Friday, 4 September 2015

No espetinho

This is a tale of tapas, pintxos, banderillas, gildas, montaditos and more.
"A pincho," a thorn or spike (or if you are in basque mode, pintxo) is a small tapa, typically eaten in bars traditionally in northern Spain but their popularity has spread to the south where we find pinchos morunos, among other derivatives, on many Andalucian menus.Variations of pintxos are "Banderillas"and"Gildas."(Lollipops).
"Banderilla" refers to the colourfully decorated and barbed sticks used in bullfighting.
It also refers  to a type of Spanish tapa mounted on a toothpick.
"Gilda"- The name refers to the main character of the film Gilda as embodied by the actress Rita Hayworth in 1946.The shape acquired by the pintxo when upright supposedly reiterates the silhouette of Gilda.
The term Gilda started being used in 1952 in a bar called Martinez ,located in the old quarter of San Sebastian.
In Navarre there is yet another variant, which is called Pajarico.
This type of tapa is marinated in salt ( brine ) and usually combines a pickle with olive and some form of pepper,pequillo or capsicum, sometimes also a little onion, and canned fish, usually  anchovies, secured with a skewer.  
 Like all foods in brine, its flavour is strong and very acidic, which makes it ideal to accompany an aperitif.In fact all tapas on a stick are great to accompany an aperitif.Here I have selected 3(see above)

Pintxo caprese con frutas

1 cantaloupe melon
1 Galia melon or piel de sapo
2 tubs of bocconcini (baby mozzarellas)
150g Presunto  in slices
manjerico or basil leaves
olive oil 
bamboo skewers
large Black and green grapes (optional)

Montadito de salami porco preto e pepinillos
1 slice of rustic baguette
1 thick slice of 

2 small cornichons or peinillos 
Secure all three ingredients with a long bamboo skewer in the order above

Banderillas de Olivas con Anchoas en Vinagre
This easy pinchos recipe consists of a stuffed olive wrapped in a strip of Moorish pickled anchovy, stuck on a toothpick to keep everything together. These spicy pinchos with pickled anchovies and green olives will refreshen the mouth and are truly delicious snacks.In Spain there are many recipes for these "Anchoas en Escabeche" or "Boquerones en Vinagre" 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A melancia amuse bouche

Humidity levels soared again this weekend and something refreshing on the palate has been more than welcome.There is an overabundance of lovely melons,particularly water melon in the market at the moment. As a result I have been serving up watermelon, canteloupe and galia melons to add some bright and unusual accents to the breakfast platter that we serve our guests.Melons do not lend themselves to being portioned into interesting shapes, cubes triangles and spheres etc. So inevitably there is a lot of waste, and as you know I am a stickler for being resourceful when it comes to food.I owe it to my mother.Cubing water melon is always a tricky one, particularly if you are not working with the seedless variety.For some reason I have always been wary of these hybrids so usually end up making more work for myself by selecting the seeded ones. After prepping up to six of these platters I always end up with a tupperware full of eccentrically shaped offcuts in different sizes.My usual solution is to blitz the whole lot with some citrus, ginger and yoghurt to make a cooling smoothie.This time I decided differently.I would keep the fruit until later in the day and make a starter or amuse bouche for the nights dinner in the garden.It certainly had the S-factor.....Sweet (water melon,fig, vanilla) sour (sumac) salty (pistachios) and sassy (the finished thing)

Watermelon cube,melted goats cheese and more
2cm cube watermelon
soft goats cheese
slithers of wafer thin red onion
cracked pistachios 
sumac for dusting
fig balsamic
Cut your water melon into 2cm cubes.
Spread a thick layer of soft goats cheese (I used chevre)
Shell the pistachios, roughly chop them, then sprinkle them on top of the cheese and around the plate.Dust everything with sumac.

1/2 cup ripe fig pulp
1/4 cup balsamic
1/4 tsp vanilla
Scoop out the pulp from the figs and discard the skin.
Put the pulp,balsamic and vanilla in a small pan and heat on low for 20-25minutes,stirring every 5 minutes until thick.Allow to cool completely before serving.
You only need a very small coffee spoonful per serving as it is very rich.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Dias medievais 2015- braceletes na alvorada

