Casa Vale da Lama Eco Resort – Pizza Time

In Vale da Lama there is an Eco Resort. Charm full, peaceful, plus, they have a Pizza gathering every so often Saturday through the warm summer evenings. You should call to reserve ahead of time – and make sure you don’t do it the day before, otherwise you will risk not being able to go.

Once you get there, and even if you get lost on the way (I did, at least twice), you will feel at home. Random tables, cozy benches, down to earth puffs, and several relaxed people waiting for a very delicious evening. As long as your stomach can handle as much pizza as it possibly can, you won’t ever leave this place hungry, I even had to stop eating the everlasting flow of pizza, because I just cannot leave a place without having dessert.

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So, here’s the deal: you book, you arrive, you pay the 8€ that allow you to eat as much pizza as humanely possible, you buy a drink and you are seated to whichever table was assigned to you and your company. In case of small groups, you also get to know other individuals that will be seated next to you – it’s all about sharing a space, having a few laughs, eating pizza. What else cold you possibly want to enjoy on a summer saturday evening?

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The pizzas, from what I gathered, are a mix of available ingredients: mushrooms, eggplant, onion, peppers, cucumbers, feta cheese and fresh herbs.

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Besides the comfort food, the setting, the people, the whole event is an amazing experience. Whoever is preparing the pizza’s have the best mood ever – because pizza making is fun, ain’t it? Plus, you get to make a bunch of hungry people happy. That’s awesome just by itself.

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Happy people – happy food!

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The music is also fantastic! Kudos to the DJ for sharing some good tunes. This weekend coming up you can hear some live music from Mariana Root – it starts at 9:30pm. 

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Even the Pizza People show their moves!

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Even if you are not into much socializing, and want to gaze up at the vast star printed sky, you can enjoy such an event on many of their available chairs, puffs, even hammocks. On this night, I saw a shooting star.

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The dessert: carob brownie with figs. You’re not gonna find a more traditional dessert like this one, with regional and sustainable ingredients. That’s what this place is all about – eco friendly fun and life.

Visit Vale da Lama Eco Resort event here, where you can find details for this Saturday, the 19th, and contact to make your reservation. More info on their accommodation, events, get to know them through their website here.

Alqueva Part 2 – The Food

I am not a travel writer, I am a cook and a food enthusiast. Nevertheless, I think I might start sharing my adventures around a few places, but I assure you it will always include food. If I’ve never been down this road before it’s because of:

A) Up till last year I was a mear culinary student (students don’t usually have much resources to travel – well, me at least).

B) Being from the Algarve, my only time off (summer) was spent working.

C) Surely, through any spare time I could find, I would cook and photograph and plan how to write a blog.

Anyhow, a year has passed, I gained (some) professional experience, saved up (some) money and decided to, instead of enrolling into a masters degree or something that would pin me down (financially and geographically), take interesting short-term courses to enrich my mind, body and soul (oh, and don’t forget, my belly) – I will surely post these whenever I start my adventures through wherever I go. You will find out soon enough! For now, here goes take 1.

This year, my parents were so kind I was actually invited to go on a four day trip to Alqueva. Check out my intro, aka Part 1 – The Trip!

I was bewildered (because they usually travel without the kid) yet grateful for the opportunity. Grabbed my bikini, Anthony Bourdain’s – A Cook’s Tour, my camera and hasta la vista world, here goes Mel to enjoy some silence, on a boat, in Alentejo.

I blame my mother for getting me into this post in the first place (in a good way obviously): besides introducing me to great travel writer such as Bill Bryson and handy Lonely Planet books, I think she knew I knew I had what it took to write an interesting point of view about our adventures on a boat through this unique place in Portugal. Heck, the world! She is also the best travel planner I have ever known. She does it at least twice a year and already has a first-name basis relationship with international airports and airlines (just kidding – but, if this were true, I wouldn’t be the least surprised).

