Finding traditional food…

26 Jun

I want to windup my travelog on Portugal with this post. We usually do a bit of culinary research before visiting any foreign country. We often observed that in most touristic locations the local cuisine is customised for tourists. Sadly, many family run restaurants are taken over by investors. This lead to restaurants being pushed to be profitable by providing what tourists expects. This time we wanted to visit restaurants, that are only owned and run by families.

Our first of this kind is in a town called Loule and we got help from one of the shop keepers who readily suggested an authentic traditional Portuguese restaurant. It is called Bocage. It was bit warm on that day, it was nice to find this little cosy restaurant. This is run by a family and all of them work together. Mother of the family is chef accompanied by wonderful staff of kitchen Alinah. Daughter and father manage the customers. We introduced ourselves to the family and told our interests in traditional cooking. The chef was happy to take us to her kitchen and planned a grill platter for us.

Grilled fishes from Bocage

The staff, Alinah, surprised us with traditional Namaste. Later, we found out that she watched many hindi serials and picked up a bit of hindi. she was happy to strike a pose with a fish in grill to be posted in my blog. Here it goes your warm smile :)

We thoroughly enjoyed our grill with salad and potatoes. The bill was moderately priced and worth all the penny.

Alinah in her kitchen

Our next visit was to a restaurant near Faro called ‘O chapparo’. We drove deep into residential area and finally found this hidden gem. The restaurant is run by husband and wife, who have a cute little baby. They only serve 2 menu for a day – no big hassle in choosing your food :) . We tried both: Grilled chicken with fried potatoes and Gaucho (Brasilian Portuguese dish).

The cooked rice alone tasted good, along with chicken and cube fried potatoes was yummy. Angelika, the owner of the restaurant, suggested 2 of their desserts, drunken pear in wine and creamed cookies dessert. These two desserts were out of the world. The poached pear just melted in mouth  and wine sauce was delicious.

And the surprise part was the bill which costed less than half of the cost of dinner elsewhere.

Delicious drunken pear

Restaurant chef from O chapparo

Our next try was on our Anniversary day. We had two challenges to handle. One is to choose a family run restaurant and second, we don’t want to be disappointed with food on our anniversary day. While searching for restaurant we took a detour to this country restaurant between Lagos and Portimao. It is called Amigo de Baco.  We decided to check the menu and talk to owners beforehand. As menu was in Portuguese, the owner of restaurant helped us and patiently explained each one of them. Looking at her passion, we decided that it will be the right choice for us. we choose 3 of them from chefs suggestion. Prawns curry with rice, which is a fusion of brazil, African, and Portuguese. Beef steaks with black pepper sauce. Grilled jumbo prawns with a special sauce. They want to keep their sauce recipe as secret. The food was excellent and we couldn’t treat ourselves better than that on our anniversary. While chatting with the family, we came to know that the owner (around 80yrs young) personally goes to buy ingredients as early as 4am and has been in kitchen for many decades. The taste of food made us convinced that the family definitely has more secret ingredients in their recipes.

The dessert was Chocolate pudding and creamed cookies. Creamed cookies became our favourite, out of this trip.

Jumbo Prawns with secret sauce

Grilled Salmon with veggies and salad

Truly inspired by this 80yrs young man

No wonder, we love Portugal and its people!. These trips have given us plentiful experiences and we are moved by the warmth of the people. Moreover, if you are seafood lover, there is no other place than Algarve region in Portugal that can leave you wth lingering taste and memories. Certainly, some of greatest moments in our life :)


Garlicky Paprika Salmon steak / Dolphin Emotions

20 Mar

Today’s post is about fishes :-) . Most restaurants in Portugal offer assortments of freshly grilled fishes. Fresh fish taste much better compared to frozen ones and feels light when you take a bite… After getting used to this in Portugal, I was looking at options of buying fresh fishes back in Germany. One day when I went for shopping to buy some chicken for our Sunday menu, I saw this fresh beautiful steak in fish counter. Hurray, I decided to change our Sunday menu. What other fish is better suited for grilling than Salmon!. This Omega-3 rich Salmon fish  is our family favorite.  Be it grilled or in a spicy tamarind gravy or fried or steamed it tastes yummy.  Coming from an Indian background, I tend to use a bit more of spices and chilli, especially for the fish grill. Beware my European friends!.  Dont worry :) , this recipe is to let you enjoy the spicy version without burning your tongue. So those who dont like lot of hot chilli powder in their fish, this is for you. I just replaced chilli powder with red paprika powder which is labelled as hot but it is not as hot as medium hot chilli powder. Adding paprika powder gives bright red color and good chilli flavor. So I spiced it up with little minced garlic, paprika , turmeric, crushed pepper. The accompaniment is creamed spinach, Lemon rice and carrot.

