Monday, 29 July 2013

Fortuitous Hummus


Black-eyed beans (feijao frade ) are extremely popular in Portugal.They are much quicker to cook than ordinary beans and their characteristic flavour makes them suitable to be the bit on the side to hot dishes, or as the stalwart partner in a faithful salad.Forming a relationship with canned fish such as sardines and particularly canned tuna can be the perfect first date for these little frade.To bring out their unique flavour black-eyed beans must always be seriously laced with some oil and a little vinegar,grated or finely sliced raw onion,(preferably red) and a good sprinkling of parsley.I decided to take all these ingredients to another level, add some personal touches and make a condiment as a part of a dippy tapas type starter.What I did not know was that what I was about to create was going to bear an uncanny resemblance in taste and texture to hummus, but I have to say with many more levels of flavour.So a Portuguese take on a middle eastern classic you might say, or as I would call it a new take Baba Gha-mush.No tahini was a plus for me and the tomato content gave it a warm, coral-like colour,which was enticing and gave it a hummurus twist.I can just see Nigella waltzing into the kitchen in a slinky black robe for one of her apparent 'naughty midnight snacks'.I have a strong fantasy image of her getting some flat bread, laying it out in front of her, slathering it and placing a couple of handfuls of hot chips on top. Sprinkling it with coarse salt, a squeeze of lemon, and then squeezing it into a bundle and cramming  face. At this point I wake up with a fright and realise the job in hand was writing a blog post about accidental Portuguese hummus,not fantasizing about Nigella´s jugs.So let´s just get on with it shall we?

Fortuitous hummus
400g can of Feijao frade ( black-eyed beans)
2 garlic cloves
1 small red onion
generous handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chilli coriander jam or similar
coriander leaves and stalks
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Place the solid ingredients in the food processor, followed by the chilli coriander jam, lemon juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil. Whizz until it resembles a coarse yet homogeneous paste.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Amped up Pequillo pepper almond and anchovy tapa


To have a meal made up of small plates is de rigeur in Spain. It is a style of eating I like and one  that we have very much adopted here at Casa Rosada.
Derived from the Spanish verb tapar, to cover,in a historical context a tapa was a savoury treat, such as jamon  or cheese, placed over the top of a wine glass, protecting it from flies and dust. While no longer required by law,thank goodness the Spanish have no intention of turning their back on this satisfying and sensible tradition.The Portuguese however have never really faced up to tapas but being so close to Spain as we are here in Castro Marim it is a great way to keep the Spanish fly away from our drinks and send them buzzing back in the direction of Spain. This week Hip Hostess NYC flew in from New York via London, Madrid and Seville. So if this was Castro Marim it had to be a welcome to Casa Rosada with a tapas evening which kicked off with a montadito of pequillo peppers, almonds, sherry vinegar and shallots,but the original Spanish recipe was not hot enough for me so I amped it up with some piri piri oil.So in the best traditional way I served it as as a tapa  for a glass of cold dry Madeira. My tapa was spread on a small bruschetta and finished with a topping of a boquerone (small white Spanish anchovy), a true Iberian meld of Spanish and Portuguese flavours.It was the hit of the evening and certainly impressed Hip Hostess´s taste buds.
I scoured the web for a pequillo pepper dip and found this one which spoke to me for its addition of almonds. I went  heavier on the almonds to balance out the flavours and by pairing the dip with marinated anchovies and a dry Madeira  it worked harmoniously.
I will be the first to admit that this  unusual combination was a winner.  It is undoubtedly different, using the piri piri oil for the dip –already bold on its own- worked beautifully for me.  Upping the quantity of ground almonds made the dip creamier, holding its own against the marinated anchovies.
Piri Piri Pequillo Pepper and Almond Dip with Marinated Anchovies
 
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely diced
1 cup bottled pequillo peppers
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (maybe more if you use more almonds)
1 teaspoon piri piri oil
1/3 cup roasted salted marcona almonds
4 tablespoons olive oil (you may need more if you use 1/2 cup almonds like I did)
baguette or small rustic bread slices


Cook the garlic, shallots, peppers, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil on the stove over medium-low heatuntil the garlic and shallot are softened but not coloured. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.
Grind the almonds in a mini food processor. After pulsing once or twice, add the remaining three tablespoons olive oil and process until the almonds are creamy.
Stir together the almonds and cooked pepper mixture in a serving bowl. If the dip is too thick for you, add a bit more olive oil. I added one or two more tablespoons of oil and one more tablespoon of vinegar to get a slightly thinner consistency.
Serve spread thickly on baguette slices topped with marinated anchovies

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

How could purslane have passed me by?


