Saturday, 28 November 2015

"My salad days,when I was green in judgement and cold in blood"

 "My salad days,when I was green in judgement and cold in blood"

Who is old enough to remember Cleopatra (comin' atcha!)? In case you don´t they were a band of three sisters with cloying lyrics and colourful overalls! Oh trivia - They topped the music charts in the late 90's with the help of Madonna who signed them to her record label! And the rest was history....and I am old enough to have taken O levels and A levels,long before GCSE´s were even thought of. I studied Anthony and Cleopatra for English literature and the above quote came to mind recently. I would love to think that when Shakespeare wrote it he was craving a winter salad perhaps.One might believe that "salad" refers to the sort of meal one was once, in less lavish (or more diet-conscious) days, forced to subsist on. Others think of their salad days as times of youthful innocence and indulgence, of brightly coloured, freshly grown adventures. But the inventor of the phrase had neither romantic austerity nor flaming youth in mind.
In this particular context, by "salad days" Cleopatra refers to a time not when she had to eat salad, but when she was like salad. From the fifteenth century on, "salad" could mean any raw vegetable; metaphorically, the young Cleopatra was as "green" (inexperienced) and "cold" (passionless) as a piece of lettuce. At least, this is how she explained her youthful affair with Julius Caesar. Love it or eat, it my current exclusion diet has got me thinking about eating salads in the winter.When push comes to shove salad is not the easiest of things to compose at this time of the year.Here in the Algarve with a more temperate climate we are luckier than most in that we are able to have access to some of the vegetables needed most of the year,but as the year draws to a close tomatoes have lost their summertime firmness and flavour and leaves are hard to come by unless of course you go for the supermarket bagged variety.In most cases these have been washed and disinfected in chlorinated water to inhibit bacterial growth.Oh dear, I am still searching for that salad bag labelled washed in spring water,which probably means old water from last spring anyway.All this is reduces the nutritional value of the leaves.Labels claiming ‘packaged in a protective atmosphere’ actually means that it has been ‘gassed’ in modified air in order to extend its shelf life. No good for what I am currently looking for.One thing the doctor did not omit from my diet was bread.In Portugal, rootling around in the bread bin, it will never be too hard to find day old bread, for which there are dozens of uses.Not in the mood for migas, crispy homemade croutons tossed with olive oil, and herbes de Provence immediately came to mind,  and this would add the baker´s touch to a born again salad of roasted peppers, a touch of fennel and some sprigs of thyme.A simple yet scrumptious salad.
Roasted pepper salad with born again bread                       Portion for one serving

4 baby pimentos,Red yellow orange and green, seeded and randomly chopped
2 pieces of fennel sliced into quarters6 baby pear tomatoes
a  scattering of home made Croutons, tossed in olive oil and herbes de provence

Put the peppers , fennel and tomatoes in a small roasting tray and toss with some olive oil and a few sprigs of thyme.Roast in a hot oven for about 15 to twenty minutes until the tomatoes start to wrinkle and the peppers are softened and have taken on a bit of charred colour.Toss the the croutons among the vegetables and return to the oven for 5 minutes more.Serve immediately.The salad is packed with flavour and coated in oil so should not need any dressing.Add a little vinaigrette if you like.