Recipe of Grilled Salmon


  1. Fresh Salmon steaks – 3 ( for 3 persons)
  2. Paprika powder – 2 Tbsp (sweet paprika)
  3. Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
  4. Garlic minced – 1tsp
  5. Salt – as per taste
  6. Oil  - few Tbsp
  7. Pepper crushed – 1tsp (optional)


1. Wash the Salmon steak. Add some turmeric, salt, garlic, pepper,paprika powder and 2Tbsp of oil into a bowl . Apply this mix on the steaks. Let it rest for 1/2 an hour.

2. Heat a flat pan and add a spoon of oil. Now add the fish to the hot pan and cook for 5 min on each in medium flame.

3. Once done squeeze some lemon juice on top and enjoy.

Dolphin Emotions in Portugal

Our Portugal expedition continues in this post as well…

Riya’s primary school group name was Dolphins and since then she was super excited to meet this beautiful animal in real. First time when we visited Portugal, we stayed in Lagos. It is an old town with narrow cobbled streets. Some streets are narrow that even a person cannot walk on the side when the car is on its way. There is an old church and the town has got some good restaurants and lot of souvenir shops. Lagos is also a point where lot of ferries operate which takes you to wild dolphins watching in sea or a casual boat trip or caves trip. The boat takes you deep into the ocean for Dolphin watching where the depth of the sea runs few kilometers. Weather has to be sunny and warm for the dolphins to come out and sign of seagulls being there is an indicator for dolphins in that area. One should be lucky to see these intelligent animal in this ride. Our planned day of visit happened to be a cloudy day (around end of April ). Even after we were 15kms into sea we could not see them. With lot of disappointment, we promised ourselves that we will meet them in our next visit.

On our next visit to Portugal, we didn’t want to check our luck in wild sea but rather looking for other options. The one we had was watching Dolphin show in Zoomarine in Algarve. It is a water theme park which also has quite a number of Dolphins, sea animals & birds. It had one of the amazing Dolphin Shows. If you want more intimate (dont get wild!) sessions with Dolphins you can go for a special program called Dolphin emotions. It is a bit expensive but worth the experience for lifetime. We planned to be there on Riya’s birthday. After cutting her Birthday cake, we started to ZooMarine. We booked for a Dolphin Emotions program for Riya as her bday present. She was quiet excited that she can swim together with dolphins . She & her group went in to the large pool of water with bottlenose Dolphins swimming happily and we could see her from distance.  In this program, she had some informative session followed by commanding the Dolphins to do to some spins etc..The best part was also a ride on back of Dolphin by holding its fin. Even after a year now she is excited and remembers the fun she had. By the way this the only place in Europe where such lively interactions with dolphins is possible. Google for Dolphin Emotions and you can find more details…


Second Cake in Portugal! & Benagil

02 Jan

Coming after a break, indeed a long one ;) … This post is about my daughter’s 9th Birthday and mind blowing caves in Portugal!.

Its cake time!. There is no other better occasions than my daughter’s birthday make one. It was planned to be a garden theme cake. Well ahead of our trip to portugal, the fondant figurines like flowers,bees,snails were made ready.  The cake was a Lemon yoghurt cake with White & dark chocolate Ganache and covered with Fondant.
The Bottom Layer was a 7″ cake tin and top two layers were smaller than that. I used my kitchen steel utensils for that. The top layer can serve only one portion. Birthday girl enjoyed the top yellow layer cake which was prepared with white chocolate icing on her request. I was particular about the small size cake. As we don’t wanted to eat the cake for Breakfast,Lunch & Dinner, rather also try some Portuguese dish out there.

Everytime I bake cake and decorate, I feel that there is still a lot to explore and learn.

Later on that day we visited Zoo Marine, water theme park. What we still remember is Dolphin and Dolphin emotions program which is a experience on its own. Will cover more in later post.

Lemon Yoghurt cake

Ingredients :

  1. Joghurt – 200ml
  2. Self Rising Cake flour -3 and 1/2 cup
  3. Butter -150 gm
  4. Egg -5
  5. Lemon Zest – from  2lemons
  6. Sugar – 1 and 1/2 cup


1. Add Butter to the bowl and cream it until smooth. Now add sugar and mix it with hand mixer.

2. Add Egg one by one and mix it well and then add lemon Zest.

3. Add the Flour and Joghurt alternating each until you get a smooth paste.

4. Preheat the oven and bake it approximately for 20 – 30 min. Check with skewer if it is done before removing from the oven. ( I had a gas oven during the vacation, which was quite different than electric one)

Benagil Caves in Algarve, Southern region of Portugal

Benagil is famous for sea caves and it has one of the largest sea caves in Europe. There is a boat trip, starting from Benagil, which tours around all the sea water caves nearby.

