Thursday, August 22, 2019


Garlic Ready to go

Garlic is a member of the onion family (Which I do not like), but I have come to love garlic and use it in much of my cooking. It is important in Portuguese and Spanish cooking and is essential to good Italian cooking. It is delicious in a simple Italian pasta dish and and becomes a major item in some of my recipes including a “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic”. My kitchen always has a couple of garlic heads ready to be added to recipes.

I tried to grow my own garlic, but found it was expensive and really not worth the effort, especially since I have found a reliable source of excellent locally grown garlic. My friend Joanie has a niece who grows garlic for sale on her farm in Gore. On a sunny day this week I was invited down to visit the farm and take part in the garlic harvest and tour the farm. The farm has chickens (egg birds and meat birds), Turkeys, pigs and sheep as well as horses, but I was there to see the garlic harvest.

After Joanie's niece Tina gave me an interesting tour of the farm, I was invited to join in with
Just harvested
processing the garlic which was ready to be harvested. Comfortable folding chairs and a picnic table were set up under a large sun shelter, and piles of just pulled garlic were waiting to be sorted, clipped, cleaned and strung in batches of 50 heads. The weather had been dry, so bunches of ripe garlic was simply pulled from the ground and carried to the picnic table. They were then sorted; a new experiment, where the genetics of the crop were being explored and so the number of cloves were sorted, three, four, five or six with the rare two or seven put in separate piles. At planting time they will be planted in separate sections of the garden to see if five clove garlic will produce more five clove heads next year.

I did all these!
I discovered that four clove heads was the “Normal”and these were being processed for sale. The roots were snipped off and the plants were stacked in piles to be cleaned. Coming from the ground the garlic is of course dirty, and people do not like to buy dirty garlic, so you need to strip off a couple of layers of the outer skins. This is done by finding the first green shoot up the stalk and stripping it down. This removes one or two layers of the white papery skin of the garlic, and if done carefully, leaves a lovely clean white head of garlic. I discovered quickly that the process was not hard; peel the green leaf down and pull the attached layers off. Sometimes you have to rub gently to remove some of the dirty outer layers, and usually enough of the papery outer garlic coating remains to protect the head. The now clean white garlic are piled together. The tops are now clipped off leaving a stem of about six inches. These finished heads are then threaded together with a large needle and strung into bunches of 50 heads which are then hung in the barn to dry before being sold to the hungry public for use in their recipes.

I have always just taken delicious garlic for granted, and I have sampled Tina's local product last fall,
The crew hard at work
so I knew how good it was, and this visit to the farm and getting involved with the process have made me more aware of how garlic is grown, harvested and processed. I spent an interesting afternoon helping with this work and after cleaning a couple of hundred (only a guess . . . ) head of garlic I was ready to head home with a little threaded bunch of garlic to be hung in my basement to dry while I waited for my main order of a couple of pounds of fresh Nova Scotia garlic to be ready to enhance my cooking.

A big thank you to Tina and her family for educating me to the world of garlic. One of Tina's chickens came home with me to wait in the freezer for the garlic to be dry and I think I will do another 40 clove chicken.
Drying in the barn

Hard at work

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Cooking with Rita and Anna

Not Aunt Dora's Kitchen

In Italy we arranged to have a cooking class through our excellent tour guide (and TV star, we discovered), Giovanni. If you have been following my posts you will have read about it in “Cooking With Aunt Dora”. We enjoyed this experience so much we decided to try it again here in Portugal. Ben found the Lisbon Cooking Academy online and they booked a class for everyone. It was going to be hard to beat “Cooking with Aunt Dora”, but it still would be an experience to add to our Portuguese adventure with the kids.

Like everything else here in Portugal, we couldn't get there easily and after many twists and turns and up and downs, our UBER driver dropped us off “close” to the location. Sure enough, it was not on a street and we had to go down more stairs to get to the address. once inside the academy, we were presented with a completely different setting than Aunt Dora's little Italian kitchen. This was a modern spacious cooking classroom. We were greeted by one of the bubbly friendly culinary teachers, Rita and she informed us that we were going to be joined by an
Preparing cod fish
additional four other tourists shortly, but not to worry they had a “Never empty glass” rule to wine, so the wait would not be a trial. Settling in with an excellent glass of Portuguese wine we did not have long to wait until our other participants arrived, four school friends from Germany here on a vacation. Not only were these Germans not the reserved stand-offish Germans we were used to from cruising, these four women were outgoing, friendly and educators, so we got along great. In fact we were told that our preconceived opinion of Germans was because they were from the other side of the country – who knew?

