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Silver Coast gastronomy

Portuguese Food


Portuguese Food

Portuguese cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean traditions and Atlantic freshness. That is a lot of olive oil, fish and fresh ingredients, while in the regions away from the coast, pork and other meats are the favorites. 

Although most of the fish served in Portugal's restaurants was swimming in the ocean just a few hours ago, it is dried salted cod that makes up most of the dishes on a Portuguese menu. 

And those menus are changing fast, thanks to a growing number of acclaimed chefs and new Michelin stars. 

Lisbon is thriving in the kitchen, with the recent gastronomic energy giving rise to a new contemporary Portuguese cuisine that is also (finally) beginning to capture international attention (including in Portuguese-inspired restaurants abroad, like New York's Michelin-starred Aldea and London's acclaimed Viajante). 

The food is joining the country's wines whose elevated and renovated quality of recent times are new pleasant surprises around the world. 

Here is what you should try in Lisbon:


Because no part of Portugal is very far from the ocean, and considering the history of the country at sea, it's no surprise that seafood is one of the country's and Lisbon's specialties. Typical dishes include "santola" (stuffed crabs), simply grilled "camarões" and "gambas" (shrimp and prawns), or "arroz de marisco," a rice stew mixing all kinds of seafood (more moist than the Spanish paella). 

A concentration of seafood restaurants is found on Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, but everywhere else you'll also likely find at least one of the supposedly 365 ways to prepare cod (one for each day of the year). One of the most popular is "bacalhau à brás" (shredded with potatoes and egg) and "bacalhau com natas" (with cream). At most traditional cafés you can also try the "pastel de bacalhau," a cod croquette. 

Walk around Alfama in summer and you'll also smell corner barbecues grilling sardines.


Its mushy appearance may not look very appetizing at first, but this purée studded with seafood or cod is quite good. The best is served at Pap'Açorda, but you'll find it in several restaurants around Lisbon. A slightly different version is called "Açorda Alentejana" (from Portugal's Alentejo region), a little more soupy and presented with floating coriander.


Portugal's cheeses are excellent and make a good companion to the country's wines. 

From the Lisbon region is the cheese of Azeitão (south of the city), which is rather soft and buttery. It's made with sheep's milk and should be served at room temperature as an appetizer or before dessert. 

Also try Nisa cheese from the region of Alentejo (semi-hard and also made with sheep's milk) which Wine Spectator magazine listed as one of the world's best.


Portugal produces some of the world's finest and most distinctive wines, and those are not just Port.

The Douro Valley in the north of the country is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, and its "greens" together with the reds from the rest of the country have a growing reputation internationally. 

Good places to sample them in Lisbon are the several wine bars in the center of the city, and for all kinds of Ports visit Solar do Vinho do Porto. 

Wines from the Lisbon region to try are those from Colares (a village outside Sintra), produced from sandy terrain vineyards of the Ramisco grape variety. These grapes generally create a wine of low alcohol content (between 10.5 and 12%) and of high acidity but fresh on the palate. 

The Setúbal Peninsula south of the city also produces a sweet, liqueurous wine named Moscatel. The "Moscatel Roxo" is especially worth looking for, aged 20 years before sale. 


Don't leave Lisbon (or Portugal) without having a "bica," a powerful dark espresso coffee served in a tiny cup. Just be careful if you're addicted to coffee because you'll agree that this is the best coffee you've ever had. The tradition came from the former colony of Brazil, and it's the way most Portuguese start their day and finish their meals. 

To accompany a Bica in the morning many Lisboetas choose a Pastel de Nata (see below).


Known as "Pastel de Nata" around Portugal and as "Portuguese custard tart" elsewhere, this pastry is called "Pastel de Belém" in Lisbon's most famous pastry shop which started it all ("Antiga Confeitaria de Belém"). 

Sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon or even more sugar, they also often accompany a "bica" in the morning (see above). 

Forget your diet and have a few in Lisbon.


Dripping with chocolate, filled with chocolate mousse and made with 53% cocoa, this is officially the world's best chocolate cake. Officially because that's what the café where it was born is called, and its recipe has been exported to Brazil and New York which now have their own shops. Discover it in its original home in Lisbon, or in selected restaurants and cafés around the city. 

Also mouth-watering with chocolate are the croissants served in café Benard. They're served with no filling or with a variety of fillings, but it is the chocolate that everyone asks for. And you will too, several times once you try them.



Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours


Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours

We ate arroz de marisco, a Portuguese seafood rice, saucier than paella and without the crusty bits, a number of times in Lisbon. Inspired by it I also made a version with chicken, chouriço and blood sausage while we were still there.

Portugal is abundant (perhaps not as much these days) in seafood – shrimp, prawns, clams, shellfish like langoustine, crab and lobster as well as fish. Substitute seafood according to what you have available and the occasion. Frozen seafood may also be used.

