Street Food Festivals – Portugal 2015 (Part 1)

In Portugal, street food has become a thing. Actually, all around the world it has gone berzerk every way possible. It’s just another one of those things that goes gourmet after years of being in the dark. The same has happened to octopus here – it used to be cheap and a certain meal for whoever couldn’t afford to buy meat or better fish – and today it’s ridiculously expensive because, well, it just became popular. This is a problem with street food, it can be great, delicious, or a right disappointment if the money is not worth the while. I don’t think many are going to do the effort to have the best mouthwatering product, they might just be more interested in promoting their facebook page or getting tagged on instagram by a new client.

And yes people, I have had my coffee this morning, this opinative text is all about to make sense in the second half (which will be published later today). Bare with me.

So recently I had the opportunity to attend the World Food Tourism Summit in Estoril organized by APTECE, the National Chef’s Congress and during that week, the Street Food European Festival was also in the vicinities feeding hungry people. And waiting for me. What a bonus! Aha! I did have fun, took some cool photos, had a great glass of wine, a few snack items and enjoyed great company while talking about food. In every possible way.

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Legal Nomads – One of the cutest trucks throughout the event, aside from the cutest lemonade stand I saw on the last day, if I were to acquire a mobile food service item, this would be it. Specialty: crepes. Pretty good, or just to say, not bad. I’m a huge fan of pancakes, crepes so so, but I think I was just a bit disappointed with the filling, it didn’t blow my mind away. On the bright side, the inside kitchen of the truck is adorable – I would have it in my own house if I could!

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Waffelaria Tradicional – These guys showed up on Shark Tank PT version – I credit them for their high quality product. Liege waffles are hard to come by, actually I don’t think I have ever had the opportunity to eat a homemade, freshly pressed waffle, let alone a chewy Liege style with chunks of sugar (just like it should be, traditionally), from a tiny stand. I totally recommend, better than any crepe, any day.

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Maria Wurst – From what I have read about Maria Wurst, it is a fusion between two female geniuses – one portuguese, the other german. This is a match made in heaven, how can a sausage business not thrive with two sausage native speaking women?

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The two sausages my friend and I had. Simply delicious and oversized compared to the size of the bun (just the way it should be). Simple, with onion, sauerkraut (which was very good) and my smoked wiener was divine! I hope to see you guys more often!

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The Skinny Bagel – CUTEST VAN EVER! No, seriously, I love the stand, the color (great marketing tactic btw – orange is one of the star colors in attracting people’s attention), the menu. Unfortunetly, the day I decided to try one – no more burger bagel, which was the one I wanted to try.

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The Crabbshack – No more soft shell crab burgers when I went to their stand. British dudes, who were invited to the event, obviously they have a fish and chips sort of concept – with squid, no more crab and they had no way of finding more because it came all the way from the UK. Shame, but I did take a photo of whatever they had left to sell.

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The Copenhagen Coffee Lab – I don’t know why I came here, honestly, after living in Portugal for so many years, I kind of poo poo any coffee that isn’t PT style. Or Kope Luwak! (good stuff)

I suppose I just wanted to know what the whole fuss was about, and was feeling in need of a caffeine boost before I went to work. Not bad, but, just a simple overpriced laté. Plus, the lady was in some sort of intense co<sçdfjknversation with some random fellow, while I stood there waiting at least 5 minutes before she acknowledged my existence and asked me what I wanted. Anyway, cute heart. And cute stand!

This is the end of part one hungry people, later on I will gather the remaining photos of day two, plus a few special extras I caught on camera at the congresses.

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.

oven baked version

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.

top jar pesto

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!

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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).

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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.

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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!

Fifi’s Lunch Box

Either you love bacon, or you are wrong.

This post is about a bacony place, called Fifi’s Lunch Box, in Terre Haute Indiana. I hadn’t set foot in the United States since 2002, when I was only an eleven year old girl. So, when my trip was booked after a decade, one of the items on my bucket list was to find a bacon themed place to eat. But it seemed that my list was way too long, I had too much to do with so little time to spare. Finally, on my last day, I begged my nan to drive me to this place my aunt had told me about, that had everything with bacon, even bacon soda!

