DB#26 or Have a Christmas with lots of Chocolate!

Bûche de Noël

In December, you expect the Daring Bakers to go wild on Yule Logs. I've never made one myself, so I - like many others - kinda of expected the challenge to be a Yule Log... and we were not deceived! A French Yule Log it was! 6 different components, 12 pages for the recipe, 24 bowls, pans, saucepans, you-name-it to wash up... This was probably the most challenging of all the recipes I've made with the Daring Bakers. My Yule Log had two almond dacquoise layers (bottom and top), aniseed creme brulée, almond caramel praliné, dark chocolate mousse, dark chocolate ganache and dark chocolate icing. I served it for dessert on Christmas Lunch. It was a hit!

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux.
They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand. For the recipe, check Hilda's Saffron and Blueberry, and (as always!) for a few thousand versions visit the Daring Bakers blogroll.

Bûche de Noël

My thoughts on the challenge:
- This was time consuming but not that difficult. Each component was fairly easy to make, and the recipes were very nice on their own, except perhaps for the mousse. It was pretty hard to make a pâté à bombe with such small quantities.
- I topped my Bûche de Noël with dacquoise, as well as using it for the bottom.
- I made 1 + a half recipe of the dark icing to prevent icing 'accidents' (I'm very prone to this kind of troubles!!).
- The most challenging of all was the insane number of dishes this took - it made me use dozens of bowls, saucepans, pans, spoons, spatulas, you name it! Huge thanks to my hubby who did most of the washing up, as I absolutely hate it.
- My overall thought is that it didn't feel very Christmas-ish to me (perhaps because it was a frozen dessert and I tend to think of those as summer desserts) but it was really delicious. And I'm not a chocoholic!

I don't think the photos do any justice to how nice it was and how yummy it tasted. I just didn't have time to photograph it properly with everybody around... Anyway, you can get an idea of how it looked with the chocolate decorations on top.


Happy Days!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Cookies are packed, turkey is stuffed and ready to go to the oven, Christmas Yule and Bolo Rei are finished too.

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas. Happy Holidays!


Chocolate & Ginger...


Cookies. What else? Those were my second batch of cookies from last weekend. My friend Pipoka gave me this "Australian Women's Weekly" Cookies & Biscuits issue a while ago. I meant to try a couple of recipes for ages but it didn't happen. Until now. And I'm so happy I finally made it! These Chocolate & Ginger Cookies (originally called chocolate ginger Easter Eggs, but that wouldn't work for Christmas, would it?) are just spicy enough, and the dough works like a breeze.


Chocolate & Ginger Cookies
Adapted from "Australian Women's Weekly" Cookies & Biscuits

Makes about 50

1 1/2 cups (225 grs) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (35 grs) self-raising flour
1/2 cup (25 grs) unsweetened (Dutch-process) cocoa powder
1/2 cup (125 grs) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (165 grs) firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp peeled grated fresh ginger
coloured sugar pearls, to decorate

Sift together both flours and cocoa powder in a bowl. Cream butter, egg and brown sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Mix in grated ginger, then flour and cocoa, in two batches. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Halve dough, and shape into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between sheets of baking paper until 5 mm thick.

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350°F). Line oven trays with baking paper (or use a silicone sheet). Cut cookies with different cutters. Place apart from each others on trays. Bake cookies about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Cookies are good on their own, sprinkled with fine sanding sugar. You can also make a chocolate fondant icing. Stir chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth. To cover all the cookies you'll need about 100 grs of dark chocolate. Use a metal spatula, dipped in hot water to spread the icing quickly over cookies. Set at room temperature.

These Chocolate & Ginger Cookies are my second entry for season 2 of Eat Christmas Cookies, managed by Susan of Food Blogga. You can check all the brilliant cookies entered here.


Christmas cookies at last!

White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies

It has been difficult for me to get into Christmas spirit this year. I still did all my shopping before December's madness settled in but it was pretty much that. I usually start baking the cookies 3 weeks before Christmas to get everything ready for friends and family as they pop up during December. Well, not this year. My sister in law - who lives away from me - promptly gave me a reminder whilst kissing me goodbye the last time we were together about a month ago. Don't you forget about the Christmas cookies! Last weekend, I've finally managed to get the cookies going. The first batch is right out of the oven!

