Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Veg Curry

Right, I'm writing this as much so I don't forget as to let you know the recipe.

I wanted a veg recipe that I knew I could gorge on when I'm training and wanting carbs and, as I love curry so much, there was only one contender. A veg curry.

Ok, here goes.

Sweat a sliced onion in plenty of vegetable oil, along with 6 cloves, 6 cardamom pods, 1 heaped teaspoon (ish) of ground coriander, turmeric, paprika and ground chilli, 1 diced carrot and a handful of finely chopped garlic.

Once softened, chuck in a few handfuls of diced swede and, the magic ingredient, 50g or so of ground almonds. Stir through then throw in a tin of plum tomatoes, the tomato tin full of water and a good dose of salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil then chuck in a few handfuls of cubed swede.

Boil the bejeezuz out of it for 8-10 minutes until it thickens.

Finally, stir in a tin of drained chick peas and a chunkily chopped red pepper. Turn off the heat, cover the pan then leave while you cook your pilau rice.

I'm not going to bore you with how to cook rice. I've covered it at least once on this here blog so do a search and you're sure to find it.

Serve up the curry with the pilau rice and a very generous scattering of roughly chopped coriander or parsley. Oh, and I'm eating it with a rather large and delicious glass of Rodolfo Sadler/Opi Malbec.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lol Curry

Quick one. One of my favourite dishes in that it uses up leftovers and it's damn tasty.

I call it lol curry, not because it's funny but because of it's main ingredient; left over lamb. This is the remnants of Sunday's shoulder of lamb that I left in the oven for 5 hours on 140 degrees with a few litres of chicken stock and a glass of red wine while I went out for a few beers with my old mate Bobbo who was visiting from Spain.

Anyway, I've covered the recipe before, more or less, here so I won't bore you with it again.

Come to think of it, the main point of this post was really just to say that I'm using the first of my home-grown chillies tonight in place of the dried chilli mentioned in the recipe (which I generally only use because I'm very lazy).

Anyway, must go. Curry to eat!

The Bloke

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Brief Round-up

Sunday, 31st July - Tuesday, 2nd August.

Right, the weather's taken a bit of a turn in the last few days and the food hasn't really been up to much either but we have found other stuff to occupy us though.

First, Sunday. The weather here in São Martinho was pretty rubbish so we headed off to Lisbon Zoo. The weather was unexpectedly fabulous in the capital and we had a great day. It's a nice zoo but, as is often the case, the food was nothing to shout about although it was nice to see McDonalds are branching out.

I didn't try the crocodile burgers though. I'm joking, of course but the sight of crocs basking beneath the Golden Arches did make me wonder.

Monday saw the weather worsen and, buoyed by finding better weather on our travels the day before, we headed out along the coast to nearby Foz do Arelho. Last time we visited Foz it was the middle of winter and the place was deserted. Turned out the weather was actually even worse in August so, after a (very) brief walk, we promptly got back in the car and headed back to São Martinho, only to find the weather had brightened up a little.

Still not nice enough to head to the beach (although it didn't deter some people), we took a walk along the prom, over the boardwalk that spans the sand dunes from São Martinho to neighbouring Salir do Porto and up the huge sand dune at the mouth of the Rio Alfeizerão.

It started raining on the way back and was still raining later on when we headed out for dinner at Restaurante Carvalho - a place Pooky had chosen after we'd had lunch at a place next door earlier in the holiday.

There we shared another enormous sea bass which, as with the one we'd had on our first night out, was butterflied and grilled, dressed with olive oil and capers and served with the usual boiled potatoes and vegetables. It wasn't bad but it wasn't great either. It certainly wasn't as bad as the review I read on Foursquare, which I only read after we'd eaten and I realised that I had a wi-fi signal.

So on to Tuesday. I opened the curtains to see yet another overcast sky. We'd already decided the day before that, if the weather hadn't improved, we'd head back in the direction of Lisbon in search of a bit of sun. Not finding any en route, we continued on to the capital and to the Oceanario de Lisboa.

This is a great aquarium situated on the quayside and houses an impressive central tank containing an array of sharks, tuna, rays and the bizarre sun fish.

We also visited the temporary turtle exhibition which was a little disappointing, if not admirable in it's intentions.

We emerged from the aquarium into bright sunlight so quickly headed back north in the hope that the weather in São Martinho had improved too. It had so we grabbed a few hours on our terrace before heading along the promenade for dinner.

This time we checked out the restaurant we thought we were going to a few days ago when we mistook two restaurants for one - Grelhados No Carvão, beneath the O Farol on the prom. Still wanting to try the cutlass fish, I spotted scabbard fish on the menu and thought it must be the same thing - lost in translation, if you like.