Off we went, through Terre Haute’s chaotic Lafayette Ave., got lost a couple of times, nearly got hit (at least once), even stopped by the police (no ticket thank goodness – people in Indiana seem to be very kind and unusualy nice, police likewise, even if you turn on a red when you’re not suppose to).

We were about to give up, when my baconstinct said “No Megan, you are too close to just go back home now – what if you only come back after another twelve years?!” and asked around at a gas station. Obviously, everybody knew about Fifi’s, this was a good sign, and back on track we went, to find The Bacon Utopia.

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There it was, shut. I panicked, but knocked, and Jaqueline was there so kindly to open the door and question my curiosity. I think I might of gotten of as some type of lunatic, Nikon around my neck, wanting to take pictures of everything, and asking “where are the Bacon Cupcakes?”. I suppose americans are used to this, so in I went, and got talking to Jaqueline, who was just getting prepared for an event of 300 people the next day (so.much.bacon.arrghh). Their food truck was off elsewhere catering to other customer’s bacon needs in some nearby event. I questioned about their products, complimented on the bacon donut burguer (yes, they do it!) and got lost in all the bacon merchandise stacked up neatly on the shelves.

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I had to say that I was desperate into trying something, as I was from Portugal, where nowhere you can find much bacon enthused people nor places (alghtough I think if anybody would open up that type of business oversees, it would be me), and was eager to write about the shop on the blog. In the end, I took three cupcakes home and a box of bacon candy. Tempted into also buying a bacon lipbalm, and a pound of their homemade bacon (but highly doubted that customs would let me go through with that in my suitcase) I curbed my enthusiasm by sticking to my main plan – to take a few pictures of the yummy bacon sweet goodies, because bacon goes good with everything. Jaqueline was so kind into offering a sample of gooey bacon butter cake, which really tasted like bacon. It was delicious.

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My next mission was to get home with three intact cupcakes, so I could try each one of them, take notes, shoot some mouthwatering pictures and show the rest of my bacon crazed family (who lives in Terre Haute) that bacon sweet tooth works very well.

Jaqueline informed me that they are about to open a new shop, in a new location. North Terre Haute ends up being a bit out of reach, and it is a small place to cater to their upcoming fans. I hope I can check it out next time I go back, and actually enjoy having a meal there.

 So what you should know about Fifi’s is:

– They make their own bacon, applewood smoked, also have a great pork purveyor who caters to big orders, with top notch quality suine;

– The menu is amazing;

– It is a humble enviorment with a friendly vibe;

– “Bacon makes everything better” and “Keep Calm and Eat Bacon” are signs posted on the wall;

– Home of the Bacon Latte (omg);

– Bacon, Bacon and, well, Bacon.

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I hope you guys become international and think about visiting Portugal in the near future, I would definitely become a regular customer, and drag all my bacon friends there.

 About the cupcakes I tried:

Beer batter dough, cheddar cheese and bacon buttercream frosting: wow! Loved the frosting and the density of the cupcake, which was more like a muffin.

bacon cupcake with cheddar cheese

bacon cheddar 2 bitten

The Elvis Presley, banana bread base, peanut butter frosting, chocolate chips and a bacon piece on top: anything peanut butter, thumbs up, with bacon? Even better.

elvis presley cup cake

elvis presley up close

elvos presley up above

Dark chocolate and buttercream frosting with a cute decorative salty piece of bacon on top: lovely fluffy texture, great color contast between the black, white and the rosie piece of bacon.

chocolate upclose

close up all bitten

Beyond recognition, all cupcakes were a success. My favorite was the Elvis Presley, the peanut butter goes so well with the banana and the bacon gives it that extra flavor experience, as salty savory just becomes the “cherry” on top of the “cupcake”.

close up all biten 2

3 in a row

Before I go, I have to tell you about this awesome bacon magazine I found in Rural King (the only place in the states where you can take your pet – even a snake, as long as it has a leash on it. Oh! And free popcorn!). Only in ‘murrikuh! Everything bacon related is in it, from how to make it on the comfort of your own home, amazing recipes and plenty of delicious bacon photos.

