Pages

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

BAD (TAGLIATELLE) HAIR DAY !

 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 (joythebaker.com - 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 sautĂ© 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
Salt

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."

www.lacasagrande.net




Thursday, 24 July 2014

Away with you devils ~I have an antidote!

The Remedy is in the Pie!

I've been extremely disturbed by the escalating violence, intolerance and misguided self righteousness that abounds in our world today. It has effected me more profoundly than it usually does - I'm ashamed to say that I have probably become hardened to hearing that someone has shot or defiled someone else or that whole nations are caught up in international or civil war. The television news delivers daily accounts of the horrors that mankind afflicts on its neighbours with a scale and frequency that just seems to gather momentum. Why is peace such a difficult concept? I am naive regarding these matters - I suspect, but I do think that a lack of communication and education, coupled with greed and self promotion are at the root of the problem. Quite how one gets the perpetrators of violence and aggression to listen, I don't know! The bloody war in Israel and Palestine appals me and makes my blood run cold. All lines of communication and compassion seem to have fallen on stony ground. At the weekend, I was particularly effected by the events and repercussions of another conflict, in this case, the desperate pleas of a Dutch lady interviewed on Sky television who had lost her son in the missile attack that brought MH17 to the ground killing all on board. Her anguish, torment and heart break were visible to the world. And I ached for her! How would I cope if these atrocities had enveloped my family? So, as I often do, when I want to think, reassess  or relax, I head off to the kitchen! I have a simple belief that prayers to your God, effective communication (which starts in the home) and ensuring that the people of all nations have enough to eat, would play a greater part in bringing about a more peaceful world for us all to share.
I have just found an excellent site on the subject - www.foodnotbombs.net

So, off to the kitchen I went with a glass of chilled wine (or two!), to create dinner - my very own Peace Pie which I served with some scrumptiously delicious chorizo sausages that I recently bought in Spain.



This is my Peace Pie!
The holes in the pastry were 'heart' cut outs,
but they didn't quite work! I'll make it with short crust next time.
The pie contains olives (or did contain olives - we've eaten it now!),
and the olive branch was just to give it a theme!

Peace Pie:
(4 people)
1 aubergine, diced and cubed (I salted and drained it first, then washed off the excess salt)
1 large courgette, sliced and cubed
1 stick of celery chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded, sliced and diced
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped (to ward off evil spirits!)
3 large tomatoes, chopped
A squeeze of tomato paste
100g black olives without stones and chopped (my symbol of peace)
50g finely chopped sun dried tomatoes 
4 handfuls of baby leaf spinach
a good slug of Moscatel de Setubal ( for the cooking!) - jolly nice it is too to drink, served chilled.
Salt and Pepper

For this pie, I used ready rolled puff pastry because I had some in the fridge, and truth be known, I was feeling lazy! Next time, I will make it using my own all butter short crust pastry. Well actually, it's not my own, my great friend and pastry chef Roe, gave me her recipe and taught me a few things about making pies! Thank you Roe.

Into a pan, pour about 3 or 4 table spoons of olive oil, add all the vegetables apart from the olives, aubergine and spinach. Add salt and pepper. Add the Moscatel wine (or a Sherry). Mix together well and allow to cook/simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the aubergine and spinach and olives. Continue to cook letting the juices reduce, but be careful not to over cook! Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Butter a pie dish and line with the pastry. Fill with the cooled contents and cover with a pastry lid. Brush with a beaten egg and bake in the oven for 25/30 minutes at 180/190 degrees.

The pie was delicious, combining 'taste-full' local vegetables, most of which I bought at our market in the village, with lots of garlic to ward off the evil spirits of the world and black olives to symbolise peace. Well, let's hope and pray!

And with a teenage boy in the house, I need to serve a meat dish - so, to accompany, we feasted on ............ da-dahhh.....!


Chorizo sausages (2 kinds) pan-fried in Olorosso Sherry
with crushed garlic, whole black olives, black-eye beans and fresh basil

Introducing the star ingredients,
courtesy of Iberian pigs - ' morcilla negra and salchichon Bellota'

This is one of my favourite Spanish 'tapa' dishes which I had on my 'tapas' menu in the restaurant. Served with good crusty bread to mop up the red oily juices, it's just a little taste of heaven!

As a digestive . . . . . my message from a peaceful corner of the world, is "Make Food, not War!"

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Viva Espana y Viva Tapa!

It's been a few days since my last blog. We have been without an internet connection. It's tantamount to being without water! But given all the horrific events that are taking place in our world at the moment, this sounds really quite pathetic. I feel quite ashamed that I have allowed a minor inconvenience (in the grand scale of things) to irritate me so much. If I could do something to help, I really really would; but even those close to or affected directly by these appalling atrocities  have been rendered helpless. So I will keep them in my prayers and blog on . . . . .