Before you start mouthwatering on the other side of the screen, let me give you some basic info you might find useful:

  1. Amieira Marina is where you rent the boat. They provide a map, a big one. If you lose it, there is one stapled to the inside of the boat. Plus, GPS system is easy to get used to. Big big plus side? You don’t even need a boat license! You get a two hour tops lesson on how to drive it, float it right and, eventually, not sink it.                                            IMG_6923
  2. They provide elevator trolleys so you don’t have to carry heavy baggage. Yes, this means take as much food and booze as you possibly can.
  3. Kitchen completely equipped – even a BBQ you can set up! Stove and oven are gas run. Portable water and separate dam water taps (non consumable). Good sized fridge and regular freezer, plenty of cute plates and bowls, tea towels and table cloths, complementary basket with an Alentejano bread loaf and cured goat cheese. Now this is quality of life people! The only thing I could complain about was the amount of time the fridge took to cool my drinks (very hot, can’t blame floating technology) and the lack of sharp knives. I suppose my cooker self should have anticipated such a fact. Now I know never to travel without my kit again.
  4. PET FRIENDLY! Yes, for a small fee of 40€ you can take your dog. Make sure you buy a float jacket ahead of time and spend your peaceful moments teaching him how to fetch the tennis ball into the vast waters. Just tell him it’s a big pool – it worked for us!

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So, as you can imagine, I was the private chef on the boat! I basically cooked and served whatever my dear mother thought we needed most. I can assure you, we could of survived another week, easily and comfortably, without starving. Here you have it:

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Petisco lunch: veggies from our farm (cherry tomato, cucumber, green pepper, onion and cilantro with a balsamic + red wine vinegar combination), assorted deli such as Presunto, honey roasted ham, Queijo de Azeitão, healthy seedy crackers, bread, tinned preserved fish and, of course, beer! A 15 minute gathering of ingredients so we could make the best of our first day, with little hassle.

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Do you like my smoked mackerel cracker bruschetta?

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Waking up to this? Could get used to it, easily.

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Breakfast with a view! Eggs, cheese, portuguese bread and butter. Some preserved asparagus – ovinhos com espargos is a very traditional Alentejano tidbit.

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Stopped in Campinho on our second day where we found a park with tables, benches and embedded BBQ’s through the so called park. Plenty of friendly families who shared their burning coals so we could make a grilled veggie salad and some chicken breast marinated with pimentão doce (paprika), bay leaf, olive oil, salt, pepper and white wine.

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Once we arrived at Monsaraz, so much art and unique features. First of all, if you want to go here, talk to Amieira Marina. They know a guy who knows a guy that owns a B&B who will gladly pick you up at the nautical club (where you will have to park your boat) in his private car so you can have a nice meal, a stroll and will even take you back. For half the price that a regular taxi would charge, this is the best solution as taxi’s will usually come from far away and will rip you off with a 60€ trip (even if it’s 20 min back and forth).

Dinner at Templários Restaurant:

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Charcuterie plate with top notch cured pork.
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Cabrito assado com batatas – young goat roasted in the oven till tender, with likewise accompanied potatoes.

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Octopus with olive oil and cilantro.

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Back in Aldeia da Luz, our final day. This town was completely rebuilt somewhere else – they even moved the cemetery and respective carcases. Otherwise, the town council wouldn’t have agreed with the move. Check out their museum for some historical facts.

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Traditional Bakery Sign. Got there just in time (before 1pm as it shuts for lunch till 3pm) to buy a loaf and some almond and egg cream pastries.

Translation: The bakery belonged to the parents of the current owner, who still baked bread in a traditional brick oven. When he inherited the bakery, he continued to bake bread in the traditional way, only ceasing to do so when the family moved to the new village. Here you can find regional Alentejo bread and cakes. The bakery owners are Albertina and Manuel Godinho.

