Book review: Portugal The Cookbook

By Stefan Chomka contact

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Book review: Portugal The Cookbook by chef Leandro Carreira

Related tags: Cookbook, Chef, Recipe, Leandro Carreira

Leandro Carreira's new cookbook shows the depth and diversity of Portugal's cuisine.

The recent launch of Nuno Mendes’ restaurant Lisboeta is ensuring that the food of Portugal remains in the spotlight over here, but he is not the only top chef to currently be banging the drum for the country’s cuisine. Step forward Leandro Carreira, executive chef at ambitious London seafood bar, shop and restaurant The Sea, The Sea, who has penned a comprehensive overview of Portuguese food.

Portugal The Cookbook​ sees Carreira delve in Portugal’s cuisine moving across the country, from the Minho region in the north, known for its beef, that comes from the Barrosa breed of cattle, as well as port and olive oil, to the Ribatejo region in the south, home to the famed acorn-fed Pata Negra pigs as well as egg-yolk based pastries (the whites being used for export and as a purifier in wine production) taking in the seafood of the Algarve coast and the stews of the Douro Valley.

Then there’s the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores with their more tropical climate and volcanic landscape that are ideal for wine making and cheese production respectively. As he says in his introduction: “For such a small country, Portugal has a huge diversity within its cuisine”, and this book ably demonstrates this.

As with many Phaidon cookbooks, much is packed into the book’s 450 pages with around three recipes and an image for every double page spread. Kicking off with bread and bread dishes and soup, the book is already more than 100 recipes strong before reaching chapters such as vegetables and mushrooms and its biggest chapter on fish (there are more than 550 traditional recipes in total). All in all, Portuguese cuisine is divided into 13 sections that demonstrate its breadth, with whole chapters also dedicated to pork; shellfish and snails; beef and veal; mutton, lamb and goat; rice dishes and savoury cakes; dessert; and sweet bread, cakes and tarts among others.

Each chapter introduces a different element of Portugal’s cuisine, from the fresh and zippy seafood preparations of clams in the cataplana; and limpets with pink peppercorns, to more hearty dishes such as lamb offal stew cooked with blood; stuffed sheep’s stomach sausages; and pig’s ears and tails with garlic and coriander.

Then there’s the expressively named desserts, such as ‘nun’s necks’; ‘angels’ double chins’; and ‘bacon from heaven’, so named when lard was used in its preparation, and which was one of the first desserts Carreira baked as an apprentice.

The aforementioned Mendes also makes an appearance, alongside fellow Portuguese chefs Jose Avillez, George Mendes and Vasco Coelho Santos as well as TATA Eatery’s Ana Goncalves and Zijun Meng, all of whom have contributed a recipe to the book.

In addition, Carreira has managed to condense the history of Portuguese food into eight pages, charting the evolution of the cuisine from the Celtic invasion and the arrival by sea of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Jews to the subsequent occupation of the Romans and then the Moors – each leaving an indelible mark not just on the country but on the food that was eaten. A story of peri-peri chicken this ain’t.

Portugal The Cookbook
Author: ​Leandro Carreira
Number of pages: ​448
Must try dish: ​Puffed pastry triangles with egg cream and meringue topping
Publisher and price: ​Phaidon, £39.95




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