Friday, 26 September 2014

Atravessando a ponte para delícias Crossing the bridge to deliciousness

Hoje,estava o nosso dia descanso primeiro depois meses do trabalho ( today was our first day off after months of hard work) so with an autumn spring in our step the thespian and I put our best foot forward and headed across the bridge to Spain.It was time for a little relaxez-vous and some care from the community.What better place to achieve this than in Plaza de la Laguna,the main square in Ayamonte where you can find La Puerta Ancha.

The lovely Clíodhna Browne gives you a big warm welcome, seats you and makes sure a bottle of Marcelo, our favourite Albarinho wine, is on the table while we make our selection. 
 La Puerta Ancha directly translated means "wide door"
In the past the bar was used as a stable for horses and carts to break their journey from the port to Portugal or further into the hinterland of Andalucia and far reaching Spain.Over a period of time the merchants, while stabling their animals, began to find a use for La Puerta in the form of a meeting place,and since the start of the century it evolved into a bar.It is now the oldest bar in Ayamonte, serving the most modern food but fantastically without losing its original structure and charm.This is all down to the food and ingredients being served with a modern twist under the creative culinary direction of Fabio Zerbo, originally from Piedmont in Italy.
Piquillo peppers with tuna and pea cream
Why do I love I love Fabio´s food so much? Well, when I started out in catering all those years ago, Piedmont was my original point of reference. Piedmont's cuisine is famous for its immense variety of antipasti and is also known for rich dishes featuring truffles and cream sauces, but it’s also Italy’s most culinarily progressive region.It is quite plain to see where Fabio's modern tapas menu is coming from.
Take for instance his Porcini mushroom risotto served with white truffle oil.The flatlands of Piedmont are the source of Europe’s prominent supplier of Carnaroli rice, prized for creamy risotto.Piedmont, which also happens to be Italy’s most developed and industrial area, has for a long time now been forging a new identity as an exciting and progressive restaurant region, where young local chefs have been playing catch-up (and forming close ties) with Spain’s avant-gardists.  No surprise then that this master of re-invention is finding ways of bringing together a myriad of international tapas style eating.

 Tuna tartare on seaweed wakame,where food becomes art

Fabio won the award in 2011 for best tapa of the region with his Minced beef in a sauce of mushrooms and melted strips of brie. He is constantly re-inventing and consequently favourite dishes die hard, as has been the case with one of my favourites the mouth watering Mussels sautéed with basil and cream.But there are stalwart dishes that we keep returning for,dishes so delicious you could never tire of.Taste for example the Tataki tuna with wasabi and pickled ginger or his take on chicken yakitori.This Michelin tyred chef, (yes in his former life Fabio worked for Michelin Tyres in Italy) will own his Michelin star.

Carpaccio of wild boar with parmesan and rocket
Our favourite  prawn skewers always something to return for
 Thank you Puerta Ancha for another lovely table of food
By the way You need "The Wide Door" to get out!”   

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Noelia heads north to fly the flag

Chef Noélia do Noélia e Jeronimo
No rescaldo da zaragata e chateado causada por um jornalista equivocada, Chef Noelia assume o papel de embaixador Algarvia culinária, e armado com Batterie de cuisine vai tomar de assalto a capital.

In the aftermath of the rumpus and upset caused by a misguided journalist,Chef Noelia takes on the role of East Algarve Culinary ambassador and armed with batterie de cuisine is going to take the capital by storm.

"Até parece que os algarvios fazem gata da sua antipatia"."Não há gordos nem sorrisos em algarve". "Em algumas destas terras, até podiamos fazer o casting para filmes de piratas". "Eles não sabem receber". "Eles estão ociosos". "Eles são indolentes".

"It seems that the Algarvians like to boast about their antipathy". "Some places would give a great spot for a casting of a pirate film". "They don't know how to welcome people". "They are idle". "They are indolent".

Estas palavras severas e equivocadas foram dirigidas a "Os algarvios" no mês passado em um artigo exagerada no jornal Expresso escrito pelo jornalista polêmico e franco Henrique Raposo.His palavras depreciativas deu origem a uma enorme onda de indignação no facebook e outros networks.His sociais acusação passou a acusar a região de sempre ter sido "desligado do resto do país" e "apenas juntando-se Portugal a partir do final década de 1960".