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Alentejano excursionists arguing what they were going to have for lunch. Out of both options shared through what seemed to me loud roars of hangry (for more info about this human state, click here) they stood for at least 10 minutes discussing the pros and cons of choosing:

  •  carne de alguidar: when we make chouriço, we put everything in a bucket, season it well with salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, bay leaf and paprika, but instead of stuffing the chouriço we can also make a meal out of it. It actually goes by the name of bucket meat.
  • Churrasco – our grilled meat, you can call it our barbecue but without the american sauce. Simple is best with a tad of lemon juice topped after being grilled, to cut the strong flavor of the fat and smoke drenched meat.

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Our last evening on the boat.

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Preparing some roast veggie salad and local chouriço to put on the grill for our last floating meal.

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Once back home, I couldn’t help myself by making a friendly petisco with my edible souvenirs. I brought three cheeses:

Cured sheep milk cheese – Sapata from Reguengos de Monsaraz

Cured sheep milk cheese – Lactobelavista from Rio dos Moinhos

Mixed sheep and cow milk cheese – Belqueijo from Nisa

I also brought back a black pig chouriço. Let’s just say it was too damn yummi, it didn’t survive before the photoshoot.

All in all – one of the best trips ever. Four days isn’t enough to cover the amount of territory you can explore. The people, the food, the peace and quiet, the warm still waters and the everlasting floating. After two days, I would step on land and feel like I hadn’t stopped floating – this is normal and a pretty cool thing to experience!

Alqueva Part 1 – The Trip!

My very first “alentejano” experience was twenty years ago – I was a mear four year old waking up to the godawful sound of a pig being murdered. I hated every bit of it: the sqwelling, the blood, the smell of burnt hair, the guts held in buckets through the hallway floors. The years passed by and I learned to appreciate it. After all, it always ended up in a fiest (literally speaking).
Returning to Alentejo brought back those memories, and while I read Anthony’s experience, I couldn’t help but laugh and be thankful that my nanny dragged me along during her weekend visits to Odemira. Childhood trauma apart, it just made me become a little more portuguese than I already was about to become. This time, I didn’t see swine torture, but I was introduced to something much more mind blowing about this part of the country.
Just to get you started, Alentejo in the summer is known for it’s hotness, the umberable kind that will make you want to look for shade and never think about sun bathing again. It is just that hot. After being in the Algarve for most of my life, being hot never seemed to be a problem – you have the sea, the fresh breeze, the not so hot heat. In the countryside you won’t find salted water, maybe a river now and then. But now Alqueva has Europe’s biggest artificial lake. For more info about historical facts and why the dam was constructed, consult wikipedia’s wise knowledge here.
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The most peaceful sunset I have seen in all my existence.
So this was the trip – renting a boat, sailing what once was vast pastured land. The most peaceful experience I have ever had since I could remember. Ghostly territory, non urbunized islands, stranded trees, slightly sloped bays and plenty of still waters.
This was such a cool idea, I just have to tell the world about it and recommend it to everyone.
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Getting to know small villages, local living, plus, far away from busy civilization and mass tourism confusion – this is what this trip was all about. This one is Estrela – no restaurants, one simple café and you can’t find packaged orange juice anywhere. When I asked what this was all about, while I had been shopping for it because my mother needs it more than she needs coffee in the morning, a lady simply answered “If we want orange juice, we will squeeze oranges”. True wise words, natural is best!
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Monsaraz view from this quaint B&B. Amazing and unusual town – I highly recommend visiting this unique spot.
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Aldeia da Luz scenario – One of the villages that had to be reconstructed because of the increase in water altitude.
While we were wondering the hot and haunted roads of this recent location, we found a table to sit down and have a refreshing mini (a small sized beer – 25cl to be precise). Checking out the inside of the so resembled tavern, I realized that for snacks, men were standing around the counter, with peeled boiled potatoes, some slices of fresh tomato, a few peanuts and each one of them had their own pocket knife to nibble. Wow, I need to get one myself! Astonished yet lights flickered in my mind as I started to understand what Alentejo’s lifestyle is all about – simplicity, at best, and humble practices gained by generations of getting by with whatever was available.
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When my dog found a stray goat, and followed him just to watch.
Next – Part 2 – The Food!

