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Posts tagged ‘Porto’

Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

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Ah, Paddy’s Day.

Those Facebook memories that keep popping up remind me that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just a fun family holiday. Things just seem to happen for me around this time of year – good things.

Luck of the Irish? Perhaps. Or maybe we’re all just in better moods because the sun tends to come out in March. The trees start to bud, my garden starts to grow, the end of calving season (and; therefore, around-the-clock cow monitoring) is in sight and the air feels significantly warmer.

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Patrick with some Irish fans in Yogyakarta – our most booze-free Paddy’s Day

This time eight years ago, Patrick and I were embarking on a three-month-long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Facebook tells me we were in Java, Indonesia. We just climbed Gunung Bromo, a small active volcano, and were en route to Yogyakarta – a city we absolutely loved.

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Paddy’s Day Parade in Seoul, South Korea, 2008 (strange, no?)

This time four years ago, we were getting ready to leave Toronto for good. I was very excited and a little bit worried. After all, I was nearly six months pregnant and we were both leaving good jobs behind, with no work prospects in Ireland. I loved my work in Toronto but didn’t love living in the city. I couldn’t deal with the prospect of raising my kids so far away from family. Moving to Ireland, as you may have guessed, has worked out brilliantly. We are happy and thriving (and working!).

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Beautiful Porto. Take me back!

This time three years ago we were in Portugal on our first-ever family holiday with Maeve. She was seven months old and we had a wonderful time in Lisbon, Porto and Aveiro. The weather was warm and sunny (but not too hot) and we visited with friends I hadn’t seen in years.

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Maeve and her cousins, eating green pancakes.

And this year? One of my best friends is coming to stay with her 10-month-old baby boy. When they go home, Patrick and I are going to Galway for a few nights to eat, drink and relax sans children. So yeah, March brings good things, and St. Patrick’s Day is just one of them.

I remember Paddy’s Days of the past. In university, in Korea, in (yes!) Yogyakarta and, of course, here in Ireland, I’ve had some crazy times. These days our Paddy’s Day tends to be quieter and more kid-focused. Coffee at a friend’s house, taking the kids to the parade, making green pancakes for breakfast – all of these things are quickly replacing the pub breakfasts and day-long drinking sessions of the past.

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Bacon and cabbage is becoming tradition, too. While North Americans gorge themselves on corned beef, the Irish will generally sit down to a family meal of just about anything (Chinese takeaway? I wouldn’t say no). At our house, I usually make a big feed of bacon and cabbage for us and any other family members milling around the farm.

The parsley sauce is entirely optional, but I like it. A lot of people eat their bacon and cabbage with a schmear of English mustard or the ubiquitous brown sauce, but I think it’s more of a complete meal with the parsley sauce (also, it will impress your friends if you want to make this for a Paddy’s Day dinner party). It tastes fancy but is so easy to make.

The dish is called Bacon & Cabbage, but it wouldn’t be the same kind of bacon you have with your scrambled eggs. Here, a loin of ham is called a joint of bacon. You can get them smoked or unsmoked. Just ask your butcher, or, when in doubt, get some uncooked ham. It’s basically the same thing. Bacon and cabbage is usually served with mashed potatoes, but I love boiling new potatoes with the skin-on this time of year.

Whatever you end up doing for Paddy’s Day, I hope it’s great and full of delicious food, drink and loved ones. Sláinte mhath!

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Bacon & Cabbage with Parsley Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

Bacon & Cabbage:

1-2 kg ham/bacon joint (cured and uncooked, ask your local butcher!)

1-2 large head savoy or green cabbage

4L chicken stock

1-2 bay leaves

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme

Parsley Sauce:

½ cup butter

1 clove garlic, minced

¾ glass dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:

  • In a large pot, bring the ham, stock, bay leaves and thyme to a simmer. Simmer the ham/bacon for about 1 hour – or until the ham is cooked through.
  • While the ham is cooking, prep your cabbage: using a large knife, cut out the core and slice the head of cabbage into large wedges. Leave the wedges whole and set aside while the ham cooks.
  • When the ham is cooked, remove the ham, bay leaves and thyme from the pot. Add the cabbage to the remaining broth and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Make the parsley sauce: in a hot saucepan, add the butter and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds – don’t let the garlic brown. Add the wine and reduce by half, then add the cream. Let the cream boil and thicken for a few minutes – you want the sauce to coat the back of a spoon.
  • When the cream is thickened, add the chopped parsley and season with Dijon, salt and pepper.
  • Slice the ham and add it back into the broth with the cabbage wedges, just to heat through.
  • Depending on the size of your bacon (I usually buy a 1kg joint), this will feed 4-6 people. Serve hot with boiled or mashed potatoes.
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Taste Porto

Bacalao for sale!

Bacalao for sale!

While in Portugal a few months ago we took part in a Taste Porto food tour.

If you look on Trip Advisor, this tour is very highly rated. If you love history AND food and wine, this is the perfect activity for you. Andre, the guide, will teach you how the city’s culinary scene has been shaped by its vibrant history over several courses in different establishments.

