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September 29, 2015

Go Portugese: themed games evening #1

Hosting again! You’ve done Italian, you’ve done Mexican and you know that Brian and Trish simply won’t touch anything related to curry.

To help out, we’ve cast our eyes around the world for a suitable alternative. Dinner party food; but the sort of casual dinner party based around the joy of each other’s company rather than finicky fine-dining. A good hearty supper for a games evening that doesn’t call upon the host to disappear back to the kitchen at regular intervals, to exasperated cries of ‘come on, Paula – it’s your turn!’

And we alighted on Portugal, the cuisine of which – Nando’s aside – doesn’t really get much of a look-in here in the UK. Which led us to Portugese resident of many years Lucy Pepper: illustrator, filmmaker, journalist and co-author (with Célia Pedroso) of ‘Eat Portugal’, a proper, no-nonsense exploration of Portugese food the way the Portugese do it. The book acts as a guide for holidaymakers as to how to discover the most authentic Portugese food and, more relevant to us on the blog here, provides a raft of recipes for those at home who simply want to get stuck in to some proper Portugese home cooking.

So to research our Portugese-themed not-so-quiet night in games evening, we put Lucy in a virtual room, with some virtual board games and a virtual spotlight aimed at her face and asked…

OK – where would be an easy place to start? Give us a recipe! A truly Portugese dish that would be very simple to knock up for a crowd of hungry board-gamers?

“Carne de Porco à Alentejana (Alentejo Pork) is pretty iconic and one of the easiest things to make.

You’ll need:

  • Pork (any cut), cubed.
  • Potatoes, a good frying variety, diced.
  • An onion, finely chopped.
  • Red pepper paste (red pepper paste can be bought, but you can easily make your own by roasting and skinning your peppers, adding salt then pulverising it. It can be kept in the fridge for a week or two).
  • Garlic
  • A handful of pickled vegetables, if you can find them (cauliflower and carrots are usual here), finely chopped.
  • Fresh coriander (or parsley), chopped.
  • Olive oil.

Marinate the cubed pork for a couple of hours in red pepper paste and a couple of cloves of mashed garlic

Deep fry the diced potatoes while you do the rest.

In a good glug of olive oil (never ever be sparing with olive oil. It would be un-Portuguese), fry the onion until it’s translucent, then add the meat to the pan, still covered with the marinade. Fry until the meat is well cooked.

Toss the drained and salted potatoes with the meat.

Chuck it all out into a serving dish, and sprinkle with the pickles and the coriander (or parsley).

Eat with a big mixed salad dressed with salt, more olive oil and white wine vinegar.”

As honourable and upstanding board game developers, we are naturally opposed to any form of cheating. Having said that, are there any particular ingredients that we might keep handy to slip in to our normal household recipe repertoire, thus instantly conjuring up a dash of fusion Portugeseness?

“With a tub of red pepper paste (see above) and lots of garlic, you can Portuguesify anything. Marinate fish or meat in that, with plenty of crushed garlic. If you can lay your hands on Portuguese cured sausages, like chouriço (not Spanish chorizo) you can chop this into the frying stage of any soup or stew of vegetables, pulses or meat, making for a very traditional Portuguese flavour.”

To add authenticity, is there any particular ritual or habit that one should observe in order to properly dine like Portugese people?

“If you want to be truly Portuguese while you eat, make sure that, while you eat your meal, you discuss what your next meal will be, or what your favourite restaurant is, or argue about whether there should be onions in your favourite bacalhau dish or not. And make sure there is a bottle of Portuguese wine on the table and plenty of damned good bread (make it sourdough or cornbread) and ideally, some cheese, probably sheep or goat. The Portuguese are crazy for cheese.”

Finally, for the right atmosphere, what should we have on our stereo for our Portugese-themed games evening?

“Something pertaining to fado would be the obvious choice, but it can be a bit miserable and caterwauly and will put you off your game strategy.

Instead, find some music by guitarist, Carlos Paredes.”

Massive thanks to Lucy for the recipe and the tips. If this whetted your appetite for more, ‘Eat Portugal’ is available from various Portugese and International booksellers: try Leya on http://www.leyaonline.com/pt/livros/culinaria-e-gastronomia/eat-portugal/ or Wook at http://www.wook.pt/ficha/eat-portugal/a/id/16410024 . There’s more all-round Portugese gluttony at Lucy and Célia’s food blog at www.eatportugal.net – Célia offers eating and drinking tours should you be visiting Lisbon – looking at the photographs, we’d definitely give it a go…


Yummmm... Portugese food!
A Portugese fruit stall. Could be recreated at home.
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