Monday, 23 November 2015

When the party´s over, all is not lost. Bring on recipes for a rethink

You might love cheese,you might adore butter, you might love milk and you might love yoghurt, but as you age, sometimes their love for you becomes more than just unrequited.This means your body has developed an intolerance. One common example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance.These so called intolerances can appear at any stage of your life it seems. They just come in the night and steal your health,they do.
Whether lactose-intolerant or sick of cheese and wine parties,(does anyone still host a cheese and wine party I wonder?) there are many other gift horses out there that can give you back the daily dose of calcium that is missing in dairy free diet.Cheese and wine parties,coffee mornings,bring and buy stalls,God forsake,I am starting to sound like my mother.So when you have to by-pass the dairy aisle where do you go to get your calcium? Well as you´ve seen from my recent post there are now many alternatives to milk where no cows are required.
Oat milk,almond milk and rice milk,in which the bovine has played no part.Well now that I have this part of my shopping basket sorted I can excitedly move on to the next aisle, but pausing for a quick pine and small whimper as I pass the butter display."Lovely artistic display today Mr Martins,but I cant stop to purchase even one of your tempting 250g unsalted blocks". Yes, butter seems to be the big bug bear.I can´t believe I cant have butter.Its what I imagine a reformed smoker must feel like.Its an integral part of almost everything I eat,sandwiches,toast,cakes,soups sauces, curries, puddings...  Oh dear,bit overwhelmed,must go home sit down and think things through whilst having a comforting cup of tea with Oatmilk, and perhaps a bowl of hot porridge and luxurious Oatly cream.Just note the instant kind doesn’t boast the same benefits as old-fashioned rolled oats, which are a quick breakfast option full of fibre and the all important calcium that you need.
I can then start tapping on the keyboard to share this blog post of some lactose free recipes with you.
To consume the required 1,000 mg of calcium per day translated literally( in my terms ) this is what it takes,one thick slice of cheddar cheese in a sandwich, a bowl of yoghurt with fruit and a generously buttered toasted teacake.I have barely got past breakfast and I am not allowed to eat the majority of the above and there is still the rest of the days nourishment to be accounted for.
While food intolerances may be mistaken for a food allergy, they are thought to originate in the gastrointestinal system. Food intolerances are usually caused by the individual’s inability to digest or absorb foods or food components in the intestinal tract.
When one finds oneself in this situation Its amazing what you can create when you put your mind to it.Take for example pasta sauces,Many are rich in dairy and cream, well move over marinara,move on macaroni, its time to change to the new bambino on the block, avocadonara,well that´s what I have called it.
Spaghetti Avocadonara
Rich ,virtuous and on the table in under 30 minutes
Serves 6 to 8 so adjust quantities accordingly for a single portion

12 ounces spaghetti

2 avocados--halved, pitted and peeled 
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bunch small spring onions, roughly chopped 
Juice of 1 lemon 
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped parsley, for garnish

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. 
While the pasta cooks, make the sauce: 
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the avocados, garlic,spring onions, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.
When the pasta is ready reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the reserved water to the avocado mixture and process again until smooth.
 Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, portion the pasta onto plates and garnish with parsley.

While still on the subject of pasta dishes Here is a link to my dairy free take on pork and clams with Udon noodles.

Having had time to sit down and think all this through,my new shopping list was beginning to take on a structure and my new route around the supermarket bypassing dairy was starting to make sense.I then encounter two women trollies parked alongside each other and a conversation ensuing as follows...

A    "Where's Tim?"
B    "Oh we´ve got separate trollies this week,he´s gone gluten free".

Its always reasuuring to know you´re not alone in your own personal predicament.
The next stop after the no cow section would be grains and pulses,followed by pasta,canned fish,and in particular canned salmon.To avoid putting a dent in your wallet, canned salmon is a great choice. Here’s the catch: It’s the bones in canned salmon that hold all the calcium, so they need to be mashed up right along with the salmon meat for all the benefits! But don’t get turned off just yet—the canning process softens the bones so they easily break apart and are unnoticeable when mixed in with the rest of the can’s contents. For my boost of calcium and omega 3’s, I feel some salmon cakes coming on.Its the same with canned sardines,you can crunch up and eat the bones. For the rest of my dietary requirements I think a visit to the market will round the list off nicely.I can go nuts about some lovely Algarvian almonds and dried figs,always good to pack some punch and calcium into a mid - afternoon snack.A carrier bag full of seasonal veg like Bok Choi,Grelos (Portuguese turnip tops) and any kind of cabbage,including chinese leaf and not forgetting kale, will be great for stir fries, migas and side dishes.
Honestly, the first few weeks are horrible but then you figure out how to live with it and life goes on. In just three weeks, I've learned a few things, first among them that milk and soy are hidden in strange places. Second is that I prefer to discover some new favourites rather than gag on unsatisfactory imitations  ( I can´t believe its not butter) of things I can no longer safely have. One soon realises that with a bit of initiative there is still plenty one can eat out there, and everything need not be Utterly Butterly.I will keep you posted on how I am progressing.As I said earlier this is an elimination diet and hopefully by trial and error I can narrow down the food items that have been excluded and start to bring back some favourites with maybe the addition of some new introductions along the way.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Olive on the bushes a much travelled fruit

