Food and the Fabulous in Portugal

I spent a very happy three months in Portugal, two years ago, based in a little apartment in Estrela, Lisbon. It’s been my deep desire to return ever since. I’ve written about the recipes  (adapted at home), and the special people I met, and lost along the way. I am still in touch with a number of them from Chef Joe Best to the friends I made on Twitter, who came out to meet me and show me their city.

I am a former commercial law attorney turned travel writer and a self-taught cook and recipe developer with a deep interest in food anthropology and the cultural bridges that connect us. A Portuguese friend was convinced that I would write a book about the cuisine after my stay – but there is so much to eat and learn yet. The Douro Valley was magnificent, but I didn’t get to the centre and the east of the country.

When I left Lisbon, on that very last day – I took a long slow walk from Estrela down to Chiado and with every cobble stone I passed, I felt inside, a welling of emotion. Tears streamed down my face and I knew I wouldn’t be able to replicate the experience of feeling connected to people and food, anywhere outside Portugal. A local magazine wrote about my experience here.

Here’s a snippet:

“I miss the tiled pavements, that goes without saying. Each tile telling a story, many nautical in nature – an art from artisans of a bygone era. I miss the convenience of purchasing fruit (even two plums and a banana being acceptable) just two doors down. I miss the clack-clack-clack of heels on the pavements or the unmistakable rumble of the ramshackle trams. I miss seeing so many old people (and I mean really old) go about their business independently, with everyone else. The impossible hills and the slopes I encouraged us to climb especially after large dinners. The people we met, so warm and welcoming.”

I would love to have an opportunity to return, to connect with locals again and to cook Portuguese dishes in the setting that is locked in my heart.

Here’s my recipe for Arroz de Marisco

Arroz de Marisco

We ate arroz de marisco, a Portuguese seafood rice, saucier than paella and without the crusty bits, a number of times in Lisbon. Inspired by it I also made a version with chicken, chouriço and blood sausage while we were still there.

Portugal is abundant (perhaps not as much these days) in seafood – shrimp, prawns, clams, shellfish like langoustine, crab and lobster as well as fish. Substitute seafood according to what you have available and the occasion. Frozen seafood may also be used.

I enhanced the sauce by using chopped anchovies, they dissolve in the sauce but impart a saltiness that I find adds depth you can’t achieve with anything else, except perhaps Asian fish sauce.

Adjust the chilli to your liking.

beloved lisbon

I have been sharing stories about beloved Lisbon, a city I fell in love with in 2008 and in which I based for three months earlier this year between travels, for a while.

I want to share these images with you and for all the reasons I miss Lisbon, click on the link to read more.

My ode to Lisbon and other recipe and travel posts were picked up and translated into a story about the time I spent there, in the local Get It magazine.

Views from Bairro Alto hotel, lisbon

Here’s an excerpt:

“I miss the tiled pavements, that goes without saying. Each tile telling a story, many nautical in nature – an art from artisans of a bygone era. I miss the convenience of purchasing fruit (even two plums and a banana being acceptable) just two doors down. I miss the clack-clack-clack of heels on the pavements or the unmistakable rumble of the ramshackle trams. I miss seeing so many old people (and I mean really old) go about their business independently, with everyone else. The impossible hills and the slopes I encouraged us to climb especially after large dinners. The people we met, so warm and welcoming.”

pavements, Lisbon

Relaxing in Jardim do Torel

The Recipe

Arroz de Marisco - Portuguese Seafood Rice

This recipe has several steps and does take a bit of time to put together, but is so worth the extra effort. Making the stock base with the fried prawn heads is crucial to the taste profile of this dish. Budget about 3.5 hours to make this dish in a relaxed and leisurely fashion- from chopping and prep to cooking through the steps. Read through the ingredient list, set everything you need out/store what you don’t need for a while in the fridge (seafood) and go over the instructions to familiarise yourself with the steps. I do hope you enjoy making this dish.

Ingredients

6-8 servings

12-16 large prawns, deveined and shell on, heads chopped and kept aside

300 g fresh mussels, cleaned

1 medium green pepper, diced

1-2 t chilli pepper flakes

4-5 Mediterranean Delicacies anchovy fillets, chopped

300 g firm white fish (e.g gurnard, dorado or kingklip)

1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley or coriander (or mix) finely chopped

extra lemon wedges

For the stock base:

1 T olive oil

12-16 prawn heads

1 large carrot, diced

3 T finely diced onion

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

……………………………………………….

