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Portuguese cuisine was first recorded in the seventeenth century, with regional recipes establishing themselves in the nineteenth century. Culinária Portuguesa, by António-Maria De Oliveira Bello, better known as Olleboma; was the first ‘Portuguese-only’ recipe book published in 1936. Despite being relatively restricted to an Atlantic, Celtic sustenance, the Portuguese cuisine also has strong French and Mediterranean influences.
The influence of Portugal's former colonial possessions is also notable, especially in the wide variety of spices used. These spices include piri piri (small, fiery chili peppers), white pepper, black pepper, paprika, clove, allspice, cumin, nutmeg, and saffron are used in meat, fish or multiple savoury dishes. Homemade hot red pepper paste made of malagueta peppers is commonly used in the various dishes of the Azores islands, along with other spices. Cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, aniseed, clove and allspice are used in many traditional desserts and sometimes in savoury dishes.
Olive oil is one of the bases of Portuguese cuisine, which is used both for cooking and flavouring raw meals. This has led to a unique classification of olive oils in Portugal, depending on their acidity: 1.5 degrees is only for cooking with (virgin olive oil), anything lower than 1 degree is good for dousing over fish, potatoes and vegetables (extra virgin). 0.7, 0.5 or even 0.3 degrees are for those who do not enjoy the taste of olive oil at all, or who wish to use it in, say, a mayonnaise or sauce where the taste is meant to be disguised.
Portuguese dishes include meats (pork, beef, poultry mainly also game (hunting) and others), seafood (fish, crustaceans such as lobster, crab, shrimps, prawns, octopus, and molluscs such as scallops, clams and barnacles), vegetables and legumes (a variety of soups) and desserts (cakes being the most numerous). Portuguese often consume bread with their meals and there are numerous varieties of traditional fresh breads like broa which may also have regional and national variations within the countries under Lusophone or Galician influence.
A Portuguese breakfast often consists of fresh bread, with butter, ham, cheese or jam, accompanied by coffee, milk, tea or hot chocolate. A small espresso coffee (sometimes called a bica after the spout of the coffee machine, or Cimbalino after the Italian coffee machine La Cimbali) a very popular beverage had during breakfast or after lunch, which is enjoyed at home or at the many cafés in towns and cities throughout Portugal. Sweet pastries are also very popular, as well as breakfast cereal, mixed with milk or yogurt and fruit.
Lunch, often lasting over an hour, is served between noon and 2 o'clock, typically around 1 o'clock and dinner is generally served around 8 o'clock. There are three main courses, with lunch and dinner usually including a soup. A common Portuguese soup is caldo verde, which consists of a base of cooked, then pureed, potato, onion and garlic, to which shredded collard greens are then added. Slices of chouriço (a smoked or spicy Portuguese sausage) are often added as well, but may be omitted, thereby making the soup fully vegan.
Among fish recipes, salted cod (bacalhau) dishes are pervasive. The most typical desserts are arroz doce (rice pudding decorated with cinnamon) and caramel custard, known as pudim de ovos or flã de caramelo. There is also a wide variety of cheeses made from the milk of sheep, goats or cows. These cheeses can also contain a mixture of different kinds of milk. The most famous are queijo da serra from the region of Serra da Estrela, Queijo São Jorge from the Portuguese island of São Jorge, and Requeijão. A popular pastry is the pastel de nata, a small custard tart often sprinkled with cinnamon.
Fish and seafood
Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood eaten. The country has Europe's highest fish consumption per capita, and is among the top four in the world for this indicator. Fish is served grilled, boiled (including poached and simmered), fried or deep-fried, stewed (often in clay pot cooking), roasted, or even steamed. Foremost amongst these is bacalhau (cod), which is the type of fish most consumed in Portugal. It is said that there are more than 365 ways to cook cod, one for every day of the year. Cod is almost always used dried and salted, because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic developed before the invention of refrigeration—therefore it needs to be soaked in water or sometimes milk before cooking. The simpler fish dishes are often flavoured with virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Portugal has been fishing and trading cod since the 15th century, and this cod trade accounts for its widespread use in the cuisine. Other popular seafoods includes fresh sardines (especially as sardinhas assadas),  sea bass, John Dory, snapper, swordfish, mackerel, halibut, octopus, squid, cuttlefish, crabs, shrimp and prawns, lobster, spiny lobster, and many other crustaceans, such as barnacles, hake, horse mackerel (scad), scabbard (especially in Madeira), and a great variety of other fish and shellfish, as well as molluscs, such as clams, mussels, oysters, scallops and periwinkles.
