The Best Bean Clams – Portuguese Travel Cookbook

Readers, epicureans, random people who discovered this blog in the first place, I am proud to present to you an awesome book about portuguese food. Not much has been published as such in the past, specially in english and in a down to earth way. It was, and still is, the foodie adventure Nelson Carvalheiro (writer) and Emanuel Siracusa (photographer) took on through our edible hidden treasures and rustic paths. Remember, it’s no longer about being the typical mass tourist, it’s about learning about a different heritage, an uncommon lifestyle, to return home with memories such as flavors, textures. And our country has it. It has it all!

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After reading most of the book, and finally reaching the last chapter about the Algarve, I came upon my favorite recipe, about Bean Clams.

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Nelson describes the fact that these clams can be searched for on the beach, it’s a very common things for locals to do (although it’s not legal). I myself used to pick them up and stuff them in my hat as a child, during the long lasting sunsets and warm breezes that would keep me searching the sands, so we could have some for dinner.

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Tho whom doesn’t know what they are, they are gorgeous. You MUST eat them. Now, a little bit about this animal: here we eat them seasonally, and by this I mean we cook them during months that have the letter R. That’s right, except for the months of May, June, July and August, this delicacy is an essential part of our foodie gatherings, a relaxation, conversation, commensality induced dish to enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon (or any other day of the week if I might add).

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Recipe (credit: Nelson Carvalheiro)

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg bean clams
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon wedges

Instructions:

  1. Make sure to buy fresh live bean clams. This is quite obvious, but still, I’m sure some crazy person will go looking for the frozen stuff (don’t. Just, don’t). I acquired these at our local Lota (place where the boats come in with fresh fish, where they provide sea water to clean the shelfish at home. Although they have already been previously depurated (so we don’t get sick with toxins), further cleaning in your own kitchen is easy and tasty (less residual sand). Wash the clams with the sea water, and let them set at least 1/2 an hour so they spit out all the gunk (cover with plastic wrap otherwise you will have a sprinkler party in your kitchen).
  2. Slither the garlic, fry it in olive oil in a pan, without burning. Add the bean clams, lower the heat and let them open slowly.
  3. Add the wine and cover so the vapor can help the uniform cooking, without overcooking.
  4. Top with freshly squeezed lemon juice, chopped cilantro and freshly ground pepper.
  5. Serve with extra lemon wedges, some bread for sauce dipping and a refreshing glass of white wine.

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The Portuguese Travel Cookbook will soon be available in English. Check out Nelson Carvalheiros website for more info about his foodie travels, and the website about the book.

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Algarvian Carrots

Here’s a vegetarian nibble, nonetheless a very Portuguese one, specific to the Algarve, the southern part of the country.

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Our tidbits, or petiscos as we call them, are a reason to mingle and an excuse to have a drink or two. Unlike the spanish tapas, which were born out of necessity, traditionally seen as a slice of bread used to cover glasses of wine to keep the flies away (I have always wondered if there is any truth in this – I would suppose that flies would be more attracted to food than to booze, but the concept does make sense as the verb tapar literally means to cover something).

The Algarve was only conquered in 1249 and considered as a separate part of the country for centuries. Given the fact that Portugal was occupied by diverse cultures for so long and is vastly known for being the main entrance to Europe, the Algarve in particular prospered into a very unique region. Boasting grand monuments like Moorish castles, places named with the “Al” prefix and special ingredients, this region is characterized by its predominant Arab influence – such as the recipe I share with you today.

In restaurants and taverns through this southern part of our country, you will find this simple marinated carrot preserve, made with cumin – one of the many ingredients that has become part of our traditional food.

I posted this recipe on the Portugal Resident a month ago, but I am now posting it on my personal blog in honor of the Rota do Petisco (the Tidbit Route), that has been going on since the beginning of September, and only has one week left. Basically it’s a route where various restaurants and food & beverage establishments have a specific petisco + beverage for only 3€ (sweet and coffe or regional liquor goes for 2€). You adquire a passport for 1€ (money goes towards social programs) that allows you to check out every participant, where it is, what you can eat and till what time the place is open. The specific areas that have been a part of this long lasting gastronomic event in the Barlavento side of the Algarve is Portimão (three areas), Alvor, Ferragudo, Mexilhoeira Grande, Silves and Monchique. Hurry up and be a part of this edible rally until de 10th of October, very well organized and set up by Teia d’Impulsos – next year, expand to Lagos please!

Now about this algarvian petisco:

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Ingredients:
– 1 kg peeled carrots
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 teaspoon caster sugar
– 3 cloves of minced garlic
– 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
– 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
– 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
– 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and cilantro
– Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Procedure:
Boil the peeled carrots for 15-20 minutes, with the bay leaf and teaspoon of sugar. They are not meant to be overcooked.

