Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A Masterchef recipe becomes a signature dish

Pan fried sea bass with chermoula and spiced chickpeas
For one who fell at the first hurdle of Masterchef back in 1986, I found this years series possibly the best ever.Cooking doesn’t get more emotive than this.For starters there was a lesser degree of of edible pansies being brought to the plate.Far less capering about with nasturtium flowers, sprawling and climbing in an effort to escape being garnished next to a daube of boeuf.But no seriously, the three finalists who intensely battled through seven weeks of challenges all deserved to win in their own special ways.This year’s competition put together the most evenly matched, nicest group of people in recent years. They were so nice, in fact, that if I remember correctly none of them would admit to wanting to trounce their opponents.
Oldham heartthrob and father of four, Simon’s cooking sent the judges into slightly frightening raptures. "Do you know why I love you?" spluttered John Torode. It was all a bit oh my Giddy aunt when Simon´s  "tarted up posset"  sent John and Gregg a -reeling in the final.
"What this guy has learnt is lunacy" proclaimed Gregg Wallace.The comment could only leave one assuming that this was a positive thing.Coming back down to earth my heart was always with "Someone’s lovely mum" Emma, so much so throughout the entire competition I constantly wanted to recreate her dishes in my own kitchen,and that is exactly what I did.More on that story later...
To me she was one of the most consistent cooks on the show always staying true to herself right up to and including, can you believe it, the making of her own home made cous cous in the final.
Having been privileged enough to have travelled around the middle east as a child, she kept this extraordinary culinary inspiration in her back head.These middle eastern flavours brought punch and homely soul to the competition.Yes she did falter occasionally under pressure, but then wouldn´t we all. The judges were right when they said "the benchmark has been raised"
Her presentation at times lacked the refinement required to lift the lid off the trophy,but a tagine does not require namby pamby arranging, or decorating to enhance its aesthetic appeal.This is big-flavoured homely fare but of the highest level. Emma was so into the whole MasterChef process that she had lost all semblance of normal patterns of speech and could only talk in Wallace/Torode-isms. "I’m excited with a hint of nerves" she said. 
They tried to inject an essence of drama into Emma’s story as she told the camera that she’d "been to breaking point" during the whole process. (cut to footage of Emma dropping a tray of sausages on a tarmac runway ).
However poor Emma was doomed from the start, in editing terms at least, as from the word go Gregg was damning her with the faintest of praise, describing her cooking as "brave" and "heartfelt". This I assume is MasterChef code for "not gonna win any Michelin stars,love".
After weeks of deliberating, cogitating and digesting this pair of  comical  judges finally crowned their MasterChef 2015 champion, in a frenzy of herbs and hyperbole.Sadly it was not Emma.However I wanted her achievement to live on and the dish that she cooked on the show that shone through for me was a pan fried sea bass with  chermoula sauce,roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine and spiced chickpeas.I loved it so much that I have tweaked it and adapted it as a Casa Rosada signature dish.

Pan fried fillet of sea bass with chermoula sauce,a chickpea and spinach casserole and oven roasted cherry Kumatoes
The chermoula can be prepared well in  advance and kept in the fridge over night.The Chickpea casserole actually improves with standing so can also be cooked the day before,just adding the spinach when you re-heat it.
1 sea bass fillet (approx. 1lb/ 500g) per serving.
Ask your fishmonger to clean de-scale and fillet the fish or alternately if you feel confident enough, fillet and de-bone it yourself.
Butter and oil for frying

