Did I say Francesinha?

The day we arrived in Porto, we were somewhat tired and run down. It had taken us two days to get from Houston to Porto as our connecting flight from Frankfurt had been cancelled due to snow. Because we were permanently moving to Porto we had our two cats with us. They generally don’t like to travel much, not do they like change. Nor do they like being stuck in a hotel room for a week while our apartment was made ready for us to move into!

Anyway, I digress. We wanted to try the famous Francesinha – google it if you haven’t already, they are sublime. Not health-food by any stretch of the imagination, but sublime none-the-less. We decided on Cafe Santiago as it came up in search after search as making one of the best.

We arrived at about 22:30, put our name on a list and waited outside with about 5 other parties. After about 10 minutes we are called in. The cafe is a long, narrow affair, with doors at either end, opening into parallel streets. Nothing fancy, just a nice, clean cafe.

The waiter came and asked for our order – the menu had a fair bit of variety but we were clearly there for the Francesinha! He told us in no uncertain terms that we wanted the Francesinha Santiago, so that’s what we ordered. And beer of course. IMO the two are inseparable. And in Porto, I think that beer will frequently lead to eating a Francesinha. It’s perfect drunk-food for sure.


Anyway before I ramble on too much, come to Cafe Santiago and try their Francesinha. You can get them almost everywhere in Porto, but you could do much, much worse than popping your Francesinha cherry here. They are cheesy, meaty, tomatoey and beery. The sauce is sublime and deep , having many layers of flavour. One of these days I think I will just order a plate of chips (that’s fries to you colonials) drenched in the sauce. A sort of Portuguese Poutine.

The Absolutely Best Sausage Roll Recipe

These are absolutely the best sausage rolls. Decadent pork belly is balanced with pork shoulder and lightened with panko bread crumbs. Fresh herbs are also key here. They are salty and slightly spicy. If you are serving to children or picky eaters you can omit the cayenne. Of course puff pastry adds to the yumminess.

If you don’t have a grinder you can get your butcher to grind the meat for you.

I like to make these as small bites, but you can make them larger if you like. This makes a large batch. Save some for later to bake for a quick breakfast or snack.

200g pork shoulder, ground
200g pork belly, ground
20g panko bread crumbs
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon black pepper
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
5 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 package all butter puff pastry
eggwash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

Mix pork shoulder, pork belly, panko, salt, spices, herbs, garlic, and Worcestershire. Do this with your hands, gently, until visibly blended. If you blend too much it will ruin the mouthfeel.

Roll out a long strip of puff pastry about 3 inches/ 7.5 cm wide.

Form little sausages the same width as your pastry and place on top of the strip of pastry leaving at least a 1 ½ inch/ 4 cm gap between the sausages.

Brush a generous strip of egg wash in the gap between the sausages.

Roll out another strip of puff pastry. It will need to be about 1.5 times longer than the first.

Starting at the beginning of the strip already laid out gently drap the top over the bottom pastry and sausages, pressing down between the sausages so that the pastry makes firm contact with the egg wash. Continue until all sausages are covered.

Now cut the pastry between the sausages.  You can use a knife. I also find a pizza cutter makes quick work of this.

Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.

Stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes. (If you have more than you need you can freeze them for baking later at this point.)

Place on a well oiled rack on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with eggwash.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350F until golden brown.


Fig Mascarpone Cream Tart

This is a fresh tasting, easy tart to make. With such a simple tart ingredients are important.  Figs are the star. Choose figs at the height of the season, late spring to mid summer depending on where you live. They should be ripe, but not mushy. If they are picked too early they will not continue to ripen and will be bitter. They should give slightly to pressure.

I usually bake these as mini tarts, and make large batch to share. If you only want one (or two) you could make a smaller batch of the mascarpone cream.  Also you can substitute honey for the vanilla for a twist. Leftover cream can be used as a dip for fresh fruit, or to top scones.


Prebaked Tart Shell (I like to use my go to pâte brisée crust)
8 ounces Mascarpone Cheese
¼ cup Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1 cup Heavy Cream
Fresh Figs

Whisk mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla until blended. Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture, ⅓ at a time, being careful not to loose volume.

Fill tart shell.

Slice figs and put on top.

That’s it.


Salted Caramel Calvados Apple Pie

Salted caramel sauce is poured over calvados soaked apples in an all butter pâte brisée pie crust.

This recipe has three parts if you include the pie crust. If you want to cut down on the time you could buy pie dough or the caramel sauce, but if you have the time they’re pretty easy to make. Also the pie dough and caramel sauce can be made ahead of time. Just warm up the caramel sauce until it is pourable before using.



Here is the recipe for the pâte brisée pie crust.

Apple Filling:

2 1/2 lb Granny Smith apples (about 6), peeled cored & sliced 1/4 thick slices

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons Calvados

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch


Salted Caramel Sauce:

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup heavy cream


Demerara sugar for sprinkling


Use chilled premade dough for bottom of 9 inch pie pan to roll out bottom crust for pie shell.  Allow to rest in refrigerator at least 30 minutes.




Combine apples, lemon juice, sugars, cinnamon, salt, and Calvados.  Toss and allow to sit at room temperature 2-3 hours.



