A classic Alentejo recipe

October 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

Cozinheira

The dining room was full but Claudia Santiago, the chef at Flor da Rosa, kept her cool. She runs the kitchen like an orchestra conductor, making sure that the rhythm is just right and that all the subtleties of the cuisine of Alentejo are reflected on the plate. After the lunch service, we told Claudia how much we liked her cooking and asked whether she had any culinary secrets. She confessed that: “we have an amazing ingredient which are the sausages made from Alentejo black pork; everything they touch turns to culinary gold.” We asked Claudia whether she would share a recipe with our readers. She described several classic desserts but they were all too complex. So, we opted for the marinated rabbit recipe which is simple but delicious. Here it is.

Claudia Santiago’s marinated rabbit (“coelho de escabeche”)

Cook the rabbit in a rich bouillon made with parsley, mint, cloves, and carrots. Then, grill it over charcoal for a few minutes to intensify the flavor of the meat. Shred the meat. To make the marinade, fry minced onion and garlic with a bay leaf in olive oil. Add vinegar. Combine with the rabbit and let it marinade over night. Decorate with peppers and carrots and serve.

Enjoying this dish accompanied by Alentejo wine in the elegant dining room of Flor de Rosa, made us feel like lords of the manor.

Click here for the Pousadas’ website and here for more photos of Flor da Rosa.

A Lisbon feast

October 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

De Castro Composit F

De Castro Flores doesn’t look like a restaurant, it looks like a convivial home where friends gather to share delicious food and great wine. There’s a spirit of celebration in the air created by the warm decoration, the friendly service, and the appetizing aromas.

We asked our waiter to bring us a series of small plates called petiscos. And so the feast began: clams with beans, cuttle fish with ink, partridge in escabeche, quail eggs with sausage, chamuças with cheese and honey, roasted octopus with potatoes, vegetable tempura with a garlic and lemon mayonnaise.

We left happy to have found a new restaurant where Portugal’s culinary traditions shine bright.

Restaurante De Castro Flores is located in Lisbon at Praça das Flores, Rua Marques Portugal, n. 1. Tel: 21 590 3077. Email: info@decastro.com. Click here for the restaurant’s web site.

A beach fling

September 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

PraiadoAbano

First-time visitors to Lisbon are often surprised by its beauty. But, when you live in the capital city, you begin to take this beauty for granted and look around for something new. You don’t have to look far. Drive a few miles down the coast and you’ll find secluded beaches that will tempt your heart.

One of these beaches is Praia do Abano, on the coast of Cascais. Its cliff top offers breathtaking views of the Sintra mountain and the endless sea. Sheltered from the wind, Abano is the perfect place to enjoy a day in the sun.

There is a rustic restaurant on top of the cliff that you won’t find in tourist guides. It serves simple, wonderful food, such as amazing clams with irresistible country bread, delicious rabbit cooked in wine, and flavorful shrimp “açorda.” It is an unforgettable experience to dine there while the sun melts and the moon comes out to gild the sea with silver light.

An afternoon at Abano feels like a vacation. You return to Lisbon relaxed and content and, when you arrive at the capital, you are surprised by its beauty all over again.

The Abano beach is 21 miles from Lisbon. The telephone number of Restaurant Abano is 214870342.

A magical Summer soup

September 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

Composit 3F©

When we sat down for dinner in the beautiful esplanade of the Arraiolos Pousada, we expected good food and attentive service. We got much more than that. We were served a series of delicious dishes that harmonized perfectly with Alentejo wine and made us feel we were at the right place, at the right time.

The dinner started with two soups, a Summer cucumber soup, followed by a tomato soup with quail egg. We then had “migas” (an Alentejo specialty made with bread) with wild asparagus and lamb grilled with rosemary. The grand finale was a sampling of traditional convent desserts updated with great refinement.

We congratulated the chef, Elizabete Velez, who told us that she learned to cook with her mother and grandmother in a small village in Alentejo. She offered to give us the recipe for her delicious Summer cucumber soup because it is very easy to make. Here it is.

