Monday, 21 May 2018

Cha com agua salgada tocam seus dez maiores sucessos ( Cha com agua salgada plays its top ten greatest hits )

"Triumph" is a word I use sparingly,to give credit only where credit is due.On Thursday night the dinner we were served by the team at Cha com agua salgada to celebrate the restaurant´s tenth anniversary, more than deserves to be accredited with this accolade.What Sandra Gomes, Paolo Esteves and Chef Marco Jacó have built up over the last ten years is not only something remarkable, but something shining out as an exemplary role model that other East Algarvian restaurateurs should take heed of.Sandra and Paolo traded up architects practice and Marco transitioned from engineer to chef,to set up this unique beachside restaurant with city style and panache.They should have no regrets.
Situated in a prime location looking out across the dunes of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve to the sea in the near distance, Cha com agua salgada is a restaurant with outstanding food and a friendly team that provides first class attention to its customers.In their own words "At Cha com agua salgada, the approach to traditional cooking is elevated to another level by an experimental attitude towards flavours and tastes, using local products ranging from Tuna, Flor de sal from Castro Marim, Asparagus and Oranges, seeds and flours (poppy, carob ...), Octopus and seafood from the Ria Formosa coast".Therein lies the reason for their success.
Darne of Tuna on a salt stone
Atum, tuna,"Atuna",we´ve tasted it everybody´s which way, but the tuna brought sizzling to our table was the highlight of ten years of chef Jacó´s
 menus.This was quite the best tuna we have ever tasted.Thank you so much Cha com agua salgada a sua equipa de trabalho e brigada dos cozinheiros.

Rolinhos de bacalhau marinado com espargos verdes e espuma de limão

 A palavra triunfo é algo que eu uso com moderação,só dando crédito quando o crédito é devido, mas na noite de quinta-feira o jantar em que fomos atendidos pela equipe do Cha com agua salgada para comemorar o décimo aniversário do restaurante,mais do que merece ser credenciado com este elogio.O que Sandra Gomes e Paulo Esteves construíram nos últimos dez anos é algo admirável, um modelo exemplar do trabalho para fazer com que outros donos de restaurantes algarvios tomem conhecimento.​Com uma localização privilegiada que combina o mar a perder de vista e o extenso sistema dunar do Parque Natural da Ria Formosa o ​Chá Com Água Salgada promove a arte de bem servir.No Chá Com Água Salgada a abordagem da cozinha tradicional coexiste com uma atitude experimental relativamente aos sabores e paladares, tomando sempre como ponto de partida um conjunto de produtos locais que incluem desde o Atúm, à Flor de Sal de Castro Marim, aos Espargos e às Laranjas, às sementes e farinhas (papoila, alfarroba …), ao Polvo e mariscos da nossa costa.E é nesse contexto que reside a razão de seu sucesso.Atum, tuna,"Atuna", nós provamos que todo mundo é o caminho, mas o atum trouxe sizzling para a nossa mesa foi o destaque de dez anos de menus do chef Jacó.Este foi bastante o melhor atum que já provei.Muito obrigado a sua equipa de trabalho e brigada dos cozinheiros.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Small fry: cods roe tempura

Portugal once was a culinary forerunner. It's now pretty well known that Portuguese merchants introduced tempura to Japan.They were in the habit of eating fried fish during the religious seasons ("tempora")* of abstinence from meat.Living in a seafaring nation,the Portuguese don’t like to waste any part of the fish, and that includes the eggs.Inspired by the Japan / Portuguese connection and ignoring the high cholesterol warnings, I decided to try my hand at giving cods roe the tempura treatment. 
Stripped of the oil, milk and bread of the famous Greek spread, cured cod's roe can become somewhat addictive.Like Marmite, gentleman's relish and other salty spreads, it is a like-it-or-loathe-it thing. I spread mine, probably thicker than I should, on thin brown toast or use it to stuff peppers. 
In Japan most often it is grilled whole or deep-fried in the thinnest tempura batter, but I have also met these luminous sacks of fish eggs (often pollock) mashed into mayonnaise and stuffed into sushi.
If you’ve never cooked cod roe before, don’t panic – it’s one of the easiest fish dishes to get right. All you have to do is to pack them in a foil parcel and poach them in their outer membrane for 25 minutes and then remove the membrane just before serving. When purchasing them fresh from the fishmonger, they are always kept in the membrane,which looks rather like  a pair of pants.In Denmark,apparently,where cods roe is nearly as popular as in Portugal, it is rumoured that you can even hear people ordering “a pair of pants” when they’re buying it!


