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Academia Portuguesa de Gastronomia

 

 

 

The Richness of Portuguese Cuisine

 

What makes Portuguese gastronomy unique? It is only natural for this question to arise when one is collaborating in the writing of a book about the food cultures of different countries. Does the Portuguese habit of sitting leisurely at the table while enjoying a good meal reflect a truly unique identity? And how does this attitude become an easily identifiable custom? These questions might lead to many others, since analysing the eating habits of a country that boasts nine centuries of history must necessarily represent a complex, highly selective exercise.

 

The challenge of writing about Portuguese gastronomy may almost be compared to describing a small rectangle of puff pastry, with its many layers, identical in shape to the country’s mainland, to use a tasty and rather intriguing metaphor. There is a profound conviction that the Portuguese culinary heritage is still relatively unknown, given the many curiosities, ingredients, products and recipes that make it truly exceptional. Like the sweet or savoury fillings hidden inside puff pastry layers, under their golden exterior, so does Portuguese food hold many secrets, only to be found when we sink our teeth into the delicacies offered to our palate. Shall we taste Portugal?

 

For many decades, Portuguese food was known across the globe only for a very small number of products and recipes. The undeniable qualities of Port wine, salted cod and custard tarts are widely known; however, they represent only a small fraction of Portuguese cuisine. The adventurous spirit that made fearless sailors embark on maritime journeys to discover new lands and “give new worlds to the world”, as once written by a poet, was rewarded with new products and recipes, influenced by other cultures, albeit preserving the original character of Portuguese cooking.

 

A long path was followed until the first culinary records appeared, from the Roman and Arab occupation, before the country’s foundation, to the affirmation of this small enclave during the Middle Ages and the expansion of the empire to faraway regions. Nowadays, Portuguese cuisine features a wealth of dishes and foods that reflect a rich regional gastronomy, where the influence of the Church is vastly patent. It is by perusing this wide repository of recipes that we shall uncover the many layers that make up the gastronomic map of Portugal, where every ingredient, product and recipe helps us discover the hidden secrets of Portuguese cooking.

 

Portugal’s geographical location has played a major role in its culinary. The country’s natural resources and its mild climate, almost subtropical in certain parts of the territory, namely the islands, have allowed the growing of unconventional crops throughout history, from which resulted worldwide known products of unparalleled quality, such as tea, fruit, vegetables, fish, shellfish, ancestral wines and even conventual pastries.

 

In recent years, the exceptional quality of Portuguese seafood has been acknowledged by renowned chefs all over the world. Many species of fish abound in Portuguese waters, owing to seawater temperatures, sea depths and the wide variety of phytoplankton species found along the Atlantic coast. Representing the European Union’s third largest exclusive economic zone, the vast, open ocean that separates mainland Europe from the Madeira and Azores archipelagos is the natural habitat of species such as sardines, mackerel and red mullet, which swim from across the entire Portuguese coast, as well as showy species such as seabream, wreckfish, seabass, turbot, red bream and even large Bluefin tuna, regularly sent from the Algarve to the markets of Tokyo, in Japan. The Algarve and the Azores are prime regions for catching superior quality octopus, whose intense sea flavour is easily released into delicious sauces. The many flavours of shellfish, where iodine and the ocean predominate, are not only a pleasure for the palate, but remain forever engraved on the memories of the many tourists who visit us. And we must not fail to mention the many species of shrimp, of various colours and sizes, from small Espinho shrimp, found in the north, to red Quarteira shrimp, found in the south, without forgetting the impressive cardinal prawns. European lobster, goose barnacles, oysters and clams are but a few examples of the wealth of species often found at Portuguese tables.

 

The Portuguese are amongst the world’s largest fish consumers, as evidenced by the habit of eating it when freshly caught. Grilled fish, with just salt for seasoning, is a specialty dish prized by millions of tourists. Large roasted fish with aromatic herbs is also one of the many typical Portuguese dishes that showcase a varied range of uncommon cooking methods.

 

The wonderful “cataplana”, a seafood dish originating in the South of Portugal, is about as traditional a Portuguese dish as you can get. The traditional pan used to cook it, also called “cataplana”, adds a subtle flavour, for an unforgettable result. The juices and aromas of seafood cooked in a “cataplana” are retained during the slow cooking process, as the two concave halves of this device, usually made of copper or stainless steel, remain closed, allowing the ingredients (fish, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, aromatic herbs, etc.) to release their juices, which are beautifully combined into a fragrant, markedly Mediterranean sauce.

