Friday, 8 August 2014

Pork Fillet, White Port, Figs, Honey and Goat's Cheese

Fillet of Pork in a White Port and Fig Sauce,
 served with Grilled Figs and Goat's Cheese
accompanied by Black and White Rice

This really was a blend of Portuguese flavours! And I enjoyed making it and by the clean plates at the end, the family enjoyed eating it too! Though I am not so sure that Peter enjoyed picking the figs - I should have armed him with a pair of gloves as they leave a sticky residue which is not easy to remove!! Anyway, the reward was in the result.

Pork and Portugal are synonymous, as are figs and goat's cheese. Port is probably Portugal's best know export, so I decided to make a dish that combines all the best ingredients that the country has to offer. I also added a spoonful of locally produced honey with almonds, but not before devouring some myself. Ooooh, it was pure nectar!! I'll try and remember that next time I complain about my increasing weight. Unfortunately, I suffer from a dire case of 'cake and eat it'!

So, on with the recipe!

The sauce:
1 cup of White Port (and a little drop for chef!)
2 cups of vegetable stock
8 figs, quartered
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 cinnamon sticks
1 dessert spoon of honey
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
The Pork:
1 pork fillet will generously feed 3 people
Butter to grease the foil
2 sprigs of rosemary                                 To accompany: Soft Goat's Cheese and 2 extra Figs

In a heavy medium size saucepan, add the figs, white Port, vegetable stock, honey, rosemary and cinnamon. Boil for about 30 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain the liquid to remove the fig skins, rosemary stalks and the the cinnamon sticks. With the liquids back in the pan, blend in the butter and season with salt and pepper. This can be put aside and gently reheated before serving.

For this recipe, I like to bake the pork fillet with a couple of sprigs of rosemary, sealed in buttered foil, for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees.

In the meantime, cook the rice. The black rice takes much longer than the white so I start that off first. When cooked, drain and mix the rices.

Slice the pork into 1cm rounds. Dress with the sauce.

Slice the figs thinly and the goat's cheese. I use a kitchen blow torch to lightly toast them both. Assemble and devour!!!! The flavours are truly sensational.

Thursday, 7 August 2014


 Following a bad, bad hair day - This was a pasta perfect remedy!!!

I've had pasta on my mind more than usual following a post I read by Joy the Baker ( - French Onion Pasta - fab! I recommend it). Well, it must have come at a time when, subliminally, I was craving comfort food. You may have read my previous post (Salad, Wine and Wind don't mix!), to know that I have been trying to make the most of our summer here in south west Portugal. Despite the high winds (not typical for this time of year), I have been intent on cooking and creating recipes suited to the season that we should be enjoying. However, that quickly changed, following a meeting with my accountant, who heralded some unfavourable financial news. At that point, the evening menu was decided! I would seek comfort in pasta ........ and wine!

Salmon and Prawn Tagliatelle - deliciously simple!
(4 people)
500g salmon fillet (skin removed after baking)
200g cooked Greenland prawns - defrosted
2 leeks, chopped
2 Spring onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
A 'glug' of Moscatel or sweet wine
200ml cream
Shavings of Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp of olive oil
Chopped basil to garnish and ground black pepper
Fresh Tagliatelle 

Wrap the salmon tightly in a lightly buttered piece of foil and bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Remove, open the foil and set aside.

Bring a pan of water with a few drops of olive oil in it to the boil and add the tagliatelle. Cook until the pasta is just soft. While this is happening ...... in a heavy based pan - add the olive oil, then add the leeks, spring onions and garlic. Add salt and pepper. Pan fry for a couple of minutes. Add a 'glug' of the wine. Be careful not to make it too sweet! Let this simmer for 10 minutes and add the cream. Mix together well. Gently flake the salmon and mix softly into the sauce. Add the defrosted prawns. Cook gently for 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

Drain the pasta and spoon over the salmon and prawn sauce. Garnish with flakes of Parmesan, ground black pepper and some fresh basil. Tuck in! As my son would say - LUSH!

I don't normally like to have my photo taken, but this likeness, in which I am sufficiently disguised, evidences the high winds that I have been bemoaning and find so irritatingly .... irksome (I could be more dscriptively precise!) There is also a relevance in posting it, because my hair looks like the tagliatelle that I cooked and frighteningly, it's the same colour !!!! 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Salad, Wind and Wine don't mix!

Despite the strong and fresh winds that we are experiencing here in the Western Algarve, I am not yet going to give in to winter comfort food. One wouldn't believe it is August - I feel so sorry for the sand blasted and wind burned tourists that visit Portugal in search of sun, sand and all the rest! The TV news has recently reported that we have David Cameron and family here on holiday - I hope they have the use of a good strong wind breaker and packed plenty of woollies!