These harsh and misdirected words were addressed to "Os Algarvios" last month in an overstated Expresso newspaper article written by controversial and outspoken journalist Henrique Raposo.His derogatory tone gave rise to a huge wave of indignation on facebook and other social networks.His accusation went on to accuse the region of always having been "disconnected from the rest of the country"and "only having joined Portugal from the late 1960´s".

Se ele se inclinação para tomar uma jantar no Terraço do Hotel Tivoli, Lisboa entre os dias 8 e 19 Talvez ele não vai apenas engoliras suas palavras, mas também como o que é servido a ele por algarvia querida culinária Chef Noélia.
Em outubro,durante 12 dias a capital fica ainda mais interessante.Lisboa recebe o restaurante algarvio Noélia e Jeronimo.A cozinha regional está em alta com uma iniciativa Portugal de Norte a Sul.Agora,é a vez de Cabanas de Tavira se mostrar.Receitas coma a canja de conquilhas,as pataniscas de polvo ou os filetes de peixe -galo vão poder ser apreciadas com o Tejo como pano de fundo.Durante esses dias,o encanto da Ria Formosa muda-se para a Avenida da liberdade,pelas mãos talentosas do chef Noélia.A dupla tem feito sucesso no algarve,com longas filas de espera nos meses mais concorridos e uma aprovação quase unãnime quanto à qualidade no prato.e essa poderá ser comprovada à mesa do Terraço.

If O Senhor Raposo feels so inclined he could partake of dinner in the Terrace restaurant of Hotel Tivoli, in Lisbon, between the 8th and 19th October.Perhaps he might not only eat his words but also what is served to him on his plate by Algavian culinary sweetheart Chef Noélia. For 12 days the capital will play host to The Restaurant Noélia e Jeronimo.This North/ South initiative will demonstrate the rise in interest of regional cuisine, and it is now the turn of the Algarve to take a standpoint against this criticism and to show what it can do.Regional dishes such as a canja of conquilhas, octopus fritters or fillets of John Dory and other Noélia favourites will be served.The charm of the Ria Formosa will be transported for 12 days to the Avenida de Liberdade by the talented and creative hands of Chef Noelia.Lisbon diners will quickly understand the huge success she has achieved in The Algarve, causing long queues to form during the busiest months of the year to wait for a table.The unanimous accolade of approval she has received in The Algarve will prove itself again in the capital.

E se algum dia você visitar Castro Marim, O Senhor Raposo por favor, venha e vá para a "bem-vindo" nosso "ociosidade" e nossa "indolência" .It pode ser um despertar chocante para você.
And should you ever visit Castro Marim, O Senhor Raposo please come and check out our "welcome" our "idleness" and our "indolence".It might be a rude awakening for you.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tapenade de Figo e amêndoa -cem por cent Portugues

Figs have a long and illustrious history (legend has it they were Cleopatra's favourite delicacy).This striking and bewitching fruit with its fleckled green or dark bluish red skin and succulent luscious deep pink flesh is plentiful in the market right now.Dont panic Mr Mannering, their season is long (from now until late October).Eaten sensually out of hand, figs are delicious; but using them in recipes, sweet or savoury, can turn them into a delicacy.I have made sauces,preserves,tarts and I haven´t tried it. but I believe they make a great pizza topping with goats cheese.But is there something we haven´t thought of?
Figs have a naturally high sugar content, making them a perfect complement for equally intense ingredients, such as salty prosciutto and soft cheeses.Last year I made a twist on tapenade with sweet smoky pequillo peppers and salty almonds.I decided to apply the same principal, but this time my thinking was perhaps a little more radical. A Franco/Italian fusion made with 100% Portuguese seasonal ingredients.I would Lusophonise the classic tapenade and then honour it by making Italian style tramezzini.First and foremost, forget about dried figs. If you've ever had fresh figs, you know there's a world of difference. Sweet and honeyed, fresh figs are something to be savoured. (After all, they were thought to be the food of the gods.)The figs you buy may not always look perfect, and that's okay. A bit of crackly skin is fine, but stay away from figs that are overly soft or oozy. A sign of a perfectly ripe fig is when you see a bit of bend in the stem and feel the skin is supple. Those should be eaten straight away, or used in the recipe below.

