Pasteis de Belem


Waiting for a train on a windswept and miserable Diss station in January my old friend Joao appeared like a vision. We hadn’t seen one another for nearly 20 years, other than across a crowded field at the Burston Strike School rally, and then only fleetingly. In the space of 1 hour 35 minutes we traversed the work, career, family stories, catching up, leaning over the table, laughing, touching hands and cupping faces affectionately. It was a joy.  More joyful still was to find that in her REd Riding Hood bag, were gorgeously warm and vanilla fragrant Pasteis de Nada – those emblems of Portugal and the Lusophere countries.  Joao was on her way to Portugal to see her mother, but via London to deposit three dozen Pasteis de Nada at her son’s birthday gathering.

The year before, Lynne and I had spent an adventure-and-a-half week in Lisbon staying with her brother and sister in law. Our best day (marred only by the stolen bag on the tram) was a slow and scorching wander along the waterside at Belem and then across to the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem to watch them make the little beauties, and then for us to eat them! It was my first introduction to the heaven which is a little pastry, warm and soft, filled with lemony, vanilla scented, cinammon dusted cream, cooked in the oven till slightly caramelised at the edges.

So Joao and I indulged in memories but also in pastries, and poor Adriano was a little short on his birthday order.  Earlier this year we spent a delectable long summer afternoon familia with Joao and Peter at their house drinking wine, eating Portuguese tapas and celebrating Alistair’s graduation.  For pudding, again were those Pasteis. Divine on a late summer afternoon, sprawling on the grass, grossed out on Bacalao, olives, salads and bread, and squinting at the sky through the trees.  Now Joao’s Pasteis can be found in outlets across the Waveney Valley, including  Diss station, where they tempt me every morning as I dive in the cafe for a quick coffee before catching the 07.02. Rarely have I been known to desist.

And so, to the arcane.  Today I transported 2 year old grandson to Dereham where he and I had a brief meeting with the accountant before emerging, blinking, into daylight.  And then to find, that along with a fine market on a Friday, there is also a Portuguese delicatessen. Oh glory. More Pasteis de Nada.     6 swiftly purchased and deposited at Lynne’s later in the day for Andy’s birthday on Monday.  These pastries are haunting me.

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