Travel Diaries: Experimenting with Portuguese Delicacies
24 Apr , 2016
Do you remember the popular children’s game — “Ham, cheese, ham, potato, sauce, potato, chip chip chip”? Replace a bit of that ham with some fish and you’ve got Portuguese food, in a nutshell! Once considered a global superpower, Portugal’s influence in global affairs may have reduced but its effects on culture continues to stay strong. Imagine Goa’s distinctive fish curry rice and we can easily compare it to Portugal’s seafood rice, with its wholesome broth.
I recently travelled to Portugal and soaked in some lovely culture (hint hint: practically inhaled a LOT of food) and am now suffering from withdrawal. And now, I’m back to the kitchen, cooking up a storm of Portuguese delicacies – care to join me?
Menu of the Day Aperitif: White Port Wine Entrée: Grilled Octopus Main: Grilled Bacalhau in Olive Oil served with Vinho Verde Dessert: Natas do Ceu Dessert Wine: Ruby Port Wine
Aperitif We start out with Portugal’s classic port wine. Produced in Duoro Valley, port wine comes in three main variations; white, tawny and ruby. We start out with a dry white port wine to stimulate our appetites.
Image used for representational purpose only
Entrée Portugal is known for its rich cuisine of meat and fish. A traditional entrée is grilled octopi, among others, usually kept on the café tables to entice passers-by.
Famed for its fresh catch and simple flavours, here’s a traditional yet minimal recipe for an exotic night in.
Grilled Octopus with Lemon and Parsley (Recipe from Three Many Cooks)
(Image credits: Three Many Cooks)
You need: 1 octopus (aim for 4 pounds), thawed if frozen Salt 1 tablespoons olive oil Ground black pepper 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 halved lemon, half cut into wedges 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Place octopus on a large rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, cover with foil, and gently cook until tender when pierced with the thin blade of a sharp paring knife, for about 2 hours. Uncover and let stand until cool enough to handle.
Discard octopus liquid that releases during cooking. Optionally, use fingertips to slip off the octopus’s gelatinous coating. Cut up octopus by removing the tentacles, and then halve the body and head crosswise to make 4 thin cutlets. (Can be covered and refrigerated for a couple of days.)
When ready to serve, prepare a hot grill. If using a gas grill, turn all burners on high until fully preheated, about 10 minutes. Use a wire brush to clean grill rack, and then brush lightly with oil. Coat octopus pieces with the olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place on hot rack; cover and grill, turning only once, until spotty brown and tentacle tips char, 4 to 5 minutes.
Transfer octopus to a cutting board, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, squeeze with one of the lemon halves, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with extra lemon wedges, letting each person cut off bite-size pieces.
Main Course Portugal loves its codfish. In fact, it’s such a big hit, popular legend has it that they now have to import their codfish from Norway! Bacalhau, as it is called in Portuguese, is known to have 2000 different ways of preparation in this beautiful Mediterranean country. Here, I am sharing a simple recipe of a dish I had in a hole-in-the-wall family restaurant in Porto.
Bacalhau à Lagareiro or Grilled Salted Cod with Olive Oil
(Image credits: Trishita Khanderia)
Top Tip: The heart of this dish lies in using the very best olive oil.
You need 1 portion of salted cod 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil 3 cloves of garlic (sliced) 1 bay leaf or fresh rosemary 400 gram small new potatoes 250 gram broccoli 100 gram cabbage Sea salt
Soak the cod for 2-3 days, depending on thickness, changing the water twice a day. Use cold water in a large container and follow protocol by placing the cod tranche always skin up. You can make small knife incisions through the sides to let water infiltrate the fish and speed up the process.
Wash the potatoes and keeping the skin on, place on oven tray with plenty of sea salt. Roast at 180C for 40-50 minutes turning occasionally. The skins should be crispy and the inside soft.
While the potatoes are roasting infuse the olive oil by keeping a container in a warm place with the oil, garlic and bay leaf or rosemary.
Grill the cod on the bbq or electric grill for about 10 minutes each side, making sure it is not getting too dry.
Steam the broccoli and cabbage.
Serve by placing potatoes, broccoli and cabbage on the plate and gently punching them so that they open and get ready to soak up the infused oil. Cut the cod tranche into half, removing the large bone, place on plate with potatoes and pour the olive oil with some of the slices of garlic.
The Bacalhau tastes absolutely gorgeous with some white Vinho Verde (or as it is known commonly Young Wine). A typical Portuguese wine, it is light and fresh.
Dessert At this point, the author would like to say that she may or may not have experienced Portugal in a sugar rush… the desserts are literally THAT good!
Apart from its fish and meat, Portugal’s desserts are out-of-this-world – traditional ingredients imbibed with a not-so-mainstream taste? Sign me up! Though I am dying to recreate the world-famous Pastéis de Belém (a take on the famous Pastel de Nata, crafted from flaky pastry and custardy eggs. The recipe is top-secret and it seriously can’t get better than this), today I am looking to make another egg-cellent dessert:
Natas do Ceu or Cream from Heaven (poetic, isn’t it?) (Recipe from My Portuguese Kitchen)
(Image credits: saborintenso.com)
You need Egg Cream: 6 egg yolks, beaten 1/2 cup whole milk 1/4 cup sugar 1 lemon rind 1 cinnamon stick 1/2 vanilla bean 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Meringue: 6 egg whites 2 tablespoons sugar
Whipped Cream: 2 cups heavy cream 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 3 tablespoons sugar 1 pack of cookies, crushed
In a bowl, beat egg yolks until frothy. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add milk, sugar, lemon rind and cinnamon stick. Using a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthways, then scrape the seeds from inside the bean with the back of the knife. Add the seeds and bean to the pan.
Scald the milk then slowly add milk to the egg yolks, whisking the eggs constantly. Return the milk/egg mixture to the saucepan and reduce the heat to medium. Stir constantly until the egg/milk mixture thickens. Remove lemon rind, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean from the saucepan. Pass egg cream through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in butter until incorporated and let it cool.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a large clean bowl until they form stiff peaks. Slowly add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until the mixture (now meringue) is very thick and glossy.
In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream and vanilla. Gradually add 3 tablespoons of sugar and whip until you get very stiff peaks. Be careful not to over whip the cream or it will become butter.
Fold the meringue into the whipped cream, a little at a time and slowly so as to not deflate the mousse mixture. Chill this mousse until you’re ready to assemble.
To assemble: In individual serving glasses or a large serving bowl, add a layer of the crushed cookies, followed by a layer of mousse. Repeat with another layer of cookies and mousse. Smooth the top layer of mousse with the back of a spoon. Top the mousse with the egg cream. Chill for at least 4-5 hours before serving.
Dessert Wine To finish our lovely meal, I would recommend a glass (or more?) of ruby port wine. They generally have intensely fruity tones reminiscent of cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry; a perfect to end the evening on a high note with.
Fashionista by the day, foodie by the night, Trishita is nominated as the Chief Taster of the Gujju Delicacy Association in Parla. She has a strong sense of design & aesthetics and looks for good presentation even on her plate.