Friday, 20 January 2017

The Color Purple - Caramelised Beetroot garlic and sage gnocchi with 3 cheeses

I am currently in the enviable situation of having the time to experiment with developing new recipes and updating some old ones.This one has allowed me to put a new spin one of my old favourites, and indulge myself in one of my many guilty pleasures, which is playing with the colour of food.Bright colours can make food look so appetising as well as being fresh and healthy.Isn´t it strange that when you walk past the health food aisle or are browsing in the local health food store you are faced with an onslaught of crackers, cookies, cereals, bars, and other convenience foods completely lacking in vibrance, fragrance, and colour.  It seems that that anything labelled gluten free seems to don some sort of unappetising shade of brown Keeping abreast of a healthy diet can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Eat more kale, cut out meat, cut out sugar,no salt, eat this fat not that fat, eat some carbs but not too much, read the labels, watch your calories... the list is endless. Now, we are on the brink of a new health fad,and one that is so simple - just use purple vegetables in your favourite recipes.Purple is the new green.
One of the more colourful food trends of the new year is "purple everything",  purple asparagus,purple carrots (if you can get them) purple cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli and purple potatoes, among others. 
 I love the colour purple, and having recently made orange coloured gnocchi with sweet potato, I could see no reason why gnocchi could not don a coat of many colours. 

Caramelised Beetroot and sage gnocchi with 3 cheeses 
makes approx.48

250g baby beetroots,trimmed and halved
550g mashed potatoes
5 cloves garlic unpeeled
half cup fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp brown sugar 
1/4 cup (2 fl oz) olive oil 
Flor de sal and cracked black pepper
200g  Requeijao / ricotta cheese  
100g flour  (you’ll most likely need an extra 1/4 cup flour).
1 beaten egg yolk (optional) see note below*
Take a small baking tray with sides and tear a  sheet of aluminium foil slightly larger than the tray.Trim the beetroots and place them in the bowl with the cloves of garlic
sage leaves ,sugar and olive oil.Toss well to coat everything.Tip the contents of the bowl into the foil and pull all the sides of the foil together to make a tight parcel.Put the baking tray in the oven and bake at 200C for at least 45 minutes or until the beets are cooked.If they are not soft to the tip of a sharp knife continue cooking until they are.Alternatively leave them in the oven and turn the oven off.When the beets are cool enough peel the skin off with your hands.It should come away easily.Squeeze the soft roasted garlic from its skin and put it along with the beets and sage in the food processor and blitz until you have a smooth paste.


FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
25g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour 
150 ml milk
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
120g chevre
Melt 25g butter in a pan over a medium heat then stir in 1 tablespoon of flour. Slowly add 150ml milk, stirring all the time until the sauce is smooth and all the milk has been added. Bring to a simmer and add the cheeses.Stir the sauce well until all the cheese is well incorporated and completely melted.

While the beetroots are roasting peel the potatoes  and cut them into large 3cm pieces and steam them; this will take about 20 minutes.Put a large pan of boiling salted water on a high heat. Drain the potatoes, allow them to steam dry for a couple of minutes to get rid of as much moisture as possible.( I put them flat on a baking tray and dried them for 20 minutes on a very low heat in the oven then mashed them well with a potato masher).
Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour on a clean counter or cutting board, and knead the potatoes with it, add the ricotta and beetroot purée sprinkling in the remaining flour, until the dough just comes together. Pinch off a piece of the dough, and boil it to make sure it will hold its shape. If it does not, knead in a bit more flour (no more than necessary), and try again; the gnocchi will float to the top and look a little ragged when ready.
Roll a piece of the dough into a rope about 1/2-inch thick, then cut the rope into 1/2-inch lengths. Score each piece by rolling it along the tines of a fork; as each piece is ready, put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper; do not allow the gnocchi to touch one another.
Add gnocchi to the boiling water a few at a time, and stir gently; adjust the heat so the mixture doesn’t boil too vigorously. A few seconds after they rise to the surface, the gnocchi are done; remove them with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, and finish with the

cheese sauce 

*THE TRICK:
Make sure your gnocchi mix is really dry before you mash it and add the rest of the ingredients.
Another option is to add an egg, which makes success more likely, but  people disagree about this —  it makes the final product a tad heavier.You want pillows not pebbles.
Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe you can start messing around with other vegetables in combination with potatoes. Carrots,sweet potato and spinach are all terrific — especially for their colours. Cook them in olive oil until soft, purée them in the food processor and mix them into the cooked potatoes — because the vegetables carry some extra moisture, you’ll most likely need a little more flour.

