Monthly Archives: October 2014

Sausages, Glorious Sausages! Pork, Cranberry and Port.

In preparation for Christmas (yes, I am wonderfully organised this year), I have been experimenting with some sensational seasonal flavours. Using a traditional combination of cranberries and a generous ‘glug-glug’ of Ruby Port, I do believe I’ve struck gold. I served them for dinner last night on a bed of sweet potato mash and a gravy of red onions, cranberries and Port. The mergence of flavours was rich and deeply satisfying. I love sausages and being creative with the variations of flavour that one can achieve. All our sausages are ninety percent good quality pork meat. The other ten percent is made up of the crumb and spices. I don’t use any chemical additives or preservatives, so the sausages are what they should be and in terms of value, one of our ‘hearty’ sausages is worth at least two of the mass produced variety. Skins and sausages making kit all available from: www.weschenfelder.co.uk  ~ have a go yourself!

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Homemade sausages – Pork, Port and Cranberry. Why wait until Christmas?

For the gravy, slice a small red onion and fry gently in a pan with a little olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Finely chop a tablespoon of dried cranberries and add to the pan. Add a ‘glug’ of Ruby Port and simmer, add a splash of water, allowing the liquids to reduce a little. Add a knob of butter to thicken and achieve a glossy sheen.

I prefer to oven bake my sausages – they cook more evenly – for about 25 minutes at 180/190 degrees centigrade, turning once.

Sausages ~ Pork, Port & Cranberry

Prep Time: 1 Hour Cooking Time: 25 Mins

Ingredients:

  • Per kilo of minced pork (good fat content)
  • 15g salt
  • 2g black pepper
  • 2g white pepper
  • 2g dried sage
  • 10g chopped dried cranberries
  • 75g crumb/rusk
  • 100ml of cold water
  • 1 table spoon of Ruby Port 

Directions:

  1. Add the seasoning to the minced pork and mix together well.
  2. Add the cranberry and water. Mix well.
  3. When the meat texture changes to ‘smooth’, add the crumb/rusk and mix well again.
  4. Add the Port and mix in well.
  5. You are now ready to fill the skins. Follow the instructions, as per your machine!
  6. The preparation time is approximate. The skins should be soaked for 24 hours before filling.

hubble, bubble ~ VEGETABLE BAKE with no trouble!

With Witches flying through the night,

The streets are dark, there’s little light,

And goblins knocking on a moonlit door,

Let’s cook up a treat, we have grub galore!

Into the cauldron, boiling, sticky and black,

Entrails and poisons were pulled from her sack,

With a cackle and shriek that spooked the cat,

She mashed the brew and added more fat,

Hubble, bubble, toil  ~  let’s cook without trouble!!

I hope you liked my Halloween ditty!

You’ll be thankful to know that no entails or poisons are included in the wholesome ingredients of my seasonal vegetable bake! Just a few potions to ward off evil spirits and fortify the body against ghastly ghosts and ghouls. It is written, that the pumpkin became synonymous with ‘Halloween’, because many early Christian denominations encouraged abstinence from meat on All Hallows’ Eve. Pumpkins, due to their natural harvest, were readily available and once the flesh was scoped out, they were used as a lantern (known as a jack-o’lantern) and placed on tombs to represent the souls of the dead. Amongst many other scrumptious autumnal (Fall, for my American readers) ingredients, I have added copious amounts of garlic to fend off evil spirits and any passing witches on broomsticks and a good glug of Pernod. Now, I’ve used Pernod, because it’s the closest thing I had to Strega, an Italian liqueur with a taste of fennel. In Italian, Strega, means ‘witch’ and it is sometimes referred to as the drink of witches. So there you have it, a truly authentic dish with ‘witch’ to celebrate this All Hallows’ Eve! So, with my broomstick parked, let’s cook without trouble!

Vegetable Bake (Halloween)

Ingredients:

  • 300g of flesh from a pumpkin
  • 300g of butternut squash cubed
  • 300g of sweet potato cubed
  • 400g of potatoes cubed
  • 2 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 or 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (to your taste) – I won’t advise because I use too much!!
  • 100g smoked bacon bits
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp of dried oregano
  • A ‘glug’ of Pernod
  • 300ml of double cream
  • Fresh oregano to garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a LARGE heavy pan with lid (oven-proof), fry the onions and leeks.
  2. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Add the first four ingredients and mix to coat wight he oil. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and smoked bacon. Add the dried oregano. Fry together for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the Pernod and the vegetable stock. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and mix together well.
  7. Put the lid on (make sure it fits well – if not, cover with foil and then seal with the lid).
  8. Place in an oven preheated to 150 degrees centigrade (300 degrees fahrenheit) for 90 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked.
  9. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve!

