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Posts tagged ‘Portugal’

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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The Best Places I’ve Ever Been

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

I’ve been off work sick for about a week. It’s torture. I love being busy – I’m usually overflowing with tasks, whether its mothering my daughter, cooking, keeping the fires going (we usually have two: one in the wood stove in the kitchen and one in the sitting room fireplace), or, of course, working my actual day job at Holycross Stores and The Tipperary Kitchen. I’ve also taken up writing a weekly food column for The Tipperary Star, where I focus on a different local producer each week and create a recipe from their product. I love my life here in Ireland. I loooove being busy.

Badaling, Great Wall of China

Badaling, Great Wall of China

This past week has been a shock to my system. Relying on my husband to keep the house clean and our daughter cared for and my father-in-law to keep the fire going was, at first, torturous. But the last few days have finally seen me getting used to it. I’ve been able to take the time to reconnect with friends in Canada and in other parts of the world. I’m reading more. I’m listening to the radio and my favourite albums. It’s been a nice trip down memory lane. That leads me here, to this post. I’ve been looking back on old photos and reliving some amazing past adventures. I thought I’d share some of the best places I’ve ever been with you and tell you why they were so life-changing. Aren’t we lucky to live in an age where we were easily able to record our younger lives and experiences? OK, here are my Top 5! I would love to hear/see about yours, too.

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

Patrick & I at Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon, South Korea

1. South Korea  I spent 2007-10 living and working in South Korea. It was the biggest, craziest thing I’ve ever done. I was fresh out of university, mad to travel, had absolutely no money and no cares. I found a job, they paid for my flight, found me an apartment, paid the rent and then proceeded to pay me about $2000.00 CAN a month. I almost missed my first flight and Air Canada let me on the plane, but refused to check my luggage, so I literally MOVED TO ASIA with only my carry-on and my handbag. And a camera.

Halloween 2008 - Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood

Halloween 2008 – Trick or Drink! Visiting convenience stores around our neighbourhood. I’m the panda.

I played with five year olds during the day and partied with the other expats at night. The expats came from all over the English-speaking world. We all hung out at the same bar and there were other Canadian teachers at my school, so even though I went to Korea knowing no one, I came out of it with lifelong friends and a life partner (that’s right, I met Patrick at the foreigner bar in 2008).

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Lifelong friends.

I learned enough Korean to get by and made wonderful Korean friends, too. I miss them all the time. I need to get back there, to someday show my kids where their parents met. To a young, travel-crazy individual, I can’t recommend teaching abroad enough. I have friends teaching in Turkey right now and it looks like they’re having a great time, too, so there are plenty of options out there.

Kimchi Pots

Kimchi Pots

Things I love about Korea: THE FOOD, the lifestyle of a carefree foreigner, the amazing group of international friends (will we all ever be in the same place again? Probably not.), the low cost of living, the Korean people (including their priceless reactions to my curly hair and how protective my Korean friends were of me).

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

Songsan Ilchulbong in Jeju, South Korea

If you go you must experience: Mudfest, Jeju-do (a semi-tropical island off the South coast), jjimjilbang (Korean saunas), kimchi-making, island-hopping off Incheon, travelling along the beautiful East Coast, hiking Suraksan, eating strange, raw sea creatures (when you’re by the sea).

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Gunung Bromo after a pre-dawn hike (and slight meltdown)

2. Indonesia Patrick and I spent a month backpacking around the Western part of Indonesia in 2009. We started in The Gili Islands, then worked our way across Bali, Java and Sumatra. It was one of the best, worst and all-around craziest experiences of my life.

Borobrodur, Java

Borobrodur, Java

Patrick got a cheap (but safe) scuba diving PADI cert in The Gilis and, as a result, saw some amazing undersea creatures. I lounged on the beach and chatted with the local ladies. We ate barracuda, satay, curries, nasi goreng and copious amounts of sambal. We drank litres of Bintang beer. We lived very well for about 20 bucks a day.

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

Browsing the market in Ubud, Bali

In Bali we shopped for (and shipped) art. We saw dance performances and ate the ubiquitous babi gulung (roast pig stuffed with spices). We took the bus to Java and were dropped off in a random place in the middle of the night. We got a drunk taxi driver who drove five metres and then got out of the car and left us. We got another taxi and, at dawn, climbed an active volcano. We spent several blissfull days in Yogyakarta and saw ancient temples. A guy asked me to name his newborn baby.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

Hanging out with the locals in Yogyakarta, Java.

We got spooked in Jakarta, boarded a massive ship and sailed for three days to Sumatra. We were segregated by sex (a Muslim country) and the women in my cabin thought I might be related to Britney Spears. They fed me fruit and looked inside my makeup bag.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

My roomies on the ship to Sumatra.

