Friday, 16 March 2018

Rolling, rolling, rolling, the legendary wagon wheel biscuit

"It's more than a biscuit, it's a mighty big snack!"
Who´s old enough to remember this ground breaking biscuit from the 1950s ?...... A little bit retro and whole lot more delicious, inspired by memories of the school tuck shop I set out to see whether I could recreate the legendary wagon wheel biscuit, and give them the taste I remember with an echo of a distant age of giant biscuits and the history that comes with them. There once was a mighty biscuit baron called Garfield Weston. An entrepreneurial Canadian, he made a fortune out of supplying biscuits to the forces during the war and had a facility in Slough. Mr Weston had three sons. One son inherited the UK business, one had the Canadian, and the other Weston got Australia. Which is why in each country one can find the Wagon Wheel.Reputed to be the brain child of Garry Weston, the UK son, they were originally sold in the UK as Weston's Wagon Wheels.
 "A taste for adventure."
 For those of you not up to speed with the wagon wheel,they are a chocolate-coated biscuit and marshmallow sandwich sold with packaging that capitalized on the Wild West,which with programmes like Wagon Train, Rawhide, Bonanza, The Lone Ranger and The Virginian were popular in the media at the time.There is a top and bottom biscuit layer lined with raspberry or strawberry jam(Australian version only), with marshmallow in the middle holding them together, then the whole thing is coated in chocolate. The soft biscuit layers have a bit of crunch to them. The centre is white.

The packaging I remember, originally sold in the UK as Weston's Wagon Wheels.

The size of the UK one was reduced in width in the 1980s after the move to Wales, from 79 mm to 74 mm. At the same time, the British Wagon Wheel lost its crimped edge. Australian Wagon Wheels continue to have their crimped edge (as of 2005.)The original Wagon Wheel carried no jam.One with jam accompanying the mallow is sold in Australia, the UK, Canada and in Ireland. In Australia, the jam is described as "apple and plum" jam. The jam is directly on the bottom biscuit, then there's a layer of mallow. In the British jam version, called a "Jammie Wagon Wheel", which weighs 38g, the jam doesn't touch the biscuit: there's the biscuit, then a layer of mallow, then a layer of jam, then a layer of mallow. In Canada, the jam used appears to be raspberry.
    "If there's a bigger bite, it can't be found."
    During the 1960s the slogan in Australia was "It's more than a biscuit, it's a mighty big snack!" "Eat the Wagon Wheel!" was the catchphrase of a campaign where viewers were informed of what items were typically available as snacks in countries where Wagon Wheels were not available. The voice over would then ask which you would rather eat. Then the reply would come from, for instance, one of the pickled herrings on offer, "Eat the Wagon Wheel!" This giant marshmallow and jam-filled biscuit  I turned out was so much bigger than the Wagon Wheels I remember from my childhood.'Yes, yes, but what does it taste like?' I tend to hear you cry, waiting for a review. Well its most definitely a Wagon Wheel. All the classic components are there, the chocolate flavoured coating, which appeared a bit darker than the original I remembered, more cocoa perhaps?  However there is a definite difference and I think this comes mainly from the jam and its placement. In my Wagon Wheel  it is applied directly to the bottom of both biscuits. The result is definitely a challenge for the palate. I even believed at one point that I detected a Raspberry pip, even though I knew that this was impossible, a cunning fantasy woven for me by antipodean biscuit makers.
      Bearing in mind they were comparing something from memory.The biscuit was spot on but should be thinner.Authenticity~wise there should be no jam, this is something that should be left to the Australians.The mallow was too squidgy.This was my fault. In attempting home made marshmallow, which failed miserably, I would suggest to anyone attempting to make home made wagon wheels that you use a commercial brand of marsh mallows and melt them down.I have since found a recipe (below) which is very different to the one I used and potentially seems pretty sound if you have patience.My chocolate covering, all agreed, was delicious but once again for authenticity it should be milk chocolate.My wagon wheels weighed in at nearly double the weight (5oz) of the original specification(3.5oz)!!!.I kept to the original diameter of 79mm.
      Home made wagon wheels
      makes 6
      140 g pure icing sugar
      140 g cornflour
      400 g caster sugar
      1 tablespoon liquid glucose
      2 tablespoons powdered gelatine
      2 egg whites
      75 g cornflour

      Sift the icing sugar and cornflour into a bowl. Grease and line a 4 cm-deep, 18 cm x 25 cm ceramic baking tray. Dust the inside of the pan with a generous amount of the icing sugar mix, setting the reminder aside for later. In a small bowl sprinkle the gelatine over 200 ml cold water to allow it to dissolve and soften.  
      Combine the caster sugar, glucose and 200 ml water in a small saucepan over a low heat. Stir constantly, until the sugar completely dissolves. Increase the heat to medium, bring the mix to the boil and cook until it reaches 120°C on a sugar thermometer.
      Meanwhile, while the sugar syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the whites on low until they become frothy. Increase the speed to high and continue to beat until they're thick and fluffy.
      As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 120°C, and without stopping the motor, slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream. Continue to beat on high.
      Pour the gelatine and water into the saucepan used to make the sugar syrup, scraping the bowl to ensure there's none of the mix left behind. Place over a very low heat and stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Due to the residual heat left in the saucepan this should only take a few moments. Without stopping the motor, pour the gelatine mixture into the whites. Continue to whip for eight minutes or until the mixture thickens and becomes glossy. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a wet palette knife, then set aside and allow to dry for three to six hours, uncovered. If you're kitchen is too warm, you can also chill the mix in the fridge for 1 hour, then allow it to sit, uncovered for an extra hour. When done it should feel dry to the touch.Once set,cut out six 8cm discs with a biscuit cutter.

