The last get together of our cooking group had a Portuguese theme. Our hosts had been to Madeira shortly before, and had returned full of enthusiasm, and with many ideas for Portuguese dishes for us to try out.
We arrived to find everything neatly organised – with a stack of printed recipes to guide our efforts. The dishes we were to try were the following:
Caldo Verde – Portuguese Cabbage Soup
Bolo do Caco – Portuguese Flat Bread
Bacalhau A Gomes De Sa – Salt Cod, Onions and Potatoes
Peri Peri Roast Chicken – Spicy Roast Chicken
Pastel de Nata – Portuguese Custard Tarts
Quite easy – wouldn’t you think so?? We had some wonderful produce at our disposal – just look at that perfect cabbage!
And the Chicken was the way all chickens should be: plump and giving the impression of having lived a full life!
Once we had run through the recipes, everyone got their “dish” to prepare – I shared preparing the salt cod with one of our hosts. The kitchen became a hive of activity as everyone started work on their dish, and as always we had a lot of fun!
The salt cod had been soaked, with the water changed numerous times, and poached, in advance. The task of removing any skin and bones, and flaking the fish fell to me 😉 – not the most pleasant of jobs, but someone had to do it.
The dish also called for sliced and cooked potatoes, sautéed onions, hard-boiled eggs, chopped parsley, and lots of olive oil!
Once the cod was flaked, the potatoes cooked, and the onions sautéed, the dish was easy to assemble. Half the sliced potatoes went into the bottom of the oven dish, then the cod and onions were layered (cod – onions – cod – onions) and topped with the remaining half of the potatoes. I drizzled the top with a little olive oil, just enough to moisten the potatoes, but not as much as called for in the recipe.
Meanwhile my fellow cooks were busy with their recipes. The Bolo do Caco flat bread dough is made with the addition of cooked and mashed sweet potato. Once the dough is well risen, it is shaped and left to rise again, before being cooked on a griddle.
The Peri Peri Chicken starts life as a though it was going to be a regular roast chicken. The transformation comes halfway through the cooking time, when it is liberally anointed with a wonderfully aromatic and spicy Peri Peri sauce.
Caldo Verde is simplicity in itself, using mostly ingredients which are to be found in almost every kitchen: onions, garlic, potatoes, olive oil, bay leaf, cabbage or greens, and chicken stock. Two important ingredients are a little less common: Chorizo and smoked paprika. The flavour of the soup stands or falls with the quality of the chorizo, and the smoked paprika gives it a flavour which makes you try and figure out just where that taste comes from.
The recipe for the Portuguese Custard Tarts was interesting. It specified puff pastry to line the muffin tin with, but the puff pastry was rolled up, jelly roll fashion, cut into slices and then the slices placed cut side down and rolled into circles again. After a bit of deliberating, we figured out that it was perfectly logical, as that way the puff pastry would rise sideways and not push the filling up out of the tin. The custard filling was cooked on the stove, before pastry and filling were assembled in the tins and baked once more.
When all the cooking was well on the way and we were really just waiting for some things to finish, we had a well-earned glass of wine. Keeping with the Portuguese theme we had some Mateus Rose – anyone out there remember that?? And the lamps that were made with the bottles??
The labelling might have been updated, but the bottle shape is still pretty much the same, and the wine is a very pleasant, slightly fizzy rose – great as an aperitif!
Soon it was time to sit down to lunch, and we started with Caldo Verde, accompanied by Bolo do Caco.
Next up was Bacalhao A Gomes De Sa. A note on that dish – we decided it looked rather dry, so added a little milk halfway through the cooking time. The garnish of olives, hard-boiled eggs and parsley went on just before it was brought to the table.
Pride of place went to the Peri Peri Chicken. We skipped the vegetables specified in the recipe, as we had lots of food to eat apart from the chicken. The chicken was tender and juicy, and everyone could adjust the spiciness by adding more or less gravy to their portion. The chicken was served with a light salad.
All in all a great selection of recipes, and they have all made it into my recipe folder. And the Caldo Verde has already been made a couple of times. For individual recipes, here is a scan of the recipes in PDF format.