 Udon noodle salad with cucumber and Beldroega (purslane) dressed with a mint,purslane, coriander and ginger pesto

I have discovered Purslane... and what a discovery it has been ! This fabulous, succulent green is amazing.Its name sounds like an accessory but its price in the market is more than easy on a purse.How could Purslane have passed me by when all these years I have passed by purslane unnoticed?
How could I have missed it? -it grows like an abundant weed and is high up on any foragers trail. I must have brushed by it on so many country walks through the fields.Last week after a hot and tiresome shopping trip we popped in to see our friend Catherine.Bistro O Porto,her stylish Tavira harbour front restaurant purveys fine organic fare, perfect for light lunches after  shopping or slow relaxed  dinners with friends.She drew my attention to a clump of weeds abundantly overflowing from a large counter top jug of water.It was organic wild beldroega (purslane),and for the very first time in my life I was being confronted by this "green", for want of a better word .I Said....
"You Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 
You Got To Be Startin' Somethin'"
because for me this was the start of something - My discovery of purslane.The very next day witnessed me leaving the market with green bundles of what looked like the Amazonian rain forest.Purslane with roots attached.My plan was to come up with new recipes and see if it would be possible to plant some stems in the garden.( The news is the stems have taken and before long I will be able to pick my own purslane growing just a few metres from my salad box.) It is sometimes known as Indian lettuce.But why I don´t know as it really doesn’t look like lettuce at all. It looks more like watercress, and tastes like a cross between watercress and sorrel The plant has two types of leaves, heart-shaped and oval, with the flowers protruding from the middle.Although purslane originated in India it has traveled far and may be found in menus around the world,and now finally at Casa Rosada. Maybe purslane's pervasiveness can be attributed to its nutritional profile and ease of cultivation. Its tart and tangy flavour adds a unique taste when included in salads.Better eaten raw than cooked it brings something to a green sald and if you pair it with cucumber your plates become the bees knees.
Given its origins I thought I would make an Indian inspired pesto and dress a salad with it.This fresh cold noodle salad combines a lot of great flavours and textures to make the perfect summertime meal. It also includes my newly discovered friend, purslane.
FOR THE PESTO
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup Purslane
1/2 cup coriander leaves and stems
1 cup basil
thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped
1/2 cup  roasted salted marcona almonds or dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (approx.2 limes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Blend all together in a processor.Bottle what you have left over and keep it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.

FOR THE NOODLES- makes 5 portions
500g Dry Udon Noodles (yields 1.2kg when cooked)

50ml ground nut oil or peanut oil
1 red chilli seeds removed and chopped finely
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 pieces sweet stem ginger in syrup,drained (reserve syrup) and chopped finely
50ml light soya sauce 

Cook the noodles in boiling water (no salt)for 8 minutes.Drain,cool,pat dry with a kitchen towel and keep wrapped in the towel until ready to use.Heat the oil in a wok over a medium to high heat,add the chopped garlic,chilli and ginger.Stirfry until the garlic is cooked,stir in the reserved ginger syrup,and soya sauce.remove from the heat and stir through the noodles until well coated.Transfer to a salad bowl and add half a cucumber diced and peeled, generous handfuls of Beldroega (Purslane ) leaves picked from their stalks.Toss the pesto vigorouslythrough the noodle salad and sit down to eat.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Another tomato tart


I am a man of my word and I said I would be making a variation on a theme of tomato tarts each week throughout the tomato season.My brief this week -use kilos of tomatoes bought in the market on Saturday for 0.50 cents a kilo.

I had already made a batch of my favourite chilli coriander jam,pickle or chutney,call it what you will, and with what was left over I was already looking forward  to another tomato tart for supper.

Variation on a the theme of tomato tart and pasta frolla
While savouring a slice of my recent tomato tart the Thespian came up with the suggestion that the next tomato tart should involve anchovies, so I have adapted the above recipe to include not only anchovies but also rosemary.Once again I turned to an idea inspired by Ruth and Rose from a pasta dish they created for the River Cafe in London.
"Penne with tomato and anchovy sauce".

