Grilled Cuttle Fish – Chocos Grelhados

This traditional Portuguese way of preparing cuttle fish is common throughout the coast. Deceivingly simple, it’s a recipe that requires some skill in preparing the cuttlefish, cleaning them and keeping the ink to enrich an olive oil and garlic sauce. Why can’t we get them clean from the fish shop you may ask? It’s something you have to go through yourself to understand (and most fishmongers don’t like doing it and they won’t be subtle telling you how much they don’t like it). There are plenty of videos online on how to prepare the cuttle fish for grilling so I won’t go into this.

8 medium sized cuttle fish (with ink)
1 onion
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of chopped coriander
1 lemon
3 cloves of garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
course sea salt
serves four

  1. Once the cuttle fish are clean open them in half, keeping the tentacles. Although you can grill them whole it is easier to do this flat on the griddle. Sprinkle with sea salt. Keep the ink to the side.
  2. Grill on hot grid (charcoal preferably), make sure tentacles are well grilled and crispy.
  3. While the cuttle fish is cooking make the dressing. Warm up the olive oil with the garlic to infuse then mix in the ink. Serve with the coriander and lemon. Great with boiled baby potatoes and some greens.

Bolo Rei

Introduced to Portugal by the Confeitaria Nacional in Lisbon in the 19th century, bolo rei has become synonymous with Christmas and is Portugal’s answer to the German stolen or the Italian Panettone.

During the Christmas season there is nothing like going to your favourite pastelaria and arriving home with a beautifully fresh bolo rei in a box. The cake is a fruit cake flavoured with Port wine and other alcoholic drinks, topped with nuts, fruits and sugar.

In the days before obsessive health and safety laws, bolo rei had two hidden surprises inside… a gift (“brinde”) (small toy, metal figure or sometimes a gold coin) and a dried fava bean. Getting one or the other in your slice of bolo rei was seen as an omen of luck (if you got the brinde) or lack of it if you got the fava bean as you’d be expected to buy the next bolo rei!

Even without these surprises, bolo rei making is surrounded with mystique and secrecy as each maker developed their own recipe and keeps it like a precious secret. We were lucky to be let into some of these secrets when we visited Capuchinha in Viseu. This pastelaria, a stone’s throw from Rossio, the main plaza in Viseu, has become renowned for having the best bolo rei and its fame now extends well beyond Viseu!

We tasted the magic combination of flavourful drinks that goes into the dough and even tried to roll our own dough using the traditional elbow technique to shape the whole in the middle. We had modest results and decided to hand over to owner Dona Teresa and the 15 specialists who work in Capuchinha to produce over 100 kg of bolo rei (and bolo rainha, a version without fruit toppings) every single day!

Runner Beans/Feijão Verde

If you struggle to see the Portuguese connection in this recipe let me explain… This recipe is admittedly a hybrid with Portuguese and Italian influence but it does go back to using nuts, specifically chestnuts in season in the Autumn to provide substance, flavour and overall goodness to meats and vegetables. Here, chestnuts are replaced by peanuts with soft shell (it’s all about the shell!). If in Portugal use cured Queijo da Serra but Parmesan is a good substitute (with apologies to all the goof folks from Parma, Reggio Emilia). If in season use ‘miscaros” instead of Shitake mushrooms.

1 bunch of runner beans split in half lengthways
2 tbsp of peanuts with soft skin (untreated nor flavoured)
2tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup of finely sliced shitake (or miscaros)
1 clove of garlic
2 tbsp grated cured queijo da serra or parmesan
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

 

  1. Boil the runner beans in salted water and add bicarb soda after you put the beans in and the water comes back to the boil. Cook until tender but do not overcook (5 minutes should do it).
  2. While the beans are cooking , toast the peanuts on a shallow frying pan
  3. Rinse the beans in cold water in a colander to stop overcooking.
  4. In a mortal and pestle grind the garlic with a little salt, peanuts, parsley and grated cheese.
  5. Shallow fry the mushrooms in the olive oil on high heat, add salt and pepper when they start browning.
  6. Add the butter to the mushrooms, add the runner beans and two thirds of the mortar and pestle mixture, warm through.
  7. Serve with the rest of the mortar and pestle mix on top, shaved cheese. black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serves 1

 

