Pasteis de Belem

If there’s one thing I absolutely had to try before I left Portugal, it was the mother of all Portuguese tarts. These ones are so special that they’re not even known as Pasteis de Nata, but as Pasteis de Belem. When things are hyped, I tend to be skeptical but it was something I needed to try. It was the original tart before Pasteis de Natas were born.

Pasteis_de_Belem

Pasteis de Belem

The Pasteis de Belem is one of the biggest secrets of Lisbon and only one guy knows the full recipe. Although every person tells the tale a little differently, I was informed that only three people know the recipe for these delicious tarts – and by three, I mean each individual only knows their part of the recipe and they don’t even know who the other two individuals are before it is combined in the bakery. The rumour is these individuals can’t even reveal their third of the recipe to anyone because they will be prosecuted. And with good reason! Nobody else is able to duplicate these delicious tarts. The closest that any recipe has ever come to duplicating it is the Pasteis de Nata.

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The making of Pasteis de Belem

Even though the Pasteis de Nata and the Pasteis de Belem look the same, there are some differences. There may be debates about which one is better, but I personally fell in love with the Belem one. It’s creamier, smoother, and it probably helps that I ate one (which ended up being two in one sitting) that came fresh out of the oven.

Well, not straight out of the oven because apparently it needs to cool down a bit to stabilize or it will disintegrate. It has a milky cream filling with a crispy, flaky pastry. I found that the Pasteis de Belem aren’t as sweet as the Pasteis de Nata either. This is not to say I didn’t try the Pasteis de Nata while in Lisbon. I ate it at a place that was highly recommended by a guide who preferred the Nata over the Belem tarts.

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Pasteis de Nata

However, I still preferred the Pasteis de Belem version. They were so much better. Locals say it’s best to add cinnamon and powdered sugar on top to enhance the flavours. All I can say is taking a bite into a Pasteis de Belem is like taking a bite of heaven.

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Optional: cinnamon and sugar

Be forewarned though, if you decide to visit this bakery it is always packed with people (even for takeout).

Line ups

Crazy line ups all times of the day, every day of the week!

There are 400 seats in the bakery, but almost every table is always full. You essentially have to stalk tables like a parking spot during Boxing Day or Black Friday at a mall. However, it’s worth it to enjoy a delicious Pasteis de Belem with a cup of tea or coffee. They also have other good eats as well! πŸ™‚

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Winter Melon Soup (Recipe)

I was pretty disturbed when I first came to the realization that the price of buying groceries is almost equivalent to the amount of money you spend at a restaurant or on catering. The only difference between the former and the latter is convenience and healthiness. I guess I can understand why some people don’t even bother cooking since the hours in a day are limited, but I still think there is merit in cooking. This is why I’m sharing this recipe for an easy to make, healthy, winter melon soup. It just so happens that every year, I have family members that grow these huge melons in their backyard and share their harvest with us. This year we got two ginormous ones.

Winter_melon

Two winter melons fresh from the garden

All you need for this recipe is a handful of ingredients:

  • 1 winter melon
  • Variety of seafood (we used a frozen mix with baby squid, mussels, and octopus)
  • Chicken broth
  • Green onions, thinly sliced
  • Shiitaki mushrooms (optional)

First, cut the top of the melon off and scoop out the seeds. Place it on a flat dish that is big enough to hold the whole melon.

Winter_Melon

Bring a huge steamer pot to boil and gently put the melon into the pot with the dish (you may need to add a stand into the pot before you start steaming so that the melon isn’t sitting in boiling water). Steam until it is about 3/4 done (depending on the size of the melon, it can take up to an hour or so and the skin becomes lighter as it cooks).

Winter_melon

Once the melon is partially cooked, add chicken broth into the melon so that it fills the “bowl” halfway. Technically, you could also add shiitake mushrooms into the mix to make it tastier, but since the melon was so narrow we omitted it this time so that there would be more space for the other ingredients.

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Continue steaming and when the broth is heated, add the seafood. If you aren’t using baby pieces of seafood, I would recommend that you cut the seafood into smaller pieces so that there is variety in every scoop.

Continue to cook until the melon and seafood are done. Once it has cooled down a bit, remove the melon carefully by lifting the plate with a cloth or tongs or both (the last thing you want to do is burn yourself!). Scrape the sides of the melon bowl so that you can enjoy pieces of the winter melon along with the seafood and broth.

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Winter melon soup

Sorry, it didn’t evaporate this much. It was half eaten before I remembered to take a picture!

