Alheira de Mirandela, Serra da Estrela cheese, kale soup, seafood rice, grilled sardines, Bairrada suckling pig and pastel de Belém are the 7 Wonders of Portuguese gastronomy. Tuck in with us.
In a country, such as Portugal, which has an enormous gastronomic tradition, choosing the seven best examples is no easy task. Controversy aside, the “7 Gastronomic Wonders”, among other merits, has got the country talking about its rich and unique culinary heritage. The contest began with 70 dishes selected by a jury. Then, another jury chose the 21 finalists and, finally, it was up to the general public to decide the seven favourites. Here they are:
Alheira de Mirandela
There are many that claim this title for their own, but the genuine article requires a certified stamp. There are only seven authentic producers and each has their own secret when it comes to mixing bread, meat (chicken, turkey, game and Bisaro pork), olive oil and garlic – the basic ingredients of this Transmontano sausage.
Serra da Estrela cheese
A semi-soft, yellow cheese with average acidity, its distinctive and persistent flavour makes it an institution and one of the world’s greatest cheeses. Thanks go to the skill of cheesmakers, the native sheep breed that provides the milk and the thistle that sprouts in the mountains, which helps the cheese curdle.
There’s no Portuguese person, rich or poor, who doesn’t feel comforted with this bowl of Minho broth made from potato, kale, onions, garlic and chouriço sausage. “A little is enough, a tiny bit to cheer, a simple existence,” sang the fado legend Amalia Rodrigues in “A Casa Portuguesa”.
Rice and seafood is a combination that can’t go wrong. The winning version comes from Vieira de Leiria beach, where it is cooked in a clay pot brought steaming to the table.
Rich in flavour and omega 3, festivities all over the country are dedicated to the humble sardine, but perhaps the regions of Lisbon and Setúbal are where it’s most popular. Best eaten plump, char-grilled and with a mixed salad with peppers and a drizzle of olive oil, or on a slice of bread.
Bairrada suckling pig
Bísaro, Malhado de Alcobaça e Bairradinus. These are the breeds chosen for the most famous suckling pig in Portugal. Roasted in a wood-burning oven, then eaten hot or cold with chips (or baked potatoes) and slices of orange. Crispy skin and fatty meat are essential.
Pastel de Belém
A registered trademark that doesn’t like to be confused with what it actually is: a custard tart. Its recipe is treated like a state secret and its reputation and success is evident in the hundreds of people who queue every day to buy them at the famous patisserie in Belém, Lisbon. Eat it warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
by Miguel Pires
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