 

Although no-one doubts that magnificent fish and shellfish can be found all over the planet, it is undeniable that the species caught in Portuguese seas boast an unparalleled depth of flavour, as recognised by Catalan chef Ferran Adrià. In fact, the renowned chef affirmed in an interview given to the “Expresso” newspaper in 2011 to have been surprised by “the extent to which the quality of Portuguese seafood is still unknown.” This quality is also acknowledged by several Michelin-starred chefs, who receive daily orders of Portuguese seafood at their restaurants, both in Europe and New York. This worldwide recognition has turned Portugal into a prime seafood supplier, where “the best fish in the world” can be found.

 

Evidenced by the climate of the Algarve and Alentejo regions, the strong Mediterranean character of mainland Portugal is mostly reflected in the convivial spirit seen around tables all over the country. Sitting at a full table to enjoy a meal with family or friends is not only a regular habit, but also a pleasure. Alfresco meals where grilled fish or grilled meats take centre stage, accompanied by a fresh salad seasoned with the finest olive oil and one of the many wines Portugal is proud to produce, are one of the most rewarding experiences for the Portuguese, embodying their appreciation of good food and their markedly Mediterranean lifestyle, added to the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2013. Olive oil plays a central role in Portuguese cooking, as the first ingredient used in a recipe or the final touch added to grilled fish or to a freshly prepared salad. Olive oil dates back to Roman Lusitania, when Masters Strabo and Pliny praised the qualities of the Portuguese soil, so perfectly suited to its production. Portugal currently boasts one of the largest areas for growing olive trees in Europe, including demarcated regions. Nevertheless, small producers must necessarily take the credit for making Portuguese olive oil, a specialty known all over the world. Taking the same care and adopting the rigorous standards that would apply to a fine wine, these agricultural artists combine different types of olives and play with the various ripening stages to produce unique blends.

 

Fresh products are another major component of Portuguese cuisine. In his books, Chef Auguste Escoffier described several dishes featuring ingredients such as tomatoes and bell peppers as “Portuguese-style dishes.” The French chef was perhaps one of the first to recognise the virtues of the tomatoes now widely grown in the sunny plains of Ribatejo and exported to the entire world. Wild fruits, citrus fruits and the many species of mushrooms that grow in Portuguese forests also represent prime examples of first-class fruits and vegetables, of which Azorean pineapple is perhaps the most emblematic. Grown on the São Miguel Island, this rare, exotic species is unique in the European continent. And we must not forget the central role played by the Portuguese climate, so widely praised by the millions of tourists that visit the country, in shaping the unique character of Portuguese cuisine.

 

In the late 19th century, Oliveira Martins described the Portuguese geography in a brief, eloquent fashion by affirming that ‘Portugal is an amphitheatre built to face the Atlantic Ocean – an arena.’ According to the Portuguese historian, this eminently coastal location forced Portugal to face the perils of the sea and to jump from this “arena” to the “circus” that was the ocean, thus building its economic and commercial identity. The country’s maritime fate was thus sealed.

 

In fact, the Portuguese coast, if we consider only the mainland territory, is similar in length to the country’s border with Spain, an L-shaped line measuring approximately 1,200 kilometres. Portugal’s privileged Atlantic location has been instrumental in shaping the unique character of Portuguese cuisine, not only for the abundance of available seafood, but also through the influence of the Mediterranean Sea on the southern climate and the important role played by the microclimates of the Azores and Madeira islands, far out in the Atlantic Ocean.

 

The country boasts an exceptional climate, of Mediterranean characteristics, albeit modified in some places by inland mountain ranges and coastal plains. The climate becomes drier as we move away from the sea, with hotter summers and colder winters. In the south, the mild climate of the Alentejo coast, where the Atlantic breeze keeps extreme heat at bay, has created a small earthly paradise known as the “Place of the Happy View”, a private garden boasting seven hundred species of fruits and vegetables, including more than three hundred varieties of citrus fruits. Some of these foods, difficult to grow outside Asia, are regularly sent to high-end restaurants in Spain, France and England. This true collection of botanical jewels includes plants from all five continents, which yield superior quality foodstuffs, namely macadamia and pecan nuts, peaches, a wide variety of wild berries and several types of ginger, to name but a few.

