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.

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.

Saint Anthony’s day is coming and the party is on!

     Have you heard about Saint Anthony of Padua? Well the truth is he is not from Padua, Italy but from Lisbon, Portugal. Why are we telling you about this now? The celebrations in Saint Anthony’s home town, our dear Lisbon, have already begun but the highlight will definitely be tonight: the night of the 12th June.

     Saint Anthony is not the patron saint of Lisbon – that would be Saint Vincent – however he’s our favorite and celebrating him is a way of paying our homage.The date we celebrate is actually the 13th June- the date that marks his passing away in 1231, although the party starts way before that day.

     This is a popular celebration so people come out in the streets and go out partying with their neighbors or with anyone passing by so I am sure you will feel even more at home during these days The festivities include beautifully decorated streets, street parades and a dance parade and contest between associations belonging to the different parishes in the city.

     Food and drinking are also an important part of this party and never like in this week, will Lisbon be as much filled with the scent of grilled sardines all over the place. These don’t go without the occasional glass of red wine, although green wine is also a good choice.

     Dance the night away to the sound of traditional music sung by everyone or played by informal bands here and there; go and eat grilled sardines out in the street and then don’t miss out the parades in Avenida da Liberdade, the main avenue in Lisbon where the dance contest is held.

     The following day you might want to join the crowd that goes to the church of Saint Anthony, right next to the cathedral in the old neighborhood of Alfama and ask for a little blessing. Here is a tip: he’s known as a good match-maker!

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

25th of April- a very special national holiday.

Whenever I go to Lisbon- and believe me when I say I go to Lisbon a lot! – there is a place I never miss: the Largo do Carmo. This is a quiet yet central square of Lisbon where some very special piece of recent History took place.

As you might have heard already, we had a closed, strict regime in Portugal from 1926 (although only officially from 1933) to 1974. António Salazar was the head of government until 1969 and Marcello Caetano, his successor until 1974.

In that year it all ended finally, not in a blood bath as you might imagine, but in rather a joyful way, with a “shower” of carnations, grabbed from the street flower vendors, instead (you can read more about it here.

It’s been 39 years but we still celebrate this date and what better place to start celebrating than the very place where it all happened? If you are around Lisbon on this date you must make your way to Largo do Carmo and other nearby places and see for yourself.

We will have music playing, speeches from some important political leaders, poem reading in the open air from tonight.  In the afternoon a parade will be held in Avenida da Liberdade down to Rossio where there will be some Portuguese music concerts.

You won’t need to go hungry nor thirsty as there will be many stands selling cold drinks and traditional nibbles. Cafés in the center will be open all day. Will you want to miss all the revelry and joy of yet another year in freedom?

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.

 

One museum per month

    Hi everyone! As of today there will be a new category in our blog: “Featured museum”.

     When one visits a new city there’s always a huge range of museums to visit, but, having a limited time it’s always hard to choose the most interesting one. In order to help you every month we’ll be picking one of our favorite museums and tell you why we love it.

     This month we’ll start with a hidden gem, just in the center of Lisbon. Even its location is also very special, as the Red Carnation Revolution happened in front of it. Curious? read the post, it will come out in 5 minutes!

    Why posting this on a Monday if National Museums and Monuments close on Mondays? A little bit of irony never hurts, so, stay tuned on the 1st Monday of every month!

Like a tourist in my own city

     Yesterday Mr.s Shepley and her family needed to be back to their cruise-ship quite early, which left me with an almost free afternoon.  Normally I just rush home in order to avoid traffic and take care of emails and reservation, but yesterday I decided that I wanted to be a tourist in my own city.

     We did the wine and cheese tasting tour (my favourite), so, I wasn’t hungry at all. I started my tour passing by Loja dos Descobrimentos, the tile-shop where I do the tile-painting workshops. I wanted to pay them a visit and also had to pay my last workshop.  After a long time chatting, it was time to leave and head towards Comércio Square, looking for a treat: ice-cream!

     Comércio Square is the place where there used to be the royal palace, before the earthquake of 1755. Afraid of the river, the Royal family didn’t want their palace to be built there again and the square was thought to be the social center of Lisbon. Without cafés or shops, inhabitants never felt attracted by this magnificent square and it used to be visited only by pigeons and tourists attracted by the river. Few months ago everything changed: restaurants, cafés, flower sellers and even a disco were opened in this square, which now attracts both locals and visitors.

     The ice-cream, right. I was looking for my ice-cream when I saw the Beer Museum, recently opened, and decided to get inside. I’m not a beer drinker but it was fun to see the history of the beer production in Portugal and the Portuguese speaking countries. Besides, they’ve recreated a 16th century monastic brewery and a “monk” explains the history of the beer production, techniques and so. Feeling thirsty? The visit finishes with a tasting and you can bring a cute clay-cup home.