Cut the carrots into large slithers, big enough to be eaten with a toothpick.

Mix in the remaining ingredients except the cumin, which has a special technique associated with it.

By slightly heating the seeds in a non stick frying pan, they become more aromatic. Just make sure not to burn them!

Don’t throw away all of the cooked broth; keep at least half a cup for the marinated concoction and the remaining can be used for a soup or to make some tasty vitamin-rich rice.

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I also made this cheese twisted peanut pesto bread (future recipe to post), in the meantime you can check out one of my oldest posts with the peanut pesto post, special edition made with purple basil.

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For one of those lazy afternoons, I enjoyed the marinated carrots, the cheese pesto bread and some extra virgin olive oil with droplets of homemade balsamic glaze infused with orange zest and rosemary.

This is a great recipe for a nibble evening with friends, or to make a different salad.

Any leftovers? Make a tasty tuna sandwich for lunch, with this veggie as an extra filling.

Casa Vale da Lama Eco Resort – Pizza Time

In Vale da Lama there is an Eco Resort. Charm full, peaceful, plus, they have a Pizza gathering every so often Saturday through the warm summer evenings. You should call to reserve ahead of time – and make sure you don’t do it the day before, otherwise you will risk not being able to go.

Once you get there, and even if you get lost on the way (I did, at least twice), you will feel at home. Random tables, cozy benches, down to earth puffs, and several relaxed people waiting for a very delicious evening. As long as your stomach can handle as much pizza as it possibly can, you won’t ever leave this place hungry, I even had to stop eating the everlasting flow of pizza, because I just cannot leave a place without having dessert.

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So, here’s the deal: you book, you arrive, you pay the 8€ that allow you to eat as much pizza as humanely possible, you buy a drink and you are seated to whichever table was assigned to you and your company. In case of small groups, you also get to know other individuals that will be seated next to you – it’s all about sharing a space, having a few laughs, eating pizza. What else cold you possibly want to enjoy on a summer saturday evening?

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The pizzas, from what I gathered, are a mix of available ingredients: mushrooms, eggplant, onion, peppers, cucumbers, feta cheese and fresh herbs.

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Besides the comfort food, the setting, the people, the whole event is an amazing experience. Whoever is preparing the pizza’s have the best mood ever – because pizza making is fun, ain’t it? Plus, you get to make a bunch of hungry people happy. That’s awesome just by itself.

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Happy people – happy food!

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The music is also fantastic! Kudos to the DJ for sharing some good tunes. This weekend coming up you can hear some live music from Mariana Root – it starts at 9:30pm. 

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Even the Pizza People show their moves!

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Even if you are not into much socializing, and want to gaze up at the vast star printed sky, you can enjoy such an event on many of their available chairs, puffs, even hammocks. On this night, I saw a shooting star.

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The dessert: carob brownie with figs. You’re not gonna find a more traditional dessert like this one, with regional and sustainable ingredients. That’s what this place is all about – eco friendly fun and life.

Visit Vale da Lama Eco Resort event here, where you can find details for this Saturday, the 19th, and contact to make your reservation. More info on their accommodation, events, get to know them through their website here.

Mackerel & Garbanzo Bean Hummus 

Fish is a big part of our gastronomic heritage. Not only the fresh seafood available at local markets and fisherman, but one of our most characterized feature, as a country, is our preserved version of ocean goodness.

Considering our hot climate and the lack of refrigerators in the past, our ancestor’s only solution was to produce canned goods. In fact, the Algarve was vastly known for it’s intensive production. Historical facts and mouth to mouth info passed through generations of algarvian families has it that, in the beginning of our food industry activities, women used to be the ones who prepared the fish and layed each filet in a overloaded, yet organized manner in tins. They would to go to work as soon as a bell rang, and whoever arrived last would risk not being able to find a spot to work, and go home empty handed without a day’s pay. They were also searched every day’s end, as to confirm nobody was smuggling precious eggs (ovas in pt) – a delicacy and the most expensive part of the fish.

This was the way we had to use up ingredients preventing them to go bad, nor having to throw away. People used to starve and they had to adapt available resources to climate and financial conditions.

Nowadays, portuguese preserved fish is the new trend – in restaurants like Can the Can, Sol e Pesca or Pratos com Latas in Lisbon, Maria do Mar in Portimão and there is even a place in London – Tincan –  that has built it’s concept around this – you order the can of your choosing and nibble it with bread.

Putting these curiosities aside and making room for the next best innovation I have seen in quite a while, I am proud to announce that this has been going on in the Algarve (of all places in the country, it’s where few entrepreneurs are seen in action.) Hungry people, epicurieans, pt foodies – I introduce you to Saboreal – jarred preserved fish delicacies. The idea is just amazing, specially the fact that these guys aren’t joking about being unique – besides using jars and an autoclave to prepare the products, they use local fish and sustainable activities to support their business. I salute them, and so should you.

