The Curly Cook

Welcome to the Curly Cook, a food blog dedicated to good food and wine with Portuguese flare!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Moqueca Baiana

Last night was great. My Brazilian crew (Fabiola, Lenicio, Lusimar & Andre) and the other international folks (Karine & Claudine) threw me a surprise birthday party. They also taught me how to make Moqueca Baiana. This was a BIG deal for me. I actually tried making moqueca last spring using salmon filets, but wasn't terribly impressed by my efforts, but I was SUPER impressed yesterday.
Lenicio explained that there are two different types of moqueca, the one from the Bahia state (which is where he is from) and Moqueca Capixaba, from the southeast. The big difference between the two is that the Moqueca Baiana uses palm oil (dendê) and the Moqueca Capixaba does not.

It's really not a hard dish to make, the most work to do involves chopping the veggies, other than that, you just put the lid on and let it cook.

PS Thanks again to Lenicio for all his tips on how to make a great moqueca and to Fabiola for chopping all the vegetables before I got there. It was a GREAT party guys and I'll try to get the recipes up for the Pirao de peixe and the great bday cake you made Karine!

So onto the essential ingredients for all moquecas

For 6 to 8 people

2.250 kg Fish steaks (bones in). We used whiting, but halibut, tuna, and other hearty
fish that can be stewed would work too.

3 limes, juiced

1 tablespoon of colorau de urucum (a natural colourant used in Brazilian
cuisine, similar to the use of paparika in Portuguese cuisine)

1 teaspoon palm oil

3 teaspoons olive oil

5 Bell peppers, roughly chopped (we used 2 yellow, 2 red and 1 orange)

3 Medium sized onions, roughly chopped

6 Medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons tomatoe paste

3 pimento de cheiro (literally "the smelly pepper," they are very fragrant,
are yellow in colour and about the size of a grape. Available in Portuguese
or Brazilian food markets)

1 can coconut milk (NOT the one for baking)

1 bunch of fresh cilanto, finely chopped. Also chop a handful of the cilantro
stems and put aside

Tools --> A dutch oven, if you have one. We used a clay wok which also worked. You want to use something that will retain its heat so that you can simmer the stew at a lower temperature.

1. Marinade the fish steaks with salt, pepper, colorau de urucum and the juice from the lines. You can let the fish hang out while you chop the veggies. About 1- 2 hours (if you have the time)

2. Heat the pot on the stove top and then add the olive oil and palm oil. Add the chopped garlic and the handful of chopped cilantro stems. This is going to infuse the oil with all that flavour and your kitchen is going to smell AWESOME :)

3. Being careful not to let the garlic burn, layer about half the fish steaks on top of the frying garlic and then layer about half the chopped vegetable mixture on top of the fish, then another layer of the veggies. Keep in mind that the number of layers you have depends on the size of your pot. Lower the heat to medium.

4. Add the tomato paste, and pimento de cheiro on top of your last vegetable layer. Cover the pot and do let simmer for 35 to 40 minutes. Don't mix anything, just let the fish and veggies get to know one another, undisturbed :)

5. By this time, your house is going to smell like a sea side restaurant and your guests mouths are going to be watering. Carefully add the coconut milk and sprinkle the top of the dish with all that chopped cilantro. Remember to taste for salt before taking the pot to the table!

6. Serve with rice, more fresh cilantro and Pirao de Peixe (recipe yet to be written and posted)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The day I wish I knew how to make Kraft Dinner...

A few weeks ago, my brother David forwarded me an email about an event with Bob Blumer from FoodTV coming to UWO. Being a fan of his shows I emailed to sign up and received a reply saying that the event was full, but that there was a waiting list. With very little faith, I put my name on the waiting list and miraculously received a reply a few hours later saying that the event had been moved to a bigger room. I was pretty happy about that, but more happy of the fact that there was also a contest to be Bob Blumer's sous-chef for the i put my name in the contest and sent every possible good vibe I could muster along with it...a few more weeks past, and I never heard from the organizers...until last Thursday when I got an email from the organizers saying i had won the contest!!! I had problems controlling myself and NOT doing a happy dance in my office...although i think i may have squealed...I'll have to double check with my office neighbours on that one, lol
So today was the big day...i was pretty psyched for the whole day and looking forward to meeting him...which i did.He was pretty down to earth and seemed, well, normal...
Anyways, he gave a talk about how he got from UWO (which is where he graduated from...I didn't know that until I got the original email) to Food TV (it was a non-direct route, but a good can find out more about Bob here) He also talked about what he thought the equation for success was...some smarts + creativity + tenacity + hubris + adaptability + timing + luck...I think thats all of them...but you get the idea. So after he answered some questions from the audience, he introduced me and told me that I wasn't going to be his sous-chef but that i was going to be his competitor! It's all good I thought, i'm comfortable in the kitchen and in front of crowds...this will be fun....well that was until he pulled out a box of Kraft Dinner! He was trying to prove the point that making some garlic & chili powder infused sauce with pasta was quicker than Kraft dinner and cost about the same...the one problem was that I have never made Kraft Dinner!!! He was pretty surprised and I think most of the ppl in the audience were too, but it's the truth, I've tried the stuff twice in my life because other ppl had made it, and hated it both times....anyways, it was all good. We got one of the 300 other ppl who knew what they were doing to give me a crash course in Kraft dinner, and it ended up being that Bob's dish was faster and much tastier!
So the lesson of the day, cooking from scratch is preferred, but cooking out of a box can also come in handy...stay tuned for my next post....How to Make Kraft Dinner :p

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Portuguese Surf & Turf (Carne Porco à Alentejana)

So 'Portuguese Surf & Turf' isn't the literal translation, but it gives you an idea of what this dish is about. Again, it's a dish from the southern Alentejo province, where much of the more creative of Portuguese cuisine comes from. A few notes about this one, small clams are better since they cook faster and usually taste better...just make sure they are fresh. I've used shrimp when I can't find clams in land-locked Ontario, not the same, but better than nothing.
Let me know what you think of the video!


