Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Address

I will no longer post at this address. I am moving to A wee bit of sugar, Cupcakes do Trembom and Trembom. I would love to see you there.

Monday, November 10, 2008

pork and beef ragu

I am not a great meat eater any longer. However, I do like to prepare meat dishes every so often. Having been very busy at work and barely having time to cook properly during the week, over the weekend I decided to prepare some food for lunch and this ragu proved a great treat. It is very versatile: can be eaten with rice, polenta (not that I like it), with pasta, in cannelloni, as pie filling. The spices add a wonderful taste to the ragu, very elegant and gentle. I fall in love with every mouthful I take of this delicious ragu. When it comes to seasoning, it is important not to overdo on the salt otherwise the beautiful flavour of the cinnamon and nutmeg will be lost.
When I do not happen to have sage at home, I use rosemary instead. After approximately 1 hour of the cooking of the meat, I like to add approximately ½ cup milk. I feel that it reduces the acidity of the ragu.


30g butter
¼ cup olive oil
8 sage leaves
2 onions finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1cm pieces
2 stalks of celery, halved lengthways and cut into small pieces
2 leeks, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
Large pinch of ground nutmeg
1 stick of cinnamon
250ml red wine
500g minced beef
500g pork mince
2 cups beef stock
2 cups passata
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Heat butter and oil in a large heavy based saucepan, and add sage leaves, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, leeks and spices and cook, stirring occasionally over medium heat por approximately 10 minutes. Add red wine and cook for 15 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced quite a lot. Add the beef and pork, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, and then stir the remaining ingredients and season to taste. Just go easy on the salt. Bring the mixture to the boil, then cook, covered over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally or until the meat is very tender.

Source: Gourmet Traveller

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cauliflowers and Weekend Herb Blogging

It is that time of the week when I post my contribution to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb blogging. Being a weekly event I always have something to look forward to for my English language posts. If you are reading this post and do not know about Weekend Herb Blogging, please click on the link to get more details about the rules and who is hosting the events in the different weeks. This week it is being hosted by Amy and Jonny from We Are Never Full. WHB is reaching its 3rd birthday and it is indeed a reason for loads of us to celebrate the opportunity to meet so many interesting people who often take part. This week my post is also part of an event that I host at one of my Portuguese language blogs. I was glad that Kalyn was Ok with this dual contribution. I also recommend that you pay Kalyn's blog a visit - Kalyn's Kitchen. it is packed with lovely and very healthy recipes.

I have always loved cauliflower – baked, raw, in soup. Reading a bit more about it in order to write this post I learnt that there are other varieties apart from the white one – the green and purple types. I am not too sure that I have seen them yet. It got me really curious. I did read that it is very rich in fibre, and is also has potassium, is high in vitamin C ( I had no idea), is equally a good source of protein, phosphorous and calcium. It is terribly low in fat and calories. Perfect for a snack. If you decide to boil it, by squeezing lime juice in the water the cauliflower will keep its beautiful white colour.
In this recipe I chose to have it fried. For the first time. It is not deep fried, just shallowed fried. In the end it is coated in lovely spices: coriander, fennel and cumin. I absolutely adored the final result. So unexpectedly delicious. Makes a great side dish to grilled meats. I do confess that I had it on its own as I could not stop picking it. My inspiration was the wonderful book Moro East by Sam & Sam Clark.

1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp fennel seeds
8 peppercorns
Sunflower or peanut oil for frying
1 medium head of cauliflower, stalk removed, broken into florets
(Maldon) sea salt
Lemon wedges to serve