Bolhao Market

Bolhao Market

If you’re budget travelers like us, you might be wary spending €55 on one activity. What if it’s awful? We were concerned about the kind of value we’d be getting for €55.

We’re generally not big into guided tours; we like to explore on our own. But I have to admit, this tour is not only interesting but also good value for the money you pay. By the end of the day I was so full I could hardly walk (and a bit tipsy from all the wine we drank).

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We started at a café specializing in a pastry from a small town in northeast Portugal called Pasteis de Chaves (Chaves being the name of the town). Once it was explained to us, we tasted two types: the traditional pastry of minced, seasoned veal and a sweet version filled with molten dark chocolate. And my mind was blown. But this was just the beginning.

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We made our way to Porto’s open-air Bolhao Market (which is well worth a visit in itself) and tasted a sprightly white moscatel galego paired with spicy sardines and bread. The sardines were so good and went perfectly with the wine.

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Andre then took us, in a roundabout way so he could explain some of the city’s architecture, to a restaurant called Flor dos Congregados. This restaurant is found down a tiny alleyway and has rustic, traditional Portuguese decor. Very cozy. They specialize in a pork loin and cured ham sandwich which we gobbled down with a glass of Douro sparkling red (tasty!).

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Our next stop was for something sweet. I had no idea eclairs were a thing in Porto, but apparently they are! We went to the eclair shop Leitaria da Quinta do Paço where we indulged in both lemon and chocolate, with a massive side of whipped cream.

I was getting full at this point, but we had a good walk through the old part of the city to get to our next and final stop.

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Taberna do Largo is an upscale eatery, wine bar and fine food shop in the heart of Old Porto. This place specializes in the very best of Portuguese terroir – the loveliest vinhos verde and Alentejo wines, the ripest sheep’s and goat cheeses; the most perfectly cured charcuterie and briniest olives. We got to taste a little bit of everything and had a few more sips of wine before saying goodbye and heading to our hotel for an afternoon siesta.

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Andre is such a fabulous food guide. He is so passionate about his hometown and knows Porto’s food, chefs and restaurants inside and out. He even made dinner reservations for us that evening (talk about going above and beyond). If you’re interested in Portuguese cuisine you need to do this tour!

Pat and Andre

Pat and Andre

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Tip* Don’t throw out the information sheet he gives you – there are several other great restaurants (not on the tour) listed on the back. Use this for lunches and dinners for the rest of your trip.

Visiting Porto: The Mighty Francesinha

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Every city has its quirky signature dish that sets it apart. Chicago has deep dish pizza, Halifax has donairs, Osaka has okonomiyaki and Shanghai has xiaolongbao (you know, those awesome steamed dumplings filled with crab soup). Porto has the Francesinha, a sandwich of epic proportions.

The Francesihna is bad-ass. It’s not a sandwich for sissies. It’s disgustingly massive, full of any kind of meat you could conjure up in your mind. It’s really, really bad for you, which means it tastes amazing. The idea of it leaves you flustered – there’s no way it makes any logical sense.

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Whoever invented it (some say it was a guy named Daniel Da Silva who wanted to make a Portuguese-friendly version of a croque monsieur) just threw every kind of available meat into a sandwich with cheese and then smothered it in a tangy, rich sauce.

In other, more simpler words: it’s heaven.

As a Canadian, the best way I can describe a Francesinha is as such: it tastes like poutine, Swiss Chalet sauce and a Montreal smoked meat sandwich had a delicious love child. Any Canadian will agree: this is the best combination of things, ever.

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In actuality, the sandwich usually consists of beef fillet, mortadella, cured ham, regular ham, roast pork, cheese and two kinds of sausages. The bread is unremarkable, especially for a country that boasts delicious, crusty loaves, but that said, the bread isn’t supposed to be the star of the show. It just holds all the other, more awesome bits together.

When the sandwich is assembled, it’s covered in more cheese and then broiled to allow the cheese to melt. Then, the whole thing is smothered in a sauce that is usually made with a combination of beer and tomatoes, though each establishment has their own recipe and will never divulge exactly what goes into it. Honestly, it tastes exactly like Chalet sauce.

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The best place in Porto to get a Francesinha, we were told, is at Café Santiago on Rua Passos Manuel. The portions here are massive: large triple decker sandwiches surrounded by a sea of crisp French fries. They smother the sandwich in the perfect amount of sauce – nothing is soggy, per se, but everything is covered (and there’s enough sauce left to dip your fries).

A regular Francesinha with fries cost €9.25, while the Francesinha à Santiago (topped with an egg) cost €9.50. It’s good value considering the amount of food you’re getting, but Café Santiago is also one of the more expensive Francesinha joints in town. You can get one at nearly any snack food restaurant for around €5.00. It just won’t be as good.

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Francesinha are usually washed down with copious amounts of Sagres or Super Bock (the Portuguese beers of choice). We had our baby with us, so one beer each sufficed. A cold Super Bock with the meaty, salty sandwich is really a match made in heaven.

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In the end, the sandwich defeated me. I just couldn’t eat all that meat in one sitting. Pat, on the other hand, seemed like he’d been eating Francesinha all his life and gave me a good smirk over his empty plate.

You win this time, Francesinha, but I’ll be back.

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