    Finally, I found a wonderful place for artisan ice-cream and started to walk towards Chiado, where my friends were waiting for me. Could life get any better? Maybe it could but then it wouldn’t be life, just a dream.

What do you think of my afternoon? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

Can I just say, again, that I love Alfama?

    Next Saturday I’ll be doing a tour with a group of employees from an International Investment Bank based in Lisbon. Our plan is to walk through some quaint areas of Baixa and Alfama and after the walking tour we’ll do the famous tile painting workshop. Though this tour was aimed mostly at international workers, believe it or not, only Portuguese people joined.

    Touring with natives is always a challenge and I wanted to make sure that I’d show them many places that they don’t know. To make sure that I was prepared and to check the difficulty level of my planned itinerary, I decided to wear some comfortable clothes (and sneakers!) and explore Alfama on my own.

    Alfama used to be the Arabs’ neighbourhood and their defensive system consisted on building their city like a labyrinth. When trying to invade their space, enemies would get immediately lost. While the rest of the town was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, Alfama was not. Million years ago there was a volcano in this area. It disappeared and Lisbon is safe now, but it left its magma deposit, making this underground area a lot more though. While in 1755 the whole city shake, Alfama stayed still.

    Once inhabited by the fisherman, this neighbourhood still preserves its personality. Though it’s in the centre of Lisbon you’ll feel like in a small town. Everyone knows each-other and there’s a strong sense of community. Kids play soccer freely in the streets where few cars pass and old ladies can be seen in their pyjamas, in the early morning, when they come downstairs to buy bread for breakfast. Still today this area is plenty of little nice alleys, old women chatting from window to window, clothes drying in the balcony and many secrets to reveal.

    Since we are still in the month of the “Popular Saints”, as I mentioned in other posts, the streets are still decorated and… I can’t wait for this tour to happen! I’ll definitely keep you posted!

    In this picture we have Thomas family (remember them?) walking through Alfama. Can you see the decorations on their back and how happy they look?

    Are you looking forward to visiting Alfama? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

Santo António – 13th of June, the day to be in Lisbon

The 13th of June is the day to be in Lisbon… just like the 12th of June is the night to be around. Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony, the unofficial Patron Saint and it seems like everything happens that day and night.

Everything starts during the afternoon, with the “Casamentos de Santo António”. This is an old tradition, organized by the town hall and other private sponsors. It’s a group wedding, that this year married 16 young couples, who can apply and be chosen if they have all the required conditions. During the dictatorship, girls would need to be seen by a doctor to certify that they were still virgins. Today they can choose between the religious ceremony in the Cathedral and the civil one in the City Museum.

Later, traffic is cut in “Avenida da Liberdade”, the main avenue of Lisbon, to prepare it for the “Marchas Populares”. Marchas are a sort of Carnival parade organized by the most traditional neighborhoods of Lisbon, on which they have to create their own costume, lyrics, song and dance. They all perform in “Avenida da Liberdade” in front of a jury and the curious eyes of the inhabitants who can’t miss the parade.”Marchas Populares” celebrated 80 years this year and the winner was “Alto do Pina”, for the 2nd year on a row.

After this parade everyone heads to the “Arraiais”, a sort of fair on which the whole historical center is transformed. Everywhere, in the streets and squares of Alfama, Castelo and Bica, there are small improvised bars, counters, stages where small bands perform live and everyone drinks and dances until the sun shines again. Some areas get a little bit too crowded but the nice thing is to watch young and old people, rich and poor, all dancing together popular songs which lyrics everyone knows. Forget a bar or a disco… this night is spent outside, dancing in the street where you normally just sit in traffic.

Since this night is all about St Anthony and he is the “wedding maker”, boys are supposed to offer their girlfriends a “manjerico” – small basil, with a little paper flower, holding a love poem. A lovely tradition that somehow survives to the modern times.

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Here are the famous sardines!

Today I was doing this tour with Julia and Todd, a happy couple from the USA. Though they just had one day in Lisbon, they really wanted to seize it. We started with a tram ride towards Lisbon’s castle, visited the castle, walked trough the labyrinthine streets of Alfama, tried some port wine, bought some hand-painted tiles and sat for lunch before going to Belém area.

Right, lunch! As you may know, one of Lisbon’s most famous dishes is the sardines. They can be eaten from May until August (the months without an “R”), grilled, preferably accompanied by boiled potatoes, grilled green peppers, salad and some green wine as well. The funny thing is that since sardines used to be a poor’s people dish and hey must be grilled on the coal, you can’t find them in elegant restaurants. To eat sardines you can either follow your nose (the smell of grilled sardines can’t pass unnoticed) or look for a “normal” restaurant, preferably outside, preferably one of those with the special dishes written in a paper-towel, hanged on the wall. These are the best ones and of course that we visited one of these.