Grind the spices with the peppercorns and set aside. Pour 1cm depth oil into a large saucepan over a medium to high heat. When hot, add the cauliflower and fry on all sides until tender and slightly golden. Drain well on kitchen paper and season to taste with salt.
Mix the spices with the cauliflower by scattering the mixture all over them. Serve with the lemon wedges on the side, and if I were you I would leave the remaining spice mixture at hand just in case you want to sprinkle some more over the cauliflower. It will be difficult to resist.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

sweetcorn polenta and aubergines - weekend herb blogging

I have become a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi..The funny thing is that my recent admiration is for reasons savoury whereas my initial attraction to his work was all to do with sweets bites and his beautiful shop Ottolenghi which can be found at different parts of London. When I bought his book it was for the sweet reasons and then I discovered this wonderful savoury side. The book has some great salad dishes as well as sweet recipes. I know that Kalyn also bought the book and I wonder what she makes of it. Ottolenghi now contributes weekly to one of the Saturday papers in the UK and I have been getting more beautiful recipes as this one here. This recipe attracted me for the use of sweetcorns. I have been getting some in my basket and the thought of making some sweetcorn polenta was irresistible. What with the lovely aubergine sauce to go with it.

I thought that this week’s weekend herb blogging event deserved some beautiful corn. Firstly because corn is one of my favourite ingredients. I lived a great part of my life in a state in Brasil that is big in corn and we would always have it in all forms and shapes: ice cream, soup, croquettes, on the cob smeared with butter, etc. Secondly because of the fabulous goodness in it. Corn contains Vitamin B1 (thiamine, Folate, Vitamin C, Phosphorus, Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid, Vitamin A (more in the yellow corn), Manganese, and several antioxidants including ferulic acid and phenolics. It is an awful lot of benefits and cannot be ignored. Plus sweetcorn tastes so good.

Most recently I read the extract below from a scientific study:
The researchers purchased sweet corn and cooked the kernels in batches at 115 degrees Celsius (239 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10, 25 and 50 minutes. Liu says that the cooking increased the antioxidants in sweet corn by 22, 44 and 53 percent, respectively. The scientists measured the antioxidants' ability to quench free radicals, which cause damage to the body from oxidation, increasing the risk of cancer and heart disease..In addition to its antioxidant benefits, cooked sweet corn unleashes a phenolic compound called ferulic acid, which provides health benefits, such as battling cancer. "It's not a free acid," says Liu. "It's bound to the cell wall and in the corn's insoluble fibers. We found that ferulic acid was substantially increased after the sweet corn was cooked at high temperatures and by cooking it at the same temperature over a longer time."

Sweetcorn polenta
6 corn ears 0r 560g scraped kernels
500ml water
40g butter
200g feta, crumbled
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Aubergine sauce:
150ml vegetable sauce
1 medium aubergine, cut in medium pieces
2 tsp tomato paste
60ml white wine
200g chopped peeled tomatoes( fresh or tinned)
100ml water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped oregano, plus whole leaves to garnish

To prepare the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large pan, then fry the aubergine on medium heat for 15 minutes, until nicely browned. Drain and discard as much oil as you can. Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for two minutes on medium heat. Add the wine and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, water, sugar, salt and oregano, and cook for five minutes to get a deep flavoured sauce. Set aside.

To prepare the polenta:

Shave off the kernels from the corn. Place them in a medium-sized saucepan and pour in the water, to cover. Add half the butter and cook on a low simmer for 12 minutes. Then lift out the kernels with a slotted spoon – don’t throw the water out as you will need it, and transfer them to a food processor or blender. Process for a few minutes to break as much of the kernels as possible, and add a bit of the cooking water if the mixture is too dry. Retun the corn paste to the water in the pan, over a low heat and stirring all the while. Let it cook for about 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mashed potato. When it reaches this consistency it is time to fold in the remaining ingredients: salt, sugar, butter and feta, and cook for two minutes of a tad longer. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve the polenta with the aubergine sauce spooned out on top. Sprinkle fresh oregano leaves on top.

I hope that Kalyn and Susan from The Well Seasoned Cook like the choice made for this weeks events. Please check WHB site for future hosts and how to submit your entry. Kalyn's Kitchen is also a great blog full of terribly nutritious recipes so if you have not yet visited it just click on the name and it will take you straight there.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging round up

We received 23 contributions to Weekend Heb Blogging – including my own. I loved reading every single post that came along. The recipes where quite varied and herbs as usual take central stage. I would like to thank everyone who took part and who have made last week another eventful WHB week. I know that I will be experimenting with some new ways of preparing old friends as well as with new ingredients. I hope you also enjoy reading all the posts. I have had some problems with editing so apologies in advance if the final post is not the best looking one.