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

410 g fresh ripe tomatoes or a can peeled and chopped Italian tomatoes (best quality), pureed

1 t sugar

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

2 mild red chillis, chopped

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

2 T fresh lemon juice

salt, to taste

For the rice:

1.5 cups short- medium grain rice (I used arborio in this recipe)

strained stock, plus extra water (if needed)

410 g can chopped, peeled and pureed Italian tomatoes (best quality) —add 1/2 t sugar

3/4 cup dry white wine

arroz de marisco image

Method

1. Tap the mussels a few times. Discard those that are still open. Steam cleaned, de-beared mussels in 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and lower down to a simmer- process shouldn’t take longer than 4- 5 minutes. Discard those that don’t open. Retain 1.5 cups of the steaming liquid (add more if necessary but not too much as the liquid released by the mussels will become diluted)

2. In a frying pan on medium heat, add prawn heads, carrot, chopped onions and garlic. Fry for 4 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and blend in processor or with hand held blender until smooth. <keep prawns and fish in fridge >

3. To a large pot add the ground prawn mixture, chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, 1 can or 410 g tomato, sugar, mild chillis, 1.5 cup mussel liquid, 1.5 cup water, lemon juice and salt. Bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Then lower heat slightly and cook for 40 minutes, stirring.

4. Set stock aside, it will have reduced by more than half. Strain through a sieve, pushing the onions and other soft bits through, a little. Don’t force them.

5. In a paella pan or large, deep frying pan add the rice on medium heat. Then ladle the hot stock, bit by bit until it has absorbed, the way you would with risotto. Keep stirring the rice. I prefer to alternate hot stock with wine and the tomato puree until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped anchovies and chilli pepper after the first 5 minutes. [The total process should take around 40 minutes.]

6. When the rice is 3/4 cooked, add the green pepper. The fish will take 6-8 minutes to cook and the prawns 5 minutes, so time this accordingly. You add the seafood directly to the rice and stir around gently, once or twice with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to break the fish up.

7. Switch heat off and add the mussels at the end, adjust seasoning and allow the mussels to infuse with the flavour for 15-20 minutes before serving.

8. Add more water if the rice is too stodgy, stirring carefully. Stir the herbs through.

Serve with lemon wedges and cold beers or lemonade. This dish will continue to deepen in flavour over the next two days. Store in the fridge when it cools.

seafood rice from Portugal

I hope you’ve enjoyed this four part food and travel series with Medi Deli. Wishing you a very merry Christmas.

This post forms part of the series of recipes I am preparing for Mediterranean Delicacies. It is a Food and the Fabulous Endorsed project and I will be remunerated for it.

 

Gate to Praca Do Comercio

Gate to Praca Do Comercio

 

This post forms part of the series of recipes I am preparing for Mediterranean Delicacies. It is a Food and the Fabulous Endorsed project and I will be remunerated for it.


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6 Comments

  1. lapiubelladitutte on 29 December 2012

    Beautiful pictures of a beautiful city!!! Can’t wait to taste the recipe!

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  2. Ishay on 30 December 2012

    Thank you kindly. Hope you enjoy making it, if you do.

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  4. Dario on 28 May 2013

    Visited Lisbon 12 months ago and really am missing it now! I had a fantastic Arroz de Marisco at a small restaurant in Baixa and craved it ever since. your recipe is the closest I’ve found and cant wait to try it! thanks

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  5. Ishay on 28 May 2013

    Hi Dario. Lisbon has that effect, soothes the heart and can break it a little too with longing. I hope you try it, anchovies are an added extra. Leave out if you don’t prefer too strong a flavour, I really enjoyed them in the dish.
    Happy cooking!

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  7. Paul on 17 November 2013

    I love this dish. Are you suggesting you could make a day in advance and store in the fridge? If so how would you heat it up? Thanks

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  8. Ishay on 17 November 2013

    Hi Paul. I’ve had no problem heating it on the stove slowly, or covered in the oven.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts