Goose and I were spending a few days in Lisbon this summer and had already enjoyed eating the city’s delicious custard tarts, something I’d remembered fondly from a previous trip.
The tarts are really a delight; light, buttery pastry that just about holds the filling of gooey custard with a hint of cinnamon. Bite into one and I challenge you to do it elegantly! The custard oozes out (especially if you get one of the bigger ones) and you’ll end up stuffing the rest in.
We headed for Belem which is about a 15 minute train ride along the Tagus from the heart of Lisbon. A short walk and you can see the queues outside Casa Pasteis De Belem, mostly tourists but plenty of locals too. The blue patterned tiles that are so familiar in Lisbon decorate the outside and inside of this busy high street café.
But don’t bother queuing, just nip in the first side door and find a table and a waiter will find you. Take a look around you; the place goes on forever! There are several large back rooms – presumably needed to cope with all the coach trips. It’s a bit like a small museum of cakery; there are old Avery scales, a cash register and old pictures and related paraphernalia. You can also watch the cooks at work and enjoy the bustle of the place.
Then sit back down and wait for your order to arrive. We had coffee (strong and black of course) and FOUR tarts. Goose had been spying on the other diners and had (correctly) determined that we could easily demolish two each.
Whatever you do don’t order three between you or you risk wrecking a good relationship at best, and violence is not unlikely! Most of all just enjoy them; sit quietly and watch the queue growing outside, secure and smug in your custardy heaven.
When we got back I tried to make my own versions. I used a Jamie Oliver recipe and the custard bit was pretty good. The recipe failed to mention that the tarts need to be encased in small individual tins (or a low jam tart tray) or they will spread out and not crisp up. Thanks Jamie!* But I will try again, and then blow torch them to get that authentic Belem finish.
They wont be as good as Lisbon’s finest though and with that in mind the very last thing we ate as we waited to board our return flight…yes you’ve guessed it J
* I could have worked that one out for myself to be fair…