March 30, 2011

How to prepare and cook a lamprey the Portuguese way

Lampreia Festival April 1-10 Montemor-o-Velho, Coimbra.
Lamprey Festival advertising poster.
Lamprey is not a fish and have cartilaginous skeleton. Local fishermen tie the lamprey by the head and pour it in and out of boiling water several times to kill it. Then they scrub the skin up and down with the help of hard cloth to remove dirt but to keep the skin intact. They remove a nerve in the head and they make an incision in the animal’s belly. From there they make several cuts in tail’s direction along the surface of the lamprey’s body. This will help to reach and remove intestine and bill through the first incision. This is a delicate operation. The flesh will taste bitter and the dish will be spoiled if they don’t remove it intact. They keep the blood that drains to a recipient. The blood will be used to prepare this famous dish. They pour a glass of wine or vinegar in the recipient so the blood does not coagulate. This dish is typical from Baixo Mondego region-lampreys go up this river that meets the sea at Figueira da Foz. Rice production takes place in Baixo Mondego fields. This region offers a magnificent changeable landscape along the year due to different rice cultivation stages. From February to April restaurants from Baixo Mondego offer this highly prized and expensive dish and attract people from everywhere.

White spot = Baixo Mondego's region
Recipe for 3 persons
Half a lamprey
A glass of fresh blood
5dl of red wine
4 garlic tooth
A small onion
White pepper
For the rice
150 gr of rice
One medium onion
2 dl of olive oil
Nutmeg in powder to taste
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Cut half lamprey in sections and put in recipient. Add minced garlic, parsley, and a small onion in pieces, white pepper and salt. Cover with red wine. Join the glass of fresh blood supplied by the fisherman. Let it rest for six hours in that “marinada”.

In a saucepan over the heat get the olive oil and the minced onion and let it fry until it looks kind of “blond”. (Cover the minced onion with oil.)Then add the lamprey sections and let it fry for 10 minutes. Keep turning the chunks in the saucepan. Add the “marinada” slowly, the juice where the lamprey has been resting. Let it boil slowly in low fire. Use a fork to assure the flesh is cooked; if it’s tender it is good. Now it’s time to check the flavoring- the “tempero”- and add more salt or pepper if necessary. Add the powder nutmeg. Nutmeg is main spice of this dish so it must be used generously.

Now for the rice: in a new saucepan pour some of the cooked lamprey’s sauce. Get all the sauce you can but do not leave the lamprey without any. Join water that is enough to cook the rice.(1 portion of rice/ 4 portions of water) Check the flavouring again and adjust salt, pepper and nutmeg if necessary. Let the rice cook for 15 minutes. The rice must be served very hot and soaked. It can be served separately or you can add the lamprey chunks to it.

Enjoy! Bom apetite!

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