An Introduction to Portuguese Cuisine

Portugal
An Introduction to Portuguese Cuisine

As a nation, Britain’s favourite foods are wildly predictable – it’ll come as little surprise to many, that a traditional roast dinner topped the bill in a recent poll, with commonplace Italian dishes Spaghetti Bolognese and Lasagna coming in a close second and third.

While we so desperately wish to satisfy our hungry appetites for good food, it seems we’re not so adventure in our choices…oh dear.  Well, let’s not just sit there and accept the same old – let’s do something about it!  A cuisine so often forgotten (and for no good reason), is Portugal’s – bizarre, since it’s a country so close to our shores. But Portugal offers a wonderfully unique and varied culinary menu, and, like many parts of Europe, can credit its varied colonial past with the flavours that feature prominently in its most popular (and delicious!) dishes.

For those unacquainted with the mouth-watering culinary delights that this country has to offer, read on for everything you need to know about its traditional foods…

 

A whole lot of spice

Portugal cuisine goes heavy on spice – savoury dishes are hit with fiery piri piri and lashings of garlic, while sweet delights are often sprinkled with cinnamon, vanilla or saffron. One thing’s for sure, if you’re going to cook authentic Portuguese cuisine, then you need to spice and season like a local (and if you’re simply looking to sample it, then be sure to choose dishes which feature these big, bold flavours).

 

Fish! Fish! And more fish!

Fun fact: Portugal has Europe’s highest fish consumption, per capita. Did you know that?

Oh yes. The millions of unassuming sea inhabitants are Portugal’s most popular delicacy – and it’s their cod, in particular, which is a must-try. A fishing nation since the 15th century, the Portuguese created bacalhau (dried and salted cod to me and you) around that very time, before the days of proper refrigeration, and when self-preservation was key. Ingenious! Nowadays, it remains a traditional delicacy eaten dry, or soaked in milk to soften before cooking.

An equally delicious fish dish is sardinhas assadas – simply translated as grilled sardines. With a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper, there are few things better to enjoy al fresco on a warm Portuguese evening. If you’re a fish-lover, you must also try caldeirad – a hearty stew packed with many different types of fish and shellfish, as well as wonderfully ripe tomatoes, potatoes and onion. Yum!

 

Hankering for something meatier?

We know – fish isn’t for everyone, so how about some roast suckling pork instead? You’ll know it as tasty pub fodder, but it’s actually a Central Portugal speciality – who knew?

For a traditional meaty feast (the kind that Grandma would put on the table) opt for feijoada in one of Portugal’s many authentic restaurants, or as a dish to cook at home – it’s a salt pork, ham hock and corned beef casserole, infused with aromatic oranges and bay leaves. And for a satisfying snack in between meal times (it’s OK – we won’t tell…), it’s got to be folar de chaves – artisan bread stuffed with pork and ham.

 

Would you like to see the dessert menu?

The answer to this question should invariably be “yes, please!” – Portugal’s desserts are just as delicious as their main dishes. Famous for their creamy rice puddings and caramel custards, pastel de nata (a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon), is the nation’s favourite – and for good reason. It’s divine! You must try.

 

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