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Portugal: Europe’s best-kept foodie secret

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The cooking of mainland Europe’s westernmost country is deeply rooted in the heart of local ingredients.

Superlative seafood, sun-ripened fruit, lamb raised on flower-speckled meadows, free-range pigs gorging on acorns beneath oak forests.

Without them, it just doesn’t taste the same.

So while diners worldwide crowd Italian trattorias, French bistros and Spanish tapas bars, Portuguese restaurants abroad generally cater to melancholy emigrants seeking in vain to matar saudades (kill their longing) for mom’s home-cooked food.

Things are changing.

The success of Portuguese chefs like George Mendes in New York and Nuno Mendes (no relation) in London is generating a global buzz and their creating a legacy in food industries about the cooking of their homeland.

Regular visitors have long been in on the secret, but here are 20 reasons why Portugal should be on every foodie traveler’s list.

 

  1. Piscivore perfection

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In Europe, only Icelanders eat more fish than the Portuguese.

Superstar chef Ferran Adria says seafood from Portugal’s Atlantic waters is the world’s best — and he’s Spanish.

Markets glimmer with a startling variety, from baby cuttlefish to U-boat-sized tuna.

If your food heaven is fresh seabass expertly barbequed with a hint of lemon, garlic and olive oil, this is the place.

Best eaten by the sea in restaurants like Sao Roque in Lagos, Restinga in Alvor, Furnas in Ericeira, Azenhas do Mar or Restaurante da Adraga west of Sintra, Ribamar in Sesimbra, or Doca do Cavacas on Madeira island.

 

  1. Liquid gold

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Drive the backroads of the Alentejo, Beira Interior and Tras-os-Montes regions and you’ll weave through endless olive groves.

Olive oil is the basis of Portuguese cooking, whether it’s used to slow-cook salt-cod, dribbled into soups or simply soaked up with hot-from-the-oven bread.

Exports have quadrupled over the past decade as the world wakes up and smell the coffee to the quality of Portugal’s liquid gold, either from big-time producers like Gallo and Oliveira da Serra, or hand-crafted, single-farm oils.

The latest prize: a gold medal for Olmais Organic oil at the World’s Best Olive Oils awards in New York.

      3.The national boiled dinner

Portugal’s cooking is rigorously regional: meaty and robust in the north, Mediterranean in the south.

Yet one dish unites the country: cozido.

Best eaten as a big family lunch, this is a boiled one-pot featuring a hunk of beef, various piggy bits, sometimes chicken, always cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips and an array of sausage, including paprika-spiced chourico and cumin-flavored blood pudding.

  1. Lisbon’s gourmet awakening

A new generation of chefs is shaking up the capital’s restaurant scene with ultra-modern takes on gastronomic tradition.

Leading the charge is Jose Avillez.

His Belcanto restaurant facing the Sao Carlos theater won a second Michelin star in 2014.

Its menu features braised red mullet with liver sauce, clams and cornmeal; oxtail with foie gras, chickpeas and creamy sheep cheese. Rivals include Henrique Sa Pessoa’s new Alma restaurant, just round the corner and wowing diners with the likes of hake with burnt leek and hazelnuts; or Joao Rodrigues, voted chef-of-the-year with his riverside Feitoria.

   5.King cod

They say Portugal has 365 recipes for cooking salt cod.

In fact there are many more.

Bacalhau is served “a bras” with scrambled eggs, olives and fries; as fish cakes (pasteis de bacalhau) alongside black-eyed-peas; barbequed, oven-baked or simply boiled with cabbage and carrots, then drizzled in olive oil.

Crumbled with cornbread in the university city of Coimbra, baked under mayonnaise Ze-do-Pipo-style in Porto, chopped into a favorite Lisbon salad with chickpeas and onion, bacalhau is always close to the Portuguese soul.

It’s available everywhere, but Lisbon’s Laurentina restaurant may just serve the best.

  1. Say Queijo

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Why Portugal’s cheeses are not better known is a mystery.

True, amarelo da Beira Baixa — a herby goat-and-sheep-milk mix, was judged the world’s greatest in a tasting organized by Wine Spectator and Vanity Fair a few years back.

Yet creamy Serra da Estrela from the milk of ewes raised in Portugal’s loftiest mountain range; hard, pungent cow’s-milk cheeses made on the precipitous mid-Atlantic slopes of Sao Jorge island; or peppery Terrincho produced in remote Tras-os-Montes, remain largely unknown.

Such dairy delights may be served as appetizers or after a meal with red wine or port, sometimes accompanied with quince jam (marmelada).

