Portugal: Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

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After attempting to dive into Spanish cuisine, I’m moving on to Portugal for a classic dessert! (Seems fitting moving around the world geographically, does it not?)portugal_city_mapSide note before we dive into the food…. As I’m finding out more and more as I do this project, my initial knowledge of specific countries (let alone it’s cuisine) is pretty limited or at least confined to popular culture references. But I will say, the one thing I know about Portugal is that it’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s home country… and this may be a food blog, but I am still a 23 year old gal who loves her international men so… you’re welcome ladies.19ed58132f808e11ef1889c2dca3582c

*But I will admit he is not the greatest guy in the world… And he’s actually too good looking if that makes sense…

But back to food…. Given Portugal’s geography, it’s no doubt that seafood is an integral part of their cuisine. Apparently, the country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. And one of Portugal’s most famous dishes is bacalhau or salted cod. It’s considered by many to be it’s national dish!

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Photo courtesy of  The Bacalhau Chronicles 

Apparently, there’s about as many recipes for preparing bacalhau as there days in the year! But the classic preparation that I’m familiar with is pastéis de bacalhau, or fried cod cakes. Other preparations include Bacalhau com Natas, a layered cod dish with potatoes and cream, and Bacalhau à Brás, similar to a Spanish omelet with bacalhau, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs all mixed together. But no matter what preparation, bacalhau is eaten two or three times a week on average and called Fiel amigo or “faithful friend.”

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Photo courtesy of About Portugal

Other clasisc Portuguese dishes I learned about include:

– Leitão Assado, or roast suckling pig

–  Carne de porco à Alentajana, or pork marinated in wine and garnished with clams

– Caldo verde, a soup with potato, green cabbage, olive oil and served with chorizo or even black pudding

– Caldeirada, a fish stew

– Choquinhos à Algarvia, a dish with cuttlefish

– Sardinhas assadas or grilled sardines

– Bitoque, a steak served with a fried egg on top

Now, as much as it seems most appropriate to make bacalhau, it seemed a little difficult to make really good bacalhau at home (though I’m sure it’s possible). One day, maybe I’ll eat it in a cafe in Lisbon…

But instead, I decided to make a classic dessert, Pastel de Nata. These Portuguese egg tarts are said to have been created in the 18th century at a monastery in Santa Maria de Belem in Lisbon. This dessert’s creation was a by product of a common practice in those days of using egg whites to starch clothes. As a result of the abundance of egg yolks, these monks developed many desserts in which to use them. Pastel de Nata may be the most famous (often even called  Pastéis de Belém after this region/monastery), but other popular egg based desserts include Leite-Creme, Ovos Moles de Aveiro and Toucinho do Céu.

And other Portuguese desserts include, ‘pudim flã (a caramel custard); arroz doce, a rice pudding; and aletria, a pudding made with a kind of vermicelli noodle.

But on to the sweets!

Pasteis de Nata

Adapted from All Recipes*

1 cup milk

3 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 cup white sugar

6 egg yolks

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed

*I halved this recipe to make 4 adorable pasteis.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease ramekins or muffin cups and line with puff pastry.  12 muffin cups and line bottom and sides with puff pastry. Fill with pie weights and bake for 8-10 minutes to set.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

In a saucepan, combine milk, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

Fill pastry-lined ramekins with mixture and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is lightly browned on top.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and enjoy! Bom apetite!

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

As my first journey into Portuguese cuisine, I think I did pretty well! Now, ready to plan my trip to Lisbon!

Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease ramekins or muffin cups and line with puff pastry.  12 muffin cups and line bottom and sides with puff pastry. Fill with pie weights and bake for 8-10 minutes to set.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk ½ cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened.
  3. Fill pastry-lined ramekins with mixture and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is lightly browned on top.
  4. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and enjoy!
 

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