Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Nuts about Wasabi

 Artesan Wasabi almonds to the front and Wasabi peanuts from Lidl at the back

One of the top food prediction trends for 2014 is more "extreme"spice being introduced into potato crisps and other snacks.Well I thought I would get ahead of the game and give it a go. I have always been nuts about wasabi, so I had a stab at "wasabifying" some nuts to accompany our guests drinks during the seasonal festivities.Alas I abandoned the result.The wasabi lost its dash in the drying process producing a rather poor cousin to the wonderful commercial versions out there.Wasabi is renowned for triggering unique taste-bud receptors that don’t otherwise respond to anything else and I certainly did not achieve this.Defeated twice and out of "frustration", I put my best foot forward and schlepped to my favourite Portuguese deli and bought a bag of beautiful Amendoins de Wasabi,picantes & saborosos.I wanted to see if they used anything else that had not been significant in the recipe I had used.Sure enough, just as I suspected they contained soya.This must be the secret I thought.I then bought a packet of wasabi coated peanuts from Lidl.The ingredients listing showed no soya but that a lot of flavour enhancing was going on, giving the peanuts less purity and slightly chemical after taste.
Well I am throwing the ball into your court dear readers so here´s one for you.How do you coat almonds and peanuts in wasabi and keep them spicy and crunchy? (a wasabi paradox).The world may have turned sour outside,but you and yours indoors are going to pucker up a few peeps faces, put a smile back on them and a lick on their lips.
Just for a change I am giving you the idea and now you have to execute it,then tell me all about it,how´s that for a New Years resolution? Looking forward to hearing how you get on and if you send some to Casa Rosada we will do a taste test and publish the best “wasabifications” on the blog here.
Here is how I tried with two attempts to spice up standard salted nuts with these two recipes for wasabi-crusted peanuts. The green shell is made with a combination of beaten eggwhites, wasabi powder and wasabi paste.My attempts were just mildly "Wasabiesque"


FIRST ATTEMPT
    ¼ cup coarse sea salt
    300 g unsalted peanuts
    2 eggwhites
    5 tsp wasabi powder
    2 tbsp cornflour
    2 tbsp wasabi paste


Heat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan-forced) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Rub the salt and peanuts together in a bowl and then place in a sieve to remove excess salt.
Lightly beat the eggwhites and gradually add the wasabi powder and cornflour. Stir in the wasabi paste. Add the nuts and then spread them out on the baking tray and dry in the oven for 40-50 minutes.


SECOND ATTEMPT    
1 tablespoon water
1 lb natural almonds (brown skin on)
2 tablespoons wasabi powder
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 275°F.
Line a baking sheet with Release Foil or lightly greased foil or lightly greased parchment paper.
Whisk the egg white and water together until foamy.
Add almonds and toss to coat.
Place almonds in a sieve to allow excess egg white to drain off toss lightly as you are draining them.
Stir together the wasabi, cornstarch & salt in a large bowl or zip lock plastic bag.
Add almonds and toss to coat.
Spread the almonds on the baking sheet single layer and bake for 30 minutes.
Let cool completely.
Serve now or store in an airtight container for up to a week.


Monday, 30 December 2013

Fim de ano: a opção Casa Rosada para o réveillon 2014



"Réveillon, a long dinner, and possibly party, held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year's Day, in Portugal, Brazil, France and some other French-speaking countries"

Este ano Casa Rosada propõe o menu diferente de cinco pratos.O nosso jantar especial de passagem de ano na Casa Rosada promete a especialidades da casa.

This year Casa Rosada is serving a five course menu with  a difference.Our special New Years Eve menu promises some of the specialties of the house.


( incluindo uma garrafa de vinho por casal e taça de champanhe à meia-noite )


Tapa de pimenta Pequillo e amêndoa com anchoa e  copo de xerez fino,Manzanilla
Creme de abóbora sopa
Assado de queijo de cabra com pudim de beterraba

Filés de salmão assados ​​no forno com esmalte javanês doce e azedo
risoto de lentilha Puy e grelos de nabo

ou

Lombinhos de porco com maçãs, gengibre,migado de
aipo-rãbano e batata,
 

Chocolate e amarguinha Cup Cake  com sorvete  caseiro mascarpone


( 1 bottle of wine per couple and glass of champagne at midnight included )

