Monday, 19 February 2018


The notion of taking a flat piece of bread dough and baking it with a savoury topping is a widespread and longstanding one.The Armenians claim to have invented it and certainly it was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but it is Italy and particularly Naples, that has given its version of the dish (pizza) to the world.
As in all dishes of ancient origin which have eventually become national as well as purely regional property, there have been various evolutions in the composition of a pizza.Flat open tarts were originally made from bread dough.Gradually the bread dough came to be replaced with pastry while toppings of course varied enormously.
Pissaladiére is a substantial dish of bread dough  spread with onions,anchovies,black olives,and sometimes tomatoes,baked in an open oven on large baking trays and sold by the slice in bakers´ shops or straight from the baking tray by street vendors.It is not as common nowadays as it was before the war,when une tranche de pissaladiere could be bought hot from the oven in the early morning at every street corner in the old quarters of French towns like Avignon, Marseille and Toulon.
This was Pizza provençal style.I find it odd that Neapolitan pizza had captured people´s imaginations,even in the south of France where they already had their own traditional versions of it.The great difference was that the Provençal variety was made without the top being smothered in chewy cheese, characteristic of the Neapolitan pizza.In fact, the Provençal version more nearly resembles the traditional Roman pizza, and it is I suppose possible that it was introduced by Roman cooks during the reign of the popes in Avignon.
Truthfully it will be admitted that both the Italian  pizza and the Provençal pissaladiere lie somewhat heavy on the stomach because of the bread dough which is the base.The modern versions made with pastry, which are sometimes served in restaurants and homes and may be bought ready made at patisseries,are often an improvement.It is the topping, which if you happen to like the taste sensation of onions,olive oil, anchovies, and olives, that is important.Not wanting to mistrust the food gurus like Nigel Slater whose recipe cites shortcrust pastry, I had to be sure of it´s provenance before I made it.Nevertheless I settled for the more authentic bread crust rather than its more modern incarnation.
It would seem that the pissaladière originates from a Genoese recipe, from Imperia (Italy), at the end of the 15th century. Piscialandrea, the first version of the Italian pizza, was named in honour of Andrea Doria, a great condottiere and admiral of Genoa from the 14th and 15th centuries. The major difference, compared to the pissaladière, is that piscialandrea is prepared with tomatoes and garlic. Just like socca (farinata) or fougasse (focaccia), this other recipe of Genoese origin has been handed down from generation to generation to the families of Nice.

1 quantity of home made pizza dough
250g strong white bread flour
250g plain white flour 
15g fresh yeast or 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
10g salt
325ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a bowl, mix together the flour,yeast, salt and water to form a sticky dough. Mix in the oil. turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and silky ( 7-8 minutes )When the dough feels elastic, shape into a ball, put back in the bowl and leave to rise in a warm palce covered with a clean cloth, until doubled in size ( 1-2 hours).Pre-heat the oven and pizza stone or substitute to as high as it will go. Roll out dough into required size rounds or alternatively freeze 1/2 the dough for a later date.
8 medium onions thinly sliced,
2 skinned and seeded tomatoes,chopped
12 or more canned anchovies
12 small stoned black olives,salt and pepper ,olive oil
Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy frying pan.Put in the thinly sliced onions and cook them very gently ,with the cover on the pan,until they are quite soft and pale golden,They must not fry or brown.Add the tomatoes and the seasoning( plus garlic if you like). continue cooking until the tomatoes are amalgamated, and the water has evaporated.
Roll out the dough to a circle the size of a pizza pan and with your knuckles press it gently and quickly outwards until it has spread over the whole pan to its edges.Cover with the topping.make a criss cross pattern over the top with the anchovies,then fill in with the olives,bake in the centre of a hot oven 200C for 20 minutes or until the dough is crisp.Remove from the oven cut into slices and savour the sensation.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Atún encebollado

Atun encebellado al Jerez is a very typical Southern Andalucian dish, originating from the Costa de la Luz,and more particularly from Cadiz.It is emulated in many different styles all across Spain and is one of the country´s most popular dishes.In traditional Spanish family recipe books there are a lot of traditional dishes such as paella, gazpacho, tortilla or tuna with onions. They are those meals that, throughout our lives, remind us irrevocably of the our mother and grandmother´s kitchens. If you are Spanish and reading this, it is most likely that you have your own recipe for tuna with onions.This is one of those recipes that once you have cooked and eaten it you will never forget it.I haven´t cooked it for a while and found a beautiful piece of bluefin tuna in the freezer and thought it was time to cook it again.
The Spanish recipe is different to the Algarvian version, where more often than not the tuna steak is kept whole as opposed to being cooked in bite sized pieces.I was lucky enough some years ago to have this interpretation of the recipe  passed to me by our dear friend, the lovely Lola from Sevilla.In turn it had been handed down through generations of her family.She actually showed us how to cook it and we all sat round the kitchen table to eat it together.
For this recipe to be a success it is essential to poach the onion over a very slow heat, almost in the style of caramelized onions, although without sugar. It takes a minimum of 30 minutes. It may seem a bit tedious, but believe me it's worth it. The onion poached in this way is spectacular. Also, although the cooking time is long, it does not require excessive attention, since as the flame is so low it does not burn, and you must stir it and turn it it from time to time.
Atun encebellado al Jerez
Literally tuna smothered in onions and cooked in Manzanilla sherry