We drove to the jungle and hung out with orangutans. One of the best experiences of my life. I popped xanax on a daily basis because I have an unhealthy obsession with natural disasters and tropical diseases. Indonesia in a nutshell.

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

This experience is up there with getting married and having a baby!

If you go you must experience: Bukit Lawang (home of the orangutans), Yogyakarta, Borodrodur, Gunung Bromo (the volcano), travelling on an “ekonomi” train, eating Padang, swimming with sea turtles and giant clams, riding on the back of a motorbike “taksi”.

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

Pastel de nata in Belem, Lisbon

3. Portugal We’re coming up on a whole year since our first-ever family trip. Last year, Maeve was seven months old and couldn’t yet crawl or walk. It was the perfect time to take her on vacation as she was perfectly content to be strolled around – she would NOT be OK with that now!

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

Costa Nova, Aviero, Portugal

I had been wanting to visit Portugal my whole life. Growing up in Cape Breton, I wasn’t exactly surrounded by multiculturalism. That said, my best childhood friend (and still a wonderful friend) is half Portuguese. I spent so much time in her home, with her Portuguese Dad and all of the photos, stories and culture she was exposed to. When she travelled to Portugal for visits, I always wanted to go, too.

Costa Nova

Costa Nova

So when I finally got to go last year I felt like a kid again. I got to spend time with my friend’s dad and he opened up his Lisbon home to us. We took the train to Porto and fell in love with everything about that city – the medieval, winding alleyways, the River Douro and the most delicious cheeses, wines and cured meats. Maeve was a prime attraction for locals, with her blond hair and bright blue eyes. We were cooed at and smiled to wherever we went.

Porto

Porto

We went to the coastal university town of Aviero. We spent time in Costa Nova at the beach, eating fresh seafood and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. For a first family vacation, it was perfect in every way.

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Theive's Market, Lisbon

Thieve’s Market, Lisbon

If you go you must experience: Piri Piri Chicken with Creamed Spinach at Bonjardim (Lisbon), Fiera de Ladra (the “Thieves” Market) in Lisbon, Taste Porto Food Tours, Costa Nova in Aviero, pastel de nata and espresso EVERY MORNING, drinking Sagres in the main square in Porto.

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

No pollution control at the Tsingtao brewery

4. China When I told my Korean friends I was going to China for my Christmas break they begged me not to go alone. “Someone will take you! They will sell you as a bride!”

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Wangfujing Night Market, Beijing

Sometimes Koreans can be a little anti-China. That said, there were times, travelling alone, that I got into certain situations and remembered their words. I played on the safe side. Just so you know, though, sometimes proper taxis in China are just unmarked vans. This was my first solo-vacation (and my last, incidentally) since meeting Patrick. He went home to Ireland for Christmas and so I wanted to go somewhere, too.

Noodles in Tsingtao

Noodles in Tsingtao

Here’s the thing, though: I hate airplanes. So. Much. I will go really, really far out of my way to avoid flying. So that’s why I took a ferry to China. It took 18 hours. I was in a cabin with three women who were studying in Korea. The ferry docked in the city of Tsingtao (yup, where they make the beer). I spent a day or two there. The Germans occupied Tsingtao during the World War, which is why the beer is so lovely. I think Tsingtao would be much nicer in the summer, but I still had fun drinking beer and slurping noodles.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

Temple of Heaven, Beijing

I took an overnight train to Beijing. The crowd at the train station was scary and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find my car. Just as the train was announced a young woman appeared out of nowhere. She grabbed my elbows, stuck them out, and helped me push my way through the crowd. She found my car, showed me where to go and was gone before I could practice my Mandarin and say thank you.

Wangfujing, Beijing

Wangfujing, Beijing

I had no seat. A woman was sitting with her three children in four seats. She took her youngest on her lap and gave me one of their seats. The children shared their snack with me (chicken feet from a convenience store), then we all fell asleep. Every time I woke up, a different child was sprawled across my lap. Beijing is one massive contrast. Communist and strict; mystical and spiritual. Amazing sights, smells and markets. Elderly folk having dance parties in sub-zero temperatures. The Great Wall is way more impressive than Karl Pilkington said. It (and the wind) took my breath away. The Ming Tombs were cool, too.

If you go you must experience: Travel by train, Beer Street in Tsingtao, The Temple of Heaven, The Silk Market, The Summer Palace, Peking Duck on Ghost Street, Wangfujing Night Market (where you’ll find all those lovely scorpion kebabs), The Great Wall, Hot Pot, Hutongs, Beijing Park Life.

Lakes of Killarney

Lakes of Killarney

5. Ireland Can you blame me for including my adopted home in this post? Ireland has changed me. I wasn’t a mom before I moved to Ireland. I was living in Canada’s biggest city prior to moving here – concrete on concrete, business attire every day, brunching on weekends and trying to stay on top of trends. All of that changed when I moved to Ireland.

