Veggie Quiche

If you are not a fan of the extreme eggy quiche, you will be a fan of this cheesy veggie one. The key is: don’t use too many eggs and make sure to add plenty of cheese. Oh, and don’t forget the vegetables – it does have to be the least bit healthy now, doesn’t it?

The versatility of this snack/dish is the fact that you can use up many leftover vegetables in your fridge – this way, it always tastes different.

As a light, healthy dinner or an easy lunch to take to work, eating it hot or cold with or without a salad, a quiche is a comfortable option for many occasions.

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Ingredients
▪ 1 roll of round puff pastry
▪ 2 tablespoons olive oil
▪ 3 carrots
▪ ½ French onion
▪ 1 big onion
▪ 2 cloves garlic
▪ handful of spinach (double the amount if fresh)
▪ handful of fresh rocket
▪ ½ zucchini
▪ salt and pepper
▪ fresh chopped cilantro
▪ ground nutmeg
▪ cumin seeds
▪ 1-2 eggs
▪ 125ml cream
▪ 150 grams grated cheddar cheese (or any other cheese of your choice)

Instructions
Pre-heat the oven at 200°C. Slice the French and normal onion, mince the garlic and dice the carrots and zucchini.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil plus the cumin seeds on low-medium heat and start frying the carrots. After five minutes of tossing and turning, add the zucchini, onions and garlic. After another five minutes, add the remaining vegetables (rocket and spinach). Season with salt, pepper and chopped cilantro. Let cool.

In a bowl, mix the eggs, half the grated cheese, cream and nutmeg.

Without separating the puff pastry from the paper, line it in a round tart tin (about 30cm of diameter), sprinkle a bit of cheese, display the sautéed vegetables, cover with egg, cream and cheese mix and slightly incorporate it with the vegetables. Top with the remaining cheese.

If the pastry edges become to high, compared to the amount of filling, don’t be afraid to fold so the quiche becomes prettier.

Bake until the edges of the pastry become golden and the filling has slightly browned.

Let cool before cutting, serving and storing for further use.

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Cauliflower Tots

In Portugal we have a very famous cod cakes, they are called “pastéis de bacalhau”. Made with mashed potato, slithered cod and parsley and deep fried. Absolutely amazing.

And this recipe is inspired by it, with a few twists: veggie version, no potato, and no deep fying.

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This recipe was developed for Mercearia Bio, a Bio produce project in Portimão, the south of Portugal! You can find this recipe, in Portuguese, here.

Ingredients:

For the cauliflower tots:

  • 400 grams cauliflower
  • ½ onion
  • 2 big garlic cloves
  • Chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Paprika to taste

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For the yoghurt dip:

  • 3 Teaspoons natural sugarless yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon maionaise
  • 2 Chopped up leaves of cilantro
  • 2 Chopped up leaves of fresh mint
  • Orange or Lemon zest

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Instructions:

Separate the cauliflower heads from the stem and vapor cook for 15 minutes. Cut into cubes.

Chop the onion and the garlic and mix with the cauliflower and remaining ingredients until it becomes homogenous.

Let rest in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, mixing ever so often. This phase is very important because the cauliflower is very sensitive, besides, it helps the flour to hydrate the liquid from the egg and also gives more stucture to the mix.

After the resting period, pre-heat your oven to 180ºC and prepare a pan with parchment paper and slightly grease it with olive oil (yet again, the high sensitivity of the cauliflower and the presence of egg makes it highly sticky while baking)

Form the tots with two spoons so they get a semi oval shape (this is called a quenelle by the way) and gently lay on the baking tray.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning them over mid baking.

 

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For the yoghurt sauce, mince the herbs and mix with the remaining ingredients. Don’t forget to taste and adjust seasoning.

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Cream Cheese and Pumpkin Jam Pop Tarts

For a fast dessert or an on-the-go breakfast, this is a healthy treat that you can bake, especially if you have any tart or pie dough leftover from previous baking.

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Tart base recipe
Ingredients:
▪ 125 grams salted butter, melted
▪ 90 grams of caster sugar
▪ 1 egg
▪ 250 grams flour

At the beginning of this blog, I made a very unusual tart, using this same dough recipe (click here to see).

