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The Lisbon connection

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Food historian and chef André Magalhães provides a feast that’s a glimpse into the Portuguese past of Goan food

Chef André Magalhães is full of tales. He weaves history and anecdotes into delightful stories about food. By the side, he also creates delicious meals. Born in Angola, Magalhães has a colourful history. He has dabbled in the movie industry, did a short stint as a sailor, a tourist guide and set decorator. Today, he teaches food science, is a journalist, and the chef of the celebrated Taberna da Rua das Flores in Lisbon.

Beyond the clichés

He is in India to curate a menu, ‘Finding Lisbon in Goa’, at O Pedro that seeks inspiration from his travels to Goa and harks back to its Portuguese origins. Magalhães is all set take over the O Pedro kitchen for two days, while select dishes will be on the menu until the end of the month.

“The challenge was to create a menu that illustrates the diversities and complexities of Portuguese and Indian food. We didn’t want to stay too conventional but go beyond the clichés,” he says. The food thus, has ‘Portuguese techniques with local ingredients’ though Magalhães’ has brought with him salted cod, cheese and chourico.

My food journey starts with Petiscos, which are small snacks or nibbles eaten at the beginning of every meal. “These are not like tapas. Petitcos have their own identity. We eat small bites before the meal, usually bread and butter,” he says. My Petiscos platter has Cultured Butter (₹ 90) made with dry yeast, Herb marinated Buffalo Milk Cheese (₹160) and Warm Cured Olives (₹190) and sourdough bread (‘we eat only sourdough at home’). In small plates, first up is Cheese Toast (₹550), with sheep’s milk cheese, apricot chutney and smoked almonds.

“Instead of rennet, we use thistle flowers in the preparation. The resultant cheese is so runny, it is wrapped in a cotton cloth to give it shape,” he says. Next is Asparagus Tempura (₹650) served with Parmesan truffle cream. “This dish is an ode to how food travels the world. Portuguese missionaries took this cooking technique to Japan but its origins are possibly Jewish. Battered and fried green beans called peixinhos do horta (little fish of the garden) was commonly eaten during Lent as a replacement for meat,” he says. His version for the feast replaces green beans with asparagus, in a light batter, topped with grated cheese.

A sizeable portion of Magalhães’ menu is dedicated to greens. There’s Sweet Potato Croquettes (₹450) with scallion and string cheese, and Pumpkin Empanada (₹595) – a pie with garlic, spinach, onion served surrounded by a creamy red pepper sauce. I reserve my attention to the meat in front of me. Grilled Chicken Skewers (₹550) comes with chips and Peri Peri Sauce.

“The Peri Peri is the protagonist of this story. In Mozambique and Angola, this chilli was typically paired with a protein like wild chicken. Any barbecued chicken had to be marinated for hours to soften the tough muscles. The secret of a good grilled chicken depended on the length of the marinating process,” he says, adding that it is very popular dish in Portugal especially on Sunday nights. A Seafood Cataplana (₹1100) impresses with its flavourful broth, stacked with chunky bits of red snapper, lobster and calamari. “The dish gets its name from the copper utensil in which it is prepared – it can be sealed thus allowing the fish to cook in its own juices,” he says.

My pick is the Bolinhos de Bacalhau (₹650). Bacalhau is salted or dried cod. Magalhães’ prepared his ‘cakes’ by soaking the salted cod in water for three days, shredding it and mashing it with potato, parsley, onion, salt and pepper. Soup spoons give it shape. “This dish requires a lot of work to ensure it is fluffy and aerated. You judge bacalhau by the amount of fish is in it as compared to potato. I use a 60-40 ratio,” he says.

Culinary additions

Another favourite is Chorizo Flambé (₹850), homemade Portuguese Sausage that is cured, dried and smoked. “Goans took the sausages and not only improved it but made it more user-friendly,” quips Magalhães as he snips the meat into slices.

“Goa is the only example of charcuterie making in the southern hemisphere. In warm climates, chacuterie is bound to spoil, which is why they add spices and vinegar to the preparation.” Magalhães love for Goa is evident. His current visit happened after 15 years. He has a few Goan-inspired dishes on his menu at Taberna da Rua das Flores, like sarapatel and para but prefers to leave the rest to the ‘excellent’ Goan restaurants in Lisbon. An apt cocktail for a feast that’s reminiscent of Goa and Portugal is the Porto in Bombay (₹675), deep red and slightly sweet with the aroma of rosemary and a vibrant homemade port.

Sweet collaborations

My meal has been consistently good so, dessert is no surprise. The real surprise is learning that the Serica (₹495) is a dish that travelled from Goa to Portugal.

This baked custard was originally made with gram flour and jaggery and cooked in an earthen dish. Magalhães uses wheat flour and sugar, and fresh strawberries. The Flan Cake (₹450) is like a boozy Christmas pudding layered with dried fruits, fresh oranges and port wine.

It was originally made with smoked pork lard to increase the savoury flavour. This version is like a rich crème caramel. It’s the perfect ending to a stellar meal and a nod to the season ahead.

Chef André Magalhães Takeover at O Pedro, BKC on November 16 and 17 (November 18 to 30, specials menu).

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:05:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-lisbon-connection/article29985612.ece

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