Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Barefoot Contessa in Lisbon: "Recipe Night"

Saturday, October 9

Eating is not my only hobby. Cooking is also a passion of mine, and by no means am I comparing myself to Ina Garten (a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa) who is an exceptionally wonderful cook with her own television show. (I am jealous!) I am, however, a pretty good cook. In the States, I own a small catering company called Gourmet Delights with my partner Cassy and we are always trying new and interesting recipes although I don't think any my clients are ready for octopus!

The "barefoot" reference is for the blisters still healing on my foot, so I do remain barefoot as much as possible. The Contessa part....???? Well....The Urban Dictionary defines "contessa" as a supreme goddess and a wonderful woman; a lady in her own right. Okay so maybe that's pushing it a little, but I can say my sweet and loving husband treats me as if I were a Contessa and perhaps it's because he likes my cooking! Nonetheless, to my friends and family at home...just pretend.....ok?

Tonight I made arroz de tamboril, a wonderful dish with monkfish, rice, prawns and chorizo sausage. The recipe I found was printed years ago in the Sunday London Times, but I have changed it a bit. It is really good and very easy to make. I am sharing it with you because if you find cooking a chore, this one is easy. It is similar to a paella or a jambalaya, but with a little more liquid. I served it with a wonderful Portuguese white wine called Serras De Azeitão. We like spicy things so I season pretty heavily, although this recipe is fairly mild. Use your judgment. We nearly licked our plates it was so good! Also great with a nice crusty bread!
 Serves 4

1 and 1/2 pounds monkfish fillets
8 raw prawns, peeled
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
2 chorizo sausages, sliced (mild or hot)
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 and 1/2 cups hot stock (vegetable or fish ) 

1 cup white wine
2 cups risotto rice
1 tsp Spanish paprika 

1 red thai chili pepper sliced. (this is optional. But leave in the seeds if you like it hot!)
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and black pepper
2 tbsp flat parsley leaves, torn
1 lemon


Cut the fish into healthy, bite-sized pieces.

Heat half the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the fish and prawns on all sides until they change color. Remove to a plate and season well. Add the remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, red peppers, and chorizo and fry for 10 minutes, stirring well. Add the tomatoes, stock or water and bring to the boil. Add the (unwashed) rice, paprika, bay leaves, salt and pepper, stirring well.

Reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the rice is almost cooked but still a little wet and soupy (add more stock if not). Add the monkfish, prawns and parsley and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Scatter with parsley and serve in warm pasta bowls, with lemon wedges for squeezing. And of course, accompany with a nice Portuguese white wine! :)

my favorite white wine
Sunday, October 10

We walked up to Graça today in the rain because we were short of wine. That's an emergency!!!  As always, we carefully trudged up the hill with our little cart, hoping not to slip on the cobblestones. At the Pingo grocery market we got the following: milk, a loaf of bread, a whole cut-up chicken, a nice bottle of 10 year old port, three bottles of GREAT Portuguese wine which is $3.50 USD each, two boxes of raspberries, one apple, one potato. Total cost was 29 euros which is $40.25 USD. The port was the most expensive thing we bought which came to $12. I am definitely NOT leaving here. I could support my wine addiction and not feel bad I was breaking the bank.

our groceries

 Steve was amused as he photographed this women lumbering down the hill with her packages. This looks like a typical elderly Portuguese woman walking home during a rain storm. Wait...this hideously dressed woman who is far too tall to be Portuguese is none other than...(argh) me. Unfortunately. But is hard to see, but it was pouring and I wasn't going to run into anyone I knew, was I?
an old, very unstylish woman
And finally, I have decided to give special kudos to our best restaurant of the week. By far, the award goes to Casa do Leão at my Castelo de São Jorge. 

Our table, situated by the beautifully arched window, tells its own story about the wonderful paradise that surrounds us. Food, ambiance and service was 5 stars and although it was our most expensive restaurant (we spent 112 Euros), it was worth every cent. (By the way, most of our dining experiences are no more than 30-40 euros for us both.)

view from our table on the castle grounds

We immediately made friends with Fernando, the maître d' who promised us that every time we came in we could have table #2 with this lovely view. They brought us out the traditional olive plate, and bread, but then served us samplings of pate and a plate with three kinds of warm sausage. Then, the meal we ordered was brought out. First there was shrimp, foie gras and then our main course. I got a wonderful monk fish lightly fried with sesame seeds that sat over a bed of wild rice. With that was crisp broccoli, perched on a creamy curry sauce laced with sweet, plump currants. TO DIE FOR!!!
crispy monk fish medallions in a warm curry sauce

Steve ate Pork Cheeks in a tangy warm gravy 
"I liked MINE, Ellie"
 I love this castle and the feeling as you walk around the magnificent surroundings under a lush canopy of trees and stone archways. And now, I even love the food. We will return many times!

For now, adeus and love from Steve and me.


  1. That last picture is great of you two, but take off the sunglasses! Hearing about the pouring rain reminded me of the time you, Dad and I were caught in that believable downpour in London after visiting that cemetery...we were all completely soaked to the bone, and there was nothing we could do about it, but it was so fun.

  2. That's so funny because Dad and I were just talking about that trip to the cemetery in the rain! It WAS fun!
    As to the sunglasses....I need them. The slightest glare and my eyes are closed. It's an immediate reaction when the camera goes off. Then I look like a blind woman. Life is imperfect!

  3. ooooo! Pork cheeks and Monk fish - I'm salivating just thinking about it. We'll have to plan a field trip to Lisbon and try the food at Casa do Leão. I think you have a few more high-end dining options there than we do up in the rustic northern part of the country.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe, too! It looks delicious!!