Monday, 18 December 2017

Puff pastry days are over

Gone are the days when most canapés would traditionally have been made with either a puff or short crust pastry, but the time has come to bring a bit of glamour to your table and start thinking about dough in a new way. I have been experimenting with all different types of crusts and bases recently.Replace butter with yoghurt.Pie pastry dough made with olive oil bakes up surprisingly crispy and light, without a hint of oiliness. I recently made a pie crust recipe with vegetable shortening which was light and flakey.People are expanding their horizons, seeking new alternatives for their pies, tartlets and quiche bases - pastries such as phyllo. Phyllo is a versatile and healthy alternative to other types of dough, and is now used across the culinary board, developing far beyond the traditional baklava or spanakopita.Flaky and delicious, phyllo (also spelled filo or fillo) is delicate and can be used for appetizer and dessert recipes. It’s composed of many tissue-thin sheets of dough that, unlike puff pastry, have very little fat and at this time of year when were all trying to squeeze into our bodycon party creations thats not such a bad thing.
Phyllo dough has been with us for hundreds of years and was first developed in Istanbul, despite the assumption that it originated in Greece, as it is commonly used in their dishes, indeed the word phyllo is actually Greek, meaning “leaf”. It was originally used by chefs in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace to make dishes for the sultan. The Greeks then adopted this pastry and adapted it to create the modern extremely paper-thin version we know today. Until 1946 phyllo was always made and rolled out by hand, where master artisan bakers would spend hours pressing and stretching the dough into its signature sheet. Then in 1946 Le Conie Stiles invented the phyllo stretching machine, allowing the production of pastry to reach a much larger commercial scale. Although chefs do still make their own phyllo by hand, this ready-made pastry enables those who do not have either the time, or ability, to enjoy experimenting with their own baking creations.Make sure you always have a packet in the fridge at all times.
makes 4
1- 2 rectangular filo sheets, depending on the size of your sheets
Leaves from 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
60 gms / 4 tbsp butter melted
125 gms / 5 oz. soft goat’s cheese
4 tsp honey

Cut the filo sheet in half lengthways, and in half crossways to make 4 rectangles measuring approximately 15x20 cm (6”x8”).
Brush the rectangles generously with butter, ensuring that about 1 tbsp is saved to brush the tops.
Sprinkle some thyme leaves along the long length of each pastry rectangle and fold it in to encase it. Crumble some goat’s cheese in a line along the opposite short side of the pastry. Starting at the goats cheese end, roll the pastry once over the goats cheese and carry on rolling all way to the thyme, sealing the join.
Repeat the process to make 4 rolls.

Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush once more with the remaining butter. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C – 355°F for 15-20 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Serve immediately with a drizzle of honey on top.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Sweet potato galettes -easier than pie

Christmas is nearly here and one is often hard pushed to find time to get supper on the table while ones focusing on other matters more festive.Here´s a simple seasonal supper that is on the table within the hour.The sweet potatoes can be baked in advance or even the day before,so all you have to do is assemble the galettes and pop them in the oven.The term galette typically refers to a free form tart or dough creation that is made with a crispy, flaky pasty crust. These tarts are not moulded in tart pans. Instead, the filling is placed directly on top of a sheet of rolled out puff pastry and the edges of that pastry are folded up and around the filling. The tart becomes crisp during baking and as a whole, manages to be both rustic and elegant at the same time, and is easier than pie.Sometimes there is a vegetarian in the house and this would be my suggestion for a summer vegetarian option.Sweet and spicy,baked fresh and served warm or at room temperature, this is the sort of starter that even carnivores wouldn´t turn their nose at.The generous creme fraiche base and the lightness of the flaky pastry carry the sweet potato without the risk of carbfest.Serve with a tomato and onion salad and a concoction that doubles up as a garnish for the tart and a dressing for the salad.
Sweet potato galettes
Makes 4
3 sweet potatoes,weighing about 350g each
250g puff pastry
1 free range egg lightly beaten
100ml creme fraiche
100g hard goats cheese
1 medium hot chilli,finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove,crushed
1tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Flr de sal and black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6
Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until they soften up but are still slightly raw in the centre (check by inserting the tip of a small knife).
leave until cool enough to handle,then peel and cut into slices 3mm thick.
While the sweet potatoes are in the oven,roll out the pastry to about 2mm thick on alightly floured work surface. Cut out four 7x 14cm rectangles and prick them all over with a fork. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment,place the the pastry rectangles on it,well spaced apart,and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush lightly with beaten egg.Using a palette knife,spread a thick layer of creme friache on the pastry rectangles leaving a 5mm border all round.Arrange the potato slices on the pastry,slightly overlapping,keeping the border clear.Season with salt and pepper,crumble the goats cheese on top and sprinkle with the chilli.Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown.Whilst the galettes are cooking mix together the olive oil, garlic,parsley and a pinch of salt,As soon as the pastries come out of the oven,brush them with this mixture.Serve warm or at room temperature with a tomato and red onion salad.Dress the salad with the remaining parsley mixture.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Bolo salgado com piso,tomate seco, congumelos seco e queijo feta