FOR THE CHICKPEAS
serves 4-6 as a side dish
350g /12 oz chickpeas,picked clean and soaked overnight in cold water
450g / 1lb fresh baby spinach
2 large onions,chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
4-5 garlic cloves,chopped
1 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.In a large pan,cover with plenty of water and bring to the boil.Skim,cover and cook until they are soft.This could take about an hour or more (if using a pressure cooker,about 20 minutes).Strain,but keep the liquid.
Using the same saucepan,sauté the onions in the hot oil until glistening and add the cumin and garlic.when they become aromatic,add the chick peas and enough of their reserved cooking liquid to barely cover them.Add the lemon juice,cover and simmer for about 1 hour.Towards the end of that time,or if re-heating, rinse the spinach leaves and drain them.Add the spinach,salt and a generous amount of pepper to the chickpeas.Mix well and cook for a further 15-20 minutes.
FOR THE CHERMOULA
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
! medium red chilli,finely chopped
1 clove garlic,finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon coriander leaves,chopped
1 tablespoon parsley chopped
freshly ground black pepper
 Mix all the ingredients together in a large shallow bowl.Set aside in the refrigerator.When ready to serve warm the chermoula through gently in a small pan and pour over the top of the fish.
FOR THE ROASTED CHERRY KUMATOES
Take about 5 or six tomatoes per portion and coat them in some extra virgin olive oil.
Put them in a shallow roasting tray and cook for about 45 minutes at 200C.

When ready to serve heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat until hot then add the butter and olive oil. Place the sea bass in the pan, skin-side down, and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the skin is crisp. Carefully turn the fish over and cook for a further minute or two, or until cooked through.
To present the dish.place a mound of the chickpea and spinach in the centre of each plate carefully lay the sea bass fillet over the top and Spoon over a coating of Chermoula.
Take the roasted tomatoes and place them alongside the fish. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

As palavras zumbido foodie,foodie buzz words


Describing food sometimes is not as easy as it might seem. How many ways can you say something was really tasty? Not enough to keep you interested in what you are writing. That is why we have to borrow words from other areas to describe the food and the effect it has on us.Attractive foods in theory make me more likely to activate a desire to eat than bland looking neutral foods.A brightly coloured dish of food is going to be far more appealing than say a chunk of grilled steak. So tempting food words should activate my brain with a desire to eat what is displayed in front of me, it should encourage a hedonistic impulse in me.For a while my most favourite tempting food word was unctuous.There is only one thing more enjoyable than cooking and eating belly pork and that is using the word unctuous to describe it.If you are not familiar with the word,it has several definitions, but in a foodie context it's used to describe something rich, luxurious, and fabulously fatty - think bone marrow, foie gras, and of course, pork belly.It could equally describe the starchy-soft quality of a good risotto.If you´re a food blogger like myself,a food writer or journalist and you are writing about pork belly,you just have to use the word unctuous or unctuousness whether you understand what it means or not.Ambrosial and nectar are another two well over used favourites of mine.By using these words to describe a dish of food or glass of wine it is possibly the highest accolade you could put upon it.It is comparing it to the food and drink of the gods.But once in a while a new buzz word comes along and my new word is pulchritude.I recently created this salad above, never thinking of how it would appear on the plate.The pulchritude of this salad is truly amazing.When I made it, never had I seen such a beautiful array of colours on a plate. All the vegetables and herbs looked so fresh and ripe in their pulchritude, a true testament to the stunning beauty that can be achieved in food preparation. Pulchritudinous is an adjective more commonly used to describe a person beyond beautiful, the next level above gorgeous, someone that even Aphrodite would envy. To a person who doesn't know the meaning of this word they may think at first is that it is a vulgar word and not a nice thing to say. But they are wrong, it is actually the opposite. This word is bloody difficult to say,but I love it and now I have found a new use for it.
Roasted carrot and beetroot salad 
with a Moroccan spiced salad dressing
1kg large carrots peeled
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Flor de sal
2 small garlic cloves finely chopped
Freshly grated raw beetroot
handful of torn mint leaves
handful torn coriander leaves
handful torn flat leaf parsley 
Freshly ground black pepper
I medium sized beetroot washed and outer skin peeled
Cut the carrots into 7.5cm (3 inch) batons
Halve the lower ends lengthways, then cut the thicker upper parts in quarters lengthways. put them all in a large shallow roasting tray and toss them well with the olive oil,orange juice and flor de sal.Roast for about 45 minutes at 200C for about 45 minutes,turning occasionally until tender and patched with brown but still retaining some texture.While the carrots are roasting, grate the beetroot. Turn the carrots out  into a mixing bowl and allow to cool completely.Meanwhile make the dressing.

