Portuguese food.

by Alison, 28/10/2013

So today I was woken at 5.45am to a text announcing Ollie was sailing by Tunisia and tomorrow he will be in Malta. Normally I'd be pissed to be woken this early on a bank holiday but today it had me smiling. Generally when Ollie is away, he works on projects either in a port or near enough to land to mean, that he is able to text or call. However because he is on a proper sea voyage, communication at the minute is more haphazard. He often only has access to a satellite email service, so I've mainly been getting location updates. It was only last Thursday that he was sailing by Lisbon and a getting a very different view of the city we both liked so much.

One thing I always notice when Ollie goes away, is that, in general I prefer to eat with someone. So thinking of Ollie's journey so far its easy to daydream about sunny treats and relaxed dinners. 

Dinner on our first night away was definitely the most local. We wandered into the village of Caxias and found the single restaurant. Recognising us for the tourists we were, they sent out a lovely waiter with fantastic English to come translate the menu. Instead of putting him through that torture we asked him what fish he would recommend. Unaware of just how accommodating this restaurant was, a moment later the chef arrived with a whole fish to ask us whether we like the look of it. The waiter then explained that the chef was going to cook it Lagereiro- which is half a fish, seasoned with salt and grilled. Garlic cooked in olive oil is then poured on top. This is served on a platter with boiled vegetables (the only bad point, traditional Portuguese food much like traditional Irish food means boiling the goodness out of food), and as our waiter described them, punched potatoes (potatoes skewered and cooked in the oven). While we waited for this, there was a fantastic assortment of seafood, olives, breads and cheeses to try. Very hard to say no when they are right under your nose.

The one tip I had been given when heading to Portugal was: eat the custard tarts. Custard tarts or pastels de nata are a traditional Portuguese pastry. They are thought to have originated in Belem, a parish in Lisbon in the 18th century  In fact the bakery we first found them in, had been open and serving them since 1829.  If I hadn't been told to try them, I can honestly say I would never have picked them out but having tried them I think is safe to say we are both fans. 

Ginja is another uniquely Portuguese product. It is a liquor made from the ginja berry. A Ginjinha, is a tiny cubby hole of a bar in Largo de Sao Domingos, Lisbon. It only serves ginja and it is now in it's fifth generation of ownership. Initially standing outside you would think it must only survive because of all the tourists trying to get a 'typical' experience. However wait a few moments and you will notice the men in suits who walk in purposefully, staying for just a single cup or the older men who linger and do not even need to speak to the owner but just silently slide the cup back across the bar. 

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