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Who needs an oven in Portugal?

This month DS and I have found ourselves on a Portuguese city break, kicking off in Lisbon. Today it was 21 degrees C and sunny. Quick! Soak up those rays! Who knows when we’ll next see sunlight. For the locals this is light jacket weather, but we embraced our tourist status by having lunch in our tshirts on a roof-top terrace. We gorged ourselves on perfectly grilled octopus (my favourite), a delicious local white wine and the inevitable custard tart. I’m considering emigrating.

If it wasn’t for the itsy bitsy kitchen in the sun-soaked, river-fronted Airbnb apartment we’ve rented, I’d have found my Mecca. But living without an oven just isn't an option. Not even in Lisbon. Not even with all those delectable custard tarts available on every street corner…

No. It’s not an option.

But, for a few days, I’ll make do.

I’d planned for us to be right next to the Ribeira Market, which has made shopping for daily provisions a delight. I nip across the street every morning, sip my coffee at one of the adjoining cafe bars, sneak in an early morning custard tart (only a mini one) and head in to the fray. The locally grown fruit and vegetable offering is colourful and impressive for November. No shortage of heritage tomatoes here. But it’s the fish selection that really makes your eyes pop. Every day the stands are laden with a huge variety of fish and shellfish, sold by little old Portuguese ladies for scandalously cheap prices. Really fresh squid and prawns can be hard to find in Paris, so that’s what appealed to me the most. Large bunches of hand dried oregano and rosemary also caught my eye, as well as the mounds of dried cannellini beans in sacks which I like to stick my fingers in, Amelie-style. And a piri piri chilli pepper to add a special Portuguese kick.

So, here you have two stove-top shellfish recipes. No fancy ingredients, as my temporary kitchen is bare as bare can be.


Squid and tomato stew with rosemary cannellini mash

Serves 2/3, takes 45 minutes

autumn / summer / fish / gluten free / dairy free / main / not too tricky / quietly smug / stove top / date night

Squid and tomato stew with rosemary cannellini bean mash

In this tasty and hearty squid stew, the chilli remains whole, so there is just a hint of spice. Add more if you like. It’s important not to overcook the squid, or it will become rubbery. Add it just before you’re ready to eat and you should be alright. I love mine tentacles and all, but if you’e squeamish you could just use the rings. Cleaning the squid is what makes this recipe "not too tricky"; if you can get your fishmonger to do that for you, it's plain sailing.

Dried cannellini beans - 150g, pre-soaked*

Red onion - 1, peeled and diced

Olive oil

Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and finely sliced

Red pepper - 1, deseeded and diced

Chili - 1 whole (hot variety - scotch bonnet/piri piri)

Tomatoes - 3

Dried oregano - 1 tbsp

Sugar - 1 tsp

Squid - 3 medium sized, cleaned and sliced into 2cm rounds

Fresh rosemary - 1 tsp, finely chopped

Start by simmering the beans in plenty of salted water for about 45 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a heavy based saucepan, fry the onions over a medium heat in a generous glug of olive oil. When they have softened, after about ten minutes, add the garlic and stir for a few minutes. Next add the red pepper and chili and fry for another ten minutes.

While the peppers are cooking, peel your tomatoes. Do this by submerging them for about 30 seconds in boiling water. The skin should pop open and be easily peelable. Chop them into small chunks.

Next add the tomatoes, oregano and sugar to the peppers and onions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine, bring to a simmer, then cover the pan and cook for at least ten minutes, or until the beans are cooked. The longer you cook it at this point, the smoother the sauce will be.

When the beans are cooked, add the squid to the sauce and stir well. Cook for five minutes, covering the pan.

Meanwhile prepare the mash. Drain the beans and return them to the saucepan. Add a generous glug of olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and roughly mash with a fork.

Serve a dollop of mash in a bowl with a generous ladel of stew. Watch out for the whole chilli!

*I prefer dried cannellini beans to tinned, as the texture is better. Before cooking them, you need to soak them in a large bowl of cold water for at least six hours, ideally overnight. If you’re short on time, you can use tinned beans. In that case you just need to drain the beans and boil them for a couple of minutes to heat them through.

Sauteed Piri Piri prawns with red peppers

Serves 2, takes 30 minutes

autumn / summer / fish / easy peasy / gluten free / dairy free / quietly smug / party

Sauteed Piri piri prawns with red pepper

The pepper, onions, spice and prawns caramelise to make a deliciously finger lickin’ dish. It’s a bit messy to eat so have napkins at the ready. If you wanted a tidier, smarter version you could pre-cook and peel your prawns. In that case they need even less time in the pan, just enough to heat them through. I served mine with cannellini bean mash, but this would work with any number of side dishes. I used Piri Piri sauce because that was what was in the Portuguese kitchen at the time. You could substitute this for any sort of chili.

Red onion - 1, peeled and finely diced

Olive oil

Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and finely sliced

Red pepper - 1, deseeded and finely diced

Piri piri sauce - 1 tsp

Dried oregano - 1 tsp

Lemon - 1/4, plus extra to serve

Prawns - 300g, whole

In a heavy based saucepan, fry the onions in a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Cover the pan, leaving the onions to steam and sizzle. Every few minutes, give them a stir and add a dash of water. When they are beginning to caramelise, add the garlic, Piri Piri sauce, oregano and the peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking in the same way for about 15 minutes, until nicely caramelised. It’s ok if things get a bit sticky!

Add the lemon juice and prawns and fry for another five minutes, until the prawns are cooked through.


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