FOR THE TEMPURA BATTER
plain flour 100g
sunflower oil 2 tbsp
sparkling mineral water 175ml
egg white 1
oil for deep frying

FOR THE FILLING
smoked cod's roe 200g
breadcrumbs 170g, fresh and white
Szechuan pepper a few large pinches,(ground in a pestle and mortar) to taste
pinch piri piri chilli flakes
8 large tender spinach leaves
lemon 1
You will also need groundnut oil or sunflower oil for deep-frying and 8 cocktail sticks or short wooden skewers.
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the oil and water, mix lightly, then set aside to rest. If there are lumps in it, that is fine – in fact your batter will probably be better for it.
Remove and discard the fine membrane of skin from the cod's roe and put the flesh into a bowl. Add the crumbs to the roe with the Szechuan pepper, and a pinch of piri piri chilli flakes. Shape the roe into eight small rolls about twice the diameter of a wine cork.
Place the spinach or chard leaves flat on the work surface, one at a time, removing any tough stalks as you go. Place a lump of roe on each one and roll up in the leaf, then secure with a cocktail stick or short wooden skewer.
Heat cooking oil – groundnut or sunflower – to 180C degrees. Beat the egg white until almost stiff then fold into the batter mixture. Dip parcels of the roe into the batter then straight into the hot oil. The batter should not be even slightly coloured. You want it to be light, crisp and almost white. It should only just cling to the leaf here and there.

Serve with wedges of lemon or lime.

*The word "tempura", or the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them, comes from the word "tempora", a Latin word meaning "times", "time period" used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period or Fridays, and other Christian holy days when only fish was eaten. The idea that the word "tempura" may have been derived from the Portuguese noun tempero, meaning a condiment or seasoning of any kind, or from the verb temperar, meaning "to season" is also possible as the Japanese language could easily have assumed the word "tempero" as is, without changing any vowels as the Portuguese pronunciation in this case is similar to the Japanese.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The bastard Alfredo

pasta simplicity
Cottage cheese anyone? Paneer perhaps? Cottage cheese has always had a bad reputation.Some people are only familiar with the fat-free version and think of it only as diet food, meant to be mixed with pineapple chunks and not much else. Others are probably put off by the texture, which admittedly looks a little weird but actually tastes pretty great, in my opinion. No matter what your position is on the creamy, curd-filled dairy product, it's time to expand your horizons and channel your inner Little Miss Muffet.
One of the most classic dishes on every "Italian-American" menu is fettuccine alfredo. But did you know that what Americans consider to be alfredo sauce is rarely eaten in Italy? "The Italian-American" version of alfredo usually consists of lashings of cream and fat parmesan cheese. In Italy, however, cream is not used very often to make sauces, they consider it to be too heavy and thick.
Well I am sorry to disappoint you if you are looking forward to eating Fettucine Alfredo in Italy you won’t find it.  It isn’t Italian.  Well, that isn’t entirely true, actually.  You can get it in Italy, but you will never find anything like it it on a menu,or certainly not by that name.  To get you in the right frame of mind here,think of ordering a totally non authentic vindaloo in an English curry house or even better imagine I served you cheese on toast, and I told you that this was a special dish I call ‘Tosta alla Cozinheiro’, you would be laughing at me all the way to the toaster? Fettuccine Alfredo falls into that realm for an Italian.
So where did this bastard alfredo come from? The story goes that in 1914, a man named Alfredo di Lelio was trying to cook something that would please his pregnant wife. He created a sauce made from parmesan cheese and extra butter ("triplo burro") and poured it over some fettuccine. Di Lelio then opened up a restaurant in Rome and served his fettuccine dish.
Fettuccine Alfredo to our friends across the pond is a dish made from fettuccine tossed with Parmesan cheese and copious amounts of cream and heart rending lashings of butter. As the cheese melts, it emulsifies the liquids to form a smooth and rich sauce coating the pasta. In other words, it is a bastardised version of the Italian dish ( pasta al burro e parmigiano). Alfredo di Lelio gave it this name at his restaurants in Rome, in the early to mid 20th century.
The dish became popularized and eventually spread to the United States. The recipe has evolved and its commercialized version is now ubiquitous with heavy cream and other ingredients high in cholesterol.
The dish was so well known that di Lelio was invited to demonstrate it both in Italy and abroad. The fame of the dish, called on Alfredo's menus "maestosissime fettuccine all'Alfredo" 'most majestic fettuccine, Alfredo style', came largely from a "spectacle reminiscent of grand opera" when Alfredo prepared it at the table.Fettuccine Alfredo, minus the spectacle, has now become ubiquitous in Italian-style restaurants outside Italy, although in Italy this dish is usually called simply "fettuccine al burro".

