Thursday, 21 May 2015

Uma sobremesa nova cada dia

"I don´t think you ready for this jelly"

Wouldn´t it be lovely to create a new pudding every day.Unfortunately, some puddings do not allow us this indulgence due to the time it takes to prepare them. Jelly is not one of these.So simple to make, this is just the kind of pudding that brings a smile to your cheeks in hot sultry weather.My favourite childhood pud has just been given an adult makeover.Correct me if I am wrong, but I hardly think Nespera (loquat  )is what a child is anticipating when you tell them you are making a fruit jelly.Alongside blancmange, jelly became the  darling of the Anglo Saxon tea table,while in America it became known by a prolific brand name Jello.More recently the word jelly has attained a more salacious and metaphoric reputation on the back of the the hip hop generation, in particular Destiny´s child´s hit "Bootylicious"  To cut a long story short, nothing could be simpler than making a home made fruit jelly. 
Nespera and orange jelly
800 g de nêsperas - 800 g of loquats
100 g de açúcar - 100 g sugar  
600ml de água - 600ml of orange juice 

6 folhas de gelatina neutra - 6 leaves of gelatin 

Wash the nesperas. Cut them in half lengthwise and remove pits.Place the nespera halves in a pan, along with the sugar and orange juice.Cover with a lid and bring to boil. Cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes.Remove from the heat Soak the 5 sheets of gelatine in cold water.Squeeze well and add to the cooked nesperas while still hot.Make sure the gelatine is completely dissolved.Remove the nesperas from the pan and set aside to cool.Allow the jelly in the pan to cool also.Pour a third of the jelly into a jelly mould,put in the fridge until set.Tip in the cooled nesperas and pour the rest of the jelly mixture into the mould.Return to the fridge until fully set and ready to serve.Alternatively skip the penultimate stage and divide the jelly between  individual glasses or sundae dishes.When starting to set, place a nespera on the top of each.


Saturday, 16 May 2015

Cheap as chips



 There is so much more to the Algarve than just a sunny seaside destination.Besides sea,sand, and surf the Algarve offers the best value for money when eating out.This is a very important consideration when budgeting for one´s holiday. A recent survey showed Portugal to be 22% cheaper than last year in this respect.Last week the proof of this was in the cooking,things could not have got much better.Cooking doesn´t get cheaper than this. I took three very good friends out to lunch at a roadside restaurant.As is always the case, if you go slightly off the beaten track or head away from the coastal resorts, you will find prices become a lot cheaper.Our order consisted of a couvert ( fresh cheese sardine paste and bread),three dishes of liver and onions ( iscas encebolado), 1 plate of oven baked octopus (polvo no forno) all dishes served up with chips, 1 beer and 2 jugs of house wine.The bill for four people was €37.70.One could hardly cook and feed four people at home for this price.Liver and onions is a traditional English dish.Here I was in the Algarve  and I have to say this was the most tender and tasty version of liver and onions I ever had.This was no tourist trap and was far too remote for that anyway.To find quality family cooking at this price is a real discovery and once found should remain a well kept secret. I will be returning to work my way through the rest of the menu.
I already have my sights set on the picanha and maminha cuts of beef



Monday, 11 May 2015

Spice poached Portuguese Rocha pear with Nisa cheese


"Because no good story starts with....when I was having a salad..."
The response I received from one of our dinner guests when I served this particular salad however might well prompt a good story on his return home,and I quote his response "that was one of the best dishes I have tasted this year." Thank you for that Mr "O"
Many cuisines have long traditions of combining fruit with cheese. The Italians for instance flaunt the combination of juicy pears with a salty ewe's milk pecorino.Since living in Portugal I have been wanting to find a savoury way of poaching the beautiful Rocha pears we get here.I have cooked them in red wines,white wines,with all kinds of combinations of spices.I even have a much referred to Peter Gordon recipe for spice roasted pears with goats cheese but it is yet another dessert recipe.In the Casa Rosada fridge you will always find a semi-hard sheeps cheese called Queijo de Nisa.It is from the Alentejo and is created from raw milk, which is coagulated, then curdled using an infusion of thistle. It is yellowish white, with a robust flavor and a somewhat acidic finish.It has been honoured as one of the 100 great cheeses in the world.Its resemblance in flavour but not texture is not dissimilar to Pecorino,in my opinion.It suddenly dawned on me that this was the perfect pairing for my spiced Rocha pear salad.I read through several dessert recipes before I came up with the formula for a savoury spice roasted pear.I removed the allspice and cinnamon that was predominant in all these recipes and put in some more savoury flavours.

