Tag Archives: Portuguese

Lemon Cheesecake

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.

IMG_8286

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.

IMG_8284

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)

Salt Cod (Bacalhau) with Rough Mashed Potatoes and Cream

Dried salt cod (Bacalhau) is, unarguably, the most outstanding ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. The tradition of drying and salting this fish dates back to the 15th century and was/is a method of preservation. Caught in the cold wild seas of the North Atlantic, the fish was salted in the hold of the ship and kept, sometimes, for many months or years. Given salt cod is not caught off Portuguese shores, it is bizarre that it became such an important part of Portugal’s food culture. On average, a Portuguese person eats around 10kg of dried salted fish per year and it is the main ingredient served in celebration at Christmas. It is used in hundreds of dishes and can be cooked in a multitude of ways; but I have chosen one of my favourite methods –  known in Portugal as bacalhau com nata (cod with cream)! I state now, that it is my recipe! The Portuguese are very possessive about their cuisine and I know that one of the cooks that I worked with in my restaurant, here in Portugal, would have raised her eyebrows ….. and more. Forgive me, Cristina!

 

All supermarkets here sell bacalhau or dried salt cod. In its preserved state, it looks quite unappetising. Miracles happen after soaking in water as the meat starts to take on its original form.

IMG_1662

I always ask the fishmonger to cut the fish for me into pieces easier to soak in a pan.

IMG_1666

It is important to soak the fish for at least 2 days, changing the water regularly.

Remove the fish from the water, rinse and place in a baking dish. Cover with milk or a mix or milk and water; seal the tray with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. Remove the dish from the oven – be careful when peeling the foil off (steam’s hot!) – remove the cod from the liquid and allow to cool.


IMG_1701

Thick flakes of juicy cod.

The white meat will flake away very easily. For me the next part is very important!! Take time to remove any bones – I pick over the meat fastidiously – as I know that my son would down knife and fork instantly on unearthing any offending item.

Follow the recipe below to create the creamy sauce – and then combine all the components. Serve with buttered carrots. It’s absolutely fishilicious!!


IMG_1705

Add the vegetables to the pan and simmer until softened

IMG_1719

Serve with cracked black pepper and buttered carrots!

Bacalhau (salt cod) with vegetables and cream

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 40 Mins Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • I cup of fish stock
  • bacalhau, soaked, cooked and flaked – discarding the skin and bones
  • bunch of parsley, chopped
  • a knob of butter
  • 200ml of cream
  • 600/700g of potatoes
  • salt (be cautious as the fish will be salty, despite soaking)
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large deep pan, add the olive oil.
  2. Add the garlic, celery, leek and carrot.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes and add the fish stock. (I make stock in batches and freeze it like ice cubes)
  5. Simmer until the vegetables soften. Add a splash of water if the mixture becomes too thick.
  6. While the sauce is simmering, boil the potatoes. When cooked add a knob of butter and rough mash the potatoes. Set aside.
  7. Add the cream to the sauce and mix together.
  8. Gently fold in the flaked fish, rough mashed potatoes and parsley.
  9. You can serve the meal at this stage (carrots are a great accompaniment) or transfer to an oven proof dish, sprinkle the top with some grated cheese and bake for 10 minutes at about 180/190 degrees centigrade.
  10. Enjoy!

Fish Pasta – Paulo’s recipe!

Last night we feasted heartily on two plump sea bass (see my previous post), but the quantity of meat yielded, meant that there was enough over for a recipe that I had wanted to try following a ‘foodie’ conversation with a young Portuguese waiter that works in the restaurant at our local golf club in Espiche. He is enormously enthusiastic about food and flavours and, for his young years (to me, anyone under 40 is young), he really knows his stuff! He recounted to me how he gained this knowledge and appreciation of food and flavour combinations while working alongside his mother and grandmother. It is unusual to find a young person these days with such a joyous passion for food and, therefore, I wanted to share his recipe!

Like many Portuguese recipes, it’s quite simple to prepare and therefore, simply healthy and delicious. Using fresh ingredients, the flavours marry together very well. I served a bowl to my son (photographed below) at lunchtime – he is always hungry – and he loved it! What a fabulous way to use up the leftovers! Thank you Paulo for the inspiration!

IMG_1636

“Hey Mum, I’m eating! Promise you won’t publish that photo!” – “Of course not, Jonathan!”

 

 

Paulo’s Portuguese Fish Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 500g (approx), white fish (cod) or salmon – baked and flaked
  • 500g Penne pasta (fresh is best) 
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • A good squeeze of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of Portuguese Moscatel Wine (or Vermouth)
  • Small bunch of coriander
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Directions:

  1. For this recipe, I used some sea bass that I had cooked the previous night. Any white fish or salmon fillet can be used. Just wrap in foil with butter and salt and bake for 15/20 mins at 180 degrees centigrade. Flake, removing any bones and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, bring salted water to the boil in preparation for the pasta.
  3. In a large frying pan add the olive oil, onion, pepper, garlic and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper, tomato paste and the Moscatel wine.
  4. Simmer until the vegetables are soft and the liquid reduces a little.
  5. While this is simmering, put the pasta into the boiling water and cook until soft.
  6. Gently mix the cooked fish into the sauce.
  7. Drain the cooked pasta and top with the fish sauce.
  8. Garnish with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lemon. 
  9. Optional – a good twist of sea salt and ground pepper.

