The Portuguese kitchen is not known for its subtleness or refinement. But that should not stop you from enjoying it! Portuguese cuisine comes with powerful flavours, lots of fish of course, bacalhau, Caldo Verde, octopus, cuttlefish, and the well known chicken piri-piri and pastel de nata. Same for Portuguese wine: perhaps not the most subtle wine (apart from Madeiras and Port wines), but how about an excellent Vinho Verde, a red wine from the Dão region made with Touriga Nacional or a red wine from Alentejo? We love flavors and we very much enjoy the bold dishes from Portugal.
Recently when in Brussels we booked a table at Chez Luis, a Portuguese Bar à vin and Restaurant. Tasty dishes like Pasteis de bacalhau, Cassolette de palourdes and Polvo lagareiro. Served with Portuguese wine, of course. And Chez Luis has an excellent choice! So we drank a vibrant espumante and a refreshing Vinho Verde (Longos Vales Alvarinho 2016). The Polvo made us think of one of our favorites: Octopus with summer vegetables. And since one octopus is way too much for two people, we simply bought two cooked tentacles. Feel free to buy a whole octopus, clean it, cook it, braise it and then follow the recipe below.
A Portuguese white wine will be a excellent choice, for instance a Vinho Verde like we enjoyed at Chez Luis. You could also go for a Spanish Verdejo from Rueda. Look for characteristics like fresh, fruity, clear acidity, subtle bitterness and full bodied.
What You Need
- 2 Octopus Tentacles (cooked)
- 1 Tomato
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- 2 gloves of fresh Garlic
- 1 Spring Onion
- Jerez Vinegar
- Black pepper
- (Optional) Parsley
- Olive oil
What You do
Clean the red bell pepper and slice in 4 to 6 chunks. Grill it in your oven until nicely burned. Transfer to a plastic container and close the lid. Wait a few hours before peeling the bell pepper. Slice it into cubes (not too small). Remove the pits from the tomato. Slice in similar cubes. Slice the garlic (again, not too small). Slice the spring onion. Mix the vegetables and fry gently in a hot pan with olive oil. Set to low heat. In parallel heat your grill pan. Remove the gelatinous substance from the tentacles, dry them, coat with olive oil and grill for 4*2 minutes, creating a nice brown criss-cross pattern. It will not be very visible, but it will be crunchy. Just before serving the dish, add some Jerez vinegar to the vegetables, turning it into something like a salsa. Perhaps some parsley and black pepper. Serve the hot tentacle on the vegetables and add a slice of lemon.
Lovely and Simple Starter
Pimientos de Padrón are mild, sweet tasting and small green peppers, originally from the Galicia region in Spain, but now widely available in Spain and Portugal. Story has it that one in a hundred (or more?) is actually very spicy, but rest assured, we have eaten many more and never encountered a spicy one. Ask your greengrocer for these lovely peppers because we’re sure you will enjoy them.
We would suggest drinking a Vinho Verde with the Pimientos de Padrón. Vinho Verde is a wine from the most northern part of Portugal, between the Douro and Minho rivers. Verde refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested very early in the year. This implies that the grapes contain a fairly small amount of sugar. As a result of this the wine (in most cases) has a fairly low percentage of alcohol (think 10%). But don’t be surprised if you find one with a higher percentage.
About Vinho Verde
In general we feel Vinho Verde is undervalued. It’s a great, very taste wine; one that is not just wonderful on a summers evening.
Vinho Verde is not a wine to store, so make sure you buy one from the most recent harvest.
Most Vinho Verde wines are white. They tend to have a very subtle bubble. The taste is light, floral and the wine comes with some clear acidity.
We also found a rosé and a red Vinho Verde. Seldom have we seen a wine with such an intense colour! To balance the acidity of the red Vinho Verde you must be combined with fat meat or rich sauces. We combined it with grilled Secreto of Iberico pork, which is a treat in its own right. Secreto is a thin, juicy cut from acorn fed, free range Iberico pigs.
As an extra: for two people buy 300 grams of Secreto. In a way the structure of the secreto resembles skate. One side of the secreto will look nice, fat and meaty, the other may look like if you have to remove extra fat. Which is exactly what you need to do! After having done that, heat a heavy grill pan (or the barbeque) and grill the meat for 4 times one minute, creating a nice pattern. The cuisson should be rosé. It’s not a problem if the thinner parts of the secreto are well done because the meat will be very juicy anyway, thanks to the fat. Serve with a sautéed courgette. The bitterness and the sweetness of the courgette combines really well with the juicy secreto. The red Vinho Verde will balance the fat and will turn the combination of secreto and courgette into an intriguing dish.
What You Need
- Pimientos de Padrón
- Olive Oil
- Sea Salt
What You Do
Clean the Pimientos de Padrón and dry the peppers. Heat a heavy skillet, add olive oil and fry the peppers for a few minutes. Make sure they are fried but not cooked. Sprinkle some sea salt over the Pimientos de Padrón, fry for a few seconds making sure the salt is somewhat adsorbed in the olive oil. Serve immediately.
Fresh Pimientos de Padron (© cadwu)
Pimientos de Padron ready to be served (© cadwu)