 Sundried tomato,dried mushroom, cheese and herb loaf
This is the time of year when our days of summer foraging and accumulating of seasonal food supplies for preservation pay us dividends. But say the word “hoarding” to most people and it will conjure up images of horrific reality TV about people who live surrounded by piles of junk.In ecological terms hoarding has a very different meaning, and refers to the practice of hiding food to be eaten later. Hoarding is a strategy used by animals and humans alike to store seasonally abundant food to eat later in the year.Caching foods in times of surplus brings meals to our tables when food is less plentiful. Stocking up on storage crops in the late summer and early autumn, and storing what your own garden has overproduced for winter eating is a great way to get local, organic food at a lower cost and higher quality than what you might find in supermarkets.If you are not so lucky as to have a fruit and veg garden,when looking for where to buy bulk quantities of food, one great place to check out is the local farmer's market, especially for tomatoes, peppers,mushrooms and even herbs. Even if you can't find cheap bulk prices, consider how much you are spending on a pound of food in summer versus how much the price will rise to in the winter. I think it's reasonable to say buying almost anything in season is going to be cheaper then buying it off season.

 Perfect store cupboard sustenance and quite festive too
Bolo salgado com piso,tomate seco e congumelos seco
(Sundried tomato,dried mushroom, cheese and herb loaf)
Na medida do possível utilize ingredientes orgânicos para esta receita
Wherever possible use organic ingredients for this recipe

250g de farinha                                      250g plain flour
3 ovos                                                     3 eggs
150ml de leite gordo                              150ml full fat milk
100ml de azeite                                     100ml extra virgin olive oil
12g levadura fresca                                12g fresh yeast dissolved in warm water
flor de sal q.b                                         Flor de sal to taste

PISO:                                                       MIXED HERBS:
1colher de cha de tomilho fresco           1tsp fresh thyme
1colher de cha de tomilho seco              1tsp dried thyme
1colher de cha oregao seco                    1tsp dried oregano
1colher de cha manjerico seco               1tsp dried basil
gordura para barrar a forma                   fat or oil for greasing the baking tin
Tomates secos q.b                                  Sundried tomatoes to taste
20g congumelos secos q.b                      20g dried porcini mushroomsto taste
Queijo feta q.b, opcional                        feta cheese to taste optional

Juntar a farinha,o Flor de sal e alevedura; adicionar os ovos um a um,misturando levemente.Juntar progressivamente o azeite,o leite e as ervas secos.,obtendo uma massa uniforme.Adicionar os tomates secos re-hidratado,cortado aos pedaços,e os congumelos secos igualmente re-hidratos e picados grosseiramente.Desmonte o feta na mistura se estiver usando.Deitar a massa numa formade bolo ingléspreviamente barrada e polvilhada de farinha.Vai o forno a 210C durante 35-40 minutos.
Deixe esfriar em uma grade de arame até estar pronto para servir. Você pode adaptar esta receita e usar a massa para fazer muffins de mini molho de cocktail.

Mix together the flour, Flor de sal and the yeast.Add the eggs one by one,mixing them in lightly.Bit by bit mix in the olive oil and then the milk followed by the herbs.Mix well until you have achieved a well combined dough.Stir in the sundried tomatoes and dried mushrooms,chopped in small pieces.Crumble the feta into the mix if using.Tip the dough into the previously greased bread pan and bake in an oven heated to 210c for 35 to 40 minutes.Cool on a wire rack until ready to serve.You can adapt this recipe and use the dough to make mini cocktail muffins.

