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!

ViagensPelasReceitasPortugal_Capa-small

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

sem título-1618

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.

sem título-1606

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).

sem título-1637

sem título-1620

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.

sem título-1623

sem título-1628

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.

Advertisements

Fig Cake

Fig picking is coming close to an end here in Portugal, and after a few weeks of eating way too many of them, necessity plus a little out of the box thinking just makes you cook wonderful things. Like this cake.

sem título-1122

fig above

Figs are a big part of Portugal, the south in particular, where you can find a peculiar sweet treat called Queijo de Figo, which literally means fig cheese. It’s like dried fig paste with a mix of nuts and condiments, condensed into a cheese format and texture. Cabrita Neto has developed some tasty concoctions with outstanding ingredients, almonds and cardamom. They even have individual bars, that you can eat as a on-the-go snack. Because, come on, who doesn’t want to eat a tasty piece of fig cheese while walking to work or on a stroll by the coast?

Considering the overflow of this fruit through our lands, plus our cute habit of stopping the car by any road side to pick, we acquired a knack of showing you guys all the ways we love to eat, breath and speak fig.

fig picking

In my home town, at the top near the castle wall close to a garden, there is at least five trees. As soon as summer hits, the fruity smell wonders through the air, and people pop by a branch ever so often to see if any figs are ripe enough to eat. After a few weeks of hot summer heat, beachside adventures and tourist drenched streets, you will find the locals around the trees, with huge poles, that have a sort of tweezer-ish character about it, so they can reach the high branches and pick the out-of-reach fruit. It’s traditionally beautiful.

Not every tree is the same. My grandmother’s tree starts mid August, my backyard trees all sort of begin in September, and a few are still not ready to eat yet.

So, about this cake: it’s a great recipe to add any sort of fruit you wish, and it keeps quite a while considering how moist it is. The lack of dairy provides a sweet treat for a huge group of special dietary people. The original recipe called for only oil, but I have combined half olive oil, so the health benefits are present, without the overwhelming flavor some might not enjoy much in sweets. What sort of olive oil should you use? I prefer to save the extra virgin for salads and bread dipping, use the virgin one for baking as flavor wise it will just combine with the remaining ingredients plus, it will also be cheaper to concoct.

sem título-1090

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 ml virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml cooking oil
  • Lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 225 grams all purpose flour (whole grain for you health nuts)
  • 7 grams baking powder
  • 7 grams baking soda
  • 2 grams sea salt
  • 300 grams figs
  • 4 tablespoons Tawny Port wine
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (ghee for lactose intolerants)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (water for lactose intolerants)

Instructions:

  1. Roast the figs, whole, in port wine and a drizzle of honey. No need to add too much sweet, the figs speak for themselves. Let cool and save the sticky port wine syrup. This will be the base for the glaze. sem título-1079
  2. Beat the eggs sugar, oils and lemon zest for 5 minutes on medium, until a smooth paste os formed.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarb + baking powder, and add to the previous mix.
  4. Add the salt, the roasted cooled figs (cut in quarters).
  5. Place in a cake pan with parchment paper and bake at 165ºC for at least one hour.
  6. Cool the cake, remove from the pan and gently remove the parchment paper. It is suppose to look fairly rustic.
  7. Make the glaze with the roast fig + port wine syrup, softened butter/ghee, lemon zest and milk/water.glazing cake
  8. Decorate with quartered figs.  sem título-1113
  9. Eat.

sem título-1129
sem título-1134 sem título-1141

sem título-1150

Any leftovers? Eat it for breakfast, lunch, snack, whenever. It’s just that sort of cake. Goes well with everything and everyone, if you’re wondering.

sem título-1140

My dog also enjoyed gazing at the cake.