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We have a saying that is “que nem sardinha em lata” which translates to “like a sardine in a can” – this literally means it is a tight space for too many sardines (will also apply to people related circumstances). Now you can buy a jar of artesanal fish, comfortably floating fillets, reuse the vessel instead of trowing away pieces of tin, plus, acknowledge a beautiful presentation in which you can actually see what it is that you are about to eat.

Main differences that I recognized in the products? The texture of the fish is delicious, the fillets don’t shrink dramatically like the canned versions, plus you don’t have to dirty any Tupperware’s in storing away any leftovers – you just screw the lid back on!

I have a series of their products I will test and share with you during the following months – this is take one.

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Besides the fish fillets, they also have a mix of ingredients, like a rustic paté you can just spread on bread and/or cracker. Or just eat it directly out of the jar, like myself.

So I used Cavala – which according to google translation is mackerel – but in my opinion it has always been horse mackerel (because cavala is feminine for horse – makes sense right?). Anyway, I have researched this so many times that horse mackerel seems to be carapau – a fish from the mackerel family. A bit confusing hey? I am not the best with translations, but I do try (at least google it). If anybody has more accurate information about this, please share in the comment section below!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can of garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 jar of Saboreal Preserved Mackerel (olive oil included)
  • Green roasted peppers
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Drain the garbanzo beans and marinate them with salt, pepper, paprika, minced garlic, olive oil that has been used to preserve the fish (use it for it’s flavor, no need to use untainted olive oil, and surely no need to waste the jared one away) and baking soda for at least one hour. If you would like to do this overnight – even best. The baking soda is meant to help break down the beans which results in an even smoother puré.
  2. Puré the garbanzo beans (save 3 tablespoons of intact beans for texture and presentation purposes) in a blender until smooth. Be sure to add at least 5 tablespoons of the remaining fishy olive oil so it becomes extra smooth and flavorful.
  3. Plate the hummus in a bowl, top with the intact garbanzo beans, roasted peppers, deboned and separated filets of mackerel and a squeeze of lemon juice. Decorate with some “sun” dried tomatoes, fresh cilantro and more olive oil to shine it up!
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  5. Eat, dip and nibble til your heart is content.

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Healthy nosh with the right sort of carbohydrates, the best proteins and plenty of healthy fat from the olive oil and juicy fish.

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Bom petisco!

Sweet Potato and Blueberry Scones

There’s just something about sweet potato that elevates it’s standards to becoming a patisserie ingredient, beside being another tuber variety.

To whom doesn’t already know, Aljezur is the sweet potato capital in Portugal, known for having the best product in the country. Even the world. The town has a festival and a museum dedicated to it, and it is fairly popular with locals and rural tourism comers and goers.

Incorporating the sweet potato in a scone just seemed ideal for trying something new, while using a traditional and regional ingredient.

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This recipe is adapted from another I found in my favorite pastry book – Bouchon Bakery by Sebastian Rouxel and Thomas Keller. Everytime I bake something out of this book, the results are divine and may I add that the pictures are beautiful, and not to mention that every bit of information is spot on professional. My weighing or cupping page is mostly based on everything I’ve learned while discovering this good read. Every recipe comes in both formats, so wether you prefer imperial measurements or have an everlasting relationship with your metric scale – you are bond to enjoy the results as much as the process itself.

The addition of frozen blueberries was meant for tartness, a little contrast against the sweet, and the color.

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Go nuts with the diluted egg wash and sprinkle plenty of caster sugar. Sprinkle it everywhere!

I baked this batch of scones twice: the first half was the morning after I put them in the freezer from making them the night before, and the rest two weeks later. If you are not a fan of freezers, with all those ice crystals ruining the consistency and proportionating off-flavors – please read on and think twice about this technique for baked goods, as it helps flavor maturation and texture stability. You know those delightfully scrumptious macaroons sold everywhere in France? The are sold only after at least 48 hours of chilling in negative temperatures (ºC). Michelin Star restaurant pastry chefs go by this rule, and you can’t have a star if you don’t end the meal with a bang, wether it’s dessert or Petit Fours, trust me when I tell you that at least one of those elements was previously frozen.

What I experienced with this recipe was: the second batch was better than the first. Tastier, with a better texture and a bit less fragile than the first batch. Just try it out yourself, and you will see what I mean.