Filling:
▪ Pumpkin Jam (homemade preferably)
▪ Cream Cheese (light version if you’re feeling guilty)

Topping:
▪ Egg wash (1 egg and a tablespoon of water)
▪ Caster sugar to sprinkle

Preparation: Mix the flour with the sugar, melt the butter and incorporate the egg. Combine this into the dry ingredients, and kneed just until everything is mixed together. Let set in the fridge at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

Roll the dough until thin and cut with a round cookie mould, or just cut out rectangles with a knife. Just make sure they are all the same size. Spread a small dollop of cream cheese and top with pumpkin jam. Keep at least 0.5cm free of each side so the filling doesn’t escape while you try to close the tart with the top part of dough. After covering each tart with remaining dough, press down the sides with the edge of a fork and place each tart on a tray with parchment paper.

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Any leftover dough? Make some decorative leaves and sketch the veins with a sharp knife.

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Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake at 175°C until the dough turns golden brown. Let cool or serve right away with some refreshing ice cream. For a few decorative tips, like leaves, seek out some tutorials on youtube to use up any scraps of dough you don’t want to waste.

For a breakfast or a tea time treat, heat up the tarts in the toaster. Hence the name, pop tart!

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If you don’t want to bake them all at once you can freeze them to bake another time (one of those lazy day occasions). Lay the ready-to-bake pop tarts on a tray with parchment paper, let freeze and then store in a zippy bag or tupperware.

 

Aphrodisiac Chocolate Fondue

If there is any other day of the year that fulfils your need for chocolate besides Christmas, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Chocolate is considered an aphrodisiac ingredient used by ancient civilisations, like the Aztecs who used to entitle it “food of the gods”. Although various studies to date haven’t been able to conclude if the amount of stimulant, existent in most chocolate that we use today, is enough to actually produce arousal, it does help the brain release endorphins that are responsible for happy feelings and the sense of wellbeing. Besides, chocolate tastes wondrous and is a romantic gesture to surprise your other half on this special day.

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|| Chocolate Fondue
Ingredients:
▪ 150 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa. Dark chocolate that states sugar as the first ingredient on the list isn’t the best choice, quality and healthwise. Try to find chocolate that has sugar as second or further down the ingredients’ list, as the first is always the one present in higher quantity)
▪ 200 millilitres double cream
▪ 10-20 grams ground ginger
▪ 30 grams honey
▪ Pinch of salt
▪ ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
▪ Fruit of your choice (photo: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, pears, persimmons and oranges – the latter go very well and are in season).

Method:
Heat the cream with the grated ginger; do not let it boil. Take off the heat and add the chocolate broken up into pieces, plus remaining ingredients; stir gently with a spoon until completely melted. If it doesn’t melt entirely, heat through once again on the stove, on low heat, never forgetting to stir so it doesn’t burn.
Ginger, honey and certain fruits like banana, strawberries and pears are also lovie-dovie potions that make this recipe a match for a romantic evening for two. If you enjoy a spicier kick that ginger itself can’t provide, adding chilli pepper is also a good combination, plus it’s an aphrodisiac!
To serve it, I advise an actual chocolate fondue kit, which is fairly inexpensive and easy to find. This helps keep the fondue warm for longer, but should be stirred ever so often as the candle that heats the receptacle can burn the bottom layer of chocolate sauce.

 

Stuffed Peppers

When I was a little girl my mother used to tell me all about these stuffed peppers she would eat at a nearby restaurant, and because she was so passionate about them, there was no excuse but to recreate them herself in our kitchen. At the time, I didn’t care much for vegetables, let alone peppers and their intense taste, but I did enjoy the filling and used to leave the vessel on the plate for someone else to eat.

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When I went to gather produce on the farm and picked the four peppers I was about to stuff.

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This pepper was way too special to pick. Did  you know that with time, the peppers gain a different color? With the ripening process, they change and become sweeter. That’s why red, yellow and orange peppers are more expensive than the green ones.

Years went by and I grew out of my fussy eating habits, and started to eat veggies like a normal person. Peppers included. Although I did end up visiting the so famous restaurant, for some reason I didn’t care for them much. Maybe I was used to the ones I grew up eating, maybe it was the high expectations that led me to believe they were astonishing delicious, whatever. I just ended up recreating the ones I remembered to taste, eat and love.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 chopped onions
  • 3 cloves of slithered garlic
  • 2 pealed and diced carrots
  • 50 grams chouriço
  • 400 grams minced pork
  • 2 tablespoons tomato pulp
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • Pinch of chopped parsley
  • 1 cup of rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 big green peppers

Instructions:

Mince the onions, the garlic, slither the pealed carrots and cut the chouriço also into cubes. Fry the bay leaf and the chouriço in the olive oil, slightly, just till you get that herby savory scent.