the crimson petal and the olive

Does it ever feel like just a few people have all the power? If it's a government that's run like this, it's an oligarchy. It seems however these last few weeks our one and only olive tree has become an olivegarchy. 
It started life somewhat like a tiny bush in a little pot with a tiny bottle of Tuscan olive oil tied around its trunk. A parting gift from a dear friend.Having already travelled from Italy to England, it then continued its journey with us to the Algarve,so in theory we have an Italian strain of olives growing in our Portuguese garden. This term these olives have come to power in our garden with an overall majority, giving the thespian a chance to stand as the opposition and find a cure .
There are many ways to cure olives, many of them time consuming and complicated.The essential thing is that you extract the glucosides from them – the chemicals that make the olives very bitter when they are just picked.
You can cure them in water, changing it daily, or dry salt them, or salt then smoke them, or you can do it with a rather complex combination of water + brine sequences.For many reasons the thespian settled for salt curing.Being surrounded by an abundant supply of flor de sal this seemed the most logical reason. Secondly this method is great for smaller olives ( like these ones picked from our tree,similar to the Portuguese "Galega" variety)

Dry Salted Olives

First prepare the olives – wash them and slit them.
Take a clean Kilner jar,add a layer of natural flor de sal, then a layer of olives, and so on until the jar is full.
The salt will trickle down between the olives, but as long as it’s all packed in there, that’s ok.
Your salted olives will need a shake and a turn ever other day – the olives will soon exude liquid and the whole jar will become rather slushy. That’s great,you´re on course. Keep going.
Start tasting your salted olives after about 3 weeks, and when they taste right to you (saltier, and a bit shrunken, and slightly sweeter than brined olives), remove the olives from the salt.
Once your olives are duly salted, you can eat them as they are, or store them in oil with herbs. They’re pretty damn yummy.
The advantage of not using more complicated cures is that you  can  decide what to flavour them with and marinate them with herbs,garlic,chilli oil and other things like garlic or lemon in small batches to suit whatever suits your taste at the time.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

To comply can be an awfully big adventure

"to die would be an awfully big adventure" so said J.M Barrie´s Peter Pan.
Peter Pan's life is full of exciting adventure but, just like his age, his life never changes.
Well recently my life changed somewhat when my doctor put me on on an aversion diet for two weeks to try and ascertain if there were certain foods that were irritating and upsetting my stomach.This particular diet was lactose free.No dairy, no butter, no cheese, no yoghurt, no milk.,no fruit, no fruit juices. I threw up my hands defeated.... where do I go from here? Apparently I could eat as much bread as I wanted, so no gluten or coeliac worry there mother. I love bread but  how can I have a sandwich without using butter as an emulsion on the bread,olive oil drizzled on the bread thats the answer.Other emulsions can include tapenades,aubergine based paste,pestos,relishes, mayonnaise and chutneys.All was not lost and there was a glimmer of hope.But then if I can have toast,what can I spread on it, not, what? Peanut butter, dripping? What was I going to put in my tea and coffee? Soya milk said the doctor. I pulled a very long face and flatly refused.My dilemma was taking yet another turn for the worse.Have you ever tasted soya milk? How can it be good for anybody?
It is definitely one of the most controversial foods in the world.Depending on who you ask, it is either a wonderful superfood or a hormone disrupting poison.I would go with the latter but as with most things in nutrition, there are good arguments on both sides.My argument is that it is not good for the environment and not good for us.Over 90% of soy produced in America is genetically modified and the crops are sprayed with the herbicide Glyphosate, which may be associated with adverse effects on health and certainly on vegetation surrounding these crops.Because it’s cheap and has certain functional properties, soybean oil and soy protein have found their way into all sorts of processed foods. So many of us (unless we are avid label readers,which I have recently become), are consuming significant amounts of soy without even knowing about it.Has anyone ever seen Organic soya on packaging,I very much doubt it.
Things started to look a little more encouraging when good old doctor J informed me there were other alternative lactose free products that I could try that contained no soya.Yeahhhhh.Hurrah for rice milk and oat milk.His on course GPS landed me perfectly in front of the exact chill cabinet where these very products were being stored.I bought a sample of each including a small 250ml carton which i did not realise until I poured it all over my granola was the cream version for cooking with.Could this get any better.This was pure ambrosia.if you can imagine a bowl of hot porridge on a cold winter morning covered with a layer of thick oaty cream.I was on the side of the gods,but a spirit of control must be applied here or my weekly shopping basket was going to incur a letter from the bank manager.
The rice milk was the right consistency for putting in tea and coffee but I am not sure I would want it on my cereal for breakfast. Its slight disadvantage was that it added a certain sweetness to a hot drink and I am not one for sugar in my drinks.
 The oatmeal milk was by far the superior option for hot drinks and gave a luxuriant alternative to milk or cream on my granola, in fact If it wasn´t for the expense my shopping basket could become quite addicted to it.I expect that it would be quite acceptable to use it as a substitute for milk in baking and certain savoury sauces.

