With its diverse cuisine and intriguing culinary history, Portugal is a top travel destination for food lovers worldwide.
Leandro Carreira's Portugal: The Cookbook gathers together dishes from every region of the country, including fish and shellfish dishes from the Algarve coast, hearty stews from the Douro Valley, and the famous and beloved pastries of Lisbon.
Bread with pennyroyal soup (Aorda Alentejana)
The Portuguese word aorda derives from the Andalusian Arabic word thurda/urda, from the time in the 8th to 13th centuries when the Iberian Peninsula was under Muslim rule. Aorda is Alentejo's most iconic dish. It is a soup with a transparent broth that is merely blanched and served hot, and flavoured with pennyroyal spearmint or coriander (or both), crushed garlic and coarse salt, and drizzled with olive oil. The recipe can vary depending on the area of Alentejo, and can be served with poached or boiled eggs, various types of fish (boiled cod or hake; fried or grilled sardines) and boiled green (bell) peppers.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
- 1/3 bunch pennyroyal
- 1/3 bunch coriander (cilantro)
- 90ml/3 fl oz (6 tbsp) olive oil
- 1.5L/50 fl oz (6 1/4 cups) fish stock or water
- 4 eggs
- 300g/11 oz stale homemade or sourdough bread
- sea salt
1. Put the garlic into a mortar with the pennyroyal, coriander (cilantro), olive oil and 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Using a pestle, mash to a paste. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl and set aside.
2. Bring the fish stock or water to the boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium and carefully break the eggs into the hot stock, then poach the eggs for four minutes.
3. Add the poached eggs and poaching liquid to the bowl containing the herb paste, then cover with a tea (dish) towel and leave to stand for five minutes.
4. Cut the bread into slices. Place one slice of bread with some paste into individual bowls and top each slice with one egg. Ladle some of the poaching liquid into each bowl before serving.
Fried baby horse mackerel with verjus sauce (Joaquinzinhos de Agrao/ Chicharros de Agrao)
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 20 minutes standing
Cooking time: 25 minutes
- 1.2kg/2 lb 11 oz baby horse mackerel
- cornflour (cornstarch), for coating
- 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 pimenta da terra or a red long pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 150ml/5 fl oz (2/3 cup) white wine vinegar
- 13 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 220ml/71/2 fl oz (1 cup) olive oil
- sea salt
1. Clean the mackerel, removing the scales. Cut off the head and set aside. Using a sharp knife, make an incision in the belly and remove the guts, then rinse the fish under cold running water and leave to drip on a perforated tray or in a colander. Season the fish with salt.
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
3. Place a clay baking tray (pan) or a baking sheet in the oven to heat up.
4. Dust the mackerel with cornflour (cornstarch), shaking off any excess. Place the fish on the hot baking tray or sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove the mackerel from the baking tray or sheet and set aside.
5. Meanwhile, combine the onions, garlic and pepper together in a large bowl, then season with salt and add the vinegar. Set aside for 10 minutes.
6. Add the chopped parsley and olive oil to the bowl, then stir thoroughly to combine.
7. Arrange the fish on a serving plate and pour the sauce over the top. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Mirandesa steak (Posta à Mirandesa)
Origin: Trs-os-Montes e Alto Douro
Posta à Mirandesa is a large, juicy, thick tenderloin steak sprinkled with salt and brushed with an olive oil mixture, then grilled over a fire until seared on the outside and medium-rare on the inside. It is usually found in restaurants in northern Portugal, because this cut of meat comes from free-range Mirandesa calves, sourced directly from Trs-os-Montes, which is the only region where this breed is found. The steak is usually served with a side of roasted potatoes and sautéed turnip tops. Until the end of the 20th century, it would be grilled over hot charcoals at fairs, and placed on a large slice of rye bread so that the meat juices soaked into it.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 650g/1 lb 7 oz new potatoes, unpeeled and left whole
- 120ml/4 fl oz (1/2 cup) olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 30ml/1 fl oz (2 tbsp) white wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and very finely chopped
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 720g/1 lb 9 oz Mirandesa steak (sirloin) or any other
- good-quality sirloin steak
- 1kg/2 lb 4 oz turnip tops, bottom stalk removed
- sea salt
1. Prepare a barbecue or preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
2. Wrap the potatoes individually in foil and either roast them directly in the barbecue coals for 20 minutes, or until soft. Alternatively, bake them in the oven.
3. Put the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, paprika and a little salt into a small bowl and stir with a fork. This is the sauce for the meat and potatoes.
4. Season the meat with salt then put onto the barbecue grill and cook over the coals for two minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crispy all over.
5. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and the turnip tops and cook for one minute, then drain and place on a tray or plate and drizzle with some of the olive oil.
6. Arrange the steak in a serving dish with the baked potatoes and cooked turnip tops. Drizzle the sauce over both the steak and potatoes before serving.