Tramezzini de figo e amêndoa
Thinly sliced soft white sandwich bread,crusts removed
(2 slices makes four triangular tramezzini )

1/4 cup black olives
1 fillet anchovy
1/2 tablespoon capers
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon brandy
2 FRESH figs
1 soup spoon almonds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Blitz all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor.Add the olive oil and process again until you have an almost  smooth texture.Calculate how many tramezzini you require, then cut enough slices of bread.Spread the filling over two slices of bread and join together.Cut on the diagonal into quarters.Trim the sandwiches again to prevent any overhang.

Tramezzini are much like tea sandwiches, but more often like the revered tremoços, served with with aperitifs,a glass of cold beer or cocktails early evening.The combinations of fillings are infinite and,inevitably,wine worthy.Here are a few suggestions......

Tapenade and mozzarella ( I have to say my all time favourite for both taste and aesthetics)
Egg salad with anchovies and capers
smoked salmon and horseradish
Egg and avocado purée
Prosciutto with mustard and mascarpone
Chopped shrimp and lemon mayonnaise or aioli with watercress or rocket
green olive tapenade  tomatoes
Tuna pate
Chicken liver pate
Bresaola or Cecina with soft goat cheese or queijo fresco

Or if you want to eat it the simple French way, just smear your baguette with it.   - See more at:
Mini Ham Sandwiches With Olive, Fig and Almond Tapenade

Olive, Fig and Almond Tapenade

Makes 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup black olives like Taggiasche (not the green olives in the pictures)
  • 1 fillet of anchovies
  • 1/2 tablespoon capers
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 garlic clove (or 1/2 - 1 whole if you like it more garlicky)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon brandy
  • 2 dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon almonds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil of good quality
  1. Soak the capers in water for 10 minutes then drain.  Squeeze out the excess liquid.  
  2. Mix all the ingredients except extra virgin olive oil in a blender.  
  3. While blending, pour the extra virgin olive oil slowly.  
  4. Keep refrigerated in a jar. 

To Compose the Mini Sandwiches:

Makes 8 mini sandwiches
  • olive, fig and almond tapenade
  • 6 slices of cooked ham (depending on the size of your bread)
  • 6 slices of sandwich bread
  • mayonnaise
  • 8 pitted whole olives (optional)
  1. Layer the following:  bread, tapenade, bread, mayonnaise, ham (double the ham if it's too thin), bread.  
  2. Slice away and discard the brown sides of the bread then slice to four parts.
  3. Top with olives if desired.
- See more at:
Mini Ham Sandwiches With Olive, Fig and Almond Tapenade

Olive, Fig and Almond Tapenade

Makes 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup black olives like Taggiasche (not the green olives in the pictures)
  • 1 fillet of anchovies
  • 1/2 tablespoon capers
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 garlic clove (or 1/2 - 1 whole if you like it more garlicky)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon brandy
  • 2 dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon almonds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil of good quality
  1. Soak the capers in water for 10 minutes then drain.  Squeeze out the excess liquid.  
  2. Mix all the ingredients except extra virgin olive oil in a blender.  
  3. While blending, pour the extra virgin olive oil slowly.  
  4. Keep refrigerated in a jar. 

To Compose the Mini Sandwiches:

Makes 8 mini sandwiches
  • olive, fig and almond tapenade
  • 6 slices of cooked ham (depending on the size of your bread)
  • 6 slices of sandwich bread
  • mayonnaise
  • 8 pitted whole olives (optional)
  1. Layer the following:  bread, tapenade, bread, mayonnaise, ham (double the ham if it's too thin), bread.  
  2. Slice away and discard the brown sides of the bread then slice to four parts.
  3. Top with olives if desired.
- See more at:

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Using your noodle

 Udon noodles with mussels  and a ginger mint basil and coriander pesto

There´s a vegan in me kitchen what am I gonna do? Believe it or not I have never cooked a vegan meal before, but a few weeks ago the pressure was on when we had a vegan guest in the house and he and his partner requested dinner "Can he not have an egg or  a slice of wafer thin cheese"I said to the thespian.No was the affirmative response.Well donning my thinking head, noodles came to the fore. I had just made a batch of Ginger mint basil and coriander pesto which I usually serve as a dressing for fish salads, octopus,salmon or prawns.Well that would be no use to a vegan.Take the fish out of the equation though and I was on course for a delicious vegan dinner.Surprised? I think you will be. I have to say how surprised I was that the simple ingredients that I chose could create such spectacular flavour. I opted for Udon noodles, then tossed them in my pesto
 and then added diced cucumber, finely sliced radish,spring onion,finely julienned chilli, shallot and finished with a variation on a Thai noodle theme by replacing peanuts with a dusting of chopped pistachios.The final plate, a myriad of textures and flavours ....a little spicy, a little sweet, a little salty, very fresh and noodly al dente.