I was wrong and what arrived was actually (and fortunately) a very good piece of grilled swordfish served, as usual, with the ever-present boiled potatoes and veg. The Missus had the grilled sea bream which was on par with others we've had thus far. The service wasn't up to much but the food, wine and view all made up for that.

Well there you have the last few days in a nutshell. The weather's been hit and miss but we've been out and about and tried a few more restaurants of varying quality. Certainly not a culinary wonder but we've made the most of a couple of cloudy days.

The Bloke.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Grand Day Out

Saturday, 30th July.

Another overcast day here on the west coast of Portugal. Definitely not a day for lying on the beach but an opportunity to further explore the region. This time our travels took us to the charming town of Óbidos, a mish-mash of Medieval, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque features (according to the leaflet I picked up at Tourist Information) and one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal. I didn't know there was one Wonder of Portugal, let alone seven. Actually, I don't know what the other six are. Nevertheless, Óbidos is indeed wonderful.

We wandered through the narrow cobbled streets, exploring the numerous tiny craft shops, bars and bodegas selling the local brew, Ginja D'Óbidos - a cherry liqueur produced in the area and sold by the glass, most often (though not always) in a very delicate chocolate cup.

Unfortunately, I was designated driver and didn't get to try it but I did pick up a couple of miniature bottles to try later.

We also learned the story of the ubiquitous Cock of Barcelos that adorns everything from fridge magnets to tea towels all over Portugal.

The story goes that at a banquet given by a rich landowner in Barcelos the silver was stolen and a guest accused of the theft. Tried by the court and found guilty, the man continued to protest his innocence, despite evidence to the contrary. Having a compassionate moment, the magistrate grants the man a last chance to prove his innocence. Spotting a cockerel in a basket nearby, the man says, "if I am innocent, the cock will crow!" Of course, the cock crows and the man is set free. No doubt to the delight of manufacturers and sellers of tourist trinkets country-wide.

After a walk round the castle grounds and the old town wall, thoughts inevitably turned to lunch. With an abundance of similar looking eateries to choose from, we took a seat outside a small restaurant called Burgo down one of the many narrow streets.

Having been thwarted in my desire for bream last week (see the earlier 'Bad-ass Sea Bass' post), I plumped for the grilled dourado (as it's called in these parts). The Missus chose the grilled sea bass.

As we have come to expect in Portugal, the food was simple but delicious. Both the bream and the bass were well seasoned with coarse sea salt, grilled and served whole, along with boiled potatoes and carrots, a side salad and a dressing of olive oil, garlic and parsley.

We walked off our lunch with some further exploration, taking a walk along the perimeter wall and up to the castle, which now houses a 'Pousada' - essentially an inn with a restaurant, which was added in the 1950's and was the first in a historic building in Portugal.

As good as the food was in Óbidos, it wasn't the best of the day. That honour was to be found at a lovely little place that Pooky and I found whilst ambling back from the Intermarche and was literally round the corner from our apartment.

So to the fabulous Cantinho do Amigo; a place so unassuming, we had to actually stick our heads inside to make sure it was really a restaurant.

We got back and reported our find to The Missus. A little later on, as we were heading out for dinner (originally destined for somewhere down at the bay), I suggested that we nip round the corner to Cantinho do Amigo for a drink, to give us a chance to check it out. We ended up staying for dinner and were not disappointed.

Along with the hand-written menu, we were told of about half a dozen 'specials' by the waiter/proprietor. Despite there being both cutlass fish and sardines on the menu, my attention was grabbed by a couple of the specials because, we were told, they were local specialities.

The first was the one I chose - pork with clams. Cubes of pork, seasoned with paprika and a little chilli, and fried in olive oil along with cubed potatoes and finished with a handful of clams and a scattering of parsley.

The second was the choice of both The Missus and Pookster (although our host wisely advised against ordering two of this dish, insisting that one was enough for two) and it was an amazing dish of a whole, jointed chicken, cooked in an earthenware jug with chunks of chorizo, thick slices of pancetta, whole shallots, tomatoes and port. The result, succulent, melting chicken with a smoky flavour and rich, unctuous gravy - an absolute show-stopper and arguably the best dish of the trip so far. Definitely one I'll be trying to recreate when I'm back in Blighty.

Well, whilst the morning's weather didn't look promising, the day turned out to be both a cultural and culinary delight and memorable day for all.

The Bloke.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Mixed Bag

Thursday 28th & Friday 29th July.

A double-day update here. Largely because I'm lagging behind but also because Friday was, quite literally, nothing to write home about. Certainly not from a food perspective.

