Last month I went to the battle re-enactment of Vimeiro, where I was given this small sweet pastry cake called “Peninsular”. I was told that the name was given in honor of the victory of the allies over the Peninsular Wars. But you know me; this type of information only makes me investigate further, even if only a bit.
In the past I have written about convent sweets (and you can get more infos about that on the referring post). This cake I ate belongs in that category.
I have found, on Facebook, a page dedicated to this pastry and have asked more about it. This was the answer (translated roughly):
These pastéis come from a convent recipe, that in the past was given to a lady of Vimeiro, that started to commercialize them under the name “Peninsulares”, with registered trade mark since 1949. The name/brand “Peninsulares” is a homage to the Battle of Vimeiro (21st of August of 1808) in which the Portuguese and Allies (British) defeated the still invincible Napoleonic troops.
With best regards,
So, there you have an easy answer to where this pastry comes from and which brings me to another question: the civilian access to convent recipes. This access has to do with an interesting historical fact: the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal.
I have referred that after the French Invasions and the return of power to the Portuguese Crown in 1820, Portugal went into a civil war. Well, it ended in 1834 with the signing of the Convention of Évora Monte in that same year. In that same convention it is stated that all religious orders are therefore abolished and all their belongings are now public and belong to the state.
We must not forget that Portugal was an extremely catholic country (I have written about it) and the number of religious orders was enormous. All of them, of course, shared the national wealth, since was so in the past Monarchies where there was no separation of powers. This situation had become so vast, that some attempts were made to reduce them by the famous Marquis of Pombal. Unfortunately, he only abolished those who stood in his path, like the Jesuits. But laws of stopping the creation of religious orders had appeared in the late 17th century.
Of course, the extinction of religious orders in the Convention of 1834 meant that who won the civil war were the liberals, those who wanted a Constitution (a prelude to Republicanism).
It is not like the nuns and monks were now thrown out of their orders, but the law stated that they shouldn't admit anymore novices. It was also stated that the orders that didn't had any income could receive a state pension. This whole situation only became regulated in the 1860's.
Well, I guess that means that making sweets and selling them could have been a source of income and later, in the next century, many of the those recipes became public. From here to the access of the many cookery books was just a small step, making it possible for many talented ladies to start their own businesses in sweet pastry and dessert making. But I will have to find a book on this matter to state more facts on it.
Pictures taken by me.
And sitting on the train home, I couldn't resist them anymore. The smell of roasted almond flour and heavy sugar (perhaps even molasses) was to big to resist.