Portugal has always been a popular destination for British travellers, but the country seems to have risen to even greater heights in the last few years. With a range of different holiday options that include beach stays and city breaks, it’s no surprise that such a versatile destination has moved itself to the top of many people’s list.
Another reason to go has to be the delicious food on offer in local restaurants. There’s always an abundance of seafood and most dishes offer a subtle twist on traditional Mediterranean fare. Here are some to look out for.
You’ll come across many great fish dishes during your time in Portugal, but this is arguably the most popular and delicious. Bacalhau simply means ‘codfish’ in Portuguese and is something traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve. However, it has grown to be much more than that and can now be found on menus throughout some of the biggest tourist areas.
Different parts of the country have their own versions, so what accompanies the cod will depend on where you are. Bacalhau à brás includes potatoes, eggs, garlic, onions and chopped olives, whilst bacalhau de natas is made with lots of cream. In fact, there is said to be 365 ways to prepare this national dish, including fish cakes known as bolinhos de bacalhau.
If you choose to take a family holiday to somewhere like the Algarve, and you like seafood, you have to try cataplana. Filled with all the treasures of the sea, this fish stew brings the coastal regions to life in your mouth and is great when sharing amongst large groups.
A typical cataplana will include things like prawns, clams and sea bass – along with tomatoes, potatoes and rice – but there’s also a meat version too. The dish takes its name from the pot in which it’s cooked, a hinged, copper pan which can be purchased as a souvenir.
If seafood really isn’t your thing then you may want to try cozido. Aimed squarely at meat lovers, it’s a casserole-like meal that includes sausages, vegetables and a variety of other meats. Just like bacalhau, each region of Portugal has its own take, making use of the local ingredients that are in abundance.
In the very north-east of the country, an area known as Trás-os-Montes, three types of sausage (blood, breaded and game) are used. However, travel the short distance to Minho and these are replaced by chicken and lamb. Whatever form the meat comes in, it is slowly boiled alongside vegetables like carrots, potatoes and cabbage to create a flavourful feast.
Head off on a Porto city break and you’re likely to see this meaty sandwich on plenty of lunchtime menus. The Francesinha (a name which means ‘little Frenchie’ in honour of the croque monsieur that inspired it) takes a cheese toastie to a whole new level. Two pieces of bread are filled with steak, ham, sausage and chorizo, before being topped with melted Edam and doused in a special tomato-based sauce.
If it sounds like a heavy meal, that’s because it is. But there’s more. Many people also like to top their sandwich with a fried egg, surround it with chips and wash it down with a local beer. Well, if it’s tradition then who are we to question it?
Pastéis de Nata
The chances are you will have heard of this sweet pastry – the perfect way to end a meal or simply a delicious snack to have on the go. Originally created in Lisbon, and often called pastéis de Belém, these custard tarts offer a fantastic marriage of crispy, flaky pastry and sweet custard spiked with a dusting of cinnamon.
You can find these in bakeries (pastelerías) all over Portugal and, although there are other variants, it’s the standard version that we would encourage you to start with. Other options include those filled with chocolate and fruit.
If you would like to sample any of these Portuguese delights for yourself, we can offer a tailor-made trip. Call us on 0800 988 3369 sign up to our mailing list today