      225g butter
      75g caster sugar
      1 egg yolk
      1 tbsp golden syrup or maple syrup
      210g plain flour 
      Cream together the butter and sugar and then add the egg yolk and syrup.Fold in the flour and mix to a smooth dough.Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
      Roll out to 2mm thick.Cut out 12 x 8cm discs,allowing two per portion,and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.allow to cool.

      100g good quality plain or ideally milk chocolate
      150ml double cream
      50g butter
      Melt the chocolate with the cream in a bain - marie over simmering water.Once melted,add the butter and stir in.Remove from the heat to prevent the butter from becoming too liquid.The butter should have melted and emulsified into the chocolate mixture.If the mixture is too thin leave to cool to thicken slightly.

      Spread some jam (Australian version) fairly generously over 6 biscuits.Sit a marshmallow disc on each then spread some more jam on top.Finish with another biscuit to complete the "sandwich".
      For a perfect chocolate finish,spoon the chocolate mixture on in stages.First sit the biscuits on a wire rack and set over abaking tray or plate and spoon some of the chocolate topping over to cover completely Refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes until set.Remove and turn the biscuits upside down on the rack.Spoon more of the chocolate over the biscuits to cover.Refrigerate again until set.Remove and spoon over any remaining chocolate(you might need to re-use some of the topping from the tray)for an even more luscious finish.
      good luck-Yeehaw!!

      Wednesday, 14 March 2018

      East side story

      Come in hummus your time´s up, there´s a new boat to push out from across the pond and its called Muhammara!!!!
      Have you ever tried muhammara? It’s a spicy pepper dip that originated from Aleppo, Syria, with one of the key ingredients being Aleppo chili flakes!
      Technically speaking this is the East Algarve but with a bit of artistic licence it can be Algarvian Levant.So with my new found muhammara I decided to put together a simple mid-week middle eastern /Levantine supper.Most of the ingredients which I needed, Za´atar, sumac etc, are available here, with the exception of the Aleppo chili flakes, so I substituted with piri piri flakes which have much more heat and so I accordingly reduced the quantity.I substituted roasting the peppers for a jar of piquillo peppers which brought it closer to home and gave it a sweeter and smokier flavour.The feature of my dish was Middle Eastern style chicken skewers with an Iranian dip on the side, served with Pan cooked yoghurt flatbreads.Think of muhammara as a mix of savoury, sweet, and smoky with a little spice.
      First comes lemon for acidity,then walnuts for bite, cumin for smokiness, Aleppo chili flakes for heat, pomegranate molasses for sweetness and depth of flavour, bread crumbs for texture, olive oil for body, and salt for overall flavour.This classic Levantine dip can be made in a food processor, but it will lose some of its lovely texture, so if you are looking for a more textured dip I'd use a pestle and mortar,. Muhammara keeps well and even improves after a day in the fridge; just don't serve it fridge-cold. Serves four as a dip or side dish.Easy to make, BIG  flavour, smoky, spicy, subtly sweet, hearty,
      healthy and delicious.I defy anyone not to love this.

      Muhammara (serves 4)
      3 red bell peppers (360 g) or a jar of piquillo peppers
      2-3 Tbsp (30-45 ml)home made pomegranate molasses

      3 Tbsp (15 g) bread crumbs
      11/2 tsp ground cumin
      1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
      2 tsp dried Aleppo chilli flakes,  (
      or piri piri flake and reduce to 1 tsp)
      1 clove garlic (3 g), minced 

      1/2 cup (60 g) raw walnuts, finely chopped
      2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil 

      1/2 Tbsp (5 ml) lemon juice
      Flor de sal
      Heat oven to 450 degrees F (232 C) and place whole bell peppers, (if using) directly on a baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until blackened on the outside. Cover with foil to let steam and cool for 10 minutes. Then peel away core, seeds, and skins and set aside.
      To a food processor, add pomegranate molasses, bread crumbs, cumin, salt, chili flakes, garlic, walnuts, olive oil, and lemon juice and pulse (instead of blend) to combine. Then add roasted peppers and pulse a few more times to combine. I think a little texture is nice in this dip instead of a purée.Taste and adjust flavour as needed, adding more lemon for acidity, garlic for "zing," chili flakes for spice, pomegranate molasses for sweetness / depth of flavor, sea salt for saltiness, or cumin for smokiness.
      Serve with fresh Pan cooked yoghurt flatbreads. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Let come to room temperature before enjoying - I like it warm.