 Udon noodles with ginger mint basil and coriander pesto (vegan)

Fortuitously, we liked the dish so much it got me thinking of how else I could apply my signature pesto in a new way.I had never served it warm and thought back to a tapas dish of mussels served in a lemon cream sauce that Fabio serves at Puerta Ancha in Ayamonte.The citrus of the lime in my pesto would pair well with mussels tossed in a pesto cream sauce.I flexed my mussels and like Popeye and spinach without Olive Oil I had served up an innovative and spectacular plate.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sorvete de canela com uma compota de cenoura e frutas cítricas

Soon,it´s back to school,back to work,all the carnivals and partying will be over.Summer has always ended for me unofficially on the last weekend in August.When I lived in London it was the Notting Hill Carnival that bade adieu to balmy evenings, and since I moved to Portugal It is Dias Medievais - the last big event of the Algarvian summer calendar.When the festival is over, strangely, even though the weather is still hot I feel ready to move into another mode.But before I do that sampling this refreshing dessert is a perfect way to say goodbye to summer and help me bookmark the memory of sunny days and happy nights. It has to be served in the evening, ideally after a tagine has tantalized the taste buds and the palate is in need of coolness. What could be a more perfect combination than the sweetness of vegetables and ice cream.In my dreams it transported me to the fragrance of beautiful nights in Marrakech.I have never actually been to Morocco so I hope they do have fragrant nights otherwise my allusion is somewhat prosaic.
Carrots are the stars here.Presented like this in a dessert,their best qualities are highlighted.Sweetness, colour and freshness.Lemon  further brings out their sweetness with its sharp acidity, which is always welcome after a dinner laced with warm spices.
Cinnamon too plays an important role in this recipe because it is the only spice. Cinnamon should be carefully measured because it is very strong and slighly spicy when too much of it is used.Its flavour should come through subtly in desserts to the same extent as in main dishes.You can have great fun accenting the dish with fresh sprigs of mint leaves and I haven´t tried it,but you could really rock the Berber boat with a bisteeya  fillled with this compote and cool ice cream.Roll the pastry quickly fry it in hot oil,dust it with icing sugar and cinnamon and whoa hey you have an irreverant stab at that old fashioned classic Baked Alaska.If the pudding won't come to Muhammad.....

4 egg yolks
120g/ sugar
500ml/2 cups milk
4 small cinnamon sticks
60ml orange juice

500g/1lb carrots
1 lemon
1 orange
3 tbsp confectioners sugar
2 tsp orange juice
mint leaves for garnish

Beat the egg yolks and sugar till light.Bring the milk and cinnamon sticks almost to a boil,then set aside with a lid on to infuse for 10 minutes.Remove the cinnamon.Beat the milk into the egg and make a custard over a low heat for about 10 minutes,stirring constantly.Add the orange juice and beat again.allow to cool before freezing.

Meanwhile grate the carrots very finely.Squeeze the juice from the orange and lemon and pour it over the carrots.Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar and blend well.In a pot make a syrup from a little water and the rest of the sugar.Boil for 3 minutes.Remove the syrup from the heat and stir it into the carrot mix.Add the extra orange juice and blend.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Whyte leach

As part of my Medieval themed food posts I promised Marmaduke Scarlet that I would make and feature this recipe that she posted on her "live better challenge"column in the Guardian.I did not have space to include it in my post on Blancmange,and felt it warranted a post all of its own, so here it is.As Rachel explained to us, this rather unappetisingly named pudding, "leach", was  a medieval milk pudding that would have originally used isinglass to set it and was a precursor to blancmange.
The pudding is a little like a blancmange.The recipe she cited used milk and was adapted from Robin Weir and Caroline Liddell's wonderful Recipes from the Dairy,
but there was also one  for Lent when the Tudors would not use milk. Almond milk was always used as a replacement. 
 A gilded leche or leach.
 Take a quart of new milke, and three ounces weight of Isinglasse, halfe a pound of beaten suger, and stirre them together, and let boile halfe a quarter of an hower till it be thicke, stirring them all the while: then straine it with three spoonfuls of Rosewater, then put it into a platter and let it coole, and cut it into squares. Lay it fair in dishes, and lay golde upon it.
From Thomas Dawson The Good Huswives Jewell (London: 1596)

Leach means "slice"and the top of the leach is coloured with red wine.When the leach is set it is turned out and cut into pieces which are decorated with edible gold leaf. I was devoid of gold leaf so used some fresh mint leaves.