Friday, 8 December 2017

A cure for Christmas,gammon you can do it

Ham it up: a whiff of home cure wafts across your neighbourhood.There’s a fast-growing trend to smoke, pickle or dry-cure your own festive food.Come the festive season eating becomes a forage into a squirrelled hoard of treats: the jars, tins, balsawood boxes and less pretty, but functional vacpacs, inside which lie the delicate results of ‘cures’ achieved using sugar, salt, booze or smoke. Preserves are as much a part of my Christmas as the big fat bird and brussels sprouts, only I find them far more interesting. Often they are memories of past Christmases. We recall the specialities our forebears once loved; the image of an elderly relative eating sticky dates on the stalk while watching the telly. My grandmother, for example, felt Christmas was not Christmas without sticky Elvas plums, hand prepared by nuns on a rooftop in a remote town in the hinterland of Portugal and afterwards despatched to Fortnums, where preying suede gloves were ready to pounce on them.It bugs me that we often spend our adult lives trying to be different from our parents, but at Christmas we become them.A sort of forgiveness, in a way, but mostly it is about treating ourselves to how we were once treated. If you are going to splurge — and almost all cured foods are expensive — you may as well buy what you have always known tastes good, unless you become your own artisan and make your own cures and preserves type of person.Over ten years ago the thespian´s friend Louise Nina Knight passed on her recipe which is the one we have always used.Every year now since we moved to Portugal the thespian cures our own ham and each year becomes more proficient at it.And each year he has gathered yet another disciple to the cult.This year we are taking it one step further and have managed to procure online a top quality high purity Saltpetre Potassium Nitrate which we hope will give it that characteristic pink colour and add a distinctive flavour while at the same time acting as an anti-oxidant.
Louise Nina Knight´s Home cured Ham

Here are the instructions in her own words with a few additions from myself
1 leg joint with skin on and bone in ideally about 5 kilos( see above).Get your butcher to cut it into the joint size you require and then follow the brining guidelines
4 kilos = brine for 12 days 3 kilos = brine for 9 days 2 kilos = brine for 6 days

1 1/2 litre cider( you can use light beer or all apple juice)
3 litres apple juice
1 litre water
15 juniper berries
1/2 kilo brown sugar
1/2 kilo black treacle or more brown sugar if unavailable
1kilo salt
5 crushed bay leaves
10 cloves
20 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice
30g saltpetre
( optional..this makes it pink like a proper ham otherwise it will be roast pork coloured but ham flavoured..saltpetre is available on e bay. or possibly through an obliging local butcher...make sure it is FOOD GRADE though I could not get it here as it is a component of bombs along with liquid glycerine which ironically Dear Delia puts in her Chocolate truffle torte Yes, this is the one where the English nation ran out of liquid glucose, because of (it has to be admitted) the power of television.In fact you can add any spices you desire to the sugar,juice and water…
Bring all above ingredients to the boil and then let it cool completely. I use a large cool box which fits into a spare fridge ...whatever you use must be non metallic..a small cool box or massive tupperware thingy perhaps .... ham must be submerged within

Put ham into the container and I put it into the fridge as it's not cold enough to leave out Leave for corresponding number of days,make sure it stays under the brine,I put the cool box lid on and then I usually give it a prod every day or two and turn it too.
Then remove and cook.... I have never soaked my brined ham before cooking..but you can soak for 6 hours or simply bring to boil and throw away first boiling water and add clean water and bring to boil again,then simmer for 2 to 3 hours depending on size . I then skin mine and glaze it with honey and cloves..but you may choose whatever you wish at this point..I then roast it in the oven until the fat is golden and bubbly.Aim to have the ham ready to cook on 23/24 December so count backwards for your brining time. Its really easy once you've made the brine All you need is some patience.I will update this post with the final result in 12 days time.Thanks again to Louise for a cracking recipe.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Wingin´it, Asa de raia frita com aioli de pimentao extra picante e Raia alhada

 Asa de raia frita com aioli de pimentao extra picante,
deep-fried skate wing with smoked paprika aioli

