Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Portuguese egg tarts and other cakes

Living in Malaysia I've eaten many egg tarts. And they certainly vary from shop to shop. They originally came to Malaysia with the Portuguese. Floor map in Lisbon showing Portuguese discoveries -

So when I was in Portugal, I was interested to go to the bakery where these egg tarts originated.

The tarts originated from Belem which is just outside Lisbon. The Belem egg tart shop is near the Jerónimos Monastery and was established in 1837.

The Portuguese egg tart, Pastel de nata, Pastéis de nata (plural) were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery. During that time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, in particular the nuns' habits. So the monks and nuns started using the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.

Nowadays there is always a queue to get into the Belem shop. There is a dine in cafe as well as a take away counter -

I bought 2, you sprinkle icing sugar and cinnamon on top, and should eat them warm -

During my stay in Portugal, small egg tarts were sometimes available in the bakery section at the hotel breakfast.

Pastelaria or bakery shops are everywhere, either as cafes or just take away shops. I tried a few during my stay. Quite often for lunch I would just have a cake and coffee.
This was a crispy pastry case filled with a sweet custard -

This one was really nice, a filo pastry with a sweet filling -

I also had a couple of 'cream slices' without the cream. They are flatter but much wider than the English cream slices -

I saw these meringues in a shop in Coimbra, Pastelaria Briosa. They were huge, the size of a tea plate, pity the photo doesn't really show the size -

They are described by travellers on Trip Advisor as the world's biggest meringues. They would feed a whole family!

Another Portuguese cake is the pao de lo or sponge cake. Interestingly, in Malaysia (& Chinese countries) a pao is a steamed dumpling (sweet or savoury). I only tried this in the hotel buffet -

Apart from some of the cakes, I wasn't over impressed with food in Portugal.


Friday, May 19, 2017

The death of Ipoh's Ipoh tree

Ipoh's iconic Ipoh tree that stood in front of the railway station was uprooted in a storm on 28 April 2017. The tree had been planted there in 1980.

The tree in 2010 -

The tree, antiaris toxicaria, had given Ipoh its name. The poisonous latex of Ipoh trees is used by the orang asli (aborigines) for their blowpipes. 

There used to be very attractive gardens in front of the station but those were all removed in recent years and the area was turned to concrete, leaving the Ipoh tree all alone. And now that is gone.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Magpie softening bread in water

Magpies are birds of the crow family and are rather intelligent. This one found some hard bread and flew to a water barrel and dunked the bread in the water to soften it.

I've also seen crows dunking hard bread in puddles of water.

Magpies are omnivores and scavengers. This year I have frequently seen one hanging around as it knows that people put out food for the foxes and squirrels. Like the foxes, it recognises the sound of a window being opened, which could mean food is on its way.

I normally only see one at a time, despite the children's nursery rhyme :
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a bird,
You must not miss

I've frequently seen crows going through the rubbish bins outside Sainsbury's and McDonalds. They methodically take out each bag, checking it for food.