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portuguese gastronomy

Best European country to visit

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Best European country to visit

Portugal won first place at the USA Today “10Best Readers’ Choice” contest for ‘Best European Country” to travel.

According to the editors, “Portugal is less iconic than other well-known countries, but it offers a wealth of opportunities to travelers: charming villages, great food, fascinating regional music, cultural opportunities, a beautiful coastline and even world-class surfing.”

They also wrote, “Much underrated Portugal has all the trappings of a pretty European country: cobbled villages beneath the shadows of medieval castles, sun-kissed beaches, a delectable culinary tradition and plenty of history to explore. Whether swimming in the turquoise waters of the Algarve, sipping a glass of port at a Porto cafe or listening to the melancholy lament of a fadista in Lisbon, Portugal’s understated beauty becomes obvious.”

The other countries that made the top 10 list include Italy, Austria, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, France, Iceland and Switzerland. All nominees were chosen by experts in the Travel Industry.

The USA Today “10Best” provides its users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content on top attractions, things to do, and restaurants for top destinations in the US and around the world.

Source: Portuguese American Journal

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Portugal voted top destination once again

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Portugal voted top destination once again

For the second consecutive year Portugal has been chosen as the best country in the world to visit by one of the world’s most prestigious travel magazines, Condé Nast Traveller. 

Online voters of the luxury travel publication chose Portugal for its winning combination of culture, gastronomy, excellent wines, beaches, history, golf courses, and for its friendly, open and very sincere people. Readers also described Portugal as having an impressive variety of landscapes.

This distinction comes a month after Portugal’s capital city scooped another accolade when the Post Office City Costs Barometer 2014 revealed a trip to Lisbon is the best for value in the Eurozone, being half the price of a visit to Paris, Amsterdam or Rome.

While a three-course evening meal for two with a bottle of wine in Lisbon would set visitors back £34.48, a similar meal would cost twice the price in Paris, at £68.97, £89.35 in Stockholm (Sweden), or £99.06 in Copenhagen, Denmark, it said.

Thirsty travellers can expect to pay an average of £1.12 for a bottle of beer in Lisbon, with the same costing £3.80 in Belfast, £4.31 in Dublin, and £6.73 in Moscow, Russia.

These latest reports and awards serve to substantiate Portugal’s excellent showing at the most recent World Travel Awards. The Algarve was chosen as Europe’s best beach destination and also scooped the top prize for best boutique resort (Vila Joya, Albufeira), best luxury resort (Conrad Hotel), best golf resort (Hotel Quinta do Lago), and best villa resort (Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel, Sagres).

On a national level, a further six awards were given to the Algarve. The Ria Park Hotel & Spa took the title of Portugal’s best business hotel and best hotel for conferences; the Martinhal was voted Portugal’s best family resort, while the best golf resort in the country went to the Hilton Vilamoura.

Hotel Quinta do Lago emerged as Portugal’s best overall resort, while the Blue&Green Vilalara Thalassa Resort took best spa resort.

The rest of the country also made a good impression, with Lisbon taking the title of Europe’s Leading City Break Destination and Madeira taking the title of Europe’s Leading Island Destination.

The Vine Hotel, also in Madeira, was voted Europe’s Leading Design Hotel, while the country as a whole was chosen as Europe’s leading golf destination.

Source: The Portugal News

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Portuguese Food

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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:

MARISCOS

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.

AÇORDA

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.

PORTUGUESE CHEESES

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.

PORTUGUESE WINES

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. 

A CUP OF COFFEE

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).

CUSTARD TARTS OR "PASTEL DE NATA"

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.

"THE WORLD'S BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE"

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.

Source: www.lisbonlux.com

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Living With a Portuguese Women

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Living With a Portuguese Women

I am your average Canadian young adult spending a year abroad living with two Portuguese women in Iceland. I can say I’ve learned a few things from my faithful Portuguese at some point or another.

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1. Every recipe should contain onions at some point

Making rice? Fry some onions first. Pasta? Same deal. If you want to eat it for dinner, you better throw in some onions.

2. Your shoes are ugly and cost less in Portugal

Seriously. Your shoes probably smell like rubber. That means they are bad quality. Your shoes aren’t sexy with that outfit. Don’t wear those. They don’t make your calves look nice. I could buy those for 5 euros in Portugal.