Moroccan spiced salad dressing
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3tbsp lemon juice
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed with tsp flor de sal
Stir the cumin and coriander seeds in small  heavy dry saucepan until toasted and fragrant (about 30 seconds).Remove from the heat and stir in the turmeric and cinnamon.Allow to cool completely.Grind in a pestle and mortar. In asmall bowl combine the spices with the lemon juice,garlic,and olive oil.Whisk to blend well.this dressing can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator for a few days.

When ready to serve toss the carrot and herbs with the dressing in a mixing bowl.
Toss the grated beetroot in another bowl and then carefully compose the salad on a serving dish






Monday, 22 June 2015

Indian guacamole,pickle or chatni?

Most people think of chutney as a mere condiment.It is dark brown, has a strong odour
and is generally not very appealing.Many people also think that chutney has to be cooked.Not true.Chutney made the journey to Europe from India in the early nineteenth century,and in the process changed out of all recognition.Indian chatni is standardly a relish made from fresh fruits or vegetables with appropriate spices.In Britain,whether commercially bottled or home made, chutney making manages a rising tide of apples tomatoes and windfalls from gardens at the end of summer.This cooked variety resembles more what the Indians would call a pickle.
A true chatni is a blend of things, with quite a sharp taste. It can be sweet(tamarind) or savoury(chilli), cooked(mango) or uncooked(chilli). Generally its mashed up with spices and herbs  (common ingredients being ginger mint, green/dry coriander, red/green chillies, garlic),and sometimes thinned with yoghurt.
At our local Mercadinho de verão  this weekend I happened to pick up a real gem of a cook book.The price dictated why I had picked it up, but it wasn´t until I got home and browsed it in depth that I realised the true gem I had purchased.Neelam Batra’s The Indian Vegetarian (1994) contains a wealth of unusual recipes.She combines authentic Indian spices with readily available Western produce.The use of vegetables like avocados, generally not found in Indian cuisine, is a welcome change, from using the same old vegetables everyday.It is a book like this to remind me why I dabbled briefly in vegetarianism as a student.If I had had this book then might I still be a vegetarian today? The beauty of this book is in her interpretations of classic Indian dishes to New World inspirations,Combining Indian culinary tradition with others from around the world ,her recipe for lemonade is memorably minted; so is her version of the British cucumber sandwiches. 
My favourite so far was her modern treatment given to avocado by turning it into a tangy,spicy,herby chutney.It’s more or less guacamole but with ginger, garlic, green chilli, cumin, and mint. Using lovely Portuguese grown avocados the touch of yoghurt lightens things up and adds a certain tang.
Chatnis were always ground with a pestle and mortar made of stone. Nowadays, electric blenders or food processors are used as labour saving alternatives to the traditional stone utensils. Various spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; giving a wet paste.This makes complete sense to me.The pounding of the aromatics is just right for releasing the oils. The technique used in this recipe provides a key that people miss.In essence you are making a dressing in which to coat the avocado as one would a salad.The next time I make ´real` Guacamole I am going to use this technique.
When you're finished, remove the pestle and serve in the mortar. Less washin´up,less of a pickle  and more time to enjoy a chutney chat with friends.

Avocado and Mint Chutney
Yields: Serves 4
Ingredients:
Eat this chutney as a summery snack with corn chips, pappadums or home made crackers.Use it to replace butter when you make sandwich and fcombine it with hard-boiled egg, rocket and capers,or just stay traditional and use it as a side to an Indian curry or grilled meats.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped yellow or spring onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Thai or Serrano chile, chopped
  • Flor de sal
  • 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and roughly chopped
  • Lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plain whole fat or low-fat yoghurt
1. Use a mortar and pestle to pound the onion, garlic, ginger, chile and a pinch of salt into a coarse texture. You want the ingredients to shed their liquid. Add the avocado and a few good squeezes of lime juice. Lightly pound to mash and mix the ingredients together. Stir in the cumin, coriander, mint and yoghurt.
2. Transfer to a serving bowl.If you can avoid  temptation Let it sit for 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the flavour before serving.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Dia de Portugal.o prato de dia, Bolinhos de bacalhau