Again serves 6 

FOR THE SLOW ROASTED TOMATOES
900g ( 2 lb) plum tomatoes (see above)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sugar
balsamic vinegar
Flor de sal

Preheat the oven to 225°F (107°C). Cut each tomato in half crosswise. (Alternatively, if using large plum tomatoes or any size oblong tomatoes,cut in half lengthwise )with a teaspoon carefully scoop out the seeds and discard.Arrange the sliced tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle the cavities of each tomato half evenly with the olive oil, balsamic,sprinkle with sugar then season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes until the moisture is completely removed, 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. The tomatoes should be dry but still soft to finger pressure.I usually do this in the evening,roasting for 2 hours then turning the oven off and leaving them to continue drying out in the warm oven overnight.in the morning remove from the oven and let the tomatoes cool completely.

FOR THE TART DOUGH
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons iced water 
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and, using your fingers, (as you would making a crumble) gently press the butter and flour together until it resembles a coarse meal. Drizzle the iced water over and, using a fork, gently toss and stir just until the dough comes together in a cohesive clump. Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
                                                                                                                     
FOR THE FILLING                                                                                                        2 tablespoons olive oil
50g(2oz) butter
2 garlic clove,peeled and sliced
1  x 40g tin of anchovies (10 anchovies) and their oil reserved
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves,finely chopped
1 large Spanish onion, thinly sliced
1 quantity of slow roasted tomatoes (see above
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
60g (2 oz) parmesan finely grated
60g (2 oz) queijo São Jorge or mature cheddar finely grated

Melt the oil and butter together in a large pan,and fry the garlic gently until light golden.Add the anchovies and rosemary and then mash them into the oil,almost to a paste.The anchovies do not need to cook,they just melt in a few seconds.Stir in the onion.Sweat over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onion is soft.Pulse the roasted tomatoes in a processor until you have a coarse texture, not a pulp,then add them to the onion mixture.Stir well to mix and heat through for 5-10 minutes.Finally add the creme fraiche and cheeses.Allow to cool.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a round about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the round to the parchment.Fill the round with the filling, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edge.Season with salt and pepper. Fold the uncovered edge of the tart onto itself,making a rustic free-form tart shell with uniformly spaced pleats every few inches around the perimeter. Brush the overturned edge of dough with the egg wash. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven, transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool until it’s warm or at room temperature. Slice and serve.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Honey and almond parfait - Algarvian perfection

You can hardly believe my excitement when this recipe beckoned to me from "The Guardian".British baking guru Dan Lepard comes up with a pudding that would be so parfait for Casa Rosada dinner guests -Why? well its components shout Algarve.... Almonds, honey and apricots.The majority of our guests are always eager to try out the best of local and what better way to answer  that than with this delicious parfait.Mr Lepard also suggests being "adventurous with your honey, as you can bring some back when you travel (UK customs are fine with a small amount)".I can certainly point guests in the direction of some good local honeys assured that they will be spoiled for choice.Perhaps deciding to make a melt in the mouth parfait on one of the hottest days of the year was
not such a sensible idea,but even less so the idea of trying to photograph a melting moment in a baking hot Algarve garden.In the master baker´s own words "This parfait is so rich it takes at least 8 hours to firm, and is even better if left overnight. But it's great made ahead as a standby dessert in the freezer". This is playing into my hands.Yet another plus, giving me a stock freezer item that requires no de-frosting.The only thing I changed in the recipe was the way I cooked the apricots.I sautéed them in butter and vanilla sugar and then scattered them with fresh thyme leaves.I thought this little twist would harmonize perfectly with the almonds and honey in the parfait.No offence meant Mr Lepard,its all in the best possible taste-
Honey almond parfait with warm apricots
Makes 1 x 18cm parfait( I used a 20cm round loose bottomed cake tin)
3 medium eggs
300ml double cream
125g honey, a richly flavoured one if possible
50g light brown sugar
100g flaked almonds, toasted
500g apricots, semi or fully ripe
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
50g vanilla sugar
1 Make the custard by separating the eggs, then whisk the yolks lightly with the cream and 75g honey. Pour into a saucepan, then bring to the boil slowly. As soon as the mixture coats the back of a spoon and gets very hot, take it off the stove and pour into a clean, cold bowl and leave until cold.
2 Line the base and sides of a deep 18cm(I used a 20cm) round cake tin with clingfilm. Gently stir the whites with the sugar and remaining honey in a saucepan until hot, then pour into a bowl and beat with an electric whisk for 4-5 minutes to form a thick, soft meringue.
3 Fold the almonds through the custard, add to the meringue and fold together, then pour into the cake tin and freeze for eight hours, until firm.
4 To serve, stone and halve the apricots,melt the butter in a frying pan and cook over a very gentle heat add the vanilla sugar until they soften,sprinkle with plucked thyme leaves then cool.This can be done the day before too,stored in the refrigrator. and then brought back up to room temperature

