Taste Porto cooking classFrom the moment we knocked on the townhouse door, we knew we were in for something special. Welcomed into the reception area-cum-shop, we had a few moments to chat with other arrivals and look around, before being escorted around the corner into a brightly lit kitchen. There, a couple of pots were already steaming, and a large work table was set for some serious chopping and stirring. Loaves of freshly baked bread waited for us on a sideboard. It was a culinary moment waiting to happen.

Tom and I always look to understand a new place and culture through meals with locals–and sometimes, I get to join the kitchen bustle behind the food we eat. We became fans of Taste Porto’s culinary walks on our first visit to Porto, and recently had a chance to join the very first edition of a Taste Porto cooking class, offered in ROSA ET AL Townhouse, a boutique hotel and kitchen in Porto’s Cedofeita neighborhood. Townhouse owners Emanuel and Patrícia de Sousa were our hosts and tutors.

“Sharing food is an intimate experience–and with our cooking classes, the aim is to provide guests with an emotional memory of Portugal.”–André, Taste Porto

Familiar dishes, with a twist

Anita's Feast After introductions all around, and after our menu was explained to us, we were assigned to tasks in teams of two. As we worked–quartering oranges, peeling pears and cracking eggs into our bowls–a rhythm was established. In what seemed to be no time at all, dessert was underway and we helped make some lovely Muscat & tonic cocktails, enjoying them with nibbles before tackling the main dish. Another whip round of the minute hand, and we were relaxing and savoring conversation and a tasty meal in the upstairs dining space. My only complaint: it all ended too soon!

At first blush, the menu for the hands-on session looked familiar: chunky gaspacho alentejano to start, oven-baked codfish with roasted potatoes, and pears poached in wine for dessert.  But here is where it got interesting. We cooked codfish, yes, but crusted with linseeds, a superfood-enhanced version of the dish that is mildly flavored and not overly oily. I did not master the trick for rolling the fish neatly in egg, then seeds, but at least I know what to practice! The potatoes were enhanced with colorful spices, including a touch of smoky paprika. Our gaspacho was an adaptation for late winter, using strawberries instead of summery watermelon. Pears were poached in port wine, with the added mystery of smoky Lapsang Souchong tea. Plus, we made juicy orange almond cakes to take away and savor later. Along the way, we sampled that wonderful homemade bread, sniffed spices and herbs, and I learned where to source some organic ingredients.

Highlights of our cookery session

Our time with Emanuel and Patrícia was filled with small lessons about Portugal, and tips for playing around with the recipes later in our own kitchens. There was plenty of laughter, that universal instructor. Several things made our evening especially enjoyable:

  • The personal attention of a small-group session, which made it possible to try new things, hands-on
  • An atmospheric setting and professionally equipped kitchen
  • Drinks and nibbles as we worked, along with tips for serving and adapting the cocktails
  • Mementos to take home, evoking the flavors and camaraderie of our Townhouse evening. The cakes we made travel well, even across oceans, although mine did not test this promise. My Taste Porto apron has already found a home in my kitchen, and I think tasty thoughts every time I put it on.
  • Our meal was a yummy study in innovation, providing a unique twist to the familiar. This gave us plenty to talk about in the kitchen, and to taste at the table.

Is a hands-on cooking experience such as this for you? Perhaps a few photos and a video from our Taste Porto evening can help you decide!

Taste Porto cooking class
Everything ready to go for preparing a three-course meal at ROSA ET AL Townhouse…and recipes for doing it all again at home.
Taste Porto cooking class
The talented brother-and-sister team of Emanuel and Patrícia de Sousa, our hosts and tutors for a Taste Porto cookery evening.
Taste Porto cooking class
I love fish, hate the bones. Emanuel de Sousa shows us how to rid codfish of those pesky things.
Taste Porto cooking class
Colorful spices add zip to roasted potatoes. Cinnamon, port wine, honey and lapsang souchchong tea infuse drunken pears with a unique flavor.
Taste Porto cooking class
It would not be a Portuguese meal without eggs in some form. Here, they are being whipped into submission for a luscious orange almond cake, rich and nutty, as well as gluten-free.
Taste Porto cooking class
Muscat & tonic cocktails are a delightful alternative to the classic port & tonics so popular here, especially when enjoyed with little dishes of seasoned nuts and croutons.
Taste Porto cooking class
Gaspacho alentejano, adapted for wintertime, substituting strawberries for watermelon. Brilliant!
Taste Porto cooking class
Codfish times 2: an amuse bouche of codfish salad topped with black olives and sprouts and a main course of linseed crusted salted cod and roasted potatoes.

Got two minutes to spare? Re-live the Taste Porto experience with us in this video!

A family story

Taste Porto cooking classThe Townhouse  story is one of siblings who studied and worked abroad, but a handful of years ago brought their entrepreneurial spirit home to Porto. Each has several irons in the fire–Patrícia teaches needle arts (a selection of her quilts is on display) and classes in well-being. Architect Emanuel’s refurbishment of the townhouse has been selected for the Portuguese Architecture Exhibition for the ‘Year of Portugal in Brazil’, and his dramatic flair has him writing and directing for the Porto theater scene. In an enterprise born of their shared love of receiving people and sharing the food they make, Emanuel and Patrícia are an exciting example of young entrepreneurs showing the best of Portugal.

If you go

The ROSA ET AL Townhouse shop showcases Portuguese products. The lineup includes jams, chutneys and cakes made in-house, and herbs from the Townhouse garden.

Taste Porto offers cooking sessions three times per week, and the classes are every bit as enjoyable and informative as their culinary walking tours of the city. When you are ready for your own “cooking Portuguese” experience, consider that these sessions:

  • Are offered in English, and on request, Portuguese.
  • Can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten and dairy intolerances .
  • Are a great way to enjoy cooking with friends, or meet other travelers.
  • Area in a centrally located venue, and getting there is easy via Porto’s Public Transport network.

ROSA ET AL Townhouse is a member of the Bed and Brunch Collection of boutique hospitality projects devoted to refurbishment of historic properties around the world.

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We were guests of Taste Porto for the first edition of cooking at ROSA ET AL Townhouse. Thank you Emanuel and Patrícia for a relaxing, congenial time in your professional-but-homey kitchen!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Rosa et al Townhouse sounds like a fascinating and delicious way to learn and enjoy Portugese cuisine. Your photos are fantastic too! I share your pain on those cod fish bones – I made a. Bacalao dish recently and it was a hassle to be sure!

    • Thanks Michele, as you can see I’m into learning a culture by cooking it, and this class was excellent. Glad to know I’m not the only cook fearful of fish bones 🙂

  2. I’m always surprised at how distinctive Portuguese cooking is, quite different from neighbouring Spain. That menu sounds delicious – I could almost taste it as you described it!

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