  “To know how to make codfish cakes is as important as to have read the Lusíadas."  
                                                                                                                 António Lobo Antunes                                                 
Today is Portugal Day. Portugal has 365 salt cod recipes,but todays dish of the day has to be the nation´s favourite, Bolinhos de bacalhau,salt cod fritters or cod cakes.
  Although their real origin is the north, cod cakes became so popular that they were adopted as a true “national specialty.” They are the perfect petisco ( snack ) for the humblest or most sophisticated of occasions.
  If there is anything really ingrained in the Portuguese palate, loved by everyone, this is it. Snobs may be somewhat derogatory about cod cakes, afraid of admitting that they too love this “poor-man’s dish,” but do not believe them. They probably eat them all the same, when nobody is looking. Cod cakes are sold at delicatessens, patisseries, roadside cafés, tavernas—everywhere in Portugal,especially today of all days.
Pataniscas de bacalhau Tailandes  
Pataniscas originated in the Algarve.There are a few versions around,  but this is certainly the sort of salt cod dish you can modify.  I have put a certain Thai stamp on mine.
500g flaked salt cod, desalted and reconstituted 6 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped  or 1 stalk lemongrass finely chopped 1teaspoon Nam Pla ( thai fish sauce ) Handful of fresh coriander leaves 2 small hot red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped 3 spring onions finely chopped 75g fresh bread crumbs a little flour oil for shallow frying
Put the fish, Kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass, if using, fish sauce, coriander leaves, chillies and spring onions into a food processor.Blend briefly then tip into a bowl and stir in the breadcrumbs and enough flour to bring the mixture together, it should be firm enough to be able to shape into flat cakes or balls. Mould the mixture with your hands into patties, cakes or balls, to the size you require. The above quantity will make 12 5cm patties. Dust these with a little flour, then fry them in shallow oil till crispy and golden about 3-4 minutes each side. Serve as a starter, canape or snack with a pot of chilli dipping sauce
Happy Holiday.Boa festa a todos!!!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

What kind of fool am I? It´s my parfait,


 yes,we even fooled with the photograph

When push comes to shove I never know whether the whipped cream dessert I am making is a trifle, fool, or parfait."Words, words, words! I'm so sick of words I get words all day through..."

Trifles, fools, and parfaits are close cousins. There is so much overlap that what I call a parfait, you may call a trifle or a fool. They are all layers of fruit, creamy fillings, and perhaps with crumbled cookie or cake pieces.Regardless of what you call it, these decadent kind of fluffed up creamy desserts are irresistible summer puddings.
What I set out to make last week was a fool,so lets take it from the top.
Gastronomically speaking,a fool is a cold English dessert made from puréed or stewed fruit mixed with cream or custard. In theory it can be made with any fruit, but the Victorians seemed to have been inordinately fond of gooseberry fool.That particular classic fool takes me back to my childhood. Edward Lear celebrated it in a limerick:

There was an old person of Leeds
whose head was infested with beads
she sat on a stool
and ate gooseberry fool
which agreed with that person from Leeds

Modern recipes may include any seasonal fruit readily found, but gooseberry fool remains the perennial favorite.Nowadays recipes often skip the traditional custard and use whipped cream instead.Where I was born we didn´t have trifles and parfaits, and we didn´t have many fools either,only the dessert kind that my mother introduced us to.What we did have however was a heck of a lot of gooseberries.Unfortunately here in Portugal gooseberries are non-existent, so I have to stick to seasonal fruit. There is a glut of apricots,so I made an apricot fool but introduced yet another culture into my recipe,Italian flavours.To hold on to that childhood reference while making this fool of myself I needed music to accompany my vigorous whipping and beating and stir me on. I was brought up by my parents on musicals and what better choice of soundtrack to back up my endeavour than "My fair Lady",one show stopper in particular,the song "Show me" when the changed flower girl Eliza Doolittle vents her anger at paramour Freddy Eynsford-Hill.
For anyone who is familiar with this number try beating cream to it.The feeling of exhilaration that comes over you and possesses you is quite extraordinary.Try it.