Spinach Gnocchi

Roughly chop 8 ounces spinach. Cook in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat, seasoning to taste and stirring, until soft and wilted, about 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water and squeeze dry. Transfer to food processor and purée until smooth. Stir into the mashed potatoes in recipe above (you’ll most likely need an extra 1/4 cup flour)

 

 

Carrot Gnocchi

Peel and grate 1/2 pound carrots. Cook in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat, seasoning to taste, until very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to food processor and purée until smooth. Stir into the mashed potatoes in recipe above (you’ll most likely need an extra 1/4 cup flour).

Variations on a theme of sauces

While butter and cheese make a great topping for gnocchi, there’s a plethora of ways to finish the fluffy,airy pillows. piquant tomato,bacon and cream,

                                                 butter sage and parmesan,Piquillo pepper and roquefort

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Design inspiration

I have to admit to a guilty pleasure.As a former graphic designer I am a sucker for interesting and unusual packaging.My shopping basket is very often driven by design led packaging.If I find the wine label speaks to me, it might not necessarily be a good quality wine, but somehow its power of persuasion allows it to end up in my trolley.Can I resist that beatifully designed packaging on that tin of sardines? More often,not.
I do most of my "supermarket" shopping at Portugal´s biggest chain, Pingo Doce , and have always admired the design of their own label range of products.Their instore display and point of sale material is a hard act to follow when you visit other Portuguese supermarkets.The quality of photography and styling on the packaging is in a league of its own.
Hmm-surprise surprise,why  am I such a fan? On further investigation the responsibility for this design commission rested  with London based brand strategists, Nucleus.
Pingo Doce occupies a special place in the hearts of Portuguese consumers. As the leading supermarket group in a country of food lovers, Nucleus were briefed to refresh the brand identity and then transform every own-brand product in a complex and intensive programme of work that lasted many years. Their brief was to apply UK-standards of design, but with a distinctive Portuguese flavour.During the programme their Lisbon office project managed the projects and provided local insights, while their design team in London were the overseers of design and production.
The work embraced all aspects of the business and included launching the concept of own-label wines (a first for Portugal), bringing to the fore, the individuals behind some of Portugal’s finest wines – a concept Nucleus had introduced years earlier for both Oddbins and Bottoms Up in the UK.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Uma lealdade ao retro e uma reinvenção do Algarve

It is a great pleasure at this time of year to have the time to research some new restaurants.Its all part and parcel of running a guest house.We would never recommend a restaurant to our guests if we had not eaten there ourselves.It is a truism of the hospitality business the more you put in the more you get out and  giving lots of insider information, tips and suggestions might secure a return visit.
  
"They also directed us to some wonderfully located local beach restaurants, though sadly the food never matched the quality of dinner at Casa Rosada"    guest review on Tripadvisor

Getting to know the staff of local restaurants can always be a help when making reservations on behalf of clients.A voice recognised at the end of the telephone I always think will make for a better service, and possibly a better table on arrival.
Most recently we selected two very different restaurants to try out in the company of friends.I say very different when I refer to style, but both establishments had two common denominators,phenomenal service,and a strong sense of nostalgia or saudade. 