Custard tarts (Pastéis de Nata)
In 1982, Maria de Lourdes Modesto said the following of the pastel de nata in her essential cookbook Traditional Portuguese Cooking: "These pastries are probably the most important Portuguese speciality ever sold." Almost four decades later, they remain the ultimate national symbol of Portugal. Today's pastéis de nata recipes are adaptations of the original that dates back to the 16th century, when they were made in monasteries and convents all over the country. These palm-sized tarts have a melt-in-the-mouth, fragile, flaky crust and a not-too-sweet custard that is caramelised and darkened in spots. Locals visit their neighbourhood pastry shops in search of the best-tasting pastel de nata. The cake pans used to bake these tarts are not the same as muffin pans - they are smaller and flatter. You can find them online, or use a 10cm/4 inch round cake pan that is 2cm/3/4 inch high.
Preparation time: 3 hours 30 minutes, plus 2 hours 45 minutes resting and overnight chilling
Cooking time: 35 minutes
For the filling:
- 320g/111/4 oz (1 2/3 cups) caster (superfine) sugar
- 50g/2 oz (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) cornflour (cornstarch)
- 4 egg yolks
- 600ml/20 fl oz (21/2 cups) whole (full-fat) milk
- 1 vanilla pod (bean), split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
- pared rind of 2 lemons
For the puff pastry (or use ready-made puff pastry):
- 600g/1 lb 5 oz (4 3/4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 480g/1 lb 1 oz (4 sticks plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- sea salt
- icing (confectioners') sugar, for dusting
- ground cinnamon, for dusting
1. To make the puff pastry, put the flour into a mound on a work counter. Put 320ml/11 fl oz (1 1/4 cups plus 2 tsp) water into a jug (pitcher) or measuring jug and season with a pinch of salt. Make a small well in the middle of the flour and pour in the water. Start mixing the flour into the water to form a smooth dough, then cover with a tea (dish) towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
2. Divide the butter into three equal portions of 160g/5 3/4 oz (1 stick plus 3 tbsp). Lay a large piece of food wrap on a work counter. Cut the first portion of butter into thin slices and lay these on the food wrap in a 20cm/8 inch square. Put a second piece of food wrap on top of the butter and use a rolling pin to flatten the butter into a thin 20cm/8 inch square sheet. Repeat with the remaining two portions of butter so that you have three sheets of butter. The butter needs to be cool but pliable when added to the dough, so chill the sheets and remove each one from the fridge only five minutes before using it.
3. Roll the dough out on a floured work counter into a 21 cm/8 1/2 inch square. Put a sheet of butter in the centre of the dough, leaving a 5mm/1/4 inch border. Fold the dough and butter in half by folding the top half down, then fold in half again by folding from left to right. Roll out into another 21cm/8 1/2 inch square, then transfer to a baking sheet, cover and rest in the fridge for 25 minutes. Repeat with the remaining two sheets of butter. Rest the dough each time you add the butter. When you have used up all the butter, roll the dough into a rectangle 32 x 20cm/13 x 8 inches. Roll the dough tightly into a cylinder, starting from the long edge. Cover the dough in food wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight. If using ready-made puff pastry, roll the pastry out to a rectangle 32 x 20cm/13 x 8 inches. Roll the pastry tightly into a cylinder, cover and rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
4. To make the filling, put the sugar into a saucepan with 320ml/11 fl oz (1 1/3 cups) water and heat over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat to medium and boil for 8-10 minutes until it reaches 116C/241F on a thermometer.
5. Meanwhile, put the cornflour (cornstarch), egg yolks, milk, vanilla pod (bean) and seeds and lemon rind into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Once the sugar has reached temperature, remove the pan from the heat and whisk the syrup into the milk mixture. Mix well, then pour the mixture back into the pan and put over a low heat and cook for four to five minutes, or until it thickens. Remove and discard the lemon rind and vanilla pod, then strain through a chinois or sieve (fine-mesh strainer) into a clean bowl and leave to cool. Cover and chill until needed.
6. Using a sharp knife, cut slices from the dough cylinder, about 5mm/1/4 inch thick, making a downwards cut and not slicing. Each portion should be about 25g/1 oz, but this will depend on the size of your pans or pan.
7. Have a bowl of cold water nearby. Arrange all the cake pans on several baking sheets and keep them in the fridge. One at a time, place a circle of pastry in the bottom of each pan, making sure the layers of butter are seen when viewed from above. This ensures the pastry will rise outwards and upwards as it bakes. Wet your thumb in the cold water and press the dough towards the outer edge of the pan, filling up to the rim. Repeat with all the pans, then put them back in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/Gas Mark 9.
9. Fill the lined pans with the filling, almost to the top. Bake in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the filling is almost set with browned spots on the top and the dough is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and dust with icing (confectioners') sugar and ground cinnamon. Serve warm or cold. These tarts are best eaten on the day they are made.
- Portugal: The Cookbook by Leandro Carreira. Phaidon. $79.95.
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