Debrief: Feasting in Lisbon

As you might have seen if you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, why not? Come say hello at SalsKitchenBlog) I’ve spent the last few days on a fabulous trip to Lisbon and nearby Sintra. I’d never been to Portugal before but I’d been assured that the food was divine – and as you probably know by now, when I go on holiday the food is a seriously important consideration. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

Mercado da Ribeira

Tempura prawns, squid, green beans and basil leaves (also
amazing) and crab dip with bread
This is a pretty funky take on the idea of a traditional food market – a huge space like a modern banqueting hall, all four walls lined with stylish black and white kiosks serving everything from traditional Portuguese seafood and pastries to sushi, pizza and gourmet hamburgers. The centre of the hall is filled with chunky blond wood benches and tables and plenty of drinks kiosks (from a rainbow of freshly-squeezed juices to an entire kiosk devoted to vodka), and the whole time we were there it was absolutely buzzing with people. There was so much choice it took us ages to decide! My favourite thing we tried was tempura green beans with fresh tartare sauce, but my mum (my travelling companion for this trip!) really enjoyed a green salad with parma ham, strawberries and figs.

Sintra

I have a confession to make – I didn’t write down the name of this restaurant. I know, I’m useless. In my defence, at this point I was extremely hungry, and therefore more than a little distracted. Sintra is a little town outside Lisbon, perched on the side of two incredibly steep hills and surrounded by a sea of cool, dark pines. It’s a place for pedestrians rather than cars, which I always love – the streets are narrow, and often turn into tiny cobbled alleys and stairways between the houses. We found a little café in the backstreets and sat out at a check-clothed table on the cobbles, with the blue sky strung between tall white walls above us like washing out to dry. Here we ordered a jug of white sangria laden with slices of orange and lemon, broad beans with chorizo (a Portuguese classic), pork and prawns in a tomato sauce, bread to mop it all up and a bowl of chips. Something I really loved in Portugal was that the whole time we were there, I didn’t see a single uniform chip – they were all handcut and homemade, and tasted much better for it. The broad beans were fabulous and the sangria incredibly refreshing, but my absolute favourite thing was the pork and prawns – they were swimming in garlic and beautifully cooked.

Mercado de Fusao

This was one of those lucky discoveries that come with a long, unhurried stroll around a new city. ‘Fusion market’ in English, this is a wide plaza dotted with fountains and trees and a whole load of fabulous pop-ups serving great food and drink. It was the perfect place to while away a balmy summer evening. We started with the most incredible pizzas – wafer thin crusts and mountains of toppings, washed down with cold Portuguese beers and all prepared in a little round wooden hut not much bigger than a phone box. Then we moved on to the bars for mojitos (prepared with a lot of rum) where we sat under awnings strung with fairy lights and listened to an incredibly awesome DJ.

Pasteis de Belem

No foodie trip to Portugal would be complete without mention of the famous pasteis de nata, or custard tarts. We made a special trip to the spiritual home of the custard tart, the Pasteis de Belem, a little blue and white café that has been serving this delicacy since 1837. They’ve certainly used the time to perfect their recipe – we tried quite a few custard tarts while we were in Portugal and these were the best by a long chalk! Crisp, buttery pastry, soft, warm custard and a sprinkling of icing sugar – all consumed whilst sitting on Belem’s sunny waterfront. Holiday perfection.








As always, I scribbled down plenty of notes on everything I ate and in the coming weeks will be attempting to recreate some of my favourite dishes, so watch this space...