This is a high table dish for a gentry family and is served attractively. It is time consuming to make, requiring setting time and a swift hand when turning out.Something for nimble fingers, not for the clumsy, gawky or cloddish amongst us.Having said that, it would make a great contribution to a medieval themed childrens party.

Whyte leach (milk version) cold water
5 sheets of leaf gelatine
500ml milk
75g sugar
1 tbsp orange blossom water
poached strawberries, to serve

Cut the gelatine leaves into pieces and soak in cold water according to the packet instructions.
Heat the milk to just about boiling. Stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Add the orange blossom water. Set aside.
Squeeze out the gelatine leaves. Add to the milk mixture and stir until dissolved.
Sieve and pour into a lightly-greased baking dish or cake tin.
Leave in a cool place to set overnight.
Turn out the set leach onto a plate or chopping board. Traditionally it would have been cut into squares and perhaps gilded with edible gold.
Tips: Rachel served hers with strawberries that had been poached in red wine with a little sugar, a bay leaf, a quarter teaspoon of ground cardamom, black peppercorns and a splash of orange blossom water. You can also replace the orange blossom water with rosewater.

Almond leach
This is much more fiddly and requires the pudding to be made in two parts then brought together when they are set.

  • almond milk ( if made during Lent)
  • gelatine
  • optional: rosewater, sugar 
  • red wine
  • rose petals
  • red berries, red currants for example
  • cream
    Make the almond milk by pouring warmed white wine through the ground almonds in a cloth Mix the almond milk with gelatine to make a white pudding. Pour into a dish.
    Leave to set hard. Warm wine by the fire, add the gelatine. You can also add chopped rose petals. Pour into a smaller dish and leave until set
    When both halves are set, turn the white pudding out first onto a serving platter. Turn the red one out on top of the white one. You can warm a few red berries in wine by the fire and spoon this over the top. Add a little cream onto the platter and perhaps a few berries on the top of the leech to decorate and serve

      Friday, 29 August 2014

      Agora!!!!-Sal nas livrarias

      "What a month its been"!!!!! The thespian being asked by The Times newspaper to write a thousand words on what life was like with Betty Bacall. We had the challenge of having our first vegan guests in the house,more on that story later.We put another cookery workshop behind us,our boiler blew up, and now the heat is on again,Arabian nights are upon us.After an abnormally cool summer, the hot sultry August temperatures we are normally accustomed to have finally hit us. Now its Dias Medievais and the house is completo.I can hear the sound of distant drums Fernado, heralding the opening procession  about to pass the house, and we have pitchers of mead(honeyed sangria) to serve our guests on the balconies.At the beginning of the month we played host to journalist João Miguel Simões and photographer Jorge Simão who were on a commission to produce an article on the Algarve to be included in the September "Sal" issue of Evasoes.In this issue you can read about everything salt from all over Portugal,gorgeous recipes,spa guides and discover how Portugal´s star chefs are using salt.Oo la la meringue! In my dreams who knew that one day I would be sharing a double page spread with Jaime Perez.Well there I am taking German disciples Philippe and Sonia through the process of making "o já famoso brownie com flor de sal."Thank you Miguel, Jorge and, as always, the other Jorge - Senor Raiado.Finally thank you Global Noticias Publicaçoes for your beautiful magazine.

