How shopping for pans took us to one of the best views over Lisbon

It’s been one month since we’ve been offering our cooking classes in Lisbon and next week, we’re hosting our first large group. Like any chef, Amelia (our instructor) , is always afraid of not making enough food and therefore wanted to buy some big skillets.

It’s been a busy summer but today I finally managed to meet her after lunch and find some free time to go shopping. This was supposed to be a banal act but soon became a fun afternoon.

It’s not hard to shop for home goods in Lisbon, but there is one store in particular that stands out above all of the others.  Here, cookware comes in all shapes, sizes, brands… and what a view!

There was a lot to choose from but once decisions were made it was time to sit down and have a drink, enjoying the fabulous view from their terrace.

We’ve been cooking something

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post but it was for a good reason.

June was the busiest month ever. I had to go to Porto three times, organised a great private Fado concert, some filigree workshops, wonderful lunches by the ocean, and a lot of fun tours, of course.

The greatest new is, ta da, I’ve just launched Lisbon Cooking Stories, and I couldn’t be any happier.

What’s Lisbon Cooking Stories? I’ll tell you more about this project soon but meanwhile you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

I’ll be back soon!

International Museums night, in Lisbon

     Every year, on May the 17th, Lisbon and the rest of Portugal celebrate the Museums Night with music concerts, guided tours and whole program of fun activities.

     The program is vast, and can be consulted here. I know that it’s only in Portuguese, as this night is mostly aimed at locals, but please feel free to use the comment or email box, shall you need any help or suggestions.

     There are plenty of fun activities to choose from. Theater plays, staged tours, organ concerts, dance sessions and also activities for children. If you prefer to visit a museum on your own, just pick one, as all the museums will be open until 11pm, with free admission.

     The next day is celebrated as the International Museums Day and it’s also full of activities, guided tours and free entrances. I know that the sun is shining out there, but if you’re looking for something indoor, there’s a lot to choose from!

What to do on April the 25th

As you may know, every year, on April the 25th we celebrate the Red Carnation Revolution. It was a non-violent revolution that put a end to a long lasting fascist dictatorship.

Being such a recent and emblematic date, there isn’t much open in this day. However, not many places open don’t really mean that there isn’t a lot going on.

If you’re in Lisbon and are wondering what you should be doing today, the answer is simple: join the crowd!

At 3pm starts a cheerful parade along Avenida Liberdade. Foklore groups, brass bands, people dressed in traditional customs and everybody else walk and sing along this avenue to celebrate the freedom of speech.

Worried about the dress code? That’s simple: buy a red carnation and you will immediately make part of the group.

“Portugal is, and there I will be, happy” – Ruy Belo

Lisbon’s underground Roman museum

     If you were reading about Lisbon, this weekend, you may have heard about the Roman galleries that only open 3 days a year, being submerged by Tagus river during the rest of the time.

     Lisbon was once an important city for the romans and to prove that, there are a number of roman vestiges. These galleries are by far the most famous ones. The media coverage about this place is huge and so are the lines.

     What few people know is that there is another underground museum area, with roman ruins, underneath the city center.

     I’m talking about the Archaeological Center of Millenium BCP (a Portuguese bank). It’s located underneath the downtown area and you get to walk under the main building and see a former roman house and fish salting factory.

     It is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm and has guided tours (mandatory) starting at every sharp hour. It’s not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia but it’s definitely something different to do while in Lisbon.

If you really want to visit this place, here are the contacts.

Sunday Lunch- Rice with Beans

When Julia , a former client, wrote to me one of these days asking for a recipe of Rice with Beans my mouth immediately grew water! Rice with Beans is actually a case of a long love affair for me.

This is a wonderful yet very simple recipe mainly eaten in Lisbon. Some people say that it were the African emigrants from our former colonies in Africa- Angola,Mozambique,Cape Verde, Guiné Bissau and São Tomé- who first introduced the recipe probably as far as 400 years ago. Both beans and rice were inexpensive items and mainly what there was to eat.

Rice with Beans nowadays is definitely a part of Lisbon’s gastronomy. It is used as a side dish for cod fritters (pataniscas or bolinhos de bacalhau) or for a Portuguese tempura style treat we call Peixinhos da Horta which is just green beans in a batter, deep fried. All of those are possible to find either in any restaurant in Lisbon or at any Portuguese home.

My home is no exception, so when Julia said she would like me to send her my own private recipe, I was so thrilled that besides emailing her the recipe I rushed into the kitchen and started cooking! The result was indeed fantastic and no main dish was needed as Rice with Beans is also quite filling on its own.

Want to try your own version? Here is a basic recipe; you let me know how it goes in your kitchen back home.

