Book review: ‘Lisboeta: Recipes from Portugal's City of Light', by Nuno Mendes

20 December 2017 by
Book review: ‘Lisboeta: Recipes from Portugal's City of Light', by Nuno Mendes

When Lisboeta landed on my desk, just a few weeks after I had returned from a trip to Lisbon, my pulse quickened. Memories of huge platters of fresh, grilled fish and creamy, flaky pastéis de nata custard tarts with a strong coffee sprang to mind, and I hoped Lisboeta wouldn't disappoint in rekindling those memories.

It doesn't, and how could it? Nuno Mendes, the chef behind London establishments Bacchus and the Michelin-starred Viajante, and now executive chef of Chiltern Firehouse and owner of Taberna do Mercado in Old Spitalfields Market, is himself a Lisboeta (native of Lisbon), and one of London's most acclaimed chefs.

Naturally, the book has recipes for custard tarts, salt cod fritters and grilled sardines with green peppers - and, to my joy, for the pillow-like almond pastries (travesseiros) found in the pine-covered hill town of Sintra. But it also has lesser-known recipes, such as runner bean fritters with clam broth, and kale soup with chouriÁ§o (similar to chorizo) and potatoes.

Lisboeta also provides an insight into the history of Lisbon and its food - for example, the influence of the 'age of discovery', when Portuguese sailors brought back piri piri chillies, cinnamon, cloves and tomatoes; the traditions that have led to the Portuguese allegedly having 365 different ways of cooking cod; and the fado music that can be heard in restaurants across the city.

Mendes rightly describes it as one of the most overlooked cuisines in Europe, but it is one that is quietly making a name for itself. The professional chef could take a lot from Lisboeta, as well as an understanding of Lisbon's cuisine and even a guide to the food of the city. And for that, Lisboeta is an excellent map.

If you like this, you may enjoy these

*Chiltern Firehouse by André Balazs and Nuno Mendes
Lisbon: Recipes from the Heart of Portugal by Rebecca Seal
Catalonia: Recipes from Barcelona and Beyond* by José Pizarro

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