Those of you who have read some of my other blog posts will recognise the name Raqs – a friend for life i met when i travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia earlier this year. I was lucky enough to have her as a roommate and during the trip we became very close through our mutual love of travel, culture and of course….food! Raqs is from Porto in Portugal and as i missed her so much i went to visit her and got to see Porto from a local’s view which was a real treat.
I went to Porto with some friends a few years ago and we had a lovely time sailing under all the bridges, tasting Port, eating fresh seafood and partaking in a local street party!
This time around Raqs made sure I got to see the local, traditional aspects of this beautiful city and i loved it!
I thought i would shared some of my food stories with you.
Firstly we ate a feast at Raqs’ house for dinner after i arrived – now is probably a good time to point out that both Raqs and her mum, Fatima are amazing cooks, the amount of food on the dinner table was enough to feed a small army which was good as we were starving after our trip! We started with bread, oils, pate, cheese, olives and a large bread loaf which Fatima had stuffed with a warm mixture of sausage, tomato, mushrooms, mayonnaise, cheese and onion. The dish was eaten by breaking off the warm, crispy crust and dipping it into the stuffing mixture – it was delicious! The main course was a Raqs dish and was baccalau (salt cod), mixed with a white sauce and carrots and baked with breadcrumbs on top. I’ve only eaten baccalau in Spain but its a popular dish is Portugal and one which I’m keen to try at home if I can get my hands on the right fish! Dessert confused us all! A fruity, orange, jelly-like substance was placed in a large bowl for us and when I asked what it was Raqs wasn’t sure of the English word. ( we have had issues like this during our friendship – and our conversation in Vietnam about the difference between leeks and spring onions will go down as one of the funniest yet most frustrating conversations of my life!!!). Back to dessert…after many descriptions, pictures and tasting we concluded the dessert was a bowl of persimmon flesh. I’ve never eaten this before and am not even sure how easy it is to get hold of in Toots but it was lovely. A mild mandarin type taste with a texture similar to the inside if a tomato (well sort of!). Raqs has also made a rich, chocolate mouse cake which was delightful!
Saturday morning’s breakfast may well have made it into my Top 10 breakfasts of all time – bread, sugar-topped brioche, Pasteis del Nata (possibly my favourite tart ever!) Portuguese sheep’s cheese (a mild, hard cheese) ham, quince jam and honey – both homemade by a family friend and leftover chocolate cake!!! Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and I could have quite happily stayed at their table all day nibbling on all of the lovely food. I asked Raqs if this was typical weekend fare for them and it is but only on special occasions. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good English Fry Up but this did make me think I should try and have a more Continental breakfast every once in a while.
For lunch we went to a new food market in Porto centre which has been inspired by my favourite Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. The market was a relaxed but busy indoor food court holding stalls selling fresh fruit juice, hams, cheese, baked goods, Pasteis del Nata, sandwiches and tapas. We elected to go with the rissoles stall which Raqs assured us was good a traditional Portuguese food. Our plate was a baccalau filled croquette and a meat (pork) filled one served with a few pickled vegetables, chorizo and chickpea salad and a rice and bean salad. We celebrated our trip to Porto with a bottle of Prosecco and had a lovely lunch!
Those who know me know I like my routine and don’t do we’ll when deprived of sleep so I was slightly concerned to find out that our evening meal was booked for 10pm with the aim to be in a bar for midnight and then out to a club from 2pm when it gets busy. After a 7pm power snooze off we toddled to a new modern restaurant in Porto. The menu is sharing/tapas based and we ordered calamari, patatas bravas, shellfish acorda (a creamy shellfish stew served with crusty bread), smoked sausage with turnip shoots and egg and finally serras de penela cheese which is basically Portuguese baked Camembert and was served with toasted sourdough – it made for a lovely end to the meal! We had house wine and enjoyed the warm October air until gone midnight!
After a late night out meeting Raqs’ friends, drinking beer and dancing we needed a stodgy lunch and Raqs came up trumps by taking us to a cafe on the seafront for francesinhas.
These sandwiches are made of toasted bread stuffed with spicy sausage, pork belly and smoked salami, topped with prawns, smothered in melted cheese and covered with a tomato sauce – served with fries on the side. Obviously this mammoth sandwich defeated me but it was tasty and the perfect hangover cure! I think il try and make my take on a francesinha at home one day but with mozzarella rather than cheddar and a thicker tomato sauce – the traditional Porto one is more like a soup.

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