When Stephan told me he was making some research on old traditions, myths and legends related to the Convent of Saudação in Montemor-o-Novo (Portugal), I decided to look up for a very old book of recipes I found a couple of years ago when I was participating in an artistic residency at that same place. At the time, I got curious about the book and I remember reading some parts of it, without paying much attention to its historical value. I also remember sharing the experience with my colleagues and having decided to try some recipes out collectively, but we never did that — too much work to do! This time I went to the production team office and asked if the book was still there; it wasn't! Some Archaeology students took it away and donated it to the City Museum. It was really hard to convince the Museum director to let us have access to the book again, but we did it! I spent one afternoon reading it again and I took some notes, although the book is written in Ancient Portuguese, which is very hard to understand. But with the help of a nice archaeologist I met in the Convent (excavation works are still going on there...), I got to learn some interesting tips on how to translate Ancient to Modern Portuguese. I decided then to choose one particular recipe, which took my attention because I never thought it could be so old: meatballs! I found this all really tricky as the recipe itself is very mysterious (nobody knows who the real author of the book is): just perfect for Stephan's project, don't you think? And so I cooked it, following exactly the same recipe as in the book, step by step. I also included it in my cooking show (the episode is just coming out of Bruno's editing desk!). Here are some samples of the recipe, that I copied to my notebook:
"This is the meatballs recipe, the recipe number XXVII from the Infant Mary's cookbook, found in the Saudação Convent in Montemor-o-Novo in the holy year of 1353."
The description of the recipe is as follows:
Mix the minced meat (pork and lamb) with some fresh goat cheese, chopped bacon, garlic, onions, egg yolks, wheat flour, grated bread, salt and pepper, saffron, cumin, powdered red peppers, whole-fat milk, parsley, coriander, dried figs (smashed) and some drizzles of a very good wine spirit. Use more flour when working the meat in order to get a smooth and mouldable dough. Use your fingers to mould little balls. Put some garlic and onions in a pan with olive oil and butter, dried laurel, some cloves and herbs. Let it cook for some minutes and then put the meatballs inside until they become slightly brown. Refresh it with a glass of spirit until it evaporates completely. In a saucepan, blend some whole-fat milk with corn flour, salt, black pepper and nutmeg and add it to the meatballs. Stir carefully and let it cook for 15 minutes. Put the meatballs and their sauce in a serving plate. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and coriander and it's ready to eat! A good side dish to accompany these meatballs would be white rice and some boiled vegetables, but this is not part of the original recipe...
...soon you will be able to watch this recipe being made by Chef Ro in his Cooking Show Channel: VOU À TUA MESA. Stay tuned!
So, many questions appeared when we arrived at the castle. First of all the area was summer residence of the portugal kings in the past. A prophecy says that Rei Sebastiao (A Medieval King that disappeared after a battle in Africa and people believe that he will return) will come again in a foggy morning to save Portugal. But this is another story.
We found very intriguing facts that turned our attention to the castle of Montemor-o-novo.
The team was shocked by the richness of hidden and well camouflaged signs all around the buildings at the present Convent de Saudacao-nowadays turned into a artistic residence and archeological site.
First is the image of a salamander on the wall of the west wall. Stay tuned for the next post and details.
The legend of the arcs (Lenda das Arcas) in Montemor-o-novo is very old. We found it from a citizens at this little portugal town. We traced the roots and we found a text written by the Count de Monsaraz:
“Entre escombros na rudeza ("Among the rubble rudeness) De vetusta fortaleza, (Of hoary strength,) Batidas de vento agreste, (Wild wind beats,) Empedrenidas, cerradas, (Empedrenidas, closed) Há duas arcas pejadas (There are two chests littered) Uma de oiro outra de peste. (One of the other gold fever.) Ninguém sabe ao certo qual (Nobody knows for sure what) Das duas arcas encerra, (Two ends of the cabinets,) O fecundo manacial (The fruitful manacial) Que fartará de oiro a terra (That the land shall have plenty of gold) Mesquinha de Portugal; (Petty Portugal;) Ou qual, se mão imprudente (Or what if reckless hand) Lhe erguer a tampa funérea (You lift the lid funereal) Vomitará de repente (Vomit suddenly) A fome, a febre, a miséria, (Famine, fever, misery,) Que matarão toda a gente (To kill all people) Sempre que o povo faminto, (Where the hungry people,) Maltrapilho e miserando (Ragged and pitiful) Fosse ele cristão ou moiro, (Were he a Christian or Moor,) Entrou no tosco recinto, (He went into the rough enclosure) Para salvar-se arrombando (To save yourself breaking into) A arca pejada de oiro (The ark littered with gold) Quedou-se os braços erguidos, (He stood his arms raised,) O olhar atónito e errante, (The look stunned and wandering,) Sem atinar de que lado (Without thinking about which side) Vinha morrer-lhe aos ouvidos (Vineyard die in his ears) Uma voz agonizante (A voice dying) Entre ameaças e gemidos. (Between threats and groans.) “Ó povo de Montemor, ("O people of Montemayor) se estás mal, se és desgraçado (you're wrong, you are desgraçado) Suspende toma cuidado, (Suspends take care,) Que podes ficar pior!” (What can be worse! ") (")) E nestas proplexidades (And these proplexidades) E eternas hesitações (And eternal hesitations) Hão-de passar as idades, (They will spend ages) Suceder-se as gerações (Succeeding generations are) E continuar na rudeza, (And the rudeness continues,) Batidas de vento agreste, (Wild wind beats,) Empedrenidas, cerradas, (Empedrenidas, closed) As duas arcas pejadas, (The two chests littered,) Uma de oiro, outra de peste.” (A golden, another pest.)
Poema do conde de Monsaraz (Poem of the Count de Monsaraz)
But we have serious idea that we found the secret codes implemented into the "Convent de Saudacao".