3. They actually conquered lots of shit or something like that

Portugal was an empire! A big one. We discovered more than Brazil – we promise! Those British just stole our glory from us.

4. If you want to go to the beach, go to Portugal

We have 3 of the best beaches in the world. In the world. Why don’t they teach you these things in school.

5. Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world

We understand Italian, French, and Spanish. It is just because they are all like Portuguese. Brazilians – they speak cute Portuguese. It is only funny if you speak Portuguese.

6. Walking too fast is rude

You are walking too fast. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Slow down. It is rude to walk in front of me, walk beside me.

7. The play-by-play is required

Where are you going? What are you doing? Who are you texting? What are you cooking?

8. Hair Conditioner and Air Conditioner are pronounced the same

We just don’t pronounce the “H”. The author would here like to point out that if you say you bought “air” conditioner and you mean hair conditioner, English native speakers will be very very confused.

9. It’s Lisboa

Not Lisbon. Lish-bow-ah. Say the city properly.

10. Pastries are better and more proliferous in Portugal

You will walk into a shop and the walls will be lined with pastries and they all cost like 50 cents. O you get a coffee with this too and not like this North American watered down thing, real coffee.

Author:  Kayla Baretta

Published on Oct. 8, 2013 on "Thought Catalog" blog

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Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours

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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.

Ingredients

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

Method

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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. 

Source: www.foodandthefabulous.com

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5 “Strange” Portuguese Foods That I’ve Grown To Love

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5 “Strange” Portuguese Foods That I’ve Grown To Love

I wouldn’t say there are many “strange” things in Portuguese cuisine.  And by strange, I mean something that isn’t normally found or eaten in your own native country.  In general, I actually find Portuguese cuisine to be one of the most “likeable” cuisines, because just as in the much-loved Italian cuisine, they use a lot of simple, fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  And for the most part, every dish that has been put in front of me during my time in Portugal has looked delicious and made me instantly want to eat it.   

However, there have been a small handful of Portuguese foods and dishes that I definitely found, and still think are strange.  And it’s even more difficult for someone like me with a culinary background to get weirded out by something.  But these were foods that I either never knew existed or the combination did not look appetizing.  Though ironically, they are some of the most nationally known and loved foods in Portugal!  But since my parents raised me with the good manners of eating everything on my plate, even if I didn’t like it, I knew I had to try these things regardless of what I thought.  

Though now I’m glad I did, because then I understood why these foods are so popular here- they are indeed, really tasty!  Granted, the soft texture of these foods in particular was not very appealing to me at first, but once I stopped focusing on that and more on how delicious they tasted, I was able to let go and truly enjoy and appreciate what I was eating.  

It’s true, we’re all programmed to turn up our nose at things that look strange or unappetizing to us, it’s natural.  Would you believe that most Portuguese I’ve asked have never even heard of the classic American peanut-butter and jelly sandwich?  And even funnier is that after I explained what it is, most of them still found it strange and and wouldn’t want to try it!   The same way they found it funny and surprising when they heard my reaction to their beloved foods.   So bottom line, if we get over these cultural or personal hangups, as I eventually did, we’ll be able to enjoy so many more things that one would have never imagined to be delicious! 

Below are five popular Portuguese foods and dishes that I found very strange in the beginning but now love.  I’ve ordered them on a scale of “least to most strange”   So, on your next trip here, I encourage you all to give these foods a chance and try them like I did, as you never know just what might become your next favorite food!

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (BREAD SOUP)

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (BREAD SOUP)

AÇORDA DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP)

AÇORDA DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP)

The only bread I normally associate with soup are the croutons you sprinkle on top, so when I found out that bread was the main ingredient of this traditional Portuguese main dish, my first question was “why?”  Well, with the historically poor background of rural areas, one had to make sure you never wasted anything, so this was a way to use up old, stale bread.  Traditionally, the bread is soaked to some degree of softness, then either broken up and/or cooked with chopped garlic and fresh cilantro.  

