The octopus à lagareiro is a very typical recipe of Portuguese gastronomy in which the octopus, the main ingredient of many Portuguese cuisine dishes, becomes the protagonist here. First it is cooked and then taken to the grill where it acquires the crispy and delicious texture. The name of this recipe comes from the figure of the Lagareiro (an individual who works in a mill in the production of olive oil) and is applied in this recipe due to the large amount of oil that is used to water the octopus.
In historical terms, the mill was a rustic tank where handcrafted olives were worked and crushed into pastes, to be pressed in large millstones to extract the oil. The lagareiro, therefore, was responsible for the progress of the entire process.
In addition to the tasting, savouring the oil, some preparations were made as a test to check and classify the properties and qualities of the oil. They also served as a check on the performance of workers, unless whether disasters and / or pest attacks were recorded. Another factor that could compromise the qualities of olives and olive oil, but no less important, was the improper handling of the fruits, from harvesting and transportation to pressing and storage.
The olive oil manufacturing process is very delicate and requires agility, which requires the maximum attention of those who work in it. The time between harvesting the olives and processing them, should be done as soon as possible, so that they do not ferment. If this happens, there is a high probability of bacteria multiplication, with consequences that can be tragic for the degree of acidity of the final product.
A dish that started to be quite appreciated from the first crop of olive oil to be produced, was lagareiro cod, which in the original versions, dating back many centuries ago, says that this fish was desalted, breaded with leftover ground bread, fried in olive oil taken directly from the mills, ending up being savoured with raw or roasted garlic. This recipe had its origin in the Beiras, between the South of the Douro River and the North of the Tagus River, where the oldest urban centers and villages were built even before the official consolidation of the Portuguese nation.
The preparation of cod in the mills, when the olive oil corresponded to the expectations of the products, went beyond what should be a simple test, acquiring festive contours.
Thus, the months of hard work were celebrated. The story goes that as soon as the Portuguese and Spanish ships brought the potatoes, the perfect mix was found and from there arises the expression that in Portugal, a dish with cod, has potatoes. Later, cod ended up being replaced by octopus, reaching a greater number of consumers.
For this recipe to be called “lagareiro”, the predominant ingredients included boiled, roasted and pounded potatoes, onion, garlic and at the end, all dipped in olive oil, the main ingredient of this dish.
Recipe Octopus à Lagareiro
1 kilo and a half of octopus
250 ml of olive oil
2 heads of garlic
900 grams of small potatoes
2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
Put the octopus in a large pot with 5 liters of water, 5 ml of oil, a chopped garlic head and an unpeeled onion and cook for 40 minutes until tender.
Check by pricking with a fork in the thickest tentacles.
Season with salt and let cool in the water itself.
Separate the head from the tentacles and set aside in an optimal dish for oven.
Wash the potatoes well and wrap them in salt. To be soft, bake at 160 degrees for 35 minutes.
Shake the salt from the potatoes well and add to the tentacles. Increase the oven temperature to 180 degrees.
Sprinkle the octopus and potatoes with 200 milliliters of olive oil, distribute the crushed garlic cloves and bay leaves over the platter and sprinkle with white pepper.
Take it to the oven and when the octopus is very golden, it will be when it is ready.
Sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley and serve the octopus immediately.
You have probably heard about the pastries in Belém, haven’t you? This typically Portuguese custard tart appeared in the early 19th century and is still considered an attractive, aromatic and tasty dessert.
Almost 200 years old, the story of Pastel de Belém is still based on tales and legends. It is believed that the sweet, appeared in the beginning of the 19th century, having been created by the monks of the Jerónimos Monastery, located in Belém, current Lisbon district.
They say that they found in this recipe a way to take advantage of the yolks that were left over because they used egg white as natural starch. Only they worked in the bakery in Belém and, therefore, only they knew how to prepare the traditional sweet, without being able to reveal the secret to anyone.
During this period, the clergy of the monastery made and sold the pastries to the population, in an attempt to survive. However, in 1834, religious orders were extinguished and all monks and nuns had to leave their convents. As a result, lay workers who lived in the space, including pastry chefs, went looking for new jobs.
Luckily, one of the monastery’s confectioners met a merchant, Domingos Rafael Alves, who owned an old sugar refinery. He, completely interested in the recipe, managed to discover the secret of the preparation, taking the monk to work with him.
The merchant then began to sell the sweets, which were called “Pastéis de Belém”. Initially, he sold them in the refinery itself and, later, in a shop called “The old confectionery in Belém”.
When Lisbon became an international tourist itinerary, the recipe’s fame crossed borders and spread to other parts of the world, from New York to Japan, always keeping the original recipe a secret.
The secret of the original recipe
Of course, over time, confectioneries and cafes around the world, especially in Lisbon, tried to discover the secret of the recipe. However, even today it is preserved by masters who have made a confidentiality agreement, including within the four walls of the “Oficina do Segredo”.
The current owners of the “Confectionery of Belém” brand, keep the mystery and do not disclose the recipe, even resisting opening others shops or working with franchises, precisely so that the secret is not shared. It is worth mentioning that in 2011 the Pastel de Belém was considered one of the seven wonders of Portuguese gastronomy.
Currently, it is possible to buy pastéis de nata (custard tart) in many shops in several countries besides Portugal, such as Brazil, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong, but only the originals receive the traditional designation “Pastel de Belém”.
About 20 thousand pastries are manufactured and sold daily. This amount doubles on weekends due to the high number of visitors who go to the traditional store to purchase the product.