Portuguese cuisine is closely related to Mediterranean cuisine, and is characterised by rich and robust dishes made from quality ingredients simply prepared to preserve the unique flavours. The Portuguese love their food and to enjoy nothing better than to gather around the table for a nicely cooked meal. Portions are generally large and guests are always welcome to enjoy the tasty, strong-flavoured, simple cooking that Portugal has to offer.
Seafood in Portugal
Breakfast is usually something light like strong coffee and a bread roll. Lunch is normally served somewhere between noon and 3 o’clock and can easily last for more than an hour. Dinner is normally served quite late around 8 or later and often includes three dishes where soup is one of them. A very common soup is called caldo verde with cabbage, potato and pieces of chouriço sausage.
Portuguese food naturally varies from region to region, but due to the long coastline fresh fish and seafood is a main ingredient in the Portuguese cuisine and taste amazing as it is a fresh as you can get.
The Portuguese eat a lot of fish and seafood prepared in every possibly way; grilled, boiled, fried, stewed, dried and salted. The cod bacalhau is the most consumed type of fish and one of the traditional dishes is dried and salted cod served with potatoes and a chilled glass of vinho verde.
Another typical dish is shellfish rice or caldeirada which is a fish stew with a variety of fish and shellfish cooked with potatoes, onions and tomatoes.
Meat is essential in many Portuguese recipes – pork and chicken are most common, but beef, veal, turkey, lamb and rabbit are also used.
A traditional Portuguese dish is Cozido a Portuguesa. It is a thick stew mainly served in the winter time and its exact composition depends on the chef’s imagination, but it basically consists of various kind of vegetables cooked with meat and sometimes sausages as well.
Other popular meat dishes are the spicy chicken piri-piri and the Portuguese bife which is a slice of fried pork or beef usually served in a wine-based sauce and with fried potatoes. Sometimes a fried egg is served on top of the meat.
Spices and herbs
Spices and herbs are commonly used in Portuguese cuisine. Although a wide variety is used some spices are more common than others; piri piri (small, fiery chilli peppers), garlic, parsley, cumin, coriander, saffron, cinnamon and vanilla. Olive oil is used for both cooking and flavouring meals and is one of the bases in Portuguese cooking.
Portuguese Cheese and Port Wine
Portugal has a wide variety of cheeses typically made from sheep or goat milk.Cheese is typically served before or after a meal with bread or crackers, and is rarely included as an ingredient within a dish.
In restaurants it is common to get a plate with cheese, olives and bread whilst you are waiting for your food. Some typical cheeses are Queijo de Castelo Branco and Queiljo da Serra da Estrela which is a handmade cheese made from fresh sheep milk
Desserts, Pastries and Breads
Portugal also has very tasty bread that is served with almost every meal; wheat and corn bread are the most popular types of bread in Portugal.
Portuguese cuisine also offers a fantastic variety of desserts often very rich and including eggs seasoned with cinnamon and vanilla like the leite-crème which is a type of egg custard or pudim flan. Another traditional dessert is arroz dose – a rice pudding with cinnamon that is typically eaten around Christmas time.
Cake and pastries are also popular in Portugal and almost every town or village has its own little bakery with a local speciality. One of the most popular pastries is Pastel de Nata which is a small and very rich custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon. Almonds and marzipan are common ingredients in cakes or pastries in the Algarve region, whereas eggs and cream based pastries are more common in other regions of Portugal.
Portugal is probably most known for port wine and Madeira both normally served with desserts, but Portugal also produces some of the best red, white and green wines in the world.
Vinho Verde or green wine is normally slightly sparkly and it is a specific kind of wine only produced in the Northwest of Portugal. Green wine is a wine that needs to be consumed closely after it has been produced and it can be red, white or rosé.
Portugal also has some great local beer for example Sagres and Superbock.
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