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Portugese cooking and recipes

This section will be updated regularly with recipes etc., from Portuguese cuisine.
An interesting collection of Portuguese dishes, with information on tourism in Lisbon may be found here.


Firstly, the Francesinha (literal translation: the Little Frenchie)
Legend has it that in the 1960s, one Daniel da Silva returned from a visit to France and Belgium and resolved to adapt the
croque-monsieur to the Portuguese palate. The result was the Francesinha - a speciality of Porto. Every restaurant has its own
recipe, particularly of the sauce, and we present one variation here.
However, this is a bit like presenting a definitive recipe for a Lancashire hot-pot. Everyone has their own and my mum's is
better than yours and she won't tell you the recipe, ever.

So, here we go:


For the sauce:
·         Tabasco
·         100ml milk
·         1 small grated carrot
·         1 bay leaf
·         25g butter
·         60ml port
·         1 small grated onion
·         100ml tomato purée
·         350ml lager (for authenticity, use Sagres or Super Bock)
·         A few lean beef scraps
·         Salt to taste
The above will make enough sauce for two. The Tabasco is optional but if you like a bit of a kick, add some chilli powder, too.
Chicken bones/scraps can be used instead of the beef.

For the sandwich:
·         Three slices of white bread
·         Portuguese chouriço sausage, skin removed (sometimes called linguiça)
·         Thin slice of steak
·         1 egg
·         Slice of ham
·         2 pork sausages (chipolatas)
·         Sliced cheese

You could use Spanish chorizo sausage, if pushed.

Now to make the sauce:

Melt the butter in the pan, add beef and cook until browned. Add salt, onion and carrots, cook for 5 minutes and add tomato
purée. After one minute, add bay leaf, milk, beer and port. Simmer for 30 minutes and then strain out solids. Put sauce to one side
and keep warm.

Now the sandwich:

Toast and butter the bread. Top one slice with ham and warmed chouriço. Add the next slice of toast and the steak and chiplolatas.
Add the last slice of toast and the cheese. Grill until the cheese is melted and put a fried egg on top, covering it all with the sauce.

Traditionally, this is served with chips and a (or more than one) cold beer. A most satisfying and filling snack.

Bacalhau - Salt Cod

A brief history of bacalhau is available from the Wikipedia site here.

There are reputedley 365 different ways of preparing bacalhau and there is a wondeful Facebook page devoted entirely to
these recipes (thanks, Cristina Guilherme). However, it is all in Portuguese. Your intrepid and tireless webmaster will attempt to
translate some of the easier and tastier ones.

Firstly; Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. Gomes de Sá was the son of a rich salt cod importer.
However, the family fell on hard times and he ended up working in a restaurant (the Restaurante Lisbonense) where he created
this recipe.
A word of warning: Bacalhau must be soaked in fresh water for about 24 hours, changing the water frequently, before cooking.

This will make enough for 4 people.


500g bacalhau
500g potatoes
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
2 boiled eggs
100ml olive oil
Black olives to taste
Chopped parsley to taste
Salt to taste
Ground white pepper


After leaving the bacalhau to soak overnight, scald with boiling water, cover and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
Skin and clean the bacalhau, putting the cleaned bits in a saucepan with hot milk and leave for about 2 hours. Strain and put
the milk into a deep saucepan which you will use to cook the dish. Strain the bacalhau and then flake it - you should get nice,
clean flakes of the flesh. Boil the potatoes in their skins, but peel them after and then slice. In the meantime, cut up the onions
and the garlic and sweat gently in a little olive oil. Add the sliced, boiled potatoes and the drained and flaked bacalhau. Stir gently
so as not to undo the flakes of bacalhau or mush up the sliced potatoes. Add pepper and salt to taste. Transfer to a (preferably)
clay dish, but an oven-proof dish of any sort with do. Put into a hot oven for about 10 minutes.
Serve covered with chopped parsley, sliced boiled eggs and black olives.

Any good dry white wine will accompany this nicely.

Bacalhau à Bras

The next recipe for bacalhau is Bacalhau à Bras. Bras is reportedly the surname of the originator who worked in the Bairro Alto
of Lisbon, a once slightly disreputable area where, conicidentally, your webmaster once lived. Nothing is to be inferred from this,
much, at all, honest.

Cultural note: a lot of Portuguese recipes require extravagant quantities of eggs. Why? because the whites were use by nuns to
starch the white parts of their habits. The peasants were left with the yolks, with God's blessing.

Serves 6.


500g bacalhau
500g matchstick potatoes
2 onions sliced from halves
3 cloves of garlic, sliced well
3 bay leaves
100ml of olive oil
10 eggs
Black olives to taste
Chopped parsley to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste.