Well so the story goes and I am sorry to have digressed, but to cut a long story short I have found a way to make an equally delicious but lower cholesterol version of pasta Alfredo using cottage cheese.Well here goes and hopefully no coronary side effects...
Cottage Cheese Alfredo
A  less rich,but nevertheless creamy alternative to heavy alfredo, made with cottage cheese.You can play around with the ingredients to create your own taste sensation.I threw in a generous sprinkling of Cajun spice to give it a bit of peppery whoop la la Tastes just like the real thing... or maybe even better!


250g Durum wheat pasta of your choice with no traces of egg
1/2 cup milk (low-fat)

1/2 cup greek yoghurt
1/2 cup cottage cheese,
drained
1 tbsp cornflour
 flor de sal

1 tsp dried basil
generous grating of nutmeg
cracked black pepper pepper
2 large cloves crushed garlic, or more to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
or Pecorino Romano cheese
fresh basil or parsley, to garnish
Put all ingredients, except fresh basil, into food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
Pour mixture in small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat,stirring constantly until heated through and smooth.Check for seasoning as you stir, Adding more parmesan,salt, pepper (or other seasonings), to taste.
Let cook on very low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooked pasta right before serving and let soak in for a couple minutes.


TIPS:Make double treble or quadruple the quantity and put in the freezer for multiple midweek suppers.You can also use this for a lasagna to replace the bechamel,or as a sauce for your favourite home made gnocchi or gnudi.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Bolinhos de peixe robalo tailandeses no forno


As every canny cook knows, perfectly good fishcakes can be made from leftover mash.They are in my estimation the best leftover,farls aside,that mash can aspire to.In theory, your choice of fish with such a dish is entirely dependent on your leftovers – fishcakes are, as we will see, a very flexible thing.Although most Thai restaurants would serve fish cakes as an appetizer, they are actually a great ingredient to serve as a main dish. Thai fish cakes are traditionally deep-fried, but if you keep the mix quite firm they can be baked, with excellent results. And if you keep bigger chunks of fish in the mix for extra texture, it also means you don't have to drag out the food processor (or clean it later). One of the beauties of the fishcake is how easy it is to play around with: once you've tailored the basics to your satisfaction, the choice of icing on this particular cake is very much up to you. I find that buttery mash makes the finished fishcakes too soft – even after chilling.Baking rather than deep-frying makes fish cakes an easy option.With regards to your choice of fish, leftover fish will bring something a little extra to the mix,it will bring the additional flavours of what it was previously cooked in or seasoned with,in this case fragrant Thai flavours of lemongrass,lime,garlic,fish sauce,chilli,ginger and soya
Bolinhos de peixe robalo tailandeses no forno
makes 6 main course fish cakes or 12 small snack sized fish cakes
You can of course pan-fry these fish cakes like hamburgers, if you prefer.

If frying, use a little more oil than you might think you need, as the fish cakes themselves are very lean.
250g left over firm white-fleshed fish (bass, snapper or ling) picked through for bones
2 tbsp home made Red Curry Paste or commercial paste
2 large spring onions or 4 banana shallots,grated
1 red large red chilli seeded and chopped finely
chopped lime leaves,central vein removed and chopped finely
generous handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalks
egg and breadcrumbs for coating
Spray a baking tray with spray oil.
In a mixing bowl combine first 7 ingredients. Mix well.
Divide into 8 equal round cakes.
Coat with flour, then dip in egg and finally coat with the crumbs.
Place cakes on prepared tray; chill for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 190c.
Spray cakes with oil and bake, turning once (spray again). They will take about 30 minutes in total to cook.

