Sunday, February 26, 2017

Easy fish stew and memories brought by food

Easy fish stew / Ensopado de peixe fácil, fácil

Food brings a lot of memories to most people I am sure and I am no exception: certain dishes remind me of certain people.

I think of my mom whenever I eat or cook fish, for when I was a little girl she would cook it once a week, rain or shine, and would tell me every single time how good it was for the brain. :)

Mom never cooked fish the way I bring you here today, but I am sure she would approve it: the fish gets tender from cooking in this flavorsome sauce, enriched by both sweetness from the fresh tomatoes and a bit of tang from the canned ones. I make this quite regularly for my husband loves it and even though I always, always serve it with rice because of him it would be amazing with couscous, too. Easy, delicious and on the table in less than half an hour.

Easy fish stew
own creation

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow bell pepper (about 200g), deseeded and finely diced
½ onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ripe Italian tomato, deseeded and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of water
350g white fish, cut into large chunks
handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat – using a large saucepan is important for it will give you room to stir the fish pieces without breaking them.
Add the pepper and the onion and cook stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the tomato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and mixture is pulpy. Add the canned tomatoes and the water and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fish, season with salt and pepper again and cook for 8-10 minutes or just until fish is cooked through. Stir in the cilantro, check the seasoning and serve immediately.

Serves 2

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Chickpea and chorizo warm salad and a brain filled with food photos

Sherry-glazed chorizo and chickpeas / Grão de bico com chorizo e xerez

Usually, when I am very tired – which has been a constant lately, since the last weeks have been really intense at work – I flip through cookbooks, food magazines and take a look at Instagram maybe trying to boost my brain with beautiful food photos (it is either that or watching some episodes of Sex and the City for the fortieth time – that helps a lot, too). :)

That amount of food photos on someone’s brain might come in handy: I was taking a look at my fridge to prepare the weekly shopping list when I bumped into half a can of chickpeas – leftovers from a salad I had made on the weekend. Minutes before that I had seen a package of chorizo on my cupboard, and the connection was formed in my head: chickpeas and chorizo with sherry. I just was not sure exactly where I’d seen it – on a cookbook? On a magazine? A food blog? Instagram? All of the above? :) –, so I decided to freestyle and it tasted fabulous. I ate it as a warm salad, but I am sure it would work well as a side dish, too.

Chickpea and chorizo warm salad
own creation, inspired by several recipes

1 teaspoon olive oil
70g diced chorizo
½ large onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
2 garlic cloves, minced
200g cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sherry
handful of fresh parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook it, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Add the onion and cook until onion is tender, stirring occasionally to avoid catching in the bottom of the pan. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the chickpeas, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring once or twice, for 3 minutes. Stir in the sherry and cook for 2 minutes or until sherry is reduced. Turn off the heat and mix in the parsley. Serve warm.

Serves 2

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chocolate chip, crystallized peel and cranberry cookies + a hug as a gift

Chocolate, crystallized peel and cranberry cookies / Cookies com gotas de chocolate, laranja cristalizada e cranberries

As the year started and I got back from my week off, I started working on things around the house, maybe trying to clear my mind as I cleared the cupboards and the closet, I don’t know. :)

As I checked the ingredients in my cupboard, I found a bit of crystallized orange peel left from my holiday baking and right next to it I saw a jar of dried cranberries – I immediately thought of putting them together in cookies, and added a bit of dark chocolate for balance. The cookies tasted great and I turned them into a gift for a colleague who is going through hard times now – I hope she felt a bit better with the cookies and the big hug I gave her then.

Chocolate chip, crystallized peel and cranberry cookies
slightly adapted from BBC Good Food

225g all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
80g light brown sugar
80g demerara sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
120g dark chocolate chip or chunks
50g crystallized orange peel, chopped
100g dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars together until creamy and light. Beat in the vanilla extract and egg. On slow speed, beat in the dry ingredients and mix only until incorporate. Stir in the chocolate, crystallized orange peel and cranberries.