Our Captain of the boat is a friendly Portugese man, who has amazing skills. It was an experience of its own, when he tried to steer the boat into a narrow cave and he could do so only at the right point in time when the wave gets below an height. Otherwise, it could have hit one of our head top. He also showed us lots of interesting rock formations like an human face, Crocodile and an elephant. The Paradise beach is the best cave that we liked, which true to its name was an excellent romantic spot completely covered by a dome and small opening, which lights exactly the beach below inside the cave. Apart from caves there are also cute little beach in Benagil.

Fishing boat picture taken from Benagil beach.

The captain also offered us an exclusive trip to private beach only accessible by boat. But unfortunately, we could not fit it in our schedule this time and we promised to take his offer next time. So, if you are around Benagil and want to spend some romantic time with your loved one, this would be a perfect place. Below are two pictures from Paradise beach.

I am not posting many pictures here of Benagil experience, as I would encourage you to visit when you are in Algarve. A final teaser below :)


Cake Bake in Portugal

11 Nov

Our Wedding Anniversary Cake 2014

As you can see from my previous posts that I am writing about our recent Portugal trip and food experiences. Its been quite few years in a row, that we plan our vacation during September, as  our wedding and my daughters Bday anniversaries fall on the same week in Sep. Apart from site seeing & relaxing, we are curious to try out new food around the places we visit. But I had not tried to make an anniversary cake by myself. Baking and decorating a cake is such a fun activity, that I didn’t want to miss this time for our family occasion.

This year, I decided that I should wet my hands in making a cake at any cost. Nothing should stop me in baking and decorating a cake – how ever the outcome may be :) … 2 weeks of Vacation, 4 total days of drive, and if I had to bake a cake and decorate with the idea I had in mind, I will end up spending the whole time in kitchen. So planning,planning, planning….The idea was to make a Flower basket cake and I planned to make all the flowers and basket ahead. One week before our Vacation, I started making flowers and basket and made them to dry well. All flowers were handcrafted and few of them were created using flower cutters.

Everyday for a week, after winding up our day around 8pm, Riya and I start our favorite sugar modelling and it will go until 11pm and sometimes 12. She likes to help me in making flowers as it was a Summer  holiday time for her. Sometimes, a ball of sugarpaste is what she needed to play and  to make her favorite figurine to give me as  a present in the evening.

Lots of trial needed atleast for making Roses. Other sugar flowers can be made easily with flower cutters. For this basket, I tried home made sugarpaste. Other parts are made from SatinIce sugarpaste and Wilton fondant.  You will also need few modelling tools to start with a simple cake. Once your interest grows, you can easily notice that your collection for cake accessories are also growing along :) . Yes, I had to pack two cartons of my accessories and Cake figurines and flowers and that explains.

My Mom and me were chatting the other day before the vacation and was discussing about this… she just told me a comment, why not relaxing in Holiday and doing this after returning  home. Vacation for me is do what you like to do…even if it is hard work, at the end of the day you should feel happy..

Modelling is Ok. What about the cake? The cake tins and dry  ingredients needed for the cake are packed. I had to do a little shopping there to buy Butter and perishable ingredients. My curiosity wanted to check the cake section and see if there is any special ingredients that they use. There was big section of self raising cake flour (pre made cake flour with baking powder and baking soda) which is not very prominent here.  Ok lets pick that and try a cake with this flour..(Had a second thought in mind..if my bake didn’t turn out good, had a plan to buy premade regional cakes and decorate it with my homemade sugar flowers.) Not a bad idea hmmm..

The next Challenge was gas oven at the vacation home..Did take sometime to switch it on and there was no control to regulate the heat, but atleast happy that it had an on/off switch. Whats next, try some new flavor of cake..Until one day before had no idea what flavor to go for..But as I planned the cake to be served for our breakfast, so lets try coffee cake.

Coffee cake with its natural coffee flavor(no additional flavors)

Ingredients :

  1. Self Raising flour – 1 and half cup
  2. Sugar 3/4 cup
  3. Egg -3
  4. Coffee- 2Tbs(mixed in 20ml of warm water)
  5. Milk – 100ml
  6. Butter – 125gm


1. Beat Butter and sugar until soft.

2. Add egg one by one and incorporate to the mix.

3. Add flour and coffee,milk  alternating  each and mix until they are combined to a  smooth mixture.

4. Bake it for approx 1/2 an hour in an preheated oven.

Once it is cooled…I layered the cake and applied dark Chocolate Ganache like here and stuffed the cake into basket. Finally filled with sugar decorated flowers.