Monday, 7 May 2018

A Treasonous May,and the demise of The Jersey Royal


British classics pave the way to summer, led by majestic Jersey Royals, asparagus and this year Treasonous May’s crowning glory,Windrush, a truly heinous crime of betraying her country.Lets face it May´s got off to a bad start for the UK this year.
 Making a meal of these seasonal big-hitters could not be further from my mind in these utterly odious and villanous times when individuals of Caribbean descent who have resided in the country for decades would effectively be deported under new immigration rules.For a generation that was basically invited to come and save Britain from detriment, it’s a slap in the face to now be threatened with deportation back to countries where many hold no links after decades of naturalisation in the UK. 
 British Food Wouldn’t Be the Same without the Windrush Generation.The impact Caribbean food had in rebuilding neglected parts of the UK and, in the process, igniting street parties and street food ( ironically now turned into a multi-million pound industry)—is significant.In addition to jobs, Windrush migrants were promised a better quality of life in the UK. This very soon backfired. On arrival, many found themselves ostracised from wider British society and were barred from public spaces, such as pubs and nightclubs. In reaction to this, the Caribbean migrants created their own social spaces. Missing family and sun, they recreated elements of island life in the UK’s cold climate, which often involved music and food. The sound systems of Kingston, Jamaica were recreated in home basements not only in West London but across the country. These parties centred on pulsating Ska rhythms and were fueled by homemade rice and peas, curried meats,banana fritters, and a tot of rum. This pioneering group deserves our praise and adulation, not deportation.The current Conservative government’s treatment of the older British Caribbean community looks unnervingly like a long term strategy to have a group of people come and rebuild untouchable parts of the country, only to kick them out after the process is complete.
The whiff of ethnic cleansing that kicked off last week draws comparison to a world war 2 unexploded bomb which lays buried in the referendum malarky and if not skilfully defused, could go off with devastating consequences for the British  food system. ... The industry has  been screaming blue Brexit murder about its need for migrant workers. Now the government faces not only that but ...the demise of an annual national tradition, Jersey royal potatoes.Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union Jersey Royals are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
 
The potato's short season,is usually from April to mid-July.On the Channel Islands, the outdoor growing season is normally well under way this month, but not so this year.The lateness is thanks to months of severe frosts and persistent rain leaving farmland saturated.However, the shortage of Polish workers in particular has led to fewer seed potatoes being planted.Around 1,000 foreign workers are needed to plant and harvest the potatoes and other crops on Jersey but farmers have reported that they are struggling to recruit staff. Since the turn of the century, many of the 1,000 positions had been filled by Polish workers.
 This year’s harvest of one of England’s best loved crops has been hit by a shortage of migrant workers because of Brexit.A combination of ‘bad weather and Brexit’ means this year’s Jersey Royal potatoes will have their latest arrival in living memory.The first of the 2018 crop appeared a month later than normal – with growers predicting that production could be 20% down.According to The Guardian, some farmers are already hiring staff from outside the EU, including Kenya. The farmers’ union was forced to work with a recruitment agency to bring in staff from Romania.The inclement weather also has compounded issues in finding foreign labour to help with the harvest after Polish workers – who had provided the majority of the 1,000-plus seasonal labour for a decade – reportedly abandoned Jersey following the Brexit vote.The food and drink sector could now face significant EU tariffs and potentially cause supply chain disruptions.
Polish Nationals are often blamed for many things, their contribution to the Battle of Britain has been conveniently forgotten. As has the contribution of many other "grandfathers" that died during WW2 to protect Britain - it does not stop the "my grandad died fighting for this country" when justifying the anti foreigner/Muslim/Black verbal vomit.Let us just cast our minds back to June 2016 and  the days following Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the country was shocked by a spate of anti-Polish hate crimes, including the desecration of a Polish cultural centre in London. Xenophobic incidents were widely reported. In this febrile atmosphere it behoves all British citizens to look back to another time when Europe was in crisis and remember the sacrifices made by a former generation of Polish migrants for "their island race".The comfortably retired bigots of middle England must realise and not be allowed to forget that these migrant workers who put the potatoes on their plates are the descendants of those that helped their country win the war. Last but not least the recipe.......


