I spent half term in Portugal.
Not the gourmet fest of a previous week in Puglia at the wonderful Borgo Egnazia (my full review of that will appear in the JC this month) as Mr Fresser and I were accompanied by our fussy pot children. (Those genes are definitely all his.)
Fine dining was out of the question. All meals were in taken in our apartment or in restaurants offering a children’s menu — a concept I fundamentally disapprove of. Anything for a quiet life.
I did manage a few foodie highlights:
- The perfect pastel de nata:
For the uninitiated, pastel de nata is a small custard tart with a crisp puff pastry shell. The custard is topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg. Cooked in a hot oven, the tops caramelise slightly but the custard retains a bit of a wobble — much like my belly after a week of noshing them for breakfast. They are unspeakably good, especially with a shot or two of bitter espresso. In the town of Silves we found a café where the owner bakes her own. Heavenly.
- New flavours:
Fig, carob and almond is a local combination. Carob has suffered over the years as a substandard chocolate substitute. It will never crack it as understudy to the product of the cacao pod, but carob has its own merits, and has been eaten in the Mediterranean areas in which it grows for many years.
In Puglia, I learned that the carob pod is filled with tiny seeds (called carats) which are of equal size. It is from these seeds that the unit of gold measurement got its name. (A worthy factoid.)
Algarve-side, they make a powder from ground carob husks and a syrupy jam from that. My first fig, carob and almond combo was a shortcrust pastry tart ordered in a restaurant in Rocha Brava. In my excitement, I started eating before my picture. Apologies.
The tart was good, but even better was the fig, carob and almond ice cream from my favourite Carvoeiro ice cream parlour, Gelados & companhia. Family-run, they make 18 flavours that they rotate all summer. The rice pudding flavour is a cinnamon-packed marvel and the fig, carob and almond was also a winner.
- More figs and more almonds:
They make the most of their produce. Every café offered a creative treat based on the local crops.
- Apolonia supermarket:
I love a supermarket. Even better, a foreign supermarket. I could spend hours browsing. Forget shoe shops or cheap leather bag stalls. I'd much rather be eyeing up the nosh.
We visitied what was possibly the best supermarket i've had the pleasure of browsing. They had EVERYTHING! Superb fresh produce — herbs and salad leaves i've never seen before — a huge range of just about everything.
Despite my managing to smash a bottle of truffle oil on my flip-flopped foot and their immaculately shiny floor — the staff were absolutely charming about it — it was love at first shop. No photos — supermarket selfies are just weird...