 

Average annual temperatures range between 7°C, in the mountainous regions of Northern and Central Portugal, and 18°C, on the south coast. Average annual rainfall is higher in Minho and Douro Litoral (in the north) and lower in Inland Baixo Alentejo (in the south). In Madeira, the climate features both oceanic and subtropical characteristics, whereas the Azores boast a moderate oceanic climate, with heavy rainfall over the entire year, owing to the islands’ many mountains.

 

The map of Portugal was completed in the 15th century, following the discovery of two islands off the Portuguese coast, in the Atlantic Ocean. The discovery of Porto Santo was swiftly followed by that of Madeira. Settlement started in 1419, when many families from various Portuguese regions left their homelands to start a new life on the islands, where their first concern was to tame the dense forests that dominated the landscape. A little over a decade later, a few deserted islands were discovered in the middle of the Atlantic. Under the guidance of Prince Henry the Navigator, many people were given permission to leave the mainland for these islands, which later became the Azores archipelago. The São Miguel Island, where the capital of the archipelago is located, was the first to be discovered, in 1431. The archipelago comprises nine islands of volcanic origin, spread across 600 kilometres of ocean, halfway between the European continent and the United States of America. The location and volcanic origin of the archipelago are determining factors in its relevance to Portuguese cuisine, owing to the microclimates enjoyed by each of the nine islands.

 

Readers may be surprised to know that Portugal ranks fourth in the European Union, which comprises 28 member states (data from July 2017), when it comes to the number of products granted the status of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). Totalling 138, protected foodstuffs include fruits, specialty olive oils, cheeses, meat products, specialty meats, several types of honey and a few ancestral recipes, namely ‘ovos moles’, a delicacy made from egg yolks and sugar, and the ‘Valpaços folar’, a traditional cake reminiscent of a cinnamon bun. Protected foodstuffs include 64 PDO products and 73 PGI products. Additionally, Portuguese salted cod, a world-renowned, widely acclaimed specialty, has been granted Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) status.

 

In fact, salt-cured, dried codfish is an iconic product in Portuguese cuisine, owing to the many inventive, creative, delicious recipes in which it takes centre stage. The traditional method used to produce salted cod dates back several centuries, having been passed on through the generations by the populations that inhabited the northern coast of Portugal. In the words of Chef Escoffier, the Portuguese are to be thanked for this beautiful fish, currently known, and enjoyed all over the world.

 

The wide array of protected products also includes an impressive range of meat specialties, namely superior quality lamb and goat’s meat, Azores beef, Alentejo pork of Iberian origin and Trás-os-Montes pork of Celtic origin, as well as a multitude of pork meat products, including nearly 40 types of sausages whose characteristics differ from region to region. Twelve regional cheeses have also been granted protected status. One can easily fall in love with these truly magnificent products, as different as fresh ewe’s cheese, produced from the milk of animals raised in mountain pastures, mouth-watering Serra da Estrela cheese, and Azeitão cheese, whose delicate flavour is influenced by the Arrábida Mountain. Serpa cheese and Beira Baixa cheese are also noteworthy, as well as São Jorge cheese, produced on the island of the same name. The only protected cheese made from cow’s milk, São Jorge cheese boasts a refined flavour, as the result of an ageing period ranging from 24 to 36 months.

 

Another distinctive trait of Portuguese cuisine, albeit relatively unknown, is the wide variety of rice dishes cooked from north to south. Traditional indigenous ‘carolino’ rice (japonica subspecies) is grown in the Mondego region, the Ribatejo plains and the Sado region. Owing to those three protected regions, Portugal is the top rice-eating country in Europe, with an average consumption of 17 kilograms per year per person. The many ways in which rice is used, namely as one of the main ingredients in some types of sausages, as the star ingredient in creamy rice dishes, cooked on the stove or in the oven (with shrimp, lobster, limpets, razor clams, croaker, grouper, codfish, octopus, hare, chicken, goat’s meet, duck, etc.), served as a side dish (cooked with beans, tomatoes, turnip or collard greens, bell peppers, cockles, etc.) and even used to make rice pudding, contribute to fuel the appetite of the Portuguese for this product. Rice features in dozens of recipes, blending multiple, diverse flavours into a delicious whole.