Peixinhos da Horta

Literally translated as ‘small fish from the garden’ these unassuming delicacies have a bit of a world history. Portuguese missionaries traveling to Japan in the 16th century shared the practice of frying green beans in a light batter. The Japanese loved it so much that the practice became widespread and tempura (related to the Portuguese word tempero) became famous the world over. This recipe spreads the global reach of these ‘vegetable fish’ by using tapioca flour from Brazil. Tapioca is a gluten free flour made from casava and makes for an excellent alternative to wheat flour. The search for the perfect batter is a life-time quest and at the moment we think this one is the winner. Although this is a fried food, the wheat free flour and the fact we fry in olive oil makes it guilt free and a healthy starter or side dish.
Peixinhos da Horta

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Bacalhau

If you know anything about Portuguese cuisine you will know that bacalhau (salted cod) is an obsession. We believe there are thousands of ways of preparing this delicious cured fish which is as close as one can get to a national dish. Here, we combine the flavourful bacalhau with a sweet roast celeriac puree and stewed leek and seaweed mix. This recipe uses the sous vide technique to highlight bacalhau’s soft and creamy texture. We prepare this recipe using the Anova but it will work with any sous vide machinery. Picture show an (optional) foam made of mussel juice and soy lecithin.

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Baked Fish/Peixe no Forno

Sometimes you go to the market and a large fish is just saying ‘take me’! It’s hard to resist a good size, fresh local fish which you know will be just perfect for your dinner party! As always look out for signs of freshness (avoid dull eyes, go for bright red gills and a firm touch of the flesh). This is a simple recipe involving little work and is a great change from a meat-based roast.  It features all staple Portuguese ‘temperos’ with bay leave, garlic, white wine and ‘colorau’ giving the fish a unique taste. Thanks for the Quasars for allowing me to cook this at their wonderful home in Montreal and asking for the recipe!!!
Rosanamar

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Octopus Tartare/Tartaro de Polvo

Octopus is a real Portuguese favourite. The two traditional ways of preparing this versatile and delicious mollusc are in a flavourful rice or grilled with olive oil and garlic. In any case the octopus is always boiled before any further preparation. Frozen octopus is much more reliable than fresh, in terms of ensuring the meat is tender. There are a number of methods (and myths) for boiling. Our favourite one at the moment is to boil strait from frozen for about 1 hour for a 1.5-2 kg octopus. This gives it an intense red colour and helps concentrate the taste. This tartare recipe is great for leftovers and makes a delicious starter.

Octopus Tartare

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Sardines with chickpeas and poached egg/Conserva de Sardinhas com Grão e Ovo Escalfado

Portuguese fast food. Lunch for one with your favourite tin of sardines (we used sardines in tomato sauce), some chickpeas and a poached egg. This is literally quicker than ordering a pizza, much healthier and much tastier (than your average pizza)…

tinned sardine

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Bean Soup/Sopa de Feijão

Soups are an essential part of a Portuguese traditional meal. Although the most famous is Caldo Verde, Portugal has a lot to offer when it comes to the magic transformation of a few simple vegetables into a tasty and nutritious meal. Soups are normally a simple affair with only one rule – excellent ingredients – just get seasonal veg at the market and you’ll be fine.
This recipe is for a soup that is traditionally from the north of the country that can be a substantial meal in itself. The Portuguese are rather particular about the quality of beans and there is much to choose from when it comes to varieties. This recipe uses a brown coloured bean called manteiga which is similar to pinto beans. Although you can get beans already cooked in a jar, this soup needs the real thing as most of the flavour will come from the water used to cook the beans.
As with most dried beans, soak overnight in plenty of water (you can soak a larger quantity and then freeze the cooked beans to use in other recipes).
Bean Soup

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Roasted Quince/Marmelos Assados

Quince is the thing to look out for when you begin to feel those long sunsets at the end of the summer. This rather acidic, not exactly good looking fruit grows in many places around the world but is often unappreciated. For the Portuguese this is pure seasonal gold! We rush to the local markets and grab the best fruit at the best price and at the right time! Quince, marmelos in Portuguese, are the quintessencial fruit for preserves – marmelada, which became the english marmelade. The word marmelada first appeared in writing by the pen of the Portuguese bard Gil Vicente in 1521. Don’t be fooled by the story that Mary Queen of Scots, who used to eat marmelada when feeling low (who wouldn’t?), invented the word marmelada through her “Marie est malade” (Mary is sick)! In any case, this post is not about marmelada but an alternative way of preparing this delicious fruit which, I guarantee, will become the best friend of your Autumn Sunday roasts.

Marmelos Assados

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