This blog is the precursor of our website to inform about our Quinta Colina Flora (a “green” Bed & Breakfast in the hills of the Sintra National Forest), share experiences, recipes, travel tips, and insights…
Portugal fascinated us during our previous two visits, and now, after four months as immigrants we are thrilled to have made the move. We are delighted by the ancient charm of this beautiful, tradition-rich country and its mild-mannered, friendly people.
We have chosen the region of Sintra as the site for our future B&B, an area with flowers blooming in every season, wondrous diverse landscapes and a rich abundance in the arts. Finding a suitable location has been challenging, but this interim period gives us the chance to explore our surroundings, source products for our inn, accomplish preparatory legwork, make contacts and kindle friendships.
This area is home to a large number of organic farmers, small food producers, artisans and artists, so it is proving easy to locate the necessary products for our future B&B which will stress “made in Portugal” and sustainability, serve only organic, mostly local foods, and attempt to make a difference.
We are temporarily renting a refurbished wine merchant`s house in the heart of the ancient, quaint and oh so lovely, small village of Almoçageme, which sits on hills overlooking the Atlantic, only a 45 minute drive north-west of Lisbon. Its mostly white-washed houses are huddled together with courtyards and gardens, enclosed by walls and hedges creating a maze of narrow streets and alleys with breathtaking views of the silver green-blue, often tumultuous, ocean.
What a treat it is to walk the cobbled road to the village market, buy threads and yarn in a tiny shop a few feet from our door and enjoy tea or coffee at one of the 6 cozy cafés. The fishmonger displays the catch of the day in the village square in an open blue and white tiled space which he hoses down at noon. Then the village elders (mostly the men) use it to congregate during the afternoons, and in the evenings, teenagers play cards and socialize there.
I have difficulty buying the whole fish, head and all, staring hopelessly at me, so I’ve asked the fishman to please decapitate them for me. Sardines (I think they´re vegetarians) have just come into season and there is an abundance of tuna from the waters near the Portuguese island of Madeira, as well as mussels, clams, various white fish and octopus. Traditionally the Portuguese enjoy lots of fish and meats, though vegetables and fruits are abundant at the various weekly farmers´ markets.
Portuguese cuisine has a immense repertoire of ways to cook fish. Everyone seems to agree that they have over a 1000 recipes for “Bacalhau” (salt cod, Portugal´s favourite fish). The next favourite seems to be sardines. They are often served grilled whole. A delicious sardine pate/spread is also very popular and frequently served as a starter with thick slices of bread.
The following quick and easy recipe was given to me by a friend whose relatives live in the US and don’t have easy access to fresh sardines. This is a delicious way to smuggle some extra omega 3’s into one’s daily fare.
1 stick unsalted softened butter – about 125 grams
1 tin of sardines in tomato sauce
Pinch of chilli powder
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Blend in food processor or blender…add salt and pepper to taste
Serve with fresh, warm country-style bread and, Enjoy!
Be well and GO SLOW!