Plum Crumble

Seasonal fruit, seasonal desserts. When you have too many plums ready to pop off the tree, you have to do something about it. Crumble is, and always has been, my answer to this problem.

My mother taught me well, she is and has always been my kitchen guru, the one who creates delicious goodies with whatever the farm provides. I blame her for my sweet tooth and my adorable habit to eat crumble for breakfast.

Whether it’s for dessert, a snack to keep your sweet cravings happy or a quick breakfast to get a good head start of a busy day – this is ideal!

Because it is such a versatile dessert, an easy solution for the overflow of fruit, specially if you need to kick off that guilty feeling of not eating up vitamin and fiber rich goodness.

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 I´m obsessed with these cute ramekins.
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Ingredients:
Plums
155 grams brown sugar
245 grams whole grain oats
100 grams all purpose flour
105 grams macadamia nuts
190 grams butter
Vanilla
Lemon zest
Procedure: Cut the plums in quarters, discard the seeds. If you like a bittersweet dessert, be lazy about it and keep the skin on! Don’t forget, besides being healthier, you are also being kind to the environment by not wasting nutritionally valid pieces of food.
Choose the amount of fruit you think might be reasonable for your crumble. It’s all about improvising, and getting used to being the boss in the kitchen. If you do however need a reference, I usually add more fruit than actual crumble, as this tends to bake, release moisture and inevitably shrink.
Now, for the crumble, coarsely grind the macadamia nuts, mix in remaining dry ingredients plus vanilla extract and lemon zest. With the tips of your fingers, incorporate the butter till it turns flaky. Beware, do not mix it too much as it will turn into a cookie dough rather than a crumble itself.
Plate in individual ramekins or just use a big dish if you don’t feel like fafing about with washing too many dishes afterwards.
Bake at 185ºC until the crumble is golden and you can see the fruit bubbling on the side of the dish. It should look purple and yummy.
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Serve with cozy warm custard on a fresh evening or accompany with sugar free cold yoghurt for a hot summer morning.
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Eggs, meet a cozy piece of toast

Hello foodie readers! Long time that I haven’t written anything, but for a good reason. I have been a very busy bird lately, and it seems to be that the universe has been on my side, so I have been dazzled with opportunities to prosper and grow in the food industry. Anyhow, I am back, and will be able to post photos and recipes of my foodie adventures so far so you can droll a little on the other side of the screen.

Today I share with you a recipe I have posted on an online magazine called the Portugal Resident. Every now and then you can also purchase the printed version – the Algarve Resident – everything you need to know about the Algarve (south of Portugal) if you are a foreigner to the language. Check out the original post here.

For the most important meal of the day, why not forget the skillet and turn on the oven instead?

Some out-of-the-box thinking and this is what I came up with. All you need is a muffin pan or individual tin cups, plus the following ingredients:
▪ Eggs
▪ Slices of bread (whole wheat for a healthier version)
▪ Cheese (I used Caprino de Odemira, a delightful goat cheese from the Alentejo)
▪ Something green (fresh rocket or spinach)
Presunto – our smoked ham (smoked turkey also goes very well)
▪ Salt and pepper to taste

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To assemble everything, follow these steps:
1. With a rolling pin, thin the bread slices. Grease the muffin pan and line with the bread (you can cut and fit to adjust), according to the number of servings you wish to bake.
2. In a previously heated oven (180°C), pop in the muffin pan to slightly toast the bread before stuffing with the remaining ingredients. This will prevent the bread from becoming soggy and gives structure to each individual serving.
3. After about five minutes, remove the muffin pan and stuff with greens, ham and cheese.
4. Add one egg into each muffin, season with salt and pepper. Bake for another two minutes and turn the oven off; the eggs will finish off by themselves. If you like runny eggs, bake no more than six minutes.
5. Remove from the muffin pan or individual cups. For a ‘wow’ factor, cut in half and watch the egg yolk ooze out in style.

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This is a great idea to have fun in the kitchen, especially with kids – it’s also an amusing way to play with ingredients (or to persuade anyone to eat greens in the morning).

