Caldo Verde soup - a mix of shredded cabbage, potato, garlic, onion and olive oil – is the great contribution of the Minho to national cuisine. Either as a starter or as a light meal (particularly in the early hours of the morning), try a bowl served with slices of good smoked ‘chouriço’ sausage or ‘salpicão’ jerky and corn bread.
This is the land of Vinho Verde. Unique to Portugal, it is a fresh, slightly sparkling wine ideal as an aperitif. When it comes to fish, dishes based on lamprey and shad rival the cod, ‘bacalhau’, for the place of honour on the Minho’s dining table. That said however, in many ways ‘bacalhau’ grabs the limelight with recipes such as ‘à Gil Eanes’ now rightly famous. Trout ‘à minhota’ with smoked ham is another must.
As for meat, a much-loved dish is ‘sarrabulho’, which begins its cooking process as boiled pig’s blood before blending with rice and much more. There are also the crackling pork ‘rojões’ and leg of pork à Clara Penha. These standard bearers all come to the fore at Christmas, the traditional time for slaughtering pigs. And make room for the local version of the ‘cozido’ meat stew; ‘Serra’ or Hill goat; and the ‘Cabra Nova’ young goat ‘caldeirada’ potato stew, traditional to Gerês.
Meanwhile, to make sure the wait between delicious meals isn’t too hard to bear, snack on a plate of Castro Laboreiro smoked ham or some handmade smoked sausages.