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A steaming bowl of winter melon soup

Serve into individual bowls and enjoy! πŸ™‚

 

A Three Day Wedding

Have you ever been to a three day ceremony wedding before? Let alone experienced a three day Indian wedding? My friend recently got married and it was quite the experience. Each ceremony was different from the other, but being Yes! All Roads Lead to Food, it’s all about the journey of food too! First was the sanjeet which was the henna/mehndi ceremony, then came the two days of wedding ceremonies. The second day was a more intimate ceremony that took place outdoors. It was pretty cold being September, but we managed to survive to see the ceremony.

After, we went to an outdoor gazebo. I though we were going to freeze since the sun was going down, but they provided guests with some blankets and (thankfully!) there were heat lamps. I clung to those like Scrat clings to his acorns!

For food, we were offered a spread of sandwiches, wraps, a variety of cheese, fruit, chicken, pasta salad, assortment of grilled veggies, and a delicious salad filled with chunks of butternut squash and candied nuts. As you know, I’m not a huge fan of sandwiches but I loved the cheese platter and butternut squash salad. Yum!

The best part was the firepit. Not just for warmth and romantic mood lighting, but it was there so that guests could make smores! It was such a cute idea!

There was also the dessert tower with small donuts! These went fast! Of course, dancing followed for the remainder of the night.

The next ceremony was the big and formal one. We were served appetizers similar to the ones we had at the sanjeet, but this time I got pictures – fish pakora, aloo tikki (potato patties) and tandoori chicken with a side of green chutney, which tends to have mint and coriander in it.

For dinner, we were served a buffet spread of common Indian dishes like palak paneer, dal, butter chicken, naan, rice, etc. I love palak paneer and my partner loves butter chicken so we were in heaven!

Another favourite Indian food of mine is something I don’t have often, so I’m glad that they served it – burfi! It was under the cake (which was devoured within seconds) tower so that guests could just pick and choose what they wanted. For those who don’t know, burfi is an Indian confectionery treat that is made with milk. It tends to be rich and very sweet, so usually one or so suffices for most sweet addicts.

An interesting tradition I learned along the way is the stealing of the shoes. While most weddings have the garter toss and the bouquet toss, this was new to me. Basically the bridesmaids steal the groom’s shoes and the groomsmen have to pay them to get them back. It was pretty hilarious, given that the groom started with a $20 bill, then $100 bill, and then gave his car keys (though I’m sure he got them back). Also, the bride and groom tend to sit in this luxurious looking seat with a colourfully draped background while people go up to greet them.

It’s interesting because traditionally, my culture tends to go to each table to toast guests but hey! Why not have the guests come up to you as you lounge in luxury? πŸ™‚ Anyway, it was fun but I’m glad it’s over. Three day weddings are exhausting! But before I go, I can finally say I got to wear a beautiful sari. I can now cross that off my bucket list! πŸ™‚

A Sanjeet Celebration

I have been calling it a “san-jeet”, but it’s really called a “san-geet”. My first reaction was panic. What’s a sanjeet?!?! I was invited to one because one of my old classmates is getting married. As a first timer, here’s what I discovered. First, I walked into a room that was decorated with low lighting, cavalier chairs and cute little umbrellas. Great for photo ops and I’m sure the umbrellas had significant meaning.

We were fed appetizers to start, including fish pakoras, a cheese pastry, and a potato one. Then came some dancing entertainment and henna sessions. I haven’t done henna since the whole Madonna craze, but it’s said that the darker it comes out, the more your partner loves you.

After, we got to splurge on our buffet style meal. It was a spread of different vegetarian Indian dishes, including salad, rice, palak paneer (spinach and cheese) malai kofta (cheese and potato), raita (yogurt-cucumber dip), and chapati (bread).

There was also dal (a lentil dish), but I’m not a huge fan of that so I skipped it.

For dessert, I missed the photo opportunity since my camera battery died. However, there was my favourite – gulab jamun! There’s was also a white sweet called rasgulla (soft and spongy and super sweet!), and an interesting triangular treat wrapped in a leaf called paan that people kept telling me was a breath freshener with fennel seeds inside. Let’s just say you’re supposed to eat it with the leaf, but I just took a small piece of the filling to try. And I can attest! It was definitely a breath freshener, though definitely not a favourite of mine. It was filled with coconut, fennel seeds and more fennel seeds in a colourful candy coating.

There was a bit of dancing after dinner, but being a weekday we had to leave early. The groom’s father passed out some goody bags to us before we left and said “it’s an Indian tradition”.

