Not surprisingly, rice features in a lot of Portugal’s cuisine. They’re also partial to monkfish. Together they make a delicious version of what the Spanish call paella and the Italians call risotto.
Ingredients for the country’s dishes have been influenced by the historic trade routes the Portuguese established in the 15th Century, long before the Spanish, Dutch, Brits and other nations woke up to the fact of a great new world out there. In 1412, the Infante Dom Henrique (Prince Henry the Navigator), the Portuguese king’s son, launched the Age of Discovery, by sending the first expeditions along the African coast.
Early in the century, Portuguese fishermen were already working the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, although John Cabot, an Italian explorer leading an English-sponsored expedition was the first to officially report the area, as late as 1498. The same year Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese noble, led the first fleet around Africa to India. In 1519 Fernão de Magalhães’s (Ferdinand Magellan), a Portuguese noble leading a Spanish-sponsored expedition in search of a westward route to the Indonesian Spice Islands (Molucca), became the first European to sail from the Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific Ocean, via the Strait of Magellan. After his death in battle, the remnants of his fleet went on became the first to sail around the world.
World class explorers all, which led to a Portuguese dominance of the seas for centuries, and later the regrettable conquest of many peoples by Europeans.
The incredible variety of foods that these expeditions brought back with them, from rice to piri-piri hot sauce, have become everyday staples of the modern Portuguese diet. One example: the country is Europe’s largest consumer of rice which is grown along several river estuaries; up 180 million kilos a year are harvested. Short-grain Carolino rice is a key variety. Cod has been a staple since its abundance was discovered on the Grand Banks. As a coastal nation, fish of every sort is part of the diet.
Arroz de tamboril is a traditional dish prepared with rice and monkfish as the main ingredients and is apparently the second most popular dish in the country. It often has shrimps or other seafood added. The dish starts with making a refogado, the Portuguese version of Italy’s soffritto: chopped onions, garlic and tomatoes sweated in hot olive oil for 10 minutes over a very low heat. The rest is half way between Spanish paella and Italian risotto. The result is exceptionally tasty.
Arroz de tamboril (Monkfish with rice)
- 700 g / 1 1/2 lb monkfish, skin, backbone and membrane removed, cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 250 grams (1 1/4 cups) carolino or other short grain rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 packet (0.35 oz / 10 g) dashino-moto (dried bonito bouillon)
- 2 TBSP EVOO
- 1 tsp piri-piri hot sauce (or Tabasco)
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup fresh cilantro (coriander) or parsley, washed, de-stemmed and chopped
- 1 fresh lemon
- 200 g / ½ lb shrimps, peeled (optional)
TIP: If you can’t get carolino, substitute the Italian carnaroli or arborio varieties.
TIP: Head to a Japanese store for the best fish stock going. Dashino-moto is bonito flavoured seasoning and used everywhere in oriental cooking. Sold in packets of dried bouillon. It’s quite salty, so go easy adding salt later.
Preparation and cooking
- Prepare the fish. Ask the fishmonger to remove the central bone, skin and head. If they haven’t already done so, remove the grey membrane too. Wash the fish, dry, then marinate in juice of ½ lemon.
- Prepare the fish stock by heating vegetable stock and mixing in the dried fish bouillon. Add bay leaves. Do not boil but keep warm.
- Heat a little EVOO and fry onions, garlic and red pepper until tender, about 5 mins. Then add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until blended, keeping everything simmering.
- Deglaze with wine and keep stirring until all the alcohol evaporates. Stir in rice and fry until it starts to turn transparent.
- Drain and add monkfish chunks, which will poach in the fish stock as the rice absorbs it. Discard marinade.
- Slowly add warm fish stock, letting the rice absorb the stock before adding more. Allow the dish to get sloppy, but not unduly so. Add piri-piri. Turn the heat well down, cover and simmer for about 25 mins, stirring occasionally to ensure the rice doesn’t stick, until the rice is soft and the fish is cooked through. Check the rice for chewiness and seasoning. Add more piri-piri, salt and pepper, to taste. Add more stock, if needed, discarding the bay leaves.
- At the last minute, finish with the juice of the other lemon half.
- Present at the table in a large dish, or the pan you cooked in, garnished with cilantro or parsley, and serve into warmed bowls.
OPTION: Five mins before serving, pan fry some peeled fresh shrimps in a little oil, drain and place on top of the dish before serving.
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This is Nigel’s 288th blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well, if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories. Here is the link to Market to Table: The Cookbook, a bargain at $11.50. The link to Gentleman’s Portion: The Cookbook is now live, even better priced at $9.99 or £9.99.
Categories: Simply food