And here is the round up:

I prepared some butternut squash in a new way - stuffed with
vegetables and cheese
. It is a very versitile dish and I have already
planned on using different fillings for it.
This is my week's contribution to this event that I am so
fond of.

Cheryl prepares some lovely tilapia – one of my favourite fish, with lemongrass from her own garden. As a bonus she gives a tip about growing lemongrass plants to cat owners. In her post you can read about all the nutrients found in the fish as well. Look for parchment tilapia, lazy style in Gluten Free Goodness.

Brii who lives in the beautiful Lake Garda in Italy,
sent us a lovely recipe of mint flavoured sugar to help
use up this herb. The result is a sugar that can be used
in many different ways and that will give whoever tries
it great pleasure. Check her post at briggis recept och ideer.

Jude teaches a lovely recipe with rice flour which is an ingredient that I believe many of us can really do with learning a bit moreabout it. This recipe of gyun-dan – Korean sweet rice balls is very versatile and there can be many different ways of stuffing them. Do check it out at Apple, Pie, Patis & Paté .

Pam from Sidewalk Shoes prepares a really simple but dead nice herbal rub for pork loin - pork loin arista . She came across the recipe when trying to find a quick way of adding flavour to a piece of pork which she had forgotten to thaw in advance .The source of inspiration was The Wine Lover Cooks Italian: Pairing Great Recipes with the Perfect Glass of WIne

Rachel who is based in Saratoga County and writes
The Crispy Cook has a great recipe for brussel sprouts:
brussels sprouts with lemon balm vinaigrette.
The lemon balm is from her own garden and it is still resisting the arrival of autumn. What a lovely way to present the sprouts.

Anna tell us about apple butter all the way from
Mill Valley California. She prepares her mum recipe
and best of all, she manages to reproduce it exactly
as her mum used to make lovely is that?! She
uses sorghum molasses. It is a warm post with a great
introductory poem. The blog is Anna's Cool Finds.

Andrea writes from Virginia in the USA.
Her blog is Andrea's Recipes.
She gives us a lovely recipe of mint ice cream,
with spearmint picked from her own garden. The
inspiration came from one of her favourite cookbooks, Cooking with Shelburne Farms.

Pam from Backyard Pizzeria delivers a great hummus recipe,
hummus bi tahini. She seems to know her food well. Her post
tells a bit about the hummus preparation process and she
presents us with a mouth watering photo that makes one want
to prepare the hummus straight way.

Haalo who has the blog Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once,
has a wonderful recipe of black-eyed beans with chorizo and
. The dish is flavoursome and so nutritious. She has
managed to marry some fabulous flavours here.
On top of that it is also a stunning dish to look at.

Marija from the lovely blog Palachinka contributes to
the event with a twist on a classic: a grape stuffed gnocchi.
The grapes look like lovely dark pearls inserted into
the delicate gnocchi pieces.They are served with grated
cheese, pepper and chives. What a lovely meal they will

Natashya is the host of the blog Living in the Kitchen with puppies and a lover of basil. She grows various types:
Thai, lemon, greek, spicy bush, opal and sweet basil. For this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging she prepared a recipe of shrimp scampi with basil and tomato using two basil varieties: opal and sweet.

Graziana from Erbe in cucina, who lives in Italy, brings a great recipe that will add a special touch to many dishes. She teaches us how to prepare lemon zest, hot lemon peppers and the recipe of marinated fish with lemon pepper.

Jennifer from the blog Do you like to Cook? tell us about her
success with thyme planted in the her garden and how well it
has done. I learnt a lot about some of its properties as well, and
also some successful combinations. We also get a beautiful recipe
chicken with lemon thyme.