The Coffee cake was delicious and reminded of CoffeBite chocolate which we used to have during my school days. And the flowers on top was refreshing for our eye and no one dare to try that beautiful flowers. Those Rose flowers are smiling now in my living room.

This was our Wedding Anniversary cake..Next post will be Riya’s Birthday cake…

Yellow flower made by Riya

Flower Basket Cake


Cataplana & Algarve Beaches

20 Oct

See food Cataplana.

Whats your traditional dish? A typical question any curious foodie would ask if one is in a foreign land. The famous one in Algarve region of Portugal is ‘Cataplana’.  Its interesting to observe how the food is prepared and served. It also reflects the life style of Portugese fishermen. Cataplana is prepared by steaming mixed seafood, vegetables and other aromatic ingredients together in a special pot (also called Cataplana). Although simple, the dish tastes excellent.  The process of steaming in a closed vessel retains all the juices from seafood & vegetables within the pot and it adds a natural taste to the dish. The fish doesn’t have to be perfectly cut. Just use whatever fish you may get it from sea. I liked the wholesome pot meal which is a balanced meal in itself.  The sauce goes well with Portuguese bread.

Cataplana is a dish cooked with seafood(fish, shell fishes..) and some sausages along with onion, tomatoes,garlic, olive oil and white wine. There are slight variations on what goes as a main ingredient to this dish. Fish Cataplana or Shell fish cataplana or Meat Cataplana. I observed that the meat one is an adapted one over some period.

We tried it in a Restaurant called ‘Millennium’ in Lagos during our last year trip.. Soon the restaurant became our favourite and we visited again this time as well. It was surprising to find out the ingredients from restaurant staff. It is closer to one of the traditional dish, Meen Kuzhambhu, from south indian fishermen community. In India, the sauce is prepared almost in the similar way minus the wine, plus tamarind,and spice powders in a clay pot. In Algarve, Corriander leaves are used and in the northern Portugal, Parsley is used for garnishing.

We enjoyed the dish along with Ciabatta bread, which was very close to the bread served in Restaurants in Algarve.


  1. Mixed fish – 500 gms
  2. Mussels – 100gms
  3. Prawns – 100 gms
  4. Onion – 2 big
  5. Tomato – 4
  6. Olive oil – 2 Tbs
  7. piri piri sauce -1 Tbs
  8. Garlic -5 pods sliced
  9. Salt for taste as required
  10. Coriander for garnishing
  11. White wine – 1/2 glass
  12. Boiled potatoes – 100 gms (cubed or sliced)

Victoria See Barsh fish, Salmon fish, Pangasius fish, Prawns and Mussels.


1. Place the Cataplana pot on heat, add oil and once it is hot add garlic and saute for half a minute.

2. Add onion and saute until it is transparent. Add 2 chopped tomatoes and saute for a minute.

3. Grind the 2 tomatoes in to puree and add it to the pot.

4. Now arrange the seafood in the order they cook. The one takes longer time should go at the bottom and which takes short time like prawns or Muschels should go on the top layer.

5. Add the fish pieces in a layer and sprinkle some salt. Then add potatoes, Muschel and prawns on top layer and sprinkle some salt for this.

6. Add piri piri and add white wine. Close the lid and cook it covered for 10 minutes on a gas stove. Garnish with corrainder and switch off the stove.

My ceramic stove took nearly 25 minutes to finish cooking whole dish.(you also get the special cataplana pot for the induction stoves.). It would perfectly fit for a gas stove.


Algarve Beaches

The south and south west region of Algarve is surrounded by beautiful beaches with rocky cliffs. Literally every 0.5km to 1 km you may find a beach, which has its own beauty. Meia Praia in Lagos is one of the longest beach in Algarve covering 4kms.  It is famous for water sports and wind surfing. The beach itself reminded me of ‘Marina’ beach in Chennai, India.

Meia Praia

Praia do Camilo Beach. This is one of our favorite beach with beautiful rocks and sea green water.

Praia do Camilo Beach.

Benagil Beach. A small beach but famous for Europe’s largest water caves (Will cover in next posts)

Faro Beach.

People enjoying last weeks of swimming period in Faro. (Swimming not allowed after September due to cold weather)

It was a beautiful experience to see Faro backwaters low tide and high tide changes. The boat happily floating during high tide and rests on sand during low tide as below.This change happens approx. every six hours.

Low tide Faro back waters.

Panoramic view of Porches beach.

Porches church and beautiful view of sea. Dont miss the beautiful sunset from here and bright fullmoon is an added bonus.