White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies

White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies
Adapted from Rachel Allen, Rachel's Favourite Food for Friends, p. 158

Rachel's original recipe here. She calls for 50g soft brown sugar AND 50g caster sugar OR 100g demerara sugar. I'm pretty sure I read that as my intention was to use both sugars. Except I mixed in the soft brown sugar, and completely forgot to add the caster sugar until all cookies were shaped. At this point I've decided to coat the cookies with demerara sugar. Just yummy!

Makes 30-35

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
50 grs soft brown sugar
1/2 cup (120 grs) butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (50 grs) mixed dried cranberries and dried cherries
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup (50 grs) old-fashioned porridge oats
1/2 cup (50 grs) ground almonds (a.k.a. almond meal)
100 grs white chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp demerara sugar, to coat

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).

Sift the flour and the bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, ground almonds, dried fruits, and white chocolate, and mix to combine. Stir in melted butter, and the egg yolks into the dry ingredients until dough forms. (The mixture should be on the soft side.)

Make walnut-sized dough portions, using your hands. Roll each cookie with the demerara sugar to coat. Place them onto a lined baking sheet, and gently push with the palm of your hand to flatten. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a metal rack to cool.

White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies & Matilde

I'm sending these White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Cookies over to lovely Susan of the always inspirational Food Blogga for season 2 of Eat Christmas Cookies - a very nice and yummy event Susan organizes for the second consecutive year! You can check all the baking here.


HHDD#23 - It's Pesto!

Rocket Pesto

I'm very fond of Hay Hay it's Donna Hay, and usually try not to miss any round. It's a food event I keep close to the heart. When Joey from the ever wonderful 80 Breakfasts chose Pesto, I was delighted with the theme: easy, and with so many open possibilities! Coincidentally, one year ago from this day I was making Minted Walnut Pesto after having tried a Cilantro Almond Pesto. So what now? Rocket! Although rocket is not very usual, it has to be my favourite green for pesto.

I've used Donna's recipe Joey has provided, replacing the basil with the rocket, and omitting the lemon zest. Because it's cold in Lisbon, and comfort foods are in season, I've served my rocket pesto as a topping to a bowl of White Bean Soup, recipe courtesy of - the one and only, the lady herself - Donna Hay! ;)

Rocket Pesto

Rough Chop Rocket Pesto*
Slightly adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 35, p. 104

1 cup roughly chopped rocket
2 Tbsp roughly chopped toasted pine nuts
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil (I like virgin extra with mild flavours for this recipe)

Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and oil in a bowl and stir to combine. Makes one cup.

White Bean Soup with Rocket Pesto

White Bean Soup
Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine, issue 33, p. 104

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
450 grs cannellini beans, re-hydrated
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Dried cannellini beans must be soaked in water for at least 4 hours (best overnight). You'll need about 175 grs of dried beans.

Heat a large soup pot on medium heat. Add the oil, onion, garlic and celery, and stir about 2-3 minutes or until they are translucent. Add the beans and stock, and bring to a boil, stirring to ensure the beans don’t stick to the bottom. Reduce the heat, cover and let cook for about 1 hour, or until the beans are very soft. Stir the soup occasionally during this time.

Blend the soup. If you have one, use a hand blender. Otherwise, a food processor or standing blender will work too. Puree the soup until it is smooth. Season to taste. Continue to cook, uncovered, until thick. Serves 4.

Serve soup topped with a tsp or two of rocket pesto.

* Original recipe is topped with chorizo.

Hay Hay Its Donna Day is a food event created by Barbara from WinosandFoodies and now taken under the wing of Bron Marshall.


Farófias & Hugs


We're not very good with hugs in Portugal. We kiss. We easily turn our cheek to be kissed as a compliment to someone (even a person we may not know very well) but we seldom hug anyone. For me, hugs are the vital energy that feeds happiness. Someone once said that you can't wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug. I blame Donna Hay for having met Barbara. From the many things I have Donna to thank for, one of the most important is to have crossed paths with such an adorable person. Barbara's fight against cancer has started half a planet away from her home, and just a "block" away from mine when she was finishing her holidays in Portugal. Geography's not important. Love is. Today, I want to wrap Barbara in a tight hug, with beautiful pink flowers, soft poached meringues, and positive thoughts!


