Portuguese delicacies from Lisbon

This week’s recipes are Portuguese delicacies perfect for Shabbat or dinner parties, and will really impress your friends and relatives.

A typical Portuguese dried-goods store sells salted cod (photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
A typical Portuguese dried-goods store sells salted cod
(photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
Once known as the ocean capital of the western world, Lisbon has an interesting array of architectural and cultural influences that meld with its vibrant southern European feel. A young generation of artists, cultural entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and business owners have begun to convert the Roman, Moorish, medieval and 18th-century city maze into a little boutique city by the ocean, where locals and visitors can enjoy the best of the Portuguese boa vida (good life).
Lisbon’s food scene is on the rise. The Ribeira Market near the Cais do Sodre train station is the city’s largest open-air food market, selling everything from the freshest fish and seafood to fruits, flowers, amazing vegetables, smoked and fresh meats, and, of course, all the famous Portuguese desserts. Today, I will share one of those desserts with you, the tarta du almendoas, or almond pie.
Gathered close to the market are some 30 small restaurants providing around 750 covers, all serving small dishes called petiscos, which are the Portuguese equivalent to the Spanish tapas or Basque country pintxos.
This week’s recipes are Portuguese delicacies perfect for Shabbat or dinner parties, and will really impress your friends and relatives.
Dried salted cod, known as bacalao, is Portugal’s main dish and a throwback to the days before refrigeration, when fish was dried and salted to be preserved in cellars. There are hundreds of variations of bacalao recipes, but my favorite has always been bacalao grillado (grilled bacalao). It is simple to prepare and wonderfully tasty, conjuring up the Mediterranean Sea.
A quick and delicious meal to grab on the run at lunchtime and served at the Riberia and other outdoor markets is the Portuguese kufta, or hamburger, something you might find in Turkey. It is no ordinary hamburger since it comes with no bun, no tomato, no lettuce, no onion and no pickled cucumber. No kidding!
The writer, an eighth-generation Gibraltarian from a Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi family, is a London Savoy Hotel-trained chef and former owner of various high-end restaurants in Jerusalem and New York. He and his wife live on a farm in Andalusia and run Yaya Food and Travel, specializing in gourmet kosher Jewish heritage culinary tours in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Sicily and Provence (www.jewishheritageeurope.com). Email: massiasisaac@yahoo.es
Serves 4
■ 500 gr. salted cod (bacalao)
■ 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
■ 3 cloves garlic, sliced
■ Fresh rosemary
■ Sea salt
■ Black pepper
Soak the bacalao for 2 days (if it’s a very thick piece, 3 days), changing the water every 6 hours. Make sure to place the fish skin-up in the water; you can make small knife incisions in the sides to speed up the desalination process.
Once the cod is ready to be grilled, cut it into 4 steaks and garnish them with the garlic, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper, and leave for 1 hour so the fish will absorb the taste of the spices.
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil onto the cod steaks and place them on a hot grill or barbecue, or even in a saucepan.
Cook for about 10 minutes on each side, making sure it does not become dry.
Serve the grilled bacalao with baby roast potatoes and even freshly made tomato sauce on the side. I would personally go for one of the Castel red wines to go with the bacalao.
PULPETA DU CARNE MOIDA (Minced-meat kufta)
Makes 12 pulpetas
■ 500 gr. finely minced beef
■ 500 gr. finely minced lamb
■ 1 small onion, finely chopped
■ 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
■ 1 small red pepper, finely chopped
■ ½ cup fine bread crumbs
■ 1 egg
■ 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
■ 4 stems mint leaves
■ 4 stems cilantro
■ 1 tsp. turmeric
■ 1 tsp. cumin
■Sea salt and black pepper to taste
■ ½ cup red wine
Sauté the onion, garlic and red pepper.
Add the wine. Once the onions are browned, add the bread crumbs, mustard and fresh herbs, and set aside.
When cool, add the turmeric and cumin, and set aside again.
In a separate bowl, mix the beef, lamb and egg.
Pour in the onion and bread crumbs mixture and mix well.
Make 12 individual pulpetas, then brush them with extra virgin olive oil and season with the sea salt and black pepper.
Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so all the exciting tastes get a chance to mingle.
Place on a grill on medium flame and cook for approximately 8 minutes (for medium-to-rare kuftas) Serving suggestions: In a bun, with chips, with baby vegetables or just dip them in mustard as an appetizer.
TARTA DU ALMENDOAS (Portuguese Almond Pie)
■ 1¾ cups plain flour
■ ½ cup grated almonds
■ ¹⁄3 cup icing sugar
■ 175 gr. chilled butter, chopped
■ 2 egg yolks
■ 2 Tbsp. iced water
Almond filling
■ 5 eggs, lightly beaten
■ ½ cup sugar
■1 cup pure cream
■ 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
■ ½ cup lemon juice
■ 1 cup grated almonds
Step 1: Mix flour, almonds, icing sugar and butter.
Once the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add yolks and water, mix or process until dough comes together, make a ball with the dough and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Preheat oven to 200° (or 180° if you have a turbo oven), grease a 4-cm. x 24-cm. round tin base cover with a piece of baking paper cut to cover the base of the tin.
Step 3: Bring out dough from fridge, roll into 3-mm.-thick pieces and weigh it down with uncooked rice or beans on top so that it won’t rise and crack while baking.
Step 4: Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
Cool pastry case (don’t forget to remove the rice or beans) and reduce oven temperature to 180° (160° with turbo).
Almond filling
Mix almonds, eggs, sugar, lemon rind and lemon juice in a bowl and let stand for 6 minutes.
Step 5: Pour mixture into the pastry case and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set; cool for 30 minutes and sprinkle with baked grated almonds and cinnamon before serving.
Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, sliced strawberries, kiwi or other seasonal fruit, and decorate the plate with syrup.