Thursday 25 January 2018

A green dish for a grey day

I must admit that January weather in London is a drag. It slows me down big time. Apart from the odd beautiful, but gelid, sunny day, most of the time the lack of light and the frequent rain make me want to hibernate. Not a chance. During the week, at 6:30am, the alarm clock reminds me that I have a daughter to prepare a lunch box for and that the day ahead of me is going to be a busy one.

On the other hand, not everything is grey. On Tuesdays, my veggie/fruit box from Riverford organic farmers is delivered, and I love to check what is arriving. The colourful produce pulls me out of my lethargy and I get excited about what to cook with the week’s vegetables.

The whole roasted cauliflower or cauliflower steaks, brought to London by middle-eastern restaurants like The Palomar and Nopi, have taken the capital by storm. I absolutely adore them and they’re dishes that currently feature in our meals.

This week’s box brought a beautiful Romanesco broccoli - or Romanesco cauliflower - that I prepared for lunch. The crispy charred bits covered in butter transform this beauty into a gorgeous mouthful. You can have that as a main dish, or as side with a sauce or dip. 

Fruit and veggie box of the week.
Romanesco ready to go to oven.
My roasted Romanesco served with tahini sauce.
Whole roasted Romanesco broccoli


1 Romanesco broccoli 

50g unsalted butter, softened

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt


Pre-heat the oven to

Lightly trim the leaves at the top of the Romanesco. 

In a big pan, large enough to fit the whole Romanesco, add water and salt. Bring to a boil and lower in the vegetable (top facing down). Bring back to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer the Romanesco to a colander. Set aside until a bit cooler.

Melt the butter with the extra-virgin olive oil. Put the Romanesco facing up in a medium baking tray. Spread the mixture of butter and olive oil all over. Season with sea salt. 

While roasting, baste the Romanesco with the butter mixture approximately 4 times. Roast for about 1 hour – 1 ½ hour. 

The cauliflower is done when it reaches a dark golden-brown colour and you can insert a knife easily. 

Remove from the oven and serve with the tahini sauce (recipe here), yoghurt sauce (recipe here) or citrus miso sauce (see below).

Ingredients for the citrus miso sauce.
Citrus miso sauce


1 cup freshly-squeezed orange (I used bloody orange which was sweet so I added some lime juice too)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive-oil 
1 Tablespoon lime or lemon juice
 (optional if your orange juice is very sweet)
1/2 cup sweet white miso  
Sea salt (with moderation as miso is already salty)


Whisk the miso, extra-virgin olive oil, orange juice, lime or lemon and pinch of sea salt together. Whisk until you reach a smooth consistency, adding more orange juice or lime or lemon juice as needed.

Healthy notes: Romanesco broccoli/ Romanesco cauliflower/ Broccoflower (Brassica oleracea) is part of the cruciferous family. It is packed with vitamin C, folate, vitamin B5 and Vitamin K. Romanesco is a great source of carbohydrate, and high in fibre that helps with digestion and prevents constipation. It contains the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene that provides our bodies with antioxidants. Romanesco contains a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds that helps cleansing the kidneys. It also has a compound called indoles that studies have shown that they can contribute to a cancer-protecting diet. 

Till next week!

Thursday 18 January 2018

Back to basics to start the new year

Hello everyone!

Hope you all had a great break. Let’s hope for a happy and healthy New Year!

With the festivities over it's time to resume the routine. After the break, it’s good to be back and share my cooking with you. The family who came over for Xmas has returned to Brazil. Since they left I have been craving for one of our biggest staple foods: black beans. It’s not that I don’t cook it here but, when I was growing up, we had black beans served at every lunch and dinner. Somehow, saying goodbye to the family, and remembering my parents who are not amongst us anymore, touched something in me that made me crave for a childhood comfort food.

This dish is a source of iron, fibre, protein, and other vitamins and minerals. To me it is also a source of memories and stories we shared during the meals. Apart from the sentimental side of it, this wholesome dish is soooo good.

Like my friend chef Teresa Corção says: “Food is culture, affection and memory”. Black beans have become trendy in the UK in the past couple of years, especially with vegans. Even fast food chains like Leon now serve “Brazilian” black beans. Nice as they might be, these are not the black beans as Brazilians know it.

I am not a purist, I like to play with flavours and different ingredients. But this post is about going back to basics.

Main ingredients.
Place beans, water and bay leaves in the pressure cooker and cook until soft.
My Brazilian black beans served with black rice, okra, roasted carrots and poached egg.

Classic Brazilian black beans


500g black beans *
2 litres cold water
2 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste


Rinse the beans under a cold tap, make sure there aren't any stones or other impurities.

Place them in a bowl, add the cold water and soak for 12 hours or overnight. If any beans float, throw them away.  Change the water 2-3 times, preferably.

Once soaked, place water, black beans and bay leaves in a pressure cooker. Close it and bring it to high pressure. When the steam starts to escape, bring the heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes. If not using a pressure cooker, cook the beans in a normal pan for approximately 40 minutes.

Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow it to release pressure naturally. The beans will be cooked when they are slightly firm outside and soft inside.

In another saucepan, add the olive oil, fry the onions and garlic until they reach a golden colour. Add a couple of ladlefuls of the cooked beans. Mix well then transfer this mixture into the pressure cooker. Season to taste and let it cook on a low heat for another 5 minutes.

If you are not going to season the whole cooked beans now, you can freeze them.

*In Brazil, depending on the region, people eat different types of beans. You can find some of them in the UK, like the most common black and pinto beans, in Brazilian delis around London.

A healthy note: Black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) are one of the best sources of fibre. Research has shown that the high content of fibre can help
lower cholesterol and prevent the quick rise of blood sugar levels after a meal. It makes them especially good for people diagnosed with diabetes, hypoglycaemia or who are insulin resistant. Black beans are also a good source of folic acid, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc. Studies have shown that folic acid and B6 help lower elevated levels of homocysteine, preventing heart attack.
Black beans also contain protein. The combination of black beans and rice on your plate makes it a perfect complete protein meal.

Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) play a very important role in the gastrointestinal tract. The leaves act as a diuretic, decreasing toxicity in the body. Bay leaves have a compound that aids upset stomachs and helps to soothe Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The unique enzymes found in bay leaves ease digestion and nutrient intake.

Till next week!
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