After washing up and getting fitted for aprons, we began the class with appetizers. The normal Portuguese cheese, bread and olives were kicked up a notch with chorizo roasted over an alcohol flame in a special roaster. “Alisha do I have room to bring one of these home in your suitcase?”.

We learned to make a green bean tempura, Portuguese “Punched” potatoes and cornbread crusted codfish, with cabbage on the side. As well, we were instructed in the making of the famous Portuguese egg tarts, pastel de nata, although we were warned that if we did a review on Trip Advisor not to mention this because it was not normally part of a class because they had a separate class just on this delicious traditional desert.

We chopped vegetables, crushed garlic, mixed batter, stirred sauce, pulled codfish bones, and generally got involved in all aspects of cooking this meal the Portuguese way. Then when everything was ready we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labours, a delicious Portuguese meal.

Friday, August 9, 2019

28 Doors

That's us on the Second Floor

We have been staying in four Portuguese cities and have had a apartment in each city. We thought the place in Cascais was pretty good, but it was small and not that well equipped, but had a swimming pool on the thirteenth floor which Regis enjoyed. In Braga we had a really cute little place with the emphasis on little, but it was modern, clean and well supplied. The apartment in Porto was a modern renovated place in an old building overlooking the river with spectacular views. It could only be reached by either descending 135 stairs down or climbing 154 stairs up! It was on three floors connected by a circular staircase, and had a lovely usable veranda looking out on the river.

Then we got to Lisbon. . . . this place is completely different. It is in an old building on the second
One of Twenty Eight Doors
floor (But you go up three flights to get to it because the ground floor is “0”). This place has been renovated but not modernized, so it retains the charm of an old building. There are nine rooms in total, including a kitchen, a formal dining room, living room, two bathrooms and four bedrooms. There are also three hallways connecting all these rooms as well as a large outdoor terrace. There are a total of 28 doors, most of which are old fashioned double doors. There are 10 windows not counting the transom windows over every inside door. The living room alone has six doors as does one bedroom. All of the windows except those in the kitchen are double opening windows with shutters and five along the front are floor to ceiling with balcony railings. Most of the furnishings are antiques and scattered throughout the apartment are all sorts of interesting items. All in all it is quite the place.
A Collection of Antiques

Very Interesting Bed

Dining Room Light

Ceiling Detail

Old Copper Plate/Tray

Portuguese Dishes from Host's Grandmother's Restaurant

Large Wooden Tray Hanging in Kitchen

None of the doors line up anymore

I did not count these as doors . . .

Real Funky Light

Chairs in Dining Room Windows

Dining Room Side Board

Old Brass Lamp in Dining Room

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Doors Of Portugal


We arrived In Lisbon yesterday, and I spent the afternoon doing wash for everyone while they started to explore the city. This also gave my knees a welcome break from climbing stairs, as I notice that this apartment is on another steep hill and three flights of stairs up. AS a result I do not have anything to post about Lisbon yet, so as usual I have been collecting pictures of interesting doors from Cascais, Braga, and Porto. I notice that I am attracted to the old tired derelict doors, so I have included some attractive doors in the photo post.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Waiting For the Sunset

Crossing the Bridge

Porto, Portugal is situated on the Douro River, just a bit inland from the Atlantic on the west coast of Portugal. Our apartment faces east, so we do not see the sunset, but we had heard that it was pretty special. We got to see the glow from the setting sun on the opposite riverbank, but never a glimpse of the actual sunset. Tonight we decided that one of our Portuguese adventures would be to all go across the river and watch the sunset. We packed a picnic lunch, two bottles of Portuguese Vino Verdi, and a couple of cans of Super Bock beer.

