I love croquettes, they take me down memory lane and remind me of when I used to walk home from secondary school and stop at the local grocery to get some, which I would finish off by the time I got home. They were the best croquettes I have ever eaten but sadly that grocery store is no more. The memory lives on, however, and I will continue making croquettes in search of that perfect taste and texture.
As a Portuguese person living in England and working in London I was really excited to hear about Nuno Mendes’s new place in East London. Taberna do Mercado is a little tavern-evoking restaurant serving typical Portuguese food. And for once, it really promised typical Portuguese food and not some adaptation, even though it has been upgraded to a more fine dining level. I had to go try it and soon!
One of the staple foods of Portugal is salted cod or ‘bacalhau‘, as we call it. It may well be THE staple food. The tradition of eating salted cod is at least 500 years old and we pride ourselves in preparing salted cod in hundreds of different ways. Literally hundreds, and some claim thousands. Cod is the only fish the Portuguese don’t eat fresh and somehow the tradition has stuck to the point that buying fresh cod in Portugal is hard if not impossible but buying any other fresh sea creature that can be eaten is easy. We love our fresh fish but we wouldn’t have our cod any other way!
‘Migas’ are a traditional Portuguese and Spanish dish that was created by shepherds who, as they went to the fields to look after their flock, had little more than stale bread and wild garlic to cook with. The story goes that the tradition stands and that they still cook the dish today.
This is so traditional Portuguese/Spanish, even the sterner connaisseur of Iberian foods would agree. And it’s proper peasant food! Is there anything more authentic? As usual, garlic and olive oil feature abundantly and it is surprisingly simple to make.
If you ever find yourself throwing away the bones, skin and remains of a roast chicken, roast chicken thighs or wings, stop! Approximately one hour separates you from that moment and a delicious chicken broth that will feel like a warm hug.
Throw those bones, skin and chicken debris in a pan with a few vegetables and olive oil, add water and small pasta, let the heat do its magic and you will be suitably rewarded. It really is that easy.
White sangria is a bit of a paradox, because the word ‘sangria’ comes from the word ‘sangre’ meaning blood in Spanish, to refer to its red colour as it is usually made with red wine. But white sangria is a lovely thing, especially when the weather is warmer and it accompanies seafood dishes perfectly. Or served at a BBQ. Or just because. It now features as prominently in our lives from May to October as Pimms and lemonade with strawberries and cucumber.
Green eggs (called ‘green’ because of the parsley) was something I used to eat all the time as a child. They are strangely addictive and if you think 3 eggs per person (what you find within a man-sized omelette) is a lot, think again. That’s 6 halves per person and I unashamedly admit that is a normal portion of green eggs for me.
Michelin-starred restaurants are always a treat. You sort of know what to expect but then you don’t because you get surprised and delighted every time. They are all unique experiences with individual highlights and their own twists and turns. This was no exception.
Il Gallo D’Oro is a 1-starred restaurant inside the Cliff Bay hotel in Funchal on the island of Madeira, and is led by chef Benoît Sinthon. His whole philosophy rests on local produce and the discovery of the Island of Madeira, adding ingredients from the Iberian peninsula, and coupling the food with top Portuguese wines.
As expected of restaurants at this level, especially ones that are hosted in hotels, the atmosphere was formal, restrained. People spoke softly and sat up straight. The décor was plain and unassuming. You come here to eat nice food, let’s make that clear from the outset.
An exuberant and slightly surreal exterior, a peculiar but cozy interior and an eccentric chef all contribute to making this a unique experience. Tokos is a delightful small restaurant on the island of Madeira that simply should not be missed.
Outside there is an impressive display of exotic flowers and plants, which sets the scene for a truly distinctive journey. Somehow, the exterior doesn’t quite add up and you are left with a feeling of anticipation. Inside is a small room flanked by a tiny kitchen, the décor strange and eclectic, lots of plants, clarinets and plates hanging on the wall together with naïf paintings depicting the chef (and owner), lacy curtains and a tapestry that seems out of place.