If you are stumbling across my blog for the first time, I live in Portugal. This is relevant because I can write to you about the wonderful weather, fabulous fish and marvellous markets etc., etc., and conversely the not-so technologically advanced communication systems! Although we are not so far from the developed coastal regions of the Algarve (where they are privy to more sophisticated technology), we are far enough inland for the signals to be more temperamental. It was my choice to live away from the madding crowds and be part of the 'real' Portugal, so I must bear the consequences. I'll remind myself of that next time I feel a technology tantrum erupting! I'll also remind myself that my cross is much lighter to bear than that of countless others in this world today.

So, on with the intended subject ....... tantalisingly tasty 'tapas'! 
We are very fortunate to live not too far from the border with Spain, so impromptu trips are fun and drip feed my passion to roam. I love Spain - more precisely, I love the 'real' Spain - not the Spain of the Costas with over crowded beaches, lager lout bars, ugly purposes built hotel resorts and restaurants selling the very worst of British cuisine. The 'real' Spain is vibrant and we relish the prospect of a quick trip into Andalusia. The Spanish, I find, are quite different to other Europeans. They have a joie de vivre that I have not commonly experienced outside Spain. They love to promenade in the evenings with friends and family and they eat late. At first, I was thrown by the irregular hours they keep - afternoon siestas when most of the shops close and restaurants that don't open until 2100 hours. Now I just adapt and go with the flow! As my son would say - just chill Mum! And, I do!


It's difficult to see, but the tapa dish served with our drink here,
was delicious - prawns served with chopped tomatoes and olives in
olive oil and herbs.

And one of the things that I like most when we are in Spain is the copious selection of tapas dishes. Wandering from one restaurant or pavement cafĂ© to another, sitting with a chilled glass of wine (or in the region of Jerez, a chilled glass of Sherry), watching the locals promenade and the world go by, while sampling small dishes of heavenly fayre. Mostly prepared from very simple ingredients, combining natural flavours indigenous to the region, the results are mouthwateringly scrumptious.

Tapas originated in Andalusia - the word means 'cover'. Sometimes it is given free and is served as small taster dishes. King Alfonso X, know as the wise king, decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns of Castile, unless accompanied by something to eat. This was a precaution  to counteract the adverse effects of alcohol on an empty stomach.



Jamon Serrano from the region of Andalucia


I would probably not be exaggerating to say that Jonathan has developed an addiction to the cured hams of Spain and is becoming quite discerning. In his company, we cannot order a meal without a plate of this very delicious cured ham which is produced from the Iberian black pig reared in the mountain villages. The Pata Negra (so called because of the pigs' black hooves) is the finest and most expensive and is produced from pigs that have had a diet exclusively of acorns. A plate of this very finely carved ham, accompanied by a selection of tapas dishes, and olives with crusty white bread, is a social way to share food and provides a truly delectable feast.


Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Mortar of Life!

I was woken this morning before the crack of dawn (04.15 hours) because our Labrador decided she wanted to start the day early. If she trys it again tomorrow morning, she might, just might end up in a tin. Joke .... I think! Deciding not to go back to bed, I made a cup of tea and turned on the television. The news station delivered endless tales of war, unrest and violence in just about every corner of the world. I was so disheartened and saddened that I turned the 'box' off and picked up my ipad and this is what followed. Cooking and writing are my therapies - and it was a bit early to clatter around in the kitchen. My husband might have despatched me directly to the dog box - soon to be vacant if she barks again at 4am tomorrow morning!

I named my blog 'love food 2 love life' because I firmly believe that we have to love food to make the most of our lives. Food sustains us - it's the fuel of life, the foundation on which we build our lives and, ultimately, the mortar of life.

Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to afford sufficient food to nourish ourselves and our families. Alas, this isn't the case worldwide and I am still alarmed to learn how many thousands of people go hungry every day, even in the developed world. It's a huge problem and one that I am not qualified or equipped to address or comment on too deeply - but it's of sufficient concern to me, to get on my soapbox, and spout a few words! It greatly affects me to see that a significant number of world leaders/governments do not understand the fundamental importance of ensuring their people have enough to eat. They don't see the benefits that would be derived by having a population fit to work. Food is the fuel to power the mind and strengthen the body. The strong body can then plan and think more clearly, learn and, in turn, have a greater chance of feeding the family.

Through personal experience and travel, I have witnessed corruption and greed at all levels of government/authority. This is the core of the problem as aid agencies across the continents struggle against the officials of the countries they are there to help. I've seen it and I have experienced it. Funds are swallowed up before they reach the ground. If the governments that rule the countries with critical food shortages were to concentrate and work harmoniously with those that come to help them, then we would have some of the seeds for world change. Alas, funds that arrive from external investment designated to improve the lives of the population, are often manipulated and diverted by officials for personal gain and the funding of war. I have hated to witness such greed and corruption. Greed is a cancer that corrupts. I am one small person on this planet, but I would like to plant a seed here.

