My Gastronomic Guide to Portugal
Medieval castles, cobblestone villages, captivating cities, golden beaches and sun shining: the Portugal experience can be many magical things. History, great food and idyllic scenery are just the beginning.
Every region in Portugal has its own unique specialties, which you can find in the mix of old-fashioned tascas (taverns) and more cutting-edge restaurantes helmed by experimental chefs making waves across the country. Having traveled around Portugal for 3 weeks this summer, I am thrilled to share with you all my food and travel recommendations for this beautiful country including a few hidden gems that you might not have heard of.
We flew into the charming and historic Lisbon, travelled along the coast then through Comporta, which is Portugals best kept secret and known as the Hamptons of Portugal (read my travel blog about the luxurious location right here) making many stops and finally finishing in the vibrant city of Porto.
From Bica Coffee, Pastel de Nata, Bolos de Arroz, Choco Frito, Sardines, Rosé Port and Chorizo Asado, these are the must try foods when travelling to Portugal.
Check out my full Gastronomic Guide on all the must try traditional and authentic foods when visiting Portugal right here.
I couldn’t not do this show with Kieran and not feature one of his favourite, and an iconic Portugueses dish – tinned sardines. Portugal is famous for its canned sardines, renowned for their rich taste and high nutritional value, they even have their own holiday, as freshly grilled sardines are the street meal of choice for St. Anthony’s Day, on June 13th. Both fresh and tinned, everywhere you go you will see sardines either on a menu, printed on t-shirts, made out of porcelain. This umami-rich, fish flavoured and meaty texture is a Portuguese delicacy that goes well with almost any sauce or flavour, from olive oil, sunflower oil, tomatoes, garlic, on toast and packed with bold big flavours.
I paired the sardines with my stunning homemade mediterranean cherry tomato sauce and sourdough toast. This dish has become a real foodie memory for us from our trip to Portugal. From Lisbon to Peniche and Porto, grilled sardines were everywhere. Stunningly fresh and lights they are the perfect lunch with a glass of vino verde. When I came home I created this recipe and it is stunningly simple, tasty and so versatile. Make a batch and store it in an old jam jar ( sterilised ) or a glass / airtight container for a few days in the fridge.
Pastel de Nata
The traditional iconic Portuguese custard tarts. Flaky, laminated pastry shells filled with a creamy egg yolk custard, flavored with cinnamon, or pastel de nata for short, is the world-famous Portuguese dessert invented by Catholic nuns and monks sometime before the 18th century. The custard is made with just milk, water, sugar, and egg yolks, and flavored with cinnamon. Once the pastry shells have been filled with custard, they are baked in a high-temperature oven for a short time, which gives for a blistering burn on the top that makes these custard tarts instantly recognizable. Pastel de nata should be eaten shortly after baking, so the custard doesn’t lose its texture. Before consumption, the tart should be sprinkled with cinnamon, or eventually, icing sugar, and paired with a cup of coffee.
In Lisbon you must visit Mantegaria, what was once a butter shop, reopened in 2016 as a custard tart factory, where the tarts are continuously made in front of you. The tarts mirror the originals, Pasteis de Belém, a crispy flaky dough with a heavenly cream inside and slightly burnt on top.
Rosé Port & Tonic
Stylish and refreshing, Rosé Port is a relatively new variety of port that’s only been around for a couple of years, it could be described as lighter than a ruby port while still retaining its red fruit flavours.
Rosé port offers a similar lightness but with a stronger essence of fruit flavours like strawberries and raspberries, with its sweet nature they pair very well with the bitterness of tonics garnished with grapefruit and a sprig of rosemary. Since coming home I have created my own delicious Rosé Port cocktail.
While in Porto, Port tasting was high on my list of things to do. These are the most famous Port House names, Grahams, Crofts, Cálem, Sandeman, Cockburn, Taylor to name a few. We ventured up the back streets a little further towards WOW and found a fabulous port cellar house of a lesser name Quevedo. It is of course, a vine yard from the Duoro Village. I really liked this place and this brand. It has a relaxed but informed vibe. There was no pretentiousness or overly stuffy historical homage to the paid-to-the-product. It was really enjoyable, their location is lovely and the staff we met were excellent and with a 4 port tasting for only €10 I highly recommend it.