Spiced roasted Rocha pear salad with Nisa cheese 


you can cook the pears in advance if you need to save time -they will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days
1 red chilli, stalk removed,finely chopped
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
thumb sized piece of root ginger peeled and cut into slithers
1 large clove of garlic peeled and sliced
2 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
30ml cider vinegar
120g light muscovado sugar
150ml water
4 large sweet (but firm) Rocha pears,cored and cut in half lengthways
400g Nisa cheese roughly crumbled
Chinese five spice for dusting
Salad leaves of your choice
1/3 cup walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
Halve the pears, and carefully remove the seeds and core.
Mix together the first 8 ingredients and then pour over the water.Place the pears in an oven proof dish just large enough to hold them.Pour the mixture over them and cook for approximately 45 minutes to one hour or until they are just receptive to the tip of a sharp knife.You want to retain a bit of crunch.remove them from the oven and allow them to cool in their poaching liqid.Remove the pears when cool and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to use them.
FOR THE DRESSING
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Flor de sal and freshly ground pepper
In small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup (75 ml) strained poaching liquid, mustard and garlic. Slowly whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper.
When ready to serve scatter mixed leaves of your choice on the plate.Cut one half of the pear into six segments almost to the stalk of the pear but still allowing the pear half to remain in one piece.Carefully rest the pear half on the centre of the salad and fan the segments apart.Crumble Nisa cheese over the salad then drizzle over the dressing.Scatter the salad with a smidgeon of halved walnuts. Dust the pear with chinese five spice as you would use pepper.Serve immediately.
*If you are not in Portugal please try to source this unique cheese otherwise pecorino would make a fine substitute  

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Dont push me May

 Portuguese Heirloom tomatoes
Its May It´s May, May is here! It’s unbelievable how fast this year is going. It seemed like only yesterday we were ringing in the New and now we’re almost halfway through 2015.Today the monthly market was in town,buzzing and everyone around seemed to be happier (maybe it’s the anticipation of summer or maybe everyone’s seasonal affective disorder is finally wearing off). I don´t know about you but with the sun shining and nature in full bloom again I finally feel motivated.May is the month that gets one pushed busywise,not only in the kitchen with all this wonderful new produce but in the garden too,planting seeds and potting on plants that will keep our tummies happy well into late summer.In season in the Algarve are Nesperas,Portuguese avocados,strawberries,snails. The first soft fruits are making an appearance,white fleshed peaches,nectarines and hopefully soon apricots and the "Figos Lampos"the first figs of the year,so called because they resemble lamps;lampo or lampeiro in Portuguese also appropriately means premature and hasty.I even saw a small box of cherries but at €8 a kilo I declined the stallholders offer."Only for the pregnant women" he added,making a relevant gesture with his hands.
On the foraging front too wild asparagus, spinach, dandelion leaves and Salicornia (marsh samphire)are springing up.


Returning home shoulder askew with a bag of  bountiful produce I set about unpacking my stockpile.Heirloom Portuguese tomatoes.An enormous bunch of coriander,onions,a kilo of new seasons garlic which I am going to pickle this afternoon.Tomorrows breakfast for the guests will include nectarines and peaches.I also picked up some walnuts and baby new potatoes for including in up and coming salads.All in all plenty to keep me occupied for the next few days....Don´t push me May.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Flor de sal, thyme and olive oil crackers


No kitchen should be without the heady, aromatic flavour of thyme, A delicate looking herb with a penetrating fragrance,whether used by the pinch or by the bunch, fresh thyme infuses any dish with unparalleled aroma and flavour.
Thyme is usually cooked with food rather than thrown in at the end.When cooked in stews and casseroles the leaves fall away from the branches infusing the stock and then the branches are removed at the end of cooking. I use both the fresh and dried varieties in marinades,dressings and even to infuse syrup for puddings.
Thyme has what I could only describe as a vigorous flavour,almost peppery in character,and therefore is for foods that can carry strong flavours.It is one of the essential ingredients of Herbes de provence along with rosemary, bay and savory and is also always included in bouquet garni for stock and soup making.
 Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial.  It tolerates drought well.The Casa Rosada garden is dotted with different varieties of thyme and so with a bit of thyme management the kitchen here is never without  both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavourful, but also less convenient.Thyme waits for no one,its storage life is less than a week.
 So bearing that in mind who would have thought that I would see the day I made my own homemade crackers.Inspired by Ottolenghi and finding another use for a windfall sack of dried thyme that recently came my way,there was no thyme like a present so I catapulted his basic recipe into something a little more aromatic. His recipe was for olive oil crackers, but the first batch I made were very bland so I upped the game with thyme and Flor de sal mediterranica, a Flor de sal with olives and chilli.What a difference some seasoning makes,now we were talking crackers.There is only one problem,they are so delicate that they can break,but this is half the fun of it as you spread lashings of soft cheese on them.they are rustic, elegant and very unusual.They are so damn easy to make and I swear once you´ve tried them you will never need to buy crackers ever again.Serve them straight from the oven, as crisp as crisp can be.