Don’t forget to check out Fifi’s website, facebook page and if ever in the vicinities of Terre Haute, or thinking about going to a nearby festival, check out if you are close to tasting a bit of bacon heaven. With homemade bacon, what else?

 Thank you Fifi, for making my overdue trip to the states worth while, and putting up with my everlasting curiosity about meeting your shop. I approve this vittle, as a luso-american foodie! Keep up the good work!

 Bacon is life!

Portugal and it’s Food – Post Foodie Congress Thoughts

After two days full of experiences at the first national congress about food and tourism, organized by APTECE in Figueira da Foz, I am shocked, to say the least.

First of all, I just might of found my calling (yet another one), besides wanting to show the world everything about Portugal and it’s cultural richness. I am never going to give up on enhancing Algarve’s potential as a foodie paradise. With a limited size, Portugal and it’s humans should, by now, be a complete encyclopedia about everything tuga related. I was surprised, well maybe not that surprised, at what most know (or don’t) and share about the south. Yes, we are a seasonal region, why of course we get flooded with tourists in August, but – we have so much more going on besides that. All of the food festivals, always an excuse to go eat a typical cataplana; the beaches and the grotto trips in a random fisherman’s boats; some outstanding unknown and undervalued wines; some of the best recipes with almonds; the fig trees growing in every corner, even in the middle of the city; our oranges that are to die for; carob’s growing potential and superb sweet flavor; the mountainside like Monchique and it’s typical grilled chicken; Espinhaço de Cão‘s great chouriço; potentially the best honey you will ever taste can be found in every saturday morning market (artisanal production); that tasty Folar de Olhão with it’s cinnamon twirlly goodness. Oh, and the tuna! So much to say about the tuna. Our muxama (salted tuna belly and dried for 12 days) is unique and it is only produced in Vila Real de Santo António.

medronho

This is arbutus berry. We make a strong liquor with it called Medronho, the same name of the fruit in portuguese. I have also been experimenting with it’s version of jam.

carob inside

Here is carob I picked from my tree. Some people will still break a pod in half and chew it, because of it’s sweet flavor.

The downside to the Algarve, and maybe a bit all over Portugal is, some people don’t care. I might just sugar coat it a bit by saying that, they should care more. Also, the competition between regions is beyond ridiculous, and extremely unnecessary. You might have the best cheese, but I certainly make the best marmelada! It’s just that sort of thing a proud regional portuguese has to deal with – that is when he/she is a cultural interacting type of person.

Cooperation is important, and getting people to realize how amazing cultural heritage is can become a challenge, specially when lack of communication between small producers, tourists, travel agents, hotels and the outside world is an everlasting problem. We forget that we are a community, that we are able to help each other and build something new, something big, and still enhance a thousand years of historical quirks that make us who we are today.

Going down south once again, and mass tourism aside, we are authentic. We have good resources, lovely beaches, fields rich with agriculture, seasonal markets, fresh fish everywhere. People, we have Food! Whoever hasn’t tried some of the typical regional cuisine, should travel to the Algarve just to do so. Obviously we will have pizzerias, hamburgers, barbecued meat and french fries, to content the not so foodie travelers, and all their kids (man do they eat poorly nowadays).

Basically, if you are reading this at the moment from a foreign country, right down on your bucket list to pay Portugal a visit, and if ever in the Algarve don’t hesitate to contact me for the authentic southern portuguese foodie experience. Mark my words people, readers, bloggers, I am going to change the way the Algarve is perceived by outsiders, and do so much more besides some good weather on a beach for the regular sunbathing tourists.

I have been away for the past weeks, busy visiting family in the US, trying to find and sort out a job, involved in an amazing project (spoilers await) and working on a few posts I so dearly want to share with you. I shall write again very soon, with a yummy recipe with lots of portuguese influence.