For 4 people
1 Tuna loin (kilo)
4 large Spanish onions or 6 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 glass of  sherry or manzanilla wine (250g)
Salt and pepper
Butter ( 2-3 tablespoons)
Olive oil ( to sear the tuna)
1 chicken stock cube (optional)

Cut the tuna into medium sized pieces,sprinkle them with salt and pepper.Coat the tuna pieces with flour and fry them briefly in olive oil (to sear them).Set the tuna aside to drain on kitchen paper and put
put them in a large ovenproof clay dish. In another pan, heat up the butter with a littlle olive oil and add the onions.Sautée the onion over a very low heat until it is golden brown and tender. add ateaspoon of flour to thicken the sauce.Keep frying very lightly and add the glass of sherry.Flambée it or cook it over alow heat for about ten minutes in order to burn off the alcohol.Add to the bowl with the tuna and cook it over a low heat for 5or 10 minutes.At this stage you can add the stock if you want.
Serve with parsley and butter coated new potatoes or mash. Put the clay pot in the middle of the kitchen table, with the potatoes, a basket of bread and let everybody serve themselves.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A beurre necessity/ potted shrimps

It seems these days that we heap criticism on TV chefs for the amount of butter they use.In my opinion butter has been unfairly demonised, and of course, if you eat too much of it you might become fat.What the supermarkets offer as an alternative is even worse.Plastic tubs of margarine (“Margarine is one molecule away from plastic.”) and other weird low-fat nonsense that  have usurped the proud pat of butter in the modern kitchen.
Over time a diet high in saturated fats, such as butter, can lead to raised blood pressure cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Yet a variety of blogs indicate the public are not convinced. Some people reasserted the golden oldie, a substantive part of a balanced diet, in moderation of course.
A crucial part of my morning routine, like many others, involves a visit to the kettle, swiftly followed by the toaster. It’s therefore a concern knowing that my two slices of buttered toast, peanut butter and a mug of tea with full fat milk contain 16.1g of saturated fat – already 80% of my daily allowance, and not even an hour of the day completed!
I will always want my Sunday morning poached egg laid upon a slice of thickly buttered, soft white toast rather than oil-soaked bruschetta. And it is only best butter that makes scrambled eggs taste so good. An omelette without butter is unacheivable.When it comes to mushrooms on toast,there must be butter and plenty of it.This is not bruschetta - olive oil and garlic have no place here.This is the best of the something-on-toasts.Crunchy soggy and utterly butterly.
 Though a Spanish tortilla made with onions quietly stewed in olive oil may be fabulous when perfectly executed, it will always be a secondary treat compared with onions stewed in butter.the same can be said of onion gravy.
Shiny happy people thicken their gravy with butter, mixing equal parts of soft butter and flour to form a paste(beurre manié).And of course the French classic, beurre blanc,quite frankly, indispensable to any cook.
Lemon curd ,potted shrimps,anchovy butter are all unachievable without it.A fish finger butty without it would be unthinkable. Asparagus, too, is glorious eaten warmly buttered. And if I ever found that my new potatoes were glazed with olive oil rather than butter, I would regrettably have to shoot the cook. Discreetly, of course.The onions that begin the making of a risotto, I have always believed, should be gently stewed in butter, rather than olive oil. Yet cooking onions in olive oil now seems to be the initial instruction of all risotto recipes.And what is ghee,the staple fat of India,but clarified butter? Curry just wouldn´t be curry without it. Suet, lard,goose fat,duck fat,extra virgin olive oil, all have their places,and it is easy enough to cook many a nice dish without butter.But a butterless cuisine anywhere outside the mysterious Orient beggars belief.Lots of butter. Whole lots of butter. So much butter that no one person should consume on a regular basis. And yet, you need even more.To make puff pastry, you need to feel like butter is your friend and treat it as such.
Pick up a buttercup and hold it under the other person´s chin .You ask "Do you like butter?" You already know the answer,because the buttercup throws a pool of yellow light under the chin,as a sign that,yes,they like butter.It always does and they always do.But then nobody ever says "NO".I wonder if parents have stopped playing this game with their children when butter became demonised.When I was growing up post, second world war, not much butter was used for cooking, which I have to confess is what happens to most of ours nowadays.The reason being that in those days most butter was salted and you can´t really cook with that unless you are a Breton.Off pat, butter is not a luxury item it is an essential.
As with other childhood memories of unpasteurised milk in a glass bottle or a lick of thick, pale yellow cream, there is something about a lump of butter cut with a big knife from a block that speaks of special treats.I was a dedicated lover of butter from birth.In those days there was only Anchor (salted) or Wheelbarrow (unsalted )to choose from.Nowadays buying butter can be as hard as buying shoes.The last time I went to Appolonia ( the Waitrose of the Algarve I was faced with the quandary of choosing between 20 or more different varieties.Did I want to pay €3 for a meagre 125g of Burro Occelli made from the milk of Piemontese Bruna Alpina cows or perhaps The Appellation d´Origine Controlée Lanqeuetot Beurre d ísigny demi-sel in a glazed claypot?
Next time I will fly past the butter section just throwing in two 250g blocks of Portuguese unsalted butter at half the price.I am not saying though that folded into its hand-wrapped paper package, artisan hand-churned butter seems like it would be a heavenly present bought for oneself.For butter for worse, tell you what, I am not even considering shaking up even my favourite morning routine. I know what jug I’ll be using to pour my milk, and which side my bread’s (not!) going to be buttered…
What do you think to it all – would you give up your toast’s best friend in pursuit of a healthier heart?
"Zip it shrimpy" - Potted shrimps my way
Potted shrimps are in a league of their own.Properly spiced and potted,they are simply one of my favourite things.Who can resist delicious,buttery shrimp on toast?

