Menu 5: From Malmӧ to Malaga Photo: Torre de Belem, Lisbon
Devilled Eggs (Malmӧ, Sweden) - mild mustard spiced filling on hard boiled egg halves, cupped in a crisp lettuce leaf (vegetarian option) Albondigas with Patatas Bravas (Malaga, Spain) – little meatballs in a tomato sauce, eaten from a stick, with a side of tangy spicy roasted potatoes splodged with sour cream (Patatas Bravas are vegetarian) Pastel de Nata (Lisbon, Portugal) – Portuguese custard tarts, soft lemony custard in a crisp puff pastry shell, slightly burned on top for that deep caramel hit Drink suggestion: A well-chilled dry Fino sherry.
Starters - Devilled Eggs, from a Swedish Smorgasbord (vegetarian option)
Joyful Swedes, toasts in aquavit, an evening outside, translucent Northern skies. A simple dish of spicy-stuffed eggs, nestled on a lettuce leaf.
The perfect finger food, so simple. These are found on all buffet tables in Scandinavia. I generally allow one egg half per person, but you know the hungriness of your own family and friends best. For 6 people I have used 4 eggs in this recipe which gives you some leeway if an egg is a funny shape inside and won’t be stuffed, or to give someone second helpings. Use more eggs if your group of 6 is a hungry bunch and they’ll want two halves each.
Preparation: 50 minutes – 10 minutes to boil the eggs, 20 minutes to cool down, 20 minutes final prep
2 anchovy fillets in oil (leave out for the vegetarian version)
50g butter, softened.
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon English mustard
¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
1 little gem lettuce
Hard boil your eggs: boil for about 10 minutes and then run them under cold water until they have cooled down a bit. Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.
In a small bowl mash the anchovy fillets with the back of a teaspoon into the mustard – you will get a lumpy creamy texture. Mix in the mayonnaise and add the butter to the bowl.
Peel the eggs under running cold water – this helps get the shell off without sticking to the white. Halve the eggs top to bottom, being careful to keep the halved whites whole. To make the whites stand better you can cut a very thin sliver off the underside. Scoop out the yolks with a teaspoon and put them in the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix well. The remaining warmth of the yolks will just melt the butter into everything else and turn it into a creamy paste. Adjust the seasoning if needed, you might want a grind of pepper. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag, using a big star nozzle and fill each egg half with a generous portion. Place each egg half onto its own lettuce leaf cup and sprinkle a tiny dusting of paprika over.
They’ll keep in the fridge covered for an hour.
Serve: as they are on their little lettuce plates, on your most attractive china.
Main Course - Albondigas with Patatas Bravas
The heat of Spain, the teeming evening streets of Malaga fragrant with flowers and the scent of cooking. Stand outside at street tables: tiny flavoursome meatballs are served on skewers, fiery potatoes sizzle in a clay dish.
The two sauces that go with these dishes are similar but complementary and you can make them at the same time alongside each other for economy of effort. You can do most of this other than roasting the potatoes a day ahead.
Makes 60 little meatballs – about 8 portions to give you some left over – they can be frozen uncooked or cooked ones re-heat really well and can be used in a sub roll next day for a lusciously wicked sandwich slathered with sauce and maybe some grated cheese.
Preparation: 30 minutes for the sauce, 30 minutes for the meatballs, then 30 minutes in the oven. All can be done ahead and re-heated.
For the sauce: 1 medium onion, about 100g, chopped fine, 2 cloves garlic, crushed with salt, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1 teaspoon dried oregano 200ml red wine 1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes 1 x 400ml carton of passata
Make the sauce: Gently fry the onion in vegetable oil until softened. Add the cumin seeds, oregano and the garlic and stir to cook. Add in the powdered spices and stir again. Tip in the tomatoes, passata and red wine. Cook gently over a low heat for about half an hour – test the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
For the meatballs: combine all the ingredients in a big bowl and mix with your hands, work thoroughly to make sure it’s all mixed properly. Make small balls of the mixture and roll them in the seasoned flour. Heat 1cm of oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs until browned all over – they aren’t very big so it only takes about 5 minutes. Scoop them out and place on kitchen paper.
Now you have your cooked meatballs and your sauce – they can be kept for up to a day in the fridge before finally cooking.
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Combine the meatballs and sauce in an oven proof dish and place in the oven, covered, for about half an hour to warm right through.
Serve: portion up with a scoop of sauce onto each plate. The meatballs are firm enough to eat just with a fork.
Patatas Bravas (vegetarian)
Preparation: 30 minutes for the sauce – best done ahead, 60 minutes for the potatoes in the oven.
1.2kg firm potatoes – red ones are good.