Caldeirada is a stew consisting of a variety of fish and shellfish with potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, parsley, garlic and onions.
River lamprey and eels are considered fresh water delicacies. The Coimbra and Aveiro regions of central Portugal, are renowned for eel stews and lamprey seasonal dishes and festivals. Arganil and Penacova have popular dishes such as Arroz de Lampreia or Lampreia à Bordalesa.
Sardines used to be preserved in brine for sale in rural areas. Later, sardine canneries developed all along the Portuguese coast. Ray fish is dried in the sun in Northern Portugal. Canned tuna is widely available in Continental Portugal. Tuna used to be plentiful in the waters of the Algarve. They were trapped in fixed nets when they passed the Portuguese southern coast to spawn in the Mediterranean, and again when they returned to the Atlantic. Portuguese writer Raul Brandão, in his book Os Pescadores, describes how the tuna was hooked from the raised net into the boats, and how the fishermen would amuse themselves riding the larger fish around the net. Fresh tuna, however, is usually eaten in Madeira and the Algarve where tuna steaks are an important item in local cuisine. Canned sardines or tuna, served with boiled potatoes, black-eyed peas, collard greens and hard-boiled eggs, constitute a convenient meal when there is no time to prepare anything more elaborate.
Meat and poultry
Eating meat and poultry on a daily basis was historically a privilege of the upper classes. Pork and beef are the mo st common meats in the country. Meat was a staple at the nobleman's table during the Middle Ages. A Portuguese Renaissance chronicler, Garcia de Resende, describes how an entrée at a royal banquet was composed of a whole roasted ox garnished with a circle of chickens. A common Portuguese dish, mainly eaten in winter, is cozido à portuguesa, which somewhat parallels the French pot-au-feu or the New England boiled dinner. Its composition depends on the cook's imagination and budget. An extensive lavish cozido may include beef, pork, salt pork, several types of charcutaria (such as cured chouriço, morcela e chouriço de sangue, linguiça, farinheira, etc.), pig's feet, cured ham, potatoes, carrots, turnips, cabbage and rice. This would originally have been a favourite food of the affluent farmer, which later reached the tables of the urban bourgeoisie and typical restaurants.
Tripas à moda do Porto (tripe with white beans) is said to have originated in the 14th century, when the Castilians laid siege to Lisbon and blockaded the Tagus entrance. The Portuguese chronicler Fernão Lopes dramatically recounts how starvation spread all over the city. Food prices rose astronomically, and small boys would go to the former wheat market place in search of a few grains on the ground, which they would eagerly put in their mouths when found. Old and sick people, as well as prostitutes, or in short anybody who would not be able to aid in the city's defence, were sent out to the Castilian camp, only to be returned to Lisbon by the invaders. It was at this point that the citizens of Porto decided to organize a supply fleet that managed to slip through the river blockade. Apparently, since all available meat was sent to the capital for a while, Porto residents were limited to tripe and other organs. Others claim that it was only in 1415 that Porto deprived itself of meat to supply the expedition that conquered the city of Ceuta. Whatever the truth may be, since at least the 17th century, people from Porto have been known as tripeiros or tripe eaters. Another Portuguese dish with tripe is Dobrada.
Many other meat dishes feature in Portuguese cuisine. In the Bairrada area, a famous dish is Leitão à Bairrada (roasted suckling pig). Nearby, another dish, chanfana (goat slowly cooked in red wine, paprika and white pepper) is claimed by two towns, Miranda do Corvo ("Capital da Chanfana") and Vila Nova de Poiares ("Capital Universal da Chanfana").Carne de porco à alentejana, fried pork with clams, is a popular dish with a misleading name as it originated in the Algarve, not in Alentejo. Alentejo is a vast agricultural province with only one sizeable fishing port, Sines; and in the past, shellfish would not have been available in the inland areas. On the other hand, all points in the Algarve are relatively close to the coast and pigs used to be fed with fish, so clams were added to the fried pork to disguise the fishy taste of the meat. The dish was used to test Jewish converts’ new Christian faith; consisting of pork and shellfish (two non-kosher items), Cristãos-novos were expected to eat the dish in public in order to prove they had renounced the Jewish faith. Nowadays, however, nobody would dream of calling it carne de porco à Algarvia. In Alto Alentejo (North Alentejo), there is a dish made with lungs, blood and liver, of either pork or lamb. This traditional Easter dish is eaten at other times of year as well. Alcatra, beef marinated in red wine, garlic and spices like cloves and whole allspice, then roasted in a clay pot, is a tradition of Terceira Island in the Azores.
