PORTUGUESE GASTRONOMY – FOOD & DRINK
The Portuguese food is amazing. You will find that there are many famous dishes which vary from region to region. They love their meat and seafood, lucky for us we are not vegans. Portuguese stew (meat and fish) is also very popular and their breads and cakes are so delicious. Portuguese cakes are made with lots of egg yolks and sugar are are often flavoured with almonds and cinnamon. As you can see from the photo’s below we have been eating way too many cakes which has played havoc with my gluten intolerance but it would be rude not to fully commit ourselves into the Portuguese culture of cake eating and coffee drinking. Look out for a Padaria (bakery) and a Pastelaria (pastry shop).
The Famous Nata
The Pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart) is the most famous sweet pastry but my favourite is Patas de veado (Swiss roll filled with egg custard, the roll is sliced diagonally then coated in custard and desiccated coconut with a thin line of cinnamon down the middle). The name patas de veado translates as deer hooves since the final appearance of these rolls resembles animal trotters, just try not to think about that when you are eating it! If you LOVE Portuguese cake as much as I do be sure to check out this post: https://casavalhal.com/portuguese-cakes-and-all-things-sweet/
Bacalhau – The Portuguese love their salted cod fish. We are not huge fish lovers and only really eat salmon, tuna or baked cod. I love prawns but hubby doesn’t so I rarely eat them. They sell this fish everywhere and it absolutely stinks to the point I feel very nauseous in supermarkets. I did try to cook a recipe with bacalhau for our wedding anniversary. It wasn’t a great success. It was not as bad as I anticipated but as I said it wasn’t good either (ha ha).
Seafood – Octopus, sardines, salmon, clams and tripe as well as most seafood is also very popular.
In the large cities you will find a shop solely dedicated to sardines! This is the store in Coimbra and I purchased a tin of overpriced sardines as a gift for family back in the U.K.
Be careful what you say and don’t be overzealous with your compliments. One restaurant in Gerês served us gigantic portions of meat, fish, rice, crisps, roast potatoes and veg. The chef came out and asked if we liked the potatoes, I said yes, they were delicious and within 5 minutes we had another huge bowl of potatoes on the table. I was at bursting point and couldn’t release anymore notches on my belt. I did consider stashing a handful in my handbag as I didn’t want to appear ungrateful or wasteful. In the end we all agreed to eat 2 more each and crawl the short journey back to the hotel (ha ha).
Meat, Meat & More Meat
The Portuguese LOVE their Meat and Fish so god help you if your Vegan (ha ha). Pork, beef and cured meats are the most popular. One thing they take seriously is the preparation process. They also love a roasting a whole hog and if you attend a festival or traditional fayre you will find a selection of resturants cooking outdoors on huge BBQ’s. I do love a spit roast washed down with a glass or two of regional wine. There will be huge splendid marquees and plenty of seating to enjoy a sit down meal, relax in the sunshine and mix with the locals. Mealhada is the capital of the “Leitão Assado” (Suckling Pig). Whole hogs are roasted to perfection, tender and juicy in the middle and crispy on the outside. A Bifana is a pork sandwich and a common snack. I don’t like them as I’m not a huge fan of pork and find them a bit tough to chew.
Leitão Assado (Suckling Pig)
I don’t think I will ever get used to seeing these on display in supermarkets. Don’t look if your Vegan! I do eat meat so I suppose I’m a hypocrite but these little piglets are killed very young at 2-4 weeks whilst still feeding off their mother.
A Banquet fit for a King
You will find many Medieval Fayres in Portugal which are awesome places to enjoy a tasty banquet and eat a marquee full of meat whilst dressed in traditional costume, what fun!
The Portuguese love cabbages to make their soup. They grow really well here and I have even seen some growing out of the side of a wall. They have the tallest stalks, this is one of my neighbours cabbages, just look how tall that stalk is! It amazes me how creatures manage to crawl all the way up to the top to eat the leaves. They look like walking sticks and I have even managed to successfully grow my own, Galega Lisa variety. Our chickens and bunny love them too. Caldo Verde (cabbage soup) is very popular but Vegetarians beware some of the Caldo Verde has small amounts of meat in them so ask in advance.
