WELCOME

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to roam around and learn a bit more about Portuguese History. To find your interests, please, have a look at the right side of the page, where you can find all the posts arrenged into labels, such as "Society", "Politics", etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

FIOS DE OVOS – Angel Hair

Since next weekend is Easter, thought it would be a good time to give you a typical Portuguese sweet recipe again. Yes, one of those I have posted before, not for diabetics or people with heart conditions.
Today it will be talking about something called “fios de ovos” (egg threads, translated directly or in English “angel hair”)
There is little known about the origins of this sweet dish, but the few things I could find are that “fios de ovos” belong to the convent sweets recipes (talked about those in a previous post) and most likely they have been made since the 14th to 15th century in Portugal.
The two major factors for this to happen, as said before: the monopoly of sugar given to Portuguese convents and monasteries and the use of big amounts of eggs to produce sacramental bread (thin wafers) and clothing starch. Although this last one is criticized by some historians who say that there wasn't enough clerical clothing to starch to have such a big left over of egg yolks.
Even so, the fact is that most convent sweets were made with eggs, specially egg yolks, and sugar and one of them is angel hair.
Fios de ovos”, as a side dish or to decorate other sweets (and sometimes even eaten with savory delicacies such as the Iberian ham), were then taken to the Far East in the 16th and 17th centuries, like Japan, where they then became a traditional thing of it's own, called wagashi. Here's a link to how they present it:


The Portuguese angel hair is also called “ovos reais” (royal eggs, don't laugh) or “palha de Abrantes” (Abrantes' hey), terminology found in many old recipe books. And in the old days, before modern strainers and funnels, the egg mixture would be run through pierced egg shells.
And here is how you make “fios de ovos”:


 

Ingredients:
16 egg yolks
500g of sugar
300ml of water

Run the egg yolks through a fine sieve. Boil the water with the sugar in a large pot until the mixture forms soft “pearls” when falling of the spoon. Keep it on medium heat and run the egg yolk through a Chinese colander into the hot sweetened water, making large circles. The faster you make the circles the thinner the egg threads become. Let the egg mixture cook for a few seconds and remove the threads with a skimmer. Be careful not to over cook it, since they'll taste bad. Keep adding table spoons of water to avoid the water mixture to caramelize.

And here are some of the varieties you can find made with angel hair in Portugal.

 "Canudos de ovos" (egg pipes). Image taken from culinariaanacondinho.blogspot.com

 "Lampreia de ovos" (egg lamprey), Image taken from www.docesregionais.com

 "Pão-de-Ló" (Portuguese sponge cake; recipe in a prevoious post) with egg threads. Image taken from infusaodesabores.blogs.sapo.pt
 
 "Trouxas de ovos" (egg bundle). A flat variant of the same egg mixture to make angel hair. Image taken from

HAVE A NICE EASTER!
 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

QUICK RESEARCH VIII - CORK


Like in so many other “quick researches” I've done, this has not the intention of systematically explaining everything about the chosen subject, but to show a few interesting aspects of it. Today it will be about cork, being cork one of the main industries that have characterized Portugal for a very long time.
Here's what I could find, in a “quick” fashion. Hope you like it.
Cork has been used as far as China, Egypt, Babylonia and Persia 3000 years before Christ, for fishing, like boats (for it's floating ability) ad domestic use (for insulation, roofing and even soles of shoes). And the same goes for the Mediterranean area, after it's archeological findings.
In Italy, in the 4th century BC cork was used for several nautical appliances as buoys and cask lids.
But it were the Romans that then used cork to seal amphorae, although the wine cork as we know it today appears much later. They too used cork for it's insulation properties (warm in Winter, cool in Summer) in house making, something that then transpired to the Middle Ages, as we can see in several convents build around Europe.
In Portugal, there's a good example of the Capuchos Convent which wall are covered in cork. For more go to:

Oak covered wall and ceiling at the Convento dos Capuchos in Sintra, Portugal Picture taken from
http://www.trekearth.com

In 1209, Portugal became the 1st country in Europe to have land laws protecting the montados (a type of agro-pastoral managed “orchard”) of cork oaks (most of them in the Southern Region called Alentejo) and during the Maritime Discoveries, Portuguese caravels had cork coating them: besides being a strong and water tight material, it would never rot.
And let's not forget that the cork oak also gives a type of acorn, used to feed people and animals alike since the dawn of times.
It was only between the beginning to mid 18th century that 2 events happened that changed the cork production to the industry we know today: The English physicist Robert Cook studied for the 1st time cork under a microscope; in France benedictine monk - Dom Pierre Pérignon – used cork as a sealer for champagne bottles for the 1st time (until then, wine bottles in France were closed with oil soaked rags). And the best cork oaks would grow in the Iberian Peninsula area, which meant the beginning of a systematic production of cork.

"View of Cuidad Rodrigo", by T St Clair. Detail of a cork oak that had it's "shell" removed at the right side of the image.
 
Today, Portugal produces half of the cork in the world, with over 730 thousand hectares of cork oak montados, making the Alentejo region the main producer and with one of the most beautiful landscapes in this country, being also a strong touristic attraction:

A cork oak in the the Baixo Alentejo region. Photo taken from http://www.l-and.com/pt/l-and/missao-e-valores/

And to see how all of this is done, please watch the following video: