Pastel de Nata and Octopus
We arrived in Lisbon, disheveled and hungry, eager to start our five week adventure in Portugal. After making it through customs which was the easiest customs I have ever experienced, we answered three questions and off we went. We did pay our dues by standing in line for an hour, rewarding ourselves with a gummy every time the line moved a certain amount. We were saved from another hour (at least!) by a kind agent who saw our six year old and moved us to the family line where we waited for five minutes before getting our passports stamped. We grabbed a quick snack of crossiants and Pastel de nata, egg custard tarts. I have wanted to try these for years and so it seemed fitting that our first bites in Portugal were these delicious treats.
One of my favourite things to do when traveling, internationally or closer to home is visiting the local grocery store. Lucky for me, there are four stores within walking distance of our Airbnb. Once we got our bearings and a good night's sleep we headed to the grocery store and stocked up on essentials. I've adapted a simple menu plan for our weeks here- pasta and sauce, rice and curry, some kind of seafood and salads.
Breakfast looks much like it does at home- hot oatmeal or cold cereal before our family walk. Some mornings we have coffee at home, some mornings we have milky coffees and espressos at a favourite cafe. Lunches are tostas, the kids and I try a different kind of bread each time we need to buy a loaf and there's a surprising delicious variety of gf bread for Jared. Or we pack up our lunch and eat seaside, olives and cheese and crackers, salami and fizzy drinks.
The food is fresh- eggs are bright and orange as if they were gathered that morning, oranges are flavourful and juicy, onions and garlic have bits of dirt clinging to their skin still and the peppers are double the size of ones I've bought in Canada. Every store has a orange juice machine, and freshly squeezed orange juice has become a weekend breakfast treat.
I've made a riff on paella with frozen seafood , the frozen and fresh seafood is almost overwhelming in its selection. Bulk bins of frozen clams, mussels and prawns, frozen octopus and salt cod- bacalhau. Plus the more familiar salmon and shrimp.
We've had grilled sardines out, not my favourite but I'm so glad I tried them. Peri peri chicken and Algarve salad (fresh tomatoes, onions, oregano and Portuguese olive oil) were some of my favourites. We've found a favourite gelato shop and love to try as many flavours as we can, one of the benefits of traveling as a family! My personal favourite is Algarve orange.
On a recent Saturday we decided to explore the local pottery shops. Pottery and tile is famous in this region, one has been in the same family for decades. The designs were gorgeous and we wanted to bring many pieces home. This stop started a discovery and noticing of all the different tiles used in house numbers, decorative walls and beautiful pictures above house doors or as street art.
After browsing for a couple hours (and holding tight to a rambunctious six year old's hand), we paused for refreshments and an engaging pond full of frogs. The kids enjoyed fresh orange juice and egg custard tarts, I had a delightful sangria and Jared had iced coffee. As we were finishing up, the owner came out and said that his wife had just pulled some Pastel de natas out of the oven and would I like one? Absolutely! He sprinkled some cinnamon on the top and suggested eating it with a spoon as the custard could be quite hot. Sitting there in a flower festooned gazebo, bees buzzing and tiles everywhere, eating a fresh homemade tart- this is one of the food experiences I'll remember for a long time.