I hear you yawning.Here in Castro Marim its festival time again.This year the festival is bigger and larger than ever-5 days.This year has seen a lot of resentment and hostility (bracelets at dawn),myself included, about this years impositions.Castro Marim is an unnoticed town at the "east end" of the Algarve where we meet with Spain.We are all working at a cidade European.There is a lot on offer to be enjoyed here.This year an entrance charge of €2  has been introduced,which I personally do not agree with, but as a tax paying resident understand.The festival has a proven financial success  which shows that serious revenue can be achieved from vast attending numbers.For residents,for sure, the  run up has been an upheaval and sacrifices have had to be made. Five days of entertaining guests is a lot of hard work and financial investment, but hey guys this is the last big Algarvian festival of the summer and then we have to all go back to "School", adults and children alike in our own ways.This festival profers some  of the best Portuguese street food and a medieval banquete every night in the Castelo.Variety of choice and and value for money. Give this festival a chance.We cant promise a star line up but how much would you pay for "Rock in Rio" for instance without the ambiance  a small historic medieval town strives to provide.Lets all work together, me and you, to accept the barriers that have been put up and despite our misgivings pay our entrance fees with grace and party on.The weather could not be better, so lets do it.Lets make it work.Follow the daily medieval menu on here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Você tem que obter o gimmick

Courgettelle with prawns and a summer tomato sauce

Have you been inspiralized yet? If the verb "to spiralise" has not yet entered your vocabulary, get a grip, or even better get a gimmick. You'll be more than just a mimic when you get this gimmick.You will be able to customize your very own carb free recipes and put a bit of spirality into the way you cook.Trends and fads can pass us by but you gotta have this gimmick if you wanna have a chance.
Forget spaghetti, this year it’s all about ‘courgetti.’Vegetable pasta seems to be the new big thing this summer. Naturally, cooking  courgetti is a much speedier process than boiling bags of weighty pasta. Bet you didn´t see that one coming, me neither, keep up. If you're wondering how to transform your vegetables into spaghetti or noodles, reach for the latest must-have gadget, the spiraliser. I haven´t actually got mine yet but its already in the Amazon basket awaiting the next order. And meanwhile if you want vegetable pasta but not necessarily spaghetti you can use a descascador (regular julienne peeler) to create courgetelle (above) or vegetable pappardelle.This is exactly what I did. I got so inspiralized by all those recipes in magazines and blogs that I had to do something about it. The Helmsley sisters, Melissa and Jasmine Hemsley, were among the first of the recent band of "beautiful bloggers" to make vegetable spaghetti fashionable. They actually branded their own spiralizer too.
Courgetti with prawns and tomato sauce
Loosely interpreted from an original recipe by Isabel Zibaia Rafael
serves 4
2 curgetes
500g peeled prawns
600g ripe tomatoes,skinned de-seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small tin anchovies including the oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 stick celery
1 leaf of leek
50 ml olive oil
50ml white wine
few sprigs of manjericão (basil)
salt and pepper to taste
Skin and seed the tomatoes,Set aside.
Chop the onion and the garlic.
In a pan heat the olive oil and the oil from the tin of anchovies.Add the onion and garlic and cook until they are soft and golden.Stir in the anchovies until they break up and melt.Add the tomatoes,stick of celery and the leek.Leave to cook until reduced to a thick sauce.
Using the thin noodle attachment on the spiralizer or the vegetable peeler create long twirls of pasta-like vegetable noodles.
Remove the celery stick and leek and strain the sauce through apasse-vite or blend in the pan with a stick blender.In the pan bring back to the heat,add the basil leaves,season with salt and pepper to your taste.Add the prawns and cook briefly then add the courgette noodles and cook for another 30 seconds.tip the sauce and noodles into abowl and bring to the table immediately with a bowl of grated parmesan for garnish.
When selecting courgettes just remember, the smaller the courgette the better the flavour. Courgettes can reach marrow-size surprisingly quickly - and if you are growing your own no one wants their veg patch to star in its own Day of the Triffids remake... The mutant courgette that wins the horticultural show is not always the tastiest.
Summer courgetti and meatballs
Follow the method as above but substitute meat balls for the prawns
Courgetti putanesca
Spaghetti alla putanesca is an old school italian recipe literally translated as "tarts Spaghetti"Its no wonder its been around forever,that slutty sauce is to lie for.
Use your favourite putanesca recipe and stir through courgette noodles at the end.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

