Category Archives: food

Italian stopover: vongole, leeks and cannelini

Too much travelling the last few months, too little cooking. We just finished a lovely week off the Tuscan coast with friends. I am recovering from food poisoning  (never again samosas in Dar es Salaam…..) so ate little and cooked less, but this dish went down well. 

Italy is also in the grip of the heatwave named Lucifer. HOT here!

Same island every year, always wonderful. It seemed a bit quiet this year, the Italian economy must still be down. 

But we had a great week! Fresh fish and seafood from the fish truck, shouting Pesce Fresco each morning.

Vongole with leeks and cannelini

Bag of vongole (small clams)
Three cloves of garlic
Two leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
One medium tin of cannelini beans or other beans
Generous handful parsley, chopped
Two tbs olive oil
Splash of white wine or water, half a lemon if you have one 

Toast  or crusty bread to serve

Cataplana debut! I bought this in Lisbon in June, took it back to Accra, but decided this holiday was a good time to try it. Special pan for steaming shellfish, it clamps shut like a low level pressure cooker and worked really well. 

First: soak clams in water in sink for half an hour, removing any damaged ones or ones that do not close. 

Hear pan with a little oil and white wine or water, tip in handful of clams and steam 4-5 minutes with lid on. You will hear clams pop open. With a slotted spoon fish out done clams and do next batch, I did this in three batches so they were not crowded. 
Leaving liquid in pan, add sliced leeks and garlic and cook 2 or 3 minutes while you de-shell clams and remove any that did not open. Optional step, we were waiting for a lunch guest.  Then add drained beans, chopped parsley and clams and heat briefly through. Maybe half a lemon squeezed over? Serve with toast or crusty bread.

Happy holidays!

Povoa de Varzim

Porto is gorgeous, but hotels were expensive, so we ended up staying in Povoa de Varzim. It is a holiday town, one hour by metro out of Porto, and surprisingly pleasant. The metro is new and clean, and once we figured out the Andante system (rechargeable paper ticket for 0.60) very easy. 

Povoa de Varzim was a fishing village, now a beach resort with a casino. Not quite beach season yet, and cold Atlantic water, big waves, and very nice contrast to busy Porto. See the wooden structures on left? Some had little striped tents to block the wind.

Tiles in our hotel (Luis Brasileiro) whete you see the same beach, and the same tent style. 

A franceshina for lunch, Porto sandwich specialty. This one had a layers of ham, steak, cheese, two kinds of mortadella, more cheese, an egg and spicy tomato-bacon sauce all over. Tasty but SO heavy, I gave up halfway and it still destroyed my appetite for the rest of the day, making this impossible to try…..

…… the biggest mille-feuille I have ever seen! Massive! What is it with these huge Portuguese pastries?

Random tiled doorway. We could have gone back to Porto but decided to have a local day, as just being in Europe is nice. I bought sandals, we walked on the beach, and we scouted local fish restaurants. Nice break.

Lots of tiled house facades, many with saints. Next to the massive pastries we found a small coffee shop, so we bought some beans (three kinds of robusta, for a change) and some ground coffee with cicoria, that must be chicory? 60/40, 70/30, several blends possible. Must be drunk with milk, I think the coffee man said. Or was that what Portuguese doctors say? We had a long coffee chat despite us not speaking Portuguese, both sides guessing a bit. The coffee beans smell great! 

Chourico assado em aguardem (sorry for lack of accents). Lovely dinner at Bistro Bot’ Abaixo, various plates and nice staff. 

We head back to Lisbon tomorrow for our last two days in Portugal. 

Port in Porto

Porto! Port, tiled churches, amazing views, lots of hills and layers of history. Walking downhill was the main plan. Where to start? We opted for Bolhao market, as it was near the metro and is due for renovation soon. And I love markets. This was mainly on the lower  level, not much fish as it was Monday morning. Lovely cherries though.

Live chickens at Bolhao. Next to it there was a cafe with live pigeons, not sure what those are used for. I’ve had pigeon in Beijing and would not eat it again. 

The sardines, however, looked great.

So did the octopus. 

We popped into Sao Bento train station to get tickets back to Lisbon two days later. Not necessary, but easy enough (30 euros, three hours) and the station itself has amazing tiles! 

 We headed down towards Ribeira for lunch, which everyone else seemed to be doing. However, we had an excellent lunch up a side street, grilled sardines and grilled tuna. Coffee took a while as they had a power cut (just like being back in Accra: lights out….) but we enjoyed the view and rested sore feet. No complaints!

Across the river, and off to a port tour. There were port houses wall to wall, and the little tourist booth have us a map with prices for yours and tasting. We went to Ferreira (10 Euro, 2 port types) and followed the Portuguese tour. At least our port vocabulary is improving.

Port tasting #1, perfectly nice but not amazing. Tawny and ruby.

Port tasting #2, at Noval. Just tasting, no tour which was fine by us. Gorgeous view!

 We splurged and got the five ports, 40 euro tasting. Interesting, the extra dry white port can be used with tonic for cocktails, we might need to get some for our planned Portuguese evening. The last two were very nice indeed, especially the 40 year old port. Just delicious, it spoils you for lesser ports. 

Our friend went back to another port house the next day and decided to go straight to the very good port. Amazing paired with chocolate, she reports. 

Slightl tipsy, getting the funicular up the hill. Well worth 2.50! 

We wandered to the Bolhao metro stop, after stopping for mystery custard tarts. Not pasteis de nata, but similar. And we passed this church with azules facade, which I know is in the guidebook but we were too tired to look it up. 

Porto is definitely worth another more in-depth visit, to be planned!