When Bron and Ilva kindly invited me to join the super hug to Barbara, I wondered what to make... Farófias. I'll make farófias. French call it ile flotante. The Portuguese call it farófias, a “cloud” of fluffy light airy, fresh meringue combined with lemon custard and a pinch of cinnamon. So together with a huge hug, and a bunch of smiles, that's for you, Barbara!

(Poached Meringues in Lemon Custard with Cinnamon)
Slightly adapted from Maria de Lourdes Modesto, Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa

Serves 4-6

4 large eggs, separated
4 Tbsp caster sugar
3 cups + 3 Tbsp whole milk
Zest of 1 lemon, cut in long strips
1/2 cup golden caster sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted

In a deep skillet set over moderately low heat, bring 3 cups of the milk and the lemon zest to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Strain the milk and return to the skillet. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then add 4 Tbsp caster sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, and beat until stiff glossy peaks form.

Return the milk to low heat and when steam rises from the surface, drop meringue in by rounded tablespoons. (To keep meringue from sticking, dip the spoon often in hot water). Poach the meringues about 2 minutes in the milk, turn and poach the other side 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer them to a large plate and reserve.

As soon as all meringues are poached, strain the milk into a medium-size heavy saucepan and mix in the golden caster sugar. Check if any milk can be poured from the plate where the meringues are. Combine the extra 3 Tbsp of milk with the cornstarch, in a small bowl. Whisk a little of the hot milk into this mixture, then blend into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over moderately low heat 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Beat the egg yolks lightly, whisk in a little of the hot sauce, stir back into pan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2-3 minutes (do not boil or the mixture may curdle).

Place the meringues into a large shallow heatproof bowl or 4-6 individual plates. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then pour on top of the meringues. Serve warm or well chilled, dusting the meringues with cinnamon at the last minute. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds.



DB#25 or a Caramel Dream!

Caramel Cake

When I was a kid my drawings were always full of colour but I've never managed to keep them clean and tidy. It could be a stain, a colorful fingerprint or just everything a bit uneven on the page. Every time I'd complain, my mum would say my drawings were beautiful and perfect the way they were. I would roll my eyes, and start over (stubborn, me?). One day, after she gave me the same answer, I've explained her that I wanted my drawings to be "perfect BUT perfect in a perfect way". I was 4 years old. The "perfect in a perfect way" became a family mockery that has survived all these years. Even today, when I say something is perfect, there will certainly be a member of my lovely family to quickly ask "but is it perfect in a perfect way or just perfect?". And we all laugh.

As much as I wanted my cakes to be "perfect in a perfect way", I've learned to like their rustic appearance. They have a thing of their own, some sort of perfect imperfection... and I like that! Of course, I still dream of caramel buttercream spread across without a single flaw, and luscious decorations running the sides and top of a tall, even cake. A girl can dream, right? ;-)

Let me welcome you to a Caramel Dream, pardon, to a caramel cake with Shuna Fish Lydon mark. I came across Shuna's blog, and work, through my friend Fer a while ago. It made me really happy to know an enormous bunch of talented people would bake her signature caramel cake... So let me welcome you to the Daring Bakers November challenge! This month we have a lovely hostess: Dolores of Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity, co-hosted by Alex of Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo, Jenny of Foray into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go. Check all the other Daring Bakers Caramel dreams!

Caramel Cake & Mulled Pears

Shuna Fish Lydon caramel cake's recipe can be found here, and some tips from Shuna over at Eggbeater.

My thoughts on the challenge:

- The cake is moist, and has a great texture.
- My idea for the cake was to keep it caramel only. My only concession was a handful of tiny little bits of dulce de leche on top of the cakes.
- As many people said it was extra sweet, I've reduced the sugar in the cake to a little less than 1 cup.
- I thought it was very important to cream the butter for the cake for a long 7-8 minutes. The 'dry, wet, dry, wet, dry' method was also very simple but important for the outcome. My batter was soft and light, with a beautiful golden colour.
- Instead of a large cake, I've made a medium one, and 6 individual cakes.
- I've halved the buttercream recipe, and again cut dramatically the amount of sugar (1/2 cup) but used the higher amount of syrup stated (plus a little more!). It worked fine, despite of all.
- The medium cake was a major success with my dad-in-law, covered with the buttercream on top, and some caramel syrup running.
- The day after, I served the individual cakes halved, with buttercream between the layers, dulce de leche crumbled on top, and paired with mulled pears. It was surprisingly good!
- Unfortunately, I didn't find the time to make Alice Medrich's Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels.