Well I dont know about exciting, but the last two weeks have certainly for me, been an adventure in experimentation and thanks to lovely "Oatly" and its quirky packaging, to die and go to heaven could have been an awfully big adventure,but then I was grown up.
Find out about more products at....

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Toffee apples and tonka bean ice cream

Oh how, come Halloween, I loved toffee apples. Nothing beats the crunch of a toffee apple on a crisp, parky autumnal evening.No Halloween or bonfire night party was ever complete without some traditional toffee apples. I am far too old for sweet treats,bonfires, burning effigies, and neither am I any longer a trick or a treat. 
However I thought I would re-kindle these childhood memories with a more adult Halloween trick,a little dark bean that supposedly can make your wishes come true.It actually turned out to be a simply delicious treat.Grown up toffee apples with tonka bean ice cream ticks all the boxes for a Halloween dinner dessert. I took it it even further and deconstructed a Granny Smith apple to obtain a mixture of different textures and flavours that one could play with on  the same plate.Granny Smith apple, apple crisp, caramelised apples  julienned fresh apple and a dusting of sweet crumble.The sweetness of the milky custard  smooth golden tonka bean ice cream was the perfect foil for all these different textures. Sweet and sour apple,crunchy sticks of raw apple, the smoothness of the caramel infusing a mellow soft toffee flavour into the apple segments.All brought together by a dusting of  crumble.
My particular choice of Tonka bean for this dessert was the fact that every time I eat food that has been infused with Tonka It induces me to dream,. I often find the same toxicity in nutmeg.So what better for a Halloween dinner than for everyone to toddle off to bed and be mildly transported to the dark side.
In the Pagan and Occult tradition, the Tonka bean is believed to have magical properties. Mages believe that crushed Tonka beans brewed in herbal tea may help to cure the soul, relieve symptoms of depression and confusion, chase away negative thoughts and boost the immune system. It is also believed that holding the bean in one hand, while whispering a wish, leads to its fulfillment.
Just remember: While the Tonka bean might not be able to grant you all your wishes, your culinary ones should be well served.  Just keep your indulgence in healthy, non-toxic moderation
Tonka bean ice cream
200 ml carton cream
500 ml  whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
25 ml  maple syrup or mild flavoured  honey
1  Tonka bean, freshly grated (
Note: you could probably use as little as ½-3/4 grated bean and still achieve good results)

Pour the cream and the milk together in a saucepan. Add the grated Tonka bean and bring to a simmering almost-boil. Take off from the heat and leave to infuse for about 15 minutes.In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Add the maple syrup (or honey).Slowly, begin to strain- little by little - the recently heated dairy/tonka mixture into the yolk-sugar mixture while whisking at thesame time.
When everything has been well whisked together, pour the blend into the saucepan and - while whisking fairly constantly - bring to a custard consistency,being sure not tolet it curdle.
Take the ice cream  from the heat and cool it down as quickly as possible (by using an iced water bath, for example).Once it has cooled down, Place the ice cream base in the refrigerator to mature, preferably over night.Then, churn the chilled base in your ice cream machine according to instructions (or, in case you have no machine,freeze in your 
refrigerator churning every few hours to stop crystals forming).Put in a freezer-safe container, cover with plastic film and lid and store in the freezer.

Toffee apples
4 granny smith apples,peeled cored and cut into segments 
3 tablespoons superfine caster sugar 
I teaspoon ground cinnamon
Toss the apple segments with the sugar cinnamon and 2 tablespoons water.
Tip them into a heavy based frying over a medium heat and let them caramelise and brown.turn each of the segments as they begin to caramelise and take them out when they are cooked on both sides 

For the apple crisps and raw julienne
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Thinly slice the apple through the core – use a mandolin, if you have one, to get thin slices. Arrange the slices on a baking tray lined with parchment and bake for 40 mins. Cool until crisp.