Sing me no song, read me no rhyme
Don't waste my time, show me!
Don't talk of June, don't talk of fall
Don't talk at all!
Show me!
Never do I ever want to hear another word
There isn't one, I haven't heard
Here we are together in what ought to be a dream
Say one more word and I'll scream
  
Apricot amaretti parfait
  • 500g ripe fresh apricots, halved and stoned
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 125ml honey
  • 15g golden caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp Licore de laranja, Cointreau or other orange flavoured liqueur
  • 500g carton mascarpone
  • 142ml carton double cream
  • 18 amaretti biscuits, plus extra to serve
Put the apricot halves in a saucepan with the lemon zest and juice, honey and sugar. Shake the pan to combine, then simmer, uncovered, over a medium heat until the apricots are soft. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
Tip the contents of the pan into a blender or food processor and whizz to a purée. Decant into a bowl, stir in the liqueur and leave to cool – about 20-30 minutes.
Soften the mascarpone in its tub by whisking it vigorously with a fork. Whip the cream in a bowl – you want it softly whipped not stiff. Fold in the mascarpone with a large metal spoon, then lightly swirl in the apricot purée.
Spoon the mixture into six wine glasses. (At this point, they’ll keep in the fridge for up to a day.) To serve, crumble over the amaretti, with a few on the side for dunking.
Having made a fool,and got it out of my system I thoroughly enjoyed myself and wont need to get fooled again for a while.It was my parfait and I tried because I wanted to.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The thyme is right for lemonade

a wonderfully old-fashioned summer refreshment
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 has what I could only describe as a vigorous flavour,almost peppery in character,and is for foods that can carry strong flavours.
My love affair with this more than versatile herb is fairly recent, not that it was absent from my herb garden in London,but it wasn´t until my new life  in the Iberian peninsular that thyme became an essential in the Casa Rosada kitchen.I use both the fresh and dried varieties in marinades,dressings and even to infuse syrup for puddings and it also makes a delicious lemonade.I am ever faithful to my mother´s recipe for lemonade but temptation got the better of me when I found the following two quite unusual recipes.Who would have thought that thyme is right for lemonade.

Ginger-thyme Lemonade
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 oz. fresh thyme leaves
2 cups fresh lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, ginger and thyme over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and remove from heat. Once cool, strain into a clean glass pitcher and add lemon juice. Stir to combine, and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.1 1/2 cups superfine sugar

Another thyme lemonade
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs, additional for garnishing
2 cups fresh lemon juice (I needed about 13 lemons)
Persian cucumber for garnish


In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, thyme and 1 cup water to a boil; stir until sugar is dissolved, about three minutes. Stir in lemon juice and 6 cups cold water, strain into a large pitcher. Refrigerate until cold (will stay for about a week). Serve over ice and garnish with thyme spring a a few thin slices of Persian cucumber.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

M´hencha,snake cake


I have been on a mission to test different Moroccan desserts for our 2015 cookery workshop "A cozinha marroquina no Algarve." I have now narrowed my selection down to just three. A cinnamon ice cream , an unusual perfumed apple pie and a filo show stopper called M´hencha.
Looking for all the world like a golden brown snake coiled up for a nap, M´hencha ( the serpent ) is an adaptation of a Berber dessert from North Africa. The flavours are a luxurious cross between a sophisticated Fig Roll, (they lacked any sophistication in my mind) and the richest, chewiest almond macaroon with an accent on lemon and dried fruits. Relatively easy to make, it is a beautiful and unusual ending to a Mediterranean meal.The core filling is an almond paste, but there is plenty of scope to change the fruit you use.Traditionally figs are the order of the day, but with figs not being in season at the moment I experimented with a combination of dry salted cherries and apricots. I am  looking forward to making the more traditional version using my own sundried and unsulphured figs before too long.When buying dried fruits try to find market varieties that have not been subjected to sulphides.This method of preserving fruit not only discolours the fruit but takes away a lot of the moisture which you need in this cake.Moisture, content and pliability are very important here, as well as flavour. Whatever variety you choose, avoid dried fruit that is very hard or brittle because there is no addition of liquid in this recipe to plump it up.As I have already said this cake is relatively easy to make but the essence is in the prep.You need to keep your wits about you,be methodical and you will "get on right proper well".

