Tuesday, 12 September 2017

On the road to Portugal - part 1

It’s been a long and well-deserved holiday but I am happy to be back to share with you some highlights of my trip to Portugal. This is a country that connects me to my Brazilian roots – not only because of our history, the beautiful Portuguese architecture and beaches, but also the gastronomy. My family and I go back whenever we can.
In the last three years Portugal has become a hot destination. It's safe, has great food and is relatively cheap. A year ago, I would have said its very cheap to travel around the country but thanks to the influx of tourists from all over, the prices have shot up. Having said that, it still is one of the most affordable holidays in Europe.
The food there is delicious. I must say that vegetarians and vegans will suffer a bit. The Portuguese indulge in meat (black pork, chicken piri-piri, lamb, beef) and seafood (cod, sardines, prawns, clams etc). Their menus are a bit biased towards the protein side. Paleos would be in heaven.
My family and I started our trip in Lisbon, then travelled to Setúbal . Once there, we explored the beaches nearby but settled mostly at Costa de Caparica. In a quaint square in Setúbal, we had fresh grilled fish caught on the day. The best sardines!
The market in Setúbal (see photo above) is spectacular! It's really worth a visit.
From Setúbal, we went to Alentejo where we explored the wine and olive oil region. As much as we love the area, I wouldn’t recommend it in the peak of Summer. It is scorching hot.
In the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing with you two of the simplest and most popular Portuguese traditional dishes.
At the end of this post, I list some of the restaurants I recommend in Lisbon.
Back in my kitchen

Today let’s have piri-piri chicken (frango piri-piri), which became one of our favourite budget meals. The method I am applying here was explained to me by the chef in one of the restaurants in Lisbon that was a lucky find. He showed me how to make a quick, fresh blend of the piri piri sauce. It’s great in its simplicity. No wonder piri-piri chicken (in its various versions) spread like wild fire in the streets of London.

The ingredients.
The sauce. 
Piri piri sauce


4 bird eye chillies - seedless
3-4 red chillies - seedless
1 scoth bonnet – optional, if you want it to be extra-hot - seedless
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Olive oil – about 100-150 ml just to cover the ingredients inside the blender
Juice of half lemon


Blend all the ingredients. Reserve.

The spatchcock chicken plus sea-salt.
Grill the chicken skin side down for 5 minutes...
...then turn over and grill for 5 more minutes.
The seasoned chicken before going into the oven.
My piri piri chicken.

The roasted chicken
Serves 4-6


1 organic chicken (about 1.6kg), spatchcock – you can ask your butcher to do it for you. Or 1-2 poussins


Pre-heat the oven to 190 ° C degrees.

Place the chicken in the grill skin side down, for about 5 minutes each side. In a roasting tray, scatter sea-salt and drizzle some olive oil on top. Transfer the chicken to the tray, skin side down, and season it with sea salt. Brush the piri piri sauce on this side of the chicken. Turn it over and repeat with salt and sauce. Now leave the chicken skin side up and roast in the oven for 60-75 minutes. When done, squeeze fresh lime juice and scatter some fresh coriander on top. Serve with roasted vegetables and salad leaves.

A healthy note: Chilli (Capsicum annum, C. frutescens ) contains a compound called capsaicin – this is what gives its spicy and pungent character. Capsaicin is well known in scientific research as a pain reliever and digestive aid, which also has cardiovascular benefits. Capsaicin has the ability to lower blood temperature (it may induce perspiration in cases of fever). It contains very good levels of vitamin A and C. Chilli is a great source of iron and potassium. Warning: For people suffering from GER & GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), chillies can aggravate the symptoms.

