April 29, 2011

Portuguese Food ... In Portugal

Hi there, did you miss me last week? I really have to apologize for my absence on the last days … I didn’t cook last week because I was too busy eating Portuguese food in Portugal! Yes, we just came back from a 7 days gastronomic marathon in Lisbon and nearby cities! Maria and I went to Lisbon on the Easter break to meet with my parents and had a fantastic time. As a bonus, I also managed to meet with two good friends that used to live in Hong Kong a while ago.

So, today I will not share a recipe with you but my impressions of Lisbon and the amazing food you can find everywhere in the city. And I am being very honest with you, it is everywhere. I lost the count of how many coffee breaks we had (three or four per day?) or how many cod fish cakes my Dad ate … I can only guarantee there were way too many.

Portuguese cuisine is very rich and diverse. Spices were brought from the several colonies during the discoveries time and their presence is easily noted in several dishes. The proximity with the sea also makes Portugal a sea food paradise with several fonts claiming that Portugal is the European country with the highest consumption of fish per capita.
We could experience all these characteristics in every corner and I was particularly impressed with the variety of pastries and bakeries all over the city. At certain point my Dad and I decided to rate the quality of the cod fish cakes and choose the best one in the city. Of course this was a very naïve decision since it is just impossible to try them all in 7 days. I can’t even guess how many days we would need for that.
Anyway, we loved the one at the “Pastelaria Suica” in the Rossio Square and after a week the waiter was becoming a good friend of us.

Another winner, and I am sure I am not the only one to say this, were the “Pasteis de Nata”, or Portuguese egg tarts, as they are called in Macau. They are simply amazing, a mixture of egg custard with filo pastry, sugar and cinnamon, all warm and melting in your mouth. Yummmm! Since I already enjoyed them very much in Macau I couldn’t wait to try the real ones in Lisbon. The place: “The Antiga Pastelaria de Belem” founded in 1837 and a real treasure in the city. I went there in the very first day expecting the long traditional queue and a packed chaotic place. To my surprise we were on our table in 10 minutes from ordering. This is what we ordered: Pasteis de Natas, Rissois de Gambas, Pasteis de Bacalhau e Massa Tenra (Egg Tarts, Shrimp Pies, Cod Fish Cakes and Beef Pie.

I guess the pictures say it all … delicious! If you ever go there don’t be scared by the queue (if you find one). The place is big enough with several rooms full of tables and you can just go in, find a seat and order on your table. Very worth the visit.

Of course we also had cod fish, the national dish. It is said that in Portugal there are so many recipes with cod fish that you could eat a different one every day of the year. We had baked cod fish with potatoes in a small restaurant in Sintra and it was perfectly cooked for a rainy cold day.

We also tried the famous shrimp with garlic but as the main dish with rice. One of my friends suggested this small restaurant called “Cantinho da Amizade” for our get together and we were impressed by the portion sizes … huge. For this one our opinions diverged a bit but overall we found worth the visit specially if you want to order Portuguese home food. To be fair it was very late when we got to the restaurant and we were all a bit tired already.

We had plenty of beef since meat is everywhere in the menus with a very fair price and fantastic quality. For this I didn’t take pictures because there is nothing new about a good steak and a big portion of fries. We were lucky to have a very nice restaurant (Hippopotamus) at hour hotel serving all types of beef steaks cooked to perfection. A bit more expensive than the overall meals, but worth the experience and the convenience of just going downstairs after a day walking around the city.

Ah, and I have to confess that we also had Brazilian food in Portugal. Brazilian barbecue in Cascais to be more especific. I was amazed that there were so many Brazilian restaurants in Lisbon and nearby cities. I also found several products from my lovely country in the local supermarkets going from spices to drinks, yogurts, biscuits and chocolates. A paradise for someone that went to Brazil last time in July 2010! I guess this is why I had some extra weight in my luggage when i came back to Hong Kong!
Pictures for your delightment ….

So, in conclusion, we loved our trip, had a great family time and great food. Lisbon is definitely in our list of cities to return some other day.

In case you want more details about the places we visited, just drop me an email at myverysmallkitchen@gmail.com.


April 17, 2011

Fried Rice

Yesterday I prepared fried rice …

This is a traditional Chinese dish that can be found everywhere in Hong Kong and in Asia. There are several different recipes and each region of China will have its own variety. It is such a popular dish that you can find recipes in the Chinese, Japanese, Singaporean, Thai and Peruvian cuisines just to mention a few.

Despite being a simple dish it is not very easy to prepare it at home and achieve the same taste as when you eat out.  I read in several places that Chinese restaurants add MSG when preparing it to improve the taste. I’m not sure about this but I can assure you the one I prepare is super fresh with the exception of the rice that has to be cooked the day before.

I learned to cook fried rice watching a Chinese friend cooking in his home. That was really a treat for us because apparently he doesn’t cook very often. He told us that in his home fried rice is easily prepared any time (by his wife) and it can be served as breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a quick snack.

He prepared fried rice with cooked ham, green onions and eggs. My recipe is a bit different and includes some other ingredients. Here is goes:

Fried rice

2cups of cooked rice (cooked the day before by boiling the rice without any seasoning.)
2 gloves of garlic
3 thin slices of ginger
1/2 cup of cooked ham cooked
1/2 cup of cooked chicken breast cooked
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup of green peas
2 stalks o green onion chopped
3 tablespoons of cooking oil

1/2 teaspoon of salt *
1/2 teaspoon of sugar *
1  teaspoon of soy sauce *
(Mix the three above ingredients before you start the fried rice).