100g/4oz butter
2 blades of mace
a good pinch of cayenne pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
570ml/1 pint peeled  shrimps
6 tbsp clarified butter
grated zest of 1 lime
tsp freshly grated ginger
small sprig of coriander leaves chopped finely
Put the butter, mace, cayenne pepper, lime zest, ginger, coriander leaves and a little grated nutmeg into a medium-sized pan and leave to melt over a gentle heat.
Add the peeled shrimps and stir over the heat for a couple of minutes until they have heated through, but don't let the mixture boil. 
Remove the mace and divide the shrimps and butter between 6 small ramekins. Level the tops and then leave them to set in the fridge.
Spoon over a thin layer of clarified butter and leave to set once more. Serve with plenty of brown toast or crusty brown bread.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Chocolate "pond" pudding reinvented with baby rocha pear

my take on "Sussex pond pudding"
Oh Sussex, Sussex by the Sea!
Good old Sussex by the Sea! 
So the refrain goes of the South East England county's unofficial anthem. It was written in 1907 by William Ward-Higgs.The recipes for Pond Pudding date back to the 1700s but the addition of a lemon was a modern interpretation of  the recipe.The earliest citing of the recipe used a whole apple not a lemon. I am always interested in how recipes get tweaked and changed to suit different tastes,and in this case cross European borders.It certainly left me feeling like this particular pud could do with a 2018 makeover to suit Casa Rosada´s more modern slant on traditional food. 
Reading up on ‘pond’ recipes got me thinking about how the rich flavours could be given a new twist that is perhaps slightly less heart-stoppingly high in cholesterol.Sussex pond pudding traditionally contained a whole fruit with no spice.
Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food, a sure-fire stand-by in times of stress, a reliable source of consolation when life has let us down, and a mood-enhancer and romance-inducer in more positive circumstances ( Valentines Day is just around the corner). Scoffing lots of it is not going to do you any favours.But there are a host of medically proven ways in which chocolate — good chocolate, which is to say dark chocolate, with a cocoa percentage of around seventy per cent or more — really is good for us.
This is my take on Sussex pond pudding. I decided to take the suet out of Sussex and put chocolate back in Casa Rosada.What I created was a rich chocolate pudding, which makes its own sauce when cooked and rises like a chocolate sponge island in a syrupy chocolate sea. Your mothers, like mine, probably made chocolate puddle pudding.Everybody’s mother seems to have had a similar recipe – and what sensible mothers they were, because this  rich and delicious, malevolently chocolatey modicum of temptation is so quick and easy to make.
At first glance, this Sussex pond pud looks like a winter warmer, but what flows out from inside will make you want to tuck in well into spring.The freshness that having a whole baby Portuguese Rocha pear baked inside brings stops it feeling like a purely depths-of-winter pudding, and I hope will render it servable well into the warmer months.
The ‘pond’ is made when you cut into the piping hot pudding releasing an irresistible stream of chocolate sauce from within the sweet sponge casing.
The sensation is like a fabulous fondant, light and spongy on the outside and liquid gooey gold inside.
Chocolate pond pudding with baby Rocha Pear
makes 6 individual puddings
125g butter melted
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
180g flour
75g cocoa powder
tsp baking powder
70ml milk
6 baby rocha pears peeled and cored but stalks left intact
Pre-heat  oven to 170C
If the pears are not ripe poach them in some wine sugar water and vanilla.
Beat the butter and the sugar together in a medium bowl until smooth.Add the eggs, one at a time beating them well.Sift the flour,cocoa and baking powder over the mixture and beat well with a wooden spoon.Add the milk stirring until smooth.Divide the mixture equally between six previously buttered ramekins.Push the pears down into the middle of the chocolate and bake for 30 minutes.Cool slightly before serving.They will be molten hot when you take them out of the oven so be careful.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Roll on Spring..... spring rolls are on