Ok, Thursday first. An absolute scorcher of a day. The wind that has been around for much of the week had all but disappeared, leaving a clear blue sky and soaring temperature. By the way, I don't really know the exact temperature as there's nothing along the promenade showing it, as there often is in this type of place. I do know that the temperature on our car dashboard was showing 22 degrees on Friday, a much cooler day than Thursday.

Anyway, as usual I've gone off on a tangent.

So, hot day meant a long stint on the beach where I bought a bag of doughnuts from a local lady who walks up and down the beach all day long with a little white cart, tooting her horn. She's very popular and seems to do a lot of business. I'll take a photo of her next time I have my phone at the beach.

The doughnuts tided us over until lunch when we went to the inevitable 'English' cafe, Martinho's. It had been recommended to us by Mary, the lady who showed us to our apartment and gave us the keys, although I suspect she might have an interest in the place.

The Missus had a rather good chicken caesar salad (without anchovies at her request), Pookster had cod goujons, which, she assured us, were very tasty and I had one of the finest burgers I've ever had the pleasure to eat; possibly second only to one I had from Five Guys Burger & Fries in Orlando, Florida, earlier in the year. The menu stated at all the burgers were hand-made from traceable ground Scottish beef and I chose the 'stacked chilli burger', topped with cheese, onion rings, lettuce, tomato and a cheeky chilli sauce on a lightly toasted sesame seed bun. Very good and one worthy of a second visit.

After lunch it was back to the beach to make the most of the fantastic weather.

Later, then, and to dinner. Having eaten out for lunch we decided to eat in so it was a trip to the supermarket for me, returning with a salami and tin of tomatoes. An old 'blokeinthekitchen' classic, this one but one we haven't had for some time.

So, a couple of crushed garlic cloves are sautéed with olive oil until sizzling, but not browned then the sliced salami is added to the oil along with a good dose of black pepper and dried chilli (I used the piri-piri seasoning I'd bought earlier in the week).

Once the salami starts to release it's colour into the oil, add a tin of tomatoes to the pan plus about a third of the can of water. Add a pinch of salt, give it a good stir and simmer for about half an hour, until the sauce is thickened. Serve over pasta (I used spaghetti because I had some) and scatter over some grated cheese (again, using up stuff I had in, I used a mature cheddar but I'd usually use Parmesan here) and roughly chopped parsley.

We enjoyed this outside on our terrace with some crusty bread drizzled with garlic-infused olive oil and a few glasses of a crispy local rosé wine.

And so to Friday. Another misty start so I decided to venture down to the local tourist information office to see what else the region had to offer. Unfortunately, most of the information was in Portuguese but there were a few PC's with free Internet access. I took the opportunity to look up the address of Mundus, the restaurant I mentioned we'd failed to find in an earlier post.

By the time I'd emerged from the office, now in possession of the restaurant's address, the sky had cleared so I headed back to the apartment to gather the troops and head to the beach.

Our time at the beach, however, lasted only a few hours as the sky clouded over so we decided to once again attempt to find the elusive Mundus for lunch.

Our TomTom found the address, no problem, so we set off in the direction of Nazaré. Problem is, there have been a lot of new roads built in the area and we spent a lot of time on roads that, according to the satnav, didn't exist. Still, we knew the way to Nazaré and got there ok, however it was the exact location of the restaurant that eluded us previous. But we had the address this time so we'd find it no problem, right? Wrong. No matter which way we tried to approach the area, we were always directed to the same place - a road that, due to the aforementioned roadworks, now ends rather abruptly half way down.

After another fruitless half hour driving in circles, I headed back to Sao Martinho.

We ended up in a beach-front cafe/bar called Fraxinus where, the day after having one of the best burgers I've had just one block away, I endured one of the worst. Least said about it the better. And the service was rubbish too. In fact the only memorable thing about Fraxinus was that I bought a pair of fake Armani sunglasses from a guy wandering round outside after the arms fell off the Duffer ones I'd brought to wear at the beach (to save my Ray-Bans from getting wrecked). This guy wanted €20 but after I'd walked away and he'd chased after me, he went down to €10. I ended up giving him €5 plus another €1 just to get rid of him after he followed me back to our table gesticulating and rabbiting on in Portuguese.

Later in the day, a rather more momentous occasion, I thought, when we watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with Pooky (aged 8) for the first time.

The day was finished off with a supper of pâté, olives, cheeses, meats and crackers which, in it's simplicity, was far more enjoyable than that awful burger from earlier in the day.

We've now given up on finding Mundus. We've promised Pooks that we'll go to Bem Brasil when we get home.

The Bloke.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Wind and Cutlass

Wednesday, 27th July.

Another beautiful sunny day today but a fairly strong wind cut our visit to the beach short.

Instead, we took the opportunity to explore the promenade, checking out the restaurants on offer for dinner later on.