 

As the divine nectar that enhances every flavour in this Portuguese banquet, wine must necessarily be given a prominent place in the country’s cuisine, particularly the most renowned specialties such as Port, a fabled wine grown in the Douro, the world’s first wine region to be given a formal demarcation and a UNESCO Heritage Site. Madeira wine embodies the fierceness of the Atlantic Ocean through its remarkable resilience to the passing of time, evidenced by the surprisingly intense, complex aromas of batches aged for several decades. Setúbal Muscatel, a particularly fresh sweet citrus wine, is a prime example of the influence exerted on vineyards by the Arrábida Mountain. Located in Central Portugal, this mountain creates a singular terroir, where the Atlantic climate gives way to a Mediterranean environment. Portuguese regional wines are slowly gaining popularity abroad, either for the versatility of castes such as Alvarinho or for the perfect combination of climate and soil characteristics enjoyed by the country’s wine regions, which extend across the entire mainland territory, as well as the archipelagos.

 

Portuguese cuisine can doubtlessly be described as a rectangle made of puff pastry, whose countless products, and recipes surprise us at every bite. It would be a shame to describe this culinary wealth without mentioning the exceptional pastries that came into being in Portuguese convents. In fact, conventual pastries represent the most remarkable culinary achievement of a country that once was one of the largest worldwide traders of sugar from Brazil. Convents have left us a vast culinary legacy, where eggs, almonds and sugar are combined in varied proportions, different cooking temperatures are used and the centuries-old steps followed by devoted nuns are reproduced with the utmost care to yield dozens of mouth-watering pastries. The ‘pastel de nata’, one of the most emblematic, albeit prosaic, conventual pastries has conquered the hearts of people all over the world. Renowned French chef Alain Ducasse renders homage to these small custard tarts by describing them as a celestial treat fit for the gods.

 

Acquired over the centuries, this wealth of knowledge has been partly preserved by the many women who have passed their cherished family secrets, affectionately known as mothers’ and grandmothers’ recipes, from generation to generation. By repeating the familiar steps of their ancestors and pouring all their love and dedication into the dishes they passed on, orally or in writing, to their female offspring, these anonymous women, custodians of a historical legacy, have been instrumental in preserving the country’s culinary heritage. In recent years, these family memories have been appropriated by a generation of highly skilled chefs, praised by critics and recognised in international guides. The commitment of young Portuguese chefs to including these ancestral flavours in their dishes, albeit turning them into modern versions, has given rise to a new Portuguese cuisine, targeted at a niche industry known as ‘gourmet tourism’. A survey of tourists conducted by the Portuguese Tourism Office has revealed that Portuguese food is amongst the experiences most fondly remembered by those who visit the country. A Portuguese poet once wrote that ‘dreams fuel life’. Perhaps this is the best way to taste Portugal, by enjoying a vast offer of superior quality foods, as diverse as seafood, meat, fruits, vegetables, bread and olive oil, and an abundance of baked goods and desserts. Our main collection of recipes – ‘Traditional Portuguese Cooking’, by Maria de Lourdes Modesto – includes eight hundred dishes from all regions, an uncommon number for such a small country. Readers will be inspired to prepare tasty meals, straight out of a dream, yet healthy and balanced. Throughout history, Portugal has played a determining role in the dissemination, acclimation and trade of countless products between the Old and the New World. This rich history can also be witnessed at the table, where the pleasure of sharing a good meal with others allies itself to a tacit yearning for the flavours of the past, leading us on a quest that may take us to most refined restaurants or to the most remote family kitchens, which we leave fully satisfied and happy, certain to have found the perfect place… Whichever table you choose, you can always be certain of experiencing the heady feeling of a fine Port Vintage coursing through your body, evoking the melodious chords of a Portuguese guitar. We invite you to taste and sense Portugal!

 

Emblematic Recipes

(by Fortunato da Câmara)

 

Portuguese Meat Pasties with turnip/collard greens rice

Pasties and other savoury sides, such as codfish cakes, shrimp rissoles, small chicken pies and samosas, amongst others, are traditional Portuguese dishes that can be cooked quickly. The addition of fat to the dough makes it elastic, pliable… and soft! Meat pasties are a home cooking classic, whereas turnip/ collard greens rice is yet another of the many inventive rice dishes that make Portugal the top rice-eating country in Europe, with an average consumption of 17kg/year.

