Atlantic mackerel (carapau) is by far the most popular variety of mackerel in Portugal. Its close cousin, the common mackerel (cavala) has been on the sidelines of Portuguese cooking for a number of years but is now enjoying a well deserved revival. Its health benefits together with unique taste and texture make this a prime choice for a fish meal. This recipe combines the strong taste of smoked mackerel with the sweetness of Rocha pears – the uniquely Portuguese pear variety created by the Rocha family in 1836 in Sintra.
This recipe claims no historical authenticity but is inspired by the first cookbook to be published in Portugal – Domingos Rodrigues’ Arte de Cozinha (1680). The book is a fascinating journey into a world of flavours that combine recently available spices like saffron, cinnamon and cardamon with european cooking methods. Th Portuguese discoveries of the XIV and XV century transformed the larder of not only Portuguese society but all of Europe as well bringing old Portuguese techniques to South America, India, China and Japan!
The sauce presented here is inspired by a combination of almond flour and egg yolk which seems to have been used as a standard technique for providing body and texture to sauces and soups in Rodrigues’ book. We use it here to produce a light and delicate sauce flavoured with mussel juice, served with roast asparagus.
Salted cod fritters are found everywhere in Portugal. You will encounter them in the most basic tascas (tavernas) and the poshest restaurant in Lisbon or Porto . This is a traditional way of using leftover bits of cod though this recipe offers a somewhat deluxe version with prime salted cod chunks fried in a light chick pea flour batter. With the chick pea (gram flour) replacing white flour and the olive oil replacing frying oil, this is as healthy as a fritter can get!
Portuguese families will not only revel on these wonderful snacks featuring our most precious salted fish but will also indulge in the quasi-omolette formed by frying the batter left over from coating the cod. There is inevitably a family member watching out for these…
The pungent aroma of garlic makes its way into most Portuguese dishes. From thin raw slices to slow fried minced pieces, this keystone of Southern European cuisine is remarkably versatile in its use. This recipe takes garlic in its most sweet and nutty character to flavour a delicate creamy soup. The recipe is inspired by 18th century Portuguese techniques which provide substance and body to broths by using ground almonds. The ground almonds not only thicken the broth but provide extra flavour. Chia seeds are included as an optional ingredient of their superfood status and to add consistence and texture to the soup. This is a quick and simple yet sophisticated soup you can prepare while making the rest of your meal.
Custom has it that when it comes to side dishes in Portuguese food, the fresh summer salads of lettuce and tomatoes get replaced by sautéed greens once the colder months arrive. This recipe reverses the trend and features the fabulous winter superfood, the pomegranate, called romã in portuguese after the arab rumman. The salad serves as a substantial side dish or a main in itself for a light lunch.
The legendary Portuguese sardines are known for their depth of flavour. Even in their canned state, these are little gems of Portuguese flavour. This recipe uses sardines to enhance a traditional salad of black eye beans, onion, parsley and olive oil.
Those who grew up with the yearly autumn tradition of making large quantities of marmelada (quince jam) will not easily forget the sweet aromatic smell that fills the family home as a tick puree of quince simmers in sugar before it is poured in porcelain bowls to set (unless of course it is eaten before it gets a chance!).
This family recipe produces a smooth and rich marmelada which is delicious on the day and develops into a complex, almost cheese like consistency over months. Portuguese marmelada-making families spend a considerable amount of time debating the pros and cons of fresh versus set marmelada. Best thing is to try making it, eat one bowl straight away with fresh bread, crackers and cheese and keep the rest to eat over the winter months.
The jelly is a way of using up some of the quince flavour that stays in the cooking water and can be used for glazing cakes, in gravies and sauces or simply on bread.
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