January 30, 2011

Ruby red sweet & sour pepper spread


Another one of the vegetables I love is red pepper…It is so versatile both in flavour & texture! Roasted whole with that amazing smoked flavour, or puréed to make dips like muhammara or to be added to soups. Juiced to make a sweet and sour clear soup, semidried to concentrate the flavour, added to sooo many dishes to impart personality…I love it.

This unusual spread I learnt from a friend’s mom. Funny that I was helping her with a catering and she had prepared this herself. When I tried it I was blown, I didn’t even know what it was I was eating! It doesn’t taste like pepper, it has this mild sweet & sour flavour with the texture of a thick jam and with any soft cream or goat cheese it is out of this world! Plus it is soooo beautiful, I find.


She shared the recipe with me, which surprisingly is dead easy and since I’ve prepared it sooo many times, at home, at caterings, it is always a success! We even prepared it for a coke advertisement for Madrid Fusion at a Catering I worked for at the time and it was a big hit as we served it on small round crostinis as a red “tapa” (bottle cap) on the coke itself (that is thought to be the origin of the word “tapa” as we use it now for an appetiser).

So, here it is for you to try. I hope you like it as much as I do as it is a really simple & convenient spread to have, as it keeps well for ages! (due to both the sugar and vinegar added)…so you’ll always have something to surprise your guests with for an appetiser!


Ruby red sweet & sour pepper spread

(enough for a small jar…but you can make more!)

For the sweet & sour red pepper spread:

1 large red pepper

1/3 of its weight of sugar

1/3 of its weight of white wine vinegar

1/3 of its weight of water*

* If you macerate the chopped pepper overnight with the sugar no water is needed as it exudes water itself.

For the goat cheese creamy spread:

50g cream cheese

50g of soft goat cheese

~20g of fresh cream (or as needed to get a creamy texture)

pinch of salt

-For the red pepper spread, wash & pat dry the pepper, and remove the seeds by cutting around the stem of the pepper to pull them out whole. Then, cut the pepper in 3 or 4 segments running the knife through the “sides” of the pepper to get flat pieces to make chopping in brunoise easier.

Remove the white bits attached to the inner side of the flesh which run along the entire length.


Cut each segment into a thin julienne and then in brunoise (small even squares). In this particular spread, it makes a big difference if the pepper is evenly cut into equal size pieces, so keep your patience to do your best.


Weigh the clean, cut pepper on the pan you’ll use to reduce the vinegar syrup and add the same weights of sugar, water and vinegar you’ve calculated.


Like I noted under the list of ingredients, you can as for jams, macerate the cut pepper with sugar and leave it to sweat it’s water. In that case you don’t need to add the water (which really is there to give the peppers time to cook & soften as they caramelise), but still calculate the amount of sugar and vinegar as 1/3.

And…just reduce over medium heat. It will take a while…About half an hour or so. Ah, also be prepared, this is the only “problem” about making this, for the kitchen to smell like vinegar! I had to warn you. To me it’s not a problem, but if you are concerned about the smell, be sure to close the door so the smell doesn’t get to the rest of the house!

When most of the liquid has evaporated and only a bit thicker syrup is left behind, BE CAREFUL! Lower the heat to minimum to control the reduction. This is really the only tricky part about this spread. If you are not attentive, it can easily burn! So, keep it on low reducing until it gets thicker and most of the liquid has evaporated. If you like it more spreadable, not to dry out too much, remove it before it gets too thick, as it will get denser as it cools down. If you are still left with some thick syrup, you could strain it a bit, to just leave the ruby squares behind. That’s entirely up to you!


So this is the result already in my “keep indefinately tupper”:


For the easy peasy creamed goat cheese…if you like you can simply serve over cream cheese, but I adore goat cheese, to I like to twitch it, just place all ingredients in a processor (or you could do it with a fork, just mashing up the goat cheese, after removing the rind) and blend together.


This is how soft & creamy it gets…


Time to serve! I didn’t have any sourdough or any fresh bread for that matter and I’ve always liked it with the ultra thin crisp toasts for a greater contrast…


One last tip, if you plan to serve this to guests, do not spread the cheese too long before it will be presented, as it may dry up a bit, causing uggly looking cracks (this happens more with cream cheese alone than with this softer goat cheese spread, but still it’s best to not plan too much ahead!).


I’m still not particularly good with photography, but I find this spread so beautiful that I’ve taken enough photos to bore you with! I guess it’s best I keep them for myself!;)


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January 17, 2011

Incredibly refreshing monkfish ceviche


At long last we’ve had a week of fantastic weather…I swear it’s like an intensive treatment for my mood! I wake up to a shiny day, already predisposed to enjoy it…wheareas to a cloudy, rainy one…I get more melancholic! And yes, Linguini has to suffer it! This weekend I was determined to make the most out of it, so it wouldn’t just pass me by without noticing…and it worked! I’m recharged for the forthcoming week (though I haven’t done the things I should have for work…well, you can’t have it all, and my priorities were clear this time!).


