Moorish influence, native peasant cuisine and culinary imports from Portugal's colonial endeavours have shaped the country's cuisine. Expect lots of seafood, beans, rice, chillies, olive oil, cooking over coals and robust, earthy flavours.
1. Salted cod moves in mysterious ways
"Bacalhau" is Portuguese salted cod, and it has dominated the Meditteranean cuisine since the mid-1500s, when it was a means to preserve fish pre-refrigeration. Some say that there's 365 ways to cook bacalhau, "one for every day of the year"; others, more than 1000. Whatever the number, this salt cod, chickpea and egg salad (salad grao de bico) is one of these.
2. Portuguese custard tarts aren't just popular outside Portugal
Anyone familiar with the Portuguese custard tart is familiar with the thought, "why do they even bother selling them singly?". One is clearly never enough. It's a curious appeal too—cold custard in a cold pastry case. But somehow it just works... the pasty is crumbly and slightly salty, but with a little chew; the custard is solid but soft; the texture creamy but light (thank you, Portugal). Called locally, "pastel de nata", the tarts can be found at pastelerias throughout Portugal.
3. Seafood reigns supreme
Portugal is a seafood-loving country, the highest per capita in Europe. These grilled sardines, cooked over charcoal with just a little lemon and salt will show you why—because the freshest seafood needs little intervention.
4. You say chorizo, the Portuguese say chouriço
Meaty, fatty and heavily laden with paprika, chorizo is well-known and well-loved. If you can get your hands on the Portuguese version, chouriço, you'll find it just a flavourful but less spicy than it's Spanish relative. Try it straight-up with this plump and crisp grilled chorizo (chourico assado).
5. Piri-piri happened long before Nando's peri-peri
Both the variety of chilli and the sauce made from the chilli is known as "piri-piri" in Portuguese. The name comes from Swahili, with "piri-piri" meaning "pepper-pepper", and has morphed into several versions, including "pili-pili" and "peri-peri". Try making your own piri-piri chicken, and cook it on a barbecue for the best (and most authentic) results.
6. Rice is big, really big
Portugal is Europe’s largest consumer of rice, at around 17kg per person a year. It’s used in stews and soups, sauteed with seafood, baked with duck, added to blood sausage filling, and even used pastries and desserts.
7. If you're in Portugal at Christmas, you'll eat (Portuguese-style) French toast
Making Portuguese rabanadas, like this recipe for fried bread with cinnamon sugar (rabanadas) is a three-step process: soak thickly sliced bread in milk, dip it in beaten eggs, deep-fry it in olive oil, then dust it liberally in cinnamon sugar. It's most commonly eaten during the Christmas period, washed down with a black coffee or nip of port wine.
8. Portuguese cornbread may not be what you're expecting, and leftovers are treasured as crumbs
Cornbread usually conjures up images of American cornbread, which is grainy and cake-like, made with polenta and cooked in a cast iron skillet. Portuguese cornbread is more bread-like, using cornmeal mixed with wheat flour, and yeast as a rising agent. It's an absolute staple of local cuisine, and leftovers are turned into crumbs for salads, stews and sauteed dishes, like in this recipe for migas, a stew-like dish of cornbread crumbs, black-eyed peas, carrot, kale, pine nuts and aromatics.
9. Port is Portugal's most famous drink
This seems to be stating the obvious, but the correlation between Port and Portugal slips by many of us. Port is a fortified wine from Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. It had its heyday in 1700s England, and these days, outside Portugal, is just sipped by a few as an after-drink drink—the rest of us are more familiar with it as a cooking wine. It's used to bring sweetness, richness and a touch of acidity to this chicken thighs with pears, chestnuts and port. But, just like sherry, there's different varieties based on the grape varieties and aging process, the main ones being Ruby, Tawny, White and Pink.
10. Tripe stew is a symbol of Porto
Porto-style tripe and white bean stew (tripas a moda do porto) is an iconic dish of Porto, and a symbol of the locals' resourcefulness. Legend has it, after donating all the city's produce to Henry the Navigator when he set off for Ceuta in 1415, all that was left was tripe. Locals turned it into this flavourful recipe.
11. For breakfast, they eat toasted sandwiches coated in cheese
Traditionally, these doorstops-of-a-toastie contain pork, smoked sausage, bacon and beefsteak, and are topped with a fried egg and cheese. Our tuna francesinha (Portuguese cheese toastie) takes a (slightly) lighter route, using tuna, veal and ham.
Primetime evening broadcasts
Semi Final 1 – Wednesday 9 May, 7.30 pm, SBS
Semi Final 2 – Friday 11 May, 7.30 pm, SBS ** FEATURING JESSICA MAUBOY
Grand Final – Sunday 13 May, 7.30pm, SBS
LIVE early morning broadcasts
Semi Final 1 – Wednesday 9 May, 5 am (AEST) SBS
Semi Final 2 – Friday 11 May, 5 am (AEST) SBS ** FEATURING JESSICA MAUBOY
Grand Final – Sunday 13 May, 5 am (AEST) SBS
Through many wet, grey and sad days, I waited anxiously for the sun to arrive to shoot a picnic with all the foods I love: savoury tarts, smoked meats, cheese, marinated olives, fresh and dried fruit, and a delicious, rustic cake. The day was beautiful, cold and translucent. The reservoir of Caniçada acted like a watery mirror, reflecting the surrounding hills, boats and houses, some with smoke pouring out of chimneys. It takes a good dose of determination (and a bit of madness) to deal with the logistics of a shoot in the middle of the forest. Somehow, everything went as planned and we were able to enjoy our wintery picnic in all its glory, including this moist and buttery cake with the unique sweetness of honey, the perfume of oranges and the intensity of hazelnuts.
The combination of pork and clams in this dish is unusual, but creates a rich flavour that makes it easy to see why this stew has become so popular across the country. The roast capsicum paste will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. You will need to marinate the pork overnight.
Gila is a large type of marrow with pale flesh that is more fibrous than other marrow varieties. Candied gila is a popular pastry filling, adding a unique crunchy texture to sweets. As it takes 2 days to prepare, you can make this ahead and freeze it in an airtight container lined with baking paper for up to 1 year. You will need a sugar thermometer.