Algarvian Carrots

Here’s a vegetarian nibble, nonetheless a very Portuguese one, specific to the Algarve, the southern part of the country.

sem título-228

Our tidbits, or petiscos as we call them, are a reason to mingle and an excuse to have a drink or two. Unlike the spanish tapas, which were born out of necessity, traditionally seen as a slice of bread used to cover glasses of wine to keep the flies away (I have always wondered if there is any truth in this – I would suppose that flies would be more attracted to food than to booze, but the concept does make sense as the verb tapar literally means to cover something).

The Algarve was only conquered in 1249 and considered as a separate part of the country for centuries. Given the fact that Portugal was occupied by diverse cultures for so long and is vastly known for being the main entrance to Europe, the Algarve in particular prospered into a very unique region. Boasting grand monuments like Moorish castles, places named with the “Al” prefix and special ingredients, this region is characterized by its predominant Arab influence – such as the recipe I share with you today.

In restaurants and taverns through this southern part of our country, you will find this simple marinated carrot preserve, made with cumin – one of the many ingredients that has become part of our traditional food.

I posted this recipe on the Portugal Resident a month ago, but I am now posting it on my personal blog in honor of the Rota do Petisco (the Tidbit Route), that has been going on since the beginning of September, and only has one week left. Basically it’s a route where various restaurants and food & beverage establishments have a specific petisco + beverage for only 3€ (sweet and coffe or regional liquor goes for 2€). You adquire a passport for 1€ (money goes towards social programs) that allows you to check out every participant, where it is, what you can eat and till what time the place is open. The specific areas that have been a part of this long lasting gastronomic event in the Barlavento side of the Algarve is Portimão (three areas), Alvor, Ferragudo, Mexilhoeira Grande, Silves and Monchique. Hurry up and be a part of this edible rally until de 10th of October, very well organized and set up by Teia d’Impulsos – next year, expand to Lagos please!

Now about this algarvian petisco:

sem título-1355

Ingredients:
– 1 kg peeled carrots
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 teaspoon caster sugar
– 3 cloves of minced garlic
– 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
– 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
– 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and cilantro
– Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedure:
Boil the peeled carrots for 15-20 minutes, with the bay leaf and teaspoon of sugar. They are not meant to be overcooked.

Cut the carrots into large slithers, big enough to be eaten with a toothpick.

Mix in the remaining ingredients except the cumin, which has a special technique associated with it.

By slightly heating the seeds in a non stick frying pan, they become more aromatic. Just make sure not to burn them!

Don’t throw away all of the cooked broth; keep at least half a cup for the marinated concoction and the remaining can be used for a soup or to make some tasty vitamin-rich rice.

sem título-1364

I also made this cheese twisted peanut pesto bread (future recipe to post), in the meantime you can check out one of my oldest posts with the peanut pesto post, special edition made with purple basil.

sem título-1367

For one of those lazy afternoons, I enjoyed the marinated carrots, the cheese pesto bread and some extra virgin olive oil with droplets of homemade balsamic glaze infused with orange zest and rosemary.

This is a great recipe for a nibble evening with friends, or to make a different salad.

Any leftovers? Make a tasty tuna sandwich for lunch, with this veggie as an extra filling.

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