Queques de tomate e queijo de São Jorge / Tomato & Saint Jorge cheese muffins

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As I recently received a parcel from Portugal with one of my favourite cheeses, (From the island of Saint Jorge in the Azores archipelago, made with cow’s milk and slightly peppery), I decided  to add some of it into my tomato muffins. These are perfect as a snack or even as a meal, next to a good green salad. Enjoy, they are über morish!

Queques de tomate e queijo de S. Jorge / Tomato & Saint Jorge cheese muffins

Ingredients (makes 9)

250 gr of self-raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
3 eggs
3 tbsp of olive oil
3 tbsp of full fat milk
50 gr of grated Saint Jorge cheese (alternatively use a Spanish Manchego)
1 tsp of pesto
120 gr of can chopped tomatoes

Salt & Pepper for seasoning

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven at 180 C.

Butter a muffin tray and line each compartment with baking paper. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the chopped tomatoes, add the milk, the grated cheese, olive oil and pesto. Mix well. Fold the flour and the baking powder. Season with salt & pepper.

Fill the muffin tray with the batter and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, until the muffins have risen. Speak the centre of one with a knife point, which should come out dry, when they are done.

Areias com corais / Sands with corals

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Many years ago, when I came to study in the UK I met someone who later became like a sister to me, Maria. A fellow designer she is from one of the most charming and delightful towns in Portugal, a place where early 20th century European aristocracy used to sunbathe: Cascais. As students, homesick and penniless, we used to find cheap culinary  ways which worked as reminders of the languid and sun filled days, the hearty cuisine, our homeland. These biscuits are one of the recipes I have learnt from her, evocative treats from her hometown. I have slightly twisted the original recipe by adding some chopped blanched almonds which look like broken corals on top of the Atlantic sand.

Areias com corais / Sands with corals

Makes 12

Ingredients

160 gr of plain flour
80gr of caster sugar
200 gr of unsalted, soft butter
Grind of 1 lemon
30 gr of chopped blanch almonds

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven at 180 C.

In a bowl, mix the butter with the sugar. Add the flour, and with your hands, mix everything until it resembles a soft, homogeneous dough. Make small balls of dough, and roll them on the chopped blanched almonds. Place the balls on top of a baking tray, lined with some baking parchment. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are golden.

Remove from the oven and let the biscuits cool completely before serving them, either with some citronella tea or black filter coffee, as I favour it.

Chunky smoked mackerel pâté / Pâté grosseiro de cavala fumada

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To start the month, on this cold yet relaxed Sunday, I decided today to cook this quick snack for lunch. Delicious, pungent albeit light. A fantastic spread on top of some crusty whomeal  bread.

Chunky smoked mackerel pâté /  Pâté grosseiro de cavala fumada

Ingredients

300 gr of smoked mackerel
50 gr of finely sliced iceberg lettuce
50 gr of pitted, chopped black olives
2 tbsp of mayo
Pinch of black pepper

Slices of toasted, good wholemeal bread

Preparation

USing your fingers, shred the smoked mackerel.

In a bowl, place all the ingredients, topped by the mayo. Mix everything very well until it resembles a coarse yet homogeneous paste. Spread it on top of toasted wholeameal toasted bread.

Grilled scallops, rocket and lemon confit/Vieiras grelhadas, rúcula e limão confitado.

It has been a while since the last time I have posted a recipe in here! Life’s been super busy, although this weekend I decided to pay some attention into my own blog and readers. As the scallop season is upon us, I decided to cook 12 of these delicious creatures. Their sweetness goes amazingly well with the pepperness of the rocket and the sharpness of the lemon preserve I quickly assembled on my stove. Delicious for a spring lunch!

Grilled scallops, rocket and lemon confit

Serves 3

12 fresh scallops (cleaned but with I leave them with the roe, as I think it adds flavour and texture)
1 tbsp of olive oil
salt & pepper
150 gr of young rocket

Dressing
1 tsp of dijon mustard
1 tbsp of olive oil

Lemon preserve

1 lemon (thinly sliced)
1 tbsp of sugar
2 tbsp of water

Preparation

Firstly prepare the lemon preserve. Place the slices of lemon with the sugar on top and water in a pan. Slowly simmer till the water evaporated and you end up with a thick consistency jam-like preserve. Set aside to cool down.

Place the rocket in a serving bowl. Mix the mustard with the olive oil and dress it.

Fry for two minutes each side of the scallops, on a very hot and oiled pan. Serve the scallops on top of the rocket with a spoonful of lemon preserve.

Sherry Christmas Cake/Bolo de Natal Ingles com Xerez

 