Farinheira is another Portuguese smoked sausage, which uses wheat flour as base ingredient. This sausage is one of the ingredients of traditional dishes like Cozido à Portuguesa. Borba, Estremoz and Portalegre farinheiras all have a "PGI)" in the European Union.
The Portuguese steak, bife, is a slice of fried beef or pork marinated in spices and served in a wine-based sauce with fried potatoes, rice, or salad. To add a few more calories to this dish, an egg, sunny-side up, may be placed on top of the meat, in which case the dish acquires a new name, bife com ovo a cavalo (steak with an egg on horseback). This dish is sometimes referred to as bitoque, to demonstrate the idea that the meat only "touches" the grill twice, meaning that it does not grill for too long before being served, resulting in a rare to medium-rare cut of meat. Another variation of bife is bife à casa (house steak), which may resemble the bife à cavalo or may feature embellishments, such as asparagus.
Iscas (fried liver) were a favourite request in old Lisbon taverns. Sometimes, they were called iscas com elas, the elas referring to sautéed potatoes. Small beef or pork steaks in a roll (pregos or bifanas, respectively) are popular snacks, often served at beer halls with a large mug of beer. In modern days, a prego or bifana, eaten at a snack bar counter, may constitute lunch in itself. Espetada (meat on a skewer) is very popular in the island of Madeira.
Alheira, a yellowish sausage from Trás-os-Montes, traditionally served with fried potatoes and a fried egg, has an interesting story. In the late 15th century, King Manuel of Portugal ordered all resident Jews to convert to Christianity or leave the country. The King did not really want to expel the Jews, who constituted the economic and professional élite of the kingdom, but was forced to do so by outside pressures. So, when the deadline arrived, he announced that no ships were available for those who refused conversion—the vast majority—and had men, women and children dragged to churches for a forced mass baptism. Others were even baptized near the ships themselves, which gave birth to a concept popular at the time: baptizados em pé, literally meaning: "baptized while standing". It is believed that some of the Jews maintained their religion secretly, but tried to show an image of being good Christians. Since avoiding pork was a tell-tale practice in the eyes of the Portuguese Inquisition, new Christians devised a type of sausage that would give the appearance of being made with pork, but only contained heavily spiced game and chicken. Over time, pork has been added to the alheiras. Alheira-sausage varieties with PGI protection status, include Alheira de Vinhais and Alheira de Barroso-Montalegre.
Presunto (prosciutto ham) comes in a wide variety in Portugal, the most famous presunto being from the Chaves region. Presunto is usually cut in thin slices or small pieces and consumed as aperitif, tea, or added as ingredient to different dishes.
Several varieties of presunto are protected by European law with protected designations of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI), such as Presunto de Barrancos or Presunto Bísaro de Vinhais.
Poultry, easily raised around a peasant's home, was at first considered quality food.
Turkeys were only eaten for Christmas or on special occasions, such as wedding receptions or banquets. Up until the 1930s, the farmers from the outskirts of Lisbon would come around Christmas time to bring herds of turkeys to the city streets for sale. Before being killed, a stiff dose of brandy was forced down the birds' throats to make the meat more tender and tasty, and hopefully to ensure a happy state of mind when the time would come for the use of a sharp knife. Poor people ate chicken almost only when they were sick. Nowadays, mass production in poultry farms makes these meats accessible to all classes. Thus bifes de peru, turkey steaks, have become an addition to Portuguese tables.
Vegetables and starches
Vegetables that are popular in Portuguese cookery include numerous cabbage varieties, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions. There are many starchy dishes, such as feijoada, a rich black bean stew with beef and pork, and açorda, a Portuguese bread soup, ’’cozido’’ stews with kale, white-beans, red-beans, Catarino and Bragançano, faba-beans, black-eyed beans; pumpkins like menina and porqueira varietals, are used in soups and soufflés.
Many dishes are served with salads usually made from tomato, lettuce, shredded carrots and onion, usually seasoned. Potatoes and rice are also extremely common in Portuguese cuisine. Soups made from a variety of vegetables, meats and beans are commonly available, one of the most popular being caldo verde, made from potato purée, thinly sliced kale, and slices of chouriço.
Fruits, nuts, and berries
Before the arrival of potatoes from the New World, chestnuts (Castanea sativa) were widely used as seasonal staple ingredients. There is a revival of chestnut dishes, desserts and compotes in Portugal and production is relevant in inland areas of central and northern Portugal.