Pequillo pepper and almond Tapa with glass of Manzanilla
Cream of butternut squash soup
Baked goats cheese with beetroot pudding

Oven baked salmon steaks with javanese sweet and sour glaze
Puy lentil and Portuguese greens risotto

or

Tenderloin of pork with apples, ginger,migas of celeriac purée and potato

Chocolate and almond liqueur cup cake with home made mascarpone ice cream






Tuesday, 24 December 2013

So ho Casa Rosada So Christmas


Winter has well set in.Gale force winds and rain are abundantly lashing the Iberian Peninsula  promising us not a white Christmas but a wet grey one.This is not the weather to invite cold salads but I thought I would keep a little bit of summer alive by keeping the barbecued tradition fired up and bringing a little warmth to our Christmas day starter with a grilled octopus salad.
Here in Portugal there a few traditional Christmas dishes.By tradition, most Catholics don´t eat meat on Christmas eve. Instead they have Codfish and Octopus dishes. Octopus is traditional in northern regions while Bacalhau is nationwide.
Well get your tentacles around this.A recent guest left behind in their room, two issues of Soho House courtesy magazines “Cookhouse” and “Tonic.”Thumbing through as I always do keeping my eyes peeled I found a recipe that spoke to me big time  but sans inspirational picture, I had no idea how it should turn out,but it had definite potential for Casa Rosada.The recipe originates from Soho House West Hollywood´s chef Michael Mahony so I thought I better check the ingredients listing to ensure it would work in the Algarve.
The first taste test came up trumps and translated beautifully into Algarvian terms and on the plate it certainly dressed to impress.The flame red Catalan romesco played with the rich syrupy brown hues of balsamic, and my innovation of a citrus balsamic reduction which I had kept in my memory from a dinner we had at Amore Vero in Tavira during the summer.Flavours abounded,even the ones I had doubts about.Individual flavours shone through.

Grilled octopus with Romesco sauce,wild rocket salad 

and citrus balsamic reduction
Serves 8

Romesco sauce
3 dried nõra or choricero peppers
I red capsicum or bell pepper
I Roma (plum tomato)
5 cloves garlic

1 cup / 250 ml extra virgin olive oil
1x!nch /3 cm thick slice of day old bread
1/4 cup/35g hazelnuts
1/4 cup 75 ml sherry vinegar
lemon for squeezing
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Re-hydrate the nõra peppers in boiling water,having cleaned out as many seeds as possible.
Roast the red pepper in a roasting tray with the tomato and cloves of garlic until the skin of the pepper is charred.Put in a sealed plastic bag until cool then remove the skin.When the tomato is cool deseed and remove the skin.
Purée the pepper, tomato, nõra peppers and garlic.Pulse slowly, gradually adding the oil until smooth.Tear the bread into pieces then add to the mixture along with the hazelnuts.Purée again.Season and add the vinegar and squeeze of lemon.Add one teaspoon cayenne pepper.Adjust the seasoning.

The octopus
1 raw octopus,around 900g /2lb
I bottle white wine
1/2 cup /50g black peppercorns
1 tablespoon tomato puree

zest of 1 orange
Heat a large pan with a little oil.Bring it to smoking point,then sear the octopus on both sides until it turns a rich red color.Once red on both sides,add the wine,peppercorns,tomato paste and orange zest.Braise until tender,about one hour. Allow the octopus to cool fully.Slice into pieces, removing the eyes and beak and mushy parts within the head,(if not removed already) making sure you keep the tentacles intact.
Marinate the octopus pieces in half the Romesco sauce (recipe above)overnight if possible.Keep the rest of the sauce for serving.

Balsamic vinegar dressing
1 shallot,diced
1 clove of garlic,minced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup /125 ml balsamic vinegard
11/2 cups 575ml extra virgin olive oil
Flor de sal and cracked black pepper
lemon for squeezing
Combine the shallot,garlic and mustard.Add the vinegar and whisk in the oil.Season to taste with cracked black pepper and salt and finish with squeeze of lemon.

