Portuguese Cooking: How to Make 8 Classic Dishes
Portuguese food might not be the first thought you have when you consider your European culinary choices, but that is about to change. Frommer‘s quotes Mary Jean Kempner’s Invitation to Portugal, and it is an apt introduction to the diverse dishes you encounter with Portuguese cooking. “The best Portuguese food is provincial, indigenous, eccentric, and proud,” Kempner writes. “It takes no sides, assumes no airs, makes no concessions or bows to Brillat-Savarin — and usually tastes wonderful.” From sweet breads to well marinated meat, you won’t lack options with Portuguese-style cooking, as seen in these nine recipes.
Described by The Pastry Channel as dough that is fried and then coated in sugar, it is easy to see the appeal malasadas have — especially when enjoyed warm. They were first made on São Miguel Island, and are popular in Hawaii. To get this donut in your own kitchen, follow this recipe from Just a Pinch.
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 package dry active yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cup flour
- ¾ cup butter
- Vegetable oil to fry dough
- 1 cup sugar for coating
Directions: Dissolve 1 teaspoon of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and let stand for about 5 minutes to dissolve. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and 1 cup of sugar until sugar has completely dissolved. Stir in the salt and flour. Mix in the yeast mixture, milk, and melted butter. A wooden spoon works well for this. Cover and set in a warm place to rise until doubled. Once the dough has doubled, punch down, and knead. The dough will be sticky at first, but after a bit of time kneading, will turn elastic. Cover and allow to rise again. If you like, you may refrigerate overnight. When the dough has doubled, it is ready to use.
Heat oil in a deep fryer or large deep skillet to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Gather a small ball of dough, and on a floured surface, roll in to about the size of a golf ball. Place portioned dough onto wax paper and allow to rest/rise for about 30 minutes. Then, stretch the dough out a little bit while turning around until you have a disc about 4 inches wide. Carefully place the stretched dough into the hot oil. The doughnuts should puff up a bit as they hit the oil. Cook for about 3 minutes per side. They are done when they are golden brown. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Coat with white sugar while still hot. Serve warm.
2. Portuguese Sweet Bread
Indulgent and sugary, maladas aren’t the best everyday breakfast option. According to Go Libson, breakfast in Portugal tends to be simple — a coffee and fresh bread. For a Portuguese bread that you could eat for a sweet breakfast, as a snack, or with a meal, try King Arthur Flour’s recipe.
- ½ cup milk
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pats
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons salt
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- grated peel (zest) of 1 medium lemon
- 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions: Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a microwave-safe cup, or in a saucepan. Heat to lukewarm, stirring to soften the butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, the bowl of your stand mixer, or the bucket of your bread machine, combine the flour, yeast, and lemon zest; stir to combine. Add the milk mixture, stirring first to make sure the sugar and salt aren’t left in the bottom of the cup or pan.
Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla. Mix and knead until the dough is cohesive and smooth; it’ll be very sticky at first. If you’re using a stand mixer, beat with the flat beater for about 3 minutes at medium-high speed; then scrape the dough into the center of the bowl, switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 5 minutes at medium speed. It will have formed a ball somewhat, but will probably still be sticking to the bottom of the bowl. If you’re using a bread machine, simply let it go through its entire cycle, and skip to step 6.
Lightly grease the mixing bowl or a large (8-cup) measure, round the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl or measure. Cover, and let rise until very puffy, about 1½ to 2 hours. If you’re using a bread machine and the dough hasn’t doubled in size when the cycle is complete, simply let it rest in the machine for another 30 to 60 minutes.
Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Gently deflate the dough, and round it into a ball. Place the ball in the prepared pan, and tent the dough gently with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in the pan for about 2 hours, until it’s nicely puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon cold water, and brush some onto the surface of the loaf; this will give it a satiny, mahogany-brown crust. Bake the bread for 15 minutes, then tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s a medium golden brown and its internal temperature registers 190 degrees Fahrenheit on a digital thermometer. Remove the bread from the oven, and gently transfer it to a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days’ freeze for longer storage.
3. Piri-Piri Chicken
Give yourself plenty of time when you make the piri-piri chicken from Sunset. To really bring out the full flavors of the dish, the chicken needs to marinade for at least four hours. It will be well worth the wait though, when you bite into the perfectly seasoned, spicy grilled chicken. You can also make the marinade up to three days in advance, and store it in an airtight container in your fridge. The recipe yields between 6 and 8 servings.
- 2 chickens (each 3½ to 4 pounds), each cut into 8 pieces
- Piri-piri marinade (recipe follows)
- ½ cup butter
- Lemon wedges
- 1 cup lemon juice
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons hot chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
Directions: For the marinade, in a 1-quart glass measure or a bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, oregano, thyme, cumin, and salt. Set aside. Rinse chicken and pat dry; trim off and discard excess fat. Put chicken in a large bowl. Stir piri-piri marinade, pour over chicken, and turn pieces to coat. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to 1 day, turning chicken occasionally.
With tongs, lift chicken from marinade, drain well, and lay on a barbecue grill over a solid bed of medium coals or medium heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 4 to 5 seconds; keep a spray bottle of water handy to douse any flare-ups); close lid on gas grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until skin is well browned and meat at bone is no longer pink (cut to test), 35 to 40 minutes total; brush occasionally with marinade until about 10 minutes before chicken is done. As pieces are done, transfer to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Pour remaining marinade into a 1½- to 2-quart pan over medium-low heat. Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to a simmer; adjust heat to maintain simmer. Add butter and stir until melted and incorporated; turn heat to low and stir occasionally until ready to serve. Pour sauce into a small bowl or pitcher. Garnish chicken with lemon wedges and serve with sauce.
4. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, or Salt Cod, Onions, and Potatoes
This is another Portuguese meal that will require you to think ahead because you’ll need to soak the cod before you start cooking. Portuguese Food explains that this is so the cod softens, and loses a bit of it’s saltiness. Emeril’s Food Network recipe does not skip this important step, with the cod soaking for 24 to 36 hours.
- 1½ pounds salt cod
- ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds waxy potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick and cooked until tender
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- 8 black olives
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
Directions: Soak the cod in cold water to cover for 24 to 36 hours, changing the water occasionally, drain. Flake the cod into small pieces, removing any bones. Set aside.
In a large saute pan, over medium heat, add ¼ cup of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until slightly golden, about 6 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a medium ovenproof casserole dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Spread half of the potatoes over the bottom of the prepared dish.
Sprinkle half of the salt cod over the potatoes. Place half of the onion mixture over the salt cod. Top the onion mixture with more salt cod. Place another layer of potatoes over the top of the cod. Drizzle the entire pan with the remaining ¼ cup of oil. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. Place on a serving platter. Garnish with the sliced eggs, olives, and parsley.
When you need a new way to prepare skewered grilled meat, take a page from Portugal’s book with espetada. Portuguese Cooking has all you need to know in order to throw Portuguese-styled beef skewers on the grill. Be sure to give yourself time to allow the beef to marinate; it serves between 4 and 6 people.
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt or to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 3 bay leaves plus extra for grilling
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds beef sirloin, rib-eye, or beef tenderloin, cut in 2-inch cubes
- Wooden skewers soaked in water for ½ hour, or metal skewers
Directions: Using a mortar and pestle, combine the salt and garlic, mashing the two until the garlic becomes a paste. Mix in the bay leaves, pepper, wine vinegar and lastly, the olive oil. Put the meat cubes in a shallow non-reactive bowl and dump the seasoning paste over the meat. With clean hands, turn the meat to coat thoroughly on all sides. Let stand for 2 to 4 hours or even overnight in the refrigerator.
While the meat is marinating, soak the wooden skewers in warm water for at least ½ hour. When ready to cook, thread the cubes of meat alternating with a bay leaf, onto the skewers. Grill over medium-heat (for beef tenderloin which requires less cooking, 5-6 minutes for medium-rare) approximately 5 inches above the flames. Adjust cooking time to your desired doneness.
6. Caldo Verde
Leites Culinaria says that in Portugal, caldo verde has a national appeal, found on the menus of swank restaurants, and served in regular homes on any night of the week. Hearty, and made with simple ingredients, this “green soup” from AllRecipes.com will fill you up, and makes about six servings.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 quarts cold water
- 6 ounces linguica (Portuguese) sausage, thinly sliced
- 2½ teaspoons salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound kale, rinsed and julienned
Directions: In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil for 3 minutes. Stir in potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes more. Pour in water, bring to a boil, and let boil gently for 20 minutes, until potatoes are mushy.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-low heat, cook sausage until it has released most of its fat, 10 minutes. Drain. Mash potatoes or purée the potato mixture with a blender or food processor. Stir the sausage, salt, and pepper into the soup and return to medium heat. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Just before serving, stir kale into soup and simmer, 5 minutes, until kale is tender and jade green. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve at once.
7. Pastéis de Nata, or Portuguese Custard Tarts
One of the most famous desserts in Portugal are Pastéis de Nata, bite-sized tarts that can be found in every corner of the country. Christian Science Monitor traces the history of the pastry back about 200 years, to nuns who baked at the Jeronimos Monastery. Today, you can use The Cooking Channel’s recipe to make your own sweet, small desserts.
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup caster sugar (superfine)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ⅔ cup milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 sheet puff pastry or 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
Directions: Pour the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch into a saucepan and whisk them together. Gradually beat in the cream and milk until smooth. Place the pan over medium heat, and stirring constantly, cook until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Switch off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and leave out to cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 12-count muffin pan. Halve the puff pastry sheet horizontally. Set one half on top of the other, and set it aside for 5 minutes. Tightly roll up the puff pastry from short end to short end. Cut the puff pastry log into 12 (1/2-inch) rounds. Lay each piece on a lightly floured surface, and using a rolling pin, flatten out each round until they are 4-inches in diameter. Press each round into each muffin pan. Spoon the cooled custard into the pastry cases, and bake until the pastry and custards are golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Leave the tarts in the pan for 5 minutes, and then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
8. Portuguese Rice Pudding
Probably less popular internationally than the custard tarts is sweet Portuguese rice pudding, or arroz doce. Portuguese Diner fondly remembers eating the dessert at holidays and family gatherings. Simple to make, follow the recipe from Karen Cooks for a bite of classic Portuguese comfort cooking.
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 1 cup water
- 5½ cups milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup sugar
Directions: Put rice and water in large saucepan and boil until water is absorbed. Add 2 cups milk and bring to a boil. After mixture comes to a boil, stir constantly to prevent burning until all milk has been absorbed. Add another 2 cups milk and bring to a boil, then stir constantly until all milk has been absorbed. Add 1½ cups milk and bring to a boil, then stir constantly until all milk has been absorbed. Beat egg in a small bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of the hot rice mixture and stir. Add egg to the saucepan and stir until well blended. Add sugar, stir and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour into individual bowls or into a 1-quart serving bowl; sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg and let cool.