 

Pour flour into a bowl, add lukewarm water seasoned with salt and mix with a spoon. Add one whole egg. Keep adding flour until reaching the desired consistency. Add a little olive oil and knead the dough to mix it evenly. Add a small knob of butter and keep kneading the dough until the butter is thoroughly mixed. Perform this step 3 times. Continue kneading the dough by hand, folding it over itself; the more you knead the dough, the better. Allow the dough to rest for a while and then roll it as thinly as possible. Using a serrated wheel cutter, cut the dough into half-moon shapes. Fry the pasties in oil, one at a time, pouring oil over them with a spoon. Pasties should be fried quickly, until they acquire a very light colour.

 

Filling:

  • Boil a piece of veal flank in vegetable stock and set aside.
  • Fry a veal flank steak and chop both pieces of cooked meat finely, using a sharp knife. Sauté a few thinly sliced onions with chopped garlic and a bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and add some of the water used to cook the meat. Add the chopped meat and simmer to bring out the flavours.

 

Turnip/collard greens rice:

  • 250g long-grain rice
  • 1 bunch of turnip or collard greens
  • 1 onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • Olive oil and salt to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 600ml water

 

Remove the hard stems from a nice bunch of turnip or collard greens, leaving the leaves and florets. Wash and dry the greens, chop the onion and crush the unpeeled garlic cloves. Sauté the chopped onion, garlic cloves and bay leaf in olive oil, over low heat, until translucent. Remove the garlic cloves and set to the side. Add the greens, stir and sauté until lightly cooked. Add water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Add the garlic cloves and rice, previously washed. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 10-12 minutes. When the rice is almost cooked, turn the heat off and leave it to cool down for 7 minutes. Serve immediately with the meat pasties.

 

Setúbal-Style Grilled or Roasted Red Mullet

Red mullet feed on small crustaceans found in deep waters. Widely known across the world for its refined flavour, red mullet caught at the mouth of the River Sado, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, boasts an exquisitely subtle taste that is hard to come by. In Setúbal, the delicate fish livers, a kind of marine foie gras, are removed to cook a sublime sauce, which is then poured over the fish.

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 red mullets
  • 100g butter
  • 2 lemons
  • Parsley
  • Salt

 

Method:

 

Gut the fish, making sure to keep the livers, seasoned with salt. Halve the fish lengthwise, wash all blood from the bones and sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 2 to 3 hours. Wash the fish again and grill it over hot coals, either until fully or half cooked. Place the half-cooked fish on a tray with a few knobs of butter and a little water and roast it until fully cooked. When the fish is nearly ready to serve, crush the livers into a paste. Place the paste in a frying pan, add a little water and allow it to boil. Add a little butter and the juice from the roast, if available. Turn off heat and add the juice of half a lemon and finely chopped parsley. Place the roasted fish on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the top. Garnish with lemon slices and serve with boiled potatoes.

 

Brás-Style Codfish

Variants of this iconic dish include “Lisbon-style Codfish” and “Golden Codfish”, which was especially created for the opening of the Elvas Inn, in 1942. The differences are mainly due to the potato sticks, which can vary in thickness from shoestring to thin chips. The former version was invented by a Bairro Alto tavern owner named Brás.

 

Ingredients:

  • Serves 4
  • 400g salted cod
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 500g potatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil
  • Black olives

 

Method:

 

Soak the salted cod in water overnight. Remove all skin and bones and shred the fish with your hands. Cut the potatoes into very thin sticks and fry in hot oil until lightly golden. Drain and place the fried potatoes on a paper towel to soak up excess oil. In a big pan, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add the shredded cod and mix with a wooden spoon to allow all the fat to be absorbed. Add the potatoes. Lightly beat the eggs, season with salt and pepper and add them to the mixture, stirring with a fork. As soon as eggs are cooked but still moist, transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot, garnished with black olives.

 

Algarve-Style Mixed Fish ‘Cataplana

The Portuguese word “caldeirada” (fish stew) has its roots in the Latin word “caldarìa”, meaning hothouse, which would later originate the word “caldeira” (boiler). Curiously, fish is slowly cooked in a covered pan, as if in a warming chamber. The “cataplana” is an ideal device for steaming foods, as it allows them to release their juices.