People are scared of skate, one of the finest and most delicious fish of all. But don't be: the flesh slides away from those ribby, gelatinous bones with simplicity and ease, so do give it a try.It is such an underrated fish and one which is usually seen pan fried with capers and burnt butter.Nothing wrong with that, but can´t one create something a little different and  a tad more interesting? Its just another fish and its as versatile as any but with the advantage of being quite different in it´s texture and shape.There are two schools of thought on when to cook skate.One is to wait until it smells lightly of ammonia, the other is to use it as fresh as possible.Here I have put up two contrasting methods of cooking Skate (Raia).the first from Renowned New Zealander Peter Gordon and the second from The Algarve, our dearly loved angel of Cabanas Chef Noélia. 
 Get your fishmonger to remove the skate´s leathery outer skin and cut the flesh from the cartilage for you.Skinning a skate at home is definitely a black art, and best left to skilled practitioners.For those of you who cant be  doing with all this,there are many supermarkets now selling frozen skate wings  already cleaned and prepared in this way.I actually used two frozen skate wings from Lidl, for this recipe and the fish was delicious.In this recipe the fish makes a stunning centrepiece on the plate but is the deep frying method the wrong one for this choice of fish? We were divided in our views here, but I would be very interested to hear anyone else´s view if you try it.
Skate(raia) is a popular choice of fish  in the Algarve. In Olhão, the fishermen bring fresh fish and seafood straight from the coast to residents' and restaurant diners´ tables every day. There is one dish although not exclusively regional,but nevertheless a dish specially prepared by some local gastronomic experts, who manage to bring to the table,something which provides for even the most inexperienced palate  and certainly for me a more than pleasurable dish.
The "Raia Alhada" is one of the typical dishes of Olhão.For some, its gelatinous quality puts them off,but for me it is fish heaven and the one who brings out its best is chef Noélia.Her cooking is a blend of Algarvian cuisine blended with her own creativity and  subtle tones of the Mediterranean.What gives her that all important signature is the way she serves dishes directly from their tradition, such as, for example, this raia alhada. Finding a chef who does the traditional dishes well is already  a reason to be happy. But I confess that what I like the most and what makes the difference, what pushes it up a notch, is that Noelia is able to pick up the traditional Algarve matrix and, without undoing it, create new dishes that are bursting with flavour.Lunch or dinner at Noélia´s is always a joy. In the kitchen there is always Noelia, a tireless worker,with a beautiful and friendly presence,spreading her culinary creative magic and making her diners happy by putting the colour and flavours of the Algarve on their plates.
Raia alhada de Noélia
You can´t get more typically Algarvian than this.
400g of Skate
5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
4 potatoes,washed and peeled
Coarse Flor de sal
Large handful of coriander

Wash the skate well in running water and leave to marinade in Flor de sal for at least 2 hours.
Put the salted Skate in a pan with boiling water and the potatoes. Leave it on the flame until the potatoes are cooked
Prepare the sauce separately in a container with the crushed garlic, olive oil, vinegar, coriander, and 3 tablespoons of hot stock from the pan cooking the Skate.When the potatoes and skate are cooke drain the water and add the separately prepared coriander and garlic sauce.Return the pan to the flame and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes.Serve immediately from the pan.

Deep-fried skate wing with smoked paprika aioli
( adapted from a recipe by Peter Gordon)
serves 6 as a main course 
6 300-350g skate wings,prepared as described above 
1/2 cup plain flour for dusting the fish
sunflower oil for deep frying
3 limes

Beer batter
11/2 cups plain flour
2 heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Flor de sal
2 tsp demerara sugar
1 tsp baking powder
230ml bottle beer at room temperature