      Middle eastern Chicken Skewers with Za´atar and Sumac
      Serves 2
      2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, each breast cut lengthways into 4 pieces
      1 red onion cut into wedges
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1/2 tbsp lemon juice
      2 tbsp Za´atar
      1 tbsp sumac
      In a mixing bowl toss together all the ingredients and leave to marinade until you are ready to use. Thread the chicken portions and onion wedges onto 4 metal skewers
      and grill on high for 10- 15 minutes turning.Serve with muhammara and yoghurt flatbreads.

      Friday, 9 March 2018

      One meal two ways,butternut squash ravioli with walnut sauce

      One recipe two different meals, one a midweek supper that you can whip up quickly without breaking your back, the other, one that will be a little more involved.A starter for a more special occasion or for when you are catering for guests.
       My intention is that two versions on a common theme will allow extra-busy people the chance to get ahead when they have time.Prepping at the weekend for midweek suppers eases the strain.The walnut sauce can be made up to 4 days in advance and kept in a sealed container in the fridge.The ravioli filling can be made in advance too and even the ravioli themselves can be filled up to 24 hours ahead, tossed with some flour or semolina and kept chilled in a sealed container.Which leaves us with yours and my only big headache, the pasta.You can make your basic pasta dough up to 24 hours ahead, wrap in clingfilm and chill or freeze for up to 1 month in a freezer bag.I am not providing a recipe for the pasta dough as this is something so personal.What recipe works for one fails another.You have to experiment and find a recipe you are comfortable with.Some recipes just use eggs and flour while others include semolina.Some advocate making the dough in a processor while others painstakingly apply love and knead the dough with their hands.A method I have come to prefer.Whatever recipe you go for,we are all in agreement that `00´flour is the only way to go.Another personal option is whether to roll out the dough by hand or whether to employ a pasta machine.Ideally, whichever method you go for  you want to be able to see your hand through the pasta once it is rolled.
      I wasn't quite sure what an "open faced" ravioli would be like

      This filling is also delicious served as a pasta sauce,in which case you should thin it slightly before using with some single cream.
      1 small butternut squash,peeled seeds removed,cut into 2-3 cm chunks
      125g unsalted butter
      1 garlic clove sliced
      1/2 tbsp dried oregano
      1 tsp fresh sage leaves,chopped
      100g ricotta
      75g freshly grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
      1 quantity of basic pasta dough (see above)
      Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the squash for 15-20 minutes until very tender.Drain in a colander and leave to cool..heat half the butter in a large frying pan and cook the garlic until soft.Add the oregano, sage and the cooked squash.
      Use a wooden spoon to mash the squash and cook for about ten minutes or until the mixture appears quite dry.leave to cool.Add the ricotta and parmesan and mix well.Then taste and adjust the seasoning.

      1/2 garlic clove
      100g shelled walnuts
      Juice  1/2 lemon
      75g parmesan grated
      2 tbsp whole milk
      4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
      1 heaped tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
      Crush the garlic and a pinch of sea salt in a pestle and mortar,then add the walnuts.Pound until smooth,then mix in the lemon juice,parmesan,milk,olive oil and parsley,one after the other.Work the mixture together so the sauce becomes emulsified,then taste and adjust the seasoning.
      When ready to cook,Boil the ravioli in a large pan of salted water for 3-5 minutes.Drain lightly,then toss gently in the pan with the walnut sauce, and a little of the cooking water.Serve in hot bowls with a little parmesan and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

      For the quick midweek supper version 
      "Open faced ravioli" 
      Take 4 sheets of fresh lasagne dough and cut them into 8 sqares.You will need four squares per portion.Boil the squares of lasagne in a large pan for about 2-3 minutes or as manufacturers recoomendation.Stir constantly to avoid the sheets sticking to each other and the bottom of the pan.I always cook an extra couple of sheets more than I need to cover this eventuality.When the pasta is cooked drain and lay the sheets out on a clean tea towel and fold the towel over to keep the pasta warm.Meanwhile heat through the pasta filling and in another pan the walnut sauce.Spoon some of the filling on the bottom of a warm plate and cover with a square of pasta.Repeat until you have used four pasta squares.Pour over and around some walnut sauce.Sprinkle with parmesan and chopped parsley. Repeat with your second portion or more.

      Monday, 5 March 2018

      Kefir panna cotta with saffron and cardamom jelly

        “If it takes you more than five minutes to put it together, you’re doing something wrong.”

      Panna cotta is such a lovely blank slate, like its savoury sister polenta it can be flavoured according to one’s desire. What’s not to love about a dessert like that? Vanilla is an obvious choice, but cardamom, cinnamon, tonka, nutmeg, lemongrass, ginger, lemon geranium are all spices you could toy with.Inspired by a creme caramel I saw Nigel Slater make on his tour of Iran,I thought i would go for a combination of saffron and cardamom,topped with a wonderful golden jelly.Interestingly enough it’s become popular in Paris and nowadays, it’s just as common to see it on menus as crème caramel and crème brûlée.This is perhaps the easiest dessert to make ever.As David Lebovitz aptly describes panna cotta, “If it takes you more than five minutes to put it together, you’re doing something wrong.” The spin I put on it made it an Italian dessert with Indian flavours.The spices enhance the rich flavours of the Kefir, cream,and Greek yoghurt (yes i know,before you say it,not authentic but try it, it gives the whole thing a moussey texture) and  pull the whole thing together with a heady top note of flavour and perfume. An amazing fusion dessert with melt in the mouth texture and mildly sweetened with a subtle enticing aroma of cardamom.It gives the saffron cardamom flavours a chance to shine.
      Kefir panna cotta with saffron and cardamom jelly 
      makes 4  
      kefir is fermented cows milk, full of gut friendly bacteria.
      It´s used in recipes for its tangy flavour similar to soured cream.
      Find it in supermarkets and health food stores.
      250ml greek yoghurt
      125ml kefir
      125ml regular cream
      4oz caster sugar
      12 cardamom pods shelled and ground up
      large pinch of saffron threads