Sweet, Smokey, Sticky Chicken

Sweet, sharp, smokey, silky, salty – simply sensational!

This recipe is easy and quick to prepare and is guaranteed to tantalise and tease the taste buds. I have used chicken breasts, but chicken thighs or legs would work equally well – just remember to increase the cooking time for larger joints and meat on the bone.

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Cook in the oven for 10 minutes before adding the chicken breasts – it just helps to soften the onion and infuse the flavours without over cooking the chicken.

The sauce would also be delicious with pork – the ingredients can be adjusted accordingly – decrease the sugar slightly if you prefer a sharper taste or add a chopped chilli to give a little more oomph!  I sometimes add slices of red pepper for extra texture and colour.  The smoked lardons or bacon give depth and build up the complexity of flavours. Serve with plain rice – that’s all it needs!

Sticky Chicken

Prep Time: 15 Mins Cooking Time: 35 Mins Total Time: 50 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 600g chicken breasts
  • 100g smoked bacon/lardons
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 100/125g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a frying pan, sauté the chicken breasts to brown a little. Set aside.
  2. In an oven proof dish place all the other ingredients, apart from the Spring onions, and mix together.
  3. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade and place the oven dish on a centre shelf. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the dish from the oven, stir the ingredients and add the chicken breasts, basting well. Cover the dish with a piece of aluminium foil.
  5. Cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and garnish with the chopped Spring onions. Serve with rice!

Espiche Golf Club & Restaurant – Serendipity!

Bumpety, bumpety, bump – avoid pot hole! Bumpety, bumpety, bump – veer around more pot holes – avoid oncoming traffic – bumpety, bumpety, bump!!!  Turn right – aahhh, carpet road!! We are nearly there! And, believe me – you are entering nirvana – it’s worth the jerky journey.

Take the road inland from the village of Espiche, west of Lagos – Portugal that is, not Nigeria. However, such is the state of the road that takes you to the golf club, that one might be forgiven for thinking they had been captured by bandits, drugged and deposited on a bush road between shanty towns. This is not the case, the camara (town council) have it’s repair high on their priority list (ha,ha) so, for the time being, follow signs for Barao de Sao Joao and Espiche Golf. Turning right, you enter a private estate (yet to be built out) – follow the directional signs – and the magnificent structure of the club-house will appear, sitting proudly on a hillock, surrounded by gently undulating bush and woodland.

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A magical modern day castle, perching on a hillock!

It really is extraordinarily magical, a modern day castle, that rises imposingly from the surrounding scrubland, burnt russet-red soil and contrasting manicured grasses of the fairways and greens. Appearing like an oasis on the horizon, it is a most welcome watering hole to the golfers who have challenged and conquered or been conquered by the course. Designed, created and nurtured with love, the course improves, mellows and matures with each passing month. Now, I must add at this stage, I am no authority on such things – I am a novice golfer having ‘hacked’ around the course on a handful of occasions, but I listen to others and to my son Jonathan, all of whom are infinitely more qualified to judge. And the current verdict is very good given the course is still in its infancy.

Working in tandem, the restaurant, conjures magical menus on a daily basis, satiating the appetites of hungry golfers and visitors, with no particular interest in the game of golf, but who have made an excursion (along the lumpy, bumpety road) to enjoy the awesome views and sample for themselves the burgeoning reputation of the chef’s food. The Espiche golf and restaurant teams are a joy to encounter – helpful, courteous and welcoming. We are regular patrons of the clubhouse, visiting early evening, to enjoy a ‘sundowner’ or two while relaxing on one of the elevated terraces that wrap the building. The vista is glorious with unbroken panoramic views stretching to the horizon in all directions. The atmosphere is genial and I can think of no better way to relax after a challenging game of golf, a stressful day in the office or at home with the children; or simply – just because you can! The facility is open to all of us, so why not enjoy it?