After the ice age of a winter we have experienced,roll on spring I say. You’ve never really had a spring roll until you’ve tried homemade ones,believe me.They are absolutely incomparable to the spring rolls served in Chinese restaurants and fast food joints,the ones with unidentifiable fillings.You take one bite and oil sqirts everywhere. You think but can´t place whats inside it. We love takeaways,and sometimes letting the chain take the strain is a great option,but the East Algarve is not known for its takeaways, let alone deliveries, aside from food courts and outlets in large shopping malls.Lets face it its a pretty run of the mill experience.Ironically, last night as we were about to sit down to dinner the door bell rang and the telepizza man was there with a pizza.We had not ordered one.It was the wrong house No longer being city slickers and along with being expensive it’s also not the healthiest option open anyway.I know spring rolls are one of those things that may seem daunting to try your hand at. But it’s actually not that tricky at all. Wrapping spring rolls is more straight forward than it seems. Nowadays I try to make as many homemade alternatives as possible, pizzas, burgers,fish and chips. We can still enjoy the delicious taste of a takeaway but it’s much healthier and for a fraction of the cost. Spring Rolls are one of my most favourite takeaway  options, so I set out to make a version that can be baked rather than fried.
I encased the filling in filo pastry. You can of course use spring roll wrappers too, but filo pastry is easier for me to buy and it bakes really well too, meaning you get a wonderfully crisp spring roll without frying.These are definitely going on the casa rosada starter menu.
The filling
Vietnamese chicken spring rolls
serves 2
Total Time: 40 minutes 

1 boneless, skinless cooked chicken breast,skinned and shredded
2 cups thinly shredded Chinese cabbage
1/2 cup (60ml) shredded Carrots  
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs:  coriander, mint, basil, and/or coriander
1/4 cup (60ml) crushed, roasted Peanuts 
1/4 cup (60ml) fried Shallots optional
    4 sheets filo pastry, each cut into 4 rectangles (approx 15cm x 12cm)
    50g salted butter, melted
    Sweet chilli sauce to serve 

    For the stir fry base 
    Teaspoon dried chilli flakes
    2 garlic cloves minced
    Small knob of fresh ginger, grated
    1/4 cup water
    1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon soya sauce
    1 tablespoons nam pla ( Fish Sauce )

    1 tablespoon Sugar
    1 soup spoon peanut or ground nut oil

    Heat all the ingredients for the stir fry base in a wok over a high heat till thick
    add the veg, herbs, peanuts and shallots,stir well to mix for about a minute.
    Add the chicken and keep stirring. Spoon the veg into a sieve over a bowl 
    and allow to cool slightly.
    Place a spoonful of the veg mix at one end of a filo rectangle, in the centre. Roll the filo around the veg until halfway along the filo sheet, then fold each side of unfilled pastry into the centre. Continue rolling into a cylinder and brush with butter to seal. Place on a baking tray and brush with butter. Repeat with the remaining pastry sheets.
    Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp. 
    Serve hot with sweet chilli sauce.

    Monday, 29 January 2018

    Lamb tagine with apricot and almond cous cous

    Melt-in-your-mouth lamb and warming Moroccan spices – a tagine recipe that is the perfect recipe for a cold winter's night.It was also the perfect heartwarming welcome for our golfing guests from the UK. The tagine is the Moroccan matriarch of slow cooking,its distinct conical shape shape ensuring that your meat is packed with flavour and mouth-wateringly tender.My butcher prepared boned shoulder for me and when I came to collect it I was proffered two bags.One with the trimmed meat, the other a bag of bones.Not only had I the wherewithal for my tagine, but also the resources for making a bone broth(recipe below).Can´t get much more "nose-to-tail" than that? 
    Moroccan lamb tagine
    Serves 6

    I originally had this tagine cooked for me by my friend Sue, a few years ago.She gave me the recipe and I have made it a couple of times since but have never been able to match that spectacular first time taste.I asked her this time what her secret was and she said double the quantity of all the spices etc.I did and finally matched that taste sensation.It was a triumph.Thank you Sue.I have already doubled the ingredients in the recipe below so if you are making it just follow the recipe.
    6 tbsp sunflower oil
    2 kg boneless lamb shoulder ( ask your butcher for the trimmed bones)
    cut into bite size pieces

    2 large onions
    6 cloves garlic
    Sprinkling Flor de sal
    2 tablespoons turmeric
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
    2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    Ground black pepper
    4 tbsp honey
    2 tbsp soya sauce
    6 tbsp marsala wine
    6 tbsp red lentils
    Put 3 tablespoons of the oil into a very large,wide,heavy bottomed casserole or pan, and warm over a medium heat.Brown the pieces of lamb,in batches, in the pan and then remove to a large tagine.
    Peel the onions and garlic and process in a food processor.Add the remaining oil to the pan,and fry the onion garlic mush until soft,sprinkling with Flor de sal to prevent it catching.
    Stir in the turmeric,ground ginger,chilli flakes,cinnamon and nutmeg,and season with some freshly ground black pepper.stir again adding the honey soya sauce and Marsala.Add this mixture to the lamb in the tagine and add cold water almost to cover,bring to the boil on the stove top and the put the cover on the tagine,Place in the centre of the oven on alow heat and cook very gently for an hour and a half or until the meat is tender.Stir in the red lentils and continue cooking slowly without the lid until the lentils have softened into the sauce and the juices have reduced and thickened slightly.Check the seasoning,sprinkle with some coriander leaves.return the lid to the tagine and bring to the table serve with the cous cous.