Drop 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie onto the prepared pans, 5cm (2in) apart. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, or until they’re golden-brown around the edges. Cool in the pans over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then slide the papers with the cookies onto the rack and cool completely.
Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 25

Monday, January 30, 2017

Really simple brownies - easy, delicious recipe that yields a lot

Really simple brownies / Brownies super simples

I had been meaning to make brownies for weeks, but I wanted to try a new recipe instead of going to my usual suspects, Alice Medrich’s cocoa brownies. As I flipped through books and magazine pages and browsed around the Internet I found beautiful looking brownies – and you know I am a sucker for beautiful food photos – but as I started reading the recipes I did not feel like making them: I was not in the mood of using 350g of chocolate and 500g of sugar to make a 20cm square brownie pan.

I gave up on the brownies and baked a lemon cake instead. :)

But the brownies got stuck in the back of my brain and I went back to my search, and ended up finding these: easy to make, calling for just a bit of chocolate, yielding a big 20x30cm full of brownies with that crackly, shiny top. I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit, since I did not have unsweetened chocolate home (I used one with 53% cocoa solids), and the brownies turned out fabulous. I have packaged some for my friends at work and I hope they like them as much as I did.

Really simple brownies / Brownies super simples

Really simple brownies
slightly adapted from here

150g dark chocolate, finely chopped or in chips – I used one with 53% cocoa solids
¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature and chopped
1 ¾ cups (350g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup (140g) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (10g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¼ teaspoon table salt

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly butter a 20x30cm (8x12in) metal baking pan, line it with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil as well.

In a large heatproof bowl place chocolate and butter. Melt them over a saucepan of barely simmering water – do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Once the ingredients are melted, remove from the heat and cool. Whisk in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in vanilla.
Stir in the flour, cocoa and salt until a smooth batter forms. Spread onto prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack. Cut into squares to serve.

Makes 24

Monday, January 16, 2017

Honey bee cake - four years later

Honey bee cake / Bolo de mel com amêndoas

I have told you already how influenced by beautiful photos I am – if I see a stunning photo of a cake or a pasta dish I instantly add it to my mental to do list and cannot wait to make it. Sometimes that happens within the following weekends, sometimes it takes months, or even years – too many recipes, so little time. :)

This cake, from this gorgeous cookbook, have been on my mind for ages – the photo got stuck in my head when I purchased the book, a long time ago (2012, to be more precise). There were times I felt like baking it but had no honey in the pantry, other times I had no almonds at hand. So here we are, more than four years later, with a cake I could not wait to share with you: tender, perfumed, sweet, delicious – I hope you don’t wait as long as I did to make it.

Honey bee cake
slightly adapted from this beautiful cookbook

2 ¼ cups (315g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon table salt
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (200g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (100g) honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
¾ cup (180ml) buttermilk, room temperature*

½ cup (150g) honey
3 tablespoons (41g) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
½ cup (56g) sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 20cm (8in) round cake pan with a removable bottom or use a springform cake. Line the bottom with a disc of baking paper and butter the paper as well.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, honey and vanilla on low speed until blended. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Stop and scrape the bowl down often during the whole process. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the yolk.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the bowl after each addition and do not overmix.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Rap the pan firmly on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until cake is golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean – it is OK if the surface cracks a little while baking.

When the cake is almost ready, make the glaze: place honey and butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until combined, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture just barely to a simmer. Turn off the heat, whisk in the vanilla and the salt and set aside – it has to be still warm when you pour it over the cake.

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and poke holes all over the cake with a skewer. Pour half of the glaze over the cake, evenly sprinkle the almonds over the cake, then pour the rest of the glaze over the almonds. Place the pan back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully unmold the cake, peel off the paper and transfer to a serving plate.

Cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
*homemade buttermilk: to make 1 cup buttermilk place 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 240ml-capacity measuring cup and complete with whole milk (room temperature). Wait 10 minutes for it to thicken, then use the whole mixture in your recipe

Serves 8-10

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