2 ½ lbs. boneless pork loin, cut into 1 inch cubes
6 to 8 potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
2 tbsp. Portuguese pimento sauce*
1 cup dry white wine
2 large bay leaves, crumbled
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
15- 20 clams in the shell, scrubbed and purged of grit
Salt and pepper to taste

*If you don’t have pimento sauce, you can substitute it with your own homemade version using 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp. sweet paprika, 1 tbsp olive oil

1. Marinade the pork with the pimento sauce, wine, bay leaves, and garlic in a non-metallic bowl, overnight if possible.

2. Bake potatoes in one layer with a good drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper @ 425 C for about 30 minutes or until they look lightly brown and toasty. Alternatively, the potatoes can be deep fried; you’re choice.

3. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and add marinated pork and brown on all sides.

4. Remove pork from pan, and set aside. Add chopped onion and leftover marinade to the saucepan and sauté until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste.

5. Put the browned pork back in the saucepan and incorporate the onion/tomato mixture. Lower the heat and let the contents simmer.

6.Add the clams on top of the pork, distributing them as evenly as possible and cook about 20 minutes or until they open.

7. Arrange the baked (or fried) potatoes on a serving platter and pour the pork/clam mixture on top.

8. Garnish with sliced orange and lemon slices and freshly chopped cilantro.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cheese Demonstration

As promised, my cheese demo from the Western Fair a few weeks ago...I was pretty busy that weekend with my parents grape festival and wasn't as energetic as I wish I was, but I'm happy with it...especially the comments from the tasters :)

PS Big Thanks goes out to my 'fan club' who came out to support made it all the better :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bread Soup of Egg, Garlic and Cilantro (Açorda à Alentejana)

Before I sat down to write this post, the first thing I did was try to find an english translation for açorda. Obviously, I came up empty handed and 'bread-soup' was the closest thing I could come up with. I call it bread soup because as far as I know, all açordas use day-old bread to thicken it. This soup is very typical of the southern Alentejo province of Portugal where açordas are also made using codfish (bacalhau) or seafood (marisco).

This is a very regional dish, and it's rare to see it served outside of the Alentejo province. My Mom fell in love with the dish when we happened on a 'hole in the wall' type of restaurant somewhere in the middle of the province on a very hot day. To this day, my Mom still talks about that meal.

Having never attempted to make this dish before, I had my doubts it would turn out, but it was dead easy to make and tasted SO good. It may take you a few minutes to get used to the texture of the soggy bread, but hopefully the flavour of the cilantro and garlic will make you think of
açorda like a Portuguese version of French onion soup (minus the cheese)


4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup of olive oil
6 medium eggs
7 cups boiling water
6 cups (a good size loaf) day old Portuguese, French or Italian crusty bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 tsp ground pepper

1. In a large pot, get the water boiling and add the salt

2. Using a mortar and pestle, pulverize the garlic and cilantro together until it forms a thickish paste. Transfer to the bottom of a heat-proof bowl or casserole dish and drizzle with the olive oil.

3. Once the water is boiling, poach the eggs. The whites will spread everywhere, just be careful that he yolks don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Gently boil until eggs are cooked through (about 2 or 3 minutes)

4. Add the bread to the bowl and coat all the pieces with the cilantro-garlic-olive oil mixture. Sprinkle with the ground pepper.

5. Pour the boiling egg water mixture into the heat proof bowl and arrange the poached eggs on top. Sprinkle the top with fresh cut cilantro.

6. Serve at the table with a ladle being sure to give place an egg in each person's bowl.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Foodie Blog Roll

Just thought I'd write a blurb about the foodie blogroll. Being still relatively new to this whole blogging thing, I had just been introduced to the definition of a blogroll (basically it's just a list of blogs) but when Lisa told me about the foodie blogroll, a blogroll dedicated ENTIRELY to food-related blogs, I immediately signed up.
The idea was thought up by "The Leftover Queen" and is almost at 1000 blogs!
So for all of you food blog junkies, you now have a whole new world open to you :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Beat Up Potatoes (Batatas à Murro)

I think this dish embodies many things that are uniquely marries garlic and olive oil with a baked potato, replacing the usual sour cream and chives. And instead of gently cutting open the potato, these ones are literally beat up ('à muro') in the true hot blooded fashion that is being Mediterranean.
I've never really liked potatoes, but this, along with
my grandma's taters, are by far my favourite ways of eating potatoes. I don't think I'm the only one, since most people that try them, usually ask for seconds.
As a bonus, it's a really easy recipe and goes well with anything, but we usually serve it will grilled fish.


20 to 30 small white baby potatoes, washed
olive oil
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt and pepper

1. Put the whole potatoes on a baking sheet or shallow baking pan and bake at 450 F for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to very lightly brown.

2. Using an oven mitt or clean linen cloth, pick up one potato at a time and squeeze it until it pops open (This is the beating up part!). Transfer to a deep heat-proof bowl.

3. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil until evenly coated, add the garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

My cousin Jorge, lives in Portugal, and is a great cousin because not only does he read my blog, he suggests recipes and ways to make it better. This recipe is one of them.
He emailed me shortly after I posted this recipe to tell me his quick way of baking the the microwave. I've never tried it with this recipe, but I have 'baked' potatoes in the microwave before, and they have turned out just fine. Jorge suggested 8 to 9 minutes at the maximum setting, but use your best judgement.