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

Carvery Lunch in Dublin

I’m happy here. I’m settled. I love the fresh, local ingredients I have available to me. I love that Dublin, Waterford and Cork are less than two hours away. Limerick is less than an hour. I love being back on a farm. I love being surrounded by a large, extended family. Ireland is home.

The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

If you go you must experience: The Antrim Coast, The Copper Coast, nights out in Galway, the Lakes of Killarney, wandering around Cork, Ballymaloe Litfest, quiet pubs in Tipperary, visit a farm, eat lots of butter and cheese, drink tea, hike around Glendalough, go to the Avoca in Wicklow for tea and shopping.

Apple, Toffee & Flor de Sal Hand Pies

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This recipe comes from two different places.

While backpacking through the Northern half of Portugal last March we had to make a decision between visiting Coimbra and Aveiro. Both are in the same general area (about 20 minutes apart), both are small & culturally rich university towns and both have their own unique appeal.

One of the many colourful canal boats in Aveiro

One of the many colourful canal boats in Aveiro

What made us decide on Aveiro (besides its proximity to several gorgeous beaches and a Venetian-like canal system snaking its way through the town) was its interesting culinary traditions. There have been salt flats there for hundreds of years and the salt is some of the finest I’ve tasted (especially sprinkled over blistered padron peppers – I’m salivating just thinking about it).

The egg yolk filling from ovos moles is used in other pastries, too - like this little gem

The egg yolk filling from ovos moles is used in other pastries, too – like this little gem

They also specialize in a weird little pastry known as ovos moles. Made into the shape of seashells, the outer shell of the pastry is made from a manna-like wafer, similar to what you’d receive at mass for communion. Not much taste to it, and depending on where you buy, it can be a bit stale and chewy.

I’m not making it sound very nice, am I?! Maybe I’ll do better with the filling.

The filling is made from egg yolk, but not in the way you might expect. It’s not a custard. You make a simple syrup and mix it with rice flour before beating in the egg yolks. The end result is kind of like a sweet deviled egg. Strangely delicious.

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Before we left Aveiro I stocked up on flor de sal. Months later, I still have a cupboard-full (go me!). I save it for special occasions. It’s better as a garnish than a seasoning (though you can get big bags of rock salt, as well, to use in your grinder for every-day seasoning).

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We’re well into October now and the gorgeous weather we were enjoying here in Ireland has left. Now we’re having day after day of rain and high winds. Aside from reminiscing about our lovely, sunshiney holiday in Portugal, it’s definitely a time for hearty desserts and, as we have such beautiful apples here in Ireland and so many right now, why not combine a sweet apple pastry with a luxuriant sprinkling of flor de sal? The combination is good for the soul.

Besides turning (ahem)… 30… this week, I will also be attending The Night of 1000 Feasts (hashtag #1000Feasts) at the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, taking place Sunday the 26th. It’s a fantastic event for a great cause – to raise funds for the Town of Food project in Thomastown to build a new food training and enterprise centre. There will be plenty more happening over the weekend so keep in touch with me via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. If you want to host a feast of your own on the night, the info you need should be on this photo:

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I’ll be in excellent company with some other fabulous Irish bloggers – Foodborn and Bred, Cork Billy, My Busy Farm Life, Greenside Up, The Art of Exploring and Where Wishes Come From, among others, so give them a follow as well to see what we’re up to.

In the meantime, enjoy these sweet, salty and tart apple hand pies. They’ll make the bad weather seem not-so-bad.

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Apple, Toffee & Flor de Sal Hand Pies

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

2 cups AP (Cream) Flour

1 cup cold, cubed butter

scant 1/2 cup ice water

pinch of sea salt

For the toffee sauce/apple filling:

1 cup white sugar

scant 1/2 cup water

1/2 cup cream

1/4 cup cold, cubed butter

2 large bramley apples, peeled and sliced

1 Tbsp AP flour

1 egg

Flor de Sal/Fleur de Sel/Irish Atlantic Sea Salt/Maldon Salt, for garnish

Directions:

