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Recipes for Portuguese fare: Octopus salad, caldo verde and piri-piri

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In her cookbook "Pimentos & Piri Piri," Carla Azevedo explores the cuisine of Portugal as it is reflected in modern-day Canada. Here are some recipes for home cooks to try.

Octopus Salad

The secret to this colourful Octopus Salad, says Fatima Silva, a friend of Carla Azevedo's, is the generous amount of oil, as the octopus tends to absorb it over a very short time. Dress the salad with oil and set it aside until ready to eat. Before serving, stir the salad and, if necessary, add a drop or two more oil. Serve additional oil and vinegar on the side.

Octopus can be purchased frozen and is often sold already cleaned in large supermarkets or ethnic grocery stores, Azevedo says. Freezing tenderizes octopus. It is also easier to cut into portions when it is partially frozen.

500 g to 1 kg (1 to 2 lb) cooked thick octopus pieces

1 red bell pepper

250 ml (1 cup) broad beans, blanched, shelled and skinned

125 ml (1/2 cup) finely chopped parsley or coriander

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil (approx)

45 ml (3 tbsp) white wine vinegar (approx)

Fine salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

50 ml (1/4 cup) black olives, for serving

Cornbread, cut into 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes, for serving

Using a sharp knife, chop larger octopus pieces into bite-sized pieces, place in a large serving bowl and set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut red pepper in half lengthwise and remove core and seeds. Place on a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil about 10 cm (4 inches) from heat until skin blackens in parts, 6 to 8 minutes. Plunge into ice water and set aside for about 5 minutes. Use a knife to scrape off skin, dice and transfer to serving bowl with octopus. (You can prepare red pepper up to 24 hours ahead, cover and store in refrigerator.)

Add broad beans, then add, one at a time, parsley, onion and garlic to octopus mixture, stirring well after each addition. Add 75 ml (1/3 cup) of the oil, 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix well. If octopus becomes dry, add up to 45 ml (3 tbsp) more oil and 15 ml (1 tbsp) more vinegar, to taste. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving to allow flavours to infuse octopus.

Toss octopus mixture before serving, taste and add additional oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with black olives and cornbread cubes.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

———

Creamy Potato Puree and Greens (Caldo Verde)

Creamy Potato Puree and Greens is a classic Portuguese dish that, for many, symbolizes the food of Portugal. It is easy to understand why the nutritious and easy soup is loved throughout the country. A light-tasting creamy potato base makes a delicious and lovely backdrop to the shredded collards. It is traditionally served with slivers of chourico and a drizzle of olive oil. Vegetarians can omit the sausage.

Many Portuguese grocers have a manual shredder used only for collard greens (called couves in Portuguese) and will shred the collards for you. To shred collards at home, wash the leaves and trim the rough ends. Stack a few leaves and roll into a large cigar shape; using a sharp knife, slice as thinly as possible. Any unused shredded collards can be frozen for later use.

2 l (8 cups) chicken stock

10 ml (2 tsp) fine salt

50 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 large onions, quartered

750 g (1 1/2 lb) potatoes, peeled and halved (about 4)

250 g (8 oz) chourico

1 l (4 cups) water

500 ml (2 cups) finely shredded collard greens

In a large saucepan, combine chicken stock, 5 ml (1 tsp) of the salt, 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the oil, garlic, onions, potatoes and chourico, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 35 to 40 minutes until potatoes are tender when pierced with fork.

In a separate saucepan over medium heat, combine water, remaining 5 ml (1 tsp) salt and collard greens. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until bright green and tender. Drain greens and transfer to a large serving bowl. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

When potato mixture is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove chourico; slice it thinly and set aside. Transfer potato mixture to a food processor or blender and puree in batches until smooth. Pour puree over prepared collard greens and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt, if necessary.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish each serving with a few slivers of chourico and about 5 ml (1 tsp) olive oil drizzled over top.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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Piri-Piri Hot Sauce and Lemon Piri-Piri

The Portuguese have a passion for piri-piri, the explosive tiny Angolan pepper, and use it almost daily in their cooking. Piri-piri sauce is often brushed directly onto barbecued meats. Although bottled piri-piri sauce or Tabasco sauce is available in stores, it is not as flavourful as the homemade version Two easy-to-make recipes are provided here.

If you cannot find the piri-piri pepper, substitute any hot red pepper. Remember that in most cases, the smaller the pepper, the hotter it will be. Use gloves to chop peppers and don't touch your mouth or eyes while working with them. For a less spicy sauce, seed the peppers.

Piri-Piri Hot Sauce

2 piri-piri peppers or 1 small hot red pepper, seeded and stems removed

125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

Place peppers in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour oil over peppers, leaving a 1-cm (1/2-inch) headspace. Seal. Store in refrigerator for 1 week before using. Once opened, it will keep for up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

Makes 125 ml (1/2 cup).

Lemon Piri-piri Sauce

One of the many uses for lemon piri-piri sauce is to season shrimp. Simply grill shrimp for 3 to 4 minutes, until no longer pink inside, then brush with lemon piri-piri sauce. Serve the remaining sauce with it.

75 ml (1/3 cup) butter

30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice

1 ml (1/4 tsp) piri-piri sauce or Tabasco sauce

15 ml (1 tbsp) pimento paste (optional)

In a saucepan, heat butter, lemon juice, piri-piri sauce and pimento paste, if using, over low heat until butter melts and sauce is heated through.

Makes about 125 ml (1/2 cup).

Source: "Pimentos & Piri Piri: Portuguese Comfort Cooking" By Carla Azevedo (Whitecap Books).

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