We chose a restaurant, O Farol (which, if my phrasebook is anything to go by, translates as The Lighthouse) almost by accident, mistaking what was actually two restaurants for one, thinking there was an upper level on the prom and a lower level on the beach. Entering from the prom, we soon discovered our error but the placed looked fine with a nice view over the bay so we stayed anyway.

Soon after being shown to our table, our waiter arrived with an assortment of plates; bread, butter, sardine paté, prawns, something that looked like coleslaw, all of which (apart from the bread) I sent back, asking instead for some olives.

Next, on to the menu. We'd already taken a quick look at the menu outside the restaurant and I'd decided immediately to have the grilled cutlass fish. I'd never had cutlass fish (still haven't, for that matter) but had seen it on a few TV programmes, it being described as being like mackerel.

Our waiter re-appeared and I ordered the octopus salad and the grilled cutlass fish.

Predictably, there was no cutlass fish. The Missus had already ordered the grilled squid with mussels for her and Pooks and, disappointed by there being no cutlass fish, I just opted for the same.

The octopus salad was very nice. Very tender chunks of octopus with a little chopped onion, dressed with olive oil. Simple but delicious.

The Missus had clams to start, simply cooked in olive oil with garlic and coriander as seems to be the norm in these parts. These too were very tasty.

Then came the squid and it was really pretty good. A couple of whole squid char-grilled and a few green-lipped mussels (which I suspect were previously frozen) served with boiled potatoes with a scattering of parsley and wedge of lemon.

I've never had squid cooked that way before and it made a nice change. It's certainly something I'll be trying when we get back home.

We may have ended up at the restaurant by mistake but, unlike the weather, it turned out nice.

Oh, the olives never did turn up.

The Bloke.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Day of Rest

Tuesday, 26th July.

This morning I opened the curtains to find a thick fog covering the landscape as far as the eye could see. It was clear it wasn't going to be a beach day.

After a breakfast of croissants, we piled into our rented VW Polo (incidentally the worst car I've ever driven - despite the Carro do Ano sticker in the back window) and headed off to nearby Nazaré for a look around. Again, we have been to Nazaré before, The Missus on more than one occasion, but we were last there in the winter and most things were closed.

I never really liked Nazaré. It reminds me of Blackpool. That said, in the height of summer it sort of has a charm about it that reveals why it's so popular. A bit like Blackpool, I suppose.

What I was really looking forward to, however, was another trip to a great restaurant called Mundus; a Brazilian-style place where there's a never ending supply of barbecued meats of varying types - like a Bem Brasil sort of affair. Problem was, we couldn't remember exactly where it was.

When The Missus first came here with Lesley in the summer of 2007 on a property search, they were introduced to Mundus by an estate agent. When we returned at the tail-end of the same year (that's The Missus, Pooky and I plus Lesley and her other half, Jac) we managed to find it.

This time, though, it was just the three of us and, unable to find a wi-fi signal anywhere and our TomTom not helping, we spent half an hour driving round Nazaré and neighbouring Sitio to no avail.

By the way, I'll apologise at this point for the incorrect use (or omission of) punctuation on the Portuguese words. I can generally get by in Spanish but struggle hopelessly with the Portuguese language.

Anyway, we never did find Mundus (even after reversing the entire length of a car-lined one way street that I'd inadvertently driven up the wrong way) and found little else to inspire us so returned (via some very precarious roads when the satnav took us a little off-piste) to Sao Martinho where we had a rather forgettable lunch of swordfish (me) and calamari (Pooks and The Missus) at a little cafe down one of the side streets off the beach.

At least the weather was improving. The fog and cloud from earlier had cleared, revealing a clear clue sky and blazing sun. Normal service resumed.

After lunch, as the girls headed to the swimming pool and with the market closed for the day, I ambled down to the supermarket for some inspiration for dinner.

It came from the butcher's counter where I bought three chicken legs (thigh and drumstick attached) along with some fresh salad, rice, garlic-infused olive oil and some piri-piri seasoning.

After marinating the chicken legs in the oil and piri-piri for a few hours, I simply roasted them (around 40 minutes at 180) and, after resting them covered with foil whilst I cooked the rice and prepared a salad, served them scattered with a little fresh parsley along with the rice, salad and some crusty bread drizzled with the garlic olive oil.

Oh, and, ironically, a white wine bearing the name Mundus on the label!

We still hope to find Mundus (the restaurant) before we leave. Once I find a wi-fi signal and get an internet connection (when, incidentally, I'll also be posting all of these blog entries) I'll look up the place online and get the postcode. Presuming, of course, that the place still exists. Until then, we're sticking with Sao Martinho. They're not short of a restaurant, that's for sure.

The Bloke.

Guitar Hero?

The Axefactor