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The recipe (altered to include the sweet potato):

  • 152 grams whole wheat flour
  • 304 grams regular flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour – we don’t have that here, so I used what we call T55, which is sort of the same)
  • 227 grams cold salted butter (I use salted because I LOVE salty flavor in sweets)
  • 12,5 grams baking powder (ok, for all you imperial lovers, 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2,5 grams baking soda (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 91 grams caster sugar
  • 200 ml cream
  • 180 grams baked sweet potato pure (whichever sweet potato you desire – I like the orange ones, the sweetness is wonderful)
  • 1 cup blueberries

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Procedure: turn the oven on 200ºC and bake the sweet potatoes whole, skin on, for about 45 minutes to an hour. Peel the potatoes and blend the amount of pulp necessary with the cream. Set aside and mix baking soda, powder and sugar with the flours. Use a food processor to pulse this combination with the cold butter (or a fork – the tips of your fingers will melt the butter and reduce flakiness in the final product). Incorporate the cream and sweet potato mix, but not too much as you don’t want any of that gluten gaining any strength. Add the blueberries and stir gently. Set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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Roll the dough on a floured surface to be at least 1,5 to 2 cm high and cut to your liking. Lay on a tray with parchment paper and let them freeze for about 2 hours. At this point, gather them in a zippy bag, or if you plan to leave them in the freezer for a few weeks, wrap each one individually with plastic film.

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Now to bake them: diluted egg wash, plenty of caster sugar and straight into a 170ºC oven, for about 20 minutes, or until golden and slightly larger in size. Don’t let them defrost before going in the oven.

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 Always best served warm, with thin slithers of butter. Obviously.

 

 

Eggs, sausage and tomato sauce

So this is what I had for lunch today. After picking dozens of tomatoes, turning them into a sauce and waiting about three hours or more for it to reduce on the stove, I just gave up and decided to steal some of it anyway, as I was just too hungry to wait for it to finish. It tastes lovely, just not so condensed into it’s pulpy pasty regular saucy way. Yet!

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This was such a quick snack that I splurged a bit on a leftover bbq sausage, and why not? This could pass as a breakfast goody to anyone who wakes up around noonish.

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I gathered the following:

  • Some tomato sauce (home made, full of fresh tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onions)
  • 1 leftover sausage
  • 2 eggs
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 rye bread roll

Turn the oven on 200ºC, layer the sliced sausage in a dish, spill in the tomato sauce and carefully spoon in the eggs. Remember to rotate at least once, as home ovens are not very keen at uniformly cooking whatever you put in them. And you don’t want one egg overcooked while the other one is oozily delicious. Two runny eggs are always better!

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 To all you people out there who think eggs are bad for you – stop it. The egg is actually the perfect source of protein, and all those ideas about cholesterol, well you might want to start blaming the fried goods, instead of the occasional egg. Vegetarian lovers, this recipe is also good for you, just keep out the fatty sausage, and Vegans, sorry but I can’t help you. An egg a day is yay ok, and you don’t know what you’re missing!

Enjoy your snacking and have a lovely weekend!

 

 

 

Roast Tomato and Eggplant Pasta

Tomato season! Yey!

So from now on starts the tomato post shower, as I have too many tomatoes in my farm, more than I can handle. Gaspacho, tomato sauce, tomato salad, you name it. I’ve had enough lycopen intake to last me the rest of the year.

I’ve meant to post at least once the past two weeks, but I’ve been busy learning about reflex camera settings, and trying my best to take better photos, so you can all drool a bit while reading my posts. It’s the least I can do.

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This dish is actually going to be my lunch for tomorrow, but heck, it was so yummy and healthy, I ended up nibbling on it anyway. It’s supper healthy and vegetarian acceptable (if you are the cheese eating type).

It all started when too many tomatoes gathered in the laundry room basket on the floor. It always does. My favorite way to eat them is roasted in the oven, so one day I cut them in half, and drenched them in blueberry balsamic glaze, olive oil, salt, and plenty of rosemary and thyme. And to the oven they went, until they were juicy and tender.

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Here are the tomatoes, roasted, they are amazingly beautiful with bread. The olive oil and balsamic glaze sauce is the best bread dipper. Ever.

Back to the main recipe, which is dead easy. Bake whole wheat pasta, thinly slice eggplant and grill with little oil. Mix all together, with the previously baked tomatoes. Simple!

Now, a little nutrition expertise. By combining the tomatoes (with the pulp, seeds, everything) with olive oil and heat, lycopen absorption is enhanced. Super healthy to prevent certain types of cancer (male related) and osteoporoses in menopausal women.

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And because cheese is always a must, this one is extra special. Queijo da Ilha we call it, typically from Azores, it is ever so cheap and has an extraordinary taste to it, nutty and strong, goes well with any pasta dish.

The funny thing about these vegetarian meals is, I never used to like vegetables. At all. But I found a way to try to eat everything I didn’t like, and turn it into something I adore.