November 17, 2013 § 1 Comment
All southern European countries have their own fisherman’s stew. In Portugal, this classic dish is called caldeirada (pronounced “qaldeirahda”). It’s an appropriate name, since caldeira means caldron, a pot used in alchemy. When you combine fish, vegetables, and white wine, the result is indeed magical.
You can use different fish varieties, but the star of the caldeirada is the manta ray. Its delicious white flesh combines perfectly with the rich stock.
The best places to eat caldeirada are near the ocean because this dish requires the freshest fish. According to Marcel Pagnol, the French writer born in Marseille, the secret of the fisherman’s stew is to put the fish in the pot while their tails are still moving. If you’re near the Portuguese coast, don’t miss a chance to eat a memorable caldeirada.
November 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
If you keep a list of ideas for fun activities, we would like to suggest a new entry: visiting a port-wine cellar.
Port wine is made in the Douro region where Summers can be very hot. So, the wine is shipped to Vila Nova de Gaia, a town adjacent to Oporto, to be stored away from the heat. There, the wine is kept in dark, cool cellars until it trades the brashness of youth for the refinement that comes with maturity.
Most port-wine houses offer tours of their cellars. The tour guides teach you to distinguish between tawny, ruby, late-bottled vintage, and vintage port. They also regale you with interesting stories and facts about port-wine production. You’ll learn, for example, that the “share of the angels” is the fraction of the wine stored that is lost to evaporation. At the end of the tour you are invited to a port-wine tasting, so you’ll also get a share of this precious nectar.
November 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
One of Portugal’s simple pleasures is to sit in an esplanade drinking coffee and eating a “torrada” (toorrahdah). Torradas are buttered toasts made from “pão de forma,” a bread with a soft texture perfect to absorb melted butter.
Each torrada has two bread slices and each slice is cut into three neat rectangular tranches. The best tranches are the middle ones, which have almost no crust. So, you have to decide: which tranche will you eat first?
Just so you know, there are three schools of thought on this topic. According to the first school, you should start with the two middle tranches, so you’ll enjoy them while they’re hot. The second school recommends that you leave the best for last and eat the prized middle tranches at the end. The third school, advises you to avoid difficult choices and ask for a “torrada aparada.” This torrada has no crust, so all the tranches look the same.
Torradas are a personality test in disguise: the Portuguese can read you like a book by the way you eat your toast.
October 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
When it comes to shrimp, bigger is not better. The best shrimp in Portugal is tiny in size but large in flavor. It is caught just off the coast and brings in it the taste of the sea. We call it “camarão da nossa costa” (shrimp from our coast). Seating in a beachside café with a plate of these shrimps and a cold draft beer is one of the simply wonderful pleasures of life.
October 6, 2013 § 4 Comments
The carapau is one of the most delicious fish in the Portuguese coast. Yet, it toils in obscurity while the Portuguese sardine basks in glory. Why? First, there’s the name. Carapau means “wood face”; who wants to eat a fish called wood face? Second, grilled carapau is often served with Spanish sauce (“molho à espanhola”). How can a Portuguese fish shine drowning in a Spanish sauce?
We propose giving the carapau the recognition it deserves by changing its name to imperial sardine. This new identity will make carapau irresistible. Wouldn’t you prefer an imperial sardine to a regular one?
Please help us spread the word about carapau’s new name; tweet, facebook, text, call. Let’s make the wood face smile!
October 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
Bolo de arroz (rice cake) is a simple rice-flour cake with a cylinder shape and a crusty top. It goes great with coffee and it is perfect for times when we need some extra sweetness in our lives.
Manuel Ferreira’s 1933 treatise, A Cozinha Ideal, includes recipes for all the classic Portuguese cakes and pastries. There’s usually one recipe per item; in a few cases, two or three variants. But, when it comes to the bolo de arroz, Ferreira took no chances and wrote down four recipes. So, whether it’s hot or cold, rain or shine, Portuguese pastry shops can always make this indispensable pick-me-up.
September 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
Petisco (pronounced peteescoo) is the Portuguese word for tapa. There are three very popular petiscos in Portugal. The first is the “bolo de bacalhau,” a fantastic creation that combines some of Portugal’s favorite ingredients–codfish, potatoes, onions, and parsley– into a single bite. The second is the “rissol,” a half-moon-shaped delicacy made with breaded pastry and a shrimp or berbigão filling. The third is the “croquete,” a cylinder of ground meat, delicately spiced, first coated with egg and bread crums and then fried.
These finger foods are the perfect foil for a glass of great Portuguese red wine. Combine them with tomato rice, and you’ll have a very satisfying meal.
The attentive reader will notice that there’s a fourth petisco in the photo. Well, the three musketeers were also four. The triangular-shaped “chamuça” is the D’Artagnan of petiscos. Inspired by Indian cuisine, it adds spice and excitement to the meal.
July 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Why would an Italian couple move with their children from Rome to Lisbon to open a gelato store? And why would they name it after a 1950s actress that no one remembers? We don’t know, but what’s important is that they came.
They use Italian technology and the best Portuguese ingredients, such as water from the Estrela mountain, Vigor milk, Delta coffee, Pantagruel chocolate, rocha pears, Port wine, and Óbidos ginja. The result is gelato so indescribably delicious that we feel the urge to sing: con Nannarella la vita è bella!
Nannarella is located on Rua Nova da Piedade, 68 in Lisbon in the Principe Real neighborhood.
July 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Portuguese cooks love to alter traditional recipes, adding ingredients that can be difficult to detect but impart a special taste. We recently learned a few of these tricks.
Our fish monger told us that “people always rave about my fish sauces. They don’t know I use a secret ingredient. When no one’s looking, I blend in a tablespoon of Savora mustard. It makes all the difference.”
A saleswoman at Quinta do Sanguinhal confided: “when I roast meat, I use a secret ingredient. When no one’s looking, I pour a glass of “licoroso” (desert wine) on the meat. It gives the sauce an amazing taste.”
The butcher gave us a pretty conventional stew recipe. When we asked him what made the recipe so special, he said, “Well, I use a secret ingredient. When no one’s looking I pour half a beer on the stew. Then, I drink the other half.”
We plan to find out whether these tricks work… when no one’s looking.
July 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Claudio Corallo is an Italian who, in the 1970s, moved to the former Portuguese islands of São Tomé and Principe to make chocolate. He uses the original cocoa plants brought from South America which have low yields but produce perfect beans. Corallo roasts these beans with great care, so they never burn. He then breaks them by hand to remove the germ that makes other chocolates taste bitter. The result is pure chocolate that tastes delicious without the addition of milk or vanilla.
Corallo opened a small store in Lisbon that sells coffee and chocolate. This store serves as the unofficial meeting point for all the gourmets in the city.
The bonbons are amazing, the tablets unforgettable, the sorbet indescribable. They make us realize that all the other chocolates were youthful indiscretions, passing flings. Corallo is the one.
Corallo’s store is in the Principe Real neighborhood, on Rua Cecílio de Sousa, 85, tel. 21 386 2158.