When I got home, I opened it up to find a baggie of goodies containing ladoo and some deep fried snacks. Yum!

Going to a sanjeet was a fun experience. I’m glad I went. And look how the henna came out. πŸ™‚

No Dough Pizza – An Open-Face Pizza Hoagie

We wanted the taste of pizza, but not the mess that came along with using dough so we ended up creating this open-face pizza hoagie instead. It’s similar to the campfire pizza I made last year, minus the naan and the campfire. Intead, we use an oven and buns. This recipe is enough to feed two if you’re super hungry, but you can always split one bun and have a side salad if you’re watching your carb intake. It’s nothing fancy, but this recipe surely satisfies that pizza craving!

Pizza_toppings

Pizza toppings

Ingredients:

  • 2 long buns
  • 1 container of pizza sauce (or homemade if you have any)
  • Shredded cheese
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 pepper (I chose orange for some sweetness, but any will work)
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • Bag of pre-cut pepperoni

 

Open_Face_Pizza_Hoagie

Ready to go into the oven

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325Β°C.
  2. Cut the buns into halves, lengthwise.
  3. Spread pizza sauce on top.
  4. Add as much cheese as you desire. The more, the gooier.
  5. Add the remaining toppings as sparsely or as heavy as you would like.
  6. Cover a baking sheet with foil for an easy clean up. Add the prepped buns onto the baking sheet and put it into the preheated oven and bake for about 5-10 minutes (or until the ingredients have warmed up/toasted/melted to your liking).

Easy peasy! Even though I generally prefer a thinner bun, there is something about having a thick, crusty bread too. Plus, you don’t want your ingredients to fall off. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

The Travesseiros of Sintra

There’s a small city not too far from Lisbon called Sintra. It’s a beautiful area full of castles, parks, and sights. Although I originally wanted to see Pena Palace, the local guide recommended that we see the National Palace instead because a) it was more bang for your buck b) the National Palace is apparently more beautiful than Pena Palace, and c) Pena Palace was more gimmicky and touristy, than anything. Being a non-local, I took his advice.

And although I can’t compare with Pena Palace, the National Palace and grounds were beautiful. Interestingly enough, there’s a theory that the Illuminati built the palace because of all the subtle symbols that they incorporated into the architecture. They couldn’t make it blatantly apparent because they would have been prosecuted, so it’s interesting that they would risk their lives to do so. That’s dedication! Anyway, I don’t travel just for the sights but also for the food! If there’s one thing about Sintra, they are known for a little treat called “travesseiros”, which translate as “pillow”.

Travesseiros_Sintra

Travesseiros and a view of Sintra

Our local guide was kind enough to buy us these rectangular pastries, while spoiling us with a beautiful view of Sintra. Travesseiros are pastries consisting of eggs, almond cream, and puff pastry. It’s a light, airy and fluffy pastry that comes in the comforting shape of a rectangular pillow. I’m not usually the type to love cream-filled desserts, but after all the climbing and walking we did, I definitely enjoyed it! The best part is it’s not overly sweet!

 

Wedding Fun

Summer means wedding season, and wedding season means food! I bring this up because recently I went to a wedding and this is what I ended up eating: caldo verde, steak with veggies, and an apple blossom for dessert which I thought was unique:

I’m glad I got to try caldo verde because it was on my list of things to try, but I digress. Although the overall meal wasn’t crazy exciting, they had a huge sweets table and a poutine bar afterwards. I wish I caught some shots of those, but I might have had a bit too much fun by that time. πŸ˜‰

In relation, the next wedding I have is in the fall. I’m excited because it will be my first Indian wedding! Funny enough, just before I left for Portugal, I got engaged which also explains my lack of online presence. I’m hoping to pump out some more posts soon, but I’m apologizing in advance for the delays! Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details of wedding planning. Unless it’s about delicious, delicious food! πŸ™‚

A Portuguese Tea Factory

“A woman is like a teabag – only in hot water do you realize how strong she is” – Nancy Reagan.

Tea

I found that quote interesting. And the subject of tea just so happens to be in relation to my visit to a tea factory in Portugal.

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Tea Field

When I was in the Azores, I got to see the only commercialized tea producer, ChΓ  Gorrena. The other one, Porto Fermoso, is non-commercialized and the owner apparently only does it for fun. It must be nice to have such hobbies, let alone the time to do it!