Flor de sal, thyme and olive oil crackers

Makes 24
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
115ml water
25ml olive oil,plus extra for brushing
1/2 tsp Flor de sal
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked picante paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
Generous sprinklings of Flor de sal mediterranica 
In a large bowl,mix together all the ingredients except the flor de sal to form a soft dough.You can do this by hand or in a processor fitted with a dough hook Work the dough until you get a firm consistency,then cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7.Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface or board.Have a bowl of flour ready at your side for dusting.Use a large sharp knife to cut  off wanut sized pieces (roughly 15g each) from the dough. Roll out each piece as thinly as possible with arolling pin,dusting with plenty of flour as you go.They should end up looking like long oval tongues,almost paper thin.
Place the crackers on a tray lined with baking parchment.Brush them with plenty of olive oil and sprinkle generously with Flor de sal. Bake for about 6 minutes,until crisp and golden.

Adapted from Ottolenghi ("Ottolenghi the cookbook")





Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The true Bhajia, Lap-top dinner or Goan wedding starter?

 Not for Arachnophobics 
I have recently been thumbing through Indian  cook books researching menus for a wedding we will be catering next year.The bride to be is of Goan Irish descent.While thumbing through starters I unearthed Bhajias.
Now I have never attempted to make these even though they have always been a much-loved favourite, but how surprised was I when I saw how they should be properly made.  
This is probably the most popular of all Indian snacks and the most commonly found throughout India.They are just one variety of the wider pakora family often made with aubergine, potato, spinach, plantain, paneer or cauliflower.In the UK,a nation never renowned for its subtle taste, the pungent onion "bhajji" reigns supreme as the king of pakoras.It is also the most misunderstood and incorrectly made.It is very simple and quick to make, and if done properly, the results will astound you.The correct term is Bhajia which simply means fritter.Like many adopted British dishes the bhajias you see in shops and even restaurants throughout the UK do not always represent the true bhajia the Indians know and love.They should not be the size of a tennis ball for starters.They should be flatter and not really have any shape at all. I had an expat craving recently and I thought I would give the true recipe a whirl.I was amazed.I imagine that what I made was  similar to those made in Indian homes.I hope so anyway.If the wedding couple decide on these as a possible canapé option I will have to ensure against arachnophobic guests having panic attacks and screaming on the dance floor.
Kaanda Bhajia 
2 medium onions
2 green chillies, finely minced
1 level tsp chilli powder
2tbsp coriander,chopped
1 tsp cumin, crushed coarsely
1/2 tsp Ajwain (lovage),crushed also known as thymol or carom seeds
(I used dried thyme)
1/2 tsp turmeriuc
1/2 tsp lemon juice
6- 7 tbsp chickpea flour
salt to taste
Sunflower to deep fry
Two tbsp water
Slit the onions in half,remove the root stubs and slice them as finely as you can.
Place in a deep bowl and add the green chillies,chilli powder, coriander,cumin,ajwain or thyme,turmeric and lemon juice.Seive the chickpea flour with the salt.
Heat the oil in saucepan deep enough to hold oil for deep frying or a deep fat fryer.
Mix the chickpea flour slowly into the onions and rub it with your fingers,until the mix is firm and sticky.Add the water and mix for afurther 1~2 minutes.Check for salt it is likely you will need to add some at this point.
Keep a strainer ready over a bowl for draining the bhajias when ready.
With your already messy fingers put small dollops of the batter into the oil to fry.
Do not put too many in the oil together when frying or else you will have soggy bhajias.
Each bhajia should be no bigger than a small fritter,approximately 2.5cm.
Do not keep the oil too hot.The fritter should fry slowly so that it gets crisp and golden.If the oil is too hot the bhajias will fry too fast and remain raw and gooey inside.If you then try to refry,they will burn,remain soggy and taste bitter.
On the other hand,if you want to serve them later,you can half fry and remove them.Fry when you are ready in hot oil this time.If the oil is not hot when refrying,the bhajias will absorb too much oil.
Serve the bhajias with any chutney of your choice.