 

Ingredients:

  • 200g monkfish
  • 200g wreckfish
  • 200g seabream
  • 150g shrimp
  • 150g clams
  • 2 onions
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2dl olive oil
  • 1dl white wine
  • 0.5dl brandy or cognac
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 parsley sprig
  • Salt to taste
  • Dried chillies to taste

 

Method:

 

Season the fish with salt. Slice the onions crosswise. Halve the bell pepper and cut it into thin strips. Place 1 sliced onion and half the pepper in the ‘cataplana’ and pour olive oil over the top. Add the fish, white wine and the brandy or cognac. Add the remaining onion and bell pepper and the 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded. Add finely chopped garlic, bay leaf and the parsley sprig. Finally add the Parma ham, chorizo sausage, shrimp and clams and cook for 15 minutes. Serve with sliced boiled potatoes, placed around the edge of the serving platter.

 

Partridge with Vinaigrette Sauce

The recipe for “Alcântara Convent-Style Partridges”, one of the most elaborate Portuguese dishes, includes truffles, foie gras and Port wine. This partridge with vinaigrette sauce is a simpler version, based on a cooking method learned from the Arabs. Arabian pickles, named “ískabajs”, started featuring in cookbooks in the 13th century, originating the French word “escabèche”, the Catalan word “escabetx”, the Italian word “scabeccio” and the Portuguese word “escabeche”, all of which mean vinaigrette sauce.

 

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 partridges, preferably wild
  • 2dl olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1dl vinegar
  • 3 medium onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 parsley sprig
  • Salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste

 

Method:

 

Clean the birds, place them in a covered pan and cook with water, olive oil, vinegar, onion slices, crushed garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, bay leaf and nutmeg. Once cooked, shred the partridge meat. Blend the sauce until smooth and put the pan back on the hob. Adjust the seasoning and add the shredded meat. Serve on the following day with thin bread slices, toasted in the oven.

 

Braised Chicken with “Cabidela” Rice

Chicken and lamb offal are commonly used in Muslim cooking. This culinary inheritance is patent in this dish, whose name originates from the Arab word “quebdîa”, meaning blood stew.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 glass of vinegar
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 parsley sprig
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig of carqueja
  • 500g glutinous rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method:

 

Collect the chicken blood in a bowl and mix with vinegar to avoid clotting (chicken blood can also be bought from some butcher shops). Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil and add the diced chicken, diced giblets, bay leaf, parsley and carqueja. Season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and stew slowly.

 

Once the meat is cooked, add enough water to cook the rice. For a moister rice, add at least three parts water to one part rice. Add the rice as soon as the water boils. When rice is cooked, add the chicken blood and mix well. Adjust the seasoning, adding a little vinegar if needed. Bring to a boil, turn off heat and serve immediately.

 

Roast Kid Goat

An essential part of Easter celebrations, this traditional dish takes centre stage on Easter Sunday. After abstaining from eating meat on Good Friday, a custom still observed by Catholics, families gather happily around the roast.

 

Ingredients (serves 10):

  • 1 small kid goat
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • Parsley
  • 2dl young red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. coarse salt
  • 4 tbsp. lard
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 200g pig fat

 

Rice:

  • 1kg rice
  • 300g Parma ham with fat
  • Kid goat offal
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 1 tsp. saffron powder
  • 2 onions
  • Parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbsp. lard

 

Method:

 

On the previous day, skin the kid goat and remove the offal. After a thorough rinse, hang the animal upside down to drain. In the meantime, crush the garlic and add chopped onion, vinegar, coarse salt, paprika and pepper. Rub the mixture into the meat and leave until the following day. Before roasting, make a few deep cuts into the meat and fill them with thin slices of pig fat. Tie the forelegs and hind legs together and rub lard into the meat. Place the animal on a rack made of laurel twigs and roast (preferably in a wood-fired bread oven) for 1 hour on each side.

 

To prepare the rice, start by sautéing the onion in lard. Add water, Parma ham, the offal and chorizo sausage and simmer until cooked. Wrap the saffron in ovenproof paper and toast it lightly. Measure, wash and dry the rice. Take the meats out of the pan and transfer twice the volume of broth to the typical hat-shaped clay pot used to cook this dish. Add the onion, sliced crosswise, the toasted saffron powder, a parsley sprig, a bay leaf and the rice. Cook the rice in the oven together with the kid goat. Once cooked, transfer to a serving platter. Place sliced chorizo, finely sliced Parma ham and the chopped offal around the edge. Place the whole kid goat on another serving platter and garnish with watercress.