Put the already rinsed bacalhau (see above) in a saucepan  with water and boil for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, take out and clean
of skin and bones, fins etc. Discard the bits.
Gently boil the potatoes - you don't want them to fall apart, nor do you want them overcooked. Some people fry them - this adds a
pleasingly contrasting texture to the rest of the dish, if you do this, save them for serving with the main dish to preserve their
crispness. In a deep saucepan, gently sweat the onions in olive oil for a little while. Add the garlic and bay leaves and
sweat a little more (the stuff in the saucepan, not you). Now beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Now add the bacalhau, letting it
fry a little, add the boiled potatoes and allow to absorb the oil a little (if using fried potatoes, save them for later - see above), let
it all warm up and then add the beaten eggs. This is a critical part of the preparation - you don't want hard eggs, nor
do you want a sloppy mess. Try for what the interior of a good, well-made omelette should be like - unctuous, but not
undercooked, remembering that the next step will add a little heat. Now turn in the chopped parsley and the black olives and allow to warm a little.
Serve with more chopped parsley and black olives, on the fried potatoes, if you have chosen to use them.

A side salad is a good idea with this. Choose whatever vegetables you like, but allow a suggestion as to the dressing: a little
walnut oil and some sherry vinegar will make a nice balance to the dish.

A good, robust red will go beautifully with this and allow a pleasing contrast to the texture of the main dish.

Bacalhau Assado no Forno  (Oven Roasted Bacalhau)

Possibly the most delicious way to serve bacalhau. The traditional accompaniment is some lightly boiled greens (spinach or kale
or even some creamed spinach) and pitted green olives, seasoned with a little salt and some olive oil.

Serves 2

2 good trimmed, soaked and cleaned pieces of bacalhau. They should be about 2cm wide and cut from the whole side.
4 medium-sized potatoes, with skin
125ml good olive oil
2 onions cut into halves and then sliced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 red pepper, cut into strips
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
Pitted black olives, to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water until almost soft. Do not overcook. In a (traditionally, clay) vessel, cover the bottom with the
onions, garlic, olives, pepper and bay leaves. On top of this, place the bacalhau pieces. Now place the boiled potatoes around
the bacalhau pieces. Drizzle some olive oil over all and be generous. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for about 20 min,
baste with the juices and cook for a further 20 min.

A good, robust red goes well with this, as it does with most things....

Bolinhos de Bacalhau - Little salt cod cakes

This recipe is probably the most popular Portuguese snack ever. Accompanied by a cold beer or two, it is very easy to find
you have eaten a whole plate. You should now sneak over to the other side of the room and deny all knowledge of the
large, empty plate you left behind.
There are thousands of recipes, this is just one.


800gms rinsed and cleaned bacalhau
500gms boiled potatoes, mashed
4 egg yolks
1 onion, sliced finely
1 sprig of parsley
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Mince the bacalhau. Put the result in a large saucepan, add the mashed up potatoes, the egg yolks, the sliced onion, the parsely
and some of the olive oil. Mix it all up until you have a rough paste, add salt and pepper to taste. Prepare some hot oil to fry
what you are about to make. Now the best part - using two spoons, (or, if skillful, your hands) make some balls about 2cm across.
Drop them into the hot oil (not too many at a time or the oil will cool) frying all over until they show a nice light brown colour.
Allow to drain on some paper kitchen towels.

You can now eat them as they are, or with some tomato rice, greens, green beans or a salad. And/or several cold beers.
Excellent for picnics, barbecues, house parties etc.

Enough of the bacalhau. A simple search on the internet will bring you thousands of recipes for this delicious item.

And now for something unique to Portugal.....

The alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage, made with meats other than pork (usually veal, duck, chicken, quail or rabbit) and bread.
Although alheira derives from alho (garlic) and was once used to describe any sausage seasoned with it, not all present-day alheiras contain garlic, although it is still a common ingredient.
The type of sausage that became known as "alheira" was invented by the Jews of Portugal, who were given the choice of either being expelled from the country in 1497 or converting to Christianity. Those who converted but secretly retained their beliefs, avoided eating pork, forbidden in Judaism; this put them at risk of being noticed not to hang sausages, traditionally made of pork, in their fumeiros (smokehouses). As a way to avoid attracting the attention of the Portuguese Inquisition or in rural areas the Portuguese Christians, they did make sausages, but with other meats, such as poultry and game, mixed with bread for texture. This recipe later spread amongst Christians.
Alheiras were traditionally grilled or roasted and served with boiled vegetables. Nowadays they are often fried and served with chips and a fried egg. They are often one of the cheapest items in restaurant menus, although those made with game can be expensive.
Although alheiras are typically associated with the city of Mirandela, the regions of Beira Alta and Trás-os-Montes are also famous for their alheiras.