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The menu is tastefully simple but sufficient. The quality and presentation of the dishes are ‘tip-top’, in accordance with all things at this club. I am not normally a ‘burger’ person, but I can’t resist the super size succulent homemade beef burger that is served between wedges of juicy tomatoes, crunchy lettuce and a soft seeded bun – accompanied by the best potato chips that I have ever, ever had!! How bold is that statement? Now, you will need to go and try them yourself. I could also recommend several of the other dishes, but worthy of special note are the Argentinean steaks and the generously portioned chicken Caesar salad. In addition, there is a ‘dish of the day’ – carefully chosen and created to make the most of seasonal produce. In accord with the food, the choice of wines are meritorious, distinctive and very well priced. Great care has been given to the selection process by sourcing wines of originality and refinement. Ribafreixo, a boutique winery located in the heart of the Alentejo region supply their award winning wines to the restaurant. The house wine is Gaudio (red and white) and it is exceptional – the quality greatly surpasses the price. My tipple, produced by the same winery is the Connections Chenin Blanc – made from a grape variety not normally found in Portugal. If wine is your passion (as, you might have guessed, is mine) or you just appreciate a good glass of wine at a sensible price, then you have another incentive to place this venue at the top of your ‘must visit’ destinations.

Everything about Espiche Golf Club – the course (which will just go on improving as it matures – like good wine!), the clubhouse and the restaurant ooze class, refinement and sophistication. The attention to detail has been meticulous and it shows – from the fancy soap dishes in the ladies changing rooms (I can’t speak for the men’s facilities) to the plush leather sofas on the upper floor sitting rooms; from the quality glass and tableware in the restaurant to the state-of-the-art equipment on the course – nothing has been spared or left to chance. I feel enormously fortunate to have this wonderful facility on my doorstep and am pleased to share this serendipitous find with everyone. May those who inspired its creation, the designers, architects, investors and staff all reap their just rewards.

Salt Beef

Producing the most delicious, succulent salt beef is so very easy. Follow the recipe below which has been supplied by Weschenfelder (www.wechenfelder.co.uk) from whom we order all our curing salts.

After just four to five days in the brine, the results are sensational – sweet and tender. Eat cold or hot, it’s absolutely delicious either way .

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Into a plastic container, place the beef with the salt beef curing salts/brine and spices.

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Sliced thinly using a ham knife, the most deliciously tender meat can be produced from a relatively cheap cut of beef!

 

Salt Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Beef Brisket
  • 2 ltr Salt Beef Brine Cure (www.weschenfelder.co.uk)
  • 150g Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Crushed Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Coriander Seed
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Thyme

Directions:

  1. Mix the brine by adding 95% water to 5% of the Salt Beef Cure.
  2. Add the sugar and spices to the brine. Bring to the boil. Cool.
  3. Once the brine is cold, place the beef in a plastic container and pour over the meat to cover.
  4. If the meat floats to the top, weigh it down.
  5. Leave in the fridge for 3-4 days, turning the beef daily. For larger pieces, extend this time by a day or two.
  6. Once the beef is cured, wash under cold running water.
  7. Cook in a water bath. It can be simmered slowly on the hob, but I prefer to put mine in a water bath in a deep baking tray in the oven.
  8. For a ‘medium’ result, I test the meat with a meat thermometer and stop the cooking process when the meat reaches 60 degrees centigrade. (70 degrees centigrade if you wish to achieve a well cooked joint). 

Pork & Sage Sausages with Caramelised Onion, Red Currant & Red Wine Gravy

What a shame the torrential rains, rivalling those that fall in the tropics, didn’t arrive a few days earlier, thus preventing the rampant forest fire that devastated bush and woodland within a couple of kilometres of our home. Today, the heavens have opened here in the Algarve, lashing rain cascades with momentous force from the roof, hitting the terrace with loud resonant slaps as the gutters spill over, Niagara like, and the roads transmute into fast flowing foaming rivers. The clouds have descended over the hills of Monchique, obliterating them from our view. The atmosphere is damp, grey and clammy with a growing chilliness in the air –  driving my apetite towards thoughts of comfort food. What better excuse! It’s time to dust off the sausage making machine (speak persuasively to my husband who assists me with this task) and soak the natural pig skins in preparation. We have invited four of our neighbours to join us for dinner, so we need to make these sausages worthy of taking centre stage on the table.

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A view from our house – a forest fire burning into the night! Not relevant to sausage making, but I thought you might like to see it!

