Monday, 7 September 2009

Diversity of Portuguese food

Stretching from the Minho River on its mountainous northern frontier with Galicia to the dry Algarve in the south, Portugal occupies most of the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula. But though it once ruled half the world, it has enjoyed far less of the culinary limelight than its neighbor, Spain.

It's a pity, as Portugal is home to a diverse, soulful cuisine anchored in its austere peninsular past and seasoned by its centuries as a colonial power. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, missionaries, sailors, and settlers carried Portuguese cooking techniques to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and parts of India, China, Malaysia, and Japan. There they mingled with local ingredients to create dishes bursting with flavor, like the coconut milk-enriched moquecas of Bahia and the rich curries of Goa.

To their credit, contemporary Portuguese cooks have readily incorporated the spices and hot peppers of the former colonies into their food. This is the story behin a new book by David Leite entitled 'The New Portuguese Table'.

The son of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores Islands who settled in Massachusetts, Leite gives us the fresh perspective of an unwilling insider who becomes smitten as an adult by the cuisine of his family.

The turning point in his growing culinary fascination was a trip to Portugal and its islands, Madeira and the Azores, where he found much more complex cuisines than he had imagined. It is this quest that informs his book. Beautifully illustrated, The New Portuguese Table is a smart, delicious, and highly personal travelogue through both memory and terrain.

In Leite's book, you will find not only recipes that will whet your appetite but also an endearing story of self-discovery that will send you to the kitchen - and perhaps to Lisbon to learn more about the new world of Portuguese cooking that we have been missing.

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