    7.So much wine

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For a small country Portugal makes an astonishing variety of great wines.

Summery vinho verdes from the green northwest.

Full-bodied reds and fruity whites from Douro, Dao and Alentejo.

Bubbly from Bairrada; legendary Port and Madeira vintages.

Honeyed moscatel from Setubal.

Rare tipples from odd places like the Lisbon surfer suburb of Carcavelos.

Or the World Heritage vineyards clinging to a mid-Atlantic volcano on Pico Island.

    8.Porto’s tasty trinity

In the 15th century, patriotic Porto donated all its meat to Prince Henry the Navigator to feed his soldiers when they sailed off to do battle in Morocco.

Left with just offal, they concocted a dish which remains the city’s signature: tripas a moda do Porto.

It’s not for the faint-hearted: a stew of butter beans, calves’ feet, pigs’ ears and peppery chourico as well as the tripe — the chewy white lining of cow’s stomach.

Ever since, inhabitants of Portugal’s second city have been known as tripeiros — tripe-eaters.

Porto’s other best-known dishes: slices of deep-fried octopus and monster meat sandwiches smothered in spicy sauce and named francesinhas — or little French girls.

   9.Bifana vs. prego

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To make a bifana, marinate thin slices of pork in white wine and garlic, fry, slap it into a bread roll, add mustard or hot sauce to taste.

For a prego, the process is pretty similar, but the main ingredient is beef steak. These are Portugal’s snacks of preference.

Done right, with quality meat and juices that soak into the soft white bread, they are unbeatable. Accompany with cold beer. Pregos are also customarily used to round off a feast of clams, shrimp or crab in marisqueiras — specialized seafood joints.

Those at Lisbon’s Ramiro are legendary.

Wefornews bureau

India

Truckers ‘postpone’ strike following request from centre

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Truckers

Kolkata/New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) Truckers on Friday “temporarily postponed” their ongoing indefinite nationwide strike following a request from the Central government as Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari was out of station.

The strike, that began from June 18, had been called from June 18 against the high diesel prices, high toll rates and a sharp hike of third party insurance premium, and had entered the fifth day on Friday.

In a media release, All India Confederation of Goods Vehicle Owners’ Association — which had called the strike — said the decision was taken following a telephone call from the Centre, which asked the strikers to come for discussion after June 27.

“We have received telephone call from (the) Central ministry, that since the Minister is not in station till June 27, (they have requested us) to call off the strike and come for discussion after June 27,” said AICOGOA General Secretary Rajendra Singh and President B. Channa Reddy.

“In view of this and in public interest, we have (decided to) postpone the truckers’ strike,” they said.

The AICOGOA said the call for talks was received from Gadkari’s office.

“We received call from Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s office and they have called us to talk… We have temporarily called off the strike because it was affecting truckers and people both,” another AICOGOA General Secretary Kausar Hussain told IANS.

Over 50 lakh vehicles remained off the road during the strike.

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Business

AI’s 76% stake sale plan crashes, other alternatives to be evaluated

We ran a disinvestment process, where we made it very clear what type of bids we were interested in receiving… We asked certain type of bidders with certain bidding criteria to participate.

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Civil Aviation Ministry

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) The Central government has said that a 76 per cent stake sale process of the national carrier Air India has ended, as “no interest” was shown by bidders, however, it remains committed to the strategic divestment for which other alternatives will be evaluated.

“We ran a disinvestment process, where we made it very clear what type of bids we were interested in receiving… We asked certain type of bidders with certain bidding criteria to participate,” said Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.

“No body expressed any interest during that process. So just by that set of those circumstances it is clear that that process right now is over… We have to move forward and we have to consider other alternatives, now as market conditions as industry circumstances change, we will evaluate all those alternatives but that particular specific process for the moment has come to an end, if need be, we can restart that or any other process depending upon the appropriate market circumstances.”

However, the government clearly stated that it is still committed to the idea of Air India’s strategic divestment.

Sinha added: “The government is committed to strategic disinvestment, what the modalities are and the circumstances are, we will have to monitor and evaluate as we go along.”

According to the Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu a few days back the Empowered Group of Ministers set up to look at the — Air India Specific Alternate Mechanism — reviewed the situation.

The minister, who holds the charge of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said: “… Because there was no interest we have decided to review the situation soon. In the meantime to ensure that Air India runs properly a plan is being prepared by the Air India management to ensure that AI continues continues operate efficiently.

On May 31, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that “no response” was received even during the extended submission deadline for the ‘Expression of Interest’ (EOI) bids under Air India’s divestment process.