Citrus Balsamic reduction
2 cups /500ml balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 small orange juiced
Mix the vinegar and lemon juice then reduce by half over a low flame.Be careful not to over reduce or scorch the vinegar

For the salad
Marinated octopus pieces
1 orange,zest julienned juiced
4 or 5 handfuls of wild rocket
remaining romesco sauce
citrus balsamic reduction
balsamic dressing
Place the marinated octopus pieces on the barbecue or griddle pan.Char the octopus pieces until heated through,being careful not to overcook or burn the smaller part of the tentacles.Remove from the heat. Pour the orange juice over the octopus and allow to rest.
Toss the rocket and zest in a bowl.Season with salt and pepper and dress lighty with balsamic dressing.Toss again.Slice each octopus part into 3 - 4 pieces and toss with the salad.

On 8 serving plate,spread small amount of romesco on the bottom along with a small amount of citrus balsamic reduction.Place tossed salad over the romesco and balsamic allowing a little of each to be seen.make sure to layer all the ingredients so every little bite has everything in it.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Mendiants variation on a theme of Florentines


This week I wanted to make a batch of Florentines for Christmas.Not only would they be a luxurious Christmas treat for our guests but It would introduce an Italian element into my global Christmas blog scenario.Having made Florentines for years I thought I would try throwing something different into the mix - rolled oats.I tapped “oat Florentines” into google and what happened next was like setting out to write a book about biscuits and the research of one particular biscuit showing up way more results, far outweighing all the other biscuits on the list and sidetracking you into writing a completely different book.Well I guess thats the way the cookie crumbles and before long I was diverted from what was going to be an array of Italian Florentines to becoming a tray of no cook, no bother French fancies.-mendiants.
A mendiant is a traditional French confection very closely resembling the florentine but composed of a chocolate disk studded with nuts and dried fruits representing the four mendicant or monastic orders of the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Carmelites.
I started loving this,it was right up my rua and related to my interest in Portuguese Doces Conventuais.
Traditionally, each of the nuts and dried fruits used refers to the colour of  the particular monastic robes of that order with tradition dictating raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnut for the Augustines, dried fig for Franciscans and almond for Carmelite.So when you are savouring these treats think Dominic,Augustine, Francis or Carmel. Well how dull these monastic robes must have been.I can see them now - beige, greige, taupe and grunge.I needed some colour in my cookies and further research showed that recipes for mendiants have veered away from the traditional combination of just nuts to fruits and other combinations, incorporating seeds, fruit peels and other items.
I have not had so much fun in a long time.I played with colour contrasts and taste combinations.You can take this in any direction you want it.The green of pistachio with sugar violets and roses juxtaposed with the radiance of a soft dried apricot.Once reserved for Moroccan royalty and their guests, I paired Medjool dates with crystallized ginger and pistachios.I even sprinkled the chocolate with various infusions of  Flor de sal,chilli, lemon and vanilla.You can play with these to your hearts content and they are as easy as pie,probably the hardest part is tempering the chocolate.If you are short on last minute presents these are great.

Just like myself heat causes chocolate to lose it’s temper. When you buy chocolate for baking, it should arrive well-tempered.  But once you chop it up and melt it,chocolate loses its temper, and you’ll need to re-temper it again if you plan to use it as a coating.Its entirely up to you, if you want to keep your temper do it, if you want to lose it no probs.

Melt the chocolate "au bain-marie" : put a small saucepan of hot water over low heat, set a bowl over it with the chocolate cut in pieces, and wait until it melts, stirring with a spoon. This melting method is kinder to the chocolate than the microwave, and you want to be kind to your chocolate,not lose your temper.
Lay a silicone mat on a flat and cold surface and take the bowl of chocolate off the heat. Drop small spoonfuls of chocolate onto the sheet, using the back of the spoon to make little circles. Set two to three topping elements on the circle,gently pressing them into the chocolate . Work a few mendiants at a time, depositing six circles of chocolate, then decorating them, before making three new circles.
Try to create nice contrasting effects with the color and texture and taste of the toppings. No need to hurry, the chocolate should stay melted enough for you to work calmly. But if it gets too hard to work with, put it back over low heat to melt again.
When a batch is complete, put the sheet in a cool place for the chocolate to harden. Wait until the chocolate is completely set before lifting the mendiants cautiously from the sheet.
 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Laranjinhas - little oranges


Our tables and sideboards are graced at this time of year with baskets and bowls of seasonal “Christmas oranges”, seedless tangerines,satsumas,kumquats, clementines and mandarins. My replicants have the shape, the name, the flavour and even a significant stalk and leaf but they are not oranges, these little wonders originate from the cuisine of the Alentejo coast of Santiago do Cacém to Alcacer do Sal, and even in Setúbal,a profuse orange growing region.These sweets are rural in their origin but with an elegance and purity of flavour worthy of sophisticated palates.They are an integral part of the memories that flavour Portuguese childhood.
Make the laranjinhas a few days before they are to be served, in order to allow them to get firmer.

