Dubbed by popular culture as a “faithful friend”, salt cod has been the number one fish course at the Portuguese dinner table since the middle ages.
Somewhat of an embellishing paradox to modern Portuguese food culture, as Portugal is the country in Europe with the largest exclusive fishing zone in the Atlantic.
Despite the vastness of the National Exclusive fishing waters and all the fresh fish that is available there, the number one favourite dish of the Portuguese is still, salt cod imported from the Norwegian icy waters of the North Atlantic.
Sr. Silva knows the bacalhau. His hands are scorched from a lifetime handling the salted fish, probably making him the best person in Lisbon to advise you on which one to get!
From small to large, from dry salted to yellow sun dry salted, from 3cm to 10 cm thick, he knows it all. Even every single one of the 365 ways the Portuguese have of preparing this delicacy.
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The king of Portuguese cheese
My husband and I enjoyed Serra da Estrela, “the king of Portuguese cheese”, at restaurants all over Portugal. Named for the mountains of the Beira region where it is produced, Serra da Estrela cheese DOP is hand-made made from sheep's milk. The milk is curdled with thistle rennet, and curds are broken up by hand, producing a cheese that is almost spreadable. The cheese is aged on a wooden plank, bound with a muslin "bandage" to help hold its shape. Cheese rounds are bathed every 10 days, and clean strips of muslin applied. Affinage takes 30 to 40 days.
Serra da Estrela cheese has a richly perfumed intensity, ending with a sweet--some say coffee-like--finish. It is especially good with walnuts and dry-cured, thin-sliced black pork. Eating Serra da Estrela with different jams, and local honey, can alter its character in a very pleasant way.
Variations on tradition include cheeses mixing the milk of sheep and cows, such as several produced in the Estrela demarcated region–without a DOP label, but with plenty of intriguing flavor. Rounds swabbed with paprika take on an earthy flavor during affinage.
At Manteigaria Silva's shop in Lisbon's Ribeira Market, we enjoyed a cheese-tasting with a sampler of Serra da Estrela ripened to several stages, from just ripened and creamy to fully cured and dry. All were great!