What do four bloggers, one organic grocery, one farmer and ten guests do on a wonderful sunny day at Quinta das Seis Marias in Sargaçal, Lagos? They prove that fruits that are treated with respect are those that provide the best final taste. On your plate and in your body. And so, baskets in hand, four culinary bloggers go down to the farm to gather products that, together with those from the Mercearia Bio, they will combine in nearly twelve recipes made exclusively from organic foodstuffs.
All the participants are involved in observing, gathering and smelling. Queries about plants such as luffa or citronella are the starting point for delectable conversations with Fátima Torres (who is the owner of the farm and has been a farmer for ten years), Pedro Gonçalves (who runs the Mercearia Bio – Portimão) and each of the guests, chosen at random by the blog Entre Tachos e Sabores by Joana Oliveira, who organised this experimental event jointly with the Mercearia Bio.
Pedro’s and Joana’s aim is to have a standard format for this event, including interaction between producers and guests and the freshness of horticultural products and organic ingredients, “giving feedback in what is our natural environment: online, the blogosphere”.
With six hectares of fruit and vegetables stretching to the horizon, side by side with the small agro-tourism business Quinta das Seis Marias, Pedro, Fátima and Rui embrace one another. Inside, four glasses of organic wine are raised in a toast, and, at the end of the afternoon, the recipes are tried that brought everyone to a culinary laboratory which smells good… and tastes even better. rde, as receitas que levaram todos a uma cozinha laboratório que cheira bem… e sabe ainda melhor.
Amidst pans and flavours
Food as a source of nutrients
She grew up surrounded by women who were very creative in the kitchen. Her interest in cooking magazines led to her first experiences, which grew with her responsibility for family dinners and festive occasions… Joana Oliveira created her blog “Entre Tachos e Sabores” (literally: Amidst pans and flavours) against this background in 2012.
A number of health problems at the end of 2013 made her reassess her diet. The motivation she needed to change came from her contact with macrobiotics. The balance she found led her to invest in a functional diet: “I’m starting to see food not as a source of calories but as a source of nutrients,” she explains. She’s a teacher and was born in Lisbon and she’s planning to pursue this area at an academic level in the near future.
Nowadays she combines macrobiotic cooking with healthy vegetarian cooking (“because a vegetarian diet can have a less healthy side,” she says). She does not follow a radical diet, but she doesn’t buy meat, uses a minimum amount of processed food and avoids any refined sugar. Her sugar-free brownie recipe iced with a cashew and strawberry cream is one of the treats of this encounter. As soon as they were being prepared, everyone was drawn to the kitchen. The warm cakes similar to petit-gateau, the cream topping made with cashew and strawberries from the farm were fabulous… The sweet potato pie with a creamy pumpkin sauce stuffed with tofu was just as good.
At the end, as the joint organiser, she gave a positive assessment of the event: “I thought it was an enjoyable experience: the sharing, the timing, the pans, meeting bloggers who I didn’t know personally…”
My tiny green kitchen
“I can be modern and cook beans in a pressure cooker”
Her smile is a hymn to happiness. She cooks with a light touch, certain that she has found a way of achieving a balance. She started cooking and experimenting just after turning twelve. But for a long time “food was a problem… on the plate, nothing could be touched” (she laughs). Cooking gave her access to a wide range of textures, which taught her to enjoy lots of foods. The conscious choices came immediately afterwards, with an organic diet and, gradually without products of animal origin. “Lack of respect for nature was something that I didn’t want to go along with,” she confesses.
Yoga and oriental philosophies complement the way in which she eats nowadays. She gives priority to seasonal vegetables and legumes. “I don’t eat soya. Two years ago, I stopped using processed foods. This requires organisation, of course. You have to change the paradigm. I can be modern and cook beans in a pressure cooker”.
For three dishes – chickpea and pumpkin hummus, autumn vegetable pie and lentils with pumpkin purée – Inês brings winter squash, Hokkaido pumpkin, celery, leeks, normal and purple carrots, lemons and parsley from the vegetable plot. From the Mercearia Bio, she adds mushrooms, onions, turnips, tahini and spices to these ingredients. And she gives one tip: “one of the secrets of a good hummus is to use garlic roasted in its skin”.
While she is preparing the pumpkin, she talks passionately about the things that motivate her. “The blog [My tiny green kitchen] took a long time to come into being but it is a combination of three things that I love: writing, photography and cooking!”
Trick or Treat?
“I often make use of my mother’s expertise”
Times of adversity are often those that reveal a new and hitherto unknown path. That’s how it was with Joana Felix Machado too. After 17 years in the hotel industry, she decided to take a break and change direction. She swapped Lisbon for the Algarve five years ago. During that time, and supported by the expertise of her mother, with whom she spent a lot of her time, she decided to create a page of recipes on facebook: “Doçuras ou Travessuras?…” (Trick or Treat).
This maternal heritage is present at every step and Joana derives great pleasure from recreating the pie recipes, as far as possible using unrefined and organic products. It is her mother she recalls when choosing Hokkaido pumpkin or aubergine. But in her basket, she also has sweet potato, tangelos (a tangerine/grapefruit hybrid), peppers and thyme. These ingredients are essential for the pumpkin tart with walnuts, baked aubergine with pumpkin seeds and lamb stew with sweet potato.
While the pumpkin is in the oven, Joana prepares the base of the tart with flour, eggs, butter and muscovado sugar. There are smiles when the walnuts arrive, already cracked by Joana Oliveira, who is helping. They are part of the filling, together with the puréed pumpkin, the muscovado sugar, the coconut cream, cinnamon, eggs and tangelo and lemon zest. Meanwhile, it is impossible to resist the aroma of the lamb stew seasoned with thyme, which is bubbling away in the frying pan. Joana reveals her creativity by making use of the tops of Luísa’s purple carrots and preparing some fritters with turmeric, soya milk and wholemeal flour. De-li-cious!
Sardines out of the tin
“We were all immersed in the same passion”
She was born into a big family, connected to the hotel trade. The high season saw all the cousins in their grandmother’s house, where the wood-burning stove was alight day and night. “We all had tasks to perform and our grandmother always explained why things were done in a particular way when cooking,” Luísa Ferreira recalls; today, cooking and having a full house are synonymous with happiness for her.
However, it was unemployment (her training was in psychology) that made her think of creating a blog: Sardines out of the Tin. This reflects a philosophy of cooking without processed foods, meat or fish. “It is very difficult to give up cheese… and we occasionally eat butter,” she confesses. The change in diet came about “a little bit through curiosity” with “the need to see certain questions answered around the age of 30. It no longer made sense to have a diet of animal origin.”
Luísa is preparing a stew of oyster mushrooms with an oriental sweet potato puree. “I’ll add salt, ginger, paprika, chilli powder, dried garlic, whole and ground, and cumin. This is what will make the dish ‘travel'”, this fan of fusion cuisine reveals.
While she’s making the onion soup, she gives a tip: “the secret lies in the length of time we leave the onions to caramelise.” In the pan next to it, the broccoli, pumpkin, two types of carrot, cauliflower, oyster mushrooms and peas are bubbling away. Luísa has a taste and shares it with me. It’s divine!
At the end, she summarises the experience: “I loved the ingredients, their freshness, especially the purple carrots, which I didn’t know, and the conviviality. We were all immersed in the same process of sharing, the same passion.”