It’s possible that I like Porto even MORE than Lisbon. It’s going to be so difficult to decide which one to emigrate to. We had such a wholesome day yesterday, cycling to the nearby Atlantic beaches in the balmy November sunshine. On the way home we stopped in the local fishing village for a scrumptious lunch. We devoured HUGE portions of fresh sea bass and seafood skewers, all expertly BBQ’d by a burly Portuguese man in the street, brandishing a cigarette. The no-choice dessert was a crème brûlée, brûléed by a burning hot fire brand. YES. Two please.
Worried that we hadn’t eaten enough seafood in the last ten days (LOL), DS and I went to Porto’s fish market to pick up provisions for our last two dinners. So much choice! While we were lurking indecisively next to a stall, the lady behind it obligingly started wittering away to us in Portuguese, naming each and every fish available and how best to cook it. Forno and grillo are the essential (approximative) words I’ve picked up whilst here.
A spiny snapper tickled my fancy, as well as a little bag of clams, winking away. Two special suppers for two.
I was a bit NERVOUS about cooking the clams, as it was only my second time doing so. I dutifully put them in salty water for 24 hours to help them perform their last ablutions, but there seemed to be a worrying number of them that were gaping open. Had we been had by the little old Portuguese lady? I called DS in for back up and put him in charge of sorting the quick from the dead. A quick, sharp tap on the back of the head (the Clams’, not his) was all it needed. The live ones snap closed in indignation, and the rest go in the bin.
But what about the clams that are kind of closed, but not completely? Hmmm. They didn’t seem to react at all to that thwack on the back of the head and remained stubbornly pouting. With visions of spending our last night running back and forth to the bathroom I rashly decided to risk it and throw them all in. Thank goodness they pretty much all passed the second test of opening after being subjected to five minutes of scalding steam. Only a sorry few stayed closed and had to be thrown away. I felt guilty for doubting the friendly market lady and then slept like a baby.
Roasted red snapper with lentils and marinated peppers
Serves 2 generously, 5 minutes prep time, 30 minutes cooking time
Easy peasy / perennial / fish / vegetarian / main / show off / gluten free / dairy free / hands free / date night / detox
Whole roasted fish is a lovely thing to do for a slightly special supper, especially if you’re short on time. There is almost no prep time involved, leaving you to have a lovely time with whoever you’re cooking for while the fish is in the oven. This recipe will work for most types of fish. Play around with different herbs, whatever you have.
Here I made a simple side dish of lentils with pre-marinated peppers. This was what I had left over in my little Porto kitchen.
Red snapper - 1 medium sized fish (about 800g), cleaned and descaled
Lemon - 1
Parsley - a few stems
Lentils - 1/2 mug full
Vegetable stock cube - 1/2
Marinated peppers (optional) - cut into strips, a couple of spoonfuls
Dried oregano - 1 tsp
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Rinse the cavity of the fish clean and apt dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, and squeeze in a quarter of a lemon. Stuff the used lemon and parsley into the cavity and then drizzle the fish with olive oil.
Place in the oven and cook for half and hour.
Meanwhile cook the lentils. Place them in a pan with 1 mug of boiling water and the stock cube. Bring to a simmer and cook for twenty minutes, or until tender. All the liquid should have evaporated by the end.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, the peppers and oregano. Stir well and taste for seasoning.
By now the fish should be ready. Check this by seeing if the top fin comes away easily from the body when you pull it (a good trick!). Carefully remove the fillets from the backbone and season with salt and pepper. Serve the fish with plenty of fresh lemon and a drizzle of olive oil, with the lentils on the side.
Clams and spaghetti
For two, takes 20 minutes (once the clams are clean)
Fish / easy peasy / show off / summer / autumn / ready in a jiffy / dairy free / main / date night / shellfish
This is a super simple but impressive dish. Great for supper with friends or family, or anyone you feel comfortable enough with to slurp in front of. As long as you clean the clams in advance, it’s all ready in a flash.
I haven’t called this spaghetti alle vongole because the italians might be angry at my extra ingredients, notably onions. I like the way they give a bit more substance to the sauce. It means that it takes a bit longer, so feel free to leave them out if you prefer. I had to serve the clams in a separate bowl from the spaghetti as there weren't any bowls large enough in my Porto airbnb kitchen. Deconstructed? If you say so.
Make sure you’ve checked for dead clams before you cook them (see ABOVE).
Onion - 1, finely diced
Olive oil - a glug
Linguine - 300g
Garlic - 3 cloves, finely sliced
Dried red chili - 1 small (or fresh if you prefer, finely sliced)
Tomato - 1, chopped (cherry tomatoes work well too)
Dry white wine - 1 glass
Clams - 1 kg, cleaned*
Parsley - a big handful, chopped
Start by frying the onion over a medium heat in a very large pan with a lid, stirring often.
After about ten minutes, cook the pasta in another large pan in plenty of salted water according to the packet instructions .
Add the garlic, chilli, tomato to the onions and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Next add the clams, cover the pan and leave to steam for five minutes or until the clams have steamed open. Add the parsley and stir to combine.
Drain the spaghetti and divide between two bowls, adding a drizzle of olive oil to loosen any stickiness. Spoon the clams onto the spaghetti, discarding any clams which haven’t opened. Finish by pouring the sauce over the top. Serve with plenty of black pepper. And a delicious glass of crisp white wine.
* To clean the clams, place them in a large bowl with plenty of salted water. They will start cleaning themselves by spitting out any grit they've been harbouring. You should give them at least four hours of spitting time, rinsing them and replacing the water every so often.