4 large carrots

fresh skin and pith of 3 oranges
200g(7oz) granulated sugar

Cut the carrots in half-not in small pieces,so they do not absorb too much water.boil the carrots with the orange peel(with all the pith,to avoid too much bitterness),until tender.Drain very thoroughly and dry again in a clean cloth.Taking avery sharp knife carefully peel away all the pith.Mash and sieve.Bring the sugar to the boil for 2-3 minutes with 2 tablespoons of water,until thick (see pearl stage).Add the purée.boil again stirring with a wooden spoon.Allow the mixture to dry,without burning( this requires a really low flame throughout a modicum of patience and an ever watchful eye).Spread the resulting paste on palate and and leave to get completely cold.Shape into small balls 1inch(2.5cm) in diameter.roll them in sugar and place in paper cases.Leave them untouched to dry for 2 or 3 days.you can make these little oranges realistic by sticking small stem or clove and a mint leaf on top.
Traditionally, these oranges were dried in the sun, after the balls were formed, turning them occasionally so that the entire surface created a crust. Thus, they could be stored for several months and would be eating like candy. This is why so much sugar was used. If the idea is to consume them in a few days, then you can reduce the quantity of sugar.
Makes about 24 laranjinhas

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Bah-hamburger - a Christmas tale of the unexpected



Christmas for me is all about surprise.From the expression of excitement and anticipation on a small child´s face as it tears the wrapping off a present, to the look of astonishment and incredulity on an aging relatives face when a untraditional plate of Christmas dinner is put before them.
I am afraid I have long since lost that magic of snowdrifts, sleigh bells and carols by candlelight.Nowadays the bah humbug is crushing the Bing Crosby in me and I cant get gooey eyed and sentimental about cocktails and canapés.I have always been more of a “Mummy´s kissing Santa Claus” kind of guy and this year the radical in me has come out with a vengeance.Oh the weather outside is not so frightful (18ºC )and the fire is so delightfu,l but this year I have looked to all sides of the world to find some cultural traditions and references that perhaps would make Christmas a little bit different.My posts this month are unearthing Christmas recipes from across the globe.From Portugal and Spain, across continents to the United States, Colombia and Australia, to England.I have brought stringent reform to the Christmas dinner table and taking the all American hamburger as my catalyst I have created a turkey dinner with a difference.I have not only made the central focus a turkey burger but put a traditional stuffing of sausage, sage and onion in the centre of the meat.In place of cranberry relish there is a sweet chili topping to spread on the bun.Bread sauce comes in the guise of Migas and the matchsticked carrots were given a Carribean warmth and sweetness by being roasted in Pimenta da Jamaica (Allspice) and orange juice.
For the salad element that goes with a burger I included a crispy layer of shredded Chinese cabbage.To round it all off root game chips came from a re-invention of a longstanding English tradition
*.

Here´s how its done:

One or two days day before
Get some  rustic bread to make the bread sauce
Make the chili relish
Make the stuffing

The night before
Prepare your burger mix and chill overnight

Migas branca (Bread sauce)
1 day-old loaf unsliced white bread
1 litre/2 pints full-fat milk
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp white peppercorns
2 blades fresh mace or heaped ¼ tsp ground mace
2 tsp salt
30g/1oz butter
2 tbsp double cream, optional
1 fresh nutmeg, for grating


Remove the crust from the bread and tear the stripped loaf into a mound of rough chunks or cubes about 2cm/¾in in size. You should end up with 175-200g (6¼-7¼oz) of cubes. If the bread is not slightly stale already, leave the pieces out on a wire rack to dry out.
Pour the milk into a saucepan. Press a clove into each quarter of the onion.
Add the onion quarters, bay leaves, peppercorns and the blades of mace (or sprinkle the ground mace into the pan) along with the salt and bring to the mixture almost to its boiling point.
Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and let the ingredients infuse for at least half an hour, though you can leave it for a few hours if that helps with your cooking schedule.
After the mixture has infused, place the pan back on a very low heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves and the blades of mace.
Add the bread to the saucepan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, by which time the sauce should have become thick and warm.
Just before serving the bread sauce, add the butter to the saucepan and stir until the butter has melted and combined with the sauce and season, to taste, with salt.
Add the cream (if using). Grate over quite a bit of nutmeg, adding more once you have poured the bread sauce into a warmed bowl or gravy boat.

