To Portugal! A Portuguese supper menu

Photo by Daniel van den Berg on Unsplash
Frank and I are going to Portugal in a couple of months. This is beyond exciting because I've never been there. Since this is a new destination for me, it's an excuse to learn as much about Portuguese food and culture as I can before we leave.

To that end, we had some friends over on a recent Saturday night and these two had been on a Portuguese grand tour last summer. Our dinner was an opportunity to pick their brains about Lisbon and for me to try my hand at some Portuguese cuisine.

Dinner that night started with a Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde. For an entree we had Bacalhau à Brás served with Portuguese rice and asparagus and for dessert I made Pasteis de Feijao. Pasteis de Feijao, believe it or not is a pastry filled with mashed butterbeans and almond flour. Oh and eggs. Many, many eggs.

Dinner was a hit and needless to say, an entire supper composed of things I'd never made and tasted had me out of my comfort zone.

Here are the recipes:

Caldo Verde

This soup is not as green as the name suggests but it's a warming and hearty soup that comes together quickly and inexpensively.

1 Onion
3 Tablespoons Olive oil
3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 generous Liter of stock
150g fresh chorizo
Bunch of kale

Cook a finely chopped onion and clove of garlic in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Add 3 or 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced, cook them for a minute or two, then pour in a litre of water or stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Thickly slice 150g of spicy sausage then fry briefly in a pan. Remove the sausage, leaving the fat behind, and drop it into the soup. Finely shred 2 generous handfuls of kale and stir it into the hot soup. Serve with a small pool of olive oil floating on the surface. Serves 4.

Bacalhau à Brás

Salted cod, bacalhau, is the number one food item in Portugal it seems. Salt cod shows up in a lot of Caribbean and Italian dishes as well but nobody eats as much of it as the Portuguese.

500g salted cod
250g russet potato cut into match sticks.
1 onion , finely chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
½ cup olive oil
8 eggs
Salt
Pepper
Chopped parsley
Black olives

Soak the salted cod in water for 24 hours, changing the water 2 or 3 times.
Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Lower the temperature and simmer the cod for about 10 minutes.
Remove the cod pieces with a skimmer and onto a plate.
Remove the skin from the cod and shred it.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil.
Fry the potatoes and set aside.
Using the same oil, add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes while stirring.
Add the cod, mix and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Add half of the matchstick potatoes and mix.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add the eggs to the cod mixture and stir until the eggs are half-cooked.
Add the remaining half of the matchstick potatoes, and stir one last time.
Remove and arrange in a dish.
Garnish with parsley and black olives.

Portuguese rice

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
2 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice

In a 4-quart medium saucepan heat the oil over high heat until hot. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 4 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, red pepper, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the water, parsley and cilantro and bring to a boil. Add the rice and stir well. When the liquid returns to a boil, stir again, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook the rice undisturbed for 20 minutes, or until the liquid is dissolved and the rice is tender.

Let rice stand for 5 minutes undisturbed before fluffing with a fork. Serve immediately.

Pasteis de Feijao

A lot of Portuguese pastry involves what the rest of the world would call a small puff pastry tart filled with a variety of custards. Portugal's great dessert, Pasteis de Nata, is essentially crème brûlée in a puff pastry crust. Pasteis de Nata tends to be served warm from the oven and I wanted something I could make ahead of time. So Pasteis de Feijao it was.

For the Pasteis de Feijao:
1 packet puff pastry
75g butter beans
375g caster sugar
150ml water
9 egg yolks
90g ground almonds

For the Topping:
2 tbsp chopped almonds
1 tbsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp caster sugar

First, prepare the butter bean paste. Cook the butter beans (per the instructions of their packaging, or just open a can of them) then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth (adding a little water to slacken up the mix if needed). Once blended, pass the paste through a sieve to remove any lumps or bean skin. Set aside for later. Meanwhile, pop the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3-5 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved.

Remove the syrup from the hob, then mix in ground almonds and bean paste until thoroughly combined. Return the mixture to the hob and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from the mixture from the heat and leave to cool completely (Note: do not then spill this mixture all over your kitchen table – it’s a b***h to clear up and re-making everything again isn’t too pleasant either).

Once the almond bean mixture has cooled, whisk in the egg yolks until they are completely incorporated in the mixture.

Grease a muffin tin and set aside. Next, pop the puff pastry onto a floured surface, divide in two and stack one on top of the other. Roll out lengthways until it’s about 2-5mm thick and cut out 12 rounds (you may need to roll these out individually to fit your muffin tray).

Nestle the pastry rounds into the muffin tins and then fill with the eggy bean mixture. In a bowl, mix together the chopped almonds, brown sugar and caster sugar. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the tarts and then pop them into the oven for 20-25 minutes. Cook until golden brown.

Note: if you can't get your hands on caster sugar, substitute good ole American sugar 1:1.





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