    Apricot and almond cous cous
    Heaped tsp Ras al hanout 
    1 small red onion, diced small
    Extra-virgin olive oil

    Juice of small lemon 
    1/4 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
    1/4 cup whole almonds toasted, coarsely chopped
    1/4 cup shelled pistachios,coarsely chopped
    140g couscous
    1 cup chicken stock, warm
    Flor de sal and freshly ground black pepper

    Place the Ras al hanout and diced onion in a small pan and dry fry until the spice emits a fragrance.Remove from the heat.Stir in some olive oil and the lemon juice followed by the cous cous.Pour over the warm stock and put a lid on the pan.After a few minutes fluff up the cous cous with a fork.Transfer to a shallow serving dish and stir in the apricots almonds and pistachios.Serve.

    Bone broth is no longer a secret weapon.Easy, frugal and full of flavour, It is the ideal base for all soups and stews, adding flavour by the jug load. It is one of the oldest, most affordable homemade foods, often used as an elixir to cure ailments and nurture invalids. A good, homemade bone broth is rich in easily digestible substances such as amino acids, gelatine (a source of protein that helps counter the degeneration of joints), glucosamine, fats, vitamins, minerals and collagen (which improves the condition of skin). Eat your heart out L´Oréal. Prepare it at the weekend and keep it in the fridge or freezer so it’s on call throughout the week.In order to achieve the optimum bone broth roast your bones first.
    Repeat after me: "I will always roast my bones." This browns and caramelizes them, and we all know what browned and caramelized means: Better flavour. Don't be afraid to really take the bones to the limit.Crank your oven up high—a bold 220 C.Making stock is one of the core skills of any good cook, and this Lamb Stock recipe by Gordon Ramsay is simple, delicious and provides a solid foundation for lots of other great recipes.

    Bare bones Friday-Monday nights supper
    A fine bone broth matures
    Gordon Ramsay Lamb Stock
    Makes 8-10 cups

    1 lb lamb bones
    2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
    1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
    2 carrots, roughly chopped
    1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
    6 cloves of garlic, peeled
    2 tsp tomato paste
    1/3 cup dry white wine
    1 tsp black peppercorns
    1 bay leaf
    A few sprigs of thyme and flat leaf parsley

    Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread the bones out on a large roasting pan and drizzle with a little olive oil to coat. Roast for about 45-60 minutes, turning the bones over halfway, until evenly browned.

    Heat the oil in a large stockpot and add the vegetables and garlic, stirring occasionally over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add the tomato paste and fry for another 3 minutes. Add the wine and let boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the bones to the stock pot and pour in enough water to cover, about 4-6 cups. Bring to a simmer and skim off the froth and scum that rises to the surface.

    Add the peppercorn and herbs. Simmer the stock for 4-6 hours or until you're happy with the flavour, then take the pan off the heat. Let stand for a few minutes before passing the stock through a fine sieve. Cool the stock to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. The fat from the stock will rise and congeal at the surface and can then be removed with a spoon and discarded. Fresh stock should be used within 5 days or keep frozen for up to 3 months.

    Monday, 22 January 2018

    Scottish oatcakes,and sae the Lord be thankit

     “Some hae meat and canna eat,
    And some wad eat that want it,
    But we hae meat and we can eat,
    And sae the Lord be thankit.”
    Robert Burns
    It is so rewarding when you find out that an item you might regularly buy, or can not source, is so easy to make. And of course you know exactly what is in it. I am not sure I would commit to never buying oatcakes again, but it is good to know I can easily knock up my own home made version, and after all it is quicker than going to the shops. In my particular case it is impossible to source traditional Scottish oatcakes here in the Algarve. I have been to every supermarket, every health food shop known to man, and can I find a real authentic oatcake like the ones we were brought up on as wee bairns back in the Scottish day? Yes there are packets of biscuits marketed as oatcakes but they all carry strange flavours.If God had meant oatcakes to be flavoured with Goji berries he would have said so.Linseed is not something to put through ones digestive system or subject the towns drainage system to either.Any way, what better time to bake a batch of oatcakes( January 25th in Scotland is the night to celebrate their most famous poet, Robert Burns) I stumbled upon a true oatcake recipe on the internet which matches the authenticity of Elizabeth Craig´s recipe in her Scottish Cookery book.
    Savoury oatcakes (bannocks) are to Scotland what a baguette is to the French. The flat cakes made mainly from oats have for centuries been considered the Scottish national bread.Lots of Scottish cooking involves oats, not only because they’re delicious but also because the oat plant is one of the hardiest grain crops, and can withstand the cold weather of Scotland brilliantly – for this reason it was Scotland’s main crop, and therefore very affordable.
    I discover that I prefer my oatcakes, like my porridge, to have a bite to them in the way of texture. A mixture of medium oatmeal to act as a binder and pinhead oatmeal to make them pleasingly chewy, with just a handful of porridge oats for interest, will do nicely. An oatcake shouldn't melt in the mouth, but neither should it require a chaser of dental floss.
    Traditionally oatcakes seem to have been formed into large circles and cut into triangular farls, but what I have always been used to, and are less fragile, are the smaller modern rounds. The dough rolled thinly; about 5mm, provides the right level of crispness.The oatcake would originally have been cooked on a cast iron girdle, or griddle, over the fire, but nowadays a stove-top equivalent would be finished in a low oven. To be honest, they taste about the same, but such fragile biscuits are tricky to handle, especially when part-cooked; far easier for us amateurs to stick with the oven.  Make sure they've dried out completely before taking them out of the oven.Delicious, yes, but crispness should be your watchword with these particular oatcakes – they may be crumblier and more fragile than the bought sort, but what they lack in durability they more than make up for in flavour.