      3 leaves of gelatine
      Beat the yoghurt lightly with a fork until smooth and creamy.Soak the saffron in a little warm water and stir.Combine the cream and kefir in a small pan with the sugar, ground cardamom and saffron.Heat over a medium flame until the sugar has dissolved,the mixture is nicely warm to the touch.Remove from the heat.Dissolve the gelatine in 4 tablespoons of water and add to the cream mixture.Stir to mix.Beat in the yoghurt.spoon the mixture into four individual ramekin dishes and chill for several hours or ideally overnight.Dip each ramekin briefly into some hot water to loosen the panna cotta and then turn out onto serving plates.

      Friday, 2 March 2018

      'Choose Our Food' economizar a quilometragem dos alimentos e pegada ecológica

       O pastor do cabrito Nuno Coelho. Foto:Beatriz Ruiz Martinez, Al Algarve conmigo

      How much of the food you will eat today will be locally produced? And how much will travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles before it is delivered to your plate?
      The more food miles that are attached to a given food, the less sustainable and the less environmentally desirable that food is. The term food miles has become part of the vernacular among food professionals when describing the farm to consumer network of food.
      It’s so rare we get to connect with exactly where our food comes from,but when I return from the market with dirt that grasps my potatoes, it does just that.

      Once upon a time organically classified produce was all the rage.Times change and fashions change.The fashion now is for foods that are "locally produced".Nobody seems to be able to answer the question why this produce can not be locally produced and nevertheless be organic.Money I presume is the the short answer with "locally produced" a concession to the supposed cost (and carbon footprint) of transport.
      Local food now represents an alternative to the global food model, a model which often sees food travelling long distances before it reaches us the consumer. A local food network involves relationships between food producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers in a particular place, where they work together to increase food security and ensure economic, ecological and social sustainability of a community.Locally grown food has a significant connection to organics. For one thing, many local farms are organic (some certified, some not certified).
      More important, though, is the raging debate about which is better: certified organic food or local food. While both local and organic foods carry pros and cons, people have some very strong opinions about which is best, and many like myself would like to purchase both locally-produced and organically-grown food.
      People who buy this produce may also want to see sustainable production and distribution business practices. Animal welfare issues and fair farm labour practices also are important to many customers who strive to "buy local."

      Finally, "the story behind the food" may be important to some customers, who like to meet growers and understand their ethics.
      Organic farming can help cut greenhouse emissions: it uses less water and less energy than conventional farming, which is heavily dependent on high-energy processes and fossil fuels for fertilisers and pesticides. Organic food production is also better for wildlife, livestock, people and the environment. 
      A word on buying direct: because all the produce has been grown, reared or produced by the people who are selling it, you can find out everything you want to know about the food and how it was grown or cooked. The money you spend goes directly to the people who actually do the work to produce the food you're eating - the farmers and makers - rather than supermarkets and wholesalers.
      Stay in touch with the seasons and discover produce you've never had before. There won’t be plums or sardines in April but, when they are in season, the farmers,fishermen and artesan producers will bring in many different varieties. You’ll also find produce you may not have come across before, such as organic hams ,cured sausages and rare cheeses. 
       It has always been part of our mission statement here at Casa rosada to dispel the view that the Algarve is just about beaches and leisure activities.In Baixo Guadiana,the area in which we live,far from the main cities of the Algarve is an unknown world.We are in Castro Marim a stones throw from Spain.Our nearest town is Vila Real de Santo António and just up the river is the pretty little town of Alcoutim.These three towns for some part live off the produce of the people who work in the surrounding countryside.To give this area the recognition it truly deserves a project has been launched to show that this area rises above the vulgarity of mass tourism and exposes a "real Algarve"
      'Choose Our Food' project wants to broaden horizons and get the message out there to promote wonderful local artesan products.This is a movement for the Algarve, for those who live here but also its visitors.
      Choose our Food, launched by Odiana, the Baixo Guadiana Development Association, which includes Alcoutim, Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António, is a project that aims to create a cooperative network to promote food products in the region and reveal the potential of its gastronomy.Choose our Food aims to maximize regional agri-food products and strengthen business cooperation in the region. The agricultural heritage of the Baixo Guadiana is of unequaled wealth, the result of diverse cultural influences and ideal climatic conditions. The excellence of the products from the region are untouched by the major engines of the tourist industry.Despite their excellence these products,are sometimes more easily exported from the region than sold and consumed within its boundaries. It seems that the hotel industry consumes products from outside the region rather than promoting what is readily available locally.This disregard for local resources is also linked to the large proliferation of supermarket chains with a wide range of associated products which, either because of low cost or centralized purchasing makes traditional products less competitive. All these factors led to the development of the "Choose our Food" project. This project is a mission for the sustainable development of the region.Over the coming months Casa Rosada is planning some field trips to meet and then promote through blog posts some of these artesan producers.We then at some point plan to have a tasting evening for an invited audience of restaurateurs and members of the expat community who work and live here.
      Shop local, buy local, get to know local, spread the "local" word and take local home.