While Todd had grilled squids and I had “Frango no churrasco” (roasted chicken, I’ll write about it soon), Julian made me proud and ordered sardines, with Green wine. I’ll write about green wine soon, I promise, but by looking at Julian’s happy face, you can see that it was very good! :)

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Lisbon’s markets and fairs

If you’re one of those persons who loves to look for little treasures in lost places and browse little stores searching for rarities, then this post is for you.

One of the things I love to do on my (rare) free time is to walk around markets, buy rarities and handicrafts, or simply observe the quaint things some merchants want to sell. Lisbon has a nice offer in terms of markets and since many people like to visit local markets when they travel, I decided to list some interesting markets and fairs.

  • “Feira da Ladra” – Lisbon’s flea market is just like any other flea market in the world: name a bizarre product and you’ll find it there. From old books or vintage furniture to used clothes, shoes, underwear or other types of garbage, it has it all. Some artists use it to show their work too, so, you may find some art pieces or design jewelry as well. Where: Páteo São Vicente, between Alfama and Graça; When: every Tuesday and Saturday morning.
  •  “Mercado da Ribeira” – Is one of the most traditional markets, mostly visited by locals who want to buy fresh products: fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, flowers… Besides the classical products you’ll also find many things that you’ve never seen before. Don’t forget to buy some olives and some lupins (azeitonas e tremoços). Where: Cais do Sodré; When: every morning except on Sundays.
  • “Jardim da Estrela” – is the perfect combination of shopping and relaxing as it’s located in Estrela public garden. Most sellers are young artists who sell urban handicraft, jewelry, clothes, bags and other hand-made items. Besides the market you can sit and relax in the garden: sometimes they also have free Tai-Shi lessons or concerts. Where: Jardim da Estrela; When: first weekend of the month, from 10am to 6pm
  • Similar Fair: “Feira da Alegria”. Where: Praça da Alegria; When: every 1st and 3rd weekend of the month, from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • “Mercado Biológico do Príncipe Real” – has all sorts of organic products. While more and more consumers are worried about the quality of what they eat, more and more producers are proud of growing their products without the use of pesticides nor other chemical products. Since there was no place for them in the normal market, Agrobio decided to create this “organic market”. You can find vegetables, fruits, animal derived and bakery products. Where: Principe Real; When: every Saturday morning
  • Similar Fair: “Agrobio”. Where: Largo de Santos; When: every Thursday, from 4 to 8 pm
  • “Feira do Chiado” – is specialized in old books and collectible items. Is used mostly by collectors and second hand book sellers, some of which just show books they’ve been keeping for a while. Where: Rua da Anchieta, Chiado; When: Every Saturday morning.
  • “Mercado das Colecções” – located in the same place than “Mercado da Ribeira”, its name “Collections Market” says it all: is perfect to find stamps, coins, books, medals, postcards, watches and other rarities. Where: Cais do Sodré; When: every Sunday morning.
  • “Mercado da Avenida da Liberdade” – brings all sorts of items to the centre of the city. Old books and antiques, stamps and coins, handicrafts and designer’s clothes, it has a little bit of everything. Where: Avenida da Lisberdade; When: Every 2nd weekend of the month.
  • Similar Fair: “Mercado de Belém”. Where: Belém, in front of St Jerome monastery; When: every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, from 9 am to 6 pm.

Not sure if everyone will speak English? Check this page with the essential words.

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And the oscar for the best custard goes to…

Remember that entry about Lisbon’s Fish Festival?

It’s still going on and yesterday there was a very special moment of it: the election of the best custard of the year.

All pastry shops claim to have the best one, so, it has been three years that a remarkable jury gathers, during this festival, and choose the best one of the year. This year there were 9 different pastry shops on the contest and after trying the 9 different custards (tough job) they chose “Pastelaria Aloma” in Campo de Ourique.

Curious about it? Book your tour today and ask our guide to take you there, to see if they deserve the prize.

Can’t understand what’s the big thing about the custards? I’ll explain that on my next post!

 

Fish, anyone?

Though you can eat excellent fresh fish all over the year, the next days are going to be specially tasty for those who love fish and are visiting Lisbon.

Turismo de Lisboa (the Official Tourism Board of Lisbon) is organising again the Fish Festival, from the 12th to the 22th of April.
All visitors who pass by the “Páteo da Galé”, attached to Comércio Square, can try fish dishes prepared by different restaurants, watch famous chefs preparing elaborate fish dishes, attend cooking classes, try other Portuguese traditional products and much more.

Detailed information, as well as the program, can be found here.

If you’re in Lisbon pay them a visit and… Bom Apetite!
(Enjoy your meal)