Profiting such warm & shiny days I made this refreshing dish. This is really more of a summer dish for me, though in Peru it’s a all year round one. But I still had some of the “peruvian” limes my brother had brought me from Brasil after a conversation on the best lime to use for this dish. He told me he had read about this type of lime, which they call “limão galego” (Lemon from Galicia) in the interesting Brasilian blog Come-se, which matched my description of the peruvian limes I had tried years ago in Madrid Fusion when Peru was the guest country and Chef Wong himself was preparing the ceviches with all ingredients (even the fish) brought from Peru.


When we tried it we knew it was it! Much more sour than the usual lime, but after marinating with the fish of choice, the diluted juice is sooo tasty! Much smaller, lighter in colour on the outside, with some pips…but perfect for ceviche! The other lime doesn’t give the dish the same quick! Also…no comparison for the pisco sour! If there were any doubts about whether this limão galego is the same lime as the peruvian one, after a more recent visit from my brother to Lima, he confirmed for sure!

I was introduced to ceviche when I was 15, as our family moved to Peru, and I liked it from the moment I tried it. I’ve always liked fish on the underdone side, so I love the texture of the fish cooked with acid rather than with heat. I understand some people may not like the idea, but I assure you that unless you are not keen on the texture, the taste is far from that of raw fish (needless to say you can use any fish, but it should be VERY fresh)! The soury notes from the lime, the mild heat (or not so mild…as you decide to make it) from the chilies, the traces of the sweeter red onion infused in the juice and it’s crunchy contrast to the soft flesh of the monkfish, rounded up with a marriage to some shredded cilantro…make this easy to make dish deliciouuuussssly fresh and tasty! So, why don’t you give it a try and decide for yourself if you like it?


Deliciously refreshing monkfish ceviche

(enough as an appetiser for 4)

~4oog of really fresh monkfish*

~1/2 of a red onion (or a bit less…it’s not onion with fish, but fish with onion!)

~1/3 red bird eye chili (or adjust to your heat tolerance)**

~4-5 limes (or more to squeeze out enough juice to half-cover the fish)

salt and freshly milled pepper

fresh coriander leaves

*You could use any other very fresh white fish without fibers with firm flesh, like grouper, sole, corvina, etc.

**In Perú they use a different chili, ají limo-both yellow and red, or even rocoto chilli but here they’re imposible to find!!

So, for the super easy step by step to this dish…Prep your fish unless your fishmonger has already filleted it for you. I can’t stress enough how a very fresh fish is the key #1 to a good ceviche!


Then, just slice it and then cut it in squares the size you’d like (the smaller, the less time they’ll take to cook with the acid from the lime juice). I like about 2-2,5cm pieces…


Place them in a bowl, season with salt and freshly milled pepper and squeeze out lime juice to half cover (the lime on the right is the peruvian as compared to the Brasilian lime).


It’s important to press the juice right away and not before mixing with the fish, or it gets a funny flavour. Also, to juice by hand over the fish is best, so that you don’t press too much to get to the bitter juice of the flesh in contact with the skin. Also, I prefer to not completely cover the fish, so I can serve it with all that precious juice, which in Peru is called “leche de tigre” allegedly good for hangovers, instead of having to remove some. So I keep turning the fish pieces every now and then for a homogeneous “cooking”. Also, I place it in the fridge, so it is really cool when I serve it.


When the fish looks mat white rather than translucid, it is ready! It may take anywhere from a few minutes to over 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. I left mine for about 15 minutes, as soon as the outside had changed the colour lightly…but check first! The truth is that now in Peru it is now most often prepared and served right away, and to serve it super fresh &cool, it is either done over a bowl of ice or some ice is added as all ingredients are mixed in and then removed…but I still prefer to let it “cook” a bit.

Then, just finish it up with some finely sliced onion, a touch of chilies (these you can add to the lime juice as you marinate the fish) or as much as you like (I cut them in rounds for looks…as long as they are very finely shredded!) and correct seasoning if needed…


Y ya está! Enjoy it!..both fish and juice!


For more info I leave you with these two "Aventura culinaria” videos presented by Gastón Acurio on different ways to prepare ceviches by reknowned peruvian chefs: video 1 and video 2.

Some other time I will introduce you to a different kind of ceviche I learnt that I love, which is served with a ginger & onion infused coconut milk. In the meanwhile I hope you enjoy this peruvian one!

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January 1, 2011

sweet & sour…maracuya curd


Happy New Year to everyone!!Have you got any NY resolutions in mind? I keep hearing it’s not worth it to have any resolutions which you are probably not going to keep. But still, I do…maybe I am too naive, but it’s worth the try, isn’t it? This year amongst other (which I cannot reveal ;) )I’m definitely going to do my best to work on my time management skills!! Really, I get the feeling that I never get enough time to do the things I want…maybe it’s just too many things I want to do, but still, if that just means prioritising better and discarding those which can be spared, be it!

