Last time we visited Portugal, we were lucky enough to stay in the beautiful area of Silves. A stunning place that’s a lot more traditional than the tourist destinations that a lot of travellers tend to prefer. However, whenever my family travel, we prefer to go somewhere away from the regular tourist haunts, where commercialism has taken over and opt for somewhere scenic and as untouched as possible.
Now food is a massive thing when we travel as we’re huge foodies. When we were dating, Andy would always take me to places out the way that served amazing food, and this has carried on through our relationship so whenever we’ve travelled abroad, we have always tried to eat in places of great local interest. You will generally find the best places to eat are off the beaten track and are frequented by locals the majority of the time. That is usually where you find the most amazing traditional dishes rather than food that they believe tourists crave.
Young people may go to Portugal for the fun and excitement of cheaper holidays full of drink and frivolity in Albufeira but if you take a moment to look at the what the country is famous for and what you can indulge in whilst eating some of the most exquisite home reared and grown food, at the smaller less populated areas, then take home the ambiance with you to recreate when you return home.
Taste of Porto
Monarch have beautifully collated some of the most amazing ingredients, dishes and restaurants that you should sample, when you travel to Porto, the home of Port, but what other delights can you recreate at home with a bottle of ruby port?
It’s the quintessential UK Christmas drink of many a family. Made in the Douro region of northern Portugal can be called port, or “Porto” but don’t be fooled thinking it’s a one trick pony. After becoming popular in the early 1700s, French wine couldn’t be imported to Britain, so people turned to Portugal’s offerings instead but there is so much more you can do with it rather than just drinking it.
We thought we’d give you a couple of recipes of food that we ate when we travelled to Silves, using Port as a base for sauce.
Frango Na Pucara
Portuguese Chicken with Wine Sauce
- 600g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 75g gammon ham (cut into small cubes)
- 2 Large tomatoes (we used large pink Bull's Heart Tomatoes)
- 5 Small onions (you can also use shallots)
- 2 garlic cloves (whole but remove skin)
- 35g cold butter (we used goats butter)
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 50ml port
- 50ml brandy
- 75ml white wine
- 2 bay leaves (whole)
- 1 heaped teaspoon smokey, sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil (just to sear the chicken)
- pinch Pink Himalayan Salt (to taste)
- pinch Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
Preheat oven to 220C = 450F = Gas Mark 8
Heat the olive oil up in a frying pan and sear the chicken on both sides (not too much on the skinless side or you will dry it out). If you have skin on your chicken just make sure the chicken is brown and crispy on the skin side).
Turn the tomatoes upside down and cut a small x on the bottom. Then pop them in a bowl and fill with hot water. Leave them for 5 minutes then carefully remove them and remove the skin.
Slice the ham into small cubes (if you haven't already).
Cut the tomatoes into slices, removing all the seeds.
Chop up the onions into thin slices and then the butter.
Lay the tomatoes on the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish, followed by half the shallots, half the ham, garlic and bay leaves.
In a cup mix the mustard, port, brandy, white wine, paprika, parsley, salt and pepper.
Once the chicken is browned, put these on top of your tomato and onion layer with the rest of the butter, onion and ham.
Pour the port mixture over the top and place in the oven for 50 minutes. The chicken should then be cooked thoroughly (but you must check as our oven can be temperamental).
Once checked and cooked through, remove the lid and cook for another 10 minutes to crisp up the chicken slightly. Serve.
That dish was simply divine. The port gave it depth and the paprika gave a tingle to the tastebuds. Perfect dish for a warm Summer evening on the patio.
The next dish, was nice but was originally served with fried onions and peas, but we prefer a delicious Portuguese Rice which with succulent tomatoes, makes the dish much more family friendly.
Baked Pork Fillet
Yield Serves 4
- 600g organic, free range pork fillet (leave whole)
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 4 garlic cloves (whole without skin)
- 2 Small fennel bulbs (or 1 large but can be substituted for onion)
- 5 tablespoons Port
- 1 tablespoon Lime Honey (or other flavoured honey)
- 5 tablespoons olive oil (2 for searing the pork)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Pink Himalayan Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
Put 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan with 2 sprigs of rosemary to infuse the oil.
Place the pork fillet in the pan, turn the heat to medium and sear. Season with half a tsp of Pink Himalayan salt and 1/2 ground black pepper. Make sure you season the complete fillet until the fillet is a lovely brown colour.
Take a large piece of tin foil and make a boat shape from it with a large rim around the edge. Place the beautifully seared pork on the bottom, topped with the garlic, fennel and the remaining rosemary sprigs.
In a cup, mix the port, the honey, the 3 tbsp of olive oil, and vinegar together. Pour this mixture over the pork and fennel. Close the tin foil inwards and wrap the sides together to form a parcel.
Place the parcel in the oven, and cook for around 35 minutes (check at 30 minutes, and if it’s not cooked, check every 5 minutes up to 40 minutes).
When cooked remove from oven and serve in slices with the port infused fennel, drizzled with the port sauce.
But don’t take my word for it, why not taste it for yourself and book a nice little getaway with our friends at Monarch to Portugal. I know from experience travelling with them that they pull out all the stops to make your journey trouble free and your break an experience to remember.