Anna from Morsels & Musings sends us a lovely post from Australia and she teaches us all a bit about the wonderfully fragrant kaffir lime which is used widely in Asian cuisine. She gives us three recipes with kaffir lime.
Kalyn, the master mind behind WHB event, and hostess of the blog Kalyn’s Kitchen, comes with a post filled with lovely baked chillies - recipe for chiles rellenos bake. She has learnt this recipe from a neighbour – I wish I had this luck. I am often the one who does the food hand outs on my street.

Annie from House of Annie and who is in California, brings us
not only a recipe for barley with fuchok and guigko nuts but
also teaches us a bit about barley and its goodness and some
great ingredients from Asian origin. I was hooked on her
post – I could nearly hear her voice.

Maggie from Say Yes to Salad – what a great name for a
blog, came up with a great okra recipe. I might be bias
because I love okra and new ways of preparing it – new to me, are always very welcome. This dish has a taste of seafood in it.
It is a gumbo - an okra squash shrimp gumbo. I will be
preparing it as soon as I can put my hands in some okra.

Ning who is in the Philippines and write the lovely blog
Hearth and Hearth has given a bit of a lesson on Lotus and its edible properties. She crowns her post with a beautiful recipe
of chicken soup with lotus root and red dates. You have to
read this post.

Maria who has the Organically Cooked blog always brings
us great things. This time she has brought us a most unusual aubergine dish: Eggplant pizza. For aubergine lovers like me
this is a fabulous new way of preparing it. Check it out – the
photo is so appetizing.

Dhanggit from the lovely blog Dhanggit's Kitchen has prepared
a delicious chicken with lemon preserves and olives amongst all
her busy unpacking and family reunion.
She tells us about it with such lovely prose that you feel as if you
are at the table and about to savour the dish.
After reading it I felt like buying lemon preserve and heading
to the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Stuffed butternut squash and Weekend Herb Blogging

This week is my turn to host the Weekend Herb Blogging event. I am so excited. It is a very successful event that has been in the blogsphere for quite some time and has quite a faithful group of followers. Since Monday I have already been receiving various emails from people who have sent their contribution already. I am amazed at people’s dedication and organization. Thank you to all of you who have already been able to post your share. Contrary to my own record – I tend to post on the last day; I have already prepared my first contribution to the week.
If you are new here and are not familiar with the Weekend Herb Blogging event, it is a weekly occurrence in the English language blogsphere where should you choose to take part, you need to select a main ingredient for your post, prepare a dish with it and in addition to sharing the preparation method with all, also tell us about the ingredient of your choice. Kalyn from the lovely blog Kalyn’s Kitchen is the master mind behind this event. She is one of the sweetest persons I have come across, very kind and due to the success of this event that has been going on for over 2 years I am not the only one who thinks that. If you want to take part in future events, check this link for details about the event, who is posting and future dates - Weekend Herb Blogging.

My ingredient of choice this week is the butternut squash. Last week I received one in my weekly veggie basket and I immediately ran to prepare it. In one of the magazines that I buy every so often, Delicious, they had a recipe for stuffed butternut squash and I just had to prepare it. It is a very versatile recipe as you can play with it and mix and match ingredients of your choice. It just so happened that I used most of the ones in the recipe this time. However whilst preparing and eating it I already thought about how it can be done differently next time. Not because I didn’t like it, on the contrary.It is just that the sweetness of the butternut squash can go so well with many other ingredients, plus it is a fairly quickly dish to put together. And it is full of good things for you. I was reading about butternut squash for this post and found out a few interesting facts:

  • It seems that it was eaten in the Americas over 5,000 years ago – cultivated by the Incas in the 15t Century
  • It belongs to the same family of the pumpking, cucumber and courgette. The butternut squash falls under the winter harvested squash, whereas cucumber and courgette are summer squashes
  • It is rich in complex carbs and low in saturated fat and sodium. It is also a very good source of vitamin A and C, plus betacarotene, magnesium, manganese, calcium and potassium
  • They are the longes keeping vegetables. If kept in a cool and ventilated place they can be kept for 2 months or more – I would have never thought that. However, if kept at room temperature or in the fridge they will deteriorate quite quickly

There is also the additional bonus that they can be used in so many different types of dishes: gratin, soups, purees, curries, pasta dishes, risottos..