Serve a wedge of the parfait with a couple of the warm apricot halves.

AFTER THOUGHT
The practicality of trying to freeze something in a circular cake tin is not sound.
Firstly it takes up a lot of valuable freezer space and secondly the quantity of he recipe fills a 20cm round cake tin,so it was lucky I used a 20cm tin.From now on I will be making this recipe in a standard loaf tin.It will fill the tin to below the level and therefore can be covered with cling film.The rectangular shape is more conducive to freezer storage.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cooking in the Gnudi

Naked as on the day they were born - amazing little balls of goodness!
Just in case you were worried about checking in to one of the Casa Rosada cookery workshops there is no naked chef here mother, just a naked ravioli of ricotta dumplings.
Gnudi means 'nude' in italian. I have been watching  "Simon Hopkinson Cooks" and as part of a Mediterranean lunch this was one of the dishes he cooked - basically ravioli without the wrapper, hence 'nude.'Well there is no cooking gnudi on the agenda for the cookery workshop so there is no need to be alarmed.
For those of you not familiar with Hopkinson you should check out his books packed full interesting recipes, "Week in Week Out","Roast chicken and other stories", and "Second helpings of roast chicken"
I was so enthralled by what I saw that I had to make it to discover what was the real joy of gnudi.It was so delicious that we ended up eating all four portions, even though there were just two of us.Eating gnudi at the supper table is something I could quite easily get into the habit of.
With Italian cooking in particular the food is mostly really simple, placing emphasis on choosing the best quality ingredients possible. With things like mozzarella, olive oils and in this case,curd cheese, there is a stark difference in taste from the cheap produce found in the supermarkets to what you can get from specialist shops and delis,so choose carefully.This dish lends itself to the Portuguese equivalent of ricotta - Requeijao. I got home from shopping with a Requeijao that had much better flavour, and more important to this recipe, texture. The stuff you find in supermarkets seems to be on the wetter side, which will make it much more difficult when rolling the gnudi. 

Gnudi
Serves 4
250g fresh Requeijao (Ricotta)
50g freshly grated Parmesan
A few gratings of nutmeg
250g carôço de milho( semolina), approx.
50g butter
about 20 sage leaves
pepper
extra grated Parmesan to hand at table

Put the ricotta, Parmesan and nutmeg into a bowl and beat together until smooth.
Pour the semolina into a shallow tray. Slightly wet the palms of your hands and briefly lay them in the semolina. Now take up a small piece of the ricotta mix [a large teaspoon, say], gently roll it into a ball about the size of a big marble and drop it into the semolina. Push the tray back and forth to fully coat the ball with semolina and continue this process until all the ricotta mixture is used up. Transfer the gnudi into a tub, sprinkle semolina between each layer and on top, making sure the dumplings are well covered.
Place in the fridge, covered, overnight.
The next day, carefully lift out the gnudi from the semolina and put onto a large plate lined with kitchen paper.
Put a large, wide pot of lightly salted water on to boil [also, have four hot plates ready to hand].
Meanwhile, melt the butter over a low heat. When it is frothing, toss in the sage leaves, gently cook them until crisp, and without the butter becoming too brown; it should, however, smell nutty and look golden. Once the leaves are crisp, lift them out and set them to one side, turn off the heat but leave the sage infused butter in the pan.
Once the water boils, turn it down to a simmer and slide in the gnudi. Now turn up the heat a touch and patiently wait until the gnudi float to the surface; about 4-5 minutes.
When all the gnudi have risen, carefully lift them out [they are delicate] using a slotted spoon, draining them well, and divide equally between four hot plates.
Turn the heat up under the melted butter to warm it back up. Sprinkle the sage leaves over the gnudi.
Spoon over the warm butter and serve without delay. Hand extra parmesan at table for those who want it: Me.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