Restaurante Chaminé, Altura
Having spent over 10 years living and working in the east Algarve this was our first visit to A Chamine.From the moment of our arrival we received very good service from attentive staff. The restaurant is well known for its  chef Joaquim Feliciano who has been the chef proprietor for 36 years. Our waiter, Fernando, could not do enough for us. We we were shown to our table and sat down in an almost retro atmosphere,the environment is fine but just a little old fashioned,but this is one of the factors that gives it its charm.What I was most drawn to was that we were able to watch from our table the streamlined, efficient service taking place in the kitchen.A great set of elderly cooks (all women),and waiters were watched over by snr.Feliciano who did not appear to be cooking himself although dressed appropriately for the role of head chef.He is one of the most renowned Portuguese chefs of his generation and quite clearly a true connoisseur of Algarvian retro gastronomy.
 The cover was excellent ,with a variety of breads, pate and special starters.The buttery sheeps cheese Monte da Vinha,served at room temperature with a spoon was especially good.For our mains I ordered the lamb cutlets in mint sauce, which were excellent, though looked over jealously at the fat veal steaks and lamb stew that my companions had ordered.
The food was well presented in a quaint old fashioned style and accompanied by a very good comprehensive wine list.A Chamine obviously has a great reputation, and I am loathe to be too critical of this place. It is very charming, and the staff are excellent and go out of their way to please you.The restaurant has been representative for Porrtuguese and Algarvian food in competitions abroad.Chef Feliciano has won several prizes in contests and gastronomic competitions among them the most recent"The golden cataplana"
Mariza with Chef Feliciano
A Chaminé is situated in the heart of a pristine seaside village, elegantly surrounded by gardens.At the entrance you cross a comfortable terrace where you can also dine or have lunch, especially in the summer. In the interior, we find an exquisite atmosphere, where the white, impeccably starched tablecloths stand out,dressed with scallop folded napkins.As we look at the walls, I am once again fascinated by something I have not seen for along time and a mark of its generation  photographs of some of its more celebrated diners, who are frequent visitors to this house,politicians,diplomats as well as some football stars and more recently the celebrated Fado star Mariza.
A Chaminé is a well run,familiar and typical Algarvian restaurant. Not trendy, but very much a family friendly place.

Av. 24 de Junho, 8950-411 Altura  Phone +351281950100
Email chaminejoaquim@hotmail.com
Website: http://www.restaurante-chamine.com

Restaurante Gilao, Tavira

 Tudo azul,blue winter skies, warm sunshine and the
 perfect time and place to find a table for a langourous lunch

