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

Easter treats

     Apart from Christmas, Easter is probably the most popular family celebration in Portugal.  Catholic traditions go hand in hand with family reunions and most of the time, are just an excuse to get together and, guess what, eat!

     Generally speaking, on holy Friday no meat is eaten. Cod fish- cooked in one of a million ways- is once again, the king of the table. Grilled fish or octopus are also common choices.

      Easter is also a celebration of the relationship between godparents and their godchildren. They exchange some gifts, but mostly sugar coated almonds and chocolate eggs. Another thing that can’t miss is the sweet bread stuffed with boiled eggs (shells still on!) we call Folar.

      Easter Sunday is a family day and no one wants to go anywhere far from the wonderfully laid tables in our family homes. Lamb or Kid either in stew or oven roasted are the most common main dish, but in this point, families definitely rule over tradition and one can find a bit of everything to please everyone’s taste.

      As for me, well I have to tell you: I love them all! No Easter holiday would be complete with some comfort food and family around. Check the “Folar” below:

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?

 

Bread-for-God, the Portuguese tradition for Nov the 1st

     While the rest of the world celebrates Halloween on October the 31st, in Portugal we have our very own tradition. We also give candies to the kids, but they need to behave.

     Like in many European countries the 1st of November is the day to visit the tomb of our deceased relatives, clean it and bring fresh flowers, preferably chrysanthemums. We call it “All Saints Day”, assuming that all our deceased ones could be saints.

     For kids this is one of the most important days of the year. They all wake up early, dress their best clothes and gather in small groups. Mums finish ironing their fabric bags, generally embroidered or hand painted and let them go.

    They’ll pass by every house of the town singing “Pão por deus, Pão por deus, Saco cheio, E vamos com deus” aka “Bread for god, Bread for god, With a full bag, We’ll go with god” and the neighbors will give them candies, chocolates or homemade cakes. Obviously kisses and compliments like “you’re so grown-up now” are also a must.

    Unfortunately this tradition is only alive in small towns and since Troika forced our government to erase this holiday, this is the last year, sigh. Still, I was rather happy to welcome all the kids of the neighborhood, remembering how much I used to love this day.

A salty post: Salt pans in Aveiro

     Last week was truly amazing. The good part of delivering tours in the whole country is that every now and then I can leave Lisbon and Sintra (where I spend 95% of my time) and enjoy other regions of my beloved country.

     While beautiful landscapes, great food, historical sights and world heritage monuments can be found almost everywhere in Portugal, there’s something that can only be found in few areas: Salt pans! I think that this really was the highlight of the tour for J&K.

     How many of you have already been to a salt pan? How many of you have already thought about the origin of our beloved silent ingredient? Today most of the salt we eat comes underground mines and is heavily processed but long time ago the organic one used to be so important, to preserve the food, that people would be paid in salt. This originated the word “Salary” (sal = salt) that we still use today.

     History aside, it was a lot of fun to walk trough the salt extraction tanks, touch (and climb) salt pyramids and to talk to a “Marnoto”: the person who extracts the salt. By the way, do you know those little pots of “Salt flower”, the finest type of salt that you’ve been buying in those gourmet stores for a fortune? Apparently, buying from the producer only costs 5€ for 3 pounds and he even offered us 10 pounds of sea salt!

Aveiro 2.5 hours away from Lisbon but is not so far from the main highway when going up to Porto, so, feel free to ask me to pass by on our multi-days tours.