Places to eat in Lisbon

Cantinho do Avillez - It’s the relaxed version of José Avillez two star Michelin Belcanto. Lovely atmosphere. The scallops and the berry cheesecake were  to die for. Rua dos Duques de Bragança 7, 1200-162, Lisbon. Tel: +351 211 992 369. www.cantinhodoavillez.pt/cantinho-lisbon
Taberna do Sal Grosso – Clam rice delight.  Calçada do Forte 22, 1100-397, Lisboa. Make sure you book before turning up, the place is always fully booked. Also, the best way to book is through Facebook, as they hardly answer the phone. www.facebook.com/tabernaSalGrosso
O Churrasco – very tender and juicy barbecue chicken. The restaurant itself doesn't look inviting but give it a try. Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 85, 1150-266, Lisboa. Tel: +351 21 342 3059
Time Out Market/ Mercado da RibeiraHenrique Sá Pessoa – If you are lucky to find an empty seat or table as the place gets overflown by tourists (like myself :-)), try chef Henrique Sá’s mouth-watering pork belly confit with sweet potato mash and greens. Then have a creamy custard tart (pastel de nata) at Manteigaria. Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa. www.timeoutmarket.com

Mercado de Campo de Ourique – A pretty local food market with food stalls selling mostly Portuguese food. A much smaller version of Time Out Market. It is very close to Pastelaria Aloma (below). Rua Coelho da Rocha, 104, 1350, Lisboa. www.facebook.com/mercadodecampodeourique

Pastelaria Aloma – They claim to be the best pastel de nata in Lisboa. I am not sure if it is the best but it is very very good indeed. And the bakery is located in a lovely part of Lisbon.  Rua Francisco Metrass 67, 1350-139, Lisbon. Tel: +351 213 963 797.  www.aloma.pt

Manteigaria Silva - Not really a place to seat down and eat but I had to mention this traditional Portuguese grocery store that sells a variety of produce from the country: wine, cheese, dried cod, fresh produce etc. Rua Dom Antão de Almada, 1 D 1100-197 Lisboa. Tel: +351 21 342 4905

Till next week!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Closed for the holidays

The time has come, and I am officially on holiday. The kitchen will be closed for the next three weeks but you can keep an eye on my Instagram account @margots.kitchen for some of my Portuguese experiences with my family.I will be in search of good food, and in September I am back with travel tips and recipes inspired by our journey. 

Happy holidays and till September!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A soup to make a mother proud

The great thing about my weekly organic delivery box is that I receive whatever is in season and love the surprise of what comes every week. This week the mini cucumbers arrived. They are also called pickling cucumbers because, well…they are perfect for it. They have a thinner skin than their bigger relatives and tend to be less bitter. But I wasn’t going to pickle them. I had something else in mind.

About two months ago, I went with my sister to the last Secret Kitchen supper club at the Culinary Anthropologist’s house. Anna Colquhoun has now closed the doors of her beautiful kitchen for the next two years, as she moved to Istria where she is running a bed and breakfast and cookery classes, and that is also where she is doing her PhD research. Bolara 60 is a 250 years old stone farmhouse located in Northwest Croatia. As described on their website: “It is a destination for anyone looking for an idyllic, nature-lover’s paradise, where great food is celebrated”. Being familiar with Anna’s work - you can see some of my experiences at her kitchen in London here and here - I am sure that the food and the hosting will be nothing but excellent.

I digress as my mind strays into plans to visit her guesthouse. But returning to the subject of this post, during her last secret dinner, Anna served us, amongst other great food, a cold yoghurt soup with diced mini cucumbers that made the whole table raise a chorus of Mmm... in unison. It was a surprising and super delicious dish. She said it was a tribute to her mother, who had sadly passed away a few weeks before. The whole evening and that dish came back to me this week - it would've been my mothers birthday had she not passed away at the end of last year. And what better way to commemorate than cooking something really special. As Anna’s refreshing soup was so perfect, I didn’t want to go experimental. Luckily the recipe can be found in her latest book collaboration Gather Cook Feast. I made it for family and some friends and got the best compliments. To make a mother proud. 

The chefs getting ready to serve the last secret dinner.
The menu.
Anna Colquhoun's mouthwatering Bulgarian yoghurt soup.

 Back in my kitchen

The ingredients.

Whisk the yoghurt with the oils and garlic.

My mouthwatering version of chilled cucumber and yoghurt soup.

Chilled cucumber & dill soup with crushed walnuts (by Anna Colquhoun, extracted from the book Gather Cook Feast.)
Serves 4

This soup is refreshing, crunchy, satisfying and healthy. I recommend making it with organic natural live yoghurt. 


