The word “Alentejo”, one of the 13 Portuguese regions, means “Beyond the Tagus”, the river that crosses Portugal and embraces the sea by its ancient and sunny capital, Lisbon. This region is also called the ‘barn of Portugal’ because it mainly strives on agriculture, producing wine, olive oil, dairy, cork and grains that are harvested from endless and astounding rolling hills. It is also the land of the most succulent pork, a delicious breed that live happy on a diet of acorns. The coastal area is bathed by approximately 200 km of Atlantic sea, which provides a fresh and varied palette of fish and seafood. I have great memories of Alentejo, especially the days that my family and I used to drive from the north to the south, stopping here and there. We would discover towns, villages, experiencing the diverse culture of the whole region. The drive through Alentejo was always long, hot as if we were slowly walking through a desert in the hope of finding an oasis. The oasis was always a combination of things: the sight of the sea, the little restaurant table with the crinkled paper table cloth under a magenta bougainvillea, the regional salty cheeses and olives that my mum adored, my excitement to read the slightly damp hand written menu composed of delicious, simple, fresh dishes that perfectly complimented the produce from both land and sea. One of these Portuguese dishes that I adore comes from this region, the delicious stewed pork with clams. And here it is for you to enjoy.
800 gr of diced free range pork
500 gr of fresh clams, well washed in cold water
1 tbsp of paprika
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
150ml of dry white wine
half a chilli pepper, finely chopped
salt & pepper
3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
A bunch of coriander
In a bowl prepare a marinade with the paprika, the chopped garlic, the bay leaf and the white wine. Mix well. Put the diced pork in a pan, cover it with the marinade and season well with salt & pepper. Leave it in the fridge for at least 48 hours, so that the pork soaks up the all the juice and becomes very tender.
Fry the pork in a hot pan with the olive oil for a couple of minutes, than reduce the heat to a minimum and let it cook slowly for an hour and a half. On the last 10 minutes before serving, add the clams and let it simmer till they all open up. Serve the pork and clams in a plate, sprinkled with chopped coriander.
Soak up the juice with a slice of fresh crusty bread.