      Monday, 26 February 2018

      Green beans changed history,mango sushi too?

      mango sushi with fresh mint
      475 years ago this year a maritime mishap caused a major change in the history of gastronomy.In 1543, a Chinese ship with three Portuguese sailors on board was headed to Macau, but was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. Antonio da Mota, Francisco Zeimoto and Antonio Peixoto – the first Europeans to ever step on Japanese soil – were deemed ‘southern barbarians’ by the locals because of the direction from which they came and their ‘unusual’, non-Japanese features. The Japanese were in the middle of a civil war and eventually began trading with the Portuguese, in general, for guns. And thus began a Portuguese trading post in Japan, starting with firearms and then other items such as soap, tobacco, wool and even recipes.The Portuguese left an indelible mark on the island: a battered and fried green bean recipe called peixinhos da horta. Today, in Japan, it’s called tempura and has been a staple of the country’s cuisine ever since.
      A 1603 Japanese-Portuguese dictionary has an entry for namanrina sushi, literally half-made sushi.Sushi was originally produced by fermentation of fish with rice.With the invention of rice vinegar a process was gradually developed which eliminated the fermentation process and used vinegar instead.
      The namanari was fermented for a shorter period than its predecessor the narezushi and possibly marinated with rice vinegar.I had a short foray into making sushi some years ago and recently thought I would  give it another go.Previously I had made a stab at creating an Algarvian sushi  Biqueirao, espinafres enrolado ( marinated spinach and anchovies rolled in spinach leaves )
        my inspiration masu-zushi-smoked fish sushi
      This time I was looking for something a little more avant-garde.There are so many elements and so much variety to Japanese cuisine that it is very difficult to put it under one banner.Sushi has been popular outside Japan for years,but there´s so much scope for growth with the lesser known elements of the cuisine.
      “There are so many elements and so much variety to Japanese cuisine it is very difficult to put it under one banner. “Sushi has been popular in the UK for years, but there’s so much scope for growth with the lesser known elements of the cuisine.

      Read more at:
      There are so many elements and so much variety to Japanese cuisine it is very difficult to put it under one banner. “Sushi has been popular in the UK for years, but there’s so much scope for growth with the lesser known elements of the cuisine.

      Read more at:
      There are so many elements and so much variety to Japanese cuisine it is very difficult to put it under one banner. “Sushi has been popular in the UK for years, but there’s so much scope for growth with the lesser known elements of the cuisine.

      Read more at:
      I decided to use a type of process called Oshi-zushi (pressed sushi ).This sushi normally uses smoked fish either salmon or trout.My sushi was going to be somewhat different, not sushi as in raw fish,but sushi as in sweet coconut rice topped with fresh succulent mango and fresh mint.I thought of using fresh pineapple which would work beautifully too, but I thought the colour of the mango was  more tempting.I wanted something you could pick up and eat in your fingers, something sweet to round off our tasting menu.

      I used a 100% national rice produced exclusively in the Ribatejo flood plains by The country´s greatest rice producer Orivázea.It has much more starch than arborio rice.The banks of the river Tagus offer the ideal conditions for it to flourish.Its consistency and large grains have a great capacity to absorb liquid whilst retaining their shape.This is why the particular rice is the favoured choice by chefs preparing sushi dishes in Portugal.

      Mango Sushi  
      makes 12
      300g best quality sushi rice 
      100g caster sugar
      200ml organic canned coconut milk
      400ml water
      500g peeled sliced mango
      Put rice,sugar,coconut milk in a pan and bring to the boil,stirring constantly to prevent the rice from sticking.Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes,stirring occasionally to avoid boiling over.Once the rice has absorbed the liquid but is not yet fully cooked,remove from the heat,cover with atight fitting lid and leave to steam for 10 minutes more until the rice is tender.
      Lightly rinse out a 20 x 15 cm shallow rectangular ceramic dish and tip in the cooked rice.Spread it out evenly to a 2 cm depth.Smooth the top and leave to cool.when cool,cover with clingfilm and chill for at least two hours or overnight.
      Once chilled cut the rice into 3x8 cm fingers.Trim slices of mango into matching rectangles and place on top of the rice.garnish with a fresh mint leaf.