This is how I prepared my dish:

The ingredients chosen were:

2 buttenut squash halved as described below; olive oil, onions/shallots, garlic, spinach, crumbled goats cheese, sal, black pepper, juice of ½ lemon, pinolli

I preheated the oven to 180oC.

I took two butternut squashes and cut off the long halves of each squash. I got the seeds out of the round end as well as a bit of the flesh. I drizzled it with a bit of olive oil and put it in the oven on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime I peeled the long bits and chopped them in little pieces. I also chopped some shallot. I heated a non-stick frying pan, put some olive oil on it and softened the shallots and crushed garlic. I then tipped the chopped butternut squash and cooked until starting to get soft – I added a few drops of water at some point. Only then did I throw the spinach in, and stir it until it wilted. I seasoned and added the goats cheese as well as some pinolli. I removed it from the heat, and squeezed a bit of lemon juice in.

I removed the round bit from the oven and filled them with the filling above – you might have some left over as not all will fit in. You can keep that and have it with pasta the next day..Or do what I did which was to have it on the side as well.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Open lasagne of mushrooms and spinach - Weekend Herb Blogging

This week's Weekend Herb Blogging event is being hosted by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.
Next week I will be hosting it and I am so excited. I really like this event. It has been literally the soul of the English version of my blog. It was a long time ago that I told Kalyn, the event creator, that I would love to host it one day.

This week I will make it by the skin of my teeth. I have had a really busy weekend and just had time to stop and prepare something an hour ago to be exact. I have been thinking about this open lasagne since Tuesday. I wanted to have a light lasagne and also a very seasonal one. So I chose mushrooms.

This is what I read about mushrooms which I did not know: The Pharaohs thought they were food from heaven; the Romans spread them throughout their Empire and from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance they were an autumn feast.

I love them because they taste delicious and also because I know that they are a good source of minerals - specially potassium, a good source of vitamins - specially vitamin B, low in fat and have no cholesterol, low in calories, its protein is superior to that of many other vegetables, and they are in season.

I watched this show on BBC2, What to eat Now, and found out that I could watch the first episode on the website. It is all about seasonal food. This is where my inspiration came from.The first show followed Valentine Warner, the new cook on the block – he says that he is not a chef, walking in the woods with a mate collecting mushrooms and truffles. They gathered quite a few mushrooms but no truffles. And they ended up preparing some scrambled egg with truffles that Valentine’s friend had in his pocket. Valentine prepared this lovely oven baked lasagne as well when he got home. I decided that I wanted mine to be an open lasagne. I just thought that it would be much lighter and I wanted to try my idea.

I had no special recipe - just what i saw on the show. I had a bunch of different types of mushrooms which I sliced and cooked in a very hot pan with a bit of butter, finely chopped garlic and thyme. Towards the end I seasoned it with salt. You could add black pepper if you like. I then set the mushrooms aside, boiled water for the pasta and proceeded to prepare the spinach. In the same pan where I had prepared the mushrooms I threw a big bunch of spinach with more chopped garlic and let it wilt. I then seasoned it with freshly ground nutmeg and a wee bit of salt. I transferred the spinach mixture to a colander and let the excess water from the spinach drain. I cooked the lasagne sheets and then once cooked I heated a non stick frying pan and threw a tiny piece of butter in and a bit of ras el hanout, that beautiful Moroccan style spice which has amongst other things rose petals. I just fried it a bit in the oil and then just threw the lasagne sheets in, one by one, so that they got a bit of the ras el hanout on them.

I then assembled the dish: one sheet of lasagne, a bunch of mushroom, another sheet of lasagne, bunch of spinach, another sheet of lasagne and some grated parmesan cheese on top. I thought of adding goat’s cheese to the spinach originally but in the end decided not to.