Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Um petisco típico português… Pica Pau!


In Spain, eating tapas is so much a part of the culture that there's actually a verb for it, tapear, which means to go and eat tapas, particularly moving from one place to another.Here in Portugal the culture is not quite the same, but there is one dish that perfectly fits this remit, and you don`t have to even move from place to place, you can stay right where you are at home. Its called Pica-pau meaning woodpecker in Portuguese.Why the name I dont know but I can have a wild shot at how the dish was so named.There is no woodpecker in it, but the manner in which it is eaten is like pecking small portions. The dish is made up of little cubes of beef and other ingredients that you usually pick at. It is traditionally served with toothpicks (palitos) to pick the pieces and crusty bread to soak up the juices, often in cervejarias (beer houses, the nearest Portuguese equivalent of tapas bars) and open air festivals, where it is usually washed down with lashings of draught beer.This is an informal, fun and social style of eating for any time of the year and for those of you who can remember, reminiscent of those fondue evenings, chicken bricks and "Habitat" lifestyle of the seventies.Traditionally the dish is served with shop bought pickles of which I am not a great fan. A diced gherkin or two is fine, but I opted for serving it with some colourful roasted vegetables- red and yellow peppers red onion,carrots courgette and aubergine with some fennel fronds and thyme.On the side I served a bowl of home made Harissa.
Traditional Pica-pau (Serves 6) 
2 tbsp sunflower oil 
800g good-quality beef tenderloin, cubed 
Sea salt and ground white pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
100g banha de porco (pork fat), diced 
1 small brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed 
2 bay leaves 
1 tbsp sweet mustard 
Splash white wine 
Splash brandy 
2 tbsp pickled vegetables (shop-bought), diced (optional)
2 tbsp gherkins, diced ( optional)
Half a bunch of parsley, finely chopped 
Good-quality chilli oil, to serve (optional)
Country bread and lemon wedges, to serve

Once you’ve prepared the ingredients for this dish, it’s really fast to make in one pan, so be ready to serve it quickly.
Place a large pan over a high heat and sear the beef very quickly in the sunflower oil, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Once seared – but not cooked through – move the beef on to a tray, reserving the juices.
Add butter and olive oil to the pan, then the pork fat. Add the onions and cook quickly, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and bay leaves, then the mustard, and stir through. Add the meat, a splash of wine, brandy, pickles,if using, gherkins,and parsley. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
Mix everything for 15 seconds, still on high heat, then remove from the stove. Transfer to a warm serving tray and serve immediately with the suggested garnishes.
The twist:
Pica-pau with roasted vegetables
Red pepper
Yellow pepper
Orange pepper
Courgette
Aubergine
Red onion
sprigs of thyme
Fennel stalks and fronds
Cut the vegetables into bite size pieces then toss all the vegetables together in some oil and roast in the oven.When roasted served with the pica-pau as above.


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