 Equipment and Advanced Preparation:
  • One 9-inch round x 2-inch deep cake pan. 
  • Brush the sides and bottom of the pan with a generous coating of melted butter
  • A soft-bristle brush
  • A serving platter that is perfectly flat (or nearly so). A curving platter might distort the shape of the pastry as it sits and will make slicing the snake more difficult.
  • If using dried cherries find a pitted variety,if not soak the dried cherries in boiling water for 30 minutes,this will make the removal of the stones easier.
If you are using frozen filo, allow 24 hours for it to thaw in the refrigerator, then place the filo packet on the counter to come to room temperature, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
 To prepare the filo, remove it from its package and unfold it so that the stack lies flat on your work surface, then cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel to prevent the filo from drying out. Roll and rewrap any remaining filo sheets twice in plastic wrap. Return to the refrigerator and use within 3 days.

M´Hencha (Snake cake)
1 packet of Filo pastry
125g butter at room temperature
125g confectioner´s sugar
225g ground almonds
1 tablespoon vino de naranja orange dessert wine
zest of a small orange
zest of a small lemon
2 large eggs
100g of organic dry cherries
125g dried organic apricots
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 180C / 375°F. Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.
To prepare the filling, remove any stones and hard stems from the fruit and discard. Place the fruit, ground almonds ,orange and lemon zests, butter, eggs, confectioner´s sugar and honey in the bowl of a food processor, add the orange wine and process until mixture is very finely chopped, about 15 to 20 seconds. Each component should be discernable, though in very small pieces – do not grind to a homogenous paste.
Cut the filo sheets in half lengthways so that you now have rectangular sheets. Take two sheets, brush with butter and place one on top of the other. Take the next two sheets, brush with butter and add to the short side of the first two sheets, overlapping by about two inches.
Depending on how long your counter is you can keep going to make a long strip of pastry, otherwise you can make a number of smaller ones and arrange them in the tin. 
Starting about two inches in from the short edge and about half an inch in from the bottom of the long edge,working very quickly, spoon filling out in a line  all the way along the length of the pastry strip. Leave a two inch /5 cm gap at the end. 
Now comes the fun bit -carefully lift over the bottom edge and roll it into along cigar. Coil it into a snake shape and place into the tin. (I haven't managed to do this yet without the filo splitting but plonk it in the tin anyway. It doesn't seem to make much of a difference once it's cooked anyway as the filling holds it together.)
Brush with more butter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.(it will firm up as it cools)
To unmold, run a thin, sharp knife around the edges of the pan, loosening any filo that may have stuck. As you do this, gently press the knife into the side of the pan to avoid gouging the pastry. Gently place a plate upside down on top of the cake pan and, holding the pan and plate together, flip the two over. The pastry should slide out onto the plate. (If the pastry sticks to the bottom of the pan, place the pan in a hot oven or over a burner for a few seconds, just long enough to warm and loosen the butter and egg, then try turning it out again). Place your serving platter upside down on top of the pastry, then flip the two over so that the pastry is right side up. 


Serving and storage notes  
Dust the top of the snake very lightly with powdered sugar if you like, allowing the golden filo to show through. Use a thin, sharp knife to cut wedges of the pastry, transferring each to a plate using a pie wedge or cake server (the coil is delicately bound with the egg yolk and could break apart if not supported). Top each slice with a few pieces of candied lemon zest (optional) and sprinkle a few pieces around each plate as well. Store at room temperature, lightly covered with plastic wrap or foil, for up to 4 days. The pastry is at its best about 8 hours after it has been baked, as the flavours begin to meld.

Monday, 1 June 2015

A cozinha marroquina no Algarve




Pouffe or no pouffe? Tooled leather pouffes smack a bit of tourist trophies but, if you like the ethnic vibe, you gotta sit on a pouffe, god forbid, when you eat Moroccan food.We cant promise the fine tooled variety but you can certainly be guaranteed of an enjoyable day at a Casa Rosada Moroccan cookery workshop.This year we have re-worked the format and given it a new theme.