  • Make the pastry: cut or rub the cold, cubed butter into the flour & salt until the mixture is well-incorporated and looking crumbly. Gradually add the ice water and mix with your hand until a ball forms (you might not need the entire 1/2 cup of water).
  • On a floured surface, knead the dough a few times just until everything comes together. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Make the toffee sauce: in a medium saucepan, add the sugar and water. Place over med-high heat and leave it. Don’t you dare stir it! When it starts to bubble, wait until the colour begins to change, then every now and then you can swirl the contents of the saucepan, but still, don’t stir. Seriously.
  • When the caramel turns a deep copper colour (and starts to smell like a caramel), take it off the heat. Add the cream and immediately put it back on the heat. It will bubble up for a few seconds. Don’t be scared. Now you can stir. Stir until the caramel & cream are incorporated. Then beat in the cold butter piece by piece.
  • Set the toffee sauce aside to cool.
  • I should mention that you can actually just buy some toffee sauce and skip that last step. It’s easier, but cheating.
  • Peel and slice your apples.
  • When the dough is chilled and the toffee sauce has cooled, preheat your oven to 425 degrees (210 degrees Celsius). Mix the apples, toffee sauce, and Tbsp of flour together in a bowl. Beat the egg slightly in another bowl (for brushing).
  • Roll out two portions of pastry at a time. Scoop two heaping Tbsp of apple filling onto one rolled out pastry. Brush the edges with egg and top with the other round. Crimp the edges, poke a few breather holes on top, egg wash the top and sprinkle on some sea salt.
  • Continue until all the pastry has been used (this should make four hand pies).
  • Bake the hand pies for around 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the tops are golden brown.

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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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Backpacking with Baby

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Going backpacking is a great way to see the world. Everything you need is, literally, strapped to your back, making it easy to move from one place to another. It makes you stop and think “What do I really need? What am I actually going to use?” as you pack, because you have a finite space to fit everything into. It’s not for everyone, but Pat and I have always enjoyed backpacking, having done it around most of Asia and all around Canada and Ireland.

We thought that might change after we had a baby. A lot in our lives changed and we thought the way we travel would change, too. But after spending the last nine days backpacking through Portugal with our seven month old daughter, I can honestly say that backpacking made it much easier on us and was even less expensive than an all-inclusive resort trip would have been. Here’s what we did:

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  • We packed two 20 kg backpacks. One backpack had my clothes, the baby’s clothes, medicines, toiletries, swimming diapers, my cosmetics and books we never got to read (the joys of parenthood). The other had Patrick’s clothes, the baby’s bedding, a sling for places we couldn’t take a buggy and extra raingear and footwear for all of us. We also packed a smaller backpack with all of the things I would normally have in Maeve’s diaper bag: diapers, wipes, snacks, a sippy cup, nappy sacks, extra clothes, her jacket and sun hat, teething toys and plastic spoons. We used this backpack as our day bag. The only thing of any value we brought along was our Nikon.

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  • We booked our flights using flight points from one of our credit cards. If you’re getting a credit card and like to travel, make sure you get one that gives you flight points! They are a lifesaver. We paid an extra €40 for Maeve to come along (this was with Aer Lingus).
  • We got Maeve’s passport well in advance, but really, once you have the photos and paperwork ready to go you’ll have the passport within 10 working days.

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  • We bought a cheap, second hand stroller from a charity shop for €10. It was a piece of junk, but had comfortable lining, a hood to protect Maeve from the sun, working straps and it folded up neatly so it was easy to take on the plane.
  • Once we arrived in Portugal we would leave our larger bags, strap the baby in her stroller, sling on the smaller backpack and go exploring.
  • For things like walking tours, we would use the baby sling instead of the buggy. We used a blanket cover and a hat to protect Maeve from the sun and always picked the shady side of the street for walking. We never had to use sunscreen and she never got sunburn.

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  • We researched the things we really wanted to see and do beforehand so we had a rough nine-day guideline. We kept things very loosely organized so we could always go back to the hotel for a nap or change plans at the last minute (if you make hotel reservations, try to get a free cancellation policy!).
  • As for accommodation, we only booked the first half of our trip as we didn’t know how the baby would travel or how exhausted we would be towards the end. That way we could stay put for a few extra days or, if we were all up for it, visit somewhere new by train.

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  • We avoided touristy restaurants, which tend to be overpriced, and stuck to cafe breakfasts of coffee and pastry and authentic suppers, which were very reasonably priced (and also baby friendly – most restaurants had high chairs available and the wait staff kept the baby well entertained!). We ate a lot of lovely meals but didn’t indulge in any Michelin Star dining experiences.
  • We used the train, tram, bus and subway systems instead of taxis or car rentals. It was cost effective, the baby enjoyed seeing all kinds of random strangers and we got to know our way around more quickly than we would have if someone was chauffeuring us around.

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These are just a few things that made our lives a lot easier while we were travelling with Maeve. If she were a different baby then perhaps we would have had a harder time – if she didn’t like strangers and became anxious when placed in a new environment, then maybe we would have had a completely different experience. We lucked out in the baby department I guess; she’s a born backpacker just like mom and dad.

Another great resource for travelling with babies can be found at bibliocook.com – an especially recent article written by Caroline outlines tips for long haul travel with kids. Great reading if you’re planning a trip with your babies!

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