Herb-roasted Jersey Royals with Cucumber and Paprika Dip

1kg (2lb 4oz) Jersey Royals, scrubbed
2 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
DIP:
100g (4oz) low fat Greek-style yogurt
300g tub light soft cheese with garlic and herbs
¼ cucumber, finely chopped
½ tsp paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 200˚C, fan oven 180˚C, Gas Mark 6
Cook the Jersey Royals in lightly salted boiling water until almost tender - about 10-15 minutes. Drain well.Tip the Jersey Royals into a roasting pan and add the olive oil, rosemary and thyme. Season with a little salt and black pepper, then toss to coat. Roast for 25-30 minutes, until browned.
Meanwhile, make the dip by mixing together the yogurt, soft cheese, cucumber and paprika. Serve with the Jersey Royals, sprinkled with a little extra paprika.

Tip: These potatoes make a great seasonal nibble to serve with drinks.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The better the stock, the greater the paella

History accords that paella combines the Roman and Arabic cultures. Arab conquerors introduced rice in Valencia. The word “paella,” may have stemmed from the Arabic word “baquia,” which means leftovers.So, historically, paella was introduced as the delicious solution to leftovers. And depending on where you live, you would utilize ingredients available in that region. It makes sense then that there are so many variations of paella today.Undoubtably, paella is Spain's proudest culinary achievement.Together with the actual cooking of the rice, making the best possible stock is the single most important step when making any paella recipe.A proper fish stock is essential if you want to get the same depth and richness of flavour for paella as the Spanish do.
Home made prawn stock
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves of garlic
4tbsp good quality olive oil
1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
2 fresh bay leaves
shells and heads from 30-40  large prawns, from sustainable sources
200 ml dry white wine
1 litre home made fish stock
 Start by making the stock. Peel and roughly chop the onion, then peel the garlic, keeping them whole.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, paprika, bay leaves and prawn shells and heads for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the wine and fish stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until it starts to reduce.
Strain through a colander into a large jug and set aside until needed (when you come to make the paella, just reheat the stock until hot, but not boiling).


Paella de cerdo con gambas chouriço y espinaca
Pork and prawn paella
serves 6

7 tablespoons olive oil
550g pork fillet cut into strips

30 raw prawns,shelled
200g mild cooking chouriço, cut into small pieces
2 large Spanish onions, finely chopped
2 large green peppers, halved seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
375g calasparra(paella) rice
2 teaspoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika
2 ñoras peppers, torn into small pieces and infused in boiling water
litre and a half home made prawn stock(recipe above)
500g spinach, washed and drained
1 lemon cut into wedges
Flor de sal and black pepper
In a 30-40cm paella pan or frying pan, heat the olive oil over a high heat, then stir-fry the pork for a few seconds so it is still a little undercooked. season with salt and pepper.Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put to one side.Fry the prawns in the same pan until coloured.Remove from the pan and set aside with the pork. Turn down the heat to a low to medium temperature and fry the chouriço for a minute. Add the onion and green pepper and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. At this point the mixture ( recheado) should have caramelised and taste sweet. stir the rice into the pan to coat in the flavoursome mixture for a minute.
( up to this point everything can be cooked in advance. The next stage requires about 20 minutes more cooking time).
Now season with salt and a little pepper, for this is the time to season the rice perfectly. add your paprika and Nõras peppers, drained of their water, followed by the hot stock, and simmer for 15 minutes or until there is just a thin layer of liquid around the rice.
Meanwhile in a large saucepan or wok, briefly wilt the spinach with a little salt, either by braising or steaming, and put to one side with the pork fillet.Evenly scatter the pork over the rice followed by the spinach. With the back of a wooden spoon gently push the pork and spinach partially into the oily liquid that remains at the bottom of the pan. Cover the paella tightly with foil and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Bife atum com molho teryaki balsãmico. Tuna steak with teryaki balsamic reduction

I say this is simple, but I do know that there are some people who find cooking fresh tuna a bit daunting.I don’t think it is all that tricky,you just need a good fool proof method.....
I found a recipe for Tuna steak with a Teryaki balsamic reduction and was intrigued to give it a try. I have always used Asian inspired flavours when cooking tuna and this was a new twist. I am very thankful I stirred it up. The Balsamic reduction is so complimentary to the recipe, it made this dish stand out. I liked it so much, I have now repeated the recipe twice this week(see below). Make sure you only sear the tuna briefly on each side so you wont over cook it. Also, it's best to use a cast iron skillet for this recipe so you get a nice sear on the fish.The balsamic reduction sauce I used to glaze the tuna worked so much better than I ever thought it would….the glaze was detectable but let the tuna steak itself take center stage. 
I had lots of leftover syrupy glaze  that I  put in the fridge and have been using on salads and such like ever since….There's nothing quite like grilled Tuna and this recipe does not disappoint.
 An alternative way of serving
Tuna steak with teryaki balsamic reduction
 Long, thin ribbon pasta, approximately 1/8 inch wide.
 Narrower version of tagliatelle.
for 4 persons
 