      Thursday, 22 February 2018

      Green parsee curry,Thus spoke zarathustra

      For those that are a fan of the Green Thai Curry – a caution. This neither tastes nor looks anything like the Thai version – this one is 100% Parsee style.
      Parsees, in case you are not quite up to speed on them,are most famous for the Dhansak curry.They were originally from Persia, which is now Iran.They base their beliefs on the teachings of Zoroaster, aka Zarathustra, the monotheistic divine who flourished in around 1,000BC.Many of the Parsees later shifted to Bombay and acquired culinary styles of Maharashtra and Goa.Later still Parsee cuisine opened itself to the coconut and kokum influences of the Goans and Portuguese.  Within a few years this cuisine acquired western styles of cooking, like most of the other Indian cuisines.
      Parsee cuisine is shaped by its history. This culinary binding between Ancient Persia and Gujarat was an accident of fate. Persians came to India and brought along with them their unique recipes and culinary skills, forming a delicious blend of Indian flavours and Persian technique.This unusual historical background gives Parsee food a unique flavour. Today, the cuisine is a rich combination of Indian cooking methods and those of many other parts of the world.

      Green Parsee curry
      This is a Parsee speciality and represents the simple style much adapted to this cuisine. 
      Originally a side dish or vegetarian dish I took the preparation further and and made it a full blown curry. This is my basic vegetarian recipe but, you can also make it with mutton (account for longer cooking times) chicken,prawns or a robust fish like hake or grouper.

      For the curry base
      2 tbsp sunflower oil
      1/2 tsp mustard seeds
      8-10 curry leaves (fresh or dried)
      2-3 green chillies (cut into three pieces each)
      1 level tsp cumin seeds
      1/4 tsp asfoetida
      2 medium onions,( thinly sliced )
      750g potatoes,(peeled and diced)
      1/2 tsp turmeric
      1/2 tsp chilli flakes
      1tsp ground coriander
      1tsp ground cumin
      200g fine french beans, chopped 
      1/2  tsp lime juice
      1 tbsp fresh coriander (chopped)
      salt and pepper to taste

      For the curry 
      100g runner beans  or french beans pre-cooked divided cross ways into segments
      4 green chillies cut into shreds
      Cooked chicken breast,prawns,mutton or fish (all optional)

      Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed medium sized pan until it forms a haze.
      Add the mustard seeds and let them crackle.Add the curry leaves and the green chillies and sizzle for a couple of minutes.Add the cumin seeds and as they change colour add the asfoetida and almost immediately the onions. Once the onions are soft add the potatoes and sauté for a couple of minutes.In a cup or a small bowl blend the powdered spices with alittle water to form asmooth thin paste.Add this paste to the pan and mix i slowly.The reason for mixing the spices is to prevent them from burning and spoiling the taste, a tip I recently learnt from chef Cyrus Todiwala on the TV.It also helps in De-glazing the bottom of the pan.Add salt and just enough water to cover the potatoes.Clean the edges of the pan with a spatula and cook the potatoes covered with a tight fitting lid.The water can be just below the line of the potatoes to cook and get almost dry as well.Reduce the heat and stir from time to time.Once the potatoes are cooked and the liquid thickens add the beans and cook for another couple of minutes.Check the seasoning again with the addition of the lime juice,blend in the chopped coriander and remove from the heat.Allow to cool
      slightly the blitz in a processor.The resulting mixture will be on the thick side so you will need to thin it to your desired consistency with a suitable stock, some coconut milk or Greek yoghurt.Return to the pan and add the green beans chilli and meat or fish if using.Heat though until everything is cooked.

      Monday, 19 February 2018


      The notion of taking a flat piece of bread dough and baking it with a savoury topping is a widespread and longstanding one.The Armenians claim to have invented it and certainly it was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but it is Italy and particularly Naples, that has given its version of the dish (pizza) to the world.
      As in all dishes of ancient origin which have eventually become national as well as purely regional property, there have been various evolutions in the composition of a pizza.Flat open tarts were originally made from bread dough.Gradually the bread dough came to be replaced with pastry while toppings of course varied enormously.
      Pissaladiére is a substantial dish of bread dough  spread with onions,anchovies,black olives,and sometimes tomatoes,baked in an open oven on large baking trays and sold by the slice in bakers´ shops or straight from the baking tray by street vendors.It is not as common nowadays as it was before the war,when une tranche de pissaladiere could be bought hot from the oven in the early morning at every street corner in the old quarters of French towns like Avignon, Marseille and Toulon.
      This was Pizza provençal style.I find it odd that Neapolitan pizza had captured people´s imaginations,even in the south of France where they already had their own traditional versions of it.The great difference was that the Provençal variety was made without the top being smothered in chewy cheese, characteristic of the Neapolitan pizza.In fact, the Provençal version more nearly resembles the traditional Roman pizza, and it is I suppose possible that it was introduced by Roman cooks during the reign of the popes in Avignon.
      Truthfully it will be admitted that both the Italian  pizza and the Provençal pissaladiere lie somewhat heavy on the stomach because of the bread dough which is the base.The modern versions made with pastry, which are sometimes served in restaurants and homes and may be bought ready made at patisseries,are often an improvement.It is the topping, which if you happen to like the taste sensation of onions,olive oil, anchovies, and olives, that is important.Not wanting to mistrust the food gurus like Nigel Slater whose recipe cites shortcrust pastry, I had to be sure of it´s provenance before I made it.Nevertheless I settled for the more authentic bread crust rather than its more modern incarnation.
      It would seem that the pissaladière originates from a Genoese recipe, from Imperia (Italy), at the end of the 15th century. Piscialandrea, the first version of the Italian pizza, was named in honour of Andrea Doria, a great condottiere and admiral of Genoa from the 14th and 15th centuries. The major difference, compared to the pissaladière, is that piscialandrea is prepared with tomatoes and garlic. Just like socca (farinata) or fougasse (focaccia), this other recipe of Genoese origin has been handed down from generation to generation to the families of Nice.