There are two main versions of açorda. In the greater Lisbon and northern regions, they make Açorda de Gambas, where the bread is heavily soaked and mushed up, then cooked with shrimp.  Despite its great flavor, I’m not a big fan of this version (pictured second) because the look and texture reminds me too much of…er…vomit .  But I do love the Açorda Alentejana version (pictured first), which resembles more of a soup without cooking the bread.  Only a hot broth of garlic, olive oil and tons of fresh cilantro is poured over it and topped with a poached egg.  Many people also add bacalhau (saltcod) or other fish to it for a heartier meal.   Açorda Alentejana is so popular here that it was nominated as one of the 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia (7 Wonders of Gastronomy-hmm a future post?) and even though it didn’t win, you don’t want miss out on trying this!

SAPATEIRA RECHEADA (STUFFED STONE CRAB)

SAPATEIRA RECHEADA (STUFFED STONE CRAB)

Let’s get this straight- I love stone crab, in fact I loved it even before I moved to Portugal.  But I never had anything more than the claws, which can sometimes cost you a small fortune to get in the US.  Here in Portugal though, on the coast, sapateira is about as common and readily available as any regular fish, and much more affordable!  But get ready to eat the whole thing, which includes the shell of the body stuffed with its roe and insides.  Yes I know what you’re thinking, that really doesn’t sound lovely, and I made a face too when I saw it the first time…..but oh my god is it delicious!!!  This has become my favorite part of the stone crab now, because the flavor is so rich compared to the claws and legs, and when spread over some warm toasted bread and butter it’s just heavenly   Personally I prefer this stone crab stuffing plain, but most people mix it with a variation of the typical ingredients found in a classic potato salad, like mustard, mayo, pickles, egg, onion, parsley etc, even beer!

You can find sapateira recheada on the menu of any marisqueira-seafood restaurant, all along the coast, but note: it’s a common belief here that stone crab and most shellfish are only best eaten “in the months with an ‘r’” (September-April) so try to save this for a treat in the colder months. 

SALADA DE OVAS (FISH EGG ROE)

SALADA DE OVAS (FISH EGG ROE)

These not-so-luxurious fish eggs typically come from pescada (hake) or bacalhau (saltcod) and honestly, if you saw these whole- raw or cooked, they look absolutely disgusting.  But when sliced up and made into a cold salad mixed with onion, tomato, bell peppers, olive oil, vinegar and fresh cilantro (as pictured above), they are much more pleasing to the eye and very tasty.  Many Portuguese also recommend eating plain, boiled ovas when you’re sick, particularly if you have tummy problems, because they are mild and easy to digest.  You can find salada de ovas served at many fish and seafood restaurants as an entrada-appetizer.

CARACOIS (SNAILS)

CARACOIS (SNAILS)

Snails, either you love em’ or hate em’, but most Portuguese absolutely love this seasonal late spring/summertime bar munchie.  Unlike the French escargots, caracois à portuguesa are much smaller- normally about the size of a dime and are slow-cooked in a delicious broth of olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper and sometimes a pinch of piri-piri for a slight kick.  They are best enjoyed with a cold glass of Portuguese draft beer and a basket of bread to mop up all of that finger-licking broth.

PERCEBES (GOOSENECK BARNACLES)

PERCEBES (GOOSENECK BARNACLES)

Utterly strange, not even edible looking and more expensive than most seafood….who in their right mind would want to eat these things??  Yup, exactly what I said at first, but plenty of people eat them here, including me now!  Goose or goose-neck barnacles can be found growing on the rocky cliffs all along the northwest Atlantic coast but are most appreciated in Spain and Portugal.   Due to the dangerous area they grow in, they are a lot of trouble to collect- hence the hefty price.  Just a tiny appetizer plate of them at your local marisqueira here can cost around €8-10.  And they’re not that easy to eat either, since you have to take off the rubbery outer layer first, which can get a bit messy as you might get squirted by their red juice if you’re not too careful!  You can check out exactly how percebes are harvested and eaten in the video below from Gordon Ramsay’s show The F Word, when he went to Galicia, Spain (just above the northern border of Portugal) and you’ll see that he agrees with me that although percebes look totally unappetizing, they really are delicious.  In my opinion, I would describe them as having the cleanest, most pure, unadulterated flavor of the ocean- refreshing! 

Happy Adventurous Eating in Portugal! 

Source: http://americaninportugaltours.com

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