4 tuna steaks
250g taglierini  (right)
( 2 nests per person
flat leaf parsley for garnish

FOR THE TERYAKI BALSAMIC SAUCE
(this can be made in advance and re-heated)

250ml balsamic vinegar reduced by 2/3
300ml chicken stock
50g sugar
4 soup spoons of Kikkomam soya sauce
4 soup spoons of mirin or sherry
cornflour to bind
combine all the ingredients in a small pan and reduce by half.
Bind the sauce with a little cornflour.

FOR THE MARINADE (serves 4)
3 tbsp soya sauce
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp rice vinegar1 tbsp sesame oil
1 pinch of Piri piri flakes 6 thin slices of fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves crushed
In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the marinade.
add the tuna steaks and toss thoroughly in the marinade mix.
refrigerate for at least 1 hour but not more than 6,turning once or twice.

Bring a pan of boiling water to the boil with flor de sal and some olive oil.Add the pasta and cook for the time stipulated on the packet.When cooked drain,add the marinade from the tuna steaks and stir through.Keep warm while you cook the tuna steaks on a hot griddle pan.Re-heat the teryaki balsamic reduction.

TO SERVE
Quickly heat through the previously cooked pasta and garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.Divide the pasta between four soup plates,top with the tuna steaks and finish with a topping of teryaki balsamic reduction.

How to cook tuna steaks perfectly every time
Try to buy tuna that’s about 1½ cm thick.
Marinate the tuna steaks and rub all over, so the tuna is evenly coated.
Put a non-stick griddle pan or frying pan on a high heat and heat up the dry frying pan for 1 minute. Do not put any oil in the pan.
Put the tuna in the hot pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Then remove from the pan immediately.
Eh voila! You should have perfectly cooked tuna that is brown on the top and bottom but pink in the middle. And, if you use a griddle pan, it will have pretty char lines too.
If you prefer tuna that is cooked all the way through (but not over cooked) cook the tuna for 3 minutes on each side and it should be just cooked through. If in doubt, cut one open to check.

Friday, 20 April 2018

A Simple supper.Cauliflower "steak" with cauliflower cheese sauce, poached egg and ham

This is my new spin on cauliflower cheese.So, cauliflower “steaks.”Essentially, we’re talking about cross-sections of cauliflower, seasoned and roasted until tender and succulent.I mean, I sort of think “steak” is a bit far fetched, but I’m fully on board with the method ( and totally not on board with supermarkets climbing aboard the vegan bandwagon and charging a hefty price for pre-sliced cauliflower when you can buy and prepare it yourself for half the price).
A meat-free steak alternative? Possibly, but wrapped in plastic and overpackaged? Many people have expressed concern that retailers have evidently missed the mark by overcharging for a product that is sheer exploitation and shows little if no thought for the environment.
Anyway so,rant aside, a fresh cauliflower locally grown and purchased on the same day it was cut  – just brush with oil, season with salt and pepper, grill or sautee,then oven roasted with a cauliflower cheese topping, a slice of ham and finally topped with a poached egg.Comfort food at its best.Who could sing for anything better than Little Tommy Tucker
 Cauliflower "steak" with cauliflower cheese sauce poached egg and ham
serves 2
1 medium-size head cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flor de sal and freshly ground pepper
black pepper to taste
dessert spoon Dijon mustard
60g good quality melting cheese cheddar or provolone,grated
1tbsp butter
1tbsp flour
300ml mix of half reserved cauliflower stock and half milk
2 slices ham
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to medium, about 180-200 degrees C.
Peel the leaves off of the head of cauliflower and cut the stem off of the bottom. Sit the head upright on the flat cut bottom and, with a sharp chef’s knife, cut into two 1-inch thick slices. Generally, you can only get 2 good steaks out of one head of cauliflower, the slices from the middle. Reserve the two middle slices and save the outer sections for later use. Brush both sides of the cauliflower slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.Sear the cauliflower slices in a cast iron griddle pan
until golden brown on both sides and fork-tender in the middle,4-5 minutes.Flip over and repeat on the other side.Remove the cauliflower slices to a baking dish and lay a slice of ham across the top of each slice.Set aside.Put the reserved outer sections in a processor and blitz until you have a coarse grain like cous cous.Add the cauliflower grains to enough boiling water to cover them(approx 0.5 litres).Boil for a couple of minutes until softened but still retaining their texture.Drain the cauliflower saving 150ml of the cooking water and add that to 150ml of milk.
With the flour, butter, milk and stock, make a bechamel and add the mustard and cheese as if you were making a cauliflower cheese.When the sauce thickens add the cauliflower grains  and remove from the heat.Spoon the cauliflower cheese sauce over the ham and top with some extra grated cheese.Place the baking dish with the cauliflower in a hot oven 220C for about 15-20 minutes,finishing under the grill to achieve a nice crusty brown top.Keep the cauliflower warm while you poach the eggs.Transfer each cauliflower steak to a plate and top each portion with a poached egg.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Take it away-home made "Fake away" Thai salmon burger