O leão a bruxa e malagueta pérola preta

Chilli peppers originated in the Americas. After the Columbian Exchange, many cultivars of chilli pepper spread across the world,being used in both food and medicine. Chillies were brought to Asia by Portuguese navigators during the 16th century. Upon their introduction into Europe, chillies were grown as botanical curiosities in the gardens of Spanish and Portuguese monasteries. But the monks experimented with their culinary potential and discovered that their pungency offered a substitute for black peppercorns, which at the time were so costly that they were used as legal currency in some countries. There are peppers that can awake people from the dead and there are peppers that are a deadly threat to life, but one in particular, the black pearl chilli,which originated in Mexico has such an enchanting beauty its binding spell made us purchase it and take it home thinking it was just another ornamental bush for the garden.Things are seldom what they seem.  The plant has an eery beauty.Its mesmerising shiny pearls make one imagine it having been created by the White witch- queen of Narnia to attract children, before getting their greedy tongues set on fire.The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was always one of my favourite childhood stories. Surprisingly for once ,if you went back into the closet you came out queer.Now there´s a thought.
Part of what makes the Witch so creepily evil is that she's not what she seems. In the real world, we're used to appearances being deceptive. But in Narnia, the way things look is the way they really are, and the outside usually expresses the true nature of things.
On research not only did we discover that its fruit was edible but also that the fruits of ‘Black Pearl’ are  intensely flavoured, producing enough “heat” to register at about 300,000 on the Scoville heat units scale,( a measurement of the amount of capsaicin present in plant tissues). (Capsaicin is the ingredient in pepper spray used as an irritant weapon; it’s also effective at keeping African elephants from foraging on crops).That makes it tantamount to the Scotch bonnet, habanero and Guyana wiri wiri chilis.The plant is native to much of South America and Mexico, but in Europe performs wonderfully in a container all summer...This pepper is very enticing to children and some adults, who can find that the oil is detrimental to their eyes.It´s capsaicin is one of the worst on your skin and burns horribly.As a result, should you elect to grow this beautiful plant, do not allow children,or pets to touch the fruit.The beauty of the plant can be dangerous to those not informed.for those who know however and enjoy incendiary cuisine,this is the one for you.but first a bit of incendiary advice...

How do you say to your child in the night?
Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Stephen Sondheim, Into the woods

Well,thats enough of fairy tales and enchantment. The immature berry-size fruits are quite firm, but as they ripen and turn red, they’ll also soften and present a hazard. Even the juices from a soft fruit will burn skin; and if one should fall and be attractive to pets, you can expect quite a reaction. If you can remember not to squeeze the ripe fruits, and keep curious animals away, you should be happy with ‘Black Pearl’. Make sure you wash your hands well after preparing, slicing and chopping the Black Pearl chilli.Do not rub your eyes...What’s more, you won’t be bothered by elephants.
The Black Pearl  and other chillies are also astonishingly good for you. Black Pearl Peppers stimulate the metabolism. They fight cancer. They help diabetics. They are vitamin-rich and contain immune-boosting antioxidants.Ironically I have not been able to find a recipe using them, so since it originates from Mexico I thought I would  test its degree of agression by making a fiery Mexican salsa, followed by a Black Pearl punchy panzanella.So if you are looking for a meal with a kick,something slow burning and with a robust flavour here´s your red hot sultry date for the evening, along with a tribute to Britain´s much loved Cilla Black who died last week.

"What’s your name and where d’ya come from?"
I´m black pearl and I´m from down mexico way 
 "And here’s our Graham with a quick reminder about the recipes."

Black pearl mexican style salsa
6 large seeded chopped peeled tomatoes
2 cups seeded chopped green peppers
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 1/2 teaspoon Flor de sal

2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cups cider or wine vinegar
2 large Red Jalapenos (chopped)
2 Cayenne (chopped)
2 Black Pearls
3 Sticks of chopped celery
Pepper (to taste)

Stir all together to taste in a large bowl and set aside to rest in the refrigerator.

Black pearl punchy panzanella
serves 4-6
When I made the salsa it was heavy on moisture content and therefore great for a panzanella.There is always debate about whether the day old bread should be moistened with water or vinegar.I´m with the latter and strained the vinegar from my salsa over the torn bread which constituted my salad.This gave it an invigorating zip of vinegar, which makes all the others seem bland. There's no competition here: vinegar it is.Although a good panzanella should retain some texture, you don't want the bread to remain dry and chewy.

1 quantity black pearl mexican salsa (recipe above)
225g/8oz coarse open textured day old breadhandful fresh torn basil
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50g/2oz can anchovy fillets
1/2 cucumber peeled and cut into cubes                                                         
handful fresh mint coarsely chopped
handful parsley chopped
home made celery salt
and pepper to season

Tear the bread into chunky pieces and put in a salad bowl.Sprinkle with a tablespoon of strained vinegar from the salsa and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.Set aside
while you make the rest of the salad.Bring all the ingredients together tossing the slsa vigorously  with the soaked bread in a salad bowl and adjust the moisture content adding more olive oil and salsa strained vinegar if necessary.