Chilli Mirin Relish 

5 hot red chillies chopped
400g tomatoes
2 cloves garlic peeled
150g(5oz) caster sugar
2 tbsp good quality white wine vinegar
soup spoon Mirin or sherry

In a food processor whizz the chillies,tomatoes and garlic until smooth.
Put the mixture into a small pan.Stir in the sugar and vinegar.Boil rapidly for 20 minutes until it has reached a jam like consistency.Cool slightly the pour into sterilized jar and seal.When ready to serve transfer the relish to a serving bowl and stir in the mirin or sherry.

The stuffing 

1 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
1 onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1 heaped tsp dried ground sage
sprig of thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
250g/1lb 8oz pork mince
175g/6oz fresh white breadcrumbs
dash of Worcester sauce,soya sauce or molho piccante
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper


Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add onion, celery and garlic with chili flakes and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent. Cool slightly.Mix in the pork mince and continue cooking until mince is sealed and browned,stir in the sage and thyme,the worcester sauce.Stir well to mix and continue cooking for couple of minutes.Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs until you have
achieved thick moist stuffing.Taste to adjust the seasoning.You will probably have more than you need to stuff your burgers so reserve for later and re-fry or use in sandwiches.
Transfer to a storage container and chill until you are ready to make your burgers.
Have yourself a merry little fast food Christmas

On the day

Bah-turkey burger
makes 6 x 180g 8cm burgers
(prepare your mix the night before)
2 courgettes, coarsely grated (net weight 250g)
Salt and black pepper
600g minced turkey, or chicken
2 medium free-range eggs
1½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chopped coriander
3 tbsp chopped mint
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
60g chopped spring onion
Sunflower oil, for frying


Put the grated courgette in a sieve, mixed with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and leave to drain for about 15 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible with your hands, then put the courgette in a large mixing bowl along with the turkey, eggs, cumin, coriander, mint, garlic, three-quarters of the spring onion, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Chill overnight.
When you are ready to make your burgers( I added some dried breadcrumbs to the mix at this point to make it workable).
Take a deep pastry cutter the same size as the dimension of your burger bun when split open.Spoon some of the burger mix into the pastry cutter
to a depth of 2/3 of the cutter.leaving sufficient amount of meat in the bottom careful pull some of the meat out to the sides of the cutter making a well in the middle.fill the well with a spoonful of stuffing and then spoon more turkey mix on top to seal.Repeat with the remaining five burgers.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan with enough oil to cover the bottom. fry the patties for four minutes, turning once, until nice and brown on both sides. Transfer to a baking tray and finish off in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Allspice roasted carrots

6 medium carrots cut into thick matchsticks
extra-virgin olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon or more of  freshly ground allspice
Flor de sal  and freshly ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
125ml freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes or so, until nearly fork-tender but still have some firmness. Drain thoroughly.
On a baking sheet, toss the carrots with enough oil to coat them generously, then toss them with the allspice and salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 10 minutes, shaking and turning often, until nicely seared and browned here and there.
Remove the pan from the oven and while the carrots are still in it, add the garlic and orange juice and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot or at room temperature added to your burger.

NOTE:You can par-cook the carrots and set them aside to drain for up to several hours before sliding them in the oven. These little lovelies are also quite nice when served warm, as opposed to hot from the oven, so if they need to linger on the counter a few minutes before going from baking sheet to serving dish, all is not lost.