      Thursday, 28 August 2014

      Manjar branco,menjar blanc, blancmange - a whole lot of flummery

      My typical 17th century bancmange served with a modern brazilian
      interpretation of plums and syrup

      There is a lot of flummery floating around the Twitterverse regarding milk puddings.Well, its Dias Medievais in Castro Marim and what better time to talk about one of the oldest puddings in the world. For a food blogger like myself it is hard to avoid including a post about blancmage. The history of blancmange is long and quite old,so bear with while I unfurl  the true origins of a dish that at times is shrouded in mystery.
      Some say the story began in sixteenth century Portugal, when a Portuguese princess called Maria took with her dowry from Lisbon to Southern Italy, a recipe for a flan - Manjar Branco, made with boiled and shredded chicken breast, milk, sugar, rose water and rice flour. It was part of her four manuscripts of recipes that she took with her when she married Alessandro di Farnese, the Third Duke of Parma.Disappointingly for the Portuguese, its provenance however is much earlier than this.Blancmange has been made in Europe for centuries.
      The history of blancmange is exceptional for understanding the changes in Western cuisine. Although this is a sweet that nowadays not everyone likes, its presence in the Portuguese and Brazilian gastronomy is a tradition.By adding coconut and serving it with plums and syrup it has become for them a national treasure.
      When the word first entered the English language in the fourteenth century,it was used for a savoury dish.As its name implies (French blanc,´white´manger, `eat´ -the final r did not disappear until the nineteenth century) it was made from pale ingredients.
      It is also believed that the origins of blancmange can be found in the Arab introduction of almonds to Europe, since the dish traditionally contains almonds,for example the Catalan Menjar blanc.
      In the early days also, blancmange may have been heavily spiced on occasion, since access to spices was a status symbol.
       At some point during the 1600s, blancmange became the snowy white, wibbly wobbly pudding which most consumers know today.By the Eighteenth century it had become a sort of almond jelly,made with milk or cream.In the nineteenth century arrowroot was introduced into the recipe as a thickener,with flavourings such as lemon peel and cinnamon making it an appropriate dessert dish.This paved the way for the modern commercial, cornflour based version.The dish has also,not surprisingly, been known as “shape,” a reference to the fact that it was usually set in elaborate moulds,which in guises such as pink rabbits and chocolate covered castles remained a mainstay among British puddings until the 1960´s,when instant pre-prepared desserts started its demise.The flavour of traditional blancmange is mild, and because of its neutral colour the dish is popularly dressed with wine sauces or fresh fruit. Monty Python fans may be familiar with blancmange in the form of alien sentient beings which invade the planet Earth.

       a second attempt showing the porcelain mould I used
      Nowadays there is no earthly reason why anyone would want to make savoury blancmange with chicken so I opted for a seventeenth century transition made with almonds, milk, cream and gelatine,and garnished it with the modern Brazilian interpretation of plums and syrup.I rooted out my grandmother´s Porcelain jelly mould (see above) and had a slightly less than successful take on how they would have made blancmange in the 17th century.This is how I made it…..

      Start by toasting two cups of almonds. While the almonds are toasting, gently heat one cup of milk and one cup of cream and mix this with one quarter cup of sugar until the sugar dissolves. Grind the almonds with the milk until the mixture is smooth, and force it through a small grained sieve or cheesecloth into a bowl. You will end up with approximately one and one half cups of liquid, to which you should add four drops of almond extract or essence.
      Next, dissolve 5 leaves of gelatin in cold water, and allow it to sit for approximately 5 minutes.Squeeze as much water out of the softened gelatine before stirring it into the almond mixture, and stir the bowl over a bath of ice so that the blancmange begins to firm. Next, whip one cup of cream, and fold it into the blancmange. Pour the pudding into molds to set under refrigeration for several hours, and turn it out onto plates to serve, garnished with fruit or a sauce of your choice.

      For how to make Whyte leach the precursor of blancmange look out for my next post......

      Sunday, 24 August 2014

      Pan-Asian style pickled Portuguese pears

      What's the difference between a Bartlett and a Bosc? an Anjou or an Asian, a Comice or a Concorde.If you don´t know, don´t worry.There are over 3,000 known pear varieties grown around the world, but only in Portugal can one find these tasty baby Rocha pears, easily recognized by their small size and golden yellow skin with a maroon blush. When they are not being bastards they have a crunchy flesh, and considering their size an extremely sweet flavour.These have to be the smallest pears in the world.You only get four or five bites out of one pear, so they make a great, quick snack and an excellent choice for children,pop it in their lunch box and they are on their way to getting their five a day.
      Not dissimilar to the North American Seckels, these tiny pears have a chubby, round body, small neck, and short stem. Paul Cezanne had an obsession with painting pears.if only he had visited Portugal in his search for the perfect pear he would have found it before it was discovered by one António Rocha.This variety was casually obtained from a seed on Pedro António Rocha's farm. The variety derives its name from his family name.
      Don't try to eat them before they are perfectly ripe. If they still feel hard and don't have any give when you press them, they'll taste tart and woody.
      But their size also makes them perfect as an appetizer (slice in half, trim out the core and seed, put a slice of parmesan or a dollop of ricotta on top, serve). They poach perfectly and quickly so dessert is another option.My interest was elsewhere in something I had recently witnessed but never tried before....pickled pears

