International

Lemon Cheesecake

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I love all things lemony and living here in Portugal lemons are plentiful year round with many trees producing the fruit continuously. The tree originated in Asia but is now synonymous with Mediterranean climates such as ours here in Portugal. The tree in my garden doesn’t produce fruit all year round but that doesn’t limit my free supply as they drop from neighbours trees in the village and roll down the road, arriving on my doorstep as welcome guests.

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With visitors from the village where we used to live in France and a basket full of lemons, I decided to make a lemon cheesecake that would be a good balance and cut the rich flavours of our main course – lamb shanks in red wine with figs.

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Lemon Cheesecake

Prep Time: 20 Mins Cooking Time: 2 Hours Total Time: 2 Hours 20 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 200g digestive biscuits, crushed finely
  • 100g of softened butter
  • 397g condensed milk
  • 300g soft cheese like Mascarpone
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon curd
  • Extra lemon zest to garnish
  • Fruits such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
  • Pouring cream (optional)
  • 20 cm loose bottom cake tin

Directions:

  1. Crush the digestive biscuits and mix thoroughly with the softened butter.
  2. Line the bottom of the cake tin with baking paper and butter the sides.
  3. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the tin and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. In a bowl mix the condensed milk and soft cheese with a whisk.
  5. Add the juice and zest of 2 lemons. This will thicken the mixture.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Release the cake tin and put on a plate.
  7. Add a teaspoon of warm water to the lemon curd and spread over the top.
  8. Decorate the top with the fresh fruits and garnish with the extra lemon zest.
  9. Serve with cream (optional)

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Easy-Peasy Twirly-Wurly Chicken Pasta

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This is an easy-peasy delicious evening meal. I’ve made it with unusual ‘twirly wurly’  coloured pasta which children love! There are no hard and fast ingredients as far as vegetable choice goes. I used five of my favourite – chopped and sliced – onion, leek, celery, garlic and Italian red pepper. Put 3 tablespoons of a good olive oil into a pan and add the vegetables apart from the garlic. Cook on a medium heat to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add a ‘glug’ of white Vermouth and allow the flavours to combine – 5 minutes. At this point, I added the garlic and  some smoked lardons and the sliced chicken breasts (1 per person). Cook through thoroughly.  Boil the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the chicken/vegetable sauce. Take the pan off the heat and mix through a 100ml of cream. Serve with freshly chopped basil and flakes of Parmesan cheese. A great addition would be mushrooms! Alas, on this occasion I was cooking for children with an aversion to this delicious funghi! For the adults, I dizzled a little sweetened Balsamic vinegar. Simple and yummilicious!

 

 

 


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Flaked Fillet of Salmon with a Medley of Mediterranean Vegetables

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Strictly no salt, butter or dairy products. No chocolate or coffee! That was the damming verdict of the doctor who is treating my husband for alarmingly high blood pressure.

Hubby, being a non smoker and having already given up alcohol, may just have, then and there, thrown in the towel.  I selfishly lamented the decrement of my culinary creativity and cast off my crown as ‘Queen of the Cream’.  Mon Dieu, quelle catastrophe!  With a penchant for French cuisine and cream based sauces, these words were neither welcome or pleasing. Not to make immediate changes to his diet and continue blithely, I would have been complicit in his premature demise – the doctor’s words were both somber and sobering. Determined to see it as a challenge to my creativity and to increase my understanding and knowledge of alternative flavour enhancers; I am enjoying working with new ingredients and combinations of herbs and spices.

With all this at the forefront of my mind, I concocted yesterday evening’s meal by baking and flaking salmon fillet and mixing it with a medley of finely chopped Mediterranean vegetables served with fluffy rice. I used more pepper than usual, lots of garlic (proven to be very good for the heart) and just a touch of fresh ginger to give a hint of tanginess. And all without a grain of salt!

Flaked Fillet of Salmon with a Medley of Mediterranean Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 350g of salmon fillet
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped finely
  • 1 large leek, chopped finely
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 courgette, chopped finely
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 large tomato, deseeded and chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp of pepper
  • 1cm piece of freshly chopped ginger
  • 2 tbsp of good olive oil
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • chopped parsley or basi to garnish

Directions:

  1. SERVES 2
  2. Wrap/seal the salmon fillet in foil that has been lightly oiled. A squeeze of lemon juice is good.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven (180 degrees centigrade / 350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes.
  4. Open the foil and flake the salmon when cool.
  5. Place all the chopped vegetables in a pan with 2 tablespoons of oil olive and cook gently for 20 minutes.
  6. Mix the flaked salmon with the medley of vegetables and serve on a bed of rice or olive oil mashed potatoes.

