Friday, 4 March 2011

Pasteis de Nata

Pasteis de Nata are like little caramelised creme brulees in a puff pastry case. I love the contrast of the crisp and flaky pastry with the smooth and creamy custard filling. I look for the one with the most caramelised top. They are said to have originate from a monastery near Lisbon to make use of spare egg yolks. The whites were used for starching the nuns' habits and in wineries for the clarifying of wines such as Port.
Penha d'Aguia near the cathedral in Funchal serves excellent ones and good coffee too, both at a reasonable price. You can get Bolo de mel there too and queijadas which are baked using a soft white cheese.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Madeiran Sweet Treats

The first time I tasted this it was served in a jug with some little choux buns. I thought it was chocolate sauce so poured it on . The taste was not what I was expecting and had I known what it was would have chosen a different dessert. However I have acquired a taste for it and brought some back with me. Remembering a fellow traveller's tale of an exploding pot of spices that spread through his suitcase whilst in the hold and even ended up in his socks, I packed it very carefully in my suitcase. Just as well because although it was tightly sealed and unopened a bit had seeped out.

This is Mel de Cana Sacarina which translates as 'sugarcane honey' or molasses. The photo below is of sugarcane from Funchal market. This local ingredient is used in biscuits and Bolo de Mel, a tradtional cake. It is lovely served on pancakes with lemon juice and a slice of orange.


It is also used in poncha (punch). This is a drink made from white rum (aguardente) mixed with mel de cana and lemon juice. Sometimes orange juice is added or even passion fruit juice.
Passion fruits are grown in Madeira and in a supermarket you can get a bagful for about 2 euros! They are however much more expensive in Funchal market.
Whenever I have had this drink it has been made using bee's honey rather than mel de cana.
The best one I had was from a little cafe in the market. It is run by the same people as Botanica 17 who sell plants and flowers on a stall inside on the top floor on the right. The cafe is on the top floor, keep to the left and go to the far end and it's outside. The juice is freshly squeezed for the poncha while you wait. There is also coffee and home made cake.