Portuguese Alheira, Lardons and Asparagus Pasta

… and things I miss about Lisbon

*Note I made this dish recently in summery Lisbon. Substitute asparagus for peas or another veg in season where you are*

Before we departed Lisbon, for our last stop Paris, I knew I would miss the old city terribly. I spent the last day in Lisbon walking past the Bairro Alto to the square in Chiado that we become well acquainted with during the past three months of on-off living like nomads, with nice luggage. I pointed out the pavements (like I had been for the months prior to that, you might have noticed via my instagram feed) and had to be pushed along by the crowds on the narrow walkways, to move forward. But I didn’t want to move, I wanted to trace the shapes with my eyes and burn them into my memory.

ornate pavement Lisbon – down town

I looked up at the buildings in our street, Rua dos Ferreiros, some pale pink, yellow and powder blue, others with facades covered in tiles – green or blue and white. And that word facade- so apt for the front faces of buildings in many European cities, as opposed to the meaning of putting on a front, faking it, as per the applied usage at home. And elsewhere.

Old peacock visiting our street

That street of ours, Rua dos Ferreiros, where the s is pronounced ‘shh’ and the second e is an a. How long we took to finally deliver the name flawlessly to cab drivers. How we would stifle giggles each time one of us said it and it was far from the perfect execution. Never mind. The joy was living in a street where a cab would arrive in two minutes, most times. And where the famous number 28 tram would ra-ra-rattle and chug down steep, you-better-not-be-wearing-stilettos Calcada da Estrela, meters from our front door and all the way to Alfama and up and up to the majestic Sao Jorge Castle.

catching the tram Lisbon

A few times the neighbourhood peacock arrived on our street. What a surprise that was. “Looking for snacks?”, I asked him.

Two mini grocers (the Mom and Pop variety) on the right of our building’s door. Another three just to the left and up the road.

Fresh orange juice and the best pasteis de nata this side of Belem (yes, we tested) for every morning we were in Lisbon from the auntie at the store. She became ‘our’ orange juice auntie, and while she spoke no English and all we supplied were sheepish smiles and hand gestures, she knew what we wanted and filled the take-away plastic beer glasses with our orange juice. Sagres, we winked at the morning orange juice.

And if you took that glass of orange juice and did not walk down and to the right but up the steep incline, in four minutes you’d arrive out of breath and thighs aching, at the neighbourhood park. A gorgeous little oasis of green and coolth. And most evidently the home of the abovementioned peacock.

number 28 tram Lisbon, going up Calcada da Estrela

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.

view from bairro alto

Thought the rule was bright nails and *no* cleavage. With Paula Neto

I miss the views stretching over and above the residential buildings standing next to each other in dignified rows, but crissing and crossing to the eye as the roads wind up and down and up again. The appearance of a blue, blue sea from the heights of the Bairro Alto Hotel roof terrace or the Hotel Mundial’s panoramic terrace bar. A cold glass of vinho verde or white port setting the memories of a truly wonderful summer.

views from Bairro Alto Hotel

 

I miss the strains of fado from the cabs of older drivers. Cherry brandy and frango assado (grilled chicken). I miss that, apart from the language, I fitted in well. I miss the streets and alleyways, the churches and bars that I never set foot in. I miss the Lisbon I have yet to explore.

Praca Do Comercio

Door of Carmo Convent Lisbon, image

Alheira

Alheria is a smooth, raw sausage usually made from several types of meat. It is cut loose from the casing and fried or shaped into patties and fried, served on its own or these days in more gourmet combinations.

The Portuguese are keen to inform you about the history of the alheira sausage from the North and I had at least three friends telling me the story. It is a piece of food history worth knowing. This is what good ol, Wikipedia says:

It was invented by the Jews of Portugal, who were forced to convert to Christianity, as a way to deceive the

“Portuguese Inquisition. As the Jews weren’t allowed by their religion to eat porkmeat, they were very easily identifiable by the fact that they didn’t prepare and smoke the common pork sausages in the smokehouses (fumeiros in Portuguese). They, therefore, replaced pork with a large variety of other meats, such as poultry and game, which would then be mixed with a bread dough for consistency. This recipe would spread amongst Christians, although they added the ever-present pork to it.”

