Feliz Natal – Merry Christmas !
Portugal is a very religious country and this shines through in their Christmas traditions. Homes will have a Presépio or Nativity scene, with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger but sometimes it can be on an epic scale. I have happy memories of tramping into the forest to peel off layers of moss from the large granite boulders scattered about the Minho hillsides and taking it to the local school to lay all around their giant Christmas tree lit up with twinkling lights. Alongside the figures of the Holy family there would be the three wise men and shepherds standing round, farmers, sheep, cows, water falls, windmills, silvery streams trickling over rocks. Absolutely magical !
Véspera de Natal
Véspera de Natal (Christmas Eve) is celebrated with the Consoada dinner, a simple dish of bacalhau (codfish) or polvo (octopus) and potatoes drizzled with olive oil. This would be followed by a sumptuous spread of cakes and desserts ranging from deliciously creamy leite crème (crème caramel), arroz doce (rice pudding) or seriously eggy desserts like pudim and molotov. Bread based desserts such as rabanadas (french toast with sugar and cinnamon) and sonhos (dreams) deep fried doughballs dusted in sugar are also very popular but the pride of place goes to the Bolo Rei, or King Cake, representing the three kings. It is like a Portuguese version of fruit cake, but a lighter brioche style, filled with dried fruits, nuts and topped with candied fruit. Best enjoyed with port wines and liqueurs. Watch out though, if you get the broad bean hidden in the cake then you bring the cake next year !
Try making this cake yourself https://food52.com/recipes/2157-christmas-king-s-cake-bolo-rei-portugal
Loaded up with all these goodies it is time to wrap up warm and head out into the cold night to the midnight service at the local church for the Missa do Galo (Mass of the Rooster). Although Turkey is getting more popular the Christmas day meal is usually Roupa velha (literally ‘old clothes’) with the remainder of the fish dish from the night before, roast lamb or cabrito in north or pork in the south.
However you celebrate why not grace your Christmas table with some wonderful Portuguese wines !! kick off with some Espumante, a dry sparkling wine with light floral and bready notes and move onto some seriously good red wine like Sorrir do Sol with your turkey (or bird of choice). Sorrir do Sol has a powerful and spicy aroma with notes of blackberry, violet and coffee and a long delicious finish of tobacco and ripe fruit. Finish off with Douro Late Harvest, a complex and elegant wine with layers of dried fruit, apricot, honey and wild flowers, delicious with your Christmas pudding and stilton.!
All these wines can be found in our Special Mixed case