Ta ta for now people, keep on rocking in the kitchen xox

Honey Glazed Duck Breast

Hello dear bloggers, today is the day that I finally post a one course meal. If you haven’t noticed yet, I am more of a patisserie fan and ocasional picky person, other than an actual meal maker. Not that I don’t like to make it, but it is a hassle to cook and photograph for the blog, because we are more of a composed dinner family, and you know me and night photography – not happening any time soon.

plated duck

So here it is, the first post of a lunch/dinner option for you to consider, and I hope it is to your enjoyment, as I did spend an afternoon making it for you to see. And me to eat.

duck 2

Duck breast is maybe the easiest things to cook – also the easiest thing to go wrong if you don’t have a clue about what you are doing. Here are a few tips for cooking it, without it becoming dried out and destroyed:

  • Pat the fat with a paper towel, to release a bit more moisture;
  • Take any feather remains out of with a tweezer;
  • Score the fat ever so slightly, without reaching the meat (criss cross way);
  • Salt and pepper the fat and let set for 5 minutes;
  • Use a skillet that has no plastic handle, as you will need to put it in the oven (and no point in ruining the handle, although if this is not possible, just use a previously warm pizza pan);
  • Make sure you have an oven set and warmed to 200ºC;
  • Start cooking the duck breast, skin down, in a cold skillet. Start with a low temperature and gradually turn it up. This will ensure it will melt the fat, which is good for a crispy exterior and release that juicy goodness which will become your sauce or future sautéing ingredient for other recipes.
  • Let the skin develop into a crispy looking delight, but never to the point at which you desire it be, as it will develop further in the oven.
  • Turn the breast over, and let the other side brown as well.
  • Just before finishing it off in the oven, drizzle with a bit of honey (I used Medronho honey, typical of the Algarve – I will further explain exactly what it is and how it tastes), skin side up, then turn the skin back onto the pan and insert in the oven, and drizzle some more honey on top.

honey

  • Bake between 5-7 minutes (this depends on how well done you like it) and add some rosemary stems. I baked mine for 6 minutes, and it didn’t turn out too pink, it was just right for my liking, still with pinkish juice flowing through the meat. This is very very difficult for me to uniformly subject you to such testing, as I don’t work with your oven, nor know the type of pan you have used. Just try doing it once, you are bound to figure out if it turned ok or if you need to change something next time. If you are comfortable with pocking the meat and understanding the interior doneness, then you are on the right path to succeeding this recipe, if not, then just improvise.
  • When taken out of the oven, let it rest at least 10 minutes, still inside the skillet, but check if the skin is to your liking (if it is, turn it side up so it doesn’t get too crispy). If you are afraid of it cooking a bit too much, and you really like it pink, let it rest on top of a cold surface, just don’t throw away the fat, so pore the remaining juices on top and drizzle, you guessed it, more honey (when I say this, it is only a little bit at a time – it always escapes from the meat and dissolves into the fat).

finished duck duck 1 As side dishes, I chose quinoa and roast freshly picked veggies – carrots and beetroot. As the carrots were so small, I didn’t even bother to peel them, I just used a mushroom brush and really scrubbed them with water to take off all the dirt. For roasting the carrots, just drizzle with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt & pepper and let them caramelize in a 190ºC oven. Time really depends on the size of the carrots, and how caramelized you like them.

For the beetroot: I did peel this, and wrapped it up in foil with a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Careful not to mix in with the carrots, as it will tint them with it’s natural purple color, due to the huge amount of anthocyanin pigments (I will explain the wonders of this pigment in a future post). It will also tint you hands after peeling! So make sure to wash them straight away.

vegetables

 The veggies.

carrots and beetroot For the quinoa: slightly fry a whole smashed clove of garlic in a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a bay leaf, add the quinoa, stir and fry for 1 more minute, then add double the amount of hot water. Salt to taste, add chopped cilantro and a couple of teaspoons of any leftover duck fat remaining from the first concoction (now this is way worth it). Any fat drippings left can be stored for future use, or just drench the remaining duck in it so it will keep it’s moisture, and flavor. side plate duck So this was my lunch, with a great crispy duck breast, still juicy and tender. However fattening, I compensated the meal with nutritious ingredients, that just floated my conscious away from the decadently guilty feeling I had. I did eat the whole duck breast. By myself. It was worth it. zoom do prato de lado - cropped

Profiteroles

Today is the day that my dear friend Daiane Lopes and I publish our first recipe together, in a portuguese online magazine called Umbigo. I’m very excited about this, because our first recipe is a mix between both of our cultures. Being brazillian, Daiane makes her famous “brigadeiro” (mixed condensed milk, butter and chocolate) and my american vein is bond to add a bit of peanut butter to it. So that is how our first profiterole topping/filling came about.

