Portuguese cuisine is characterised by rich, filling and full-flavoured dishes and is a prime example of Mediterranean diet. The influence of Portugal 's former colonial possessions is clear, especially in the wide variety of spices used. These include piri piri-small, fiery chilli peppers, as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. There are also Arab and Moorish influences, especially in the south of the country. Olive oil is one of the basis of portuguese cuisine both for cooking and flavour meals. Garlic is widely used, as are herbs such as coriander and parsley.
Portuguese breakfast is light and usually consists of milk, coffee (cocoa for children), bread or toast with butter, jam, cheese or ham. Croissants and cakes may also be included.Coffee is very consumed by the portuguese, not only at breakfast, but through all day specially as espresso. Eggs and meat are generally excluded.
Fish and seafood
Portugal is a sea-faring nation at heart, and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood consumed by the Portuguese.Fish is served grilled, boiled (in this cases it is always flavoured with olive oil), fried or even roasted. Foremost amongst these is bacalhau, or salt cod, which is perhaps the most consumed type of fish in Portugal and of which it is said that there are more than 365 ways to cook, one for every day of the year. Also popular are sardines, especially when grilled as sardinhas assadas, as well as octopus, crabs, shrimp, lobster, hake, horse-mackarel (scad), lamprey and a variety of shellfish. Caldeirada is a stew consisting of a variety of fish and shellfish with potatoes, tomato and onion.
Meat is widely used, especially chicken, pork,kid and cow. Roasts and stews are the most common ways of preparing these. There is a frugal approach to ingredients, with nothing wasted. This emphasis is evident in the large number of dishes that make use of offal and the more unusual cuts of meat. This can be best observed during a matança do porco, or pig killing festival, where dishes are served using all parts of the animal. What cannot be served immediately is turned into a wide variety of cured meats, especially spicy sausages. These include linguiça, a seasoned pork sausage with onions, garlic and paprika, chouriço, a spicy dried sausage, farinheira, a sausage made of pork fat and flour and negrinha, a sausage of pork blood similar to black pudding. A traditional meat dish is cozido à portuguesa consisting of boiled pork, cow, chicken and sausages with cabbage, carrots, potato and rice. In the north, specially in Porto , a stew made with beans and cow guts is tradionally served.
There is a wide of portuguese cheese specially made of goat and sheep (or both together) milk. Usually very strong flavoured and smelly. In Azores , there is a type of cheese made with cow milk with a spicy taste.Traditional portuguese cuisine does not include cheese in its recipes, so its eaten by itself before or after the main dishes.
Vegetables that are popular in Portuguese cookery include tomatoes, cabbage and onions. There are many starchy dishes, such as feijoada, a rich bean stew, and açorda, a thick bread-based casserole generally flavored with garlic and cilantro or seafood.Many dishes are served with salad usually made of tomato, lettuce and onion flavoured with olive oil and vinegar. Rice is widely used, as are potatoes. Soup, made from a variety of vegetables is commonly available being one of the most popular caldo verde, made from potato,carrot, thinly chopped cabbage and slices of chouriço.
Wine (red, white and green) is the traditional portuguese drink being Rosé (a mixture of red and green wine) one the most popular among foreigners but not very appreciated by portuguese themselves. Portuguese wine is of high quality and in last years has been considered by specialists among the best in the world. Port wine is an unique wine of distinct flavour produced in Douro normally served with deserts. Vinho da madeira, is a regional wine produced in Madeira similar to sherry.From the destillation of grape wastes from wine production is made a variety of brandys with very strong tasting.
The Portuguese have a very sweet tooth, and especially enjoy rich, egg-based desserts. These are often seasoned with spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. Perhaps most popular is leite-creme-a set egg custard. Also popular is arroz doce-rice pudding, although aletria-a similar dish, this time based upon a kind of vermicelli-is preferred in the north of the country. These are often decorated with elaborate stencilled patterns of cinnamon powder. Other custards include pudim flan-a kind of crème caramel. Cakes and pastries are also very popular. Most towns will have a local speciality, usually egg or cream based pastry. Originally from Lisbon , but popular nationwide, as well as among the diaspora, are pastéis de nata. These are small, extremely rich custard tarts, which are best eaten with a strong coffee.
Portugal formerly had a large empire, and the cuisine has influences in both directions. The Portuguese influence is strongly evident in Brazilian cuisine, which features its own versions of Portuguese dishes such as feijoada and caldeirada (fish stew). Other former colonies include the Indian province of Goa , where dishes such as vindaloo show the Portuguese influence in its pairing of vinegar and garlic.