The Christmas Holiday Season in Portugal is known as family time for giving and sharing. Also, we celebrate it the only way we know how, with delicious homemade food in a typical Portuguese Christmas table.
Photo: Portuguese Christmas Table, credits to Austin Kelmore
Most of Portuguese holidays have their own unique dishes and sweets, but Christmas is by far the most plentiful among them. Every house has a rich table full with traditional food, cakes, fried cookies, nuts and other goodies!
The list of sweets is extensive, but each has their own texture and flavour that is worth of your attention. To begin with, you have the Bolo Rei “King Cake” that it’s like bread in consistency and filled with dried fruits, nuts and topped with crystalized fruit and powdered sugar. 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!
Photo: “Bolo Rei”, credits to Alberto
You also have all of the variants of Christmas “fried dough”, modified slightly depending on the region. There are Filhoses – basic fried dough made into a thin, rectangular shape with flared edges and covered in cinnamon and sugar, Rabanadas (golden slices) is Portuguese French toast, for all practical purposes, but covered in cinnamon and sugar. And let’s not forget the Azevias, fried chickpea or almond filled turnovers, or Sonhos (dreams), these fried dough balls rolled in cinnamon and sugar have a delightfully soft and “dreamy” texture on the inside, especially when they are Sonhos de Abóbora – “pumpkin dreams” made with fresh pumpkin. Additional fillings include carrot, and milk, which give it a more creamy texture. Aside from the vast array of pastry shop sweets, families will also make their own creations to serve with Christmas dinner: normally variants of pudim – Portuguese flan and Arroz Doce– rice pudding.
Photo: Christmas Sweets, credits to Francisco Antunes and Kris Haamer
Christmas is not only about sweets and deserts, the main course is also really important and the dinner is actually very simple. Keeping with the Catholic tradition of no meat, we make Bacalhau (salted cod) in a traditional Christmas Eve preparation called Bacalhau da Consoada. Here, the fish is simply boiled up with potatoes, cabbage, carrots and hard-boiled eggs, and drizzled with Portuguese olive oil.
In some regions, you can also have Polvo – octopus, usually roasted or made into a rice dish, or the classic roast turkey and stuffing. In a more Portuguese way, specially in the North, Cabrito Assado – roasted baby goat – is an absolutely delicious must-have.
Photo: Portuguese Christmas Dinner, credits to Antonio Resendes
The day after Consoada, the 25th of December, a northern tradition is to make Roupa Velha – “old laundry”, in which we take the leftover of Bacalhau da Consoada from Christmas Eve dinner and basically chop it all up together, mix it with egg and bake it in the oven as a casserole. This day is reserved to welcome some closed-ones in your house to eat and have a good time.
This is how our Christmas is spent, full of delicious food, family and joy everywhere. This is a time filled with cheer and wonder, to celebrate and appreciate a lovely time with our love ones. Join us in this beautiful holiday!