     Ingredients:

- 1 half onion chopped

- 1 clove of garlic chopped

- 1 can (250 grams) of boiled butter beans (or any another fleshy type)

- 2 table spoons tomato pulp or 2 ripe tomatoes cut into chunks

- Olive oil

- Handful of fresh coriander (or cilantro) stalks included

- 250g rice – can be risotto type rice (I use the can of the beans as a measurement)

- Some dried cumin (amount depends on taste)

- Water

- Salt to taste

Preparation:

     Fry the onion and the garlic in olive oil (I use a lot, but I love olive oil) in a pan until golden.

Add the tomato pulp or tomatoes, salt and the dried cumin.

Add the rice and let it fry for 5 minutes while stirring.

Add the beans (also add the liquid it comes with in the can) and stir.

Add enough water to cover the mix and let it simmer until it softens, stirring once in a while.

When boiled, turn the heat off and add the chopped coriander and stir just before serving.

Indulge yourself!

Cod fish fritters with Rice with beans

5 Places to visit with children

     Some of our clients are afraid of travelling with their children, fearing bad moods and cries. While this might happen, you don’t need to stay home until your kids become teenagers (and no longer wish to travel with their parents).

    In order to make everyone happy, we picked 5 places in Lisbon to visit with children (where adults can enjoy even more).

     1 –  Lisbon’s Aquarium – Gathers fishes and sea-animals from all over the world, in an incredible atmosphere that makes you forget the real world. Just try not to forget about your kids while you watch the sea otters: it’s impossible not to fall in love with them.

     2 – Lisbon’s Zoo – Zoos are a classic when we’re talking about children, but Lisbon’s Zoo is an exceptionally good one. It has a cable car, a dolphin show, free flying birds, a reptile house, a children museum and many other activities, all included in the main entrance fee.

     3 – Pavilion of Knowledge Ciência Viva – Put some comfortable clothes on and enjoy the fact that no one knows you. Play, experiment and try every single activity: you can ride a bicycle on a string, make some molecular gastronomy, sleep in a bed made of nails, etc. At the end of the day you’ll be as tired as happy.

     4 – Our pastry-shops – Portugal has a huge tradition when it comes to pastries and sweets. The good thing is that they’re generally made of organic ingredients (like whole grain flour or real eggs) which makes them healthier than a soda.

     5 – Sintra’s Moorish Castle – Is there a child who doesn’t enjoy to hear about warriors, battles and conquests? In this 1200 years old castle they can run around the wall walks and learn some history while adults enjoy the magnificent views and learn about the history of Portugal. Don’t worry about girls: just keep them busy looking for Cinderella.

Outjazz – Our Jazzy Lisbon

     As you might have guessed by the name, Outjazz is a Jazz Festival and yes, it is out in the open.

     As the sun starts to shine, in Spring time, Portuguese people start to find excuses to spend as much time outside as possible. We have coffee outside, we eat outside, we go to the beach, we jog… and we attend music festivals.

     This Festival has been held since 2005 and it was a huge success from the very beginning. Why? The concerts take place in some of the most fantastic locations in Lisbon.

     View points, terraces, gardens, monuments, public parks all of them and many others will welcome various bands and solo performers every Friday and Sunday throughout the next 5 months. This year besides the usual food and drinks stalls, there will also be street markets, selling handicrafts and other items.

     Do you know those hot afternoons when you’re tired of touring around and just feel like relaxing a little bit? Well, it looks like we’ve just found you a little excuse to do so.

Find more about it, as well as the program, here.

     We’re terribly sorry that the program is not in English. Feel free to contact us if you need a little help with it. Anyway, “Sextas” means Fridays and “Domingos” means Sundays. The writing in bold is the location so, go ahead and google maps that.

Comercio Square – Our square

     If you’re visiting Lisbon during Easter, there’s something you can’t miss.

     During the extended Easter weekend (28-31 March), Terreiro do Paço will be transformed into a giant interactive screen — with a free multimedia event, that invites tourists and local residents to visit this revitalized zone of the Portuguese capital.
The initiative will feature drawings by young children and adults that will be brought to life using 3D videomapping projection techniques and an interactive touchscreen platform, in real-time — projected on the facade of the Terreiro do Paço’s West Wing.

     The light show – based on 2D and 3D video-mapping projections and techniques – will be accompanied by a dynamic original soundtrack. From 9 pm onwards  all roads will lead to Terreiro do Paço. Imagination is the only limit.

Both text and images were taken from the event’s official webiste.

 

The Terracotta Town

     Yesterday Silvia introduced me to Magda and Tiago and we visited “Aldeia da Terra”, their project.