O figo primeiro




Today, for breakfast I just want that first fresh fig of the season,hand picked from our garden.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Tarte de Tomate assado, Queijo São Jorge e manjerico com uma casca "pasta frolla"

um sabor autêntico dos Açores com um toque italiano
Given that tomatoes are in season right now, it’s a great time to do something different. To make it easier for yourself this recipe can be done piecemeal over a few days. Its perfect picnic fodder when advance preparation is the order of the day.The onions can be made a day ahead. I’d also say that a little browning doesn´t hurt. (I just adore caramelized onions .) The dough is even better and more workable if made a day ahead. I had initially planned to roast the tomatoes a day ahead and make the tart the following day. But honestly, who can resist the smell of tomatoes slowly roasting for hours and it almost  pushed me over the edge to make the tart a day early. The tantalizing aroma they produce should come with a warning. I was hardly able to resist licking the sticky tomatoey  balsamic syrup off the oven tray, but the health and safety fairy kept hovering like Tinkerbell around the oven accusingly, in a manner that suggested I’d created a special new form of torture.Slow roasting these red summery orbs (or, if using plum tomatoes, oblongs) concentrates the tomatoes sweet depths without masking their inherent acidity. A touch of crème fraîche, and a fine Azorean Cheddar lookie-likie provides a salty contrast. The sweetness of the gently cooked onion reinforces the flavour of the tomatoes without overpowering it, and the herbal kick from the basil brings the whole combination into sharp focus. And when you layer all that on a simple pastry, well, you just have to taste a slice of this tart to truly understand.
This is an absolutely delicious tart and a recipe not to be missed!
As a result I have set myself the task of  making a different tomato tart each week this summer, in an attempt to keep up with the tomatoes ripening in our garden and the mounds of different varieties falling off market stalls at give away prices.
So whats the Italian twist to the recipe I hear you say? -Its the pastry.Since one of the major ingredients here is a rich Azorean Cheese its great contrasted with an Italian pastry dough known as pasta frolla, similar to its French counterpart pâte brisée. It is a buttery shortbread type dough normally used in Italy for fruit or jam crostate, but remove the sugar from the recipe and it´s something else.Nowadays, so many tart/piecrust recipes use a food processor, which can lead to a much less tender crust. This crust is perfectly tender and flaky, which I think is attributed to the good old-fashioned method of mixing of it by hand.

The tart dough is so easy to work with. It comes together quickly and, once chilled, is so easy to roll out and crimp up in a rustic crostata style.
DOP Saõ Jorge orQueijo da Ilha, ( The “Island Cheese”) of the Azorean island of Saint Jorge, depending on its maturity, is a semi-hard/hard cheese reminiscent of Cheddar and similar to Pecorino but with an aroma a lot stinkier..a mix of stinky and nutty! But like most stinky cheeses, once you get past the smell, the cheese is quite flavoursome, sharp, nutty and buttery. It is the largest of the Portuguese cheeses, and the only one made exclusively from whole and raw cow’s milk.Its production requires a minimum of 45% milk fat making it very rich,so go easy on the portions you serve.A little goes a long way. You can cut it up into small pieces and serve it as an appetizer, or serve it with a fresh summer salad for eating alfresco.
Roasted Tomato, Queijo São Jorge and Basil Tart with a pasta frolla crust                                     serves 8
Any tomatoes, whether plum, San Marzano, Roma tomatoes or seductively misshapen specimens from the farmers’ market, will do the trick in this seductive tart.If you can try and get hold of the authentic São Jorge cheese but if not aquality mature cheddar will do.

