As I’m completely kitchen-erily under-equipped at the moment, in an apart hotel with no oven, the actual cooking is minimal.

I am however snaffling daily quantities of delicious foods and pasteleria, most in a “point and trough” sort of way as the actual pronunciation of the dishes is beyond my nasal capacities, this being Portugal… Lisbon, city of saudade  – which sounds like a slow-roasted pork dish but is actually the national habit of “feeling a wee bit sad and sorry for oneself”.

Other nasal challenges include the national dish of (bear with me on the spelling) baccalau e grau or something of that ilk, which is salted cod and chickpeas. I think that the secret is in the fact that neither fish nor chick are dressed, but only liberally slathered with olive oil after the cooking. A few fat garlic cloves nestle among the chickpeas, and the whole thing is washed down with a good red.

What else? A very fun duck and rice dish…Then the terror of the diabetic: pastels de Belén, yummy melt-in-mouth tartlets of custard named after the beautiful Baroque convent at Belén next to Lisbon…

Did I mention the red wine??? Or the porto, clever invention of the English: in order to be able to transport their wine in barrels without it going nasty and sour they added a drop of aguardiente to make it age gracefully. Perhaps everyone needs a drop or two of aguardiente to help with graceful ageing… I think it’s called pickling. Anyway, hence the fact that all ports are different – different measures of wine to aguardiente. The English influence is surprisingly omnipresent here, including in the fact that scones are readily available in most places. A very nice surprise, but are scones English or is this leading to a very du jour political debate on the state of Britishness – an indigestible  but necessary discussion best not left to the pickled persons of Westminster?

As I said, even my very modest cooking has been stymied by the kitchen appliances, or lack of, and the fact of being out and about all day up on the top of a fortress hill (Torres Vedras) in near-apocalyptic sunshine and planetary-gale-force winds. Hence the lack of recipes and photos. But I can pass on one “recipe” which my friend here uses for daily-brekkies, recommended by some frog (with his legs intact) doctor as supremely good for body and soul: Juice of 1 lemon; 1 piece of fruit chopped or however; 6 almonds; soya yoghurt; teaspoon of honey. Mishmashed (this is my sister’s very scientific term for “mixing ingredients to the required consistency”) and devoured. However, as Flo so rightly pointed out many moons ago, if someone told me that cayenne pepper and lemon would do me good I would devour it happily on a daily basis, such is my nutritional and gastronomic gullibility and optimistic vanity… (This was before that cayenne pepper diet thing did actually come into existence and sucked the thighs off various celebrities). So, Flo being a lucid creature and perfectly understanding this one of my many foibles, was of course right. Which means that I can’t quite leave my Frog-doctor breakfast there, but liberally sprinkle it with a powder I found in the supermarket here. If anyone could enlighten me what is actually is I’d be very grateful, as at the moment I’m merely chomping it on the advice of its “antioxidant” blurb on the packet: It’s called maça, and the picture on the packet looks like a mixture of garlic clove and turnip bulb…

Apologies for ending a food blog entry on a dietary note, but seeing as the pastels de Belén have taken over my waking hours, something needs to be done. 

Off for a glass of porto now. I’ve found that fantasising about recipes is quite a good way to get to sleep – a sort of culinary counting sheep… Counting cutlets perhaps… Does anyone else do that?

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