Ditch the dodgy takeaways and make your own homemade versions instead. 
Healthier, cheaper and far tastier, too.
"Salmon is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory to the body and critical for good health. Omega-3s support the body’s health in every way and are vital in the fight against diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Omega 3′s also help to lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure, nourish the immune system and reduce symptoms of arthritis and depression".
Most of us know we should be eating oily fish due to its range of health benefits, but can't stomach the taste.If I read one more article about the health benefits of my least favorite fish, I honestly cannot be held accountable for my actions.By now, we know from every magazine, newspaper, television and vitamin commercial that the almighty salmon is healthy to eat and it has antioxidants. We see that everywhere, hear about that from friends, family, doctors, hairdressers.Well, salmon is one of the best sources – a 100g serving can give you around 2000mg of omega-3, so it’s hard to beat.
I am trying to eat a healthier diet these days and of course, wild salmon is always recommended as one of the best foods you can eat for good nutrition. The problem is, I don't really like the taste of salmon.So how can I disguise the taste of it? 
Home made curry
We are all aware that we should be eating oily fish due to its range of health benefits but can't stomach the taste.With a bit of imagination and culinary artistry there are several ways to disguise the taste without a layer of ketchup in sight.I am going down the route of trying to make some of my favourite takeaway dishes at home......"fakeaways" they´re called.We all make curries at least once a week and maybe make our own slant on a fish and chip supper.Kebabs are easy, and so too egg fried rice dishes.Its so easy to make your own spring rolls.Self endorsed pizzas are the ultimate TV dinner.Custom made with no waiting time, and fresh and hot out of your own oven. Once you put your mind to it there are  stacks of 'fakeaways'  that save you cash and satisfy your cravings.First up I have tried a Thai style salmon burger with home made cucumber and coriander relish.For the salmon sceptics amongst us I defy anyone to not like salmon after eating these.They are an easy way to enjoy oily fish.  and are a delicious alternative to standard ground beef or pork burgers.As with any burger, they are delicious piled on top of a soft, buttery bun, topped with all your favourite toppings. Instead of the usual lettuce topped burger, however, I stuck with the Thai flavours of the salmon burgers and made a cucumber and coriander relish.You could make a Thai Cabbage Slaw instead.
Thai-style salmon burger
with cucumber and coriander relish

adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay
Makes 4
½ cup (100g) brown rice
1 cup (250ml) water
1 stalk lemongrass (white part only), roughly chopped
1 long red chilli, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes 
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
½ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped, plus extra leaves to serve
500g skinless salmon fillets, cut into 2cm pieces