Even if you do not understand portuguese, please do take a look at our publication through the following link – http://umbigomagazine.com/um/2014-09-29/profiteroles.html – and appreciate one of the best PT magazines, with so much information on art, cultural events, and many outstanding writers and editors. It recently won a bronze award at Festival do Clube de Criativos de Portugal.

This is where some of our recipes will be posted through the following months, and we have enjoyed very much trying out some new recipes, just like this one.

So, first of all, the 101 Profiterole lesson. This is another recipe adapted from Sebastian Rouxel and Thomas Keller’s book (Bouchon Bakery) and it is a very easy, accessible thing to bake. A few tricks and details however, but surely no rocket science on how you come about to cooking a golf ball sized puff of 85% air and 15% delicate ready-to-fill pastry. The filling is really up to your personal taste, and you can use various types of cream, glazes, anything worth setting inside a little golden puff of hollowness, ready to ooze out after the first bite.

profiteroles 1

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams water
  • 125 grams salted butter
  • 138 grams flour
  • 250 grams eggs, beaten

Preparation:

Start by combining the water and the butter in a pan, over a medium heat until the butter is completely melted and the water starts to simmer. Do not let it boil, as it will reduce necessary moisture. Mix in the flour, with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. By this time, the dough will become a paste and will start to unglue from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the dough into a bowl and with a mixer, beat for about 30 seconds to release some of the leftover moisture. Add in the eggs, in 5 stages of 50 grams each. Make sure that each previous addition is well incorporated before adding the next. At one point, you might freak out because the dough will look grainy and uncontrollably destroyed – don’t panic, this will soon disappear with the constant egg addition, which is responsible for the gooey elastic texture and appearance.

Let the dough cool down a bit, for about 15 minutes, before gathering it in a pastry bag (choose whichever tip of your preference, just make sure it has a big opening). Slightly dab the corners of a cookie sheet with any remaining dough and lay a piece of parchment paper over the top (this will keep the paper stuck to the tray while in the oven, and not fly off and wreck the profiteroles). Start forming the pâte à choux disks, about 2/3 cm diameter, by pressing and slightly elevating the pastry bag to give it some volume. Stop pressing when you mean to start another one, otherwise the dough will just keep on going while you stretch the bag up and mess up the pretended format. Keep about 2 cm of distance between each disk.

Dab a finger in cold water and smooth out any tips that remained from your marvelous piping techniques (it happens to me, to you, everyone, and you just can’t prevent that tiny little bump from forming). Lay the tray(s) in the freezer until the disks are removable. This is another great freezing technique combined with patisserie excellence, first of all because profiteroles should be eaten fresh, within an hour after baking; second because by gathering the already frozen disks in a bag, you have some ready to pop in the oven whenever your sweet tooth desires (without having to defrost them); third because it stabilizes texture by preventing them from melting before “popping”.

frozen profiteroles

This is what the frozen profiteroles look like. They will last up to a month in the freezer, inside a zippy bag.

To bake: preheat the oven to 190ºC, the best setting is the convection one, but if that is not a possibility for you, then try the one you are most comfortable with. Spritz the profiteroles with water, into the oven and reduce the temperature to 170ºC. Cook for 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160ºC and bake an extra 10 minutes. Makes 45-50 profiteroles.

The fillings and/or toppings:

Peanut butter “brigadeiro”:

Ingredients:

  • 395 grams condensed milk (1 can)
  • 300 grams smooth peanut butter
  • 300 grams dark unsweetened chocolate
  • 30 grams salted butter
  • 150 grams whole cream
  • 60 grams caster sugar

Preparation:

Combine the peanut butter and the condensed milk in a pan, on the stove, and bring up to a simmer. In another pan, melt the chocolate with the butter, the cream and the sugar (just until the chocolate is completely melted). Mix both concoctions and set aside.

brigadeiro

Whipped cream: do I really have to give you a recipe for this? I didn’t think so, but just in case, whip 250 ml of whole cream, two tablespoons of sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. Or just use whichever recipe you are used to.