I was advised by a local chef to use a good quality veal alheira, but I used one found at the nearby gourmet store. It was a mix, as far as I could tell. When I tweeted a photo of this dish, I heard the news that Cape Town meat merchant Frankie Fenner had produced an alheira. Good news for us Capetonians and if you want to try this dish, I suggest you contact them.

Alternatively, substitute with good pork or beef (or even chicken) sausage that you mash well with a fork during cooking. It isn’t the same, as the texture of alhiera is something special, but it will work in this dish

Vistors relaxing in Jardim do Torel

Ingredients

Serves 2

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

2 T olive oil

1 T butter

1 alheria sausage, skin removed

3/4 cup lardons, diced

5 small cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 cups pasta of your choice, cooked

12 spears asparagus, shaved and steamed

zest of 1/2 medium lemon

extra virgin olive oil for dressing

salt, to taste.

alheira with asparagus

Method

Heat a non stick pan on medium heat and fry the onions in the olive oil and butter.

Add the alheira and lardons and brown well, stirring.

Add garlic and stir. Once garlic is cooked, turn heat down to low.

Add the pasta, asparagus and extra virgin olive oil, salt and lemon zest and mix well.

Serve immediately

 

 

Looking across Alfama

 

Things he misses

 

even on a cold day!

 

Views of Lisbon from Hotel Mundial


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17 Comments

  1. Paula Cristina Neto July 18, 2012 at 7:09 am - Reply

    🙂 loved this blogpost! hugs

    • Ishay July 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      Thanks Paula!

  2. Andi July 18, 2012 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Your posts have really made me want to go to Lisbon. I was there briefly many years ago, sort of passing through on the way to Caiscais. My grandparents are from the Azores so I have been there as well. But I haven’t spent a lot of time in Lisbon and I think it is something I need to do. I have also never seen this dish – intriguing!

    • Ishay July 23, 2012 at 2:45 am - Reply

      Hi Andi.Thanks for writing and the tweet. It’s a city a fell in love with a few years ago and one I knew I’d find hard to leave. It’s higgledy-piggledy in some ways, but warm and gorgeous to me. I like to think I will return soon. Love to know what you think when you go.

  3. GuiTattoo July 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    See You Soon !
    Tanks for Your visit
    😉

    • Ishay July 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      That would be nice, thank you Gui!

  4. Kitchenboy in Taiwan July 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous pics and lovely food!

    • Ishay July 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      Definitely has a piece of my heart, does Lisbon. Thanks K-boy 🙂

  5. Ana le Roux July 18, 2012 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Oh my word…such nostalgia. I can smell the aromas, taste the food and feel the unmistakable ambience of Lisbon. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. My whole family lives there and we lived there for 6 months. That is what food memories are made of. I so miss the taste of a fried alheira. Must check out the link you provided and get me some soon. 🙂

    • Ishay July 18, 2012 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      Hi Ana. Thank you for your lovely comment and sharing your memories and family’s history. I hope Frankie Fenner makes more alheira and if you use it, please send me a pic.

  6. Joe Best July 19, 2012 at 2:53 am - Reply

    We miss U too Ishay!! :_)

    JB aka Supirinho

    • Ishay July 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm - Reply

      Hi Joe. Such special people, the Portuguese- was lovely to meet you and Ana.

  7. Kesh July 22, 2012 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your experience of Lisbon. Recipe has got my mouth watering as usual. Where could I get the alheira in jozi?

    • Ishay July 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm - Reply

      Hi Kesh. Your best bet is to ask a good butcher and take an explanation of alheria with you. If you know a Portuguese tavern, or resto – ask them if they know. Otherwise, substitute a good quality sausage that you remove from the casing- pork, beef or chicken. Lamb is too strong a taste.Enjoy!

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  10. […] in love with a place. This has happened to me a number of times. I could imagine living in Lisbon or New York or Paris. I could see myself living in a small riad, in some part of Morocco. Perhaps […]

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