourite kind of ripe tomato ( cacho /tomate-coração-de-boi ) cut into segments and sprinkle with flor de sal.Open a bottle of wine.Set everything down on one of the boats cross planks,relax,imbibe wine and let the salt do the talking...... just doesn´t get much better than this 

Photos:Jane Bryan
Tomate:Dona Isabel
Realizaçao Jorge Raiado,Salmarim

"tomate-coração-de-boi", in Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa [em linha], 2008-2013, [consultado em 22-09-2018].

"tomate-coração-de-boi", in Dicionário Priberam da Língua Portuguesa [em linha], 2008-2013, [consultado em 22-09-2018].) and cut it into thin slices. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Done--and yum.

Monday, 17 September 2018

"Umami bomb" - Som dtam salad with sweet crispy pork

Som dtam; is it really the world’s greatest salad, and if not, what is? And what would you suggest as a good homegrown substitute for green papaya when it is unavailable in your area? all will be revealed....
Despite its apparent simplicity, the magic of those characteristic mixtures of chillies, garlic,roasted peanuts,dried shrimp, lime and fish sauce are surprisingly difficult to replicate at home.In the name of fashionable veganism and veggie trends I have seen so many plagiarisations of this dish on the internet and in magazines ( for example Courgetti som tam salad  not even spelt correctly), being flagged up as if it was something new and making use of that tiresome gadget -the spiralizer.In fact this truly Thai dish when executed correctly, using the correct ingredients, is one of the most loved in the Thai repertoire.Originally street food from the North east of the country, Lao, where their food is hotter and referred to as Issan.It has proved so irresistible that it is now not only eaten throughout Thailand but has become a signature dish for Thai restaurants all over the world.Fermented fish sauce( garam ) is sometimes used to season the dressing rather than  regular Nam pla.I used colatura de alici. After consulting the oracle David Thompson´s "Thai Food" I set myself the challenge of making the dish.
I tested and tasted, tried and deliberated, cogitated and digested,and here are my findings. When you are faced with the urge for Som Dtam like myself and are unable to find proper resources you could on occasion use Granny Smith apples instead of green papaya.Green apples replace the green papaya brilliantly, so Granny Smiths julienned or quartered and very thinly sliced work very well with the sweet/sour nature of the dressing. It worked rather well I thought.You CAN make a similar salad with cucumber, and very good it is too ( you do need to include mint as well), but it is definitely not Som dtam. The texture is entirely different. Courgettes are considered by some to be  a better substitute than cucumbers, but I really don't like limp raw courgette in salads. And it does not hurt to add a few juliennes of carrot in order to get a sweeter take.Green beans are a must for a true Som dtam but raw,as specified I´m not so sure.I blanched the beans, but it is important to refresh them immediately in iced water. They will then retain their crunchiness.
I was thinking that a chayote /chu-chu /choko/ chaku  would be better than a courgette - it'd retain some crunch. Uncooked it tastes like a crisp cucumber without the seeds or bitterness, just the good part, and similar in many ways to green papaya.Whatever you call it chu-chu, chayote ,christophene, xuxu, mirliton, vegetable pear or sayote,and whatever bad press it has got, i think you’ll certainly agree that this vegetable isn’t just delicious, but nutritious too.
Someone compared it to a water chestnut. I don’t agree with that taste-wise, but the crunch is similar.Raw cucumber would be the best analogy. That pretty light green color that a cucumber has just under the skin runs all though the vegetable. While the skin is edible, but you don’t want to eat it any more than you would a cucumber.Anyway so,the great papaya debate aside,green papaya is difficult to source here in the east Algarve so I settled for the Chu-Chu,which I have always been able to  buy in my local supermarket.
"Almost" Som dtam salad with sweet crispy pork
This delicious Thai salad, Som dtam  is like an *umami bomb”waiting to go off,  it combines all four tastes - sour, bitter, sweet and salty, with that all important flavour sensation the "fifth taste".Som dtam  is  balanced sweet and sharp, and crunchy with tomatoes, beans, chillies and those little dried shrimp.
Tomatoes are rich in umami components.
Sweet Soy sauce used to season the pork is also rich in umami components.
Pounded peanuts are a source of novel umami flavour compounds and enhancers
It certainly gives Korean Bibimbap a run for its money.
3 garlic cloves ,peeled
pinch of salt
4-6 birds eye or piri piri chillies(scuds)
1 heaped tablespoon roasted peanuts
Coriander stalks,from a small tender bunch(not standard but amplifies the "fifth taste")
2 tablespoons dried prawns*( shrimp)
4 cherry tomatoes,quartered
6 french beans lightly blanched and cut into 1cm(1/2 in) lengths
1 cup grated Chayote or papaya, if you can get it
2 tbsp palm sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp tamarind water
1-2 tbsp nam pla,fish sauce or colatura de alici (see main text above)
 *I was also unable to source these so I zipped it shrimpy 
   and dry fried some small shrimp in sea salt until crispy
sweet crispy pork
1 cup palm sugar or golden caster sugar
1/2 cup sweet soya sauce (kecap manis)
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
pinch of salt
pinch of ground star anise-optional
200g (6oz) pork neck
oil for deep frying
Prepare the sweet crispy pork a day in advance.Make a syrup by simmering the palm sugar with soya sauce,oyster sauce,salt and star anise(if using)until quite reduced- about 3 minutes.Be careful- the sugar and oyster sauce burn easily.Cool.Slice pork into 5cm x 2cm (2in x 1in) pieces and marinate overnight in the syrup.Dry on a rack for aday until almost dry.
For the salad:pound the garlic with salt and chillies in a pestle and mortar.Add peanuts coriander stalks and dried prawns,and pound to a coarse paste.Add the cherry tomatoes and beans to the mortar and gently bash together.Add the chayote or green papaya and bruise.Season with palm sugar,lime juice,tamarind water and fish sauce.
Deep fry the pork in plenty of oil over a medium heat until mahogany coloured and fragrant.serve alongside the salad.
Coconut rice is also a classic accompaniment to this dish.Wait for the bomb to explode.
a classic example of umami
*Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/, from Japanese: うま味)
Umami means “deliciousness.”or "pleasant savory taste" Beyond sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, the fifth taste of umami is rich and savoury. A word coined by the Japanese, Umami is a powerful force behind many of our food cravings. Umami-rich foods include soy sauce, miso paste and bonito flakes in Asian cuisine; and cured ham, cheese, tomatoes, ketchup and mushrooms in Western cuisine. Backed with a little bit of food-science we analyze ingredients and their flavour profiles to ultimately achieve this sought-after taste.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