Last minute root vegetable game chips
*
The inspiration for this was those fancy schmancy multi coloured root vegetable chips you find in posh health food shops or the gourmet ingredient section of supermarkets.For a mere fraction of the exorbitant cost you can have these personally customized, just as impressive and home made, deep fried lovelies.You can choose just which root veggies you want and just what proportions you want of each.They’re moorish just to munch with a tipple but also make a noble side to the big bird,steak or roast hen.
 

a selection of red skinned potatoes,parsnips,red beets,golden beets,sweet potatoes,carrots
About 8 cups sunflower oil, for frying
Sea salt, to taste


Wash, peel and thinly slice the root vegetables. For best results, the slices should be almost paper thin, about 1/16 inch. Sprinkle the slices with about 1 tsp salt, mix and let stand for 15 minutes to extract water. The less water they contain, the better they will fry. Then rinse, and pat dry thoroughly.
Pour enough sunflower oil into a tall-sided pan to cover the bottom surface; the oil should be about 1/4 inch deep. Heat the oil on medium heat to about 350F 175C(the oil will be sufficiently hot when a test slice dropped into the oil sizzles satisfyingly). With tongs and working in batches, carefully place the slices in a single layer in the pan. Fry the chips until crisp, about 3 minutes per batch, flipping with tongs occasionally. The chips are ready when slightly darkened in color and they begin to resemble wilted petals. Remove with tongs immediately and let dry completely on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Assembly 

Split your burger buns in half and lay a layer of shredded chinese leaves on the bottom of each.Top with a thick layer of bread sauce then the roasted carrots.Place your burgers on next and brush a thin layer of chili relish on the top of each burger.Replace the lid on the buns and transfer to serving plates.Surround with a selection of game chips and extra bread sauce and chili relish.

*Just a little historical note:These crispy type chips were invented in England to accompany roast pheasant (or other game) and are called ‘game chips’. They are cooked at the very last minute before serving the meat, sliced very fine, deep fried in oil, drained and salted. They are served on the same plate and are the perfect compliment to game! Most important weight-wise, only 5 or 6 chips are served per plate and strangely that is all that is needed since more somehow unbalances the meal…one medium potato is enough for 6 people.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Buñuelos - Cherubic Christmas buttocks

The list of Doce conventuais,( literally sweets made in convents) is extensive.Variations of these confections appear all across Portugal.Although nuns were known for their inventiveness in regard to sweets,and monks for their wines,this does not mean that monks could not create some sweet concoctions of their own too.Manjar celeste, heavenly food, just gives its origin away,you guessed, it was a convent.
Many of these delights have celestial names.Toucinho de céu "heaven's lard", or "bacon from heaven” I have already introduced to you in a post last week.
I love the idea of  a Barriga de freira - nuns belly, and also a typical Christmas specialty from the north of Portugal that is called  Orelhas de Abade -  abbot´s ears. My favourite of all however has to be papos de anjo,(angel´s breasts). Anything called angel´s breasts must surely be delectable, tender and sweet. Inspired by all this I wanted to make something light and heavenly.
Anyway, so I had some fresh Requeijao (ricotta)cheese to hand.I found a recipe for Fritoli de lino from Antonio Carluccio’s book “An Invitation to Italian Cooking.”I bypassed this recipe as it was much too complicated, but what I loved was the name. Carluccio said that he had decided that due to their heavenly lightness the only way to describe them was “angel’s farts,”I felt I had found the sentiment and gist of the recipe I was searching for but had to look further for one with a simpler method.
When Bunuelos came up on my computer screen I knew I´d finally found what I was looking for. Originating in Colombia, Bunuelos are enjoyed all over Latin America in different forms, especially at Christmas time.Perfect, but just when i thought I had this sorted I found myself with  a dichotomy.I could neither get the correct cheese or the correct flour ( yucca flour or tapioca starch) here in Portugal so what substitutes should I use. Should I go for sweet or savory so I thought would make two types.
Traditionally these Colombian delicacies are made with Costeño cheese (Queso Costeño) which is a Colombian white cheese that is a little saltier and harder than Quejo Fresco. My compromising solution for the savoury version was to go for for a combination of feta and Requeijao. because to me this would be the nearest match to Queso Costeño and Requeijao, like Ricotta, can be deployed either way, sweet or savoury.In place of the yucca I used potato flour.
For the sweet version I followed a traditional recipe but found I had to amp up the quantity of flour to make the dough workable.The result was amazing,my savory bunuelos were speaking my language while they were still cooking. Their strong cheesy aroma was testing the patience of my palate and when I removed them from the fryer it was hard not to take a nibble at the risk of burning my tongue.When they cooled the flavour was intense and delicious but the texture was slightly denser than I had expected.Next time i will be braver and use just queijo fresco, amping up the flour quantity as in the sweet version.The sweet version was more what I had expected; a cross between a doughnut and a choux bun- deliciousness.Some elements of improvisation and intuition are needed when making these.The dough in each case should be malleable enough to roll into balls without being inelastic.Oh I was pleased,these turned out to be oh so easy without  me even having to don a wimple or wear a bad habit.To keep up the celestial tradition of doces conventuais and as a token gesture to Signor Carluccio, I named my little angels “nádegas de querubim” ( cherubic buttocks )
“Nádegas de querubim” Cherubic buttocks 