    Makes 16
    1 cup traditional oats
    1/2 cup coarsely ground toasted mixed cereals (granola) (Oats, wheat, rice, rye)*
    1 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 cup golden sugar
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb not baking powder)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
    1/4 cup buttermilk (see note below)*
    10ml molasses dissolved in soup spoon boiling water optional

    The perfect oatcake cutter

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 heavy large baking sheets. Place oats in large bowl. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into same bowl. Using fingertips, rub in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk,if using; stir until dough forms. Transfer dough to floured surface. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness.Use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds (the final number of oatcakes depends - of course - on the size of cutter you use. In a wonderfully Scottish twist/coincidence I found that using an upturned whisky glass makes the perfect size :-). Arrange on prepared sheets, spacing apart. Gather scraps, reroll and cut out additional rounds. Bake oatcakes until edges are pale golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks and cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to racks; cool completely.They Can be prepared 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.
    *If butter milk is not available use a 50/50 blend of plain yogurt and water *This gives the oatcakes a nutty crunch and a slight sweetness

    Monday, 15 January 2018

    A chilli occasion

    When its cold outside and the thermometer says its 4ºC,you need cosy comfort food and a heart-warming supper.Its January and you can´t face one more slice of turkey, so you will love this meatloaf (below) and even more so the rich tomato and red wine gravy (above). The star of the show here however is the red wine, tomato and chilli  gravy, which as a side dish elevates the meatloaf to star turn culinary status.Dont stint on the wine.A cabernet sauvignon would be ideal but I used a hearty Portuguese red.The quantity of gravy will allow you plenty to bottle and keep in the fridge or freezer for the next time you want a stunning pasta sauce, or cook some calamari or octopus.

    Red Wine Tomato and Chilli Gravy
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    3 garlic cloves, chopped
    Large Pinch red pepper flakes
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
    2 bay leaves
    1 onion, diced
    1 carrot, finely chopped
    2 sticks of celery chopped
    1/2 cup red wine
    Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
    Pinch sugar
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Saute the garlic, red pepper flakes, and herbs for 2 minutes until the herbs are fragrant and garlic is golden (but not overly brown.) Raise the heat to medium, add onion and carrot; cook for 5 minutes until they breakdown and are soft. Deglaze with red wine and reduce to evaporate the alcohol. Hand crush the canned tomatoes and add to the pot, along with its liquid. Add a pinch of sugar to cut down on the acidity from the tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered.Blitz the gravy with a stick blender and serve hot in a gravy jug.
    Minced Pork and Sage Meatloaf
    If you have any left over, fry slices in a little butter till crispy on the outside.Slather some ketchup or relish on fresh white country bread and you have the makings of a sausage sandwich with a difference.Alternatively after frying it serve it with a poached egg on top

    Prep Time: 15 mins
    Cook Time: 45 mins

    1 tbsp sunflower oil
    1 large onion, finely diced
    1 celery stalk
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    1 tsp flaked sea salt
    1 heaped tsp dried ground sage
    sprig of thyme leaves
    1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
    500g/1lb 2oz pork mince
    175g/6oz fresh white breadcrumbs
    dash of Worcester sauce,soya sauce or molho piccante
    1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
    2 medium eggs, beaten

    Heat oven to 180°C and line a loaf pan with generously overlapping baking paper (using baking paper makes it easier to get the meatloaf out of the pan).Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add onion, celery and garlic with chili flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent. Cool slightly.
    Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Press mixture into prepared pan and fold over the baking paper on all sides to cover the top
    Season with salt and pepper and bake for 45 minutes until cooked through. Remove from Slice generously and serve hot or cold.