I enhanced the sauce by using chopped anchovies, they dissolve in the sauce but impart a saltiness that I find adds depth you can’t achieve with anything else, except perhaps Asian fish sauce.

Adjust the chilli to your liking.

I have been sharing stories about beloved Lisbon, a city I fell in love with in 2008 and in which I based for three months earlier this year between travels, for a while.

I want to share these images with you and for all the reasons I miss Lisbon, click on the link to read more.

My ode to Lisbon and other recipe and travel posts were picked up and translated into a story about the time I spent there, in the local Get It magazine.

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Here’s an excerpt:

“I miss the tiled pavements, that goes without saying. Each tile telling a story, many nautical in nature – an art from artisans of a bygone era. I miss the convenience of purchasing fruit (even two plums and a banana being acceptable) just two doors down. I miss the clack-clack-clack of heels on the pavements or the unmistakable rumble of the ramshackle trams. I miss seeing so many old people (and I mean really old) go about their business independently, with everyone else. The impossible hills and the slopes I encouraged us to climb especially after large dinners. The people we met, so warm and welcoming.”

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Gate to Praca do Comercio
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The Recipe

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This recipe has several steps and does take a bit of time to put together, but is so worth the extra effort. Making the stock base with the fried prawn heads is crucial to the taste profile of this dish. Budget about 3.5 hours to make this dish in a relaxed and leisurely fashion- from chopping and prep to cooking through the steps. Read through the ingredient list, set everything you need out/store what you don’t need for a while in the fridge (seafood) and go over the instructions to familiarise yourself with the steps. I do hope you enjoy making this dish.


6-8 servings

12-16 large prawns, deveined and shell on, heads chopped and kept aside

300 g fresh mussels, cleaned

1 medium green pepper, diced

1-2 t chilli pepper flakes

4-5 Mediterranean Delicacies anchovy fillets, chopped

300 g firm white fish (e.g gurnard, dorado or kingklip)

1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley or coriander (or mix) finely chopped

extra lemon wedges

For the stock base:

1 T olive oil

12-16 prawn heads

1 large carrot, diced

3 T finely diced onion

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped


2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

410 g fresh ripe tomatoes or a can peeled and chopped Italian tomatoes (best quality), pureed

1 t sugar

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

2 mild red chillis, chopped

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

2 T fresh lemon juice

salt, to taste

For the rice:

1.5 cups short- medium grain rice (I used arborio in this recipe)

strained stock, plus extra water (if needed)

410 g can chopped, peeled and pureed Italian tomatoes (best quality) —add 1/2 t sugar

3/4 cup dry white wine


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1. Tap the mussels a few times. Discard those that are still open. Steam cleaned, de-beared mussels in 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and lower down to a simmer- process shouldn’t take longer than 4- 5 minutes. Discard those that don’t open. Retain 1.5 cups of the steaming liquid (add more if necessary but not too much as the liquid released by the mussels will become diluted)

2. In a frying pan on medium heat, add prawn heads, carrot, chopped onions and garlic. Fry for 4 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and blend in processor or with hand held blender until smooth. <keep prawns and fish in fridge >

3. To a large pot add the ground prawn mixture, chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, 1 can or 410 g tomato, sugar, mild chillis, 1.5 cup mussel liquid, 1.5 cup water, lemon juice and salt. Bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Then lower heat slightly and cook for 40 minutes, stirring.

4. Set stock aside, it will have reduced by more than half. Strain through a sieve, pushing the onions and other soft bits through, a little. Don’t force them.

5. In a paella pan or large, deep frying pan add the rice on medium heat. Then ladle the hot stock, bit by bit until it has absorbed, the way you would with risotto. Keep stirring the rice. I prefer to alternate hot stock with wine and the tomato puree until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped anchovies and chilli pepper after the first 5 minutes. [The total process should take around 40 minutes.]

6. When the rice is 3/4 cooked, add the green pepper. The fish will take 6-8 minutes to cook and the prawns 5 minutes, so time this accordingly. You add the seafood directly to the rice and stir around gently, once or twice with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to break the fish up.

7. Switch heat off and add the mussels at the end, adjust seasoning and allow the mussels to infuse with the flavour for 15-20 minutes before serving.

8. Add more water if the rice is too stodgy, stirring carefully. Stir the herbs through.

Serve with lemon wedges and cold beers or lemonade. This dish will continue to deepen in flavour over the next two days. Store in the fridge when it cools.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this four part food and travel series with Medi Deli. 



Best Portuguese Wine Presentation ever . . .


Best Portuguese Wine Presentation ever . . .

WOW! What a presenter! Can't blame him really, Portuguese wines are some of the bests in the world. Gary Vaynerchuk hosts one of the most popular online wine channels in US, and is a biggest fan of Alentejo Wines. Today he brings us a very enthusiastic overview of Alentejo wine. Relax and enjoy his presentation.


- Gary, a big THANK YOU for your enthusiastic presentation of Portuguese Wines!


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