A perfect pearing

Saffron poached pears with Parmigiano Reggiano ice cream
"You were made for me"...." everybody tells me so." sang the British band Freddie and the Dreamers in 1964. I dont think we need to be told that pear and parmesan is a match made in heaven. As the king of cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano is an incomparable, time-tested, complex cheese. It’s magnificent served on its own or paired with flavours that complement it. Go beyond grating and get to know why Parmigiano Reggiano reigns supreme! Highlight its subtle bite, creaminess and sweetness with one of my favourite marriages: pears.The combination of Portuguese desert pears and a strong mature hard cheese has always been a favourite flavour pairing for me.Pears and parmesan cheese make an unusual but delicious end to a meal especially these sweet and fragrant, wine-poached pairs served with a Parmigiano reggiano ice cream.I put it into practice for our guests last night.
Wine poached pears with saffron
2 cups white wine
⅓ cup sugar
Pinch of saffron threads
1 lemon zest strip
2 bosc pears
½ cup ricotta
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1. Cut pears in half, remove core and seeds and peel off skin.
2. In a pan heat wine, add sugar, saffron and lemon zest, and mix. Let it come to a boil. Once sugar has melted, add pears and cook in liquid for about 20 minutes, occasionally spooning them with liquid over. Turn at the halfway mark.
3. While pears are poaching, combine equal parts ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a bowl. Mix until fully blended. If you want, you can add some cinnamon or sugar.
4. When pears are finished poaching, set aside and continue to reduce the wine until it becomes a thick syrup. Plate pears and serve with a scoop of Parmigiano Ricotta cream. Drizzle with wine reduction.