Mulled Pears

Mulled Pears

4 large, ripe pears (I used the portuguese variety Rocha), whole, peeled
4 Tbsp light muscovado sugar
400 ml red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 star aniseed

Put the sugar, wine, cinnamon, and star aniseed in a large saucepan. Heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears to the simmering syrup. Poach for 12 minutes, turning occasionally. Set aside to cool completely. Keep the pears in the syrup overnight. Serve with the cake.


Streets & Pies


Walk the streets. If I had to point out a favourite thing when I'm abroad, it had to be lurk around. To have a sneak peek at non-touristic places, and somehow blend with the locals. Quite easy, if you're in a big city like London, and know your way around the language. Not so cool, when you're in Paris with my lousy French. But a closed mouth with an enigmatic smile, nice clothes and an extra colourful scarf will put you trough. Now try to blend in Cambridge or Bury St Edmunds or make an attempt to pronounce 'Kenneth' like a local... I've mentioned my flash trip to the UK last summer to meet my friend. N. lives in the Suffolk. Although I know the south of England fairly well, I had never made it to the center north of the country before. My day spent in Cambridge was lovely, and my visit to The Theatre Royal in Bury most memorable. As a good British girl, N. served me a pie for dinner. A few days ago I made a fish pie for dinner (hence the awful photos), and just couldn't stop all the memories that popped up.

Fish Pie

Fish Pie
Slightly inspired from Jamie's Ministry of Food, original recipe here

Serves 4

4-5 large potatoes, peeled, and cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled, and grated
150g Mascarpone cheese
Juice and zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
400g white fish fillets, cut into large chunks
8-12 king prawns, raw, peeled
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and add the potatoes. Cook for 12 minutes or until soft. Grate the carrot into an oven dish. Place the fish an the prawns on top of the carrot, and sprinkle with chili flakes. Add the lemon zest and juice. Drizzle with the olive oil. Mix everything together.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and return them to the pan. Mash until smooth, then mix in the Mascarpone cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over the top of the fish and grated veg. Place in the preheated oven for around 40 minutes, or until cooked through, crispy and golden on top. Serve with steamed vegetables or a green salad. I served mine with caramelized butternut squash.


Chocolate & Cardamom

Cardamom Chocolate Cake

Bakery's open on weekends here at home. I often ask my husband (aka Mr. Taster) what kind of cake he wants for the week. He always comes up with a couple of suggestions, depending on if we have extra fruits or any new recipe bookmarked. Last week I didn't even have to ask. Do you know you have 5... FIVE! different brands of chocolate bars in the pantry, plus 2 halved?? The remark was meant to express how he hates my (very) untidy pantry, and my messy shopping habits. Oh do I? I had no idea. (I can play the angel role with a fairly convincing voice when I want...) What do you think of a chocolate cake? I asked. Sure! All's well when it ends well. Except I wasn't in the mood to bake a layered, decadent, creamy chocolate cake. My gut feeling kept pushing me to the spice stand... Spices love chocolate. Cardamom loves dark bittersweet chocolate! I remembered Sue Lawrence's On Baking had a recipe featuring cardamom and chocolate. I did a few changes to suit our taste. This is a very fragrant cake. Decrease the cardamom amount if you dislike strong flavoured cakes.

Cardamom Chocolate Cake
Slightly inspired from Sue Lawrence's On Baking

1 Loaf (or 12 tea cakes)

125 grs unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, beaten
100 grs dark chocolate (I like Lindt 70% cocoa), cut into large chunks
2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
2 Tbsp milk
3-4 large green cardamom pods (or more, to taste)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360ºF). Sift the flour into a bowl. Tip the the cardamom pods into a pestle and mortar and crush. Use a sieve to mix only the ground cardamom into the flour. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, until light. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, until thoroughly combined. Stir in the flour and milk, and beat well. Add the chocolate chunks to the cake mixture and stir to combine. Spoon into a buttered loaf tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can dust the cake with powdered sugar and good quality cocoa or leave it plain. Serve with whipped cream or lemon curd.

Cardamom Chocolate Cake

I'm sending this over to Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella for The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Challenge! Not sure this is my Best Ever Chocolate Cake but it was a success for tea.


5 Books + 10 Images

5 favourite cookbooks

Books are living souls here at home. The space is filled as if real beings shared their life with us. They spread across the walls, remain on the floor, get forgotten on the tables. My piles of books are messy, unsteady, and always about to crash while Mr. Taster's piles are tidy, always stable and sometimes thematic... We offer each other books and tell our (hi)story from them. We deliberately forget some and refuse to hide others. We celebrate (with) books, and can't live without them.

The Portuguese speaking foodblog world is hot with a challenge to choose 3 of your favourite books. I've been tagged by Marcel Gussoni of Sabor Sonoro and Dani Oliveira of Cozinha Travessa. As my head is like my book piles, messy and about to crash, I got the idea that we were to choose 5 books... Oh well. These are my 3 possible book choices of yesterday, posted today and surely different from tomorrow's.

A Platter of Figs

My last crush is called David Tanis. I have this silly way to fall in love with men I don't know... And it's not sick because therapy is quite easy, with me cooking their recipes, and moving forward. This A Platter of Figs & Other Recipes is a beautiful book. Stunning simplicity. I warmly recommend it.

My favourite Jamie Oliver's book has to be Jamie's Italy. In my recent trip to London, I've got his new Jamie's Ministry of Food. I'm quite impressed with the concept, and the idea of sharing recipes, and put people to cook. Cooking is/should be a pleasure. A society that doesn't cook, and worst than that forgot how to, is intrinsically wrong.

And last but not least, Nigel Slater's little book Real Fast Food, a book I always grab to look for ingredient combination, and that reads (it has no photos) like fiction.

Because I'm really curious to know what books they'd choose, I'm tagging:
Louise of Gato Azul,
my buddy Rita, aka Clumbsy Cookie,
Joey of 80breakfasts,
Dee of Choos & Chews,
and Andrea of Cooking Books.

Can't resist to show you, "out of competition", Tessa Kiros' delicious book about Portugal. Piripiri starfish is a book that makes you dream. When I become a food writer, I want to be like her!

Tessa Kiros' Piripiri Starfish

A long, long time ago Sylvia of La vida en Buenos Aires y afines challenged me to share 10 favourite images from this blog. With a lot of delay, and choices of another time, here they are.

10 photos


Delicious Autumn

Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot's idea sounds really appealing to me. Autumn is my favourite season of the year. I, too, could travel along the world seeking for the beginning of another Autumn, especially to those places where leaves go from yellow to reddish, and all tones of orange... Where apples, mushrooms, pears, and pumpkin are getting in season. A place where celery, clementines, and butternut squash come to hand easily. With Autumn comes a light blanket, and a cup of tea with a Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffin.

Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins

Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins

Makes 12

1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash, pureed*
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (about 150ml) cream
1 large egg
1 1/3 cup (about 175g) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2/3 cup (about 150g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
powdered sugar, to dust (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360ºF). Mix in the pumpkin purée with the cream, and the egg in a medium bowl. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, spices, and nutmeg into another bowl. Add the poppy seeds. Combine both mixtures. Add the butter, beating just until combined. Spoon the mix into a silicone muffin pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until well risen and golden. Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar to serve.

The purée gives a wonderfully moist texture to these spicy muffins. They don't keep well for long, and are best eaten within 2-3 days.

* Pumpkin or butternut squash can be boiled, steamed or roasted. I've used the latter, scooping the pulp after roasting half a pumpkin covered with aluminum foil for 45-55 minutes or until soft.

Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins

"Muffin Monday" is the name of a French muffin-oriented event, organized by Dominique of Cuisine Plurielle. Its #11 edition is dedicated to Autumn. These Pumpkin Poppy Seed Muffins are my entry to this adorable event.


