“Authentic Portuguese Cooking: 185 Classic Mediterranean-style Recipes of the Azores, Madeira and Continental Portugal.” By Ana Patuleia Ortins. Photography by Ted Axelrod. Page Street Publishing. $25.99.

She had me at the potatoes. In introducing one of her recipes, Ana Patuleia Ortins calls potatoes “earthly delights” and says they are beloved by the Portuguese. Since I am half-Portuguese, I now feel entitled to my love of spuds.

Before another recipe in her new book “Authentic Portuguese Cooking,” she says, “We Portuguese love our cheese,” and I started to feel she could peer into my soul.

But then I saw the octopus recipes, along with a page of pictures by Maine photographer Ted Axelrod (the husband of Portland Press Herald social media editor Susan Axelrod) on preparing octopus for cooking, and my Scotch-Irish half said, “Thanks anyway.”

Be assured Ortins ventures far beyond potatoes, cheese and octopus in her cookbook, with a diversity of meat (including goat), seafood, vegetable, bread and dessert recipes, accompanied by lots of mouthwatering photos. Her instructions are clear and helpful, and I appreciated the cultural connections she makes in describing recipes.

Ortins explains that Portuguese cooking is Mediterranean in style, even though the country and its islands aren’t actually on that sea. But she also does a good job of focusing on what Portugal calls its own. Linguica and chorizo sausages show up in several recipes, and the seafood section includes plenty of salt cod.

My family liked the flavors of cinnamon and allspice, with other spices, in a pork recipe I tried. I enjoyed the hint of cinnamon along with lemon in easy and tasty Creamy Custard Tartlets.

Thanks, Ana Patuleia Ortins of Peabody, Massachusetts, for putting me in touch with my root vegetables. And even for those who have no Portuguese DNA, Ortins’ cookbook offers abundant reasons to explore a flavorful cuisine.


Ortins calls for peeling the potatoes. I didn’t and my family was still happy with the results. The recipe didn’t specify red or white vinegar; I used white. Also, I used parsley but would like to try this delicious dish with cilantro sometime.

Serves 6

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 cup finely chopped cilantro or parsley, or combination

1/2 cup wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon hot sauce

Coarse kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

12 small red bliss potatoes, peeled

Combine the onion, garlic, parsley or cilantro and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil and hot sauce, thoroughly mixing. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 1/2 hour. Do not chill.

While the dressing flavors are melding, put the potatoes in a pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl.

Spoon the herb sauce over the hot potatoes, turning gently to coat completely, and serve.


Ortins calls these “a mouthful of joy” and I can’t argue. She suggests using 2 miniature muffin pans or 24 (2-ounce tartlet) tins.

Makes about 24

2 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup butter

2 cinnamon sticks

Peel of 1 lemon

2 large eggs

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease the tartlet tins or miniature muffin pans, then set them on a sheet pan.

Heat the milk in a medium pot with the butter, cinnamon sticks and lemon peel until the butter is melted and steam is rising from the milk, about 5 minutes. Do not allow the milk to boil.

Using the high speed of an electric mixer, beat the eggs in a bowl with the sugar until they are thick and pale yellow, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the flour in small increments while beating. Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon sticks from the hot milk. Slowly, while mixing, incorporate the hot milk into the batter, about 1 minute.

Ladle a scant 1/4 cup of custard into each miniature tin, filling them about 3/4 full. Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes our clean and they are lightly golden on top, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven.

They will firm up as they cool. When slightly cool, transfer to a serving dish. Cool completely. Serve cool or at room temperature. Refrigerate if you are not serving immediately.

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