While it is said that the Portuguese don't particularly like spicy food, one exception is, of course, Chillies. Portugal loves its Piri Piri Chilli, which found its way from its then colonies in Africa, to become a firm favourite back home. These Chillies are so popular that Piri Piri chicken ( spicy grilled chicken made with Chillies ) is thought to be Portugal's national dish. Even more telling is the fact that just about every restaurant will have at least one bottle of their closely guarded secret homemade Piri Piri sauce. All you have to do is ask for it.
Here, we explore some of the recipes from Portugal that Portuguese cooks use to make their fantastic food.
Recipes for dishes from Portugal
How to make Prego sauce
A Portuguese favourite
Anyone who has eaten a Prego Roll will know that it is fine food. Another iconic recipe from Portugal the Prego , is grilled steak (with lots of garlic) in a soft Portuguese roll with onions and topped with a Prego sauce. It gets its name from the Portuguese word for nail, a reference to how the traditionally tough meat (flank steak) used for Prego is made more tender by hammering it with a tenderising mallet.
Another favourite, particularly in Lisbon, is the Bifana. Bifanas are similar to Pregos, but are made with pork rather than beef. Bifanas and Pregos can be found virtually everywhere at Tascas (small, no frills bars) that are just about on every street corner.
There are many recipes for Prego and Bifana sauces. As with Piri- Piri sauces, these recipes closely guarded secrets that never get shared with anyone who is not family.
A recipe for Prego sauce
This authentic recipe for a traditional Prego sauce ticks all the boxes in terms of flavour and piquancy that you find in all the best Prego sauces. To make it, you will need the following ingredients
- Butter – four tablespoons ( or half a cup of olive oil).
- Piri- Piri paste -two tablespoons ( Sambal Oelek or Harissa will work as well)
- Dry red wine – half a bottle (preferably Portuguese).
- Bay leaves – four
- Peppercorns – six
- Garlic – six cloves (slivered)
- Onion – one (finely chopped) optional
- Salt for seasoning
This sauce is better made while cooking the meat simultaneously. The flavour of the meat juices makes the sauce richer in flavour. It can be made without the meat, but it won’t be anywhere near as good
To make it with meat
- Place the meat on a wooden surface. Sprinkle with the slivered garlic, and then cover with cling film.
- Bash the meat with a tenderising mallet until it has softened
- Heat the butter or oil to the frying temperature.
- Place the meat in the pan and cook until browned on both sides. Remove the steaks from the pan and keep warm to rest.
- A finely chopped onion can be added at this stage. Cook until starting to brown.
- Now add the remaining ingredients
- Cook until the sauce is reduced by a half
- Serve the sauce over the steaks in the rolls with sauce poured over.
Without the meat
- Start with the butter or olive oil
- Add the onions. Cook until starting to brown.
- Add the garlic. Cook for a minute
- Now add the remaining ingredients and allow to reduce.
- Use as required. It can be kept in the fridge for a week
Pregos can be served with a fried egg to add even more flavour. They are typically served with fried chips. A Piri-Piri sauce can be served with these for dipping
A good Prego will benefit if the meat is marinated in the other ingredients before it is cooked. The remaining marinade is added after the steaks/onions are cooked.
While traditionally made with flank steak, Pregos can also be made with fillet, sirloin or rump steak