Any leftovers? Store in the fridge for a grab-and-go breakfast the next day.

Char Siu Bao – Portuguese Pulled Pork Version

Being american, I obviously love pulled pork. For this recipe I used a pressure cooker, which is common in many portuguese kitchens. Nowadays, not many people use it, maybe because they are afraid of them, a few cooks also say it takes away flavor. In my opinion, I think it is a very interesting physics experience. To use a pressure cooker means to make slow food cook fast. Obviously this is not the answer to all of your cooking laziness, not everything can be cooked in it, nor will every meal resemble a slow hour after hour flavor developed feast. There are a few tricks I use and are very useful, also a few negative effects on using this cooking method without choosing the right ingredients and/or time/temperature relation.

So, what does a pressure cooker do? By inducing high temperatures in a trapped environment, steam is trapped and food will overlaps water’s boiling point (100ºC). Any tough connective tissue will be easily tenderized in a short period of time. This is good, but doesn’t allow for flavor development. Don’t get me wrong, it will be yummy (if you use the right ingredients and/or seasonings) but a 30 minute meal compared to a four hour meal will have a different outcome. Also, low temperatures allow for less flavor and moisture loss. You might be thinking now – so why is Mel doing a pressure cooker recipe in the first place? Well, because in many cases it can be a life saver, like when you have little time to cook, whenever you feel like eating a tender piece of pork, or just experiment and apply some physics knowledge into a recipe.

Basically, this idea just came about when cleaning the freezer. Found a huge hunk of pork, that was desperately in need of being cooked. So, here is what I did to it:

  1. Marinated palm sized pieces of pork shoulder (for 1 hour) in: red wine, garlic, bay leaf, red wine vinagre, freshly ground pepper, rosemary, pimentão doce (PT version of paprika) and salt;
  2. Heat the pressure cooker with extra virgin olive oil and brown the meat on each side (depending on how much meat you use, you might have to do this in turns, just remember to not overload the pan as it won’t fry the meat, it will just steam, and you don’t want that – yet).
  3. Add a bit more olive oil and fry some thinly sliced onions and shallots, and smashed whole cloves of garlic (the skin gives out great flavor);
  4. Add in the previously seared meat, the marinade, chopped plump tomatoes (without the skin) and just enough water so about one centimeter of the meat is sticking out.
  5. Cover the pan, don’t forget to attach the nozzle. Bring the heat up to high, when the nozzle starts to spit out vapor and spin, set the heat to medium (you don’t want it frantically spinning) and time 25 minutes.

Here is the thing about timing whatever you are about to cook in the pressure cooker: it has to be just the right amount of time, and if in doubt, set less time, because if you overcook it, there is no turning back. If it is undercooked, you can try out a few more minutes till perfection is achieved.

For safety precautions, turn the stove off, and let the pan set until the nozzle stops whistling. By then, remove the nozzle with a heat proof mitten or tea towel and let the rest of the steam escape. After two minutes, it’s safe to remove the lid, and don’t put your arms or hands above the part you are removing, as the concoction is pretty hot, and wether you are or not sensitive to heat, just stay as safe as you can and keep body parts out of the way!

This was how I made a quick version of a pulled pork, portuguese style, with plenty of sauce. Always rectify seasonings, as this is not one of those try it as you cook it type of meals. If you think it should cook a bit longer for added flavor, so be it. This technique is basically a handicap for tenderizing food, it is a jumpstart that you can use in various ocasions. Prelonging cooking time after, without the pressure, is perfectly normal and acceptable.

You can also use the pressure cooker for beans, chickpeas, any dried legume that takes generally a long time to soak in water, or even potatoes which will cook in less than 10 minutes. You can find many charts online, that can aid you in cooking whichever ingredient you want.