Charcuterie has fallen into my husband’s ‘department’. The equipment we use is heavy and cumbersome and I find the process functions better with two of us. We make up five kilo batches of sausages at a time, because we have a loyal following of friends who are always pleased to receive a packet or two! Good English style sausages are not often readily available here in Portugal, so the novelty value is to our advantage. For most domestic use, I would recommend starting with two kilos of meat which would produce about thirty-five deliciously plump sausages. The making of these lovelies is not a five minute job and the clean up process is laborious. It is also very important that this is carried out meticulously as raw pork can be a dangerous medium. Therefore, it falls, most definitely,  into my husband’s department, unaided if I can get away with it!

Weschenfelder supply all our charcuterie goods. They are based in the United Kingdom and offer an excellent service, supplying equipment, sausage skins, curing salts among many other things. Visit their site at www.weschenfelder.co.uk

Here is the making of our sausages in photographs, followed by the recipe. Have a go yourself – it’s fun and you can create your own recipes! Coming up to Christmas, we will be making some Pork, Port and Cranberry Sausages – watch this spot!

I served these succulent sausages with buttery mash potatoes, carrots (boiled with a little sugar in the water to enhance their natural sweetness) and caramelised onion, red currant and red wine gravy. A heart warming treat for any rainy day!

For the gravy – simply slice an onion into strips and pan-fry in a little olive oil and butter mixed. Allow to caramelise. Add salt and pepper and a cup of red wine. Simmer for a couple of minutes and add a tablespoon of red currant jelly. Let the gravy reduce. I add a teaspoon of butter to thicken and give the juices a glaze. Taste at all times and adjust (salt and pepper) to suit your taste. Pour over generously.  Gravy heaven!!

 

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We buy a cut of pork (belly/rib)with sufficient fat content to give the sausages the correct consistency, removing the bones and the grizzle, alternatively you can buy ready minced pork, but ensure that it has not had soya or breadcrumb already added to bulk it out! Below mincing the meat and adding the ingredients: Per kilo – 15g salt, 2g white pepper, 2g black pepper, 2g dried sage, 100g breadcrumb, 100ml of water IMG_1421 IMG_1424

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Place the minced pork in the mixing bowl with the ingredients.

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Mix together.

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Feed the soaked skins onto the nozzle of the sausage maker. A fiddly job!

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Filling the skins evenly.

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Fill the cylinder of the sausage maker with the meat mixture and attach the nozzle with the skins.

 

Pork & Sage Sausages

Prep Time: 1 Hour 30 Mins Cooking Time: 30 Mins

Ingredients:

  • Per kilo of minced pork
  • 15g salt
  • 2g black pepper
  • 2g white pepper
  • 2g dried sage
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 100ml water

Directions:

  1. If you buy the pork pre minced, I would suggest a cut with sufficient fat to give the sausages moisture and a good texture. The meat surrounding the ribs is good, but unless you are a practised butcher, it is a fiddly and lengthy process to carefully remove the bone and any sinew or grizzle. If you buy ready minced pork, it is important to ensure that it has a good fat content and not contain soya or crumb. Buying ready mince certainly cuts down the time element!
  2. We use natural hog casings for the skins, but man-made ones are also available. Soak the skins for about 24 hours.
  3. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add the ingredients. Combine together thoroughly.
  4. Load the meat mixture into the cylinder of your sausage maker.
  5. Thread the skins onto the nozzle. Weschenfelder sell skins that are pre-spooled and easier to use.
  6. By turning the handle slowly the meat flows evenly into the skins. Sometimes, it is easier to have one person turning the handle while the other uses both hands to guide the flow of the skin and ensure the meat fills evenly.
  7. Once you have a long ‘snake’ of skins evenly filled with meat, twist the first sausage a couple of times at about 12cm lengths. Tying them in the traditional butcher’s style, is a practised art and I suggest referring to the internet to fine tune this skill. We cheat! Just twist the sausages alternatively clock and anti-clockwise.
  8. It’s also better to leave the sausages in the fridge for a few hours before cooking, as it helps to dry the skins.
  9. I bake my sausages in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade or 350 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes, turning once. Prick the skins first.

Monkfish and Prawn Risotto ~ a devilish tail!