    Thursday, 11 January 2018

    Waste not why not? food for thought

    butternut squash peelings roasted and turned into root vegetable crisps
    As the clocks struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, many of us will have made a resolution for 2018 which we will strive to keep, but many of us will fail at the first hurdle and many did not even think about it.In order to succeed we must choose an option that we are going to get some gratification from.Its no use struggling with something you dont enjoy or dont believe in.Its never too late if you haven´t already set yourself a challenge.
     This year I am not making any promise to myself that I can not keep.Instead of making a resolution I am setting myself a mission.A simple mission to change not only my habits but hopefully those of others.The goal is to turn "wasted" ingredients into simple, creative and nutritious meals.This one is do-able, achievable and wont cause any hardship.Why are dustbins and garbage cans brimming over with discarded nutritious ingredients while there are those without a home begging on the street in order to sustain their next meal The inspiration comes from my current food hero and one who I consider to be possibly the best chef in the world Massimo Bottura. He has published a book “Bread Is Gold: Extraordinary Meals With Ordinary Ingredients.”Massimo´s "NO WASTE" philosophy is summed up in his in his own words describing the book.
    'These dishes could change the way we feed the world, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, on any budget. To feed the planet, first you have to fight the waste'
    On average European countries currently waste an average of 500 kilograms per person a year.Portugal alone wastes about a million tons of food a year.The plan against food wastage in Lisbon saved more than 2 million meals from going to waste last year, which were then distributed to the needy.
    The United Kingdom throws away 7 million tonnes of food and drink  every year, the majority of which could have been eaten.The average family throws away 22% of their weekly shop, which is worth £700 per year. In the US, the per-family equivalent is worth a staggering $2,275 each year!
    Of the food thrown away, 4.4million tonnes was deemed to be “avoidable” waste that was edible at some point before it was put in the bin or food waste caddy – such as stale bread,meat bones and fruit and vegetable peelings.The rest were scraps that could not be eaten such as eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, apple cores and packaging.
    France was the first country to introduce specific food waste legislation and loses only 1.8 percent of its total food production each year. It plans to cut this in half by 2025.Surprise surprise, top of the league are the United States. Americans waste 760 kilograms per person per year.
    More often than not, what we consider "waste" – be it a fish head or a broccoli core – has enormous culinary potential." —Dan Barber
    The way I look at it Leftovers aren't a problem! They're a bounty.
    Bottura´s book is something that enables all of us to evaluate what is in our larder, on our shelves, and to make us aware of what we are discarding, and then make better use of everything in simple intelligent ways.Take for instance a simple Parmesan rind, something most people would chuck in the bin, little knowing that if they had saved it, it gives intense flavour when boiled down in soups.The rind of real Parmesan cheese just so happens to be one of the culinary world's biggest kept secrets. Crumble up left over Christmas pudding or fruit cake and mix it into any flavoured ice cream.Any type of curry lends itself to using up what might otherwise end up as waste.

    Most people throw away their vegetable peelings.Please don´t.The skins of root vegetables like the potato and butternut squash provide an abundance of vitamins and nutrients known for preventing a wide variety of diseases.The squash´s deep golden colour gives us an indication that it is packed with beta carotenes, an important antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
    Here is how its done: 
    Peel the butternut squash and reserve the long strips of skin.Heat the oven to 150C/280F/gas mark 1.Place the reserved butternut peelings on a roasting tray and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of sherry vinegar and sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary.Put in the oven and cook for 20 minutes on a low heat to crisp up.Remove the crisps from the oven and place them on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.At this point if you feel inclined you can also sprinkle them with some parmesan and Flor de Sal.I then put them back in the oven with the oven switched off to further crispen up for about an hour.
    and look what a chic and impressive Hors d'oeuvre you can end up with- butternut squash soup with crispy roasted butternut skins

    Recently while watching a UK TV series "Save Money: Good Food" the "food police" presenters go through the waste bin in each family´s kitchen as a way of finding out what food had been abandoned.They find edible items of food,which they retrieve.I was horrified to see bread that had been thrown out and then to learn that one family were then putting packet breadcrumbs on their shopping list.
                                      Home made breadcrumbs so easy to make
    No bread is ever thrown out in our house,the bread we dont use is put through the food processor and the dried out in the oven to make bread crumbs,dust souffle dishes,top bakes,make migas,bread crumb batters, croutons.They can, thicken sauces, bind together meatballs, serve as a coating for fish and chicken or even as a crunchy topping. They make a wonderful filler for quiches and frittatas. Bread crumbs can also help you lighten a heavy dish like a meatloaf because they give lots of structure but aren’t too heavy.

    Since our Christmas shop, no food has been left unused,discarded or without being re-cycled into further meals....
    watercress and spinach soup, curried parsnip soup using left over dauphinoise potatoes and cider, ham cheese and bread sauce soufflés ,belly pork and cabbage stir fry,, a pork cassoulet, crackling, toasted breadcrumbs, melba toast,prawn and octopus risotto with the stock the New year octopus was cooked in, Bubble and squeak migas and when all is said and done with the home cured ham,I will boil down the bones to make the base for split pea and ham soup.
    Bubble and squeak Migas, Alentejo style 
    Bubble and squeak should be on everyone's radar come Christmas time - This simple dish is perfect for using up leftover mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts,turnip tops, cabbage,even parsnip, stale bread and white beans. Top with poached eggs for a scrumptious lunch.My version is a fusion of very traditional British with very traditional Portuguese.

