Portugal

I’ve visited Portugal a few times and was looking forward to what the cuisine had in store for me. Piri Piri chicken is one of my favourites, so I was optimistic and fortunately not disappointed!
Portugal is situated on the Iberian Peninsula and was founded in 1139, making it one of the oldest nations in Europe. It is also the most westerly and it’s 754 mile long border with Spain is the longest in the EU.

Here are a few interesting facts I came across:
Portugal was the first county in the world to decriminalize the usage of all common drugs.
The biggest wave ever surfed, at 90ft (27.5m) was at Praia de Norte in Portugal by Hawaiian Garret McNamara.
The longest bridge in Europe, measuring 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) in length, is the Vasco da Gama bridge in Lisbon, completed in 1998 to celebrate the 500th year anniversary of the discovery of the sea route between Europe and India.
The largest community of Portuguese outside Portugal is in Paris.
There are 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Portugal and more than 13 million tourists visit the country each year.
The largest artificial underwater park in the world – The Ocean Revival Underwater Park is in Portugal.
The oldest director in the world, Manoel de Oliveira lived until he was 106 and continued to make films until his death on 2 April 2015.
Portugal is the largest producer of cork in the world, around 70% of total production.

Besides the obvious Piri Piri, there were plenty of tasty recipe options I found including Cataplana stew with Sausage and Clams , Cabidela (rice with chicken or rabbit), Caldeirada (fish stew) , Canja de galinha (chicken soup) , Espetada (chunks of beef rubbed in garlic and salt, skewered and barbequed), Queijada (a sweet made with cheese, milk, sugar & eggs) , Peixinhos da horta (deep fried green beans) and Camel’s drool (a portuguese sweet that recently featured on Master Chef, UK). I opted for Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork and clams). It was relatively simple and tasted really good. I served it with Portuguese style fried potatoes, which were equally delicious.

Rating: A high 9/10!

Serves 2
Prep time: 30 mins + 10 – 24 hours marinating time
Cook time: 45 mins

450g pork fillet cut into 2″ thick slices
50 ml dry white wine
250 ml milk
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
100 ml vermouth
500g clams (fresh or frozen)
175 ml (3/4 cup) chicken stock
1 bunch thyme, tied with kitchen string
1 tbsp parsley, chopped

For the roast pepper paste
2 long red peppers
6 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

To make roast pepper paste
Preheat oven to 200°C. Place peppers and garlic cloves in an oven tray with olive oil. Season well and roast for 35 – 40 minutes or until softened and slightly blackened. Transfer to a bowl, cool slightly, then remove the skins and seeds from the peppers and the garlic skins.
Blend the peppers and garlic in a food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cover with oil.

To make the Porco à Alentejana
Place pork in a bowl with white wine, milk, bay leaves, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp white pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 10 – 24 hours.
Drain, discard liquid and pat dry with paper towel.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Heat oil in a large ovenproof and lidded casserole dish over high heat and brown the pork for 3 minutes.
Remove the pork using a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
Add garlic and onions to the same pan and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until softened.
Stir in ¼ cup roast pepper paste, vermouth and pork.
Place the dish in the oven and bake, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until pork is tender.
Add clams, stock and thyme, cover the pan and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the clams have opened.
Remove the thyme sprig.
Season and sprinkle with parsley.
Serve with Portuguese style fried potatoes.

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