Raindrops keep fallin' on my head... in London

Portobello Market

Last Saturday, lovely British weather was at its best: rainy, windy, and cold. Just perfect. We had plans to go to Portobello Market, have a walk around Notting Hill, and meet some good friends. And so we did, checking British antiquities, all sort of posh 'junk', stylish clothes, and rain. Lots of rain. Cursing under my breath, I've bought some spices at the Spice Shop, and decided Books for Cooks was a nice place to reheat, drooling over beautiful cookbooks whilst waiting for my friends. What a joy to meet them all!

George Orwell's house

Now a group of 7, we left to walk around a bit more. We made it to Le Maroc, for tahini and pomegranate molasses, and finally gave up to freezing weather. A large wooden table in the next deli right after the Moroccan market offered the perfect spot for our meal. The cold, grey day was very much changed by Valentina's laugh, our endless chitchat, and comfort food: celery and carrot soup, marguerita toasts, lots of tea, and memories to keep.

Leaving the deli, we walked back to Notting Hill Gate, passing by Ottolenghi's beautiful stand. I kept thinking of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", the old movie. One of the romantic and heart-warming scenes in the film is when "Butch" (Paul 'gorgeous' Newman) takes "Etta" (Katherine Ross) on a bicycle ride under a blue sky, with no hint of rain. The music seems both unfitting and absolutely right, at the same time. Raindrops keep fallin' on my head playing in my mind with real drops on my face but what a day - happiness, joy, and friendship. Who cares about the rain?

Lunch with friends


Can you read my mind?

Made You Look

Can you read my mind?
Can you read my mind?

The teenage queen, the loaded gun
The drop dead dream, the Chosen One
A southern drawl, a world unseen
A city wall and a trampoline

I know London all too well to be easy to write about how mixed my feelings are every time I go back. There's this song by The Killers, Can you read my mind? (Check the cover by Portuguese musician David Fonseca - scroll down to the end of this post) that sums it up for me. London can always read my mind. I'm fifteen again when I walk by Trafalgar Square, and remember the first time I've seen punks and a Velásquez live - both on the same day, just a few meters away from each other. The big city's vertigo - the ultimate melting pot. Everyone fits. Even me, with my stubborn look wearing a flowered jacket, pink skirt and ballerinas... climbing the steps of The National Gallery. I'm back in Trafalgar Square, just a few years ago when London won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games - shortly before the terrorist attacks that spread terror across the city. No, no, no, not again! My mind slides to my first crumble, a bread pudding or baked beans, and moves to the large bookstores where every book on Earth can be found.

British Breakfast

But not everything about London is dreamy. Visiting is always great, living there is quite a different matter. What feels organized when you visit becomes narrow minded after a while, the competitive struggle for little things is exhausting, the misty weather gets to your bones, and to your brain. Still. London is the city I'd want to live in if I was to leave my country. 'Cause nothing compares to this ability to find something new whilst walking the streets that lead to Convent Garden or Notting Hill. Wherever you go, there's a corner, a shop or a place steeped in the vibes of its area that grabs your soul. Unbelievable, this. It is exciting, shocking - even scary - to be in a city that reads your mind...

Oh well I don't mind, you don't mind
Cause I don't shine if you don't shine
Before you go
Tell me what you find when you read my mind

Almond & Cherry Muffin


Cream Tea for Two


London. Home away from home. Perhaps because I've been there more times than I remember or because it was my first trip on my own when I was 15 or because I've lived there for an extended period, London does feel like home to me. My first time was a wonderful adventure (tell you all about it someday!) half a life ago, my last just 4 months back when I flew to London by myself for the Wimbledon semifinals to meet my friend N. - my all-time partner for the tennis - and stay with her and her adorable family for a couple of days.

N. and I became friends years ago. We've been to Wimbledon together a zillion times. Ages ago, I had my first Cream Tea at the Pergola Cafe when pouring rain suspended play (which is something that happens at Wimbledon like... all the time!), and since then when I think of Wimbly, it's not strawberries & cream or Pimm's that come to mind but - you've guessed it - Cream Tea. The Pergola was moved last year to a different location because of works. Both me and N. hated the cold metal chairs and the open-spaced lounge, the tea served in paper-cups and the soulless place. This year, the Pergola was back to its original being, I had my cream tea in the outside wooden chairs in a proper china cup. Even the rain stopped, and the sun made its appearance. Oh perfection!