"A cozinha marroquina no Algarve" is an introduction to Moroccan food and its influences in today´s Algarve. Al-Gharb, means "The West” in Arabic and oe al-Gharb was the term that gave rise to the present day word Algarve, literally the western lands south of the Iberican peninsular.
Moroccan cooking is a blend of traditions.From the Berbers came tajines and slow cooked stews, bringing with them the North African staple cous cous brought to life by steam and oil. Bedouin Arabs introduced dried pastas,dates and breads. More succulent additions of olives,olive oil,argan oil,nuts,apricots and herbs came from the Andalucian Moors.Almost every Moroccan dish tells a story of civilization. The cuisine of the indigenous Berbers is highly adapted today in classic dishes. The Arab invasion brought new spices, nuts and dried fruits, reflecting the country’s colourful past, and the Jewish added sophisticated preserving techniques of lemon, olives and pickles, refining the basis for the cuisine we know today.
Combine an Arab sensibility with a European recipe using locally available ingredients, and you pretty much have Casa Rosada´s modern take on the truly Moroccan kitchen.
The essence of Moroccan food is sharing it with loved ones. Mealtimes tend to get very social and consumed with much laughter and talking, with a lot of dishes requiring the use of hands and or bread in place of a utensil
This is traditional, simple and honest food that doesn’t require sophisticated techniques and overrated cookbooks.Moroccan cuisine is extremely accessible with its gentle cooking methods of Tagine and Couscous along with spices, fresh vegetables, nuts and dried fruit. Every dish is cooked with love and without deadlines,and most of all no microwave. Even strict vegetarians can find plenty of good things to eat.  
There are as many Moroccan tagine recipes as there are salt cod recipes in Portugal with its 1001 revenue.We cant possibly make them all in a day, but along with Briks, briouats, Berbers, Bastillas, Barquqs and Bakoula, some of the topics covered in the workshop might include

Essential Ingredients in Moroccan Cooking
Cooking with cous cous  
How to create a Moroccan Tagine
Preserving Lemons
How to Make your Own Ras El Hanout the must-have Moroccan spice blend 
Creating a mezze 
Essential Moroccan Cookware 
Making chermoula /harissa Moroccan soups

Berber desserts M´hencha, apple pie
Creating a mezze 
Essential Moroccan Cookware 
Making chermoula /harissa Moroccan soups

Berber desserts M´hencha, apple pie
 
.... and when the day is done lets all sit down in the garden and enjoy the fruits of our labour 

For workshop tariffs check Casa Rosada´s website 















                                                                         

Saturday, 30 May 2015

A view from abroad

                                                                                                ©Maureen Kane

Recreating the smells and flavours from a trip abroad can trigger happy memories.The most obvious and simplest way to achieve this is through a photograph, something you can take home and cherish for your lifetime.
I am always encouraging guests to respond in this way on this blog.Maybe they´ve taken one of my recipes home and then sent me  a picture of their own interpretation,or maybe like this example (above) a restaurant dish photographed by one of our guests, recording a memorable culinary moment We shared this moment with her, enjoying a lunch beside the beach at Cha Com Agua Salgada.She has now submitted this photo to the Observer Food Monthly awards in the category "Best food photography." Not only is this a photo that entices you to eat the subject but is recording an innovative way in which the food is cooked,on a salt stone.Cha com agua salgada is renowned for its modern approach to traditional Portuguese cuisine.Here she has recorded for  posterity an unusual dish that she had never tried before.If you like this photo as much as we do, please vote for it.
Yes,  Nuno Mendes  brought his vision of modern Portuguese food first to to Viajante then to the Chiltern Firehouse in Chiswick and now he´s wowing diners with his latest venture, Taberna do Mercado in London’s Old Spitalfields Market.But there is nothing that can replace the `real experience´ (above) of tasting modern Portuguese food in its natural environment, under sunny blue skies  beside the lapping waters of the Algarvian coastline.There is a growing interest in Portuguese produce.Around 2.1 million British visitors now head to Portugal every year, with numbers up 15 per cent in 2014. It seems the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance (the oldest in the world, dating back to 1373) is stronger than  ever.Perhaps now is the time to visit Portugal for that hands on experience.