Put the apples in a colander over a bowl and allow juices to drain for at least 30 minutes.


Transfer juices to small saucepan set over low heat.  Gently reduce until it is thick and syrupy, paying careful attention so it does not burn.


Thoroughly Toss apples with cornstarch.

Pour syrup over apples and toss.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup water in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook, without stirring, until the sugar dissolves, 2–3 minutes. Add butter; bring to a boil. Continue cooking until the mixture turns a deep red-brown, about 25 minutes or until a candy thermometer inserted in sauce reads 325°. Remove from heat. Carefully add cream, stirring until sauce is smooth.


Transfer apple mixture to pie shell. Pour over caramel sauce.





Add top crust. Food 52 has a great tutorial on decorative pie crusts here.

Sprinkle crust with demerara sugar.



Allow to rest in fridge for at least 1 hour to prevent shrinkage (or freeze for later).

Preheat oven at least 30 minutes before baking.  Bake on lowest level for 45 to 55 minutes until juices are bubbling.



Cool at least 6 hours before serving. The longer it sits the better it will slice.





The Trip

It was always going to be difficult. Beaker, the larger of our two cats has never been socialised. He was completely feral when we rescued him from the mean streets of Houston, and a girl. We had thought that he was about 3 months old, but after a week or two of decent, regular food we realised that 1) he was a boy and 2) that he was about 6 months old. And kitty puberty was upon him. Poor thing, that’s a lot to deal with. Changing your address, sex, and leaving kitten-hood all over the space of a couple of weeks can’t be easy.

He’s barely even sociable, At least not with others. He’s friendly enough with us (read “with Angela”). A bit wary, but friendly. That’s not to say that he is mean or violent. He isn’t, he’s a total sweetheart, one of the nicest cats I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. He’s just scared of everything and everyone, and has exceptional hiding skills. Right now he’s inside the lower part of our bed in the hotel. Inside it. Apparently there was a rip on the underside, a small one but large enough for him to drag his big cat arse into. It’s going to be a joy trying to get him into his carrier when we leave for our apartment next week. We are looking for somewhere that sells duct-tape for this very reason. We aren’t going to hog-tie him, in case you are concerned, just try to tape up that particular avenue of escape.

Since he’s so difficult to catch – ex-feral cats never lose their edge, they can dodge, weave and jump like pro rugby players – we actually had to use the services of a mobile pet clinic since catching him ourselves has always proved to be nigh on impossible. The vet had to come out several times in order to vaccinate and chip him. The first time was a failure – Beaker, despite his size, leapt to a hiding place that we thought was out of reach. He’s good at that as I mentioned above. The vets brought a net with them the second time they came, and caught him that way. Very undignified it was too, and Beaker let them know of his displeasure by peeing. Who knew the kitty bladder was so capacious? The life of a vet clearly isn’t all private jets and glamour.

They came the morning that we were due to fly out to catch and put him in his carrier. Mission accomplished, so Beaker (and his more sensible sister Squee) were ready for their epic journey across the Atlantic. Our friend Matt had kindly volunteered to drive us to the airport, and we loaded everything up, included two rather quiet cats and headed out.

I was expecting them to be able to stay in their carriers through security, but that was not to be. While the TSA folks manning the security x-ray stations were really nice, their supervisor was an officious, humourless, ….I’ll stop there. We had to take the kitties in their carriers into a small room where they had to be taken out while the carriers were scanned. Angela went first with Squee, thankfully this was uneventful, since Squee is a level headed little thing. I went in with Beaker, and two very rotund security guards. One of them picked up a broom as a weapon. I’m not kidding. I told him in no uncertain terms that if he attempted to use that on Beaker great unpleasantness would ensue. I know you aren’t supposed to threaten security personnel, but you don’t hit animals with brooms either. Something about my demeanour, probably brought on by the fact that I was convinced I was about to be pissed on and bitten by a very scared Beaker, and so probably looked rather grim and very determined, made him put down the broom. I managed to get Beaker out of the carrier and kept him close to me while they took his carrier to be scanned. They then swabbed him and my hands for explosives. All negative of course. Beaker was eager to get back in his carrier, so all in all, getting him through security was not as bad as we had anticipated. The officious, unfriendly ICE supervisor made it a lot more unpleasant than it needed to be however.

The flight to Frankfurt was uneventful. I like flights, any flight to be uneventful. It’s better that way. When we arrived, again we had to take the kitties to a small room where they could be taken out of their carriers and the carriers taken away to be scanned. I was less nervous this time, made so in no small part by the security agent. Rather than threaten to hit the cats with a broom, the lady agent was nice, had cats of her own, and was eager to hug our cats while their carriers were examined. Beaker wasn’t particularly eager to be hugged, but he didn’t kick up a fuss. The agent was also Portuguese, and when she realised where we were moving to, became very friendly indeed. What a difference from our experience in Houston. Security checks are very important, but there really isn’t any need to be dickish about them.

It was snowing when we arrived in Frankfurt, and as we waited at the gate for our flight to be called, we could hear succesive announcements of cancellations over the intercom. Oh dear.