I would have preferred to start this year recipes with something maybe a bit more…challenging?!? Don’t get me wrong, usually I’m a bit of a minimalist in the sense of keep it simple (but tasty & appealing) but I would have liked to take the time to make (& photograph) something a bit more up to a…promising start (if this makes any sense to you). But, hey, the things I’ve made for this x-mas season, I haven’t had the chance to photograph…so I’m left with a symbol of this past year: (a tasty) but sweet & sour curd! Maybe that’s just life…if it were always so sweet you may not get to appreciate it as much, lucky me that I’m not a fan of overly sweet things!! :) But still, I’m only looking back to learn from the past and to try to improve what’s at hand! So, just to finish off this melancholic tone, I really wish you all health & a positive attitude to make the best out of this new 2011!!!


About the curd…I get saturated with jams and other sweet preserves, usually, but curds are my soft spot! I adore lemon curd & it’s variables (with a touch of verbena, or with lemon thyme, with rosemary, with lemongrass etc.) or raspberry or other citrus curds…but my favourite without a doubt is maracuya!!The only difference in the recipes in case you want to make substitutions? Obviously exchanging one juice for another and adjusting the amount of sugar, less for maracuya, more for lemon (unless it’s meyer…which I’ve still never got the chance to try!!!)…your guide? your personal preference. I warn you that I like to feel the sour notes, so this curd has a quick, but if you like it sweeeeet, just add more sugar. Other than that, don’t miss this recipe, it’s heaven on it’s own, over some sourdough toasts, as a filling of macarons or tartlets, as a sauce for a dark chocolate coulant (that’s how I used it this x-mas)... Just give it a try, it won’t disappoint you!

Maracuya curd

(enough for one 250g jar)

100g maracuya juice (fresh or frozen)

~80g white sugar

2L eggs (you could use up to 3, for it to thicken a bit more, but 2 works 4 me!)

~90g unsalted butter, room temperature (you can use less or more to adjust the consistency)

pinch of salt

(optional: 2-4g of cornflour for a thicker texture)*

*I’ve been playing around adding a bit of cornflour to thicken the texture reducing butter & keeping eggs to a minimum, so if you like a thicker texture I’d recommend to use no more than 4g for this recipe, to still keep it creamy!.

I usually use fresh maracuya (when my brother comes to visit from Brazil), but otherwise I haven’t tried anything better than Boiron frozen juices. Honestly, there’s not one I’ve tried that has disappointed me! pineapple, blood orange, white peach, raspberry, guava…you name it, they are all sublime! So, if a certain fruit is not available to you and you can get hold of them, don’t hesitate, they are worth their price, not too expensive, I find.


I had frozen a whole maracuya without juicing it just to try… The result? the inside had dried out, so, since I like the feeling of the seeds, I saved some to add to the curd at the end.

Now, for the super easy recipe, you can use either a heavy bottom pan (this helps even distribution of heat to avoid curdling if you use the direct method beat) or a bowl, if you prefer to cook the curd using a bain marie over a pan of boiling water to control the heat better (though this takes longer).

In whichever you choose, beat (that is, mix, not incorporating air in) the sugar (together with the cornflour to avoid lumps, if you choose to use any, I didn’t this time) with one egg at a time to blend completely, then add the juice slowly as you beat in. This avoids that some egg doesn’t completely blend into the other ingredients, and thus coagulates at around 60-65ºC giving you ugly looking lumps…which are no problem, but you’ll have to strain off. 


Then, just place over low heat and keep swirling with a spatula to avoid the mixture sticking to the bottom and that it heats up evenly. It will begin to thicken up…If you have a thermometer at around 82-85ºC it will be ready, but otherwise, just remove it from the heat when if you lift up the spatula and run your finger across the line stays well marked. Then, it’s ready.


Strain it through a fine mesh to remove bits & pieces of coagulated egg if you see any…but if you beat in well the eggs with the sugar before adding the liquid, you shouldn’t have!

And when it cools slightly to about 50-60ºC add the butter broken or cut up it small pieces…and whisk it in by hand (beating vigorously to emulsify it) or with an inmersion blender.The more butter you add the thicker the resulting curd, but also the more diluted the flavour (and more fat :S), so decide according to your preferences.

After you whisk in the butter into the warm thickened juice to make the emulsion, if you had them reserved, add the seeds for a crisper contrast to the creamy curd.


Since, it’s butter, it will thicken as it cools…Place in a sterilised jar and keep in the fridge for around 2 weeks or even better freeze what you won’t be using, as it freezes really well.

I got this cute etiquette in a pack with a fantastic book I had asked for in christmas: Christine Ferber’s “leçons de confitures". Haven’t had much time to read it (again) but it’s promising. I’ll let you know with a test recipe!


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