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Portugal: The Home to Port Wine

It is said that the Portuguese have as many ways to cook Codfish as there are days in a year. That’s the kind of cooking variations they have in every region. The most favoured Portuguese meals are a strong reflection of the country’s roots.

india Updated: May 13, 2011 13:23 IST
Rupali Dean

Iconic dishes

To start with some good bread, a few slices of creamy cheese, cod fish fritters and Shrimp rissoles make very popular as accompaniments to their wine in restaurants and homes alike.

The Portuguese are very fond of Light meals referred to as pesticos,the favourite being ameijoas which are small clams prepared in a flavoured marinade and marinated giblets in a strong, thick delicious sauce.

Caldo Verde is one of the incredibly delicious and interesting Potato based soups. The cabbage used in this recipe is galega and is not very easy to find outside of Portugal, though it can be substituted with any long-stemmed, deep green coloured green.

WineThe Caldeirada de Pexie aka Fisherman’s stew is huge around coastal towns and also in the rural areas. For this stew, any fish with firm flesh is used. Some seafood dishes showcase the rich fishing culture which has actually shaped the nation’s cuisine. Galinha Assada basically Portuguese style roasted chicken takes on the traditional flavour that has become the trademark of this cuisine.

As for me I love the Bacalhau a Bras which I enjoyed when first stepping upon Portuguese soil. The codfish is cooked up in a "fried rice" style with strips of potato, onion and scrambled egg and garnished with some delicious jumbo Portuguese black olives. The flavour is sumptuous and far from overpowering.

Port wine
A high speed train transported me from Lisbon to Porto in just two hours and buying a Eurail pass from India made it even more convenient. My first stop was but naturally at a warehouse that contained port wine stored in wooden barrels.

In most warehouses correct temperature and humidity are maintained for the wine to continue to age properly before the wines are stored in bottles ready to be sold in the market. For those who do not know Port wine is a fortified wine which is usually consumed in small amounts as aperitifs before meals or dessert wines after a meal. By‘fortified wine’I mean that its alcohol content is about 5 to 10 percent higher than table wine which is added to kill the yeast.

Several types of this wine is produced like white, ruby, tawny, reserve, depending on the types of grapes and the aging part of the process.

Sweet ending
Back in Lisbon I tried pasteis de Belem; a Portuguese must taste delicacy in a café just next to the monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) which is supposed to sell the original version.

The custard tarts were served piping hot, right out of the oven. As is the tradition, I sprinkled it with cinnamon and icing sugar. They make a wonderful accompaniment with coffee any time of the day. I learnt from a local that it is known as Pasteis de Nata across Portugal and was invented by two Catholic sisters in the convent. Ever since then, they have spread to bakeries all over the country and internationally around the Portuguese once Empire and I believe I can get them in Goa as well.

Interesting facts
Port wine is produced exclusively in Douro Valley.
The transportation of Port wine was made by Rabelo boats, memorable form to trade the products from the most important production canters, Porto and Gaia.
He most well-known typical dishes include the dry and salted codfish.
He Alentejo is famous for its pork and Trás-os-Montes for its cured meats.
The Portuguese love their sweets as much as they love their coffee