Friday, 10 April 2015

Do yourself some favas- Broad bean and smoky bacon soup


Spring is finally with us and seeing over-filled boxes of broad beans in the market made me want to rush home and make a fresh green soup.The marriage of beans and bacon has a long history, so I thought I would include smoky bacon in the equation.When I sieved the soup at the end of cooking I found I was left with a lot of tasty residue in my sieve.The consistency was similar to hummus and I thought it would be fun to add a little lemon juice,olive oil and mint and serve it up as a bright fresh tasting variation on that theme.A great sort of springtime hummus.Friends around the table can dip into and spread it on crostini as they lunch in the springtime sunshine around the garden table,while they wash it down with a chilled glass of Alvarinho wine.
The most frugal cooks choose only the best looking beans with an eye to making soup,not just from the beans but from the pods too.The Portuguese way of harvesting is to leave the pods on the plant to reach maturity, when the pods become quite hard and very shiny. This morning in the market there was a hive of activity as  a huddle of ladies mucked together to help our favourite  stall holder, Dona Isabel Domingues, pod the boxes of beans into bowls, ready to be bagged up for those cooks who have more generous purses and and dont want the task of freeing the beans from their pods.
 I love observing this fuss around the market stalls at this time of year when the broad beans are new in the market. I actually enjoy podding ,be it peas or favas, I even find the process quite therapeutic.

Broad bean(fava) and smoky bacon soup
Serves 6-8
1 large onion, diced
1 leek,washed and chopped
2 sticks of celery,peeled and chopped
50g butter
100g smoked bacon, finely diced (optional)
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
500g fresh or frozen peas
250g fresh broad beans,blanched and skinned
100ml double cream
Over a low heat,soften the onion,leek and celery in the butter for 5 minutes.Add the bacon,if using,and the herbs.Cook for 10 minutes,stirring occasionally.
Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil,then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.Skim off any residue that comes to the surface.Add the peas and the broad beans,bring the liquid to the boil,then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for five more minutes.
take the pan off the hob and purée the soup in a blender.Rinse the pan and pass the blended soup through a sieve back into the pan.Return to the hob and bring back to the boil.Immediately stir in the double cream.Remove from the heat,season and serve in warm bowls.            

Broad bean and coriander hummus

There has always been a strong affiliation in the Algarve between broad beans and coriander
With the residue I had left from sieving the soup I made a spring hummus.Putting the residue in a processor I added olive oil,a large handful of fresh coriander and lemon juice,seasoned with salt and pepper.I then blitzed it until I reached an almost smooth purée,but retaining a little of the coarse texture.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Far from penance - Chocolate olive oil cake

 it's like a fudgy brownie

In one of my recent blog posts I told you in no uncertain terms that I no longer give up chocolate for Lent.Forty days and forty nights without chocolate,chance would be a fine thing. In another recent post, I enthused about olive oil cakes and looked forward to experimenting with a Chocolate olive oil cake.Well here it is, and how far from penitence could it be? Lent is all but over but this is still sheer indulgence, as if chocolate never was? It's like a fudgy brownie, and talking of chocolate,surprise surprise this is a Nigella recipe. I seems it has been chopped and changed and messed around in order to accomodate  coeliacs and gluten free diets alike,but at the end of the day you´re going to be well pushed to find a better and more adaptable recipe.Knees up right proper moshing,here is the be-all and end-all chocolate olive oil cake recipe.The gluten free version is slightly heavier with the almonds - though not in a bad way - so if you want a lighter crumb, rather than a boom squish interior, and are not making the cake for the gluten-intolerant, then replace the 150g ground almonds / 1½ cups almond meal with 125g plain flour / ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour.To make it more of an occasion, serve it still warm from the oven with some fresh strawberries or raspberries and an indulgent dollop of cardamom requeijao cream.Alternatively serve it with a scoop of home made mascarpone ice cream.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
    2/3 cup regular olive oil, plus more for greasing cake pan
    6 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 cup boiling water
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups almond meal or 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    Pinch of salt
    1 cup superfine sugar
    3 large eggs

      Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch springform cake pan with a little oil and line base of pan with parchment paper.
      Sift cocoa powder into a bowl and whisk in boiling water until you have a smooth, chocolaty, still runny (but only just) paste. Whisk in vanilla extract and set aside to let cool.
      In a small bowl, combine almond meal (or flour) with baking soda and a pinch of salt.
      Put sugar, olive oil and eggs into bowl of a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment (or use other bowl and whisk). Beat vigorously until mixture is pale-primrose, aerated, thickened and creamy, about 3 minutes.
      Turn down mixer speed a little and beat in cocoa mixture. Slowly add almond-meal mixture.
      Turn off mixer. Scrape down sides of bowl and stir a little with a spatula. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake until sides of cake are set and very center, on top, still looks slightly damp, 40 to 45 minutes. A cake tester should come up mainly clean but with a few sticky chocolate crumbs clinging to it.
      Let cake cool in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Ease sides of cake with a small metal spatula and spring cake out of pan. Leave to cool completely or serve warm with ice cream.

      Thursday, 12 March 2015

      Lemon olive oil cake with cardamom requeijao cream

       
      What is the secret ingredient for a tender moist cake?- an olive oil batter is the answer.A high quality olive oil keeps a cake moist and adds another dimension of fruitiness.Olive oil cakes are a very Mediterranean thing.Portugal, Spain Italy and Greece, are all countries where olive oil reigns supreme, even in desserts, all those lovely moist orange and lemon polenta cakes.You must be thinking, don’t these cakes taste like olive oil? No, they don’t, nor would you want them to, that is not the point.I use extra-virgin oil - and there is never an olivey taste to the cake, although I could easily detect it in the sticky residue that was left in the pan. Ever since David Leite´s "The new Portuguese Table" came out in 2009 I have been serving our breakfast guests a Portuguese Orange olive oil cake.This has become a much requested staple,and is even cited in Alastair Sawdays special places to stay. 5 years on and I have now discovered George Mendes Lemon olive oil cake which is a lot simpler to make and equally tasty. Orange or lemon, who´s going to be served up on the casa rosada breakfast table? Two Portuguese boys who have grown up and brought their culinary heritage to the United States. Let the battle begin.I have come to olive oil cakes by default.They are great for guests who genuinely can not eat wheat or dairy( a majority of cakes include butter in the ingredients). Olive oil doesn’t help with leavening, but it does supply moistness. In cakes using butter and shortening, the fat is usually creamed with sugar to aerate the batter. But oil doesn’t hold air bubbles the way a solid fat will, so olive oil cakes get almost all their leavening from other sources like baking soda, or whipped egg whites. Obviously I have to replace the flour in any recipe with ground almonds or polenta, and I now make these cakes all the time as a preference for ourselves, even though our life and diet are not so unfairly constrained by these inflicting dietary requirements.I can not wait to try out a chocolate olive oil cake.I can hear the thespian salivating in the wings as I write this.What really makes this recipe is the cardamom requeijao cream,It´s well Dench.

      Olive oil cake with cardamom requeijao cream

      1 cup(250ml) fruity olive oil
      1 cup (250ml)full fat milk
      3 large eggs
      2tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
      12/3 cups(355g) sugar
      21/2 cups (385g) all purpose flour
      11/2 tsp flor de sal
      1tsp baking powder
      1/2 tsp baking soda
      Pre-heat the oven to 150C(300F).Lightly grease a 13 x 9inch (33 x 23cm) cake pan with oil
      or cooking spray.Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease again.
      In a medium bowl,whisk together the oil, milk,and eggs until smooth.
      In a large bowl,rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingertips.Whisk in the flour,salt,baking powder and baking soda.Continue whisking while adding the wet ingredients in a slow steady stream.Whisk just until smooth and well combined,then pour into the prepared pan.
      Bake,rotating the pan halfway through,until the top is golden brown and springs back when gently pressed with your fingertip,about 30 minutes.
      let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.Cut into pieces to serve.Can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

      FOR THE CARDAMOM REQUEIJAO CREAM
      3/4 (180ml) heavy cream or mascarpone
      5 whole green cardamom pods,lightly crushed
      2 large egg yolks
      2tbsp sugar,plus more to taste
      3/4 cup(165g) requeijao or ricotta
      2 cups (300g) small or quartered strawberries
      toasted slithered almonds,for serving
      In a medium saucepan,combine the cream and cardamom.Bring to a simmer over a medium heat, then remove from the heat,cover,and allow to steep for 30 minutes.Pick out and discard the cardamom.Bring the cream back to a simmer over a medium heat.
      In a medium bowl,whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until well combined.Continue to whisk while adding the simmered cream in a slow steady stream.Return the mixture to the saucepan and and whisk over a low heat until thickened,with fine bubbles.You should have a thick curd like custard registering 85F / 30C on a sugar thermometer.Remove from the heat,then whisk in the cheese until smooth.Refrigerate until set.
      While cream mixture chills,prepare the strawberries with sugar to taste and a splash of water.Heat over a medium heat until just warm,about two minutes.remove from the heat and let stand until cooled to room temperature,serve the strawberries and chilled cream alongside the cake and sprinkle with the almonds.

