Saturday, December 6, 2014

It's Christmas

With the presents brought by Baby Jesus himself on Christmas Eve, the Portuguese Christmas differs from the traditional turkey in England. 
Instead of the blow out meal on the 25th December where drinking starts at 11am with the annual sherry (boy I miss the traditional Christmas) the Portuguese share dinner on the 24th with a big dose of Bacalhau, salted cod fish, which looks nothing before it’s soaked for 48 hours.    

The Portuguese say that there’s a bacalhau recipe for every day of the week…..they love it here.

Before the soaking

One of the 365 recipes after the soaking

Another of the 365 recipes image from

 After the family meal, everyone will go to church for the 'Missa do Galo' or 'Mass of the Rooster' service. During the service an image of baby Jesus is brought out.  It is then put in the nativity scene (the pres├ępio) which every church around the country has.   After the service people go home  and open their presents late into the night.  

Unlike England the streets are not littered with dead Christmas trees come the 6 January.  So, I can only assume it’s still not common to have a Christmas tree.   Lots of ex-pats in our area steal into the countryside at dusk to cut their own tree.   Something I want to do this year after having three years of olive branches to hang my ornaments on.

Instead of Christmas Cake we have a cake called 'Bolo Rei' ('King Cake') it’s a lovely concoction of  a stollen like cake (without the almonds) covered in candied fruit.  It’s especially good cut into slices, toasted then covered in butter…..lots of butter.

Bolo Rei
Traditionally a broad bean and a gift (a little token) are hidden in the cake. If you get the token you are allowed to keep it. But if you find the broad bean, you have to pay for next year's Bolo Rei!

A big night here in Portugal is actually Dia dos Reis or Day of the Kings.  Held on the 6 Jan, there is a celebration of the Magi.  Rather like Halloween in the UK, kids have free license to go to people’s homes and demand chocolates.    It’s usually a great celebration which put paid to the dry January idea.

The traditional food of this celebration is the Cozido.  Cozido is a mixture of pork (all bits of pork) and chicken, chorizo and black sausage.  It’s cooked for hours with potatoes, turnips, carrots and cabbage.  It sounds hell, but when it’s done well there is nothing quite like the taste, but when it’s done badly then it’s a pig snout served with overcooked cabbage.

Traditional Cozido

 Peter does a great version on Cozido, it’s a mixture of style, from the traditional Portuguese cozido with Spanish Pote but with a strong choizo sausage influence. 


  • 1 xChorizo
  • 1 x Negrito (chorizo flavoured with red wine)
  • Salt beef (but this means you have to salt your own beef)
  • 3 x Potatoes
  • 3 x Little turnip
  • Half a Cabbage
  • 3 x Carrots
  • Water or Chicken Stock

Just chop it all up into chunky bits, and put it in the pressure cooker with salt, pepper and bay leaves for 40 mins.    Then serve it.   Simple, but very very tasty.   The cabbage is soft, not al-dente but there is something lovely about this.  The dog gets the left -over meat.  The next day I whiz it all up and make a fantastic broth out of it.

So the Portuguese Christmas may be different, but it’s still all about the food.   So that makes it OK by me!
Boas Festas (happy holidays) and happy new year.

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