Add the onions, then the garlic and the carrots. Retrieve this mix and let the pan heat a little before adding the minced meat. This is an essencial part of the recipe, as you don’t want to stew the meat in the veggie juices, you want to promote a little browning before adding the remaining flavors. Mix in the previously cooked veggies, plus the tomato pulp, water and parsley.

Let the mix set, and cover with plastic wrap. You now have either two options: you choose to stuff the peppers only with the meat, or mix the rice in as well. Keep in mind that if you add the rice it will absorb a lot of moisture, and the meat will taste less juicy than it actually should be. But it’s a matter of preference. I just stuff the peppers with the pork mix, and serve plain rice on the side.

So after stuffing, add sliced onion, olive oil, garlic, as a base of the pan to roast the peppers and make a juicy sauce.

Bake at 170ºC for at least 1 hour covered with foil, then at 190ºC for 20 minutes. This time/temperature barometer I have suggested will depend on how cooked you want your peppers, the longer they are cooked, the tenderer the pepper.

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A Realistic Perspective on Food Festivals

I’m an opinionated person, specially when it concerns food, and this might be a post that you will either understand and relate, or disagree and hate. Tough cookies.

So this past April I went to my first food festival in Estoril, after my first day of tasting some tasty (and not so tasty) things, plus snapping a few shots, I posted my first opinion (gave up on part two for now). The first comment I received was from some angry spanish dude saying that I was paid to write and diss some stands, besides approving and congratulating others. Whatever you wish to believe, that’s fine by me (thank you to whoever thought I am a paid journalist though, you are very kind).

So, back to the point. Food Festivals, Street Food Events, Food Trucks and Social Media Obsessions – the key words I am about to use a lot.

If you are a keen foodie, an epicurean and gluttony lover, you have gone to many festivals (if not all of them), specially after the boom Portugal felt this year.

Positive points:

  • New businesses have a chance to get known and gain new customers, profit and some inspiration to keep growing;
  • New food ideas, combinations and experiences for locals to have some fun;
  • Social media engagement (Zomato, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the recent Periscope);
  • Thousands of instagram photos about what you ate here or there (more followers – whether you are a professional epicurean or the owner of the food truck business);
  • Commensality takes on an outdoor version of appreciation;
  • Wide range of food typology for every taste;
  • Local food and gastronomical heritage;
  • Cute trucks with interesting concepts;
  • Touristic engagement by offering gastronomical experiences.

Negative points:

  • Street food becomes too competitive;
  • Street food is no longer a “street” experience – it turns into a shopping reality;
  • Too much too choose from, long queues, lack of places to sit and enjoy the finger food;
  • Cupon run event with no refunds (not every event uses this method);
  • Too pricey, once you add up everything you have eaten;
  • After going to a few festivals, all seem the same;
  • Lack of stock and disappointed clients who really went to try a certain dish;
  • Lack of higiene/quality control factors that can lead to food poisoning (this happened in Portimão this year);
  • Fast food turns into a praise for slowness wannabe (this is just wrong);
  • Porta-potties (lack of higiene, again – can you imagine going to the toilette and not washing your hands before eating?).

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Some vegetarian dish I was unhappy to buy – spent 20 minutes in line to have a curry dish they no longer served and handed me this instead (without even informimg).

I dare say, this is a controversial topic for me to write about, because Street Food is not what it’s suppose to be. I get the point about wanting it to grow, but none of this has particularly helped ease these businesses in running a daily work through the metropolitan areas (except for social media). For me, a good experience should be me walking down a street, seeing an interesting food stand, and because I am hungry and wondering where to have a bite, end up supporting the local truck who puts some TLC into cooking whatever they have to offer.

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A take on the Portuguese tinned sardine – on a simple piece of bread, tomato sauce and rocket. This was unexpected, and delicious.

Like any business, novelty or product, the business life span will saturate sooner or later, leaving a future hole that will need to be filled with the next big thing. It also seems to be something that’s happening all over Europe – when in Bologna, I went to the Finger Food Festival – and my experience was as disappointing as the ones I had in Portugal. The only benefit I got from attending was the fact that I did eat the best cannoli ever (big pro by tasting national goodies). But was it the best one in Bologna, or Italy per se? Possibly not. But I was a happy tourist for that moment in time.

