It’s a unique country that has long been popular with tourists, but those bronzing folks seldom stray from the Atlantic beaches, and their gastronomic daring drifts only as far as a grilled sardine and a custard tart. They are missing the true Portuguese culinary heritage. The Taste of Portugal tells the story.
Portugal has a rich history and its food has been influenced by both invasion and exploration. It has an abundance of produce from land and sea and centuries of practice of the art of turning some rather unprepossessing ingredients into classic and delicious dishes.
The author of The Taste of Portugal, Edite Vieira, has collected some of the best dishes Portugal has to offer. The ingredients are, for the most part, readily available to the non-Portuguese home cook and, equally as important, the dishes are economic to prepare. They take advantage of seasonal vegetables and often cheaper cuts of meat. One can produce a sumptuous and authentic spread for less than the cost of an economy airline ticket to the Algarve.
Tomato, Egg and Bread Soup is a light meal that uses the bounty of summer toms in something other than a salad. The addition of potatoes, bread and onions gives both substance and flavour. The author doesn’t mention it but one could use good quality tinned tomatoes in winter when the fresh ones are tasteless. The egg is presented as a poached topping.
Another way to spin out costly but flavourful ingredients is by making an Acorda. These dishes use bread to bulk out seafood. We are all familiar with bread and butter pudding so consider this as a savoury alternative. Use fish stock for a more pronounced favour.
Salt Cod in all forms is loved in Portugal. One can now find it in some UK fishmongers and any Portuguese deli. It’s easy to recognise, looking rather out of place amongst all the other goods that one would recognise as edible. The humble salt cod looks and feels like well-bleached driftwood.
Salt Cod Cakes are a Portuguese staple. They have a distinctive taste and texture from the preserved fish which must first be soaked and rinsed a few times before being cooked. It’s a simple process but necessary. Yes, fresh fish could be substituted but then you would just have, well, Cod Cakes, which would lack the prized flavour of the authentic recipe.
Portugal seems to have the highest ratio of pastry shops per head of population, of any country in Europe. Windows tempt the passer-by (typically not passing) with sweet tarts and cakes. Rice Patties from the Azores are made with common store-cupboard ingredients. They are filled with cooked rice, eggs, sugar and ground almonds and baked for a swift 15 minutes to dry rather than to colour.
The Taste of Portugal is a culinary journey through time. It shows the richness of Portuguese food and is well-garnished with anecdote. It’s a book for those who want to learn more of this undiscovered gem and for those who want to replicate fondly-remembered meals. A beautifully presented volume.
The Taste of Portugal – A voyage of gastronomic discovery combined with recipes, history and folklore
Author: Edite Vieira
Published by: Grub Street
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018