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.

sem título-157

sem título-165

sem título-159

sem título-164

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?

sem título-169

sem título-170

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

sem título-175

sem título-171

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.

sem título-178

Happy people – happy food!

sem título-181

sem título-180

sem título-188

sem título-218

sem título-191

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. 

sem título-209-2

Even the Pizza People show their moves!

sem título-190

sem título-195

sem título-200

sem título-197

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.

sem título-204

sem título-226

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.

sem título-488

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.

sem título-227

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!

sem título-497

sem título-537

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!
  4. Cut some slices of bread (I went healthy this day and bought a malt seed rich loaf at the local german bakery).       sem título-500
  5. Eat, dip and nibble til your heart is content.

sem título-508

sem título-528

sem título-532

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

sem título-542

Bom petisco!

Honey Lemon Curd Muffins

You know that saying, ‘if life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Or throw them at someone’s head?’ Well, I’ve decided to make something sweet instead.
This recipe was my solution to use up lemons that were falling desperately off the tree.

sem título-760

|| Muffin batter
Ingredients
2 eggs
105 grams salted butter
80 grams brown sugar
50 grams honey
200 grams all-purpose flour
60g soy milk (lactose intolerant option)
Zest from 1 lemon, plus 1/2 tsp of lemon juice
8 grams baking powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Procedure
Make sure butter is kept at room temperature, and beat for at least two minutes on medium speed until smooth. Keep beating while adding the honey and sugar. Add the lemon zest and vanilla paste until combined. Beat in one egg at a time, making sure you incorporate well before adding the other egg.

Sift the flour with the baking powder beforehand; add into the butter mix along with the liquids (soy milk and lemon juice).

Let the batter set for at least an hour before cooking; this helps the flour to absorb the liquid, which makes the dough become very moist.

Fill greased muffin pan or individuals up to 3/4. Preheat the oven to 165ºC and bake for 25-30 minutes.

|| Lemon curd
(Bimby’s recipe – our favorite kitchen gadjet – it’s better than a Kitchenaid – no, seriously)
Ingredients:
160 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
60 grams salted butter
2 lemons (zest and juice)

sem título-749

Procedure:
Melt the sugar with the lemon juice on low heat – don’t let it boil. Stir the syrup into previously beaten eggs and continue to mix while slowly incorporating it. Cook again on low heat, always stirring. You will recognise it’s done when a dipped spoon becomes drenched with thickened curd. Off the heated stove, add the butter and let it melt slowly.

Scientifically, eggs start to coagulate around 60°C; a bit higher they will curdle and separate. The key is a low temperature, plenty of stirring, without overcooking. Plus don’t forget to stir. If a very silky smooth texture is desired, pulsing it in a blender will do the trick.

Cut out a hole in the baked muffins and fill with the curd, sprinkle with powdered sugar or dress up with fresh thyme.

sem título-764

sem título-779

Any leftover lemon curd? Mix it with plain yoghurt and muesli. Use it as a pancake topping, a simple spread for toast or combine with salty cheese for a sweet tangy contrast.

sem título-784

Plum Crumble

Seasonal fruit, seasonal desserts. When you have too many plums ready to pop off the tree, you have to do something about it. Crumble is, and always has been, my answer to this problem.

My mother taught me well, she is and has always been my kitchen guru, the one who creates delicious goodies with whatever the farm provides. I blame her for my sweet tooth and my adorable habit to eat crumble for breakfast.

Whether it’s for dessert, a snack to keep your sweet cravings happy or a quick breakfast to get a good head start of a busy day – this is ideal!

Because it is such a versatile dessert, an easy solution for the overflow of fruit, specially if you need to kick off that guilty feeling of not eating up vitamin and fiber rich goodness.

sem título-1217
 I´m obsessed with these cute ramekins.
sem título-1205
sem título-1229
Ingredients:
Plums
155 grams brown sugar
245 grams whole grain oats
100 grams all purpose flour
105 grams macadamia nuts
190 grams butter
Vanilla
Lemon zest
Procedure: Cut the plums in quarters, discard the seeds. If you like a bittersweet dessert, be lazy about it and keep the skin on! Don’t forget, besides being healthier, you are also being kind to the environment by not wasting nutritionally valid pieces of food.
Choose the amount of fruit you think might be reasonable for your crumble. It’s all about improvising, and getting used to being the boss in the kitchen. If you do however need a reference, I usually add more fruit than actual crumble, as this tends to bake, release moisture and inevitably shrink.
Now, for the crumble, coarsely grind the macadamia nuts, mix in remaining dry ingredients plus vanilla extract and lemon zest. With the tips of your fingers, incorporate the butter till it turns flaky. Beware, do not mix it too much as it will turn into a cookie dough rather than a crumble itself.
Plate in individual ramekins or just use a big dish if you don’t feel like fafing about with washing too many dishes afterwards.
Bake at 185ºC until the crumble is golden and you can see the fruit bubbling on the side of the dish. It should look purple and yummy.
sem título-1232
Serve with cozy warm custard on a fresh evening or accompany with sugar free cold yoghurt for a hot summer morning.
sem título-1235