FOR THE SLOW ROASTED TOMATOES
900g ( 2 lb) plum tomatoes (see above)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sugar
balsamic vinegar
Flor de sal

FOR THE TART DOUGH
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons iced water

FOR THE TART
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large spanish onion, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250g (1/2 pound ) Queijo são Jorge or mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup of fresh basil cut into long, narrow strips)
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon whole milk 

Preheat the oven to 225°F (107°C). Cut each tomato in half crosswise. (Alternatively, if using large plum tomatoes or any size oblong tomatoes,cut in half lengthwise )with a teaspoon carefully scoop out the seeds and discard.Arrange the sliced tomatoes, cut side up, on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle the cavities of each tomato half evenly with the olive oil, balsamic,sprinkle with sugar then season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes until the moisture is completely removed, 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. The tomatoes should be dry but still soft to finger pressure.I usually do this in the evening,roasting for 2 hours then turning the oven off and leaving them to continue drying out in the warm oven overnight.in the morning remove from the oven and let the tomatoes cool completely.

TO MAKE THE TART DOUGH In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and, using your fingers, (as you would making a crumble) gently press the butter and flour together until it resembles a coarse meal. Drizzle the iced water over and, using a fork, gently toss and stir just until the dough comes together in a cohesive clump. Gather the dough into a ball and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough into a thick disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. 

FOR THE TART Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 375°F (190°C). In a sauté pan, heat the 2 tablespoons oil over low heat and stir in the onion. Cover and sweat over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not allow the onion to colour. (Alternatively, if you prefer properly caramelized onions, you can uncover and cook the onions until golden brown and intensely flavorful.) Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and let cool completely. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a round about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the round to the parchment. Layer half of the cheese on the dough round, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered around the edge. In a small bowl, combine the cooled onion, the basil, and the crème fraîche and mix well. Spread the onion mixture evenly over the cheese layer. Top with the roasted tomatoes, then cover with the remaining cheese. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Fold the uncovered edge of the tart onto itself,making a rustic free-form tart shell with uniformly spaced pleats every few inches around the perimeter. Brush the overturned edge of dough with the egg wash. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven, transfer it to a wire rack, and let it cool until it’s warm or at room temperature. Slice and serve.


One poor leftover piece spent the night in my fridge. I ate it cold the next day for lunch and was more than pleased with its staying power.

Variation on a the theme of tomato tart and pasta frolla
The Thespian came up with the idea that the next tomato tart should involve anchovies,so I have adapted the above recipe to incorporate anchovies and rosemary.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Banquete medieval - Estigma no forno


I write this in fear of being persecuted as a heretic, like the devils of Loudun. I write as a resident in a Catholic country.They might excommunicate me. I am convinced I have found a facsimile of the Turin Shroud in my oven. I will be considered  a dissolute cook, be tortured, crucified or even burnt at the stake. I achieve a rare stigmata in my roasting tray each time I roast peppers, tomatoes or other vegetables. After the roasted vegetables have been removed the tray is left with the marks, sores, or sensations of the pain inflicted to the vegetables by the intense heat of the oven. However I have turned this to my advantage. It is starting to make some sense and beginning to inspire me with ideas and titles for recipes I can recreate  for our annual medieval dinner during the Dias Medievais festival in Castro Marim in August.Vegetable rights has always been a concern of mine, even as a small child I would resist my parents when I was told to eat them. The cruelty and abuse was just too much to bear.Potatoes skinned alive then boiled or fried in pots and pans.How vegetables are torn and shredded and have to die for your salad!                                                            
      
Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I was recently given, by the President´s office of the camara (town hall), a beautifully crafted book "Receitas Idade média" (Recipes from the Middle Ages).

The pressure is on and a selection of recipes from this lovely book are going to form the basis of Casa Rosada´s banquete medieval at the end of August.So armed with a medieval batterie de cuisine including a varinha magica (literally a hand held stick for casting spells) I will attempt to achieve some medieval moments, inflicting torture by chopping, mincing, roasting, baking and grilling and no doubt, god forbid, along the way,produce yet more stigmata in my oven trays.And just in case you wondered, my latter day varinha magica will have to be a hand held blender.
Nearer to the festival at the end of August I will be posting the recipes I have selected and how I get on.A soup, a fish or shell fish recipe,meat,a pudding and accompanying drinks
Perhaps what is required for torturing food in a medieval kitchen

                                                                                                      
                                 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The tasting menu - marathon or removal of responsibility?

