The time of the Discoveries
The idea, of the menu "Discovering Portugal" that would become the third in a chronicle started in 2020 with the journey of the chefs from the South to the North of the country, began to form during the inspirational visit that chef Hans Neuner, together with the kitchen team, made to the Azores archipelago and also to São Tomé.
At the time they were devising the 2021 menu with the theme "On the Route of the Islands". After touring the Portuguese mainland, it was now the turn to delve into and deepen their knowledge of the gastronomy of the Portuguese islands (or those with a historical connection to the country). And whether it was during the guided tours they took in the company of historians or during conversations with locals and chefs they met in the region, there was always one theme that kept cropping up: the Discoveries and the influences that remained in Portuguese food thereafter. Above all, the unknown products that were new and, brought by the caravels, ended up being permanently established in the dishes that still reach our tables today.
This did not go unnoticed by Hans Neuner, quite the contrary! And so a mental note was made, to be revisited, when he had to contemplate and conceptualise the menu "On the Discoveries Route" for the following year 2022.
On an imagined maritime route at the time of the Discoveries, starting in Setúbal, passing through various points in Africa, with a diversion close to happen due to strong winds through Antarctica, and ending in Goa in India, the route is rich in diversity of spices and unexpected combinations of flavours that keep the attention from stop to stop.
This aligned the ideas and dishes for this year's menu, with a selection of mainly Portuguese products, which are substituted by others, according to their seasonality.
In Mozambique, during the inspiration trip, experiences were also lived, friendships were built and enriching skills were collected. As a result of all this exchange, there are several dishes on the menu inspired by the prominent role played by women in their daily routine at the stoves, cooking for the whole family. These are the true chefs full of wisdom! From them came the inspiration for the seventh moment on the menu - Matapa.
There are several ways to cook matapa, each one in its own style, although with the same ingredients, but the most remarkable was without a doubt Dona Sónia's. Dona Sara's cooking gave rise to one of Chef Hans' favourite dishes, the Mozambique Wild Tiger Prawn - also because of the presentation that he conceived for it -, but that would be a curiosity for another day.
With Dona Graciete, the learning was the distinctive Caldeirada de Peixe (a fish stew) which, surprisingly well deconstructed by pastry chef Márcio Baltazar, is reinterpreted as a sweet dish, the highlight of the dessert - Caldeirada de Banana.
Journeys create memories, leave bonds and, as a tribute to so much genuine sharing and generosity of these women - as if there were any doubts left -, there is Mama África de Cajú, which is intriguing at first, causes smiles, fascinates with its beauty, and is kept in the memory at the end of a journey.