      1 quantity of home made pizza dough
      250g strong white bread flour
      250g plain white flour 
      15g fresh yeast or 1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
      10g salt
      325ml warm water
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      In a bowl, mix together the flour,yeast, salt and water to form a sticky dough. Mix in the oil. turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and silky ( 7-8 minutes )When the dough feels elastic, shape into a ball, put back in the bowl and leave to rise in a warm palce covered with a clean cloth, until doubled in size ( 1-2 hours).Pre-heat the oven and pizza stone or substitute to as high as it will go. Roll out dough into required size rounds or alternatively freeze 1/2 the dough for a later date.
      8 medium onions thinly sliced,
      2 skinned and seeded tomatoes,chopped
      12 or more canned anchovies
      12 small stoned black olives,salt and pepper ,olive oil
      Heat 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy frying pan.Put in the thinly sliced onions and cook them very gently ,with the cover on the pan,until they are quite soft and pale golden,They must not fry or brown.Add the tomatoes and the seasoning( plus garlic if you like). continue cooking until the tomatoes are amalgamated, and the water has evaporated.
      Roll out the dough to a circle the size of a pizza pan and with your knuckles press it gently and quickly outwards until it has spread over the whole pan to its edges.Cover with the topping.make a criss cross pattern over the top with the anchovies,then fill in with the olives,bake in the centre of a hot oven 200C for 20 minutes or until the dough is crisp.Remove from the oven cut into slices and savour the sensation.

      Thursday, 15 February 2018

      Atún encebollado

      Atun encebellado al Jerez is a very typical Southern Andalucian dish, originating from the Costa de la Luz,and more particularly from Cadiz.It is emulated in many different styles all across Spain and is one of the country´s most popular dishes.In traditional Spanish family recipe books there are a lot of traditional dishes such as paella, gazpacho, tortilla or tuna with onions. They are those meals that, throughout our lives, remind us irrevocably of the our mother and grandmother´s kitchens. If you are Spanish and reading this, it is most likely that you have your own recipe for tuna with onions.This is one of those recipes that once you have cooked and eaten it you will never forget it.I haven´t cooked it for a while and found a beautiful piece of bluefin tuna in the freezer and thought it was time to cook it again.
      The Spanish recipe is different to the Algarvian version, where more often than not the tuna steak is kept whole as opposed to being cooked in bite sized pieces.I was lucky enough some years ago to have this interpretation of the recipe  passed to me by our dear friend, the lovely Lola from Sevilla.In turn it had been handed down through generations of her family.She actually showed us how to cook it and we all sat round the kitchen table to eat it together.
      For this recipe to be a success it is essential to poach the onion over a very slow heat, almost in the style of caramelized onions, although without sugar. It takes a minimum of 30 minutes. It may seem a bit tedious, but believe me it's worth it. The onion poached in this way is spectacular. Also, although the cooking time is long, it does not require excessive attention, since as the flame is so low it does not burn, and you must stir it and turn it it from time to time.
      Atun encebellado al Jerez
      Literally tuna smothered in onions and cooked in Manzanilla sherry

      For 4 people
      1 Tuna loin (kilo)
      4 large Spanish onions or 6 medium onions, thinly sliced
      1 glass of  sherry or manzanilla wine (250g)
      Salt and pepper
      Butter ( 2-3 tablespoons)
      Olive oil ( to sear the tuna)
      1 chicken stock cube (optional)

      Cut the tuna into medium sized pieces,sprinkle them with salt and pepper.Coat the tuna pieces with flour and fry them briefly in olive oil (to sear them).Set the tuna aside to drain on kitchen paper and put
      put them in a large ovenproof clay dish. In another pan, heat up the butter with a littlle olive oil and add the onions.Sautée the onion over a very low heat until it is golden brown and tender. add ateaspoon of flour to thicken the sauce.Keep frying very lightly and add the glass of sherry.Flambée it or cook it over alow heat for about ten minutes in order to burn off the alcohol.Add to the bowl with the tuna and cook it over a low heat for 5or 10 minutes.At this stage you can add the stock if you want.
      Serve with parsley and butter coated new potatoes or mash. Put the clay pot in the middle of the kitchen table, with the potatoes, a basket of bread and let everybody serve themselves.