profiterol recheio nata I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream in desserts, but when in the right amount and with a good contrast (like this sweet and smooth peanut butter chocolate Snickers tasting goodness), it tastes rather nice. 

profiterole recheio choco

You can always invert the topping/filling idea. Top with crunchy salted peanut for texture and flavor contrast.

profiteroles 3

Lime merengue: So this was another idea I had for filling the profiteroles, as I have so many of them in the freezer just waiting to be pimped with awesome flavors. And so the pieterole was born! I am feeling quite eager into trying new pie transformations into this tiny format. Just you wait!

alone with backgound profiterole

How the profiterole was invented: a patisserie professional, a french one (of course), one day forgot to add sugar into his pastry cream. He therefore hid it in the oven, and only later on he remembered that the oven was actually hot. And puff, that is how pâte à choux was born.

up profiteroles

Lime curd

Ingredients:

  • 325 ml water
  • 30 grams cornstarch
  • 30 grams flour
  • 360 grams caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 75 grams lime juice (lemon if lime isn’t your thing)
  • Lime zest

Preparation:

Stir and cook the water, cornstarch, flour and sugar. As soon as it starts to bubble, cook for two minutes, always stirring. Gently poor this into the egg yolks, and stir fast so it doesn’t curdle. Cook for a further minute before adding the lime juice and zest. Once this starts to bubble, cook a further 3 minutes. Take off the stove and gently incorporate the butter.

If you think it is lumpy, by all means, pass it through a strainer.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap, contacting directly with the surface, so it doesn’t form an outer layer of unwanted skin.

Merengue

Weigh the leftover egg whites from the previous recipe, and measure double the amount of sugar. This is a recipe for an italian merengue, I find it quite stable as it lasts two days in the fridge without separating, and if you have any leftover just pipe the remaining on a tray and bake in the oven, like mini pavlovas.

Ingredients:

  • x grams egg whites (I used 70 grams)
  • 2x grams caster sugar (so 140 grams as in double the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 5 drops lemon juice/lime juice/vinegar (this prevents the merengue from crystalizing while in the fridge)

Preparation:

Heat sugar, water and acid option on the stove, till 121ºC. A bit before reaching this temperature, make sure you start to beat the egg whites. As soon as they are formed, start poring the sugar syrup, and beat until cooled down (about 5 minutes, if you have a stand mixer, even better, just let it beat a bit more).

This is a very very sweet merengue. If you want to make something lighter, just do it the traditional way (no sugar syrup, but a few spoons of sugar while beating), but remember that that sort of merengue won’t last long, if not cooked. This can be good if you are willing to scarf all of the profiteroles down in one day, the fresher the better. If you have to make this the day before serving, I advise this technique as it holds pretty well overnight in the fridge. It is a truly reliable recipe as the high temperature reached by the sugar syrup allows the egg whites to actually cook into the merengue form. Obviously after a few days it is not at its best, after two it already lacks a bit of substance, but guess what – you can beat it again, and again, and again! Because merengue never over beats. This is true. Google it if you must.

I am in the process of trying out low calorie versions of merengue whilst using gelatin powder, so it is stable without the excess sweetness, but the results so far have not been satisfactory. I have also used, in the past, alternative sugars like isomalt, but it just doesn’t taste that good, and it is not very hygroscopic (keen to holding on to moisture/water) so it acts very differently and ends up separating faster than the caster sugar version. It is beneficial for weight watchers and diabetics, because as an alcoholic sugar, it is only partly absorbed into the body. The negative side: it isn’t as sweet.

side profiteroles

bitten profiterole

To fill the profiteroles: make a little hole on the bottom side with a knife, anywhere the dough is most fragile so it is easy to poke without destroying much of the puff. Use a thin tip and a piping bag to help, and don’t overdo it with the filling – otherwise it will get too rich. I usually weigh them after filling, and between 10-15 grams of filling is perfect.

If you prefer, you can open them, fill them, and shut them again. Whatever is easiest for you, but keep in mind that maintaining the filling a secret is the best part of eating a profiterole in the first place!

For the merengue, the funnest part of all, use a torch to slightly brown the topping, it will taste like a roasted marshmallow.