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Now, for the dough:

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams all-purpose flour
  • 5 grams dry yeast
  • 7 grams baking powder
  • 30 ml peanut oil
  • 250 ml cup warm water

Procedure: Mix the yeast, sugar and warm water with two tablespoons of flour, let set covered for at least five minutes. Add this mix plus the oil to the flour. Knead the bread by hand or with the help of a stand mixer swirl paddle, between 7-12 minutes until it is smooth and non-stick to the touch. Let set in a oiled bowl, covered with a moist towel, for about two hours or until doubled in volume. Make a hole in the middle of the dough and add the baking powder, mix well and let set yet again in the fridge overnight or at least another couple of hours.

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char siu bao filling

Here is the pulled pork ready to be packed into a pillowie piece of dough.

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char siu bao in steemers

The original recipe requires a steaming basket, this one I used has two levels, which can be great for large quantities of for steaming two different things at once. As this was my first time making a Char Siu Bao replica, I decided to also cook part of the batch in the oven, and the differences in both versions were outstandingly delicious.

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Here is the oven baked version: crispier exterior, browned because of the high temperatures and Maillard Reaction. Downside – the filling dried out more, while the steamed buns maintained a very moist and juicy filling.

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On the left – steamed. On the right – baked.

The steamed ones turned out to be my favorite, mainly because the interior kept so saucy, and the dough turned out extremely soft.

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The steamed.

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The baked.

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The bite.

Purple Basil and Peanut Pesto

Here is a recent recipe my friend Daiane Lopes and I developed by late September this year, when purple basil was blooming like mad in the herb garden. It has also been published on the online version of Umbigo Magazine.

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Here is Dai picking the basil.

Ingredients:

  • 60 grams purple basil
  • 30 grams roasted salted peanuts
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 30 grams shredded Grana Padano
  • 60 grams extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, also to taste

Easy as pie, although this recipe doesn’t resemble one. Mix everything in the food processor, except the olive oil, which should be poured in while the peanuts and basil are minced. The original pesto recipe doesn’t include peanuts, but pine nuts are remarkably expensive. And peanuts are a good alternative. Make sure not to turn it into a basil peanut butter, a little bit of texture stands out in any recipe you choose to use it in.

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Store the pesto in a jar and top with more olive oil, it won’t last long so the olive oil should continue to cover the surface for less oxidation from exposure in the fridge. If not intended of using in the near future, freezing in ice cube containers is also an option, and an easy fix up to make a quick sauce or enrich a vegetable soup.

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I always find a cute jar somewhere in the kitchen.

Besides the versatility of a pesto, or pesto related recipes, the best and most delicious way of eating it is on bread, what else.

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Huum, pesto on toast.

pesto on breadLovely purple from the basil leaves, unfortunately it doesn’t stick in the pesto!

 

The life of a girl in a professional kitchen

Currently I have been developing my culinary skills in two different restaurants. Between that, trying to write a few posts ever so often, plus trying to have my daily life of a twenty-three year old in the big city, I have taken on yet another project: writing for the Portugal Resident. Finally, everything that I’ve done so far has shown me that hard work, a little sacrifice, and a ton of passion is the road to success.

Not to long ago I found an article about the typical 23 year old – basically fear of what a young adult can achieve, while wondering through the world and trying to become an adult worth of a little pride, full of drive and hope that tomorrow will be a bright day in every way.

I feel a little sleep deprived, I have also acquired a keen magnetic attraction to ovens and everything hot that can burn. I have at least 5 burns at the moment to prove it. Oh, and I also spent a few hours in the emergency room about two weeks because I sliced off the tip of my thumb. This is all a part of what I knew I was getting into. And, I’m loving every minute of it. Not knowing what awaits me in the kitchen tomorrow, or even in a few weeks time, excites me. Nothing about working in the restaurant business in easy, but it is versatile enough to find what is worth working for and the best part can also be the people that are a part of the venture.