Smoked paprika aioli

2 egg yolks
1 egg white
1/2 tsp flor de sal
50ml lime juice
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 tsp seed mustard
3 tsp smoked paprika
400ml olive oil
Fill a deep fryer with oil and leave to heat to the required temperature (185ªC)
Meanwhile,take the dry ingredients for the batter and whisk in a bowl for a few seconds to mix. Add all the beer and whisk it in,starting from the inside and working out.
Make sure there are no lumps and leave the batter to stand for 15 minutes.
For the aioli.put the egg yolks and white,salt,lime juice,garlic,mustard and smoked paprika  into a small food processor and purée for 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil (not extra virgin),making sure it is absorbed and the aioli does not separate.If it does separate,transfer 100ml to another bowl,add one more egg yolk and whisk well.once it has taken,whisk the remaining mixture in gradually.
lightly dust the skate wings with flour and dip them,one by one,into the batter.Hold them above the batter and let the excess drip back into the mixture,then place them carefully one at a time into the fryer.if you overcrowd it the temperature will drop and the batter will not crisp.They should take 2-3 minutes eac to cook.drain on absorbent papaer and serve with home made chips and peas or wild rocket or watercress. Serve dollops of the aioli sitting on top of 1/2 a lime.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Fish on Friday with a modern take on chip shop style pea fritters

Last week I got expat chip shop cravings. Pea fritters are so British,aren´t they? Remember Mushy peas packed into a ball and then deep fried in batter? I used to love them when I was at college- they were cheap,hot and filling.If you offered them to me now I´d say no thanks.Times have changed,I have moved on, and mushy peas have had their day.I now want a wittier, more modern and more nutritious version of the chip shop style pea fritter.I prefer using fresh minted garden peas folded into a luminous green batter and then fried like patties.Serve alongside hake fillets with sea salt baked roast potatoes, they make the perfect fish on Friday supper.
For those of you unfortunate enough never to have experienced the culinary delight that is a pea is what the chip shop version looks like.
The Trick
Chewy.. Bouncy. Rubbery. These aren’t typically flattering words when it comes to food,but the first batch I made,although delicious in their flavour were spoilt by their gummy texture.Alright if you are in Taiwan or parts of East Asia,where these adjectives describe a beloved texture — a food quality sought after, not shunned. It’s called the “Q” texture, or the mystery food characteristic you didn’t even know you were missing.Firm and springy is good,The "Q" texture has been likened to “a marshmallow or a good-quality gummy worm.”Enough of that digression,the answer to my predicament lies in a protein called Gluten.Have you ever wondered what makes pancakes so fluffy? Why do pancake recipes always tell you not to overmix the batter? Overmixing your pancake batter will result in tough, rubbery and flat pancakes.So do not do what I do and overmix your fritter mix.I also added two teaspoons of baking powder to the equation and the second batch came out light and fluffy.And guess what, if you dont want to eat 12 all at once they freeze beautifully and can be defrosted for a Nigella moment when you get a little peckish in the night.They make a great snack,picnic or lunchbox option.Trust me.

The Twist

Add chopped parsley and chopped mint to the equation.A bit of bacon and or parmesan would not go amiss.To spice them up add green chillies,turmeric ,cumin or garam masala.

Thoroughly modern Pea Fritters
makes 12
3 cups (400g) frozen peas
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups (210g) self raising flour
1 spring onion - chopped
1/3 cup (55 g) crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

1 tbsp chopped mint (optional)
Boil the peas for 4 minutes and drain.
Add the flour, eggs, spring onion and half of the peas to a food processor and pulse until combined.Fold through the remaining peas, feta cheese and parsley.
Fry spoonfuls of the mixture in a little oil for 2 minutes on each side until golden.
Delicious hot or cold.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Pap´açorda, Bread Pap Portuguese style

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder.We need something to warm the cockles,literally.Its time for a hearty Portuguese peasant dish -Pap’Açôrda camãrao (bread stew with prawns).Acorda, a traditional Portuguese bread-based stew with a consistency similar to creamy porridge, is composed of mashed, rustic artesan bread (typically Broa - corn bread), garlic, coriander, olive oil, white wine and of course Flor de sal.What you decide to add to it,the choice is yours,shellfish,prawns,or salt cod?