This is in my top five favourites! It’s rich, creamy, filling and flavoursome! It’s almost a one-pan dish and incredibly easy to produce. I use a large cast iron pan or wok, but a good sized saucepan would do the job. I say it is almost a one-pan dish because I choose to cook the monkfish and prawns before adding them to the mix. In this way, I can make sure that the monkfish doesn’t over-cook and that the prawns are also cooked through to the point that they retain the correct texture without becoming ‘rubbery’.

Living here in Portugal we are enormously fortunate to benefit from an abundance of fish and shellfish, offered at very reasonable prices. I was shocked during a recent visit to the United Kingdom by the price of fish and especially prawns of any reasonable size. What is going on there? I buy loose frozen raw prawns, here in Portugal, and can purchase a kilo of these for around €10.00.

While in England, staying with friends, I offered to cook this dish for my hosts; so took myself off to a local ‘superstore’ to buy the ingredients. What an eye-opener! Hold the horses James!!! I would have needed a mortgage to buy the quantities I required to do the meal justice. Monkfish was an equally ridiculous price. Why, I must ask again? I regularly buy both these ingredients, in a European country, in frozen form and cannot understand why the same products are not available at the same, or similar, prices in Britain. I believe it is called – ‘what the market will bear’! I can understand slight variations between countries because of relative trade overheads, but the price differences were so great that I would find that argument hard to swallow. Alas, I did not cook the monkfish and prawn risotto that evening, but promised my friends that I would serve it on their next visit to Portugal.

For this recipe, I use frozen monkfish tails and frozen raw tiger prawns. It always seems quite incongruous to me that such a monstously ugly fish can yield such a delicious meat. The monkfish, sometimes referred to as a frog-fish or a sea-devil is found deep in the waters of the North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is sad that both over fishing and also the method used to catch these fish are endangering future supplies and damaging the marine environment. I must make it my business to know more about the ethos of sustainable fishing. I feel that it is the duty of all mankind dwelling on earth to look after the planet that has been loaned to us. As I am growing simultaneously in girth and years, I find that I am more deeply touched by the seriousness and responsibility that we have for our fragile environment. For the time being, I will resist the role of a pontiff and return to the tail and tale of my ugly fish!

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Imagine taking a dip in the ocean and coming across this fellow!

It is certainly easy to see why this creature is known as the ‘devil’ of the sea, with its pointed needle-like teeth that slope inward to trap unsuspecting prey. This is a great example of not judging a book by its cover, because the meat is dense, sweet and very similar in texture to lobster.

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Pan-fry to soften the vegetables.

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Add the wine, stock and risotto rice.

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Add the monkfish and then the prawns. Stir through the cream and simmer for a couple of minutes.

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Et voila!!

 

Monkfish & Prawn Risotto

Prep Time: 1 Hour Cooking Time: 50 Mins Total Time: 1 Hour 50 Mins

Ingredients:

  •  2 x Monkfish tails, remove the meat from the central bone, remove the ‘sacking’ and cut into chunks
  • 800g shell-on raw tiger prawns (shelled)
  • 1 tbsp spoon of olive oil + a knob of butter for pan-frying the monkfish and prawns.
  • Sea salt
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 2 cups of fish stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 300g Arborio Risotto rice
  • Water, as required
  • 250/300ml of cream
  • Parsley to garnish

Directions:

  1. Thaw the prawns and the monkfish.
  2. Remove the shells from the prawns and the sack running along the spine – it’s a slimey and laborious job, but worth it!
  3. With a sharp knife, remove the monkfish meat off the central bone and also remove any membrance. Cut into chunks.
  4. Pan fry the prawns in the oil + butter. A twist of sea salt is good! They will turn from grey to pink. Once cooked through, remove and set aside.
  5. Pan fry the monkfish, it will turn from translucent to white. Be careful not to over cook it. Again a twist of sea salt is good. Set aside.
  6. In a large pan, add about 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add the garlic, leeks, red pepper, and celery. Add salt and pepper. Saute until softened a little.
  7. Add the wine and cook on a ittle more.
  8. Add the risotto rice and the fish stock. As the rice absorbs the juices, add more water as necessary. Keep tasting!
  9. When the rice is cooked, add the prawns and the monkfish. Then stir through the cream and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  10. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
  11. The cooking times are approximate, because it takes time to peel the prawns and, if it is the first time you have peeled raw prawns, it can be a very slow job!