300ml pot of sour cream
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ red pepper, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, squashed with salt
1 red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon mild chilli powder, ½ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano
Splash of Henderson’s Relish
For the sauce: fry the onion gently in oil until translucent, add the chopped pepper and garlic – fry a little more. Add the fresh chilli, then add the powdered spices and the oregano. Fry to release the flavours, then tip in the tin of tomatoes. Add a good splash of Henderson’s Relish. Let the sauce bubble away for 5 minutes then test the seasoning – you will need some ground pepper and you might need salt. Add a little water if the sauce is getting too thick, and simmer for another 10 minutes. You can cool the sauce and keep it in the fridge for several days and it is also very good on pasta for a quick weekday meal.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Cut the potatoes into wedges, leaving the skin on. Put them in a metal baking tray along with some vegetable oil, salt, pepper and a little paprika. Mix them well with the oil – using your hands is best. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn, another 20 minutes and turn again – another 10 minutes - you want all the surfaces to be crispy and brown.
Serve: Portion the potatoes onto small dishes, one for each guest, with an artistic trail of sauce over them and a dollop of sour cream.
Dessert - Pastel de Nata, Portuguese Custard Tarts
Pass by a Portuguese bakery in the morning and snaffle a sweet delight, creamy inside and crisp on the outside, a tantalising flavour of lemon and cinnamon combined.
As explained to me on a lively on-line cooking course, these little items of rich sweet deliciousness are more than Portuguese, they are fully international. Chef João Batalha from the Lisbon Pastelaria Batalha taught us that the Portuguese sailors and explorers took the recipe with them and versions are now found throughout China, South America and Europe. The difference to the custard tarts of English heritage is the flavouring – these use lemon and cinnamon instead of vanilla.
1 pack of rolled ready puff pastry (375g roll)
500ml semi skimmed milk
1 piece of lemon peel, about 3 inches long
1 x 2cm piece of cinnamon stick or some pieces of cassia bark
50g plain flour
5 egg yolks
Take the pastry out of the fridge, remove it from its cardboard wrapper and the plastic wrapper and leave it on the worktop, still in its greaseproof paper wrap, to warm a little bit while you start the custard.
Put the milk in a pan. Add the cinnamon stick/cassia bark and the piece of fresh lemon peel. Heat the pan strongly to bring the milk to the boil.
Sieve the flour and sugar into a bowl.
When the milk is heated, just before boiling, take it off the heat and add in the flour/sugar, a little bit at a time and whisking to avoid lumps. Put the pan back on the heat and cook until the mixture is getting thick, stirring all the time. It doesn’t take long to reach a texture like cream. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool. It needs to be about body heat before you mix in the eggs.
Now deal with the pastry. A key feature of Pastel de Nata is the puff pastry laminations can be seen on the bottom of the tart like the rings in a tree trunk – they run in concentric circles. This is partly why the tarts are so crispy, so it’s important to get right. Unroll the pastry to a flat rectangle – keeping it on its own greaseproof paper square. Taking the long side, start to roll it very tightly into a long sausage shape. You might need to really pinch the first roll or two to make sure there are no air spaces trapped inside the roll. Roll up the whole thing quite tightly, wrap it back up in the greaseproof paper it comes in and put it back in the fridge to chill.
Heat the oven to quite high – you need a good hot air circulation to encourage the pastry to rise up and crisp and the custard to puff up, so if you have both fan and top/bottom heating, use both, and take it to 240°C. Get the oven good and warm, let it reach temperature fully and give it another few minutes.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and cut the sausage shape as equally as you can into 15 little roll-shaped sections.
Take a section of pastry and put it cut side down in the tart tin. You can use special individual Pastel de Nata tins, which are non-stick, and have a slightly flared shape but you can also use a conventional 12-cup bun tin.
Have a bowl of cold water to hand. Dip your thumb into the water and then press it into the middle of the pastry section, squashing down the pastry to the bottom of the little tin. Using your thumb, and turning the tin as you go, squish the pastry up the sides of the tin, until it comes up over the edge. You need it higher than the edge, to hold in the filling. And you are fine if it’s quite thin on the base, as that will make it crispier.
Keep on doing this until all your tins are filled with pastry.
Now add the egg yolks to the cooled milk/flour mixture and remove the lemon peel and the cinnamon/cassia. You will notice that the flavouring has entered the custard and is very delicate. (well, you will if you’re like me and can’t resist licking the custard off the cassia piece.)
Fill each pastry case with the custard mixture to about 1/2cm below the rim. Put into the oven for about 6 minutes, then turn the tray round to cook the tarts evenly and cook for another 5-6 minutes, keeping an eye on them. You want the custard to cook on the top and form those lovely caramelised light burn marks but you don’t want it to catch and go darker brown.
Take out of the oven when the custard has only the slightest wobble, let them cool on a wire rack. They will keep cooled in the fridge for 2 days or so, and you can bring them out and warm up just before serving. Serve: at room temperature and sprinkled with a little cinnamon sugar.