     Terracotta town is a small themed park (still under construction) that depicts a traditional Portuguese town, always with a little touch of irony. It aims to preserve and promote our traditions, featuring several traditional scenes: women washing clothes in the river, the pig killing, the feet trading of the grapes, etc.

Note the opened pig at the bottom

     All the houses, people and objects in this park were hand-made and painted by Magda and Tiago, who have been working on this project for two years. Every day they add a new set and new characters. Like any other town, it’s different every time you visit.

     This is one those places that you take your children to but you actually enjoy more than them. I deeply enjoyed it and had a couple of laughs looking at some sets: they’re so real!

     It’s always nice to see a young couple devoting their career to the preservation of our traditions, working on clay and creating such a pleasant park. I can only wish them the best and can’t wait to visit again.

“Aldeia da Terra” or “Terracotta twon” is located in Arraiolos, 20 min away from Evora. Visit their website here.

MacNamara and the waves of Nazaré

     Thanks to Garrett MacNamara even those who couldn’t care less about surf have been hearing a lot about Portugal as a surf destination. I’m going to be honest: I’m not a great fan of surf myself, but the pictures leave anyone speechless and have been going around the world.

  Last year MacNamara was recognized by Guinness World Records for riding the largest-ever wave, a towering 78-foot wall of water. Now he claims he broke his own record, after surfing a 100 foot tall wave, also in North Beach, in Nazaré. Tó Mané, a local photographer, took the magical shot and this picture is now being published by world reference newspapers.

Photo by Tó Mané, originally published by Zon North Canyon

      Is our coast that rough? Incredibly, not at all. Nazaré Canyon is a rare phenomenon created by a gap in the Continental plate. It’s about 105 miles long and 3 miles deep and focuses the Atlantic energy right on the beach of Praia do Norte, creating huge waves.

      If you ask me, I’d give you other solid reasons to visit this area. In Nazaré you can still see women wearing seven skirts (the traditional costume) or dressing all black once they become widows; try incredibly fresh (and affordable) fish in local restaurants; see the fish sun-drying in the beach and relax watching the beautiful waves and beaches in the Atlantic Ocean.

      Any time is good for a visit, as Nazaré is an open door to an almost lost world of local traditions, centuries old and to a never ending variety of table delights. Sounds like a perfect destination for a family trip, doesn’t it?

 

Lauren, will you marry me?

     We’ve all dreamed of wonderful proposal stories with medieval castles, sunsets by gorgeous views, or even surprise trips. Well, this is one of them, but actually happened.

     Lauren was going to visit Lisbon on her own, and Nathan decided to give her a little surprise. Two months in advance he emailed me and asked for my help to put up something really special. How could I say no?! My mind immediately started to conspire different ideas.

     Nathan told Lauren he’d have a surprise for her in Lisbon and gave her a letter she could only open on the plane. The letter said that the surprise was a tour of Lisbon but little she knew what it really was.    When I picked her at the airport and found her a little upset as she wished a bigger surprise… she even asked me twice if her boyfriend was in the city! I had to lie and apologize, saying that I only exchange a couple of emails with Nathan (we might have exchanged 20) and he only asked for the tour.

     I suggested we’d start the tour with Lisbon’s castle (the chosen location) and then asked her to come downstairs, where the tiles were waiting for her. Words can’t describe Lauren’s reaction (I think that her brain just blanked) when she saw the tiles with her name written on. I had to ask Nathan to hurry up (he was coming downstairs by then) before she’d get a heart attack, but she only got more confused when she finally saw him.

     It was a magical moment when them met halfway in a long flight of stairs, in Lisbon’s castle, by the sunset, with a gorgeous view and many emotions. He got on one knee, showed her the ring and… she said Yes!  It was such a delight to meet them and take part in such a lovely proposal. Best wishes guys!

Love this story? Do you need some help to make something similar? Let us know!

Lisboa Open House – architecture

     Did it ever happen to you to suddenly find a beautiful building (sometimes looking out of place) and stop your fast walk to look at it? Did you ever thought that it was a palace or museum but it was “just” someone’s house or office?

    This weekend Lisbon Open House will answer many of the questions about architecture and will also show several buildings from a very special point of view: the architect’s who build it.

     Open House is all about unlocking the secrets of architecture for you, the public, so that everyone can enjoy it. That means opening a lot of doors that are usually shut, and even when they’re open, giving you the insights to enjoy and understand the architecture there. We do that with guides, tours, and information sheets that are all free, and some of Portugal’s leading architects will be making contributions. It all comes together in one amazing weekend. (piece taken from the Official Website

     Afraid of getting lost? There’s a very handy map with all the buildings and the fact sheet also includes lots of useful information: location, schedules, how to get there, etc etc.  Though some buildings need prior reservations, many others can be visited at any time… and free of charge!