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Cha Gorreana

Tea appeared in Portugal when some people brought seeds from Brazil and planted them. At first, the Portuguese didn’t know how to properly cultivate them so they were having a lot of trouble growing the plants. Thankfully, due to some Portuguese ties with Macau (an island not too far from Hong Kong that was colonized by the Portuguese), they were able to fly in some “tea experts” to teach them how to grow the plants and that’s when tea started to take off in Portugal.

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Tea Plant

While I have seen tea fields before, I never knew that one plant could produce several types of teas. The top leaf of this particular plant produces orange pekoe, the second is just pekoe, and the third is broken leaf tea used to make iced tea.

Tea_diagram

Tea diagram

To gather the leaves, workers manually pluck them off of metre high bushes. It takes seven years for these bushes to grow before you can even use them for tea.

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Tea field of ChΓ  Gorreana

I can’t fully recall the full process, but the general idea is they separate the leaves, mix them with steam to avoid oxidation, dry them, and then make tea with them.

Back in the day with the older machinery,  only 60 teabags were produced per hour. With the newer technology that they use now, it has doubled production, making it 120 teabags per hour now.

I don’t know about you, but I love tea and this tour was enlightening. Now I have to add tea picking to my bucket list. Perhaps in my next visit to China. πŸ™‚

Unique Blogger Award

Sometimes, you just need a pat on the back when you’re having a bad day. Not that I’m having a bad day at all, but a good day just became better when I found out that Nena from Nena Baking Recipes nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award. She’s an awesome baker who loves to share delicious mouthwatering recipes. Also just in, Anusha’s Cuisines also nominated me. Her blog is so hot right now she has won three awards within a week! Check their sites out for some awesome recipes!

Unique_Blogger_Award

Rules:
β€’ Share the link to the blogger who has nominated you.
β€’ Answer the questions.
β€’ In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 15 people and notify them.
β€’ Ask the three questions.

Questions for Me from Nena:

1. What the greatest thing you have done to your life? Survived 5 days in the Amazon and lived to tell.

2. What is your favourite dessert that will you never feel tired eating for this dessert?Β This might be too generic, but I love cake. Cheesecake, carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, black forest cake, chocolate cake, vanilla cake…..I don’t discriminate. I love cake!

3. If you have chance to travel, which place you want to go and why?Β My goal is to travel to every continent at least once (and possibly every country) in this lifetime, butΒ high on my bucket list right now are Thailand, Greece, Russia, and Peru.

Questions for Me from Anusha:

1. Who is your inspiration and why?Β My parents. They worked hard and came with nothing.

2. Which is your favourite dish and cooked by whom?Β Hard to say which dish, but obviously something my mom makes. Nothing like momma’s good home cooking. πŸ™‚

3. What are you scared of and why?Β Centipedes. I was traumatized by them when I lived in a small basement apartment years ago.

My Question to the Nominees:

1. What is your life motto?

2. Do you believe in aliens?

3. Which place is your most favourite country to travel to and why?

My Nominees in Random Order:Β 

Congrats to the nominees! Don’t feel obliged to accept and re-post. I just thought I’d acknowledge your awesome blogging skills! Enjoy! πŸ™‚

Pineapples in the Azores

Who Lives in a Pineapple Under the Sea?….Sponge Bob Square Pants! I know. Very random, but I’m bringing up the topic of pineapples because I’ve never seen a pineapple plantation. Fortunately, being on the lovely island of Sao Miguel in the Azores (Portugal), I got the chance to see one.

Pineapple Plantation Sign

Welcome sign at a pineapple plantation in the Azores

For some reason, I just assumed pineapples grew on trees but (surprise!) they don’t. On Sao Miguel, they are world renown for their pineapples and they grow them in little greenhouses around the island. Each greenhouse at this plantation showed the pineapples at a different stage of growth, which I thought was pretty neat to see.

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The beginning stages of a pineapple – babies leaves sprouting

The stalks are tough, thick leaves. They eventually form the deliciously juicy fruit we all know and love in the center.

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Pineapple greenhouse – baby pineapples sprouting

This greenhouse used bamboo sticks to keep the plants straight.

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Bamboo shoots help keep them straight

When we were done observing the plantation, we went into the store where they let us sample some pineapple liquor. I can’t say I loved the burning sensation of the alcohol going down my throat, but I did love the pineapple taste. I think it would be really good to mix into a tropical flavoured cocktail drink!

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Pineapple liquor

Pineapples are so famous on the Azores for their natural sweetness that they even sell them at the airport as souvenirs! If I recall correctly, they were 7€ each.

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Pineapples are sold at the airport

How about them (pine) apples? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’ll go back into into my cave now. Until next time. πŸ™‚