Elizabete Velez’s Summer cucumber soup

Get the very best cucumbers you can find. Peel them (this step is key because the peel is very bitter) and remove their seeds. Dice the cucumbers, season them carefully with salt, pepper, and great olive oil. Puree the mixture in a blender. Pour into small bowls, placing one or two ice cubes in each bowl. Garnish with toasted slivered almonds, small strips of cucumber peel, and Portuguese sausage (preferably from Alentejo!).

Imagine eating this soup in a warm Summer evening, as the sun sets over a grove of olive trees and the stars wait their turn to shine on the Arraiolos castle. It’s magical!

Click here for the Pousadas’ website and here for more photos of the Arraiolos Pousada.

Our favorite restaurant in Évora

August 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

BotequimdaMouraria-Edit©

Our favorite restaurant in Évora, Botequim da Mouraria, seats only eight people and takes no reservations. There are no tables, everybody eats at the counter. Domingos Canelas, the restaurant’s owner, recites the menu, an endless list of delicacies that includes wild asparagus, eggs from blissful chicken, incredible prosciutto from Alentejo, luscious figs, briny clams, succulent fish and meat. In the kitchen, his wife Florbela cooks these ingredients with great skill and refinement. When Domingos brings the food he smiles, anticipating our enjoyment.

We asked him to select a wine from the restaurant’s amazing list. Instead of choosing an expensive bottle, he decided to impress us with a perfectly chilled white wine from Herdade Grande. “In Portugal,” he said, “you don’t need to spend much money to drink great wine.” And we agreed, marveling at the perfect harmony between the wine and the food.

During our leisurely lunch, many customers came to the door and left because there were no seats available. And yet, Domingos didn’t  try to rush us. “You need time to enjoy the food of Alentejo,” he said.

We asked whether he planed to expand the size of the restaurant. He answered without hesitation: “I can only maintain this quality if I stay small.” At Botequim da Mouraria small is wonderful.

Botequim da Mouraria is at Rua da Mouraria, 16-A in Evora, tel. 266-746-775, email: botequim.mouraria@sapo.pt.

The best of both worlds

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

Azeitonas Bel Canto-F

Portugal is a country with century-old traditions. But it is also a place where a new generation is creating the future.

Consider the fruits of the Olea europaea, commonly know as olives. If you visit a Portuguese farmers market, you’ll find delicious olives cured in traditional ways. But if you dine at Belcanto, José Avillez’s wonderful restaurant in Lisbon, you’ll be served three invented olives. The first, a spherical olive that explodes in the mouth, is an homage to Avillez’s apprenticeship at elBulli. The second is a delicious black olive in a light crunchy tempura. The third is an inverted dry martini: the liquid is olive juice and the “olive” is a sphere of gin.

Which do you prefer, tradition or modernity? In Portugal you don’t have to choose.

Belcanto is located at Largo do São Carlos in Lisbon, tel. 21-342-0607.

Boi-Cavalo

June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Boi e Cavalo (composit)

One of the best-kept secrets in Lisbon is an amazing new restaurant in Alfama called Boi-Cavalo (wildebeest). In a renovated old butcher shop, two chefs, Hugo Brito and Pedro Duarte, place their prodigious technique at the service of Lisbon’s culinary tradition. The result is a dazzling array of delicious dishes, such as marinated mackerel with Alvarinho gel, clam soup with foie gras and grilled onions, cauliflower soup with requeijão (a Portuguese soft cheese), and peas with eggs in a dashi broth.

Luxury restaurants often employ pompous waiters who make clients feel they are not worthy of the food being served. At Boi-Cavalo, the service is orchestrated with such sympathy and grace that we feel right at home.

It takes great generosity to produce three-star food and serve it with such modesty in attitude and price. When the chefs came to our table, they didn’t brag about complex preparations or rare ingredients. Instead, they asked us: how did you like the food? We loved it!

 

Boi-Cavalo is at Rua Do Vigario, 70B, Lisbon, tel. 21-887-1653, email geral@boi-cavalo.pt.

 

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