“Talking about Portuguese Food is very difficult.We can’t put into words all the experience, mix of tastes and different flavours you can have when you try our food. However, it’s not only about a certain experience in a certain moment in time. When you’re having a Portuguese meal, it’s almost like you’re reading a book. a book about Portugal and its culture.
In fact, food is our culture. Our way of living…In a time of ‘fast food’, ‘fast thoughts’ and ‘fast living’…it seems like Portugal has been still in time.. We still keep some traditions, especially when it comes to have our meal…Families in general still sit around the dinner table everyday. A meal has to last at least 40 minutes for every member of the family to talk to each other and tell stories about the day.
Friends still meet for food and they can be sitting on a table together on a Saturday night for hours talking about everything, always with a glass of a good Portuguese wine..
And the gastronomy is so different from the North to the South that is very common to drive 100 miles just to have for lunch that special dish that we can’t find in the restaurants of our area.
We are still very resistant to ‘fast food’ and that is true even for the youngest. Hopefully that is a sign that the future generations will keep the traditions and respect for our gastronomic culture.
And what can we say about Portuguese Food when we ‘read the book’?..Portuguese Gastronomy is a mix of different factors and influences, some of them have come from our past. But the main characteristic is that Portuguese Gastronomy is Mediterranean in all the ways you can think of.
We use fresh products like meat, fish..we use all the varieties of fish but the salted and dried codfish is the most traditional and common used one. They say we have 365 ways of cooking it from North to South…
What makes this variety interesting is that we mix these fresh ingredients with herbs like parsley, coriander, thyme, bay leaves or spices like saffron..These herbs and spices give different flavours to our Mediterranean ‘must have’ ingredients most of the times present in our dishes: garlic, onions, tomatoes, olives, olive oil… The use of saffron might be related with Portugal’s history of maritime explorers and colonists back in the 13th Century.
And the final flavour is given by our typical chorizos and sausages (specially the traditional ‘alheira’ made with bread). We usually have them as starters with bread and olives but It is very common to add chorizo to a main dish which gives a ‘portuguesy’ taste to it.
Our chorizos are different from the Spanish ones, they are preserved salty and smoked. We still use the homemade ones, so small familiar business still keep the traditional ways of doing them.And the flavour is so special that you can create different dishes with the same ingredients just by using different chorizos.
The variety of our gastronomy is what it makes it so special.
Vegetables and salads are always a side to go with the main dish.A vegetable soup as a starter is what we still have in our everyday meals. These are rich soups, like the traditional ‘caldo verde’ with slices of chorizo in it and you have it with our traditional bread ‘broa’.
When it comes to desserts, ‘the end of the book’, that’s when you discover the mystery behind the Portuguese Cuisine. The recipes for some cakes and puddings are kept in the traditional families like treasures and passed through mother to daughter…That’s why we have a variety of ways of doing them. In some of them we use cinnamon, a spice frequently used in our traditional Christmas puddings.
And that’s where the book ends…And only by the experience of reading it you can travel in your mind to Portugal or back in time and discover its history. So only by the experience of having a taste of Portugal you can discover the story behind a typical dish, and truly understand it.
Words can’t describe the ‘smell of Portugal in a kitchen’ most of the times given by the use of our chorizos.. and words can’t describe all of the combination of flavours…
So if you take your time to read ‘the book’ you might enjoy it or not, but one thing you won’t have doubts of: it’s good and classic literature. And you might want to try and read ‘another book’ another day, because Portuguese Cuisine seems to be reinvented all the time. in fact, Portuguese Cuisine seems to be recreated in every Portuguese home, everyday…”
Our Portuguese banquet is on Friday 6th November, you can buy tickets here….