80g walnuts halves
459g good natural yoghurt
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed smooth
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon walnut oil, plus a little to finish
a small bunch of fresh dill (around 20g), finely chopped plus a little more to finish
around 200ml cold water
sea salt
250g mini cucumbers
1 Tablespoon lemon juice 


Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and toast the walnuts on a tray for around 8 minutes, until golden and rubbable. Tip on to a clean tea towel, gather up into a bag and rub vigorously to loosen the skins. Pick out the pieces of nut, leaving the skins behind. Chop very finely.

Beat together the yoghurt, crushed garlic and oils until smooth and well combined. Stir in the nuts and dill (keeping back a little of each to finish the bowls). Stir in the cold water until the soup is a lovely consistency – something between thin and thick cream is nice – then season to taste with salt. Chill the soup in the fridge for at least an hour.

Cut the cucumbers into very fine dice (as tiny as you can make them) and layer in a colander with light sprinklings of salt. Leave for 20-30 minutes, so that the salt draws out the excess water from the cucumbers. The salt will also season them and help keep colour and texture.

Just before serving, stir the cucumber and lemon juice into the yoghurt mixture and check the seasoning once more. Finish the bowls of soup with the few walnuts and dill you have kept aside and dribble over a few drops of walnut oil.

A healthy noteCucumbers (Cucumis sativus) contain 95% water making them ideal to help keep the body hydrated. They contain vitamin C and the mineral Silica, that is good for your hair and nails. Cucumbers are a great source of fibre.
Walnuts (Juglans regia) have great nutritional value and are very rich in serotonin. Walnuts are also rich in Omega 3, which may prevent heart diseases by lowering triglycerides and reducing plaque formation. They contain a component of vitamin E (Gamma-tocopherol), which provides antioxidant protection that helps detoxify cancer-causing substances. 
Natural live yoghurt boosts immunity and is very helpful in cases of stomach ulcers. It is high in protein, natural fats and calcium. It is a natural source of probiotic activity (live friendly bacteria) that enriches the intestinal flora, maintaining a good digestive system.

Till next week!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Breakfast in a hurry - Easy pancakes

Student life and a good balanced diet don’t always go hand in hand. I remember those days when I had to skip breakfast because I would wake up late for class and had to rush out of the door, having a juice or a cup of coffee on the way with a piece of sweet bun.

A while ago I was speaking to my nephew who’s on a full-time naval engineering course, and he told me he was finding it difficult to eat properly - breakfast was almost nonexistent, especially in exams week. He got a big tut- tut from his now wised-up auntie. After a short but kind lecture on the importance of having a good meal in the morning, I gave him some ideas for breakfast.

One suggestion that got him very interested is the quick and nutritious pancake that he can prepare in no-time in the morning. It’s easy to make and it would help him feel satiated, almost until lunch time. These pancakes are low in refined sugars and, when paired with fresh fruits, they make a good and balanced meal to start the day. For those in a hurry or not.

Blend bananas, eggs, oats, cacao powder, cinnamon and almonds.
The batter in the frying pan.
Use the seasonal fruits of your choice.
An easy and gorgeous breakfast.
Quick banana and nuts pancake
Makes 4-6 small pancakes


2 eggs
1 banana
12 almonds (you can also use 2 tablespoons of ground almonds)
2 Tablespoons of oats
1 teaspoon of cacao powder
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
A drizzle of a good quality maple syrup
Butter or coconut oil to brush the pan


Mix all the ingredients in a blender. (Alternatively, you can mash the bananas, whisk the eggs and add the ground ingredients together, mixing gently.) Brush the pan with butter or coconut oil. Pour some of the batter into the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side. Serve with fresh fruits, preferably seasonal, and drizzle with a good quality maple syrup. Enjoy!

A healthy note:  Egg is a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein. It contains lecithin, which helps the body to break down fat and cholesterol. Lecithin is also a source of the B vitamin-like choline, which is necessary for brain development at pregnancy. Choline is an important nutrient for the prevention of fatty liver and is a neurotransmitter involved in many functions, including memory and muscle control. Egg also contains biotin, another B vitamin-like compound, which is very important for the digestion of fat and protein, and essential for the health of hair, skin and nails. Egg contains an antioxidant called glutathione that prevents the formation of free radicals. It is very rich in Omega-3 fats, which prevent diabetes, obesity and depression. It contains vitamin A and E, folic acid and lutein (an antioxidant in the carotenoid family that helps to keep the eyes healthy and safe from oxidative stress).