The breads-Broa de milho,pão bijou,pão pessegueiro

Nowadays perhaps it has lost favour as a stand-by dish to feed babies,but not so long ago it was still very commonly used for this purpose,although adults never turned their back on it.This prawn açorda is a richer version of seafood açorda, using only prawns.The liquid should be made from the the strained liquor left after cooking the prawn shells with garlic and parsley to make a rich stock that will give it it´s distinct seafood taste.The final touch to give the dish its signature: a raw cracked egg, stirred into the dish as the dish is put on the table.Açordas are traditionally served in a hollowed out loaf.The dish is very rich and as a result somewhat filling so if dining out do not even consider ordering anything else when choosing this as a main dish.Certainly never order this in the summer.I have only ever eaten açorda in a restaurant but found that it could be fairly achievable to produce at home.However, in conclusion, I decided it would be better suited to be served as a starter,served not in a hollowed out loaf but in hollowed out pão bijou (small rustic dinner rolls) and served with a quails egg cracked into each one as it is served.If divided into three main steps this is an easy way to approach making the açorda.
Acorda de camarão
Serves 3 more than adequately
1kg raw prawns in their shells
1 400g Broa de milho
(see above), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced and divided in two halves
6 peeled garlic cloves
1 bunch parsley, divided
1/4 cup white wine
Large handful coriander
A pinch of paprika
pinch of piri-piri flakes
Fresh ground salt & pepper
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 eggs

For The Fish Stock: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-heat in a large pan. Add half the onion, the prawn shells (after separating them from the prawns by hand), the garlic cloves (whole), and half the parsley (unchopped, with stems). Saute for 2-3 minutes and then add 6 cups of water.Bring mixture to a boil and add a sprinkling of salt & pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes before straining. While broth is cooking...
Prepare the prawns:In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-heat. Cut each prawn into three chunks. Add chopped prawns, the rest of the onion, coriander, paprika, and rest of parsley (chopped, stems removed.) Saute for about 5 minutes, until onion becomes translucent, stirring frequently. Set mixture aside.
Mash Bread:
By now, your fish stock should be finished cooking (and emitting a wonderful fragrant brothy smell as evidence!) With a colander, drain the broth into a bowl, saving the garlic cloves. Mash them up, since they will be soft from soaking, and add them to the prawn mixture. Set aside broth bowl.
In the large pan which you used for the fish stock, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the cubed bread and stir, and when olive oil is absorbed by bread add 2 more tablespoons. When bread has crisped slightly- make sure it does not burn- add the wine, then the stock, mashing the mixture as you go. It should first resemble the consistency of stuffing, then of a thick porridge as you continue to add liquid. Turn the heat to low as you mash. When the thick porridge consistency is achieved, gently stir in the shrimp mixture, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.Spoon the açorda into the previously hollowed out rolls, crack a quail egg into each, stirring it into the hot porridge, and garnish with some fresh coriander leaves.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Stir-up sunday,Bolo Ingles não é

…Mrs Cratchit entered, flushed, but smiling proudly, with the pudding like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. 
Portuguese readers,to avoid disappointment, look away now, as what follows is how to make a "proper" Christmas fruit cake.Receita Bolo Ingles não é.
From the the Anglican pulpit this Sabbath, the last before Advent, English churchgoers will hear an unintentional reminder from the Book of Common Prayer that it’s time to make the Christmas cake and pudding. “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” starts the Collect of the day.
And yet the tradition of Stir-up Sunday, with the whole family gathering in the kitchen to pummel the mixture and make a wish, appears to be going the same way as church attendances.There is a self righteousness that the church of England dispenses to its flock that they must do what they ought to do and be seen to be doing it.Family values must be adhered to at all times.This preaching has fallen on deaf ears.It seems nowadays that most British children have never stirred a Christmas cake batter mix. The nuclear family now buy pre-made puddings.
Inspired by rising sales of everything from whisks to wooden spoons,John Lewis, the secular Angel Gabriel of Christmas television ads, is doing its best to revitalise this tradition. Its gastronomic arm,Waitrose, encourages its middle class clientele to buy plum puddings.In my day it used to be labels such as Mrs Peek.Yes, there really was a Mrs Peek! Wife of the founder of Peek Frean Biscuits. In 1898 Mrs Peek's first pudding was launched, influenced by her childhood and the society she lived in.Todays shopper is now more likely to be tempted by more glamorous celebrity branded puddings, carrying names such as Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver or royal cake maker Fiona Cairns.
Some words of advice from Royal cake maker Fiona Cairns

