Easter 2020 is around the corner and with it comes another amazing time of the year, when families traditionally get together to celebrate and, of course, to eat. Due to the coronavirus outbreak and confinement at home, this year may be a little different. Even if the celebrations are a little more low-key than usual, you can still enjoy these delicious Easter treats at home, or even have a go at making them yourself! Whether you live in Portugal or not, it is time to get acquainted with all the delicious typical dishes you can find here during Easter so you won’t miss a single opportunity to fill your belly with great treats.
The dishes vary from region to region, but they all have something in common: the abundance of food. After a hard winter, Easter is the time to enjoy a rich feast, marking the end of Lent (as Portugal is a Catholic country). Dinner tables fill up with everything from sausages, liquor and lamb to the traditional bola and many sweet dishes.
Get your Easter spirit fired up and find out more about the traditional Portuguese meals you must try this Easter 2020!
In the Minho region made up of Braga and Viana do Castelo, in the north of the country, the celebrations involve the Compasso, a group led by the local priest, who goes from house to house carrying the Holy Cross and offering blessings. The locals must have traditional dishes prepared to receive the priest: bolas recheadas (a sort of salty pastry filled with meat and sausages), roasted lamb and the traditional folar or pão-doce, a sweet yellow bread.
You can also try broinhas (small sweet bread like cakes prepared with pumpkin or potato and stuffed with raisins), pão-de-ló (one of the most famous Portuguese cakes made with plenty of egg yolks, whole eggs, flour and sugar), or bolo de Margaride as it is known in Felgueiras and borrachos (little fried pastries made with eggs, sugar, breadcrumbs and cinnamon in Valença do Minho).
Eastertime in this region also means the eating of folar but over here it is filled with veal, chicken, rabbit, serrano ham and salpicão (a Portuguese type of sausage), that enrich the dough with their greasy fat. In some cities, the folares are shaped to be big and round, like in Bragança ou Mirandela, and in places like Freixo de Espada à Cinta, they are smaller and flatter.
In Beiras, the folar is prepared with cinnamon and fennel and decorated with eggs, either boiled or painted with colourful motifs. In Covilhã, aside from this sweet bread, you can have broinhas, olive oil cakes or empanadilhas da Páscoa, a half-moon shaped sweet treat, filled with walnuts or almonds. You should also know that in this region, as well as some areas of Alentejo, it is normal to fast from meat, up until the “Enterro do Bacalhau” that marks the end of Lent. From then on, meat starts to dominate traditional dishes and lamb, chicken or pork loin are the true gastronomic stars.
In Alentejo, lamb is the main dish of this festive season and every single part of the animal is used to make some spectacular dishes. The tripe is used to prepare sarapatel and even the brains of the lamb are cooked and are considered a delicacy. You can also find queijadas (cheese-based pastries), bolos fintos and the folar, of course.
In Elvas you can find the traditional doce pascal (“Easter’s sweet dish”) that is shaped like animals from lizards to lambs, little chicks and doves and then covered with white almonds and boiled eggs. In Castelo de Vide you can also find this sweet treat but, instead of animals, it is shaped like a double heart.
In the Algarve, you can find all the traditional dishes we have told you about so far, but one of them offers a delicious twist. In the country’s southernmost region you can find a different kind of folar, called folar de folhas, that has cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon and butter as the main ingredients.
Easter is all around
As you might be able to tell by now, there are dishes that are popular all around the country, but they are all different thanks to the little changes added in each city or region. Aside from these traditional sweet and savoury dishes, there are two other popular Easter elements: chocolate and almonds.
During the Easter season, godparents, grandparents and parents usually spoil children with chocolate eggs, from tiny ones to gigantic ones, chocolate figurines like the Easter Bunny and almonds. According to tradition, godparents must also gift almonds to their godchildren and you can find them in any shape or form: natural, covered in sugar, coated in chocolate, filled with chocolate and the list goes on.
Get your recipe books ready to try making these delicious Portuguese treats at home this Easter. Your foodie heart really is in for a treat!