Add the oil to a wok or a large frying pan (I don’t have a wok and my frying pan works fantastic for this dish).  Add the garlic and ginger and fry them up for 1 minute. Add the ham and the chicken and cook for 3 minutes or until brown. Remove the ham and the chicken from the pan leaving the oil in it.

Beat the two eggs quickly and add them to the pan. Scramble the eggs for one minute and add the rice. Mix the eggs and the rice very well breaking the pieces of scrambled eggs with a wooden spoon to separate in smaller pieces.

Add the ham and the chicken back to the pan with the spring onions and mix well with the rice. Add the soy sauce, salt and sugar sauce and continue mixing for more 5 min.

I like to serve my fried rice hot just out of the pan.

Hope you enjoy it.

April 10, 2011

Scrambled Eggs and Mushrooms on Toast

Apologies all! I know this is not the perfect way to start a post but I had to tell anyway. I am so late on my posting schedule that I have to ask you to be patient and please do keep coming back.

I remember telling you before that our family is relocating to Brazil on coming June. This is proving to be a much bigger task that I ever imagined and my days are consumed between work, parenting and making lists and lists of everything that I have to organize or do before we go. Seems that my days don’t have enough hours and I find myself going to be really late every evening and of course waking up exhausted.

Anyway, it is all for the good of the family and I am in piece with this decision and really excited as well to be reunited with my family after 12 years. I just imagined (probably in my dreams) that I would be able to go thru this phase unshaken and in a more pragmatic way.

I can’t start to describe how much I am looking forward to weekends to have some extra sleeping time, cook and meet some friends. This past weekend though was spent running errands that I couldn’t delay anymore.

So when Sunday morning came and I realized time was slipping thru my fingers I decided I needed to treat myself with one of my favorite breakfast recipes: scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast. What an indulgence!

I don’t cook this recipe very often because I am the only one who likes it in our home. So it is what I usually chose when I want to say: I need some time for myself please!!!!

Hope you like it. Takes around 10 minutes to prepare/cook however the time can vary a lot depending on how sleep you are when you reach the kitchen.

Scrambled Eggs and Mushrooms on Toast
Serves two.

2 eggs
2 egg whites
100g of white button mushrooms
½ cup of chopped onions
1 table spoon of olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 slices of bread

Start cleaning and chopping the mushrooms. Next chop the onions.
Add the olive oil to a skillet and sauté the onions until brown. Add the mushrooms, the salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes in medium heat.

In a medium bowl, add the two eggs and the egg whites and mix them well. Transfer the eggs to a non-stick skillet and cook them in medium heat. The secret for good scrambled eggs is that you need to move them around the pan to avoid sticking to the bottom. Be careful to not overcook them otherwise you will end up with dry scrambled eggs.

Prepare the two toasts and top them with a layer of mushrooms and add the scrambled eggs on top.

In case you want to watch a video on how to prepare scrambled eggs this is a good one. The ingredients are a bit different but the technique is the same.

April 3, 2011

My Potato Mayonnaise Salad

Finally we had a warm and sunny week and weekend. The temperature rose a bit and seems that spring is coming.
I had a very unusual week with days of mixed feelings. On Monday I heard I was going to meet my parents in two weeks’ time in Portugal. On Tuesday I had the beginning of a migraine, spent the day in a dark room semi-awake and MyVerySmallKitchen got to a 1000 hits. On Wednesday we confirmed we are moving back to Brazil coming June! On Thursday a good friend left to work somewhere else and we celebrated with lasagnas. On Friday I had to leave work earlier and spent  three hours in a hospital waiting for an x-ray result (don’t worry we are all fine). What a week!
So, when Saturday came, I was feeling exhausted and at the same time blessed I would have 2 entire days to relax. And I needed to indulge in some comforting homemade food: potato mayonnaise salad.
My mum makes the most amazing, delicious, yummy, creamy potato salad that I ever tried. I love her salad and today I wanted just that. Too bad she is literally on the other side of the world! I learned to make mine with her and somehow it doesn’t taste the same. But I can tell you that so far I just got compliments to my salad and I feel confident enough about it to share my recipe with you.
To prepare my own version of a pretty good potato mayonnaise salad you will  need:
4 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
200ml of canola oil
1 boiled egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
Start filling a medium pan with water and bring it to boil. Peel the potatoes and chop them in cubes. Wash the potatoes and add to the pan with boiling water. Cook them until they are soft. Remove from water and reserve.

To prepare the mayonnaise choose a medium size glass bowl.
Cut the boiled egg in half and remove the egg yolk. Reserve the egg white. Put the egg yolk in the glass bowl and smash it with a fork. Add the raw egg yolk and mix them together with a whisker.

Add the oil little by little and keep whisking. You will notice the mayonnaise is thickening. Repeat this step until finishing the oil.

Add the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and mix well until totally incorporated (if you don’t have lemon juice you can use white vinegar). The mixture will become creamier and lighter.
Chop the egg white in very small pieces and add to the mayonnaise together with the salt and black pepper. The quantity of salt and pepper will depend on your taste. My mayonnaise is usually a bit salty because I don’t add any seasoning to the potatoes.

Transfer the cooked potatoes to a serving dish and add the mayonnaise mixing carefully with a spoon until all potatoes are coated.

Serve cold as a side dish. This recipe will serve 5 people.