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In foreign countries like the US and UK, street food is much more independent, based a little bit everywhere – events, local festivals that aren’t even about food in the first place, and the random corner where usual workers will always wonder by during their meal times. Twitter info based, these businesses can thrive with regular customers, not only the by-passers that are just curious to Instagram the fancy hot dog they ate, after having a burger and a waffle from neighboring stands. In third world countries, street food is culture and the day-by-day thing, not a trend where people gather.

As everything in business, specially food trade, novelty is key, sustainability is a must. Sometimes, when things are done only to make money (like selling those burgers every two minutes because you have way too many customers waiting impatiently), quality is compromised, and experiences upset.

None the less, it’s an enjoyable experience (when not having to endure weekenders, and big crowds), but not the type you will want to go every single time. After a few gigs, I would rather spend my money at my favorite restaurant, even If I don’t get to instagram the meal and gain another follower.

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Food Fest in Lagos

My suggestion? Make the law easier for local food trucks to travel and sell their food in certain spots around the town, next to a beach, near an event. Help these businesses grow in a natural, sustainable way, across the country. Heck, the world. Oh, and please don’t make me wait another half an hour for a lousy burger.

Pizza Thoughts

Lazy Sundays, cozy sunny afternoons and a mind blowing hunger with way too many leftovers going on from the past week.

So I decided to be the extra lazy cook today, and holiday season a part, bring on the calories, the carbs, the cheesy fat of this thing I cooked, plus all the vegetables to feel just a tad less guilty.

One of the leftovers I most adore to play with? Bread. After a day or two, fresh bread takes a hike and turns into a semi dry clump of dough with not much to do about it (except make croutons or something boringly simple). The leftover bread I used was a Chouriço bread, cut in half where each was topped with tomato sauce, cheese and veg (no meat needed, chouriço already present). Portuguese love bread, you can find the chouriço one available at many fairs, events, specially a winter thing as freshly baked warms any soul (and fills any belly). If you want to give it a try, make your fave bread dough recipe, thinly spread it and lay (loads) of slices of chouriço, roll up and bake till crispy. Brioche goes very well with the salty goodness of the cured meat.

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Any leftovers for next day’s lunch is a piece of cake (or pizza in this case) – just slightly heat and eat.

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This post was inspired by a recipe my friend Daiane Lopes and I made a few months back, homemade roast tomato sauce pizza with veggies and fresh basil. If you are a dough making type of person – this is the starting-from-scratch recipe you should try.

Check out her blog for some delightful recipes and this pizza post that was published in Umbigo Magazine.

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Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 200 grams all purpose flour
  •  7 grams dry yeast
  • 110 grams warm water
  • 30g olive oil
  • Salt

Sauce:

1 kg ripe tomatoes
150 grams green pepper
220 grams onions
4 cloves of garlic
5 grams sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

Fresh rosemary
Fresh basil

Topping the pizza:

  • 200 grams mozzarella (feel free to mix with other cheeses, like stilton/roquefort/gorgonzola, parmesan or pecorino)
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Thinly sliced eggplant
  • Fresh basil
  • Oregano

Prepping the dough:

Mix the ingredients with the dough paddle of a stand mixer for 5-7 minutes. Make a ball, set in a bowl greased with olive oil and let rise for 1 1/2 hour, covered, in a warm place.

Prepping the sauce:

Half the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, oilve oil and rosemary. Roast for 50 minutes at 160ºC.

Slightly fry the onions, garlic and green peppers, add the roasted tomatoes and add a pinch of sugar if the acidity of the tomatoes is too high (and tart)..

Make sure to make an extra smooth sauce with a food processor.

Any leftover sauce can be frozen into ice cube trays and later on used for flavoring several dishes.

Prepping the pizza: 

Pre-heat your oven on max temperature (usually >250ºC). This is highly important for a crispy crust. Most issues with making home made pizza is really the temperature at which it is cooked in the first place – even at 200ºC, the dough can become soggy and bready.

The second step into getting a perfect dough is blind baking it for 5 minutes, before adding the sauce, cheese and diverse toppings.

Note: for extra extra crispiness, making the dough the previous night and letting it cool in the fridge after rising, will relax the gluten and harden the structure once it is cooked.