As you may or may not know there were a lot of Portuguese people leaving the country in the mid-20th century and have been, again, over the past few years. Writing about this phenomenon would give me enough material for a book – several, actually. However, the subject of today’s post will have a lot to do with emigration, saudade and the fact that, like I said before, we have an emotional link to food. In some ways, this will also be a very short kind of guide to “do it like a Portuguese would”!🙂
I got this box from the nice people over at Tugabox. The word tuga is the short version of portuga, aka, Portuguese and, today, it’s already part of our everyday vocabulary. The idea, with these boxes, is that you can live outside the country but have a bit of Portugal delivered every month to your doorstep with the contents being a surprise, but always Portuguese. The way I see it, they’re also fun if you’re not Portuguese but wouldn’t mind getting to know more about us, beyond the stereotypes of wine and caldo verde.
So, what was inside November’s Tugabox? All of this:
First, there’s a short explanation about the contents of that month’s box. Then, there’s a recipe for Francesinha and two flocos de neve.
Francesinha literally means “little French girl”. Its origins are somewhat mysterious, even if this is a fairly recent creation. Although it first made its appearance in Porto, today you can enjoy Francesinha in several parts of the country and in several variants. This sort of cooked sandwich is not for the faint of heart but it’s certainly delicious. With this helpful (and cute) card you can make your own Francesinha – you might need some help from a dictionary if you don’t know Portuguese.😉 Flocos de neve are small white balls of sugar, basically, and their name means “snow flakes”. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s they were omnipresent and, in some places (like my school), kids could be given a couple of these as change at the school cafeteria if the staff had no change left (I’m talking about the equivalent to, say, a few cents). How’s that for healthy?😉 Note: if you’d like to troll people around you and make a kind of sound which is funny but quickly becomes obnoxious, do the following: get that red plastic wrap from a floco de neve, hold the wrap, stretching it slightly with fingers from both hands and blow!😀
Generally speaking, Portuguese like a lot of bling on their Christmas trees. It doesn’t have to be fancy bling, it just has to be shiny and sparkly! Chocolate Santas are both decorative and yummy, with that much appreciated bling factor! They’re a staple in most houses as Christmas tree decoration and some
smart-ass kids (cough cough) will probably eat a couple of said decorations when no one’s watching!
Erva doce means “sweet herb” and is, in fact, anise or aniseed. It’s commonly found in traditional, more rustic types of Portuguese baking and it’s also commonly used as a sweetener when boiling chestnuts – a common snack during the Autumn and Winter months. Leite creme is the Portuguese version of crème brûlée, with a few small differences. It’s the kind of dessert that nearly all Portuguese grannies, aunties and mums know how to do. It’s the type of thing that brings us happy childhood memories. This is the quick version with instructions on the back of the box – which means even you can make it!
Beer and toasted peanuts: not much to say here; it’s a classic combo for many Portuguese. In this case you can try it with a craft beer, one of the many that have been showing up in Portugal over the past couple of years.
Honey and lemon drops. Tasty and with a reduced guilt-quota.🙂 Handy for the Winter months and the kind of thing Portuguese grannies and aunties carry in their bags for when they want something sweet or feel faint and need a quick sugar rush (“Hey, it’s medicinal!”). If you’ve been to Portugal, particularly to Lisbon, you may have noticed that it looks like we have a love for canned fish. In a way, we do. Tuna with black eyes beans is a snack/light meal which is delicious if served cold or at room temperature, like a salad. Serving suggestion: pour the contents on to a plate, let them cool for a few minutes in the refrigerator and enjoy your snack while sitting outside on a sunny day!😀
Queijo de figo is a traditional product from the Algarve and, contrary to what you might think, it’s actually healthy. The name means “fig cheese” only there’s no dairy here, but lots of figs. Together with almonds, carob or cocoa (along with a few other ingredients; there are variants), figs are reduced to a naturally sweet and dark paste which is firm like cheese (more or less soft like, say, Edam, not hard like cured goat cheese). Queijo de figo is a kind of energy bar that was invented before energy bars!