Fruitcake is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and soaked in spirits. A cake that simply has fruit in it as an ingredient can also be colloquially called a fruit cake.Like the proverbial chalk and cheese,oil and water and the grape and the grain, these things just don´t go together, and could never mix together. So bearing this in mind, what can I put in my Christmas cake this year that would be a break with tradition and make for something more innovative? Last year I included fresh figs and consequently ended up with a cake that had a very short shelf life.Oh what a hardship.It just had to be eaten quicker.Ok, I have cogitated, deliberated and a decision has been reached.My controversial ingredients are going to include  amaretti biscuits to pack a proper almond punch,salted cherries and Elvas plums for syrupy stickiness, amongst others.This year I am making a small cake and was in a bit of a quandary as to how to downscale my ingredients from my usual recipe for a 10inch / 25cm diameter cake.No worries Delia to the rescue.I will let you know how I get on.If you are left with too much batter for your selected size of tin,use it up to make mini Christmas cup cakes.
Plum Cake
makes one 15cm ( 6 inch ) round or 13cm (5 inch) square cake tin
Preparation time30 minutes ( plus overnight optional)
Cooking - 3- 31/2 hours

4 oz currants
soup spoon mixed spice
pinch salt
2oz /55g glace cherries,rinsed and finely chopped
2oz/55g mixed peel,finely chopped
4oz/110g Elvas plums(de-stoned weight)
2 oz/55g dried apricots,chopped
2 oz/55g Dried figs,chopped
2 oz/55g dried plums,chopped
2 oz/55g salted cherries,de-stoned
Amaretti biscuits
3 tbsp brandy
4 oz/110g plain flour
freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz/55g blanched almonds,roughly crushed
4 oz/110g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses ( I used the syrup from the Elvas plums)
4 oz/110g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 grated rind of a lemon
1/2 grated rind of an orange 
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark3 ( 160ºC, 325ºF )
Sieve together the flour, spice and salt. In a large bowl mix together the fruits, nuts, peel and spiced flour coating all the fruits with the flour.In a second bowl cream the butter and sugar until quite light in colour. Beat in the eggs then the molasses, lemon and orange zest.
Combine the two mixtures in one bowl. Mix well, adding enough rum or brandy to arrive at a soft dropping consistency. 
Butter and line the bottom and sides of a
15cm round or 13cm square cake tin with double buttered paper. Fill with mixture and level the top. bake for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to gas mark 1 (140ºC, 275ºF ) for a further 2- 21/2 hours.Test with a skewer to see when the cake is done. Leave to cool. Store for at least a month, spiking it with rum and or brandy once a week. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

´Doing a tiborna´

sweet breakfast tiborna with orange and cinnamon
Simple food,fast, with lots of flavour, just as I like it.There is nothing better than making a tiborna.Tiborna is to the Algarve what bruschetta is to Italy.It is the name given to a type of open sandwich made with freshly baked bread, rubbed with garlic and soaked in unctuous extra virgin olive oil.It is great when good old customs return and this is a perfect example.Bread was traditionally the foundation of the Algarvian diet, and no table today is complete without it, alongside copious amounts of good wine and olive oil.Tibornas were traditionally made to celebrate the first sampling of each year´s olive oil production(around this time).Tibornas were usually made from bread toasted over hot coals.Today tibornas are eaten wherever and whenever, and feature on many restaurant menus.However, until recently they were traditionally only made in the autumn, to coincide with the first olive oil pressing.
And so the tiborna began life as a means of tasting olive oil,an activity carried out in a spirit of celebration.Soon other petiscos(snacks,tapas)were added until ´doing a tiborna´
came to signify a whole gourmet celebration.Nowadays by innovating the age old concept in the very same way that tapas evolved, it has very much become a type of bruschetta.Toasted bread with chopped tomatoes,oregano and olive oil is something very Portuguese,very simple and very close to its Italian counterpart.But lets see where more innovation could takes us.There are many different types of tibornas in the Algarve,from the most straightforward (with olive oil and garlic) to the more sophisticated (with orange juice,sugar and cinnamon.The preparation process for the sweet version was the same as for the savoury.The dish is as simple as this:Grill the bread,soak it in orange juice,quickly drizzle it with the new olive oil and top it with a generous sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon.The tibornas would then be lined up on a platter,stacked one on top of the other and eaten warm.The slight acidic taste from the orange juice countering the sweetness of the sugar.It adds a whole new dimension to breakfast.
Some other savoury suggestions for topping a tiborna
Tiborna de queijo com nozes e pêras camarelizadas 