“As informed by the Transaction Adviser, no response has been received for the Expression of Interest floated for the strategic disinvestment of Air India,” the ministry had said in a tweet.

“Further course of action will be decided appropriately.”

The government on May 1 had released a detailed document on clarifications sought by interested bidders regarding the divestment process.

The clarification document outlined that net current liabilities as Rs 88.16 billion (Rs 8,816 crore) and “these will remain with AI and AIXL (Air India Express) as these have been incurred in the course of business.”

“After deducting Rs 88,160 mn from Rs 333,920 mn, the remaining figure of INR 245,760 mn is the debt and liability quantum that will remain with AI and AIXL.”

As per the old timelines, the submission deadline for the EOI bids was earlier extended to May 31 and consequently, the date for the “intimation to the Qualified Interested Bidders” — QIB — which was supposed to have been the next stage was slated for June 15.

It was expected that by August-end, the government will be able to determine the highest bidder.

On March 28, the government had issued a Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) inviting ‘EOI’ for the strategic divestment of AI, along with the airline’s shares in AIXL and AISATS (Air India SATS Airport Services) from private entities including the airline’s employees.

The Central government owns 100 per cent equity of Air India. In turn, the airline holds full stake in Air India Express, while it holds 50 per cent stake in the joint venture AISATS.

Accordingly, it has been planned to divest 76 per cent government stake in AI, 100 per cent in AIXL and 50 per cent in AISATS.

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Lifestyle

Motorcyclist on a multi-nation anti-plastic mission

Abhimanyu Chakrovorthy, 31, has set off on a 10,000 km crowdfunded motorcycle expedition through India and five neighbouring Southeast Asian countries to spread awareness of its pernicious effects and to encourage people to shun its use.

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anti plastic campaign

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) With India estimated to generate 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, media professional Abhimanyu Chakrovorthy, 31, has set off on a 10,000 km crowdfunded motorcycle expedition through India and five neighbouring Southeast Asian countries to spread awareness of its pernicious effects and to encourage people to shun its use.

“I have always been environmentally conscious about issues such as climate change and wildlife, and I used to practice this concept of outdoor ethics called ‘Leave No Trace’ in the Himalayas where you pick up your own waste and dispose it off properly.

“I am also a motorcycle enthusiast who has toured quite extensively across India. So this presented a unique opportunity to merge my two passions: Motorcycling and addressing the menace of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia and India. Hence this trip from New Delhi, covering more than 10,000 km, travelling to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal to raise awareness on plastic pollution,” Chakrovorthy told IANS in an interview just before he set off.

How exactly will it work on the ground?

During the journey, through tie-ups with NGOs and schools in the five countries, he has planned beach and city clean-up initiatives and will conduct short sessions/presentations with them on the global scenario in plastic pollution and what India is doing to fight it.

“Through these workshops, I will share knowledge about India’s waste management system, and also learn from them their solutions to the plastic pollution problem. Some of these countries have taken affirmative action on plastic and I want to understand more of what and how they’re doing it. The focus of my work will be on reducing, reusing and recycling waste as much as possible. Through this trip, I plan to document plastic consumption in these countries and their waste management processes,” Chakrovorthy explained.

The planning, he said, had been quite a nightmare. For instance, he figured it would cost Rs 70,000 one way through Myanmar and at least Rs 80,000 one way through Thailand.

“At this stage, a friend told me about (crowdoutsourcing platform) Milaap. This presented some hope because I couldn’t bear the cost on my own. So I got down to work and prepared my statement of purpose over one week for the trip to be advertised on Milaap.

“The fundraiser is still live on the platform and I am hoping to raise some money through it. My target is Rs 3 lakh and till now I have reached just Rs 40,000 but I am hopeful my story will resonate with people and some funding comes through Milaap. I believe the momentum against plastic pollution is strong and through this trip I will highlight all the challenges that come with waste management in Southeast Asia and India,” Chakrovorthy explained.

What about the back-up for the journey?

“I am positive that Plan A will work out, because there’s still some time to raise funds (through the platform). I am also in talks with a few potential sponsors who might come on board to help me out with resources. However, the Plan B is to simply skip Nepal and put my bike on train from Imphal (on the return leg) to New Delhi in case I fall short of money. Other than this, I don’t see any other issue,” Chakrovorthy responded.

What of the future?

“In the near future, I will be organising few more clean-ups in association with embassies and institutions such as Delhi Civil Defence and Delhi Police focusing on communities and societies by asking them to moderate their consumption so that less waste ends up in our ever-increasing landfills,” Chakrovorthy concluded.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at [email protected] )

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