Portugal and it’s Food – Post Foodie Congress Thoughts

After two days full of experiences at the first national congress about food and tourism, organized by APTECE in Figueira da Foz, I am shocked, to say the least.

First of all, I just might of found my calling (yet another one), besides wanting to show the world everything about Portugal and it’s cultural richness. I am never going to give up on enhancing Algarve’s potential as a foodie paradise. With a limited size, Portugal and it’s humans should, by now, be a complete encyclopedia about everything tuga related. I was surprised, well maybe not that surprised, at what most know (or don’t) and share about the south. Yes, we are a seasonal region, why of course we get flooded with tourists in August, but – we have so much more going on besides that. All of the food festivals, always an excuse to go eat a typical cataplana; the beaches and the grotto trips in a random fisherman’s boats; some outstanding unknown and undervalued wines; some of the best recipes with almonds; the fig trees growing in every corner, even in the middle of the city; our oranges that are to die for; carob’s growing potential and superb sweet flavor; the mountainside like Monchique and it’s typical grilled chicken; Espinhaço de Cão‘s great chouriço; potentially the best honey you will ever taste can be found in every saturday morning market (artisanal production); that tasty Folar de Olhão with it’s cinnamon twirlly goodness. Oh, and the tuna! So much to say about the tuna. Our muxama (salted tuna belly and dried for 12 days) is unique and it is only produced in Vila Real de Santo António.

medronho

This is arbutus berry. We make a strong liquor with it called Medronho, the same name of the fruit in portuguese. I have also been experimenting with it’s version of jam.

carob inside

Here is carob I picked from my tree. Some people will still break a pod in half and chew it, because of it’s sweet flavor.

The downside to the Algarve, and maybe a bit all over Portugal is, some people don’t care. I might just sugar coat it a bit by saying that, they should care more. Also, the competition between regions is beyond ridiculous, and extremely unnecessary. You might have the best cheese, but I certainly make the best marmelada! It’s just that sort of thing a proud regional portuguese has to deal with – that is when he/she is a cultural interacting type of person.

Cooperation is important, and getting people to realize how amazing cultural heritage is can become a challenge, specially when lack of communication between small producers, tourists, travel agents, hotels and the outside world is an everlasting problem. We forget that we are a community, that we are able to help each other and build something new, something big, and still enhance a thousand years of historical quirks that make us who we are today.

Going down south once again, and mass tourism aside, we are authentic. We have good resources, lovely beaches, fields rich with agriculture, seasonal markets, fresh fish everywhere. People, we have Food! Whoever hasn’t tried some of the typical regional cuisine, should travel to the Algarve just to do so. Obviously we will have pizzerias, hamburgers, barbecued meat and french fries, to content the not so foodie travelers, and all their kids (man do they eat poorly nowadays).

Basically, if you are reading this at the moment from a foreign country, right down on your bucket list to pay Portugal a visit, and if ever in the Algarve don’t hesitate to contact me for the authentic southern portuguese foodie experience. Mark my words people, readers, bloggers, I am going to change the way the Algarve is perceived by outsiders, and do so much more besides some good weather on a beach for the regular sunbathing tourists.

I have been away for the past weeks, busy visiting family in the US, trying to find and sort out a job, involved in an amazing project (spoilers await) and working on a few posts I so dearly want to share with you. I shall write again very soon, with a yummy recipe with lots of portuguese influence.

Ta ta for now people, keep on rocking in the kitchen xox