Mr. Taster and I are leaving for an extended weekend in London. Umbrellas, Rothko's tickets, and a rainy forecast. We're set to go.

Cream Tea

Adapted from Bill Granger, Bill's Food

Makes 8

1 Tbsp icing (confectioners') sugar
310 grams (2 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
250 ml (1 cup) milk
30 grams (1 oz) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas7. Sift the icing sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the milk and butter, and stir to combine. Knead quickly and lightly until smooth, and then press out onto a floured surface.

Use a glass to cut out rounds roughly 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter and 3 cm (1,25inches) deep and place them on a greased baking tray. Gather the scraps together, lightly knead again, then cut out more rounds. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Cream Tea is originally served with clotted cream, which we don't have in Portugal. I served mine with Duchy's Blood Orange Marmalade (that N. sneaked into my bag in the airport), and butter. Duchy Originals is a great brand, and an old favourite of mine.

Cream Tea


DB#24 or Bring it on!


Pizza! Let me rephrase it: THE pizza. I'm pretty sure there's some Italian blood in my veins. Not that I have any proofs of this, but I love all Italian food, from pasta to desserts - not to mention pizza. When Rosa, our host for the month, chose pizza, I was thrilled about it. Rosa also asked for a photo of each of us tossing the dough. Unfortunately, I could find anyone to make the photo but I can tell you tossing was probably the best part!!

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomato and Bell Pepper Pizza

I used some roasted garlic - mashed and spread on the crust - and slow roasted tomatoes, combined with red and green bell peppers. Added some mozzarella, oregano, and fresh basil.


Adapted from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 4-6 pizza crusts

For the dough:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) ice cold water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl or stand mixer. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (spoon or paddle attachment) to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth. If it is too wet, add a little flour and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.
Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper. Cut the dough into 4-6 equal pieces. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Take 1 piece and lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin.
When the dough has the shape you want, place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.


My thoughts on the challenge:
- This recipe is definitely a keeper.
- The dough was a breeze to make. Mine worked great using the mixer.
- Tossing the dough was great fun, and frankly not that difficult. I'll never roll out another pizza crust.
- As I still have some frozen dough for another 4 pizza crusts, I'll try a sweet version... Thinking of chocolate and banana!

Check out all the other Daring Bakers Pizza creations at the blogroll.


HHDD#23 - It's (flavoured) yoghurt!

Pomegranate Yoghurt with Toasted Pistachios

Why do I make the choices I do about my cooking and baking? Research, thinking, personal taste - 90% work, 10% inspiration. Of course, each recipe has a story behind. And I don't always work it that much! It's just my designer's mind, and method, taking over. If we're talking about ice cream flavours, you're allowed to choose 'vanilla' just because. But if you're discussing a project with me that just won't do! I'd love to have years to live as I've repeated these couple of sentences to my students. Because that would mean a very long life for me! Training young people to become designers is not always an easy task but can be quite rewarding.

All this talk? Bordeaux chose a challenging theme to the 23rd edition of Hay hay it's Donna Day: Yoghurt. My first compulsion was to make stracciatella yoghurt. Then I thought, why stracciatella? Er... just because. And it didn't feel right! The choice you make about something can be just a gut feeling. But you have to know why you choose what you choose. Enough cheap talking! Bear with me, I had a tough week at work. ;-)

Pomegranate Yoghurt with Toasted Pistachios

Pomegranate Yoghurt with Toasted Pistachios
Slightly adapted from Donna's recipe, via Marita Says

Serves 4

1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar (or a little less depending on how sweet the pomegranate is)
1 cup chilled plain yogurt
1 cup chilled cream

Prepare a syrup by placing the juice, and sugar in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let it simmer for another 4 minutes and then let it stand for another 5. When the syrup has cooled, add it together with the other ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until light and creamy.

Serve with pomegranate seeds and toasted pistachios (about 2 Tbps of each per person or to taste).


Use an old apron to work with pomegranates. If possible work outdoors. (You'll want to remember this. Pomegranate stains are FOREVER!)

Check how to peel and seed a pomegranate here.

For the juice, I used a very large pomegranate. Scoop out the pomegranate seeds with a spoon. Place them in a cloth bag and squeeze out the juice. Strain the juice through a second cloth bag. If you don't have enough juice for the recipe, add a bit of water to the leftover pulp, and adjust the sugar.

