In a land of avid fish and meat eaters, Portugal can seem a bit daunting to the ethical eater. Fed up of missing out on regional specialities and traditional dishes? Yup, us too, that’s why Portugal is our Cultural Corner of the Month and we will be giving you an insight into the cuisine and culture along with some delicious vegan recipes of the national favourites.
In it’s colonial times Portugal had links to Goa, Macau, Angola, Mozambique, Cabo, Brazil and Malacca (Malaysia). This meant Portugal had access to spices from all over the globe and this can be found in their varied cuisine. Black pepper, saffron, vanilla, cinnamon and chillies (found in the famous piri piri seasoning) are all spices which ordinarily wouldn’t have been in Europe at the time. Traditionally the Portuguese also use a lot of garlic and olive oil in their cooking so combined with the exotic spices means that Portuguese food never lacks in flavour.
Food shortages during the Second World War still affected Portugal despite them not being involved. Combined with the poverty that impacted the country under the rule of President Salazar meant that the Portuguese had to be resourceful in the kitchen. When using expensive ingredients such as meat and fish the Portuguese got creative and were sure not to let anything go to waste. Dishes would be heavily vegetable-based but always contained some form of meat as people would want to use everything that was edible. Feijoada trasmontana, a bean stew, has a variety of meats added for good measure such as pig hocks, knuckles and even ears! In the olden days and still in rural areas families raise their own livestock and are sure to use every gram of meat. This means that even dishes characterized mainly by veggies will have some form of meat or stock lurking somewhere in the ingredients.
Portuguese cooking is distinctly meat and egg based and when it comes to sweet treats it’s a similar story. Both the Romans and the Moors, who both ruled Portugal, had a love for eggs in their cooking. Later, as Catholicism spread across the country, many monks and nuns were paid by the poor with chicken and eggs. This has caused a long lasting passion for eggy cuisine!
To be blunt, Portuguese food is not “vegan friendly”, nor has it ever been. Therefore, unfortunately for us loving vegans, eating traditional foods in Portugal can prove problematic and it’s no surprise to find a bit of sausage floating in your soup. With a country that’s so rich in culture and proud of their culinary heritage, it would be a huge shame to miss out. So, here’s our take on some Portuguese classics with a Veggie Vagabond tweak! Cruelty free, super scrummy and staying authentic!
Vegan Orange, Honey and Almond Cake
During the 15th century monks and nuns paved the way for confectionary throughout Portugal. To starch their laundry nuns and monks would use egg whites which meant a lot of leftover egg yolks. With a bit of creativity and a lot of time on their hands they conjured up an array of recipes that have been enjoyed for centuries. Rita João and Pedro Ferreira, authors of the Portuguese pastry encyclopedia Fabrico Próprio: The Design of Portuguese Semi-Industrial Confectionery, described “These places of faith and seclusion were often true laboratories of creation, where the religious dedicated themselves to rescuing old recipes, or to testing new ingredients from all over the world.” With so many convents in Portugal, the variety of sweet treats was abundant and enjoyed across the country. In the Évora district alone there were 11 convents in the 16th century, with the monks and nuns enjoying a sense of humour naming pastries “angel’s double chin” and “bacon from heaven”.
The main ingredients used would be egg yolks and sugar with flour, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut and other spices. Today more than 200 delicacies are still prepared to the original religious recipes. Traditional European oranges were very bitter and were only ever used for marmalade but that all changed when the Portuguese brought over sweet oranges from India and China. Sweet Oranges became popular in Europe but were very expensive and could only be enjoyed by royalty and the wealthy. As time went on and sweet oranges became more widely available, lay people were able to afford them and it wasn’t long before the orange cake was a favourite across the country.
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake Recipe
As with most Portuguese cakes this recipe isn’t traditionally vegan friendly as it contains eggs. Never ones to miss out on a tasty treat here at Veggie Vagabonds HQ we’ve devised a super scrummy vegan version that is zesty, gooey and scrumptious. This cake uses no refined sugar and instead uses agave nectar and orange for sweetness. I think it’s that much better using naturally sweet ingredients rather than processed sugar. This is also my first recipe cooking with that vegan favourite that is flax meal. I’ve always been put off by the price tag but decided to try something new as it’s also very good for you. The end result was a success – I am a convert and look forward to many more recipes with flax eggs. So give this spin on a much-loved classic a go and let us know what you think in the comments and #veggievagabonds on social media.
250g plain flour
100g ground almonds
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of flax meal
10 tablespoons of water
1 cup agave nectar
rind and juice of 3 oranges
icing sugar to dust
1. Grease a baking tin, roughly 20cm, and preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
2. Make the flax eggs by mixing the flax meal with the water and leave to set for about 10 minutes.
3. Blend the four, ground almonds, baking powder and salt until evenly combined.
4. Once the flax eggs have set whisk with the agave nectar, then add the orange zest and juice.
5. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until fully combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for one hour or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let us know what you think of this recipe in the comments below and #veggievagabonds on social media so we can see your your creations!