The bridge beside the apartment is a two level bridge with cars using the bottom tray and trams using the top tray. There is a pedestrian walkway on each level, but to get the best view of the sunset, our UBER driver from earlier in the day, suggested going to the park across the bridge on the upper level. He said the best sunset views were from there.
Everyone is here

So as the day started turning to evening, I set out to meet everyone else across the river. I was carrying the olives, napkins and the all important wine cork/bottle opener. 135 steps to the top of the hill and then across the bridge to the opposite side of the river. The Park across the river is situated perfectly to watch the sunset. The Douro River flows out to the Atlantic here and the river rounds a bend and flows due west as it exits the city. The park is high on a hill looking out towards the mouth of the river, so the views are perfect. You see the river, one of the five Porto bridges, and the old historic city climbing the hill across the river.

Sunset watching is obviously a popular activity in Porto. The park slowly filled up with people as the skies darkened. The park has rows of concrete walls perfect height for sitting to watch the sunset and
Waiting for the Sunset
I managed to snag a prime section of wall. We arrived about 45 minutes before sunset so the park was just filling up, but as it came closer to the sun going down a steady stream of people came across the bridge and up from surrounding neighbourhoods. The park rapidly filled up with people. A busker arrived and set up with a guitar and small amplifier to play popular songs for everyone. There were vendors selling popcorn and beer, so obviously drinking wine and beer in the public park is not a problem. A family sat down the wall from us, and a little boy took it on as his personal mission to chase the “rats with feathers” (pigeons) away. Overall the park developed a festive carnival like atmosphere.

Clouds did roll in for a while and there was some concern about the sunset, but fortunately a few clouds usually make a sunset more dramatic and Porto did not fail to impress, producing a beautiful sunset over the Douro River. A great end to another nice day in Portugal.

And now the sunset . . . .

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World

And First . . . More Stairs

I like book stores, and its nice to drop into interesting book shops in any place I visit. That little cafe inside the Art District fort in Cascais had a lovely book shop above it. One of the popular attractions here in Porto is a unique book store, but you cannot just drop into the “Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World”; you must first buy an admission ticket down the street at their gift shop/voucher counter. You have to line up to buy a ticket and then line up again to get admission to the shop. If you just go to the door of the actual bookshop you will be turned away. Now that sounds a bit much, but it is all true.

The Livraria Lello is a bookshop in Porto, Portugal. It was originally opened as a publishing house in 1881, and was known as a quality book binder, publishing works by Portuguese authors. The entire business was purchased by Jose Lello in 1894, renovated, and opened as a book store in 1906. Recently it was named by many travel books and
The Bookshop
newspapers as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and at least one publication named it as THE number one bookshop in the world. This sort of positive press would have generated interest in the spot, and brought additional tourist visitors, but it was J. K. Rowling who really pushed it into the stratosphere of book stores. In 1999 when she was writing the first Harry Potter book, she was living and working (teaching English) in Porto and frequented the book store. Apparently she loved the place and took inspiration for the library at Hogworts from the bookshop and its unique and spectacular crimson staircase. Once the Harry Potter books became a smash hit, the bookshop became a must-see destination in Porto. So now you have to buy a admission ticket just to visit.
The Famous Staircase

The shop really is an amazing book store. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful, but gets better once you enter. It looks and feels more like a vintage library than a book store with shelves of books stretching to the high ceilings. The shop has two levels and a spectacular curving stairway painted bright red connects the two levels in the middle of the shop. Overhead is a huge stained glass skylight providing a gentle illumination to the entire shop. I have been in many book stores and this really is one of the most beautiful I've seen.

However, it was hard to actually enjoy it. It was packed with people and the stairway was constantly crowded with people trying to get the perfect picture. It was hard even to browse the selection of books because of the crowds. I was surprised at the number of books in English, but I
suppose the tourist trade demands this. People were buying books and there was a constant line up to pay for your purchases. You do get the price of admission off your bill if you buy a book so that does encourage people to make a purchase. And if you do not buy anything, you can exchange your
The Sky;ight
admission ticket for a little book about the bookshop as you leave.

And I could not even find a book I wanted to buy . . .

A Busy Bookshop