I will not be defeated by some rogue weather. We are British, so we will endure the cold, wrap up in blankets, sit on the terrace and eat salad! I may meet with some resistance from the family, but remind them that we paid a fortune for the terrace furniture, so we will use it!

On with the purpose of this post - my Summer Fruit Salad. It's really very, very easy to prepare, as you can see (photographed before it took flight!).
On a bed of shredded ice berg lettuce, add cherry tomatoes (from our garden), chopped Spring onions, chopped celery, kiwi fruit, figs and raspberries. Then add some slices of Mozzarella cheese and coat with a good quality olive oil and drizzle with a 'creme de vinaigre balsamic de Modena'. The addition of pine nuts or toasted almond flakes would give a little extra crunch.

Pure bliss! I happened to have some Jamon de Extremadura in the fridge, bought on a previous trip to Spain. If I was about to be sent to the gallows, this would be my last supper choice, accompanied by copious amounts of Chablis to numb the noose!

So on an August summer evening, I summoned the troops and we sat down to supper on the terrace. Instantly, a violent gust of wind, claimed half the salad and propelled my recently recharged glass of wine (thankfully, not Chablis) into orbit. I know when I am defeated, so we retreated to the comfort of the kitchen with half a salad, the ham in tact but the wine and glass not!
Tomorrow I'll make a casserole with dumplings and order wood for the fire! Hope you're in a less windy position David (geographically, I mean)!!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Spice up your life with my little balls of fire!

I'm always trying to think of something different to dish up for dinner. It requites my need for creativity and when I've got lots of things whizzing around in my head (which sometimes feels like Piccadilly Circus), menu planning and preparation is very therapeutic! I like to tuck myself away in the kitchen and if the sun is going down (well, it always is somewhere in the world!), I pour myself a glass of chilled white 'nectar' and set about my culinary preparations.

On Saturday, I thought I'd spice things up a little and serve up one of my old restaurant specials.

SPICY MEATBALLS in a tomato sauce, served with plain rice and sour cream.

Spicy meatballs in a tomato sauce ~platter to serve 4

Ingredients and preparation:
(serves 4)
The meatballs:
500g of pork mince and 500g beef mince
(there is no reason why you should not just use one or the other - I mix it because, here in Portugal, I sometimes find that the beef mince does not have quite enough fat content)
Van Geest's Sambal Oelek* liquid chili - hot!
(For a mild to medium result, I used 2 tablespoons to a kilo of meat - but add more if you wish to increase the 'fire'!)
Salt (again, the quantity is up to you - I tend to be over generous, so I am not going to give guidelines)

In an appropriate sized mixing bowl, add the meat and salt and then the liquid chili. Now for the messy part - use your hands to mix everything together. On a baking tray lined with baking paper, roll the meat in the palms of your hands, into balls just a little smaller than those used to play golf! Bake in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 20 minutes.

Warning! Wash your hands well!
Jolly painful if you inadvertently rub your eyes!!

Whilst your little spicy chili balls are cooking away, prepare the sauce.

The Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (approx 500g)
A good squeeze of tomato paste
3 cloves of chopped garlic
Salt (I recommend a good sprinkling)
Freshly chopped coriander to garnish

In a saucepan, add the olive oil, the leeks, spring onions, celery and garlic with the salt and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste. Allow the vegetables to soften and cook down a little before serving on top of the meatballs.

I like to serve this with plain rice and a good dollop of sour cream to balance the heat from the meatballs. My son invited a friend to join us for dinner, so I was a little more cautious than usual with the Sambal Oelek. You did well Alex, next time, I'll challenge your taste buds a little more!

* For my reader here in Portugal, I get Van Geest's Oelek Sambal from Baptista's Supermercado in Praia da Luz.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Three Contented Souls!

I look forward to my visits to the Municipal Fish Market in Lagos (Lagos, Portugal that is! Not Nigeria!) I like the hustle and bustle of the place, the calls of the vendors and the smell of the sea and ....... fish! It is high season and the market is very busy with restaurateurs, private shoppers like me and tourists eager to get a feel for the 'real' Portugal. The variety of fish on sale is awesome; some with monster-like faces, some like my sole with hardly a face at all, some pretty and others .......... plain scary . . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . . . . imagine meeting this monkfish while enjoying a dip in the ocean!
Okay, back to the thread of my blog! I usually go with a particular purchase in mind. Yesterday, it was to buy stone bass, but instead, I left with three handsome soles! They just looked so good, plump and shiny that I couldn't resist. Sole is a great treat for us at home. It's expensive at twenty euro a kilo but I can and do justify it to myself. After all, I'm a woman and there's always a way to justify an expensive purchase (like a must-have pair of shoes!). My justification this time being, that if we ordered them in a restaurant, they would be three times the price. Therefore an absolute bargain, husband dear - I saved money!

