HLL spent Christmas in the warmth of Portugal at the gorgeous Reid’s Palace Hotel - www.reidspalace.com - with its old-fashioned dress-up dinner dances, afternoon tea service and legendary bar serving Malvasia wine bottled in 1860. And I managed to get them to divulge their recipe for Madeira Honey Cake which is actually made from molasses. A delish choice on an island which is known for its varied fruits and cuisine – breakfast pancakes are served up with slivers of banana shaped passion fruit and lunch is espada, razor toothed eel-like fish which is caught using nets 800m long.
Eat Cake – Bolo de Mel
In a pan bring the molasses to a medium temperature and then add the margarine until melted. Slowly keep adding the other ingredients listed below and keep stirring on a very low heat. At the end, add the crystallised fruits. Put the mixture in a bowl, cover it and leave for 3 days. Then take the mixture out, make a ball and then flatten it. Put the cake in the oven for 25 minutes at 170 degrees Centigrade. Take it out of the oven and leave it too cook before taking it out of the baking pan Decorate with slice almonds.
750g molasses, 500g margarine, 1 kg flour, 500g sugar, 500g walnuts, 200g almonds, 200g sultanas, zest of 1 lemon, zest and juice of 1 orange, 1 liquor glass of brandy, 1 liquor glass of sweet Madeira wine, 1 teaspoon of cloves, 1 soup spoon of baking powder, 1 grated nutmeg, 1 soup spoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of dry chamomile, 250g kneaded dough, 125g crystallised fruits,
Drink and be merry
Apart from Madeira wine, the local tipple is made of white brandy, lemons and honey; a bitter-sweet shock to the system. It is drunk in stylish hotels and in simple one counter bars in tiny villages scattered on the steep hillsides of the island. I tried my poncha whilst looking down over the edge of a ravine and, among its other merits, it’s a great cure for vertigo. The trick, it is said, is to mix the ingredients with a wooden ball attached to a handle but apparently a whisk will do just as well.
It would hardly be Madeira without sampling the famous sweet wine but the range is more complex than that. Often overshadowed by neighbouring Spain, Portuguese wines present a wide variety to suit any menu or a tipple on its own. If you want to know more, check out wine expert Richard Mayson who has written widely on the subject and does helpful, non-pretentious tasting notes (www.richardmayson.com).
Take heart, HardLuxeLiving