I had the pleasure of interviewing Ana Patuleia Ortins, author of Portuguese Homestyle Cooking, when I was researching an article on Portuguese cooking. She is a first generation descendant of Portuguese immigrants from the Alto Alentejo region. Ana grew up with culinary traditions attached to the food of her ancestors and graduated from culinary school, fine tuning her skills.
What is your latest project?
Teaching cooking, testing recipes and writing for hopefully another book.
What is the one food or beverage ingredient that you cannot live without?
Just one? This is difficult because it is the combination of flavorful ingredients that really bring a dish together. I’ll pick wine, garlic and fresh cilantro. I know that this is three but individually and together they are great as a marinade and as simple flavor enhancer.
Who is your mentor?
My father was the most passionate cook and the most influential person to me. He gave me the appreciation for the traditional flavors of Portuguese cooking.
What is your favorite food memory from childhood?
Again, so many! First, anytime I was cooking with my father and making red pepper paste . My favorite memory was eating the Acorda de Bacalau with my father. Even after I married, he would call me on a Saturday morning and ask in his broken English “you get the smell?” I would immediately tell him I will be right there. I knew just what he was making. Just the scent of fresh cilantro can bring that memory up.
What would be your ultimate meal?
I love so many things! We would start with a glass of vinho verde (green wine) like Joao Pires. Good Portuguese olives and fresh crusty paposecos rolls to accompany shrimp rissois (small shrimp turnovers) and codfish cakes (bolinhos de bacalhau) with fresh cheese with a zippy sauce.
A serving of the traditional version of Caldo Verde (green broth soup). One of my favorite main dishes, Pork with Clams Alentejo Style seasoned with massa de pimentão (red pepper paste), and served with potatoes and julienne green beans Esparregado (green vegetables sautéed briefly in garlic infused olive oil, seasoned and splashed with apple cider vinegar). Some good Portuguese red wine from the Alentejo, like Montevelho would match well with this dish.
For dessert my all time favorite is Farofias: Egg white meringue poached in sweetened milk and drizzled with custard sauce. Lenchinhos, a genoise type cake cut into squares and stuffed with a sweetened egg filling, runs a close second as do a few others.
Click here for Ana’s website.
PS: Reading through and cooking from Ana’s book delivers like a trip to Portugal minus the airfare and jet lag. The photography is stunning.