      Wednesday, 7 February 2018

      A beurre necessity/ potted shrimps

      It seems these days that we heap criticism on TV chefs for the amount of butter they use.In my opinion butter has been unfairly demonised, and of course, if you eat too much of it you might become fat.What the supermarkets offer as an alternative is even worse.Plastic tubs of margarine (“Margarine is one molecule away from plastic.”) and other weird low-fat nonsense that  have usurped the proud pat of butter in the modern kitchen.
      Over time a diet high in saturated fats, such as butter, can lead to raised blood pressure cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Yet a variety of blogs indicate the public are not convinced. Some people reasserted the golden oldie, a substantive part of a balanced diet, in moderation of course.
      A crucial part of my morning routine, like many others, involves a visit to the kettle, swiftly followed by the toaster. It’s therefore a concern knowing that my two slices of buttered toast, peanut butter and a mug of tea with full fat milk contain 16.1g of saturated fat – already 80% of my daily allowance, and not even an hour of the day completed!
      I will always want my Sunday morning poached egg laid upon a slice of thickly buttered, soft white toast rather than oil-soaked bruschetta. And it is only best butter that makes scrambled eggs taste so good. An omelette without butter is unacheivable.When it comes to mushrooms on toast,there must be butter and plenty of it.This is not bruschetta - olive oil and garlic have no place here.This is the best of the something-on-toasts.Crunchy soggy and utterly butterly.
       Though a Spanish tortilla made with onions quietly stewed in olive oil may be fabulous when perfectly executed, it will always be a secondary treat compared with onions stewed in butter.the same can be said of onion gravy.
      Shiny happy people thicken their gravy with butter, mixing equal parts of soft butter and flour to form a paste(beurre manié).And of course the French classic, beurre blanc,quite frankly, indispensable to any cook.
      Lemon curd ,potted shrimps,anchovy butter are all unachievable without it.A fish finger butty without it would be unthinkable. Asparagus, too, is glorious eaten warmly buttered. And if I ever found that my new potatoes were glazed with olive oil rather than butter, I would regrettably have to shoot the cook. Discreetly, of course.The onions that begin the making of a risotto, I have always believed, should be gently stewed in butter, rather than olive oil. Yet cooking onions in olive oil now seems to be the initial instruction of all risotto recipes.And what is ghee,the staple fat of India,but clarified butter? Curry just wouldn´t be curry without it. Suet, lard,goose fat,duck fat,extra virgin olive oil, all have their places,and it is easy enough to cook many a nice dish without butter.But a butterless cuisine anywhere outside the mysterious Orient beggars belief.Lots of butter. Whole lots of butter. So much butter that no one person should consume on a regular basis. And yet, you need even more.To make puff pastry, you need to feel like butter is your friend and treat it as such.
      Pick up a buttercup and hold it under the other person´s chin .You ask "Do you like butter?" You already know the answer,because the buttercup throws a pool of yellow light under the chin,as a sign that,yes,they like butter.It always does and they always do.But then nobody ever says "NO".I wonder if parents have stopped playing this game with their children when butter became demonised.When I was growing up post, second world war, not much butter was used for cooking, which I have to confess is what happens to most of ours nowadays.The reason being that in those days most butter was salted and you can´t really cook with that unless you are a Breton.Off pat, butter is not a luxury item it is an essential.
      As with other childhood memories of unpasteurised milk in a glass bottle or a lick of thick, pale yellow cream, there is something about a lump of butter cut with a big knife from a block that speaks of special treats.I was a dedicated lover of butter from birth.In those days there was only Anchor (salted) or Wheelbarrow (unsalted )to choose from.Nowadays buying butter can be as hard as buying shoes.The last time I went to Appolonia ( the Waitrose of the Algarve I was faced with the quandary of choosing between 20 or more different varieties.Did I want to pay €3 for a meagre 125g of Burro Occelli made from the milk of Piemontese Bruna Alpina cows or perhaps The Appellation d´Origine Controlée Lanqeuetot Beurre d ísigny demi-sel in a glazed claypot?
      Next time I will fly past the butter section just throwing in two 250g blocks of Portuguese unsalted butter at half the price.I am not saying though that folded into its hand-wrapped paper package, artisan hand-churned butter seems like it would be a heavenly present bought for oneself.For butter for worse, tell you what, I am not even considering shaking up even my favourite morning routine. I know what jug I’ll be using to pour my milk, and which side my bread’s (not!) going to be buttered…
      What do you think to it all – would you give up your toast’s best friend in pursuit of a healthier heart?
      "Zip it shrimpy" - Potted shrimps my way
      Potted shrimps are in a league of their own.Properly spiced and potted,they are simply one of my favourite things.Who can resist delicious,buttery shrimp on toast?

      100g/4oz butter
      2 blades of mace
      a good pinch of cayenne pepper
      freshly grated nutmeg
      570ml/1 pint peeled  shrimps
      6 tbsp clarified butter
      grated zest of 1 lime
      tsp freshly grated ginger
      small sprig of coriander leaves chopped finely
      Put the butter, mace, cayenne pepper, lime zest, ginger, coriander leaves and a little grated nutmeg into a medium-sized pan and leave to melt over a gentle heat.
      Add the peeled shrimps and stir over the heat for a couple of minutes until they have heated through, but don't let the mixture boil. 
      Remove the mace and divide the shrimps and butter between 6 small ramekins. Level the tops and then leave them to set in the fridge.
      Spoon over a thin layer of clarified butter and leave to set once more. Serve with plenty of brown toast or crusty brown bread.