To toast the pistachios, place in a dry skillet large enough so they are in one layer, over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan often, until nuts start to darken, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly before using. Chop.

Pomegranate Yoghurt with Toasted Pistachios

This is my entry for this round of Hay Hay it’s Donna Day, an event originally created by Barbara of Winos and Foodies and now taken under the wings of Bron Marshall.


My favourite beer

Barley Salad

I'm not much into beer. To be completely honest, I totally fail to understand how some people love beer. If not for the occasional Guinness Stout, I'd live happily without such thing... But I've recently found out that I LOVE barley. Since I tried it for the first time in Slovenia, and after my minestrone, I became quite fond of this grain. This salad is a breeze to make if you already cooked the barley - which can be done in larger amounts, and kept in the fridge - and roasted the pumpkin (with a drizzle of olive oil, and a bay leaf) - again very convenient to bake large quantities.

Spinach Barley Salad with Feta

Serves 2

1 cup barley, cooked
1 cup roasted pumpkin, cut into wedges
2 cups fresh spinach
1 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 hard boiled egg, quartered

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the spinach. Sautée for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Stir in the freshly ground nutmeg. Season with a pinch of salt.


2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
ground black pepper, to taste
3 tps extra-virgin olive oil

In a large serving bowl, whisk the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, beating until smooth. Add the barley and the remaining salad ingredients (except the egg), and toss to coat with the dressing. Add the egg, and extra pepper if necessary. Serve.

Barley Salad


Bread, of course!

Whole Wheat Milk Bread with Raisins

Although I bake bread almost every week, it has been a while since I've blogged about bread. The last one was a somewhat tropical bread with cocoa and cinnamon, that I often bake around here. As I mentioned in other posts, bread is a family thing. Both my grandmothers were talented bakers, either by choice, by chance or simple need. Bread flour bags, large terracotta bowls, immaculate white sheets and wooden trays are part of my childhood memories, when my grandma use to bake a weekly bread batch in a wooden oven she had at the end of the backyard. I vividly remember those days as being truly emotive and messy. Saturday was the day we'd make small cakes using the dough leftovers, roast vegetables and bake sardines in olive oil "to take advantage of the oven", and beautiful breads to feed us throughout the week.

Every time I bake some bread I re-live those Saturdays with grandma - it works both as therapy and meditation whilst kneading, punching and shaping the dough. Me with myself, and the dough. It's the same ritual every Sunday, and, boy, do I love it. There's nothing better than bread!

Whole Wheat Milk Bread with Raisins

Whole Wheat Milk Bread with Raisins

Makes 2 loafs

3 1/4 cups (500 grs) whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup (250 grs) bread flour, extra to dust
2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 cup (375 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (100 grs) salted butter, extra to brush
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup (75 grs) raisins, or more to taste

In a saucepan, heat milk, butter, and sugar until melted and combined. Remove from heat. Allow to cool. Mix in the beaten eggs. Add the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flours with the yeast. Make a hole in the middle. Add the milk mixture mixing with a fork (if using a stand mixer, pour the milk slowly and steadily while mixing, with the hook attachment). Work the dough for 10 minutes or until it's elastic and doesn't stick too much to your fingers (or to the bowl of the stand mixer). Add extra bread flour if the dough is too wet and sticky. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour or until it doubles in size. Turn the dough onto a lightly dusted surface, and punch it. Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest. Work the dough for another 5 minutes, slowly incorporating the raisins whilst you knead. Prepare 2 loaf pans, buttered and dusted. Divide the dough in 2, and each half in 4 round shaped parts. Place 4 dough balls into each loaf pan. With scissors or a sharp knife, slice the top of each ball lengthwise. Cover, and let rise again for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Use a pizza stone or some bricks in the oven. To create some steam, carefully pour some boiling water over ice cubes in a large heatproof plate. Place it in the bottom of your oven. Brush the bread generously with melted butter. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a rack.

Whole Wheat Milk Bread with Raisins

Today is World Bread Day'08, a fantastic initiative to celebrate - what I personally think is - the best food in the entire world: bread, of course!. This is my contribute to this lovely day, the 3rd World Bread Day is brilliantly organized by Zorra.