While the crisps are in the oven  cut juliennes of raw apple and sprinkle with lemon juice to stop them browning.Set aside.
For the crumble
Make a small amount of crumble topping from flour butter and light muscavado sugar
a good formula to follow is half the quantity of butter to flour and half the amount of sugar to flour.Rub all together with your fingers till you have  a mix similar to coarse breadcrumbs.Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until aromatic and crispy. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The turnover of the season- spiced pear and white port

 Oh my god, how I used to love my mother´s apple turnovers.When the nights start drawing in and there´s a nip in the air, our thoughts turn to baking. Autumn fruits, plums, pears, apples and blackberries are plentiful and combined with warm spices and flaky puff pastry, one´s kitchen is guaranteed to be filled with the homey aromas of autumn.
These little lovelies are much more sophisticated than the turnovers from my childhood.These are turnovers for grown-ups.They are filled with a very subtle natural sweetness of pears and dates.The dates are the only sweetener here and pair well with an infusion of ginger cinnamon and allspice.Turnovers are often made as a sort of portable snack or dessert and therefore make a great healthy option for lunch boxes and picnics.Their storage options are also good.....
Turnovers are best enjoyed the same day you bake them, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days; refresh them in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 6 minutes.
Unbaked turnovers can be stored in the freezer, individually wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks. You can bake them directly from the freezer—just add 5 to 8 minutes to the baking time and proceed as directed.)
    Spiced pear and white port turnovers
    For the filling
    6 to 8 pitted and finely chopped Medjool dates
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
    5 or 6 ripe mrdium Rocha pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into small dice
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    Pinch ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon flor de sal

    1/4  cup / 60ml of good quality white port

    For the turnovers
    About 1 pound commercial or homemade puff pastry
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    2 tablespoons heavy cream

        To make the filling, Put the dates and baking soda in a small bowl and add enough hot water to cover the dates. Stir to dissolve the baking soda, which will soften the skins of the dates and allow them to blend more easily into the pears. Let the dates soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the dates and, using a spoon or a fork, mash them slightly until they’re smooth and soft.
        In a medium sized pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the mashed dates, pears, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the dates and pears are starting to soften and the spices are well distributed. At this point the pears will seem dry, add the 1/4 cup (60 ml) white port. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more. You want the dates to dissolve into the pears and the pears to soften somewhat, so keep cooking until you have a soft pear compote. Remove from the heat and let cool. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. (The compote can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week and can be used for breakfast with yoghurt cut through)

        To make the turnovers, place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
        On a well-floured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a thin rectangle. Cut out 8 4" (10cm) identical squares.

        Place about 1/3 cup (80 grams) pear compote off centre in each square. (You will probably have some pear compote left over) Using the back of a spoon, spread the compote a little so it fills half the square diagonally and leave a little empty lip around the filling to allow for the sealing of the dough triangle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the empty pastry dough with the egg wash. Carefully fold the egg-washed dough over the compote and use your fingers to pinch the turnover triangle together. Use the tines of the fork to firmly press the edges of the turnover together and make sure the turnover is well sealed. Repeat with the remaining dough and pear compote. Reserve any remaining egg wash. 
         Transfer the turnovers to the prepared baking sheet. Add the cream to the remaining egg wash and whisk with a fork. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the turnovers with the egg-cream mixture. Bake until the dough is entirely browned and baked through, 50 to 60 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let the pear turnovers cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving to allow the filling to cool. The turnovers are best enjoyed the same day you bake them, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days; refresh them in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 6 minutes

        Wednesday, 7 October 2015

        Paella rojo con vino tinto a marriage of three nations

        What do you get when you mix bomba rice and belota salame 
        with a fruity Portuguese red wine from the Douro?