(sweet version)
Makes about 18 buñuelos

2 cups queijo fresco
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup potato flour
1.5 tablespoons light brown sugar,such as muscovado
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
sunflower oil for frying

Make sure that the cheese is broken up very finely. You can use a food processor for this.
Mix the cheese, corn starch, potato flour, sugar, salt, and egg in a large bowl until well blended.
Shape the dough into 1 inch diameter balls.I rolled mine in an assortment of sizes to create a bit of visual contrast when served.
Heat several inches of oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 350 degrees.
Add the buñuelos, a few at a time, and cook. They will sink to the bottom, then rise and expand. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are golden brown very round and have risen to the surface.
Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

“Nádegas de querubim” Cherubic buttocks 

(savoury version)
Makes about 24 buñuelos

1 cup queijo fresco
1 cup feta
3/4 cup corn starch
2 tablespoons potato flour
pinch salt
Tablespoon milk

 

Follow same method as above

If you have yucca flour or tapioca starch use that in place of potato flour

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Compliments of the season


 "When we met, I always knew
I would feel that magic for you"

Caught up in the rapture  of the season it can be so easy to forget to pay attention to the finer details of one´s cooking.Those all important little tweeks like that reminder at the end of recipes that says "taste" and "Adjust the seasoning". I have been experimenting with ways of using up some of the summers harvest.The three key ingredients I chose for my experiment were dried thyme, piri piri peppers and sundried tomatoes. The experiment was to introduce some  flavours to compliment natural Flor de Sal.Lovely aromatic produce that I had gathered during the hot arid Portuguese summer could be used to bring a little warmth and piquancy to enhance winter´s compendium.To have these little seasonal helpers to hand can be a godsend.Its all about that other phrase that food writers bandy about "salt and pepper to taste"

Thyme salt
Add 1/3 dried thyme to Flor desal and mix until the salt is flecked with herb

Piri piri salt
Add dried chilli flakes to flor de sal in a proportion of 
1 part chilli flakes to 3 parts Flor de sal

Sundried tomato salt
Add very finely chopped sundried tomatoes and mix them 
1 part tomato to three parts Flor de sal
make sure the sundried tomatoes are really dry.Semi dried tomatoes willhave some moisture in them that will react with the salt and make the mix damp.

.....and while on the subject of home flavoured salt,home made celery salt will come in very useful over the festive season,not only in cooking but as an essential part of the morning after, hair of the dog, Mary.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Broas castelares a cake is for now not just for Christmas


You can scroll the four corners of the world, through books, recipes and ingredients,looking for different slants on traditional recipes but you know that certain recipes cant be messed with and one must go back to the original source of the recipe"Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa" 
In this case I was looking for Portuguese cake recipes with sweet potato. And that´s how I came to find the Broas Castelares - Portuguese Sweet Potato Cakes.
These are small oval cakes made for the Christmas period in Portugal.These delicious broas are now not only sold all over Lisbon and Estremadura province,where they originated, but all over Portugal.They are sold both before and well after the Christmas season,but there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason why these little broas have become Santas little seasonal saviours.
This is the first time I have made these, and here I have a small confession. I have learnt from experience how Portuguese cakes, pastries and sweets are overloaded with sugar so I knew I had to make some adjustments to the original recipe, in order to adapt them to my not so sweet Gallic tooth.
Traditionally they are very sugary, which as I mentioned is usual in Portuguese sweets. The dough is dense and yet soft and slightly moist. I therefore have to confess, only for this reason, to having adjusted the recipe. I lessened the sugar and used less honey, and added a bit of salt to enhance the flavour which becomes much milder when the amount of sugar is reduced. And that´s exactly what I did this weekend, to continue making the most of my batch of sweet potatoes and mitigate the misery of an unpredicted cold spell.By coincidence, as I dusted my little broas, Big broa was lightly dusting Lisboa with a snow shower. Spoon more, spoon more, toujour spoon more....

