My Portuguese feast by Mimi Jardim: reader impression

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My Portuguese feast
Mimi Jardim
Publisher: Quivertree Publications
ISBN: 9781928209591

This reader impression was written and sent to LitNet on the writer's own initiative.

My Portuguese feast is written by Mimi Jardim, who is hailed on the back cover as the “doyenne of Portuguese South African cooking, chef extraordinaire, author of the bestselling Cooking the Portuguese way and head of Jardim’s Cookery School”.

Robbie Brozin, co-founder of Nando’s, describes Mimi Jardim’s My Portuguese feast as “a tribute to Mimi’s 50 years of cooking, teaching, loving, exploring and sharing. It highlights the flavours and tastes of Portuguese food and showcases the way the Portuguese cook – with their hearts and their souls ...” Jardim is a representative of the iconic fast food restaurant chain, and Brozin describes her as being responsible for its “smiles and smells”. He goes on to say that she is “a woman of heart, courage and soul”. This book is a showcase of exactly that.

The foreword is by Dr Luisa Fragoso, consul general of Portugal in Johannesburg at the time of writing. She sees Jardim as “a living legend of Portuguese cooking in South Africa”. She writes the following about Jardim: “She is not just a renowned chef but also an extraordinary manager: she has run her own cooking school for over 50 years.”*

My Portuguese feast is a large, hardcover cookbook of more than 200 pages. It is filled to the brim with exciting and flavoursome recipes. The author has travelled extensively to many parts of the world and has fallen in love with local dishes. “Some people bring back souvenirs – I bring back recipes,” she says. “It is through all of these experiences that I share this selection of recipes with you, as a celebration of my culinary adventures from the last 50 years. Hopefully there is something for everybody here. If you have quite a bit of time to spare, you may want to dip into the Leisure chapter. If world cuisine is your thing, visit the section named Explore. And if you want to know what the family favourites are, then Familia is for you.”

The cookbook proudly boasts the following sections (a personal quote from Jardim accompanies each chapter):

Teaching food: “These classic yet very personal dishes are the ones for which I have become well known for making during my cooking career.” (Dishes include: Mimi’s chicken; Cod in cream sauce; and Peri-peri, port and fig ice cream.)

Familia: “This chapter includes dishes that are firm favourites in my household, as well as recipes created and inspired by individual family members.” (Dishes include: Roast pork with fennel and quinces, Rosie’s monkey gland steaks, and Train-hopping leg of lamb.)

Recharge: “When life gets tough and I need an extra push to keep on going, I turn to one of these ‘perfect pick-me-up’ dishes.” (Dishes include: Pregos, Trinchado, and Rice pudding.)

Joy: “These are the dishes I love to make when I am happy – each and every one of them is an expression of culinary bliss.” (Dishes include: Grilled sardines, Cod and ham pasta bake, and Biltong salad.)

Quick and easy: “These dishes are all perfect when you are in a rush and need to whip up something delicious in a flash.” (Dishes include: Tuna skewers, Grilled stuffed calamari, and Pork belly vovô-style.)

Leisure: “When you have time to spend in the kitchen – especially on those rainy stay-at-home days – lavish a bit of love on these recipes.” (Dishes include: Chicken giblets, Prawn rissoles, and Custard tarts.)

Celebrate: “The Portuguese are always having a festival for something – so here are the recipes for a few of the dishes you might enjoy at one of these exuberant parties.” (Dishes include: Valentine’s steak, Roasted sweet potato salad, and Portuguese doughnuts.)

Impress: “These recipes all have a serious ‘Wow!’ factor – present them to family, friends and guests and watch their faces light up with delight.” (Dishes include: Pork, Prawn and clam cataplana, Bacon crème caramel, and Almond tart.)

Explore: “These recipes are all inspired by my culinary travels and visits around the world.” (Dishes include: Chicken curry, Smoked haddock and clam chowder, and Mai Tai mousse.)

Black and white family photos and strategically placed personal stories throughout the book remind the reader that My Portuguese feast celebrates food and family. Jardim shares her culinary advice, wisdom, tips and musings in a way that makes the reader feel like part of the family. Photographer Craig Fraser’s colourful photos entice one to try out these delectable recipes.

Jardim dedicates My Portuguese feast to her father, “who immigrated to South Africa to provide his family with a better life – and also to everyone who embarked with me on my culinary journey”. She was born in 1943 in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. She accompanied her mother and sister on a journey by ship to southern Africa in 1957 to join her father, who had already emigrated in 1955. Leaving school years later, she enrolled at the Home Economics Teachers Training College. Since then, she has been sharing her love for good food, “from introducing fresh-faced college students to basic cookery, to developing Portuguese recipes with the head chefs of lavish hotels and helping a whole lot of enthusiastic cooks who just want to make better meals at home”. Jardim joined the Nando’s team in 1992 and took “the magic of Portuguese food to the widest possible audience”.

I am impressed by the wide and carefully chosen selection of mouth-watering recipes in My Portuguese feast. My favourite recipe by far is the golden koeksisters on page 48. Another firm favourite is the chicken and chickpea soup on page 104. I have found the instructions of the recipes clear and easy to follow. I am proud to own this book and often look up recipes to prepare gastronomical treats for my family and friends. I also like the fact that it is a rather thick, hardcover book. It gives the added impression of luxury and is beautiful enough to display on a coffee table.

My Portuguese feast by Mimi Jardim is published by Quivertree Publications and is available here and at various bookstores.

* Fragoso also states: “Learning more about the offerings of our very diverse Portuguese gastronomy through a skilled chef’s interpretation has been a treat.”

Louise Viljoen is a freelance reviewer from Jeffreys Bay.

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