Our second  choice of establishment to check out was a classic and for me a very successful example of the Algarve re-inventing itself.
This restaurant shies away from the obvious, the easy and predictable, and instead brings surprises to the table that are clever takes on some of the most genuine and traditional of Algarvian gastronomy.This was more than a surprise, an example that should be followed for boldness and originality.We have very strong memories,(the Portuguese would call it saudade)of the old working market on the riverfront in Tavira.Alas the market closed and moved to a more modern location.Someone somewhere had the brainwave of injecting new life into the traditional markets of Portugal. Old buildings full of history have been reborn all over the country with creative and innovative restoration proposals for a change of use as restaurants.
In Tavira, right next to the Gilão River,the old Mercado de ribeira has a new restaurant, born from the ashes of a former family snack bar. The name derives from the neighbouring river and also designates the origin of many of the dishes they serve.The menu is extensive but in no way touristic and Gilao needs to be returned to several times to be able to sample the full potential of their menu.the layout spreads over three distinct spaces all displaying traces of this redefined modernity.
before the lunchtime rush
A bar, an extensive outdoor riverside terrace  and an elegant light and airy dining room. 
The menu  features the fantastic creations of chef Cecilia Paixão.  Challenged by owner Ângela Botelho, she has built a menu highlighting the best of Algarvian produce from fish and seafood to mountain food.There is very little I would not want to try on this amazing menu.Its like a dream shopping trip, trying on different clothes and not knowing when to stop.
There is so much to discover here in this whim of re-invention.There is something for everyone ,so does one opt for the à la carte service or let yourself be tempted to try the surprising range of tapas? Who said tapas dont work in the Algarve Paixão has proved it does and pitched at an audience that wants value for money.
How about Chamuça de cavala em molho de caril e gengibre (€2.50) (Horse mackerel samosas in a curry and ginger sauce), a specialty that came to Portugal through Indo-Portuguese cuisine from Goa, Daman and Diu, once belonging to the Portuguese State of India.This,in my eyes, gains Paixão big brownie points. Or "Tempura of octopus and spicy honey". Spicy honey enhancing the texture of octopus.Clever.
There is a delicious baked camembert with raspberries (€ 4.50)(oh so Avillez!!!!)
 The Pianinhos (baby pork ribs)in the oven in honey and mustard (€ 4.50) are a temptation, as well as the Skewered octopus on fried tomato toast (€ 6).
In all there are more than 20 tapas proposals for snacking and sharing with friends. Throughout the menu Alentejan influences pop up in the guise of a Migas of farinheira and egg with coriander and parmesan chips (€ 7). Shrimp,in piri-piri sauce and  aged brandy (€ 11)  puts a brilliant modern twist on the famous Taviran dish, Piri piri prawns with whisky and lemon
 Local classics are also featured in the cockle stew with Xarém  (€ 6), the stew of mussels in tomato sauce (€ 7).Another of my favourites, Raia alhada and mussels (€ 23), and the Bulhão Pato clams. If the idea is to share, lose yourself in the bold flavours of the Cataplana for two people, or choose between two more Alentejan classics, black pig cheeks and clams  (€ 26),or the octopus with Aljezur sweet potatoes and black pudding (€ 26 ), pork tenderloins with grapes and sweet potatoes,where Paixão once again shows a brilliant conjugation of flavours.The Sweet potato is from Aljezur,its uniqueness  geographically protected by the European Union.Signature dishes abound exhibiting Paixão´s creativity.You can spend as much or as little as you want at Gilão,you can mix and match and share and share alike from spicy chicken wings, garlic sauce and chili pepper at just (€ 3) or you can push the prawn out defying your purse strings and order the seafood in brandy sauce and coriander (€ 40)
Coming back down to earth with the phenomenal and daring Carré of lamb sealed in mango and rosemary sauce (€ 16).In a clear reference to the sea and the Algarve, allow yourself be tempted by the Robalo da costa escalado na grelha, batata a murro e manteiga de alho (€14) (butterflied sea bass on the grill, with punched potatoes and garlic butter (€ 14)
or my all time favourite, Polvo a lagareiro com batatas a murro (€13).Oh and I nearly forgot to mention the red velvet cake being given a rightful showing.
Tavira, has always had a rich, intelligent cuisine,but what one discovers at Gilão are some  peculiar but very modern ways of using the most common foods.Set in a land of traditions and history, Tavira knows how to line your stomach to the full. For me, dare I say it, is one of the best destinations for sampling Algarve gastronomy. 
                                                                      Vamos voltar...até breve