Broas Castelares - Portuguese Sweet Potato Cakes
400 g sweet potatoes
250 g caster sugar
2 tbs honey
1/2 tsp salt
225 g yellow corn flour (thinly ground)
50 g plain flour
75 g ground almonds
2 eggs
Zest of 1/2 orange
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 yolk for the glaze
Confectioners sugar to dust

Preheat the oven to 240º, 475f, gas mark 9.
Make a small cut into the potatoes and boil them until tender. Wait a bit for them to cool and then peel them and puree the pulp.
Measure out 400g pulp and mix with the sugar. Heat gently for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent from burning. Remove from the heat and let it cool a bit.Add the remaining ingredients to the sweet potato mix and take to heat once more, stirring until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool completely.Grease and flour a baking sheet.
Shape the sweet potato dough into oval, flat cakes, brush with the egg yolk and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, let the cakes cool completely on top of a wire rack and then dust them with icing sugar.


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Gougeres,buns or puffs? bacon and cheese from heaven


Eating one´s way through the medieval history of Portugal it is almost unavoidable not to indulge in some sinful treats.Most of these have a conventual history.The one that most often springs to mind is Toucinho de Céu,literally translated as “bacon from heaven”.The origin of this delicacy is said to have come from Odivelas,a Lisbon suburb,where the old convent was famous for its poetry sessions followed by drinks accompanied by conventual specialities.The original recipe was  extraordinarily rich with a heck of a lot of eggs and obviously because of its title, the inclusion of bacon.This was a sweet recipe too,and it inspired me to make my own “savoury” version of bacon from heaven.
Gougéres, cheese buns, pão de queijo,cheese breads, puffs or popovers,call them what you will but I have to say come Christmas time you will be oh so glad to have a batch of these gorgeous puffed up little buns in your freezer when an unexpected poof or two might pop over.
And since we are right on the brink of the busiest entertaining season of the year, I knew it would be the perfect time to share this little something with you.
This is one of those recipes that you can go ahead and begin making one rainy December day in preparation.Just make these now, ahead of time, and you will avoid unwanted tailgating on your kitchen prep when the party season starts.
Cheese and Bacon gougeres make one of the lightest and easiest of appetizers and nibbles, and while they are a taste sensation straight out of the oven, these little balls of air are just as delicious pulled out of the freezer and reheated for a quick nibble. You can whip up these Cheese and Bacon gougeres in less than 30 minutes and then watch them disappear even more quickly,leaving you with an empty serving platter and time to master the rest of the ceremony.Perfection for party peeps I would say.
I had already got wind (pardon the expression so early in the morning )that baby cheese buns are a popular snack and breakfast food in Brazil, so after my early Sunday morning baking bonanza I carefully popped my warm buns into a bread basket,the thespian knocked up some scrambled eggs and after that a good gougere was hard to find.Micro focus group completed without finalizing a name for them, my baby buns are now well on their way to feed festive gobs.
So since this re-invented Brazilian street food is a potential crowd-puller, I highly recommend making two or three batches of these babies so that you have plenty to freeze for later. Make ‘em soon, stock pile a few dozen. You’ll thank me.I Promise.


Bacon and Cheese Gougéres 
1 cup water
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
1 cup coarsely grated Queijo da Ilha ( substitute mature cheddar )
4 slices cooked bacon chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
generous pinch of dried piri piri (chilli flakes)
Pre-heat your oven to 200C/390 f
Line a baking tray with parchment or silicon mat

Bring water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Stirring vigorously, add in all of the flour and cook until the dough begins to pull away from the edges of the saucepan. Remove dough from heat and transfer to a food processor and allow to cool for approximately two to three minutes. Alternately, you can leave in the saucepan and use a hand mixer, if desired. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating in completely after each addition. Stir in cheese, bacon pieces, black pepper, and chilli flakes making sure all ingredients are well-combined.
Spoon small dollops onto baking sheet. Using a damp finger or back of a spoon, press down any pieces of dough that are sticking up to prevent them from overbrowning. Bake 25-30 minutes,until they  have turned a golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Serve immediately or allow to cool completely, place in airtight container or zip top freezer bags and freeze for up to three months.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

World Aids Day 2013



Red ribbon of pequillo pepper

World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. I have created my own 2013 remembrance in the form of a red ribbon of pequillo pepper.