Portugal is a country of daring cuisine, strong flavours and high quality ingredients. Portuguese cooking is extremely varied and regarded as one of the best in the world, with iconic dishes in every region.
Christmas is a time for joy, family and love and winter calls for dishes with substance and desserts that are sweet on the palate. ... here are some of the treats you can't miss out on at a Christmas table in any part of the country!!
Cod with all the trimmings
Salt cod is one of the ingredients most typically found in Portuguese cuisine. Although it originates from the colder waters of northern Europe, it is prepared in over 1,000 different ways in our country. At Christmas, salt cod is eaten with all the trimmings, which means boiled potato, chickpeas, cabbage, carrots and boiled egg. A dish with simple and extremely comforting roots, this is a must on Christmas Eve all over the country. If anything is left over, it is all mixed together to create the famous ‘old clothes’, which are eaten at lunch the following day.
Roast kid with roast potatoes is the most commonly eaten Christmas lunch dish in this region, usually accompanied by greens. It is a dish typical of Beira Baixa, but eaten on Christmas Day in various parts of the country.
French toast, or golden slices - depending on the region - are one of the most common desserts at Christmas throughout the country. They are made using dry bread, although the method varies from house to house, sometimes with or without milk, and with or without eggs. A sinfully fried delight with a cinnamon taste, perfectly justifiable for this festive season !!
Watch chef Benoît Sinthon from Il Gallo d'Oro prepare a modern interpretation of this dish in his restaurant in Madeira and surprise your family and friends !!
The traditional Christmas lunch dish is, unsurprisingly, Roupa Velha (‘Old Clothes’) which, as the name suggests, is prepared with the leftovers from the previous night's meal. Although it is a dish enjoyed all over the country, it is especially popular in the North. Made from leftover cod, cabbage and potatoes.
Coscorões are rarely missing from the Portuguese Christmas table. These typical Christmas fritters are made from flour, eggs, sugar, egg yolks and orange juice, which after mixing together are fried into squares and rectangles. ..
Besides being delicious, egg chestnuts are very easy to make and are sold throughout the North of Portugal, especially at Christmas time. Water, sugar and eggs are all you need to make this treat!
The pears are cooked in a delicious sugar syrup combined with the classic Port Wine. A visually desirable dessert rich in flavour.
Roast turkey, with or without stuffing, is another classic Christmas lunch. With variations from region to region, it can be accompanied by a stuffing of sausages, minced meat, chestnuts and vegetables.
Empanadilhas are a variation on the famous azevias, a popular sweet this time of year in the regions of Estremadura and the Alentejo. This fried pastry is filled with sweet potato, sugar and cinnamon — once you try one, you will be begging for more !!
One typical Christmas dish in the Algarve is chicken stew. A rooster is chosen months in advance and fattened to be ready for this event. It is then marked as the "Christmas Rooster", receiving special care until the day it goes into the pot. This is a stew that cooks slowly for hours - this makes the meat so tender that it separates from the bones, resulting in a deliciously intense dish that comforts the soul.
Meat in a wine and garlic marinade
In Madeira, a typical Christmas lunch dish is diced pork seasoned in wine and garlic. This little treat is accompanied with bread and vegetable migas or a slice of bread fried in lard. The tradition was brought here by settlers from Minho in northern Portugal. They had a way of cooking meat similar to the rojões from their region, which was adapted by the Madeirans with seasoning and herbs growing on the island.
Honey cake ("bolo de mel") is an essential item at the tables of Madeira's families at Christmas. Although somewhat difficult to make, the result is fantastic — and they say it lasts a whole year (if there's any left, of course) !!
A small sweet with a real Christmassy flavour, using spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Learn how to make honey cornbread at home with chef Alcino Marques - it's easy and perfect for entertaining the little ones!