Rua do Cais, Mercado da Ribeira, Loja 2A 8800-218   Phone: 281 322 050





Thursday, 12 January 2017

Fridgewatch,the reality of leftovers

Red pear camembert and ant 
© Irving Penn December 1992
 Opening the door of my fridge is like entering a positive Aladdin´s cave of delights, but at the same time also discovering some other horrors that are not so delightful. Has your curiosity ever got you into trouble? Have you ever been so desperate to know a secret that you took no notice of a warning? All through history there are stories of people being told not to open doors, caskets, cupboards, gates and all sorts of other things in case of what they might find there.In so many of the stories, the people just did not listen. One person who did not listen was Pandora. Her story comes from Ancient Greece and her curiosity brought a whole heap of trouble! My curiosity always gets the better of me when it comes to opening  fridge doors.My fridge is the demon larder of leftovers and when this larder lout goes in search of yesterdays overestimation I often stumble upon things that have been there a  lot longer than yesterday, and are most certainly not  the basis for a tasty supper of leftovers.They now become the responsibility of waste disposal
When I open that door, especially at this time of year, I never know what is in there that could spell disaster.It is the beginning of the new year and this is the time for ethical cleansing of that fridge and renewal in the pantry. Behind that door is  a store of many interesting and unusual objects.
You'll see a vast array of jars, squeezy bottles, and plastic containers housing condiments from all corners of the globe, many inadvertently having bypassed the date-labelling stage of the storage process.That ham bone can be alleviated of its remaining flesh and shredded for a stir fry and after that deed is done the bone spells out peasouper so thats fine, but open that white plastic tub and I find a grey green mould on a long past its sell by date pot of creme fraiche, which is not so fine.
There is an element of danger surrounding the discovery of a flattened tube of tomato paste or wasabi.The fear of being caught out generates a certain excitement the possibility of an un-announced visit from lifesaver Hasselhof, or even better Zac Efron re-booted and de-shirted for "fridgewatch 2017"God forbid it should be Keith lemon peering through my keyhole in the hope of catching a bit of celebrity JOOOOOOSE on the turn.Some days I dare not answer the door for fear of this unannounced visit of the fridge police, or perhaps a paparazzo  in search of a photo essay on the subject of my fridge.Some of Irving Penn´s archival food photography come to mind.One of the most disturbing and gross photographs I have ever seen, is his  study of a red pear,camembert and ant (above).It turns my stomach,as does Wolfgang Tillmans fly crawling across some fresh crab (below)

I can hear a cry of revelation as they catch me out and find that gangrenous greengage stuck to a saucer undeterred since August.
Jaques Cousteau´s voyage to the bottom of my salad box continues plumbing the depths of salad leaves and florets of one kind or another.Two thousand  leagues under I am like a 19th century troubleshooting seaman.Yellowing sticks of celery slowly melding into the bottom of the salad drawer. blending with some slimy black lettuce that will require more than just hot water to remove.
Salad leaves that have slimily adhered to the inside of plastic bags they were put in and have become undetectable from seaweed.
No, dont get me wrong, once one has learnt better management of frigorification there is nothing to be ashamed about making a supper from yesterdays overestimation.It is way way better than buying readily peeled new potatoes and other pre-prepared side dishes to make a Marks and Spencer ready dinner and pass it off as your own.
I am definitely a lover of leftovers and some of my favourite meals have been created from such.It is something I inherited from my mother who was probably the cleverest,most resourceful housekeeper there ever was.
These kind of meals stemmming from a good old rootling and rummaging through those containers far outweigh going out shopping on a cold winters day.I recently saved the stock I had boiled my cauliflower in and this, brought together with the leftover cauliflower cheese and some almond milk can elevate this frugal dish to a taste sensation.Tonight the left over curried parsnip soup will come together with Sunday´s roast chicken carcass to make a heart warming creamy curry,something probably in no way authentic but who said I was entertaining a maharajah.Last night a jar of Pequillo peppers got chopped into a Roquefort pasta sauce.The Roquefort was a true leftover but the jar of Pequillo  peppers were a store cupboard staple so in a way this concoction becomes slightly fraudulent in the term of being called a meal of leftovers.The peppers were merely gilding the left over lily.The word leftover must be fully understood.A packet of unused sausages that have not been cooked can not in any way be classed leftovers, whereas all the ingredients for bubble and squeak are truly left over from a previous meal.You must ensure the food you are using is in good condition.Rule of thumb too is if you cant remember putting it in there, throw it away.Good luck everybody with your ethical cleansing,and make sure your resolution is to set a better precedent before the 20th January.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The great Escape-get here if you can


I have recently been sorting through piles and piles of old tear sheet recipes saved from newspapers over the years.The top of the wardrobe just could not take it any more and every time you opened the doors you were showered with a storm of paper sheets raining down on you. You may not be far wrong in thinking that this is how we spend our winters in the Algarve. Its a time to take stock, renovate, tiitivate and dissipate in anticipation of the coming season.
In my ruthlessness ( not a noun  i´d normally apply to myself) of sorting, something caught my eye.A full page advert from the English newspaper The Independent On Sunday, 2001.
"You´ll love the Algarve winter just like we do", it said.Never a truer word has been written.Winter here is a time to unwind and enjoy walking on the beaches, taking a drive through the green hills or up the river. A time to soak up the nature before the teeming hoards of tourists arrive and you can no longer walk along the beach without treading on someone.