I embarked on this subject after switching on a news program this morning. It troubles me to hear, once again, about all the violence and the wars that are escalating in the world right now. Why do so many take up arms so readily? I can find no acceptable answers. I am a mother and I can only pray for a bright, peaceful and compassionate environment for my son and his generation to live in. I am helpless to do anything on a grand scale, but if I  can send out a message to promote peace and unity through the enjoyment of food, then that's a step in the right direction. Eating together gives us time to be with family and friends, time to listen and time to grow together. It really is the mortar of our lives. Communicating can solve problems and a problem solved around the table can help us to go more peaceably into our world. If we, and our governments, were to place more importance on this simple ritual, we might have a more harmonious planet on which to live together. Naive? maybe!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Portuguese style Prawns on the Plancha!

What better for lunch on a sizzling summer's day than to sizzle a few prawns on the barbecue or Plancha. Coated in olive oil, put them on the griddle and wait for them to go from grey to pink. Turn once or twice and make sure they are cooked through. (Alternatively, pan fry in the sauce below.)
Magic - grey to pink in minutes!

When cooked, pour over the Portuguese Garlic Butter Sauce:
Gently melt 125g of butter and 2tbsp olive oil with some chopped and crushed cloves of garlic. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a good sprinkling of sea salt, a finely chopped small fresh red chili or a few chili flakes (optional) and pour over the prawns and serve.

It's incredibly simple to prepare and the sauce, mopped up with good crusty bread, make this dish a delicious meal. We are fortunate in Portugal, and on the continent in general, that the price of large/tiger prawns are more affordable than in the UK. Why, I don't know. Can someone tell me?

When we lived on the Normady coast, I could buy good size prawns for a fraction of the price that they were in England. Geographically, there is only a small stretch of water that separates the coasts of England and France. Perhaps it's just a case of what each market will bear! 

Anyway, I devoured mine today at lunchtime with friends and a glass of well chilled 'Planalto' - an excellent and inexpensive wine from the Douro region of Portugal. What better way to chill out on a hot summer's day. Saude!


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Eau la-la!

I am pleased to be more mobile now and I promise - dear God, if you are listening - not to dance with such abandon again. I have learned my lesson - well, until the next time - to remember my age and my dignity! For those, who may be reading this as a first blog, I hurt my hip which has left me sofa-bound for the last few days. This forced inactivity, in turn, lead me on a trip down memory lane - so, please indulge me one more time!

I have previously referred to our time in France - my husband and I lived the dream of many - we bought a dilapidated old watermill in Normandy and renovated it to provide guest accommodation and a restaurant. It was not an easy time, as we faced and overcame various obstacles including a major house fire (we were trapped on the second floor of the mill building), the discovery, after the purchase, that there were plans to divert the river away from the property (who would visit a water mill without water?) and the temperamental and sporadic supply of fresh water. Although the fire was traumatic and set us back financially and emotionally; uppermost in my memory was the worry and stress of trying to ensure that we had a constant supply. Our location was remote and we did not have mains water. We were assured by the previous owners that the water from the bore-hole was plentiful! Ha,ha! They must have been delighted to welcome 'les Anglais' with euros to spend. My fault - I had fallen in love with the property on first viewing and, I suppose, had they told me the truth, I would not have wanted to listen. Well, look at the photo, wouln't you want to live there? An apt example of - act in haste and repent at leisure! 
Tables set for dinner, on the island.

The lengths we went to, to ensure a water supply to the mill and guest rooms, knows no bounds! We were the Faulty Towers of France! To attempt to remedy the problem, we engaged the services of one 'expert' - the French love their 'experts' - who confidently told us that the water table had dropped below the level of our well. Sacre bleu! We were 2 days from opening and had a full reservations book. Refusing to believe this, we called in the services of another 'expert' who, with equal confidence told us it was a problem with the old pump. This prognosis was easier to accept. Simple, change the pump. Problem solved! We immediately jumped in the car and sped off to Rouen in search of a very particular type of pump. Alas, and to cut a long story short, this did not solve the problem. Out of money, driven by desperation and needing to trade, we resorted to an alternative source of supply. I can say no more!! The cost of connecting to the mains supply, due to our distance from the village, was not an option at that point in time. Anyway, I think I can safely say that all guests were oblivious to our plight and were not inconvenienced or rendered unwell.