The first of my tasting options -minted pea panna cotta 
and gazpacho andaluz with Indian flavours
A high-end anomaly a few years ago, three or four-hour menus now look like the future of fine dining.Restaurants are dropping their à la carte menus in favour of all-or-nothing tastings. Before Pret a Manger and Marks and Spencers begin stuffing sandwiches into 18-course boxed office lunch tastings, it’s worth asking if this is the future we want?
salt cured beef fillet
Restaurant tasting menus offer small portions of several dishes as a complete meal. Some restaurants and chefs specialize solely in these tasting menus, while others just make it a further menu option.Tasting menus may be offered to provide a sample of a particular type of cuisine, or house specialties.Some restaurants and chefs use it as an opportunity to showcase a particuar cooking technique - dry-aging, curing, fermenting,salt stone cooking, smoking or grilling over fire.
 When I face a marathon of dishes chosen by a restaurant, I often feel a trapped, helpless sensation. I am in the hands of a chef who grasps the challenges and possibilities of  a tasting menu which can yield for him a succession of delights that a shorter meal could never contain. It is a chance for him to show off. Why should I fork out over the odds oodles of dosh for his three or four hour marathon, and along the way have to suffer some horrors that I would never in a normal visit to a restaurant dream of ordering? Everybody knows how much a plate of chicken should cost in a fancy  restaurant, but what is the value of 30 courses you haven’t even seen? You’re not buying 30 courses, of course. You’re buying a ticket to a show that is probably going to sell out, which leaves the restaurant free to charge whatever it likes.Making each course as different as possible from the last is not just a chance for chef to show off, it’s necessary to keep the diner’s attention. And if a meal goes on for hours even radical costume changes from course to course may not be enough.
Octopus salad
These menus are a hot topic these days.But why? You can’t eat a meal like this with a passing acquaintance or blind date since you’ll be together for hours, and you certainly can’t go with somebody you really want to talk to, either, since there’s little time between courses for sustained conversation.
The consumer of such a meal may feel as much like a victim as a guest. The reservation is hard won, the night is exhausting, the food is cold and the interruptions are frequent.Some of the courses can be  repetitive in ingredients or preparation, and others can feel like padding.The palate flags and the bill stings.Degustation evenings don´t come cheap but in these hard times,surprise surprise, they are spreading like an epidemic.  
Tuna on the salt stone

Perhaps part of the joy of a tasting or set menu is the removal of responsibility. Maybe the recent trend for tapas-style sharing plates has become so popular because it relieves the decision-making pressure.
Turning the table back from customer to chef these degustations are a missed opportunity for research.A restaurant that sells appetizers, main courses and entrees quickly learns which ones customers like. But surely one-bite dishes rarely come back to the kitchen untouched, so the chef has little chance to learn what customers think. Asking “How was everything?” of somebody who has just consumed 26 items isn’t likely to produce constructive criticism.Unless the whole reason for the degustation was a food led focus group as is the case twice yearly when we are invited to our favourite local restaurant Cha com Agua Salgada, where the sole purpose of the evening is to get creative crit, feedback and observations from us as customers.I think this is a great idea,the chef gets to see how his new proposed menu is going to be recieved by his customers and at the same time the customers are having a great networking evening.
So having recently sampled the latest Degustation menu at Cha com Agua Salgada with provision on each menu to comment on each dish accordingly,it was time for me to abandon my cynicism.Perhaps I have misunderstood the concept behind tasting menus and there is an enjoyment and a purpose to a tasting menu.It is not just a poncey chef showcasing his talents.I started to feel that perhaps it was the time to become a dedicated follower of foodista fashion and introduce a degustation menu into the Casa Rosada repertoire.Our most recent guests from England who have stayed with us before, mentioned their penchant for tasting menus.They had expressed their intention to dine in one night during their stay here and I decided that the time was right and the people were right to try out my first tasting menu.It also provided a chance to demonstrate the salt stone technique for cooking (above).So I have now launched the 8 course Casa Rosada Degustation






















the two dessert items

The Casa Rosada Degustation

8 courses- 6 savoury / 2 sweet
Minted pea panna cotta and Gazpacho andaluz with Indian flavours
Salt cured beef fillet
Beetroot pudding and Tunisian carrot dip with pipas
Octopus salad with Thai flavours
Tuna on the salt stone with a cucumber coriander and mint salad
5 spiced quail with jewelled Ras al hanout cous cous
Chocolate truffle torte with strawberry and limoncello ice cream
Pear and moscatel sorbet in a serpa cheese shortbread cup


Why walk out dazed when you could have been dazzled.