Monday, 25 May 2015

Does an apricot belong in a jar ?

Bittter sweet "apricot almond" ice cream
Just when I was bemoaning the fact that the apricots  had not made an appearance this year, a dear friend and neighbour dropped by with two crates of apricots.They were divided into two categories, the finest quality fresh and ripe and ready for eating and second grade a slightly blemished batch ready for the preserving pan.My action plan yielded  a large batch( 6 kg) of compota,and an exceptionally delicious apricot chicken curry.
I am still in the process of sun drying the remainder on the dashboard of the car to store for my winter reserve. I have now learnt something about apricots I never knew, namely that the pits hold a precious secret.The secret is what is inside the pit, the apricot kernel which is heralded by some as a miracle cancer cure, despite a lack of clinical evidence for its efficacy.
The apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca),is the soft part inside the seeds of the apricot. It is said to be a good source of iron, potassium and phosphorus, and one of the best sources of vitamin B17 (also known as amygdalin).
The pits of apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums all contain a kernel that tastes astonishingly like an almond. Not a sweet almond, but one with a rounded nutty flavor that ends bitter. And they can be used in ways other nuts cannot.They are, not surprisingly, called "apricot almonds" or "bitter almonds."
In fact I also just learned while writing this post that apricot kernels are sometimes used to make amaretto and creme de noyaux, a liqueur that takes its name from the French word for fruit stones.Apricot kernels very often replace almonds in the production of amaretti cookies.
Putting two and two together I realised that these bitter sweet kernels with their unusual potency would make an interesting  ice cream.Cold tends to temper flavours.I also recalled how just one single kernel gave a jar of apricot jam a perceptible scent.
Therefore infusing cream, milk and eggs with kernels would bring out the flavour even more.The fruit pits contain small traces of cyanide, but using the kernels as an aromatic poses a negligible risk .Anyhow, it would take a lot of kernels to harm an adult and I think apricot pit ice cream would not be a flavour children would appreciate,and should be served in small amounts with some kind of fruit or other flavours on the side to give it its full umami. 
I got cracking on the stones with my trusted heavy duty nutcracker to retrieve the seeds.A daunting task, but in hindsight worth cracking over fifty pits to discover the reward at the end. Smashing with a hammer is all very well and great fun, but one soon finds crushing is more efficient and less messy. I then toasted the broken shells lightly in the oven which dried out any of the fruit flesh still attached to the stones.As I was intending to use the crushed stones as well as the kernels in my infusion this would intensify the flavour.I would then sieve out all the fragments before churning the ice cream.

Bitter sweet "apricot almond" pit ice cream
Time: 45 minutes, plus overnight chilling and churning time  
This the perfect dessert for a mischievous cook like myself.You can keep your guests guessing the flavour. "It looks like vanilla ice cream", "it´s the colour of butter, with the flavour of almonds but not regular almonds". "Almonds that could have come from a an unusual variety of tree". You can keep them guessing forever.
45 to 50 apricot pits (4 1/2 ounces)including broken shells
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
7 egg yolks.

1. If you have not got a heavy duty ratchet nut cracker (see above)wrap apricot pits in a heavy tea towel or strong freezer bag. On the floor or on a firm cutting board, crack pits open using a hammer or a meat mallet, exposing kernels.This method is not entirely reliable. As you smash the pits you also smash many of the kernels whereas the nut cracker keeps the kernels whole.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine apricot kernels and  broken shells with the milk and heavy cream. Bring to a boil; turn off the heat, and let cool. Chill overnight in refrigerator.
3. The next day, bring the milk mixture to a boil again and strain through a fine sieve. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and the yolks until light and fluffy. Whisk about 1/2 cup hot milk into the egg mixture, and then whisk the egg mixture back into the milk. Pour into a large saucepan, place over medium-low heat and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from heat immediately. Let cool, and then strain.
4. Pour into an ice cream maker, and follow manufacturer's instructions.
Yield: 1 Litre / 2 pints.
If you are buying the apricots in small amounts,you can save the pits in the refrigerator or freezer until you have collected enough.