Almond, Fig & Carob Cake – a real taste of Portugal

The countryside that surrounds us is plentiful in its bounty and naturally glorious! I love foraging along rugged tracks in search of goodies to take home and cook. Under an azure sky – our summer seems endless – we are blessed to be able to profit from God’s ‘free’ larder. Despite the earth’s exposed red rocky soil and sun scorched pastures, the trees and hedgerows are heavy with fruit. Southern Portugal at the start of September is a good corner of the world to be living in; and I am grateful for this little piece of Eden in a world burdened with the weight of wars and discord. I try not to take my blessings for granted and just pray that more nations can share the harmony and peace, in which I am privileged to live.

IMG_0139

Under an azure sky, we gathered carobs from the ladened trees at Espiche Golf Course.

In search of ingredients to make a most delicious Portuguese speciality, my husband and I incorporated dog walking and a game of golf with costless shopping. I should mention here – in case anyone from the club stumbles upon this post – that we did not walk the dogs on the course! We’d be hung, drawn and quartered for committing such a heinous crime on cherished turf! We may have been guilty of slow play (much to the extreme annoyance of our son, Jonathan, who takes the game very seriously and only graces us with his company under extreme duress or bribery) as we took time to fill two carrier bags with carob pods. The golf course has  numerous carob trees and, at this time of year, they are heavily burdened with rich chocolate coloured pods.

Early on Sunday, before breakfast and the inevitable fierce rays of the sun which will penetrate the clear brilliant blue sky before mid morning, we headed out of the village with two eager dogs to gather a few fresh figs, almonds and quinces. Our mutts, Georgie and Ulrika, are like coiled springs in anticipation of their daily outing – running across open scrub land, searching out new scents in the hope of hunting down some unsuspecting prey. For Georgie, it is a dream. She has no hope of catching anything. A tortoise would have an even chance! She lumbers in search of windfall figs while Ulrika sprints and bounces like a greyhound. They are great companions to us and each other and give much pleasure. In return, we supply pats, comfortable beds, bones and …… above all, food!

The hedgerows and open meadows are bursting with fruit and we quickly filled our bags with ripe green figs, last year’s almonds still protected in their hard husky shells and ugly yellow quinces which will produce the most fragrant jelly. It is better than any supermarket – no one to jostle you, ram you with a trolley, no need to queue at a checkout and, best of all, no need to pay.

Armed with all the ingredients necessary to bake a great Portuguese speciality, I headed to the kitchen. Using the carob pods I produced the powder by breaking them open, discarding the hard seeds and grinding the pods to produce the powder. Carob is deemed healthier than chocolate powder, so no guilt issues when indulging in a second or third slice! I produce my own carob powder because I have the pods in plentiful supply, but knowing the same privilege is not available to those living on the King’s Road, the product can easily be sourced in supermarkets.

IMG_1690

A deliciously moist almond, fig & carob cake!

I am reliably informed that this Portuguese speciality complements a glass of Medronho (fire water) and a small strong black coffee (bica). Medronho is a strong spirit – usually distilled to around 48% alcohol. The berries are picked from a tree of the same name and are usually found growing wild. The drink is very popular with farmers and fishermen and is often drunk at breakfast to wake the spirits! It’s not for me – I’ve no idea what my spirits might get up to if I consumed this at the break of day – but I might be tempted to a little slice of almond, fig and carob cake with my coffee!!

Fig, Almond and Carob Cake

Prep Time: 30 Mins Cooking Time: 35 Mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup of carob powder
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped almonds
  • 1 cup of chopped figs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar to dust

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 355 degrees fahrenheit / 150 degrees centigrade.
  2. In a bowl, separate the whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites into a creamy and even consistency. Set aside.
  3. Mix together the flour, oatmeal, baking powder, carob powder, sugar and honey.
  4. add the olive oil, almonds, figs and milk.
  5. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and then fold in the whites.
  6. Pour the mixture into a greased baking tray.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes.

Portuguese Fig Jam/Chutney

Figilicious!!

IMG_1552Figs, gloriously scrumptious figs – they are everywhere at the moment. Here in Portugal it is the season for figs and they are ripe and ready to be picked and eaten straight from the tree, cooked up in sauces, dried for future use or preserved in the form of chutneys and jams. I have just made my first batch of jam – would have had more to preserve if one hungry teenager hadn’t munched his way through a load!

Scrumptiously figilicious!!

IMG_1568My recipe is based on a kilo of figs but if you have access to more, it’s worth making a batch, as it’s a gooey job – worth it though!! Try with cheese or as an accompaniment to pork!

Let the fruit and juices reduce and thicken …….. and hey presto!

Portuguese Fig Jam

Prep Time: 15 Mins Cooking Time: 1 Hour Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Mins

Ingredients:

    Per 1 kilo of fresh green or black figs

    • 1 1/2 cups of light brown or granulated white sugar
    • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
    • 2 sprigs of rosemary
    • 1/2 cup of Moscatel wine (white Port or white Vermouth) or water (or half & half)

    Directions:

    1. Remove the hard stem and cut the figs into quarters
    2. In a large preserving pan (or other suitable vessel), place the figs and the sugar
    3. On a low to moderate heat, add the lemon juice, the rosemary and the Moscatel wine and/or water
    4. Simmer the figs until soft and the liquid thickens and sets
    5. Remove any stems from the rosemary
    6. Spoon into jars while hot and seal. Leave to cool.