 

Sweet (Conventual) Angel Hair Pasta

The recipe for sweet angel hair pasta, one of the rare desserts whose main ingredient is Italian pasta, appeared in print for the first time in 1780, in the second Portuguese cookbook. Royal cook Lucas Rigaud published a recipe for “angel hair pasta cream” in his book “Modern Cook”. Sweet angel hair pasta is still a very popular dessert in the Minho region.

 

Ingredients:

  • 250g angel hair pasta
  • 10 egg yolks
  • 350g sugar
  • 7.5dl water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Lemon peel (1 lemon)
  • Cinnamon to taste

 

Method:

 

Cook the angel hair pasta in hot water with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. Drain and wash the pasta. Place sugar, water, lemon peel and the cinnamon stick in a saucepan and boil until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage. Add the drained pasta, boil for another 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Strain the yolks through a fine-mesh sieve and add a little syrup, mixing thoroughly. Slowly blend the yolks into the pasta mix, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, without letting the mixture boil and stirring until thick. Remove the lemon peel and the cinnamon stick. Pour the mixture on a dish and allow it to cool. Use cinnamon to draw a check pattern before serving.

 

Abade de Priscos Pudding

Manuel Joaquim Machado Rebelo, a priest who lived in 19th century, had a natural gift for all things artistic, namely the culinary arts. He prepared more than 100 banquets for kings, princes, statesmen and church dignitaries, whose menus were inspired by French cuisine. Father Rebelo combined pork fat with Port wine to create this markedly Portuguese pudding.

 

Ingredients:

  • 18 eggs
  • 500g sugar
  • 250ml mineral water
  • 1 small glass of Port (10- or 20-year-old tawny)
  • Lemon peel (1 lemon)
  • Bacon (a small piece)
  • 1 cinnamon stick

 

Beat 18 egg yolks with 2 egg whites. Add Port and lemon peel and beat lightly. In a saucepan, add sugar, mineral water, the cinnamon stick and bacon and boil until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, pouring it slowly over the egg mixture, while stirring. Coat the bottom half of a pudding basin with dark caramel sauce and grease the top half with butter. Pour the mixture into the basin. Place the covered basin in a bain-marie and cook on the stove for 30 minutes.

 

Honey Cake

Know since the time of the Roman Empire, Monchique Mountain honey is currently a DPO product from the Algarve. This recipe combines Monchique honey and olive oil, one of the most commonly used fats in Portuguese desserts.

 

Ingredients:

  • 18 eggs
  • 0.5kg sugar
  • 2dl honey
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

 

Method:

 

Beat eggs with sugar until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients. Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Butter an oven tray and line the bottom and sides with greaseproof paper. Pour the cake mix into the tray and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

 

Custard Tarts

The Belém Tarts Pastry Shop was born 180 years ago, when a sugar merchant joined forces with a confectioner. This famous establishment, located near the Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon, has been welcoming the many devout admirers of this emblematic Portuguese pastry since 1837.

 

Puff pastry:

  • 500g flour
  • 500g butter
  • Salt
  • 200-300ml water

 

Add the salt to lukewarm water. Divide the butter into three equal portions. Slowly add water to the flour, kneading the dough until it comes together into a smooth ball (you may not need to use all the water) and let it rest for 20 minutes. Roll the dough into a square and spread one portion of butter – creamy consistency – onto the surface, leaving a 2cm edge around the sides. Fold the dough in half twice, making sure the edges are exactly aligned. Roll the dough again into a larger square and repeat the previous steps until the remaining butter portions have been used up. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

 

Roll the dough as thinly as possible, cut it into wide strips and roll each strip up into a cigar shape. Cut each roll into 2/3cm slices and place each slice on the bottom of a tartlet pan. Line the pans by gently pressing the dough evenly on the bottom and against the sides with a wet thumb, while turning the pans around. Proceed to make the filling.

 

Filling:

  • 500ml cream
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 200g sugar
  • 2 tsp. flour
  • Lemon peel

 

Pour all the ingredients into a pan and whisk over heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Turn off heat and pour the lukewarm filling into the tartlet pans. Bake at 300ºC until the filling starts to brown.

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