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Scallop & Prawn Sea-sation!

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This was my Sunday Sea-sation treat to the family!

Living here in Portugal, very close to the Atlantic coast, we are very lucky to have oceans of fresh fish to feast on. And feast on it we do, but yesterday I decided, instead, to delve deep into my freezer for some lovely treats, also originally from the sea!

Scallops and prawns are a great combination – these beauties pictured here, I dressed with a creamy shallot, leek and celery sauce, perched aloft some delicious new boiled locally grown potatoes. The combination was a triumph and it’s success was confirmed by the words of my teenage son, “Can I have more Mum?”

Scallop and Prawn Sea-sation!

Ingredients:

  • FOR 4 PEOPLE (Main course):
  • 12 large scallops (mine had tails on)
  • 16 large raw prawns, peeled
  • 500/600g of new potatoes
  • 2 small leeks, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery finely chopped
  • 2 small spring onions, finely chopped
  • a cup of white wine
  • 200ml of cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • sweet balsamic vinegar to drizzle and chopped parsley to garnish

Directions:

  1. Defrost and peel the prawns if frozen. Defrost the scallops if frozen.
  2. In a pan, with a tablespoon of heated olive oil, fry and season the vegetables.
  3. Add the wine and reduce for 5 to 10 minutes minutes.
  4. Boil the potatoes.
  5. In a large heavy based pan, cook the prawns (they turn from a translucent colour to white).
  6. Add the scallops. Be very careful not to over cook,
  7. Add the cream to the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes.
  8. Drain the potatoes and cut them in half. Arrange on a plate.
  9. Place 3 scallops on the top of 3 halved potatoes with 4 prawns.
  10. Drizzle with the sauce reduction.
  11. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
  12. Optional: sea salt and cracked black pepper

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Sweet, Sticky, Sour and Spicy Chicken with Mandarin Fritters

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I was looking for inspiration for dinner last night and wanted to try something creative. I studied the contents of my fridge and larder and decided to make a meal that would tantalise all our taste buds – a surge of heat, a touch of sweetness combined with something sour to create a dish that would be deliciously satisfying. The Mandarin fritters added another dimension, bringing a sharp citrus crunch to the eclectic textures and flavours of the dish.

Subliminally, I had produced a meal in celebration of the Chinese New Year. It wasn’t intentional, my tastebuds just led me that way! So I wish anyone reading this a happy year of the goat! Shanyang kuaile de yi nian!

 

Sweet, Sticky, Sour and Spicy Chicken with Mandarin Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of runny honey
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of chopped root ginger
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped garlic
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot pepper sauce (Piri-Piri)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 skinless chicken breast, cut into strips
  •  tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 chopped spring onions to garnish
  • FOR THE MANDARIN FRITTERS:
  • 2 seedless Mandarin oranges, in segments
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

Directions:

  1. FEEDS 4:
  2. Mix together the brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and hot pepper sauce in a bowl.
  3. Salt and pepper the chicken strips.
  4. Add the chicken breast strips into the marinade and leave in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Heat the oil in a pan and add the chicken strips and brown on both sides for about a minute.
  6. Pour the sauce/marinade over the chicken and simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens (8/10 mins)
  7. FOR THE MANDARIN FRITTERS:
  8. Whisk together all the ingredients, in a bowl, until smooth.
  9. Heat a small pan of oil, deep enough to fry the Mandarin segments.
  10. Dip the segments into the batter then drop gently into the hot oil.
  11. Remove when golden brown and crispy.

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A Monkfishy tail!

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It was my suggestion – let’s have something special for dinner on Valentine’s night rather than go to a restaurant serving food at hiked up prices (I’m sorry to all restaurateurs, I used to be one myself)! So that let Peter off the hook. Ha,ha …… fish, hook!! Okay, not that funny. I hear you sigh, so I’ll get on with the tail ……..