Soup – Caldo Verde
Soup is huge in Portugal and you will always find it on the menu in restaurants. This is our attempt at caldo verde, it was rather moorish.
We live in quite a remote isolated village so we have vans that drive by each day selling bread and fresh fruit/veg and fish which is great. Bread is amazing here and there is a wide selection to choose from. I don’t eat too much bread as I have a gluten intolerance so although I love bread, the feeling isn’t mutal (ha ha). I love nothing more than visiting the bakery for freshly baked bread and rolls. The bread Museum in Seia sale the most tastiest affordable breads including an epic chocolate bread. The aroma of freshly baked bread is mouthwatering! I really like Pão com Chouriço which is a delicious bread stuffed with Chouriço.
Bread Ovens – The Portuguese Way
Chocolate Bread with a View
In Portugal you hang a bread bag on your door and wake up to daily fresh baked bread, how wonderful! This could never happen in the U.K as it would just get stolen. I used to have a milk delivery until some arsehole decided to steal my milk right off my doorstep then my milkman had to get inventive and hide it behind the wheelie bin. I caught the rascal in question one early morning, it was a fully grown man and I chased him down the street like a crazy lady but unfortunately he got away because I was a fatty fatty bum bum and couldn’t keep up (ha ha).
Sausage & Cheese (The Stinky Stuff)
We live very close to Serra da Estrela Serra mountain range which is famous for its intense flavoured Portuguese cheese made from sheep’s milk (Bordaleira breed). It dates back to the 12th Century, making it the oldest of Portuguese cheeses. We are not huge cheese fans to be honest and I often find the smell overwhelming but not as powerful as bacalhau (ha ha). There is a local cheese festival held each year in nearby Oliveira do Hospital. I never went this year as I thought it was going to be just cheese then friends shared their photos and I was sad as there was also so much more including ginja liquor in chocolate cups, honey, sausages and artisan crafts, I’m gutted beyond belief (ha ha). Chouriço sausage and huge hams are very popular and wherever you see cheese it’s usually next to sausage which I find strange as cheese is obviously vegetarian.
Serra da Estrela Cheese Festival (Oliveira do Hospital)
Lunch at the Torre – Serra da Estrela
The Cheese Fail
I ordered a mozzarella cheese salad for lunch and this is what I got! Hubby and my daughter could not control their laughter but I was just disappointed to the point that hubby had to buy me cake and coffee to console me.
Cake & Caffeine to Console my Soul
Francesinha (meaning Little Frenchie or simply Frenchie in Portuguese) is a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot and thick spiced tomato and beer sauce. Hidden under the truck load of fries lives a francesinha. You might not be able to see it but believe me when I say it’s there. I have a confession to make. Although I liked this dish it didn’t like me and just a short while later I was nearly hospitalised with chronic abdominal pain. I was crying and led on the floor in agony. I will never eat one again for sure (ha ha).
Olives & Olive Oil
You will see hundreds of olive trees in Central Portugal. Olive oil is used for cooking and flavour and there are many olive oil museums you can visit to find out more about the history, harvesting and production of olive oil. We have a museum very local to us but we visited one in Belmonte.
Olive Oil Museum
Chestnuts are very popular in Autumn time, there are many street vendors selling piping hot roasted chestnuts and we have attended our very first chestnut festival where there were a selection of cakes and treats all made from chestnuts. We also love to forage in the local forests and woodlands.
Eggs are a keen staple and many folk have chickens including us. Eggs are placed on top of a lot of meals here even burgers and pizza! A meal seems to consist of some form of meat, rice and an egg. I adore my chickens and becoming a first time chicken momma is such a simple joy.
Egg on a pizza is normal to me now but peas are still weird and wonderful (ha ha)
Pizza is not really Portuguese food but seeing as it’s my all time favourite food I will share one of favourite. what can I say I’m a basic girl and LOVE pizza. We usually eat our pizza in a picturesque picnic park amongst nature but we have found some little restaurants which are awesome. These were amazing and not a pea or egg in sight (ha ha).
Peri Peri Chicken
Peri peri chicken is amazing.