Other seasonal fruit, nuts and berries such as:
Pears,apples, table grapes, plums, peaches, cherries, sour cherries, melons, watermelons, citrus, figs, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, redcurrant and blueberries are part of the Portuguese diet. These are consumed naturally or used as desserts, marmalades, compotes, jellies and liqueurs.
There are a wide variety of Portuguese cheeses, made from cow's, goat's or sheep's milk. Usually these are very strongly flavoured and fragrant. Traditional Portuguese cuisine does not include cheese in its recipes, so it is usually eaten on its own before or after the main dishes. The Queijo da Serra da Estrela, which is very strong in flavour, can be eaten soft or more matured. Serra da Estrela is handmade from fresh sheep's milk and thistle-derived rennet. In the Azores islands, there is a type of cheese made from cow's milk with a spicy taste, the Queijo São Jorge. Other well known cheeses with protected designation of origin, such as Queijo de Azeitão, Queijo de Castelo Branco. The Queijo mestiço de Tolosa, is the only Portuguese cheese with protected geographical indication and it is made in the civil parish of Tolosa, in the small village of Nisa, Portalegre District, Alto Alentejo. Nearby is also Queijo de Nisa another local variation within the Portalegre District.
Wines and beers
Wine (red, white and "green") is the traditional Portuguese drink, the rosé variety being popular in non-Portuguese markets and not particularly common in Portugal itself. Vinho verde, termed "green" wine, is a specific kind of wine which can be red, white or rosé, and is only produced in the northwestern (Minho province) and does not refer to the colour of the drink, but to the fact that this wine needs to be drunk "young". A "green wine" should be consumed as a new wine while a "maduro" wine usually can be consumed after a period of ageing. Green wines are usually slightly sparkling. Port wine is a fortified wine of distinct flavour produced in Douro, which is normally served with desserts. Vinho da Madeira, is a regional wine produced in Madeira, similar to sherry. From the distillation of grape wastes from wine production, this is then turned into a variety of brandies (called aguardente, literally "burning water"), which are very strong-tasting. Typical liqueurs, such as Licor Beirão and Ginjinha, are very popular alcoholic beverages in Portugal. In the south, particularly the Algarve, a distilled spirit called medronho, which is made from the fruit of the strawberry tree.
Beer was already consumed in Pre-Roman times, namely by the Lusitanians who drank beer much more than wine. The latinised word ‘cerveja’ (from cerevisia < cervesia) derives from an older Celtic term used in Gaul. During the Reconquista, many knights from Northern Europe preferred beer to the local wine. The ‘Biergarten’ culture, called Cervejaria in Portugal, is widespread in all regions and several local brands are popular with locals and visitors alike. Lisbon has a Beer Museum focusing on Portuguese and Lusophone countries’ beer traditions.
Pastries and sweets
The Portuguese sponge cake called Pão-de-Ló is believed to be based on a 17th century French recipe. Probably the most famous of the Portuguese patisseries are the pastéis de nata, originally known as Pastéis de Belém in the Lisbon district with the same name in the early nineteenth century. It is unclear when and where the recipe was first started. Monks of the military-religious Order of Christ lived in a church on the same location and provided assistance to seafarers in transit since the early fourteenth century, at least.
The House of Aviz and the Jerónimos Monastery followed, the monastery lastly being occupied by the Hieronymite monks. Following the 1820 liberal revolution, events led to the closure of all monastic orders. The Pastéis de Belém were first commercialised just outside the Jerónimos monastery by people who had lost their jobs there. The original patisserie, adjacent to the monastery still operates today. This pastry is now found worldwide, it is known in the UK by its original name or also as Portuguese custard tart.
Many of the country's typical pastries were created in the Middle Ages monasteries by nuns and monks and sold as a means of supplementing their incomes. The names of these desserts are usually related to monastic life; barriga de freira (nun's belly), papos d’anjo (angel's chests), and toucinho do céu (bacon from heaven). For that reason, they are often referred to as doçaria conventual or receitas monásticas (monastic recipes). Their legacy dates back to the 15th century when sugar from overseas became easier to access by all classes. Nuns at the time, were often young nobles who inherited knowledge from their households and developed recipes. These recipes were passed and perfected from generation to generation, usually within the secrecy of convents. Many of today’s Portuguese deserts originated in convents and monasteries.
Most towns have a local specialty, usually egg or cream-based pastry. Some examples are leite-creme (a dessert consisting of an egg custard-base topped with a layer of hard caramel, a variant of creme brûlée) and pudim flã.