Almonds (Prunus dulcis): like any other nut eaten raw, almonds are much easier to digest when they are soaked overnight. They are a great source of complete protein and good fats. They contain insoluble fibre, which is beneficial for regular bowel movements. Almonds are rich in magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Besides tasting great, almond milk can be taken for constipation and inflammation of the gut (e.g. colitis, IBS and Crohn’s disease).

Bananas are a great option for a pre-or post-workout snack, as they provide carbohydrate and boost your energy. They are very rich in potassium, which studies have shown to decrease the risk of heart disease. Bananas provide a good amount of soluble dietary fibre that helps with regular bowel movements. They are also a source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C. 

Till next week!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Sweetness and a little crunch – a salad with a twist

I discovered a small café in Muswell Hill, about three years ago, called Chriskitch. I fell in love with the place and its food. The chocolate cake and the coffee alone are worth my travel there. The salads are stunning, the breads are a must, and the presentation of the plates is very fun and creative. I always find an excuse to go back to try something different each time.

Chris Honor, the chef and owner, loves giving a twist to his recipes. You would never think of putting together some of the ingredients and dressings he mixes in his salads, but they work beautifully. His café has even got the blessing of the fiercest food critic of the capital, Jay Rayner. If it is good enough for Mr. Rayner…  

And if it works, why try and change it, right? Except that, like Chris, I like to put a twist on recipes. One of his recipes that inspired me to add a little touch of mine is the grape and black olive salad. My family loves it. I like to think that even Jay Rayner would approve it… (wink).

Spread the blended kalamata and miso mix evenly on a lined baking sheet.
Let it cook until dehydrated and wait until it cools...
...then blend into a powder.
Cook both grains as per packet instructions. Let them cool...
...place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix gently.
Green grapes, grains and dried black olives

Back in my Kitchen

Green grapes, grains and dried black olives salad (inspired by Chriskitch recipe)
Serves 4-6

A good source of fibre, this salad can be a great accompaniment to a fish, chicken or lamb dish, if you are not a vegan or vegetarian.


200g organic green grapes, chopped
200g organic pearled spelt
150g organic black rice
2 celery stalks, chopped
60g almonds, chopped
20g black olive powder (see how to make it below)
Juice of 2 lemons
Sea salt and black pepper

For the black olive powder – you will need to start this a day before or at least 6 hours before you are planning to make the salad.


160g black olive (I use Kalamata)
20g white miso paste


Preheat the oven to 100°C. In a food processor, combine the olives and the white miso. Pulse them until they turn into a rough paste. Transfer this paste to a lined baking sheet and spread the mixture evenly. Place it in the oven and cook until the mixture looks dehydrated (about 2-4 hours). When ready, turn the oven off but leave the mixture inside the oven with the door left ajar until completely cool. Place the mixture in a food processor and pulse until a powder is formed.

Cook the rice and spelt as per packet instructions, set aside and let them cool. Put all ingredients in a bowl, mixing gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 

A healthy note: green grapes (Viti vinifera) contain vitamins such as vitamin C, that prevents infections; and vitamin K, that supports bone health and prevents excessive bleeding. Green grapes are also rich in iron, which plays a very important role in the formation of red blood cells; and potassium, which aids cell and heart functions, tissue and muscle.
Almonds (Prunus dulcis): like any other nut eaten raw, almonds are much easier to digest when they are soaked overnight. They are a great source of complete protein and good fats. They contain insoluble fibre, which is beneficial for regular bowel movements. Almonds are rich in magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Besides tasting great, almond milk can be taken for constipation and inflammation of the gut (e.g. colitis, IBS and Crohn’s disease).
Black rice (Oryza sativa) and pearled spelt (Triticum spelta) are both great sources of fibre which improves digestive health. Black rice contains an antioxidant called Anthocyanin (its deep purple colour is an indication of high antioxidant properties). Studies have shown that Anthocyanin helps reduce inflammation, improves cardiovascular disease and has anti-cancer properties. Black rice also contains vitamin E.

Till next week!