Portuguese cuisine is born from the earth. It is hearty peasant fare full of strong flavours, many charting the culinary history of the country. For instance, the famous dried salt cod or bacalhau changed the course of Portuguese history. When it was discovered that the beautiful white fish caught in the cold Scandinavian waters could be dried and kept for long periods, sailors were able to go on long voyages of discovery to new lands, which then opened up trade routes. So loved is bacalhau now that there are recipe books entirely devoted to it, with a range of recipes from around the country.
Paprika, bay leaves, garlic and wine feature largely in many dishes, olive oil is adored and used to cook both cook food and finish off dishes. Pork is a favourite meat and is used in the famous chourico sausage, which is smoked over wood with heady aromas of garlic and paprika. Spices in general are popular – including piri piri (small fiery chilli peppers), black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, and saffron. Herbs are also widely used, particularly coriander and parsley.
Also cooked over charcoal is the now familiar Portuguese chicken, which has been a huge hit in Australia – we love the flattened marinated chicken served with chilli spiked piri piri sauce. The recipe was developed in Angola when it was a Portuguese colony. Desserts rely heavily on eggs – think crème caramel, rice pudding and the famous custard tarts or pasteis de nata. A selection of cheeses may also be served, with the most common varieties being made from sheep or goat’s milk.