My three soles being cleaned by the fishmonger,
who removes all the slimy bits and bobs for me!

So, the evening menu was set. Sole served with baby new potatoes slathered with butter and accompanied by a delicious summer salad. Yum!

I like to oven bake fish - it's very simple - butter a large square of foil, place the fish on top, squeeze the juice of half a lemon and grind some sea salt over the top. Seal the foil and bake for 18/20 minutes at 180/190 degrees centigrade. Serve!

Et Voila!!

The flesh of the fish just fell off the bone - succulent and sweet. By the end of the meal, we were the three contented souls!

Next week, I'll take on the monster monkfish and cook him handsome!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

"If I am innocent, may that cockerel get up and crow!"

I'm going to relate a Portuguese legend! Are you sitting comfortably?

The people of Barcelos (in Portugal's northern region of Braga) had been shaken by a crime for which a pilgrim was the prime suspect. He was tried and the judge sentenced him to death by hanging. The pilgrim, insisting on his innocence, asked to be brought again before the judge, who was dining. He requested one last wish and pointing at the roast cock that had been served up to the judge, the pilgrim said: "I swear that I am innocent. When you hang me, this cock is going to crow".
The judge ignored the appeal but just as the noose was tightening around the neck of the pilgrim, the cock raised its head off the plate and crowed loudly. The pilgrim was spared and was sent on his way in peace.

I love this story and it leads me onto one of my favourite Portuguese dishes, very popular with my family - well, the lead/link is the chicken!! There are many ways to serve Chicken Piri-Piri here in Portugal - this is my version. And, it's easy-peasy!

Chicken Piri-Piri
served with a sprinkling of Spring onions and a
'dollop' of sour cream

Chicken Piri-Piri
I use one chicken breast per person (recipe here based on 4 people)

4 chicken breasts, sliced 
1 large leek finely chopped
1 chilli pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
1 large red sweet pepper, chopped
4 cloves of crushed garlic
4 or 5 large tomatoes, chopped
A good squeeze of tomato paste
Hot Piri-Piri sauce (to taste)
3 Spring onions chopped
300g plain rice
Sour cream
Olive oil for frying

In a large frying pan, pour about 2 tbsp of olive oil and add the leek, chilli and sweet peppers plus the garlic. Add salt. Fry for 2 or 3 minutes and add the chicken pieces. Let the chicken brown a little and then add the piri-piri sauce to your taste! Some like it HOT!

Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, boil the rice. When the rice is boiled mix it in thoroughly with the meat and vegetables.
Serve with a garnish of chopped spring onions and a generous 'dollop' of sour cream to balance the spicy heat.
Bom Apetite!!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Let the stars watch over your dreams!

You simply must go! Stunning views, walls oozing with 300 years of history, old fashioned hospitality, a comfortable bed, incredibly inexpensive and the best breakfast I have ever had on the continent!! That's a bold statement, but true! It was a serendipitous find and we can't wait to return.

Now, you'll want to know what I am on about!  La Casa Grande - a small hotel run by two very gracious ladies, who, like the building have great style! This imposing property dates back to 1729 and is located in the heart of the old town of Arcos de la Frontera. Perched at the top of a steep hill, there are glorious views across the surrounding countryside. Arcos de la Frontera is inland, just a half hour drive from the coastal city of Cadiz.

The entrance to the hotel is located in this narrow
alley and is typical of the network of cobbled paths
and narrow roads of the old town.
Parking is in the church square 250 metres away.

The roof top terrace has the most beautiful views and is a 
wonderful spot to enjoy an evening drink.

The most delicious and inspirational breakfast. We were served with
coffee and hot chocolate, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, local ham and cheese, yogurts, preserves,
warm crusty bread and Tortas de Aceite (a large thin crisp wafer biscuit glistening 
with olive oil and sugar)

Both our hosts were friendly and, on arrival, welcomed us warmly with a glass of local wine. Eager not to waste our very short visit and wanting to be sure to find an excellent restaurant for dinner, the senhoras took time to talk us through the choices. We were not disappointed and made the most of the warm (hot) evening sunshine to amble around the the maze of narrow streets, stopping here and there for a chilled glass of wine accompanied by a tapa or two.

Tired and replete, we sauntered back to the hotel and climbed the stairs to bed. Our rooms was located at the top of the building, so we detoured to the roof terrace to watch the swirling birds against the night sky and enjoy the perfect peace.
"Like the evening birds
Grow smaller, lull yourself asleep:
Let stars watch over your dreams."