Our guests, in the main, were French, Dutch, Belgian and German with a few Americans and cross channel trippers from the UK. The hours were long but we had fun - well, most of the time! I learnt a lot and I learnt fast. It was often exhausting as my nights shortened and sleep became a luxury. Sometimes dinner spilled over into the early hours of the morning and breakfast sevice started at 0730 hours. Each evening, I offered guests a four-course set dinner with a vegetarian choice. My continental guests were much easier to please (in general) than those from the UK as I received less requests to adapt dishes for particular intolerances or dislikes. I once received an email from a guest, in advance of their arrival, who had reserved for dinner on the evening of their stay with a list of their dislikes. I was asked not to add or offer mushrooms, too much salt, definately no garlic, bacon, pork, shellfish or fish of any kind. Oh, and could they have a reduction on the set meal price (€25.00 for 4 courses including wine), as they didn't want the wine! I did wonder, at the time, why they were holidaying in France!

My great friend and chef, Mac, who visited from time to time, to help or give me a break from the kitchen, is pictured below with my son and kitchen assistant! Sorry, I can't resist attaching it! Taken in Jonathan's cute and compliant days. He's nearly 15 now - need I say more!
Big Chef and Little Chef!

Nearly forgot, I'm supposed to be blogging about food, so here is the recipe one of my favourite and most popular dishes.

Fillet du Porc a la Normande
(For 2/3 people)

1 pork fillet, 200g fresh field mushrooms sliced, 1 leek finely chopped, 1 stick of celery finely chopped, 75g smoked bacon pieces, 200ml sweet Normandy cider, 100ml of cream, salt, pepper and 2tbsp of olive oil.
Slice the pork fillet into pieces of 1cm and pan fry using the olive oil to brown and seal. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the leeks, celery, mushrooms and bacon pieces and saute for 5 minutes (you may need a dash more olive oil). Salt and pepper. I'll leave the amount to you as I am probably over generous with these! Add the cider and simmer for 10 minutes. Return the pork to the dish and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cream. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Serve with new buttered potatoes, rice and/or fresh crusty bread to mop up the delicious sauce!

Bon Apetit!


Monday, 7 July 2014

Memory Lane - parties and pigs!

It looks like I'll be glued to the sofa today. I had lots planned, but the man in the sky, clearly had other ideas. Or maybe, it's just the natural onset of advancing years - a trapped nerve in my hip (and very painful it is too) has rendered me inert. I have no idea how it happened - maybe attempts (once again to the utter embarrassment of my son and probably Peter) to be ABBA's Dancing Queen at the weekend, have caught up with me. Oh, the power of wine! I'll dwell there no longer - I am trying to be a good patient but I think by the end of the day, my husband will have lost patience and I may end up wearing one of the cups of tea that I keep requesting! Anyway, I have my ipad to distract and keep me company. Scrolling through old photos, I thought I'd post a few and share some good 'foodie' memories.
Pig - "OK, you guys I surrender!"

Jean-Pierre - " mais Oui, Je suis Francais! Le chasseur et un chef extraordinaire."

This little piggy went to market but didn't die in vain. It was the centre of attraction at a Summer party we held at Le Moulin de Longueil (our watermill/chambres d'hotes) on the banks of the River Saane, in Normandy about five years ago. I am a serial organiser! I love entertaining friends and preparing food. I do get stressed and although I will moan at the time about pressure, I thrive on the buzz and I like having friends around me. There is nothing more joyful than sitting down to eat with good food and company. I can't recall exactly what we put before our guests on that particular day, but I know it was well received. With barbecue king Jean-Pierre and much help from my great friend and chef Mac, we assembled a feast.
Mac with 'poussins'!

Chefs turned entertainers!
Jean-Pierre, Mac and Poet, Robert

Recipe for 'La belle vie' - good food lovingly prepared, wine carefully chosen, proper friends, God's sunshine, music and bonhomie - simply the salt and pepper of life -GOLDEN MOMENTS!

Another cup of tea (husband still amenable) and moving on down memory lane, here are a few more photos of parties with pigs. We are now in Portugal and enjoying the 'porco preto' - the Monchique black pig.

Peter with friend and French chef, Francois. 
He thought he was visiting for a holiday!

Peter serving suckling pigs with homemade sausages. 
Perfect pig and crispy crackling after 7 hours on the spit. Ours is a manual 
barbecue, so dedicated attention and patience is required but the end result
is the ultimate reward.

Barbecue Summer 2012 at The Grape Vine in Algarve, Portugal.

Francois was our neighbour and local restaurateur when we lived in France. He is a dedicated 'gourmand' and I have been fortunate enough to learn from and enjoy his french country cuisine. He is the embodiment of a 'bon viveur' - we have had much fun at his table and he will always be welcome at ours. In another blog, I will rave about his home produced 'foie gras'!

If you've got this far down the page, thank you for your patience. I don't know how my husband's patience is bearing up but I'm going to risk a request for another cup of tea! I think he has retreated to the garden. He will be thankful when I'm off the sofa, back in the kitchen and able to operate the kettle myself.