    1 tablespoon duck fat, goose fat or butter
    4 rashers of streaky bacon chopped
    left over chouriço chopped
    1 onion finely sliced
    6 cooked Brussel sprouts or left over boiled cabbage, shredded
    6 Raw Brussel sprouts with all the leaves separated and shredded coarsely
    Handful of raw chinese leaves
    400g left over mashed potatoes
    Left over cooked parsnip mashed
    Melt the fat in a non-stick pan, allow it to get nice and hot, then add the bacon. As it begins to brown, add the onion and garlic. Next, add the sliced sprouts or cabbage and let it colour slightly. All this will take 5-6 mins.Add the Chouriço and finally the potato. Work everything together in the pan and push it down so that the migas covers the base of the pan - mould the migas into a tortilla like shape. Allow the mixture to catch slightly on the base of the pan before turning it over by inverting it on a plate slightly smaller than the pan than then and doing the same again. It's the bits of potato that catch in the pan that define the term 'bubble and squeak', so be brave and let the mixture colour. Cut into wedges and serve.

    Being aware of waste is no new thing and has a centuries old history.In medieval times the British often used bread as a thickening agent for sauces.There was stale bread lying around and thrifty cooks quite rightly didn't want to waste it.My thoughts entirely.
    Many of Britain´s greatest puddings were magicked out of old bread: apple charlotte, queen of puddings (that airy layering of bready custard, jam and egg white), summer pudding. poor knights of Windsor (a kind of sweet eggy bread flavoured with sherry), not to mention, of course, the twin glories of bread pudding and bread-and-butter pudding, the one stolid and the other light – both splendid.
    Please please make it your New year mission to adopt the "NO WASTE" philosophy."There's a world outside your window, and it's a world of dread and fear". I would love to hear from you and your views and experiences on the subject.Food for thought,eh?

    Monday, 8 January 2018

    Arroz de Polvo Malandrinho

    If you’ve never eaten octopus I think octopus rice is the best way to try it for the first time.There are many recipes in Portugal which are devoted to the octopus. Arroz de Polvo is one of the most popular and can be found on most menus across Portugal.
    The actual recipe varies from restaurant to restaurant, but the recipe below is my own take, based on a traditional recipe using malandrinho rice, spiced and aromatized to enhance the taste of the octopus and the flavour of the sea.The flavour of the rice comes from the water the octopus was cooked in  and the water it releases during cooking, giving the rice a very meaty flavour and a lovely hue of pink.
    The secret:
    Even after you have rinsed and washed the octopus it can still secrete grit in its tentacles which will be released in the cooking so be sure to strain the stock before using it. Go easy on the chilli flakes.Serve small portions it is very filling.

    Arroz de Polvo Malandrinho
    This particular style of octopus rice is called malandrinho which means the rice is supposed to be solto (loose), so at the end of the finished dish you don’t want all of the liquid to be absorbed by the rice but neither do you want to be eating soup with bits of rice.
    Serves 3
    1 raw octopus,around 900g /2lb
    I bottle white wine
    1/2 cup /50g black peppercorns
    1 tablespoon tomato puree

    zest of 1 orange
    Heat a large pan with a little oil.Bring it to smoking point,then sear the octopus on both sides until it turns a rich red color.Once red on both sides,add the wine,peppercorns,tomato paste and orange zest.Braise until tender,about one hour. Allow the octopus to cool fully.Slice into pieces.

    Reserved stock from cooking octopus
    1 tbsp of olive oil 

    1 tbsp unsalted butter
    1 medium size onion chopped
    4 cloves garlic finely chopped
    large handful of coriander stalks chopped finely
    1 fat garlic clove, chopped finely
    1 heaped cup  of white malandrinho rice
    3 – 3 1/2 cups of the reserved octopus stock
    1/2 – 1 tsp of Flor de sal, check if the stock water is salty (start with half teaspoon, after first few minutes you can taste it and be able to tell if it needs a touch more)
    pinch of  chili flakes

    300g of cooked prawns(optional)
    Add the butter and oil to the pan along with the onion and coriander and let the onions cook on a low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes until they soften, appear translucent and not burnt.

    Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a few more minutes.

    Add the rice,stir well to mix and cook until the rice is well coated and glistening.

    re-heat the octopus stock in a milk pan and keep on a low heat. 
    Proceed as if you were cooking a risotto, adding ladlefuls of the stock at a time and constantly stir the rice,for about 20-25 minutes
    When the rice is a few minutes away from being ready add the sliced octopus and prawns if using, stir it in and cook until the rice is on the verge of being done. Serve in soup plates and garnish with parsley or coriander.