Christmas delicacies during the holidays
Portugal is a country with a bold cuisine, with strong flavours and prime ingredients. Considered one of the best cuisines in the world, Portuguese gastronomy is extremely diverse, with emblematic dishes in each region.
Christmas is a time for joy, family and love, and the Winter demands hearty dishes and sweet desserts. .. here are some of the delicacies that simply must be present on Christmas throughout the country !!
Boiled cod (Bacalhau com todos)
Codfish is one of the most typical ingredients in Portuguese cuisine. Although it comes from the cold waters of the north of Europe, it is prepared in more than 1000 different ways in Portugal. On Christmas Eve, the typical dish is boiled cod with potatoes, chickpeas, cabbage, carrots and boiled eggs. A dish with simple roots and extremely comforting, it’s eaten on this night all around the country. If there are any leftovers from the dish, everything is mixed together to create "roupa velha” (old clothes), a delicious dish eaten the next day.
Oven roasted lamb (Cabrito assado no forno)
Lamb roasted in the oven with small roasted potatoes is the typical Christmas day lunch in this region, usually with a side of greens. This dish is traditionally from the Beira Baixa region and has a strong presence on Christmas day in several parts of the country.
French toast (Rabanadas)
Rabanadas, or fatias douradas (golden slices) — depending on the region — are a type of French toast and one of the most popular desserts during Christmas time all over Portugal. Their preparation varies from home to home, but they start with stale bread. There are versions with or without milk, and even with or without eggs. A fried sinful delight with a taste of cinnamon, perfectly reasonable during this festive season !!
Watch chef Benoît Sinthon from Il Gallo d’Oro restaurant prepare his own modern interpretation of this dish at his restaurant in Madeira and surprise your friends and family !!
Roasted turkey (Peru assado)
Roasted turkey with or without stuffing is a classic Christmas day meal. With variations in every region, the turkey is often eaten with minced meat stuffing, chestnuts and vegetables.
Empanadilhas are a variation of another Portuguese sweet, called "azevias”, very typical during Christmas time in the regions of Estremadura and Alentejo. This deep fried sweet has a sweet potato stuffing, with sugar and cinnamon — it’s hard to eat only one !!
Rooster stew (Guisado de galo)
This stew is a typical Christmas dish in the Algarve. The rooster is specially chosen several months beforehand and fattened up to make sure that it meets the high standards of such an event. It is immediately labelled as the "Christmas Rooster”, getting special attention until the date when it is to be prepared. This stew cooks slowly and gently for several hours until the meat is so tender that is falls off the bone, resulting in a delicious and intense dish that warms up the heart and soul.
Pork with wine and garlic (Carne em vinha d’alhos)
In Madeira, the most typical Christmas lunch dish in pork meat cut into cubes and marinated in wine and a lot of garlic (vinha d’alhos). This delicious dish is eaten with a side of bread stew (migas) and vegetables, or by a slice of bread fried in lard. A tradition that comes from the settlers of the Minho region, who brought with them a cooking method similar to the way they prepare pork in their region, which was then adapted by the people of Madeira with their own spices and herbs from the island.
Honey cake (Bolo de mel)
The honey cake is a dessert that cannot be excused from the table during Christmas in Madeira. It is quite a labour intensive cake, but the final product in simply amazing — and they say it can be kept during one whole year (that is, if there is any left) !! Chef Nuno Castro organized a workshop with the management team of the PortoBay hotels. .. with a very fun and tasty outcome.
Honey biscuits (Broas de mel)
A small sweet with a true Christmas flavour, from spices such as cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Learn how to make "broas de mel” in your own home with chef Alcino Marques — it’s really easy and perfect to get the children involved !!