So far, and after six months of wondering how my first steps into the food world would be, nothing could of gone more fluid and in sync with than I could of wished for! In just a few words (ok, maybe a few more than just a few) I can tell you how a young female cook handles her femininity with plenty of dignity while cooking her heart out:

  • There is no time for tv shows, sometimes I have no clue with what is happening in the world. My main source of entertainment is music! Every week, my playlist gets longer and funkier.
  • Having a bad hair day is, like, everyday. Putting it up, braid, whatever, it just ruins it, plus all the hats, scarves that just flatten everything like it has been ironed for ages.
  • My collection of nail polish gains dust while I have no time to even think about getting a manicure. That stuff just isn’t a part of my beauty routine anymore. Chopped and clean has become the new french. Although, a tube of hand cream is always available, as most of the products, plus all that dish washing, can really ruin soft skin.
  • I no longer cook in my own kitchen. It is sad, and true, but working from 9 am till midnight with 3 hours for a shower and a nap – you get my point. None the less, my roommate and I will run to the supermarket if we crave a fresh batch of pancakes or are in desperate need of a warm bowl of stew.
  • Coffee has become my new best friend. Plus, portuguese coffee is the good stuff! That’s why we drink so many of them.
  • Weekends means party time, a bottle of wine, and sleeping in past noon. Come on, I deserve it.
  • Sentimental life is hard to get by with. It’s just, on pause, let’s put it that way.
  • Pampering our beauty needs is somewhat of a novelty now and then. We try to, but don’t always have the time for it!
  • Cleaning up the house and organizing household chours can become a weekly necessity, just to become a bit more relaxed by knowing that clean clothes are available (when it doesn’t rain, of course).
  • Wearing heals? I admire those who have the patience for such. Feet hurt, at all hours, and comfy shoes are a must.
  • Sleeping 8 hours a day would be a dream come true! I’ll just sleep when I’m old, that’s what I keep telling myself every day.
  • Finding time to cook up something new, wether it is for a staff meal or just the sake of using up some leftover egg whites, can become the highlight of the week.
  • Finally, dealing with so many men can become a challenge. Not only the dirty remarks, the stupid jokes, the overprotectiveness they feel is needed toward that female presence, but the fact that we understand that they need us, more than they can imagine. We women rock. And we are definitely capable of managing, multitasking, keeping up a smile and a classy attitude even with all that flour scattered on our aprons.

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That’s me, if I were a cartoon housewife cook!

So this goes out to all the girls, women, master queens of the food world. Keep on cooking, inventing, dazzling foodie needs anywhere needed. I will soon post a few of my current projects and some holiday season goodies 🙂

Carob Pão de Ló – Portuguese Genoise

Yes, another carob post. It is only my second, but the first one with an extra ingredient. And a few decent photos of the actual carob pods!

pão de ló 2

carob inside

If you are interested in knowing about carob and a bit of it’s history, please visit my first carob post – carob brownies. Today you will see a twist on a portuguese classic cake, called Pão-de-Ló, which is basically eggs, flour and sugar, like a genoise. The main difference between the classic genoise and the utterly appreciated pão-de-ló português, is that we have many, many diferente versions. Some with chocolate, others with twice as much egg yolks, some extremely gooey, others dry as a bone. But I have never seen one made with carob flour, so that was my new unfascinating invention because, well, it’s just a carob version of the cake, using a so called regular recipe, but with an alternative flavor, compared to the basic plain or chocolate. But, as usual, a deliciously simple recipe.

le gewy piece

Back in the days, people used to break apart a pod and chew on it, as it has a very sweet flavor (I have done this myself and it is strangely good).

primeiras decorações

So there is this place in Portugal, north of Lisbon, called Rio Maior – this is suppose to be the capital of Pão-de-Ló. But further north, you will also find Ovar, which also has it’s own special version! Basically, the really appreciated version, is with a huge amount of egg yolks, and a short baking time, so the middle will sink and have an extra gooey centre which resembles the typical doce de ovos (egg yolk and sugar syrup reduced into a sticky syrupy sort of custard, used in most popular sweets). Oh, and every region of Portugal takes pride in their own different recipe. This is a very common treat through the holiday season, and the basic staple for making many birthday cakes (without the undercooked center) because it is simple to make, bake and decorate (usually with a huge amount of egg yolk cream – doce de ovos, almonds, fios de ovos, gila or even a few chocolate extras).

