Wednesday, 20 February 2013

American Suburbanite in Portugal: The legend of Barcelos

A rooster in Obidos  
Go into any souvenir shop in Portugal and you will notice little brightly painted roosters.  Its like there is a "Beyonce, the giant metal chicken" for everyone!  After our third visit (if you count our port stop in Lisbon during our cruise) I finally decided to look into the meaning of these little cockerels.  We were in Lisbon on our next to the last day and we found the legend printed on a cork post card.  I didn't even read it at the time because I wasn't wearing my glasses. 

The next day was our last day and we kept ourselves very busy and tried to get to bed early for our 0415 check out to head to the airport for our 07~ flight.  So I don't think I actually read it until I was unpacking our luggage on the Monday.  

When I finally read the legend I was quite pleased it had nothing to do with cock fighting and machismo.  It dates back to the 13th century and comes from the village of Barcelos in northern Portugal.  A man was accused of stealing, in a time and place when theft was prosecuted and death by hanging was the penalty.  The man proclaimed his innocence, time and time again.  He requested a final meeting with the judge before his hanging.  As the judge was just getting served his supper, the man told the he was innocent and if he was killed, the cockerel on his plate would crow.  The judge was not convinced but the cockerel crowed and the man was immediately set free.  Talk about salmonella threat!  For a slightly more elegant telling of the legend, check out the Wikepedia or Cascais travel websites. 

Our Postcard made of Cork

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sri Lankan Love Cake

For Christmas our sister-in-law got us spice packets from The SpiceryMy husband received 2 savory spice kits and I received 2 sweet spice kits.  We had the Ethiopian dora wat kit for supper a couple of weeks ago and it was delicious (took a while, but worth it!)  

So for Valentines Day I decided to try the Sri Lankan Love Cake for a desert that was a little unexpected and different than traditional chocolate and strawberries or red velvet cakes. It was quite appropriate as well considering it was a traditional gift from Portuguese women to their sweethearts when coastal Portugal was the gateway to the spice route and we just returned from Portugal. 

The recipe says 30 minutes prep time plus 40 for cooking.  It took me about 2 hours prep time.  It was not for my incompetance, quite the contrary.  It was so cold in our house I could not get the butter to cream.  I had to microwave it to get it soft enough to cream.  This alone took about 10 minutes as I was doing it in 10-20 second bursts on the defrost setting so as not to melt the butter.  As soon as I got it going, my phone rang.  After a 40 minute phone conversation with my mom, I went back to the ketchen and the butter (and flour mixture) was hard as a rock again.  I eventually had to put it in front of our space heater and leave it for about 20 minutes before it was workable.  At least at this point I was able to finish the cake and it was ready in time for my husbands return from work.  
I was concerned the rose would overwhelm the cake but the balance was lovely.  The cinnamon and cardomom worked very well together with the rose.

I did not have cashew nuts, but had almonds.  Also, I didn't cut them very small.  I put them in the food processor and got a mix of ground almonds and chunky whole bits of almonds.  This gave the cake a lovely crunchy texture. 

Because of my concerns about the rose, i did not steep the rose petals in the syrup for the glaze very long.  there was just a hint of floral notes with the spices and we absolutely loved the cake.  

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Cats of Portugal

Cats are as important to the Portuguese as to the Egyptians or the Internet! While in Portugal cats can be found around every corner, in castles, on beaches, in towns or country villages, everywhere! I am hesitant to call them feral because some have homes to go to, most are friendly, and they all appear to be fed very well. Over the last year with three visits, I think we saw cats nearly every day.

I am sure in the country amongst the vineyards, orange groves, and olive trees they serve a very good purpose keeping rodents and birds away from precious crops. This does not account for the vast numbers of cats and cat paraphernalia found throughout the country. There are cat statues, crazy cat lady tiles, cat mugs...

Needless to say, I enjoyed interacting with these kitties while away from my own and took photos of most of them. I nearly tried to sneak one into my bag one day! The pride at home is large enough though and I was glad to come home to them!

But while I am in Portugal, I will continue to love their cats! Here's a few pictures!