The first time I went to Portugal it was a bit of a culture shock for me. Normally when I go to another country I do a little bit of research but my daughter lives there and even though I wasn’t actually staying with her I did take a few things for granted. She was working during the day and so I had to entertain myself some of the time.
My first mistake was assuming that the majority of locals spoke English. Maybe this is the case further South where they have a large influx of English speaking visitors but not so much in the North. I stayed in Braga and luckily the staff at the hotel where I stayed all spoke enough English for me to get by.
I just loved the architecture in Braga. I spent a lot of time just walking around admiring the beautiful buildings.
While I was walking around the streets on the pavements some of which were wide enough for a car to drive on I heard a noise behind me and yes you guessed it, it was a car. Over the next few days I discovered that when it comes to driving in Portugal just about anything can happen . The Portugese people are certainly very friendly and I was surprised at how many people came up to me to try to talk to me too, but all I could say was “I don’t speak Portuguese”. As a result of this I now speak enough Portuguese to hold a limited conversation.
Another mistake was to assume that the weather would be good. I know it was the middle of winter but I just didn’t expect the weather to be as bad as the Irish or English weather (I was living in England at the time). It rained almost the whole time I was there. But that was just bad luck more than anything else and can happen in many places.
There is so much more to Portugal than I got to see last time and I’m heading back there in October. This time will be much different as my daughter is now in a position to spend more time with me showing me the delights of the area. She lives out in the countryside near the mountains and has had some wonderful wildlife experiences. Once when she was out on one of her horses she had an what she thinks may have been a Griffon Vulture fly along beside her as she cantered along a trail. She often sees Raptors of different sorts. Something that I really want to see is an Iberian Wolf. I thought that I would have to go the the Peneda-Gerês National Park in order to try and see one but one has been seen in her local area during the winter.
This part of Portugal is steeped in tradition. Festivals and Cultural Traditions are very common. One of these traditions is the Blessing of animals which usually happens the first weekend in June. People travel great distances into the mountains to have their animals blessed.
When it comes to food we tend to associate Portugal with fish and in particular either Sardines or Bacalhau (Salt Cod). There is a lot more to Portuguese food than fish. Pork and Chicken rank very high on menus too. Using all parts of the meat from the nose to tail is extremely common and is while it may be a bit off putting for some people it is a good use of resources. My early childhood years (back in the late 60’s early 70’s) this kind of food was common in Ireland too and it is now coming back into fashion in many countries. Portugese Sardines are very different to the Sardines you get in tins here in Ireland. What we are used to here is tiny little fish with bones and insides that also get eaten. Portuguese Sardines are large enough that one fish is sufficient for each person. Salt Cod is everywhere in Portugal but impossible to get here so when I decided to cook a Cod dish I had to make do with fresh Cod. As always there was several different recipes for me to choose from. Some of the recipes used Salt Cod and others used desalted Cod. I made a few mistakes in that I used fresh bread instead of stale bread and probably should have broken it up even smaller and I used all the liquid instead of adding a little at a time. As a result it had a bit more liquid than it should have had and the eggs sank instead of sitting on top .
Cod Migas Ingredients
250g of Fresh Cod
1 litre of water
1 tablespoon of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
Fresh Coriander to taste chopped
Half a stale Vienna Bread Loaf (or other similar bread) torn into small pieces
Place the fish in a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Remove from water and flake. Keep the water to one side to add back in later. Sauté the garlic and coriander then add the flaked fish and the bread. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Gradually add in the reserved water (I added a fish stock cube but it is not actually necessary). Let the bread soak up the water but be careful not to add too much liquid. You can see in the photo above that I added too much. When you have enough liquid added you can then add the eggs. Replace the lid and let cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the eggs are cooked. Keep a close eye in case you need to add a little more liquid as you don’t want the bread to dry out or stick to the bottom. Serve and enjoy.
Joine me next time for Latvia night.