upside cake

 

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams all-purpose self rising flour
  • 30 grams carob flour
  • 250 grams sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • Zest of half a lemon

Procedure: Pre-heat you oven to 160ºC. Start by sifting the flours, i like to do this twice, but the second time while I incorporate it in with the eggs. Heat some water in a pan on the stove, about 2 cm deep is enough, this technique is to help melt the sugar and create successful air incorporation. Beat the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest in a glass bowl above the pan with heated water. Make sure you use a big bowl, it will triple in size, for at least 7 minutes. When it foams, expands and has no residue of unmelted sugar, it is time to add the flours. Again, use a sifter, and add a bit at a time, while folding gently. This is a patience required process, do it slowly, and try not to pass through the middle of the bowl with the spatula, as it will burst even more bubbles than necessary. Think of it like making an angel cake, trying to fold in whites. In the end, I always check if no pockets of flour have remained in the batter, and gently blend it with the rest. Bake in a greased and floured cake pan, for at least 25 minutes, or until desired consistency (undercooked is my fave).

doce de medronho

Medronho, known in english as arbutus berry, is a native fruit for the Algarve, mainly to make Licor de Medronho, a very strong distilled liquor. It doesn’t taste very nice (I have to be honest), but Melosa, the version with honey, custom from Monchique, is to die for. This is the jam version of the fruit, from Quinta dos Avós, which I used as a topping for the cake.

insede cake

carob tree

Part of my carob tree. By end of September many pods have already fallen off.

cake final

close up doce de medronho

 The prickles on the skin are very amusing to eat, even in jam format. 

medronho bitten

Onion Soup au Gratin

It is now raining in Portugal. So I guess it will be raining also wherever you are reading from right now!

For this type of weather, coziness is required. And nothing says warmth and comfort quite like an onion soup with melty cheese gratin and some bread to dip.

close up soup2

My friend Daiane Lopes and I developed this recipe once again for Umbigo Magazine, an online portuguese magazine that has diverse content on culture, events, places and, of course, food. Yummy food we made for you to go a little hungry and rush off to your pantry to check if you have all the required ingredients. Check out the recipe in portuguese here.

onion soup 3

A little curiosity about portuguese cuisine and the use of onions – it is a staple ingredient, basically used as a condiment, in like, well, nearly every meal we cook. Although this recipe is French, we do sometimes take a walk on the wild side and fix up one of our neighboring country’s recipe, non the less, using our national products. However, if you are not a fan of onions, you will still probably like this recipe, as all of the strong sulfide compounds have been cooked down and released and an aromatic yet soft flavor is developed.

onions and thyme close up soup Ingredients:

  • 125 grams salted butter
  • 1 bay leafe
  • 15 grams sugar
  • 1 kilogram white onions
  • 30 grams apple cider vinegar
  • Fresh thyme
  • 30 grams all purpose flour
  • 600 ml water
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 150 grams parmesan or grana padano

Preparation: Melt the butter in a large pan (to maintain the amount of onions from overloading the pan), add the bay leaf and the sugar. Add in the onions and caramelize until golden brown, then splash with a couple of tablespoons of white wine. Mix in the flour, making sure that no grains are left in with the onion mix. Fill the pan with the water and let cook on low heat for at least 20 minutes. The longer, the better, let’s just keep it at that. After this previous stage, and the best part of it, melt some grana padano or parmesan cheese, or in the oven or with a torch in case you use non oven proof bowls.

onion soup

 For that little extra texture, you will need some bread, or some amazing croutons, that you can easily make yourself by using up any day old bread.

close up soup 3

If you are wondering what the little flower is, I found it in our local market, and the lady who sells them told me it was rocket flower. It is very yummy, goes well in salads, looks pretty on a plate and is very nutritious.

soup and pan

Enjoy your saturday coziness with a mouthwatering bowl of comfort soup, bread, and of course, cheese!