        Days are getting shorter, the weather is cooling, and we aren't quite ready for summer to be over, but we're embracing autumn with open (sweater covered) arms.It is time to start thinking about slightly more hearty dishes. There are so many recipes that call for red wine.That does not mean the ropy old vin de table that remains screw-toppedly half opened by the side of the cooker, but that fruity little gran reserva you have been saving for that special occasion.
        It is a truism that there is no point cooking with bad wine,and that the better the wine deployed,the better the dish.This is  a sort of contradiction in terms, for there is not much else you can do with left over wine than cook with it.However when a wine is truly past it,whether its corked or just too old, it´s not going to do much for your cooking.Red wines tend to last longer than whites and this is generally as true when you cook with them as when you drink them.Colour is a good key.When your fresh and fruity country red turns to a vapid and acidic rosé, its gone.I dont know why I just said that, as cooking with "good" rose is not much cop anyway.Wine for cooking,of course, is more likely to be left over from the night before than than from the year before last.Half finished bottles should be married up,,have a cork stuck in them and be kept in the fridge, this will keep them serviceable for a week.If you don´t have leftovers then a robust country red bought for the purpose need not cost very much.There are times and recipes  when left overs just will not do and you have to bite the bullet and you need to fork out for a wine that really fits the bill.Generally speaking,the better the wine,the less you have to cook it.
        In the following recipe the wine never really boils  as its flavours are absorbed by the rice, and its earthy flavour makes for a truly unusual and outstanding dish.The dish is loosely adapted from a recipe by the late great Marcella Hazan in her Second Classic Italian Cook Book,in which she uses arborio rice,Italian salami and a fruity Italian red from Piedmont such as a Gattinara,Spanna,Barolo or Barbera dolcetto.A California Barbera would also work  beautifully. 
        I however used an Esperão Assobio,a Portuguese wine from the Douro with a deep ruby colour. It is spicy and fruity, revealing an elegant palate showing youthful fruit and fine tannins with good balancing acidity on the finish. Ms. Hazan said" No one who conceived this dish thought small".This is no light,tripping springtime risotto for feeble appetites.What I produced was a merger of three lusty dishes, a risotto from Piedmont and a paella from the marjal de pego paddy fields in the region of Valencia.This recipe also references one of my favourite Algarvian recipes- favas algarvia ( broad beans with bacon and chouriço)

        Paella rojo con vino tinto
        serves 6
        1 onion
        2 sticks of celery
        2 carrots
        2 small turnips
        150g spanish belota salame in one piece
        50g butter plus more to stir in at the end of cooking
        250g bomba (paella) rice
        1 bottle of fruity red wine,Barbera, Dolcetto or Assobio
        Half a cabbage (about 300g )
        400g fava beans podded cooked and skins removed
        chicken stock
        olive oil

        Chop the onion, celery stalks, carrots and turnip into small cubes.Stew vigorously in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.Cut the salami the same size and add to the vegetables.Cook gently for 5 minutes then add 50g butter.When melted, pour in the rice and season with salt and pepper.When well coated and starting to stick to the pan pour in all the wine, stir gently bringing just to the boil.When this in turn starts to stick, begin adding the stock a ladleful at the time.It will take about 15 minutes careful and watchful cooking for the rice to become tender.
        While the rice  is cooking shred the cabbage ad blanch briefly in boiling water.Drain and add to the rice with the broad beans.Serve in a large terracotta dish and let everyone help themselves.

        Saturday, 3 October 2015

        Salame de figo e amêndoa -simples real

        Cooking is not always about doing the right thing, but can be about being able to create a new masterpiece when something goes wrong....As you well know this happened to me recently and I created a Christmas cake out of what was potentially fig soup.Never one to be defeated I have now returned to the original recipe I was trying to make in the first place, and having read it properly I purchased dried figs as opposed to fresh and set about making the fig salami.How could anything simple (just 4 ingredients) have gone  so disastrously wrong?
        Salami de figo
        the original recipe originates in Italy,but I have adapted it so I could use lovely Algarvian ingredients like almonds and Algarvian liqueurs

        Makes one 15" (35cm) long roll

        1 pound (500g) dried figs,preferably not too hard
        4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar reduced by 1/2 over heat to a syrup
        1 tablespoon almond liqueur
        1 tablespoon orange liqueur
        1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds or a mix of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts 

        Chop the figs into small pieces.Place in a food processor with the liquids and the nuts, and pulse until the mixture clumps together.Add a little more liqueur if needed.
        Turn out onto a work service with aluminium foil covered with fig leaves. Shape the mixture into a log about 15" (35cm)long.Roll the fig leaves around the log and apply pressure with your fingers so they adhere to the log.Loosely bring the foil up over the fig leaves so it loosely covers the log..Leave the log to rest at room temperature until it firms up and forms a skin (about 2 weeks).Then wrap the log in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.The fig paste is best after a month,as it will be firmer and therefore easier to slice.Use a sharp knife dipped in hot water.Slice thin and serve with goat´s or sheep´s milk cheeses and a few toasted almonds.