Influences on world cuisine
Portugal formerly had a large empire and the cuisine has been influenced in both directions. Portuguese influences are strongly evident in Brazilian cuisine, which features its own versions of Portuguese dishes, such as feijoada and caldeirada (fish stew). Other Portuguese influences can be tasted in the Chinese territory of Macau (Macanese cuisine) and in the Indian province of Goa, where Goan dishes, such as vindalho (a spicy curry), show the pairing of vinegar, chilli pepper and garlic.
The Persian orange, grown widely in southern Europe since the 11th century, was bitter. Sweet oranges were brought from India to Europe in the 15th century by Portuguese traders. Some Southeast Indo-European languages name the orange after Portugal, which was formerly its main source of imports. Examples are Albanian portokall, Bulgarian portokal [портокал], Greek portokali [πορτοκάλι], Persian porteghal [پرتقال], and Romanian portocală. In South Italian dialects (Neapolitan), the orange is named portogallo or purtualle, literally "the Portuguese ones". Related names can also be found in other languages: Turkish Portakal, Arabic al-burtuqal [البرتقال], Amharic birtukan [ቢርቱካን], and Georgian phortokhali [ფორთოხალი].
The Portuguese imported spices, such as cinnamon, now liberally used in its traditional desserts and savoury dishes, from Asia. Furthermore, the Portuguese "canja", a chicken soup made with rice, is a popular food therapy for the sick, which shares similarities with the Asian congee, used in the same way, suggesting it may have come from the East.
In 1543, Portuguese trade ships reached Japan and introduced refined sugar, valued there as a luxury good. Japanese lords enjoyed Portuguese confectionery so much it was remodelled in the now traditional Japanese konpeitō (candy), kasutera (sponge cake), and keiran somen (the Japanese version of Portuguese "fios de ovos"; this dish is also popular in Thai cuisine under the name "kanom foy tong"), creating the Nanban-gashi, or "New-Style Wagashi". During this Nanban trade period, tempura was introduced to Japan by early Portuguese missionaries.
Tea was made fashionable in Britain in the 1660s after the marriage of King Charles II to the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, who brought her liking for tea, originally from the colony of Macau, to the court.
All over the world, Portuguese immigrants influenced the cuisine of their new "homelands", such as Hawaii and parts of New England. Pão doce (Portuguese sweet bread), malasadas, sopa de feijão (bean soup), and Portuguese sausages (such as linguiça and chouriço) are eaten regularly in the Hawaiian islands by families of all ethnicities. Similarly, the "papo seco" is a Portuguese bread roll with an open texture, which has become a staple of cafés in Jersey, where there is a substantial Portuguese community.
In Australia and Canada, variants of "Portuguese-style" chicken, sold principally in fast food outlets, have become extremely popular in the last two decades. Offerings include conventional chicken dishes and a variety of chicken and beef burgers. In some cases, such as "Portuguese chicken sandwiches", the dishes offered bear only a loose connection to Portuguese cuisine, usually only the use of "Piri-piri sauce" (a Portuguese sauce made with piri piri, which are small, fiery chili peppers), and the connection is made simply as a marketing technique.
The Portuguese had a major influence on African cuisine and vice versa. They are responsible for introducing corn in the African continent. In turn, the South African restaurant chain Nando's, among others, have helped diffusing Portuguese cuisine worldwide, in Asia for example, where the East Timorese cuisine also received influence.
Madeira wine and early American history
The 18th century Madeira was more popular in North America and the Caribbean than it did in the British Empire. Barrel-aged madeira especially was a luxury product consumed by wealthy colonists. The price continued to rise from £5 at the start of the 18th century to £43 by the early 19th-century. It was even served as a toast during the First Continental Congress in 1775.
Madeira was an important wine in the history of the United States of America. No wine-quality grapes could be grown among the 13 colonies, so imports were needed, with a great focus on Madeira. One of the major events on the road to revolution in which Madeira played a key role was the British seizure of John Hancock's sloop the Liberty on May 9, 1768. Hancock's boat was seized after he had unloaded a cargo of 25 casks (3,150 gallons) of Madeira wine, and a dispute arose over import duties. The seizure of the Liberty caused riots to erupt among the people of Boston.
Madeira wine was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson after George Wythe introduced him to it. It was used to toast The Declaration of Independence and George Washington, Betsy Ross, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are also said to have appreciated the qualities of Madeira. The wine was mentioned in Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. On one occasion, Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, of the great quantities of Madeira he consumed while a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress. A bottle of Madeira was used by visiting Captain James Server to christen the USS Constitution in 1797. Chief Justice John Marshall was also known to appreciate Madeira, as did his fellow justices on the early U.S. Supreme Court.
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