I bought a large frozen monkfish tail from the fishmonger – it weighed about one and half kilos, so needed a day to defrost. I also bought some frozen cooked prawns – they didn’t really add anything to the taste or texture of the dish, so next time I’ll buy a few frozen uncooked tiger prawns. In hindsight, I don’t know what possessed me not to buy the real mccoy – I’ve made this dish many times and not compromised it before!

A monkfish tail weighing about a kilo will feed four people – I made far too much as usual, despite having a permanently hungry teenage boy in the house. I think monkfish is one of my favourite fish because there is no fiddling around with little bones, allowing one to be confident in getting stuck in. The meat is dense so you don’t really need copious quantities and it marries well with prawns, especially the bigger bite size ones. The added vegetables increase the flavours and textures and a dash of Moscatel wine gives a slight sweetness and depth to this deliciously velvety sauce.

It was a truly fishilicious meal and I recommend it all!!

 

Monkfish and Prawns in Moscatel Wine and Cream with Rice

Ingredients:

  • A monkfish tail (a kilo would serve 4 people)
  • 400g prawns 
  • 2 leeks, chopped into rounds
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • a good ‘glug’ of Moscatel wine, or white vermouth
  • a cup of fish stock
  • salt and pepper
  • double cream
  • chopped parsley to garnish

Directions:

  1. If frozen, defrost the monkfish tail.
  2. Remove the meat from the central bone.
  3. Remove the membrane and cut the meat into chunks.
  4. Set the chunks of fish on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb excess liquid.
  5. Defrost the prawns.
  6. Add 3 tablespoons (approximately) of olive oil to a pan or wok and place on the heat.
  7. Add the prepared leeks, celery, pepper, garlic and carrots to the oil.
  8. Season generously.
  9. Add the Moscatel and the fish stock and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Add the cream and mix together.
  11. Add the monkfish and if the tiger prawns are uncooked, add them also.
  12. If using pre cooked shrimps add these for just a minute at the end.
  13. Cook until the monkfish turns from a translucent colour to white.
  14. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with rice.

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Banana and Sultana Cake

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This is a very easy cake/loaf to make, using up bananas that look unappetising and are over ripe. It can also be mixed in one bowl so cuts down on mess and washing up so that is always a ‘plus’. It’s wholesome, filling, inexpensive and a great source of energy. It’s a delicious addition to a school or work lunch box.  What further incentive is needed? In my case, this weekend, two constantly hungry teenage boys who have decided, as the waves are too rough today, here in Portugal, to surf my larder!!

 

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Banana and Sultana Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 125g of softened butter
  • 100g of soft light brown sugar
  • half a cup of golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 large or 3 small ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup of sultanas
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups of plain flour

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mash the ripe bananas
  2. Add the softened butter and mix together
  3. Add the sugar and syrup
  4. Add the salt, baking soda and vanilla – mix together
  5. Add the eggs – mix thoroughly
  6. Add the flour and combine well.
  7. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin.
  8. Bake at 160/170 degrees fahrenheit for 50/60 minutes.

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Roast Potalic!

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The naming of this dish came about, I will admit, as a result of the over imbibition of wine! There’s a word I couldn’t have said the moment I coined the recipe name!! What I meant to say, when asked what we were having for dinner was ‘roast potatoes with garlic’, but it came out as ‘potalic‘! On reflection, I think it’s a good name for the dish which oozes garlic. Not recommended the night before a hot date, your wedding or if you work as a doctor, optometrist or dentist; but a possible solution for those with agoraphobic tendencies – a serving of ‘potalic‘ the night before is sure to guarantee you a wide berth – imagine, a carriage to yourself on a packed commuter train!

It’s an incredibly easy dish to prepare using a copious amount of olive oil. I used a bulb and a half of garlic. Some cloves, I lightly crushed and cooked whole and some I chopped. You could also roast a bulb of garlic and squeeze out the pulp to add to the oil – this will give the dish yet another taste dimension as roasted garlic has a sweeter taste. So you get the gist – use loads of garlic!

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Heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Peel and cut the potatoes and add them to the hot oil. Cook for 10 minutes as the potatoes need a little more roasting time, then remove the tray from the oven. Add the garlic in all forms, along with a large sliced onion, carrots and a red pepper which adds colour and sweetness. Season with sea salt and ground pepper. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash would also be good additions. Cover loosely with a piece of foil to avoid singeing and reduce the temperature of the oven to 170/180 degrees centigrade. Cook until the potatoes are ready, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes to brown a little. The flavours are tantalising and the dish looks appetising. I also like it because everything goes into one pan – served with a juicy grilled steak – what could be easier or tastier. And it should guarantee you personal space on the train!

Garlic facts!

Referring to garlic, Hippocrates (the ancient Greek physician), said “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. He used garlic to treat a variety of medical conditions and modern science has since confirmed many of these beneficial health effects. Part of the onion family, it is high in a sulphur compound called Allicin, which is believed to bring most of the health benefits as it is rich in vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese. Garlic also helps to prevent and reduce the severity of flu and the common cold. A high dose of garlic (at least 3 cloves a day) has been proved to reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure and can be as effective as regular prescription medications. There are also academic claims that it protects against cell damage and ageing and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition, there are claims of longevity, improved physical performance and its ability to reduce toxins in the body.

It seems to me, we would be foolish not to add this to our daily diets. I will certainly be upping my family’s intake!

 

 


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Creamy Potato & Onion Bake with a Butter Crumble Crust

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This is such an easy and deliciously scrumptious potato dish to make. It’s excellent served with a steak, sausages or any grilled/pan-fried meats. It can be prepared well in advance and reheated so is perfect for dinner parties.

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Layers of sliced potatoes and onion rings.

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Pour over the cream and top with cheese – I recommend ‘raclette’ cheese. Sea salt and ground pepper to garnish!

I highly recommend using a ‘raclette’ type cheese because, when heated, it melts and combines with the cream to make a thick, velvety and luscious sauce. I like to top my dish with a buttery and salty biscuit crumble – the combination of textures and flavours is just sensational. Give it a go – it’s so easy to make!

Creamy Potato & Onion Bake with Crumble Crust

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium/large potatoes ( I allow one potato per person), sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 400ml pouring cream
  • 5 or 6 slices of ‘raclette’ cheese or similar
  • Ground sea salt and black pepper
  • 75/100g of soft butter
  • Just over half a pack of ‘tuc’ biscuits or similar

Directions:

  1. Wash and slice the potatoes, skins on.
  2. Peel and thinly slice the onion
  3. Layer the potatoes and onions alternatively in a deep oven proof dish
  4. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper each time and top up with cream.
  5. Add the slices of ‘raclette’ cheese and top with ground salt/pepper.
  6. Cover the dish with foil and bake in an oven (180/190 degrees or 350 degrees fahrenheit) for about an hour, or until the potatoes have softened.
  7. While the potatoes are in the oven, place the ‘tuc’ biscuits into a plastic food bag and crush to make crumbs.
  8. Place the biscuit crumbs in a bowl and combine with the soften butter.
  9. When the potato bake is cooked, remove the foil and sprinkle over the crumble mixture.
  10. Replace the potato with crumble top back in the oven for 10 mins or until browned and bubbling.

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Tiger Prawn Tagliatelle

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I love prawns! Prawns, grilled, sauté, barbecued, sweet and sour prawns, prawn curry, prawn just about anything! The only thing I don’t like about prawns, is peeling them! It’s time consuming and yucky, mucky! But ……. every cloud has a silver lining and these prawns were certainly worth the effort. Creating a meal with with fresh raw prawns is so much better than buying cooked peeled prawns which are often tasteless and watery.

 

Prawn Tagliatelle

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo of shell on raw prawns of a good size (serves 4 people)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet Italian pepper, deseeded and cut into thin rounds
  • Salt & pepper
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup of Portuguese Moscatel wine or a semi sweet white wine
  • 200ml of cream
  • Fresh tagliatelle
  • Parsley to garnish

Directions:

  1. Peel and remove the vein that runs along the upper length of the prawn. Set aside.
  2. In a frying pan, add the olive oil and pan-fry the garlic, leek, celery and red pepper to soften. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. Add the Moscatel or semi-sweet wine and continue to cook until the liquid reduces slightly.
  4. In the meantime, boil a pan of water and cook the tagliatelle.
  5. Add the cream to the mixture in the frying pan and combine thoroughly.
  6. Add the cooked prawns to the sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  7. Drain the tagliatelle and serve into bowls. Top with the prawn sauce.
  8. Grind the sea salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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