CUCUMBER AND CORIANDER RELISH

1 Lebanese cucumber, seeds removed and chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
Place the rice and water in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes or until tender. 
While the rice is cooking, preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Place the lemongrass, chilli, garlic, fish sauce and soya sauce in a small food processor and process until finely chopped. Place in a large bowl, add the salt, kaffir lime leaves, onion, coriander, salmon and rice and mix well to combine. Place ½ cup of the mixture in the food processor and process until finely chopped. Return to the salmon mixture and mix well to combine. 
Place dollops of the mixture on 2 large lightly greased oven trays lined with non-stick baking paper and flatten into burgers. Cook, turning halfway, for 8 minutes or until golden. 
To make the cucumber coriander relish, place the cucumber, coriander, lime juice, fish sauce and honey  in a small processor and blitz  to combine. Serve the fish cakes with the relish on the side and potato sticks.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Sarladaise are here again

The first new-season potatoes are out, but its raining incessantly and there is enough of a chill in the air still to justify a generous plate of potatoes with a crispy duck confit.Sarladaise is the name given to a method of preparing potatoes in the Périgord region of France.If you go anywhere in the Dordogne area of southern France you can be sure that you will be served this fabulous potato dish as an accompaniment to meat dishes and salads. Hearty, wholesome and absolutely scrumptious. Sarlat potatoes or pomme de terres Sarladaises is easy for you to make at home and recreate a fabulous authentic French taste in about 30 minutes. The thinly sliced potatoes are sautéed(without par-boiling) in duck fat.When they are cooked they are sprinkled with chopped parsley and garlic,covered and left to sweat.In restaurants,truffles are often added,but this is incorrect,;truffles are however an ingredient of sarladaise sauce,a cold emulsified sauce flavoured with brandy, served with grilled or roasted meat.Potatoes Sarladaises are an absolute treat, with the nutty, velvety richness of duck fat, and the beautiful contrast between the tender middle of the potatoes and the browned crunchy bits.I could eat potatoes sarladaises any day of the year, but early spring is an excellent time of year to make them.
Confit of Duck
Order duck legs from your butcher each weighing at least 300g.Ask him to remove the thigh bone from the legs at the joint,leaving the flesh intact, and also to chop the end knuckle off each duck leg to expose the bone. Duck fat can be bought from a good butcher or delicatessen.Once the legs have been cooked in the fat,they can be left for up to a week until required and the fat frozen and used again.You need to begin this by rubbing the salt into the duck legs and placing them in the plastic container so they fit comfortably in one layer. Then sprinkle them with any remaining salt, cover with a lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.

For the salting:
8 large duck legs
6 oz (175 g) Flor de sal
For the cooking and preserving:
3 x 340 g tins duck fat
8 cloves garlic, bruised (no need to peel)
20 black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
¾ oz (20 g) fresh thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves, each cut into 2 pieces
To make the confit, preheat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F, 140°C. Put the goose fat into the casserole and heat gently.
While it’s heating, wash the duck legs thoroughly under running water - it is important to do this very well to prevent the final result being too salty. Then place them in a bowl of cold water, drain and do the same thing again (to make absolutely sure!). After that, put the wet duck legs into the goose fat, along with the bruised garlic, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves. Bring it up to simmering point, cover and transfer to the preheated oven for 2½ hours. To check the meat is tender, use a small skewer, which should find little resistance when pushed into the duck legs. 
Now cool for about an hour, then remove the legs from the fat and put them back into the (washed and dried) plastic container. Strain the cooled fat over the legs then, when completely cold, cover and store in the fridge ready for when you want to use it, removing it from the fridge about 1 hour before reheating it in the oven.
Salardaise potatoes
Serves 4.
Worth the time. Some things just are—and this is one of them....  only three ingredients: potatoes, garlic, and fat.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

700 grams (1 1/2 pounds) waxy potatoes (i.e. they hold their shape when cooked)
3 tablespoons (35 grams)  duck fat
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Peel the potatoes and slice them into 5-mm (1/5-inch) slices. Rinse in a colander to remove excess starch, drain, and dry thoroughly in a clean dish towel.
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet , heat the duck fat over medium heat.
Add the potatoes and salt, stir well to coat, and cook uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes without disturbing, until browned underneath. Adjust the heat as needed so it is high enough to brown the potatoes, but not so high that the potatoes will burn at the bottom.
Flip the potatoes , and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes without disturbing, until browned underneath. Repeat the flipping and browning 2 to 3 times more, until the potatoes are cooked through and browned to your taste.
Add the garlic and parsley, sprinkle with black pepper and turn off the heat, leave the pan covered for a further 5 minutes and then serve.
Smells delicious, tastes divine!
Bon appétit…