      Rocha pears,nestling like eggs in a tray,ripe and ready for Cezanne

      What I wanted to emulate was the amazing flavours achieved by Ferrugem´s chef Renato Cunha when he cooked pickled Nabo (turnip) in our kitchen back in June this year.Just like I used to observe my mother at her stove, I stood over him with watchful eye,recording what he did and keeping it in my "back head"  in the hope that I could repeat what he did at a later date.
      Unlike European pickles, which tend to be really vinegary, this Asian style pickle is mild, tender, and slightly sweet.What I love most about this pickling method is that it is less about hard-set measurements and more about the flavour combinations (right up my rua). Basic ratios and ingredients went out of the window. 
      I started to make a basic brine with a simple syrup made from about one part water to one part sugar, boiled over the stove top until the sugar dissolved. I then, stirrred in some cider vinegar, and salted it to taste.To this I added sprigs of thyme,one red chilli chopped up,some small basil leaves,chunks of fresh ginger and whole garlic cloves peeled but kept whole.Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, halve and core the pears and tuck them into a sterilised Kilner jar. (I made enough brine to fill a 75cl jar ) Tuck the pears into the jar randomly and then pour the brine over them making sure they are completely covered.Store in a cool place until ready to serve.I have got my eyes set on using them as an accompaniment to my cheeseboard at Christmas.Now there´s something to think about.
      The more adventurous cooks among you can venture out to Asian supermarkets for kaffir lime leaves.The pears are naturally sweet,and the Kaffir lime leaves would add a zingy subtle pepperiness.
      This would work equally well with sweet vegetables like carrots.This is a great way to take advantage of a glut of slightly underripe pears. They retain their crunchiness while soaking up the brine's sweet vinegary flavour. Even though it sounds unusual, the sweetness of the fruit works remarkably well with the vinegar. Also try using coriander and white pepper in a brine as yet another variation of flavour

      Wednesday, 20 August 2014

      Dias medievais 2014

      There's always something going on in Castro Marim to keep you entertained!- you may be recumbent and relaxez-vous on a sun lounger in the Casa Rosada garden, nodding off on your CJ Sansom...but only a stones throw away there will be hunchbacks for real and you might find something close to Dark Fire within the confines of the castle.It is hard to escape the lepers,soothsayers and mountebanks purveying strange medicinal compounds,purges and herbal teas, trying to convince you of their curative powers.

       Yes, with just under ten days to go, its all going to be  kicking off in the streets and travessas of Castro Marim.Its Medieval myth and mystery -Dias Medievais."The skies are clear, happy times, happy nights and happy days are here again"!
      There are silky pink and orange banners-the colours of a desert sunset-streamed from poles around the castle.It makes it feel medieval, but not in the granite-dark,ominous medieval Game of Thrones way-a more ethereal and misty like faerie scene more reminiscent of The Hobbit when Celeborn and Galadriel are courting.On the streets the women love their tight hold- me- up push-me-out corsets, mandarin collars and leather embellished frocks belted in tightly
      with a girdle or two.It is a picture of medieval haute couture and femininity.Balmainesque tunics,and Oscar worthy beaded Lacroix gowns jostle you and fight for your attention against more modern hoodies and Henleys.The luxurious fur trims and chandelier earrings, crystal and pearl necklaces are enough to make any queen jealous.The catwalk is ready for hennins and wimples, creating a visual cacophony good enough for Gaultier or perfection for Philip Treacy.Looking down from above its like a sea of iced gems melding with Tiffany cream wafers and there is nothing gender specific about it all. Its time for the medieval queens to come out of their closets and sport their finery.

      Where´s the food and what will they be eating you say? Over the coming week I will be presenting some posts of opulent and exotic feasting,taking you back to the days of Runcible peas and Blawmanger.Food worthy of sultans and the richness of the Ottoman Empire.Soups of the kings and puddings of the princesses......what moor could you ask for?