Due to the difficulty of making such an item at home (you'll need some sort of casing for the sausages and a sausage making machine), it is perhaps easier to order from a UK stockist. A list of them may be found here. A recent trip to Swindon allowed me to discover another: Tastes of Portugal; Units 38 & 39, Swindon Tented Market, Market Street, Swindon SN1 1RZ. The proprietors, Carlos & Isabel, will post items to customers. Phone 07599 716334.


Pastéis de nata - custard tarts

Now on to sweets - and Portuguese cuisine has many. The most popular is, of course, pastéis de nata - custard tarts. The literal
translation is 'cream pastries'. First invented by the nuns of the Belém Convent (Convento be Belém), in Lisbon in 1837, the best
can still be found in Lisbon at the (coincidentally titled) Pastéis de Belém restaurant - 84 rua de Belém, Lisbon 1300-085, Portugal
+351 21 363 74 23.

Now see if you can equal their quality:

This is the easy way to make the pastries, using pre-packaged puff pastry. If you want to make your own puff pastry, please feel
free. We will meet you further down the page, although night may be drawing in and you could be very tired.


500gm pre-packaged puff pastry (thawed, but still cool)
250ml whole milk
60ml cream
4 egg yolks
3 tbsps white sugar
a pinch of salt
2 tbsps white flour
½ cinnamon stick
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 strips of lemon peel

Firstly, making the cream:

In a saucepan, add the milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, salt and flour. Mix well. Once all is smooth, add the cinnamon stick,
lemon peel and vanilla. On low heat, stir continually and gently. The objective is not to let the egg yolks coagulate. If this
happens, feed it to the cat and be more gentle and slow with the heat next time, stirring slowly. No distractions. Keep stirring.
You should now have a thick custard - watch out for the edges and the bottom of the pan to avoid curdling. The nuns who
made up this recipe had all the time in the world and were not in an hurry - neither should you be. Let it cool completely,
placing a parchment sheet over the pan to avoid a skin forming. Remove the cinnamon stick and the lemon peel.

Now the pastry shells - if you made your own puff pastry, welcome back. Have an expresso to perk up a bit and let's go.

Roll out your pastry on a floured surface until ¼ cm thick. Roll into a long cigar not loosley, nor too tight. Cut into 4cm lengths,
take each piece and push in a hollow to receive the custard. Place the pastry in a muffin tray, spreading out to fit snugly in the
hollows. The finished shells should be ¼ cm thick. Now fill in the shells about ¾ way up. Try to leave 1 to 1½ cms before the top.
Bake at 200 - 220°C for 15 min or so. It is very difficult to give precise instructions for this bit - in general, if they look good, they
are ready. Aim for an even cook, no burning of the top etc.

They can be eaten straight from the oven (and often are, if your webmaster is around) or left to cool. Traditionally, they are eaten
with an expresso coffee. The only time the Portuguese drink milky coffee is for breakfast - it is thought to prejudice the digestion
if drunk at any other time of day. More on coffee later.

Pudim de Leite - Milk Pudding

Unashamedly rich and sweet - also delicious. There are thousands of variations on this recipe. This is a Brazilian recipe,
but varies very little from a traditional Portuguese one, and is simpler.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces/400gm)
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 3 eggs


Make the caramel – pour the sugar into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until it melts and become
golden brown; about 12 to 15 minutes. Pour the caramel into a 25cm mold pan (the type with a hole in the middle) and swirl the
caramel to completely cover the base and about 2½ - 3 cm up the sides. Allow to cool and harden.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the condensed milk, whole milk, and eggs in a large blender. Blend for about 20 seconds. If the
ingredients do not fit all at once, divide them equally into 2 batches. Strain the milk mix into a large bowl, removing the foam that
forms on the surface. Pour the milk mix into the mold pan (make sure the caramel is firm so it does not incorporate into the flan)
and cover with aluminium foil. Place the mold pan in a large ovenproof dish filled up with warm water. Carefully transfer to the
oven and bake for about 50 minutes. The flan is ready when you stick a knife in it and it turns out clean when you remove it.
Remove it from oven and let it cool down completely. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Now remove from the mold – gently run a table knife all around the mold pan, and then carefully flip it over a large plate.

Now see if you can eat only one slice.....


Now, if you are thinking of Nescafé or any other instant coffee, stop reading.

OK, still with us? Coffee in Portugal is serious and deserves study. One of the best websites on this subject is here.

More recipes soon....

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