The A to Z of Portuguese Food – Part 5

Pastel de nata

M is for mirtilo

Mirtilo is Portuguese for blueberry. Blueberries have become something of a treat since we left the UK. At over €3.00 for a small handful, they’ve gone from something I used to eat regularly in England (stirred into yoghurt for breakfast), to a rarely consumed indulgence.

Last week was a bit of a treat. As blueberries are rarely found in Portuguese recipes, we turned to Good Food magazine for inspiration and baked a blueberry cheesecake and blueberry, pretzel and white chocolate cookies – the perfect way to make the most of these pricey berries.

N is for nata

Cream in Portuguese is nata. Most cream here, as with most milk, is long-life in order to avoid spoilage in the intense summer heat. It is used extensively in recipes, both for desserts (such as the world-famous pastel de nata) and main courses – peru com cogumelos (thin slices of turkey breast in a cream and mushroom sauce) is one of my particular favourites.

Though cream is used a lot, the range available is more limited than in the UK, with double cream, whipping cream and clotted cream appearing only in English supermarkets and specialist delicatessens. I can’t say that the lack has made much of a difference to our lives, other than having to spend triple the time whipping cream when I need it for a recipe!

O is for octopus

Octopus is readily available in Portugal, whether fresh from the fish markets or frozen from the supermarket. It’s used in a range of dishes and – when cooked correctly – is a succulent, delicious food that works well with a range of flavours.

Octopus - used in a wide range of Portuguese recipes

Octopus – used in a wide range of Portuguese recipes

Two of my favourite recipes are octopus salad, which uses tinned octopus in garlic oil, and roast octopus in red wine, made with frozen octopus that is slowly over-roasted until tender and delightful.

The best place to try octopus if you don’t want to cook it yourself is the little fishing village of Santa Luzia, close to Tavira. Known as the ‘octopus capital’ of the Algarve, it boasts a number of restaurants offering a range of different octopus dishes.


Image credits: flickr