(cheese,nuts and caramelized pears)
Tiborna de queijo de cabra com alecrim e mel 

(goats cheese,with rosemary and honey)
Tiborna de atum grelhado com ovos e abacate

( grilled tuna and an egg and avocado salad)

Friday, 10 November 2017

Rose apple tarts,a thorn in my side

Como uma rosa que cresce Corrigir
Apesar de tudo isso
rosa Um simples entre espinhos

Uma rosa entre os espinhos
Like a rose that grows
In spite of it all
A simple rose among thorns

Dulce Pontes
With great expectations, I first saw this recipe being executed on the recent series of Masterchef, and then found it replicated all over pinterest.I researched the recipe on line,but must have taken a rose coloured view of its potential.Not every one in life is a winner.I started off with an unduly cheerful, optimistic view of things.All this was soon to change and become a thorn in my side.Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. For a start I think I need a better mandolin,however my fingers are still here and in one piece.I then realised the recipe required a Microwave.I have never owned or even used one,so what would be a good alternative way to soften the apples, pre-rolling.Thinking on my feet I decided I´d toss all the ingredients in a saucepan over a low heat.I left them too long and the wilted rather than softened.Oh dear not a good start.Maybe sautéing them in a skillet might have been a better alternative? I rolled out some of my own home made pate sucrée (sweet pastry)in place of the pie dough in the recipe,for which there was obviously a good reason for using(tried and tested and all that)My substitute was completely unsuitable.I pressed on regardless and tried to roll rose shapes from my soft apples.This step I managed remarkably well given the previous circumstances.I created rose like-NOT!!!! fillings for my pastry cases and then discovered I had made too many pastry rings for the roses.Recipe said 9 mine made 8,but I had already filled my 12 round Muffin tin.Thinking again I filled two with lemon curd and two with plum Jam.Into the oven they went and looked lovely when they came out 30 minutes later, but looking nothing like the original authors pictures.Oh dear, I needed a microwave again to soften the strawberry jam for my glaze.What the heck,my home made jam was more like confiture so brushed over the tarts beautifully.No instructions on how to remove the tarts from the muffin pan,so my improvised thought was leave them to cool completely on a wire rack and the see what happens.When cold I prised them out of the muffin rounds losing some of the pastry casing as I went and a couple collapsed completely.Once again my disdain for baking was proven.A thorn in my side that's all it'll ever be.
Rose apple tarts (as I should have made them)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar (see note below)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very cold and cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 3 tbsp ice cold water
    for the filling
  • 2 apples (Pink Lady, Braeburn, Honeycrisp etc)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (see note below)
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
for the dough
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Add in the cubed butter. Work the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingertips until the mixture looks like a coarse meal and there are no pieces of butter larger than the size of a pea. Add in ice water and stir to combine. The mixture should just come together into a ball, add additional ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if dough seems dry.
Form the dough into a disc, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.
On a well floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4" thick. Use a biscuit cutter, a cup or a bowl about 3 1/2-4" in diameter and cut out rounds of dough. Fit each round into the cup of a buttered muffin tin, pushing the dough up the sides. Chill dough while the filling is prepped.

for the filling
Preheat oven to 375F.
To cut the apples and remove the core, place the apple upright and make a cut about 1/8" from the center of the apple - basically making straight cuts around the core. Repeat on the remaining sides, you should have 2 large pieces, 2 small pieces and the core.
Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, cut the apples very thinly into half moons. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and combine with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Pour mixture over the apples along with lemon juice and toss to combine. Microwave apples for about 1 minute, until soft and pliable enough to roll.
Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and combine with remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Brush the bottom of each dough cup with the mixture.
To form the roses, place about 10 slices of apples on a flat surface, laying them out horizontally and consistently with the skin side facing you. Place each slice so it overlaps the previous slice by half. Begin tightly rolling the apples from one end to the other. Once you've got the basic rose shape, pick up the apples and add any additional apple "petals" around the outside, depending on how large you want the rose to be. I used about 12-18 slices per rose.
Put an apple rose in each cup of the muffin tin and bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F until crust is golden and apples are cooked through.
Warm the strawberry preserves in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Brush preserves over each apple rose to glaze.