 "Tourists" arrive and tranquil places become overrun. With ankle biters attached to them they may favour little around-town toy trains (yes each Algarve town has one of those annoying attractions) water parks, marine worlds, zoo worlds and restaurants with menus bearing photos of ( if you did not know what it looked like already) a "full English". Such things evoke shudders.But Is it taboo to be a tourist nowadays, no not at all chacun a son gout as the french so rightly say (to each his own taste).And there is a rightful place for both the independent explorer and theme parks.Of course children need to be catered for and provided with more entertainment than just a bucket and spade.It is January now and soon our television screens will be awash with endearing all inclusive tourist packages to villa complexes and such like resorts.But nowadays with Airbnb and tripadvisor there is also the choice to be an independent traveller.A chance to go off piste / off season, finding secret places and experiencing a real Algarve as it once was and still is.This is a chance to experience authenticity,something to write a postcard home about.A chance to be at one with nature and not holidaying under the umbrella of concrete and high rise.We holidayed in the beauty and tranquility of Tavira  for 25 years and each year came back for more before finally deciding to up roots and settle here.The things we learnt and the discoveries we made were all recorded and filed as useful information that could help in delivering an extra special holiday.The old saying - never go back to spoil a memory - is comprehensively kicked into touch on a return visit to the East Algarve.The real travellers are the ones that got there first. If they had not wandered off the beaten track and then returned home to write a tripadvisor review or blog about it, the rest of us would still be in the dark, remaining in our undeveloped purity.We would have missed out on the land of sun,wine,olive oil,bread and fish situated at the easternmost tip of Europe´s southwesternmost point.a place where traditions continue to thrive.Returning to the fold it is always about the pride of telling friends about the secret they have uncovered.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Japanese tuna and brown rice salad Detox

If there’s one thing you can guarantee about any recipe written for the first week of a new year, it’s that it will be full of fresh ingredients. With the passing of midnight on 31 December, we all get a clean slate. All those images of roast potatoes and mince pies are quietly erased, to be replaced by lemon zest shavings, bright green leaves and gently steamed fish.I´m all for a new year detox and I cast my mind back to a favourite Japanese salad my late sister-in-law used to make.Its very simple and can be made with store cupboard staples.
Canned tuna doesn´t get much better than this!!!!
Canned tuna is a mainstay of the Portuguese pantry, or any pantry for that matter. Who doesn't have a can or two stacked on that shelf, ready to be opened in a pinch for a quick sandwich? While the familiar tuna packed in water is fine for many recipes, when you really want the tuna to shine—like in Niçoise salad or a pasta sauce—tuna in olive oil is a much tastier choice. It's rich and meaty, moist from the oil, and packed with satisfying tuna flavour.This is exactly what you want for this particular salad,so don´t stint at the price.
Tuna packed in olive oil is generally made with yellowfin tuna instead of albacore, and they're filleted and canned by hand, resulting in larger, appealing chunks. Many olive-oil-packed tunas come in jars, but cans are available too, and cans tend to be less expensive.
“Ventresca de atum (o-toro)” is a special class of tuna, cut from the prized belly meat (what the Japanese call toro) of yellowfin or bluefin tuna.Jars or cans of this tuna, packed in olive oil, can be quite expensive, but the buttery, silky texture and rich complex flavour make it the "caviar" of canned tunas
Teruko´s brown rice tuna salad

425g can best quality canned tuna in olive oil (see above)
1 cup cooked brown rice ( 100g ) cooled
1 bunch spring onions thinly shredded
1 Lebanese  cucumber
2 tbsp extra virgin oilve oil plus extra to drizzle
4 celery stalks,finely chopped leaves reserved
1 green pepper
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
flat leaf parsley leaves for garnish
Whisk together the olive oil and rice vinegar,season to taste.
Place the rice celery cucumber spring onions and green pepper in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.Toss with enough dressing that the rice glistens.Top with celery leaves and flor de sal.Finish with a final drizzle of olive oil