Last year, Maxence and I went on a little week-end getaway to Lisbon. A blissful, dazzling few days of walks along the narrow little streets, funicular rides up and down the hills, stunning views of the city, and sunny drives along the beautiful coast.
But all of this wouldn’t have been quite as magical without the stupendous Portuguese cuisine : seafood galore — grilled marinated fried salted or otherwise smoked — tasty little nibbles, scandalously underrated cheese, head-spinning port, the freshest fruit and, last but by no means least, out-of-this-world pastries.
In Lisbon, you cannot walk one block without hearing thousands of sweet little voices calling your name from pastelaria windows, teasing you with promises of puff pastry, custard fillings, orange flower water, almonds and nuts, fruits and chocolate, crispy crusts and spongy dough.
The interesting thing was that they didn’t look all that appealing to me at first : they have a much more homely, unsophisticated look than French pastries, which admittedly tend to look like they’re dressed to go to the prom. They also look a bit like they’re all the same, to the untrained eye at least, cancelling each other out somewhat.
But I can tell you, all it takes is a few bites to turn you into an absolute, enraptured, die-hard convert to the Religion of Portuguese Pastelaria. And I, for one, belong without a doubt to the Church of Queijadas de Sintra
I was recently discussing this serious matter with our friend Greg as we visited him and his family in Madrid. As luck would have it, Greg was to take a business trip to Portugal just a few days later, and he kindly offered to get me a book of recipes.
I received it in the mail the other day, a pretty little book, spiral-bound and full of recipes for pastelaria e sombremesas — pastries and cakes. It’s all in Portuguese of course, but that only heightens its appeal : what could possibly be more fun than making authentic Pastéis de Nata and Queijadinhas Vaqueiro, with no subtitles, rummaging your pantry for açúcar, queijo fresco and ovos, not to mention farinha and amêndoa? Nada, that’s what.
Muito obrigado, Greg!