You will find a variety of fast food in the shopping malls here and I love that we have the option of more traditional Portuguese food and not just McDonalds which I hate. I do enjoy the occasional KFC, Burger King and Kebab but my favourite place is Alentejo where I order a set meal which comes with beef steak, chicken, sausage, rice and beans, chips and cabbage with a little fried banana fritta, juice, water or wine and a coffee. You get served the meal on proper china plates and metal cutlery too! The bonus is I get to drink hubby’s coffee too so double espresso and caffeine fix for Helena which results in double the energy and a very chatty journey home (ha ha).
Cachorro (Portuguese Hot Dog)
Portugal is not really famous for it’s hot dogs but I do LOVE a hot dog as a quick lunch snack and it makes an alternative to some of the savoury pastries that are sold here which usually consist of bread with a meat filling. We have a favourite little cafe in Águeda which is located under the coloured rain where we always enjoy a special hot dog then we stroll along the streets admiring all the urban art and the amazing Umbrella Sky Project. Once we have digested our massive hot dogs we have room for ice cream and a Pastéis de Águeda in the pretty park.
I love stumbling across bee hives on my hikes in nature. What a splendid sight! I love honey so much, I think I’m related to Winnie the Pooh (ha ha). There are many honey festivals here and Lousã holds an annual chestnut and honey festival which looks awesome.
Sweet Honey Hikes
Wine is very cheap, coke is expensive – the kind you drink not snort! If you are keen to know more about wine and the wine production in Portugal I highly recommend you visit the Dão Valley and embark on a wine tasting tour or two, just don’t drink and drive! You can buy a really decent red or white wine here for under €3, I am surprised I’m not an alcoholic (ha ha).
Quinta da Pacheca
Quinta do Pôpa
Museu do Vinho (Alcobaça)
Licor Beirão, commonly simply known as Beirão, is a Portuguese liquer from the Beira region of Portugal. Originating in the 19th century, it is the most consumed alcoholic spirit in Portugal. Production began in the 19th century in Lousã, in the Beira region, from where it got its name (Beirão means “from Beira”). It is made from a double distillation of seeds and herbs, including mint, cinnamon, cardamom and lavender. I hate to admit this but I don’t like it. I still have a bottle on my lounge bar from last Christmas (ha ha). What I do love is the cherry Ginja liquer especially the one from Óbidos and I love it even more when it is served in a chocolate cup.
Most folk enjoy a beer or two but we are not huge beer drinkers. We did enjoy our first local beer fest and had a lot of fun sampling the craft beers so maybe I could be converted in time (ha ha).
Coffee is very popular and most Portuguese order Café (Pronounced cah-fé) which is a tiny black shot of espresso and very cheap (50-70 cents). There are lots of different coffees for example Galão (Pronounced Gah-lo) is a shot of espresso in a tall glass that’s topped up two-thirds of the way with milk. Meia de leite (Pronounced May-a de late) is half coffee and half milk. There are several more which I haven’t tried out yet. I have purchased a stove top espresso maker and from the espresso base you can make almost any coffee in the comfort of your own home.
When I lived in the U.K I rarely consumed coffee and was a huge tea drinker. When we relocated here I quickly realised that the tea you are served is horrendous, it looks like dishwater and tastes like camel piss (ha ha). I started my coffee drinking here by ordering a Cappuccino which was very disappointing as most of these drinks are made from instant packets as it’s not a popular Portuguese coffee. Most come with about 6 sugars already in them and 2 sugars on the side. You will encounter a variety of toppings – cinnamon usually but I have sampled chocolate strands like the ones on top of fairy cakes and actual coffee beans too. They are also very small cups compared to UK Costa or Starbucks but very cheap so you can have 2 or 3 if you want to stay up all night fretting about buying an old house and maybe you should have bought the modern flat with the balcony and a communal pool – just kidding, still living the dream! I quickly converted to the hard stuff (ha ha). I now only drink espresso everywhere I go and I make myself a cappuccino from proper coffee at home on my stove top coffee pot.
Don’t Expect a Cup this Size
I LOVE Portuguese coffee and coffee usually comes with a side of cake but not always (ha ha).