Ac­quired tastes

Por­tuguese recipes from Anna Jones

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna Jones Anna Jones is a chef, writer and au­thor of A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook (Fourth Es­tate); an­na­jones.co.uk; @we_are_­food

Every Au­gust, we spend a cou­ple of weeks on the wild south-west coast of Por­tu­gal. These hol­i­days have a kind of ease that only comes from time spent in the same place: the com­fort of rep­e­ti­tion.

I have grown fond of Por­tuguese food. It is sim­ple and homely, boldly flavoured and un­com­pli­cated to ex­e­cute. Like the beaches of Por­tu­gal it­self, we come back time and again to the same adored meals. Rus­tic bowls of caldo verde, a soul­ful soup of kale, pota­toes, good olive oil and not much more, washed down with vinho verde, and cus­tard tarts – which I buy stacked into card­board tubes, com­plete with pack­ets of ic­ing sugar and cin­na­mon for sprin­kling – to name two favourites.

Each year brings a new dis­cov­ery, which we weave into the tapestry of our hol­i­day. Last year, it was these mor­eish sweet potato cakes, called broas caste­lares, eaten for break­fast with a short, strong cof­fee. (I’ve made mine less sweet than the ones in Por­tu­gal.) The year be­fore, it was this tomato rice: sweet ripe toma­toes, saffron and pi­men­tón (smoked pa­prika) baked into plump paella rice and eaten from cast-iron pots on plas­tic cov­ered ta­bles within the cas­tle walls of old Faro. For me, hol­i­day mem­o­ries are all tastes ... and I’m ea­ger for this year’s dis­cov­ery.

Ar­roz con to­mate

You can skip blanch­ing the toma­toes – I of­ten do – but I’ve left it in for purists. You could use 50/50 pas­sata and water here in place of the blitzed toma­toes, if you wanted to speed things up.

Serves 4-6

12 large, very ripe toma­toes

Olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 gar­lic cloves, finely chopped

A pinch of saffron

½ tsp sweet smoked pa­prika

A pinch of salt

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 fresh bay leaf, crum­bled in your hand

350g paella rice

Black pep­per

A small bunch of fresh pars­ley, leaves picked and finely chopped

1 If you’d like to blanch your toma­toes, fill a large bowl with iced water and boil the ket­tle. Slit a cross in the base of three of the toma­toes, put in an­other, heat­proof bowl, pour over freshly boiled water and let them sit for 15 sec­onds, then drain and trans­fer the toma­toes to the iced water. Once they are to­tally cool, drain and peel the toma­toes, throw­ing away the skins.

2 Quar­ter the three toma­toes and cut out the seeds, then add the seeds to a blender. Dice the flesh, then set aside for later.

3 Slice the rest of the toma­toes in half and add to the blender along with their seeds. Blitz un­til you have a thin, smooth puree. Put a sieve over a large bowl and pour in the tomato puree, leav­ing it to sit while you get on with a few other things.

4 Put an oven­proof saucepan over a medium-low heat and add a lit­tle olive oil, then add the onion and gar­lic. Sweat for about 10 min­utes, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til the onion has be­come lightly golden. Pre­heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5.

5 Add the saffron to the onion and cook, stir­ring all the time, for 2 min­utes. Then stir in the pa­prika, sea­son and cook for an­other 2 min­utes.

6 Next, add the diced tomato flesh and salt. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til all the liq­uid from the toma­toes evap­o­rates – about 3 min­utes.

7 Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and enough oil to make the mix­ture siz­zle. Cook, stir­ring gen­tly, un­til the mix­ture

looks con­cen­trated – about 3 min­utes. Re­move the pan from the heat, scrape the mix­ture into a bowl and set aside.

8 Have a look at the blitzed toma­toes in the sieve. Push as much juice through as pos­si­ble, leav­ing be­hind just the seeds, which you can dis­card. Mea­sure the tomato juice into a jug – you need 1.2 litres in to­tal. If you are a lit­tle short, make it up to this amount with some tap water.

9 Re­heat the same pan in which the toma­toes were cooked, then add the rice and 1 tbsp of oil. Stir un­til the rice is toasted – about 2 min­utes. Stir in the con­cen­trated tomato mix­ture and spread the rice evenly in the pan.

10 Let it cook for 2 min­utes, then gen­tly stir in about 500ml of tomato water. Spread the rice in an even layer and ad­just the heat to main­tain a steady sim­mer. Cook, with­out stir­ring, for 5 min­utes.

11 Gen­tly pour in an­other 500ml of the tomato water and sprin­kle over plenty of black pep­per, scrap­ing up any rice stuck to the bot­tom of the pan. Spread in an even layer and sim­mer un­til the rice is al­most al dente – about 15 min­utes. Don’t stir the rice, be­cause it will re­lease starch and make the dish gummy.

12 Pour the re­main­ing 200ml tomato water into the pan, trans­fer to the oven and bake un­til the rice is al dente, a light brown crust has formed on the bot­tom, and the tomato liq­uid is creamy – about 15-20 min­utes. Re­move from the oven and let it rest for a few min­utes. Dis­card the bay leaf. Serve with lots of chopped pars­ley.

Por­tuguese sweet potato cakes Makes 8

400g sweet pota­toes, roasted whole

150g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp runny honey

½ tsp fine salt

225g fine po­lenta or corn­meal

50g plain flour (I use spelt)

75g ground al­monds

Zest of 1 or­ange

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp ic­ing sugar, for dust­ing

1 tsp cin­na­mon, for dust­ing

1 Pre­heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas 7. Roast the sweet pota­toes whole un­til the flesh feels com­pletely soft when you in­sert a knife into them. This may take any­where be­tween 45 and 90 min­utes, de­pend­ing on size.

2 Once the sweet pota­toes are cooked, re­move them from the oven (leave the oven on), slit them open with a sharp knife and scoop out all the pulp into a small saucepan. Dis­card the skins.

3 Add the sugar to the pan and cook on a low heat for 5 min­utes, stir­ring all the time. This will al­low some of the water to evap­o­rate from the sweet pota­toes, but be very care­ful, as the sugar will get ex­tremely hot. Re­move from the heat and al­low to cool a lit­tle.

4 Crack the eggs into a lit­tle bowl, beat re­ally well. Set aside 1 tbsp of the egg to glaze the cakes with later. Line a bak­ing tray with grease­proof pa­per.

5 Com­bine eggs with the re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents (ex­cept those for dust­ing) in a bowl. Add the sweet potato mix­ture and beat re­ally well, un­til you have a smooth and thick dough.

6 To shape the cakes, di­vide the dough roughly into eight pieces, roll each into a ball and then into a flat, oval­shaped cake. Put on the bak­ing tray, brush with the re­main­ing beaten egg and bake for 10-12 min­utes, or un­til golden-brown.

7 When the cakes are baked, re­move from the oven, and while the cakes are still hot dust with the ic­ing sugar and cin­na­mon. Let the cakes cool com­pletely on a wire rack be­fore you eat them. They will keep for 48 hours in an air­tight con­tainer.

Each year brings a new dis­cov­ery, which we weave into the tapestry of hol­i­day eat­ing ...

Cook’s tip Wet hands will make it eas­ier to roll out your sweet potato cakes.

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