        Friday, 25 September 2015

        Bolo de Natal .... uma causa perdida recuperou

        Christmas cake....  a lost cause regained
        Last Saturday the monthly farmers market was awash with late summer produce. Heirloom red onions,white peaches, chucha tomatoes and fresh farm eggs in mismatched sizes.What I was most drawn to, apart from being distracted to buy a gorgeous hunk of  presunto, was one of my regular and most reliable suppliers offering beautiful figs.Que coincidência,this was exactly what I had set off from home with the intention of looking for. I was on a mission to make a salami de figo for Christmas.Forget stir-up Sunday, thats two months away, I had to start now as it takes two and a half months to "cure" so to speak.Traditionally, if following the Italian recipe, the fig paste is mixed with anise liqueur and reduced grape must and very often chopped walnuts.It is rolled into a log resembling a salami,wrapped in fig leaves, and aged for for at least a month and up to 3 months.
        I excitedly brought my figs home and immediately set about chopping them and blending them in the food processor with more lovely Algarvian ingredients,almonds, home made orange liqueur and blended with balsamic vinegar.The recipe said add a bit more liquid if needed.With what was now going to ensue there would be no need for that. I pressed the button, Whooossshh, and ended up with a sloppy sludge that would be impossible to turn out onto a work surface and roll into a log.I called for advice..."Have you read the recipe" asks the thespian.Reads recipe, can´t see anything awry.Reads recipe again, one pound of "dried" figs (cue hysterical tears).Puts thinking cap on, - tastes sublime, could it become part of a new twist on my traditional Christmas cake? After years of tinkering I thought I had finally perfected the recipe.I had chucked out all the usual currants, raisins and sultanas in favour of dried figs, apricots, hazelnuts, prunes, cherries and dates.Hey-ho,what I had before me put paid to this.To make this succeed I would have to put my Mary Berry bake-off hat on and create a cake recipe from scratch,yikes thats quite a challenge.My main concern was getting the right ratio of wet to dry ingredients so that the dry ingredients,nuts etc, would be suspended throughout the cake and not fall to the bottom.My first thought was that using fresh fruit instead of dried  would affect the shelf life when storing the cake.My fear came out of being told once that, in the event of a nuclear holocaust, the earth would be populated solely by Cher, cockroaches, Styrofoam hamburger containers, and fruitcakes.(Fruit cakes have always been renowned for keeping moist and fresh for years,some taken out of tins up to 25 years later have improved with age).
        Have you ever wondered how a baker can create a cake recipe from scratch and know that it will work? Unlike a savoury chef who can often use intuition to design a successful dish, a baker must work within defined parameters to produce a cake that will rise, set, and taste the way he or she wants. Experienced cake bakers would never dream of trying to bake a cake without first "doing the math" to make sure that the ingredients are in balance. Having the right proportions of flour, eggs, sugar, and fat is essential.My first task was to thicken the fig paste from my thwarted salami project.I put it in a medium pan and reduced it for 20 minutes.It thickened beautifully by half to a sticky jam like texture.I then let it cool completely before weighing it,then incorporated that into my maths.I have taken all this into account and created a Christmas cake with a difference.No sultanas and no raisins.And how smug am I that I can say September is not over yet and my Christmas cake is tucked up to rest wrapped snugly in parchment paper and foil inside an airtight container.I will be giving it a tipple of liquor from time to time between now and Christmas.
        Bolo natal embebeda do figo
        Boozy Christmas fig cake
        340g self raising flour (farinha com fermento)
        1 tablespoon mixed spice,mace,cinnamon,cardamom and ginger
        1/4 teaspoon salt 
        115g (4oz ) salt dried cherries (re-hydrated overnight)
        500g (1lb ) fresh figs cooked down to a paste with 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and either almond or orange liqueur
        115g (4oz )Dried apricots,soaked in liquor overnight
        115g prunes,soaked in liquor overnight
        100g dates,stoned
        170g mixed nuts,roughly chopped
        280g/10oz moist brown sugar
        280g/10oz unsalted butter softened
        5 large eggs beaten
        juice and grated zest of 1 large orange
        60g dried cranberries
        4 tablespoons honey
        Light rum or brandy or orange liqueur for soaking fruit
        Pre-heat the oven to gas mark3 ( 160ºC, 325ºF )

        Sieve together the flour,spice and salt. In a large bowl mix together all the fruits, nuts,fig paste and spiced flour, coating all the fruits with the flour.In a second bowl cream the butter and sugar until quite light in colour. Beat in the eggs then thehoney, lemon juice and zest.
        Combine the two mixtures in one bowl. Mix well, adding enough alcohol to arrive at a soft dropping consistency. 

        Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 7-8lb ( 3.2 - 3.6 kg ) square or round cake tin ( about 9in/23cm square or 10in/25.5 cm in diameter and 31/2in/9cm deep)with double buttered paper. Fill with mixture and level the top. bake for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to gas mark 1 (140ºC, 275ºF ) for a further 2-21/2 hours.Test with a skewer to see when the cake is done. Leave to cool. Store for at least a month, spiking it with rum and or brandy once a week.

        STORAGE TIP: Wrap in clean parchment paper (papel Cuisson/papel vegetal) then wrap in foil and store for up to 3 months in an airtight tin or container.

        Friday, 18 September 2015

        Torta de queijo caprino com avelãs torradas, A matéria de que são feitos os sonhos...

        I'm sure you´ve all had your fair share of dreadful savoury tarts. Anybody who lived through the 1970s and 1980s will have had the misfortune of enduring stodgy quiches with soggy bottoms and dense custard fillings. Maybe a quiche Lorraine eaten in Lorraine is a dish to celebrate, but growing up not in France but across the channel, the only Lorraine I remember was on the telly, my almost contemporary Lorraine Chase.
        But for those Britons who managed to travel and sample culture overseas they at least were able to to ensure others shared some of their experiences,if only second hand, on their return.They bought cookbooks by Elizabeth David like French provincial cooking and prided themselves in cooking Mediterranean dishes such as quiche lorraine for their terribly middle class dinner parties.The proliferation of French and mediterranean restaurants in the country´s high streets also catered for increasingly adventurous metropolitan tastes.These were the days of bistrots,tavernas and trattorias and dining out on expense accounts-how exciting was that?
        The old puritan functionalist approach approach of scampi in a basket, fish and chips and meat and potatoes were giving way to a new theatricality. Food was becoming entertainment.This was also the prawn cocktail era.TV cookery shows with culinary celebrities, Fanny Cradock, Robert Carrier and Keith Floyd encouraged a new style of home cooking and entertaining.What would we have done without the quiche Lorraine? A classic French dish, which I think it would be fair to say helped revolutionise British food, although these days it seems to have been overtaken by a plethora of other quiches containing all sorts of nonsensical ingredients.So I thought I would embark on a trip down retro lane
        There is something about baking a pastry case and filling it with something delicious that appeals to me perhaps more than making a cake or a tray of brownies. From the moment  you push the dough  into the tin with your floury fingers to the quiver of the custard as you proudly take your handiwork from the oven. This is the sort of cooking you always promise yourself you will do more of, because it turns making supper into a recreational therapy rather than work.
        You must carry your laden tin oh-so-carefully to the oven, watching the custard ebb and flow perilously toward the rim,trying your very best not to lose concentration at the last minute, causing your egg and cream custard to  dribble and burn on the hot oven door.My choice of tart to revive the quiche era was the sort of recipe dreams are made of, a goats cheese tart with roasted hazelnuts.The secret to a good quiche or tart is in its texture and and in this case it was sublime.Roasting hazelnuts increases their flavour and improves their crunchy buttery texture.My thinking here was to provide a complete contrast in textures and flavour. The hazelnut's flavour has an advantage over other nuts because of its ability to stand up in recipes with many high-taste ingredients, in this case the piquant flavour of the cheese, cream and eggs.

        Warm goats cheese and  hazelnut tart
        Butter for greasing
        220g  good shortcrust pastry
        220g soft goats cheese such as caprino or chevre
        6 free-range eggs plus 3 yolks
        300ml double cream
        150ml milk
        50g hazelnut kernels,toasted,skinned and chopped
        grated nutmeg

        Dressed salad leaves to serve
        Grease a25cm-diameter,deep sided,flan tin and roll out the pastry very thinly to line it.Chill for at least 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 180C /350F /gas 4.
        Bake the tart shell blind for 15 minutes then take out and remove the blind,leaving the oven on.Allow the pastry case to cool completely.
        in aprocessor, blend together the cheese and eggs plus extra yolks,then blend in the cream and milk.Season with salt pepper and a grating of nutmeg.Pour carefully into the pastry shell.bake for 30 minutes,then check that the surface is not browning too 
        quickly.Cover with foil if it is.Continue to bake until the pastry is golden and the filling is just set in the centre.Sprinkle with the  chopped nuts and serve the tart warm with dressed salad leaves.