      Saturday, 7 March 2015

      Uma sopa de amêndoa, alho e couve-flor com um charuto anchova


      The Casa Rosada tasting menu changes with the seasons and if we know in advance a little about the likes and dislikes of the particular guests, I can tune it accordingly. I have recently added two items to the menu that I thought would be well suited to the tail end of winter and the first glimmer of spring.The first is inspired by a Spanish White Almond Gazpacho. For a long time I have  wanted to experiment with a warm version of this soup without losing the traditional Spanish feel of the main ingredients.I kept the bread as this would be a good thickening agent but decided to infuse it with cauliflower.With the help of a little manchego cheese I managed to achieve a savoury, creamy and slightly sweet soup. I wanted it to feel like a thick warm almond milk but with some other Spanish flavours.
      Garlic almond and cauliflower soup
      2 1⁄2 cups water, for blending
      1 slice day-old white bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
      2 ounces blanched almonds (should be about 1/2 cup volume)
      2 garlic cloves, fresh, skinned, roughly chopped
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
      1 teaspoon salt

      Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend thoroughly.Taste and season, adjusting as needed (vinegar, sugar, more salt, etc.) set aside. 

      Good knob of butter
      1 small cauliflower,finely chopped, white florets only
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      250ml vegetable stock (or a good cube)
      150ml milk
      Salt and freshly ground white pepper
      50g grated manchego


      Gently heat the butter and olive oil in a pan and with the lid on gently sautée the cauliflower, for 4-5 minutes.
      Add the stock and milk. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes, with a lid on, or until the cauliflower is soft.Stir in the first seven ingredients that you have previously blended and set aside.
      Blend the mixture in a liquidiser with the cheese until smooth and strain through a fine-meshed sieve and season again if necessary. You can add a little more cheese for added flavour if you wish.If the mixture appears too thick,dilute gradually with extra milk until you reach the consistency of thick milk.Return to the pan and heat gently,stirring constantly,over medium low heat.Serve immediately with garlic croutons and garnished with slivers of toasted almonds.


      My second innovation to the tasting menu was an anchovy cigar. We were recently served up an amuse bouche in a restaurant and were told it was an anchovy cigar.It was a grissini with a marinated, salted anchovy wrapped around the bottom third.It was very tasty but I thought a lot more "cigar" was needed to honour it with the title of an "anchovy cigar."I cast my mind back to the allumettes aux anchois my mother used to make as little tit bits to serve up with a drink when friends popped round.She rolled anchovy in very thin brown bread and that was it.Nowadays the norm for this recipe is filo or puff pastry,but I thought I would return to the brown bread idea and then throw in some more sympathetic companions like garlic, capers, parmesan and breadcrumbs and you have a more tasty cigar than tobacco could ever fulfill.

      An Anchovy cigar
      serves 4
      1 loaf thinly sliced brown bread, crusts removed
      2 tins of anchovy fillets
      salt and pepper
      extra virgin olive oil
      plentiful lemon juice
      100g toasted breadcrumbs
      50g parmesan, grated
      50g chopped capers
      chopped parsley
      2 garlic cloves chopped

      Mix together in a bowl the toasted breadcrumbs, anchovies,grated parmesan,chopped capers,parsley and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
      With a rolling pin,roll the bread slices out until they become thin and malleable sheets.
      spoon a line of the anchovy breadcrumb mix breadcrumb along the back third of each slice.Carefully roll the bread slices up rolling away from you until you have a tight cylinder.Sprinkle a little water just along the edge and press together well to seal the cigar.Tuck each end in and if necessary trim with a knife.Set aside.When ready to serve, lay the cigars,sealed edge downwards, on a baking tray lined with parchment.Brush a light coating of extra virgin olive oil on the cigars.Bake in a medium oven180C for about twenty minutes or until the bread becomes crisp.The timing here will depend on the freshness of the bread.Try and use the freshest bread possible. serve with a dipping sauce of your choice.