Once again I turn to my faithful soups. I know it’s still summer (just about!), but as I grew up all meals started with a soup and I want my kids to have the same healthy habit. The truth is I never tire of making soups and made this one this week because I had a chickpea craving. I love chickpeas! (I know I’ve said this before…). And they are healthy too, which is a huge bonus.
One of the staple foods of Portugal is salted cod or ‘bacalhau‘, as we call it. It may well be THE staple food. The tradition of eating salted cod is at least 500 years old and we pride ourselves in preparing salted cod in hundreds of different ways. Literally hundreds, and some claim thousands. Cod is the only fish the Portuguese don’t eat fresh and somehow the tradition has stuck to the point that buying fresh cod in Portugal is hard if not impossible but buying any other fresh sea creature that can be eaten is easy. We love our fresh fish but we wouldn’t have our cod any other way!
When I started food-blogging about 8 months ago I set extremely high standards for myself. I am lucky enough to have come across some truly inspiring food blogs and wanted nothing less. However, that only managed to depress me as there was no way I could emulate those wonderful blogs I read regularly. I was (and still am) learning how to be a better cook, make up my own recipes, take good photos of food and reading about light, lenses and composition. I had (and still have) two small children, a full-time job, a hectic lifestyle, home & family to look after, long commutes to work, running to keep healthy, gardening, DIY, you name it. And I had just started. Some of the blogs I am talking about have been around for a least a couple of years and others more.
‘Migas’ are a traditional Portuguese and Spanish dish that was created by shepherds who, as they went to the fields to look after their flock, had little more than stale bread and wild garlic to cook with. The story goes that the tradition stands and that they still cook the dish today.
This is so traditional Portuguese/Spanish, even the sterner connaisseur of Iberian foods would agree. And it’s proper peasant food! Is there anything more authentic? As usual, garlic and olive oil feature abundantly and it is surprisingly simple to make.
A friend of mine who lived in the Far East told me that when it comes to Thai food, Rosa’s is not far from what you get in Thailand. Many of the foreign foods we get served in our countries get ‘localised’ (for lack of a better word), so when someone tells you there is Thai food in London that resembles food served in Thailand – you pay attention. Inevitably I had to try it and I have been 3 times since.
Nothing can go wrong when you use pulled pork in a dish. Nothing.
And this is no exception. I wanted to use leftover pulled pork (which freezes really well, by the way) without making the usual sandwich with slaw on a brioche bun. I remembered my favourite breakfast in one of my favourite London breakfast places – The Breakfast Club in Hoxton. I always have the same and even though their menu is extensive I just can’t resist their Chorizo Hash Browns. It’s a potato, onion and pepper ‘hash’ with chorizo, eggs on the side and feta as an optional extra. It really works! So I thought if I used pulled pork instead of chorizo it should still work. Oh and it worked. It really really worked.
A dessert on my blog?! A cake?! Even I am surprised. The truth is I am not a cake baker by any standard. And I am immensely jealous of people who bake cakes with effortless grace. In fact, I can’t bake a cake to save my life and every time I naïvely embark on doing it I fail miserably… but I can bake this! A gooey, oozy and boozy chocolate indulgence. Oh yes.
If you ever find yourself throwing away the bones, skin and remains of a roast chicken, roast chicken thighs or wings, stop! Approximately one hour separates you from that moment and a delicious chicken broth that will feel like a warm hug.
Throw those bones, skin and chicken debris in a pan with a few vegetables and olive oil, add water and small pasta, let the heat do its magic and you will be suitably rewarded. It really is that easy.
I feel strongly about this topic mainly because over the years I have had quite a few people expressing indignant views about my use of salt when I cook. I truly believe that many people misunderstand the use of salt in food. Salt is not to make food salty (though if used in excess, eventually that is what happens). Salt is an enhancer of flavour. It makes food speak louder, it turns the volume up, it develops the flavours by waking our senses up when we eat, it makes them sing. Without it, many dishes don’t taste of much and are left with texture alone for interest. Not enough for me I’m afraid. The funny thing is that my food does not taste salty but if my guests are with me when I add salt during cooking they always make a comment. Ok, I have occasionally put too much but also have sometimes put too little, just like any other cook.
White sangria is a bit of a paradox, because the word ‘sangria’ comes from the word ‘sangre’ meaning blood in Spanish, to refer to its red colour as it is usually made with red wine. But white sangria is a lovely thing, especially when the weather is warmer and it accompanies seafood dishes perfectly. Or served at a BBQ. Or just because. It now features as prominently in our lives from May to October as Pimms and lemonade with strawberries and cucumber.