Every year I face a culinary conundrum when I see the festive season approaching quickly: What to bake that will not only showcase my baking skills but also gloriously be the centre piece of my Christmas dessert table? Would it be one of the many egg induced creations which compose the vast repertoire of my Portuguese cooking heritage? Or a polite, fruity and yet potent pudding from England, the country which I now call home?  This month the answer came in a form of a wicker hamper. Intrigued, upon its arrival, I slowly started to unwrap the crisp cellophane which blurred the sight of a mix of dried fruit packs, a beautiful blue bowl, a pewter coloured spring form and an indigo blue bottle which, together with a note, gave away the sender’s provenance: John Harvey’s & Sons. I soon realised that this assemblage of oddments, composed almost all the ingredients and instruments required to produce an English Christmas cake. In this austere times, when we all going back to fundamental principles, what a brilliant idea from this well established wine merchant and producer to get us baking using this so well known home brand of sherry Harvey’s Bristol Cream. I must confess I favour Port, because I come from the city which produces it, and I grew up seeing it served on special occasions. Nevertheless, I am not indifferent to the smoothness of a glass of sherry or for example in how effective this drink can be in adding flavour to a creamy risotto. I also love the stories of friends who tell me it is a sign of Christmas when, this iconic blue bottle comes out of the cupboard, to be opened cheekily for elevenses with a couple of crusty mince pies. I got going with all the ingredients supplied and started soaking the fruit in some tablespoons of Bristol Cream, which after one day, soaked it all up and produced an almost caramel trail which coated the blue bowl supplied. Then, with a glass of this sherry as a companion to savour when inbetween steps, I followed all stages from a traditional Christmas cake recipe, and place it in the oven. Baking it slowly for 4 hours in the high sided pewter spring form which was wrapped in some sheets of old news and tied tight with rough string to avoid burning the cake. When ready and cooled, I started the still ongoing process of feeding the cake with tablespoons of sherry, which will continue for some weeks before completing it with a veil of golden marzipan and crisp white sugar icing.  The cake is now kept within an old biscuit tin which is place at the back of my wardrobe. Not quite Narnia, I know, but a but a jewel that is maturing, perfecting and filling me with wafts of deep fruity alcohol which feed my Christmas anticipation when I open it at the weekends. Harvey’s Bristol cream is part of the mainstream range of this producers wine catalogue, although I found it pleasant and so efficacious in producing the well drunk fruit which composed the foundation of my Christmas cake. It also made my baking experience even more relaxing, because together with some orange peel and ice cubes, provided a delicious drink for the afternoon when I baked this year’s chosen festive dessert.

English Christmas cake

Serves 12 people

Ingredients

700 gr of mix dry fruit
50 gr of glace cherries
50 gr of orange peel
100 ml of sherry or brandy
3 eggs
200 gr of plain flour
200 gr of sugar
200 gr of unsalted soft butter
1 tbsp of molasses
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp of cinnamon powder
1 tsp of nutmeg
pinch of salt
Zest of 1 orange

Sherry to feed the cake when ready
Flaked almonds to decorate

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven at 80 ºC.

Soak the mixed dried fruit in the sherry overnight.

In a bowl whisk the butter with the sugar till it resembles a fluffy paste. Add the eggs one by one and beat well. Place in the dried mixed fruit, the orange peel and the cherries. Add the molasses and the spices, the salt and the orange zest. Mix everything very well. Fold in the flour and set aside.

Grease a deep spring form with butter and line it with parchment paper. Place in the cake batter and cover it with a disk of parchment paper of the same diameter. Wrap the outside of the spring form with newspaper and tight it with a string. Place in the oven and bake slowly for 4 hours.

Remove from the oven and let it cool down completely. Sprinkle the top with a tbsp of sherry and place the cake within a biscuit tin, Repeat this operation for a couple of weeks. It will be ready and matured for Christmas. Decorate with the flake almonds and a festive ribbon.

Quince Strudel/Strudel de Marmelo

Today, on my early morning errands through my local lebanese greengrocers, I have found quince. Not the one which is too manicured and  is now fashionably placed in the trendy delis of Marylebone and Mayfair. I discovered the less attractive type, smaller in size but a champion when it comes to flavour. Very similar to the fruit my grandfather used to grow in his orchards of northern Portugal. I have decided to used it in a strudel which can be served warm and with a dollop of creme fraiche. I know I haven’t rolled it as in the traditional recipe  but I usually like to put my own stamp into things. Truly delicious for a cold yet sunny Sunday.
Quince Strudel/Strudel de Marmelo
4 quince fruit
juice of 1 orange
juice of half lemon
150 gr of sugar
50 ml of water
1 star anise
1 tsp of ground mixed spice
1 tsp o cinammon
50 gr of sultanas
12 sheets of filo pastry
unsalted sof butter to brush
Preparation
Pre-heat the oven at 190 °C.
Peel, core and chop the quince into small small cubes. Place in a small pan with the juies of the orange and lemon, the sugar, water and spices. Let it simmer until it becomes soft and the liquid thickens as in syrup. Fold in the sultanas.
Remove from the heat and set aside.
Brush with the butter a pan with a metal handle (so it can go to the oven). Line the base of the pan with 6 sheets of filo, one by one, brushed with butter. Place in the quince in syrup and covered with the remain filo sheets, each one again brushed with butter.
Bake in the oven until it becomes golden, around 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve with some cream or creme fraiche.

“Pão-de-Ló” orders! Encomendas de “Pão-de-Ló”

As Christmas is around the corner, I have decided that this year I will be taking orders for my favourite Portuguese cake of all time — Pão-de-Ló. This gorgeous sponge cake with hints of lemon and Port,  is served as a Christmas cake all around Portugal. It is baked in a traditional terracotta pot, perfect as a dessert with cheese or toasted for Christmas morning breakfast. Light as a feather and so scrummy.

One cake serves generously 12 people. (26 cm diameter)

Homemade

Price is £20 per cake (includes one London delivery address).

For the rest of the UK, postage rates apply.

Payment by Paypal.