Spain and Portugal was a long awaited trip. I have visited almost all countries of Europe except a few. This cruise met my wishes of port cities I wanted to see. Not to miss Madrid, we flew to the capital first and explored for 3 days. Next, we flew to Barcelona to explore for 3 days, before boarding the cruise ship, Emerald Princess, at the port of Barcelona.
Let the selected photos do most of the talking. Click on the photos for larger image and click on the green links for more information and photos. Photos do no justice to what we saw and what the two countries have to offer. I highly recommend watching the videos linked.
The Plaza de Cibeles is a square with a neo-classical complex of marble sculptures with fountains that has become an iconic symbol for the city of Madrid (photo source: Wikipedia).
Excellent video on Madrid → here.
Three of Antoni Gaudí‘s Masterpieces in Barcelona
Excellent video on Barcelona → here.
Old vs. new Valencia. Look at the narrow building between the two buildings. This was because buildings were taxed based on their width at street front.
Paella [paˈeʎa] is a Valencian rice dish with ancient roots, which originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near the Albufera lagoon (above photo), a coastal lagoon in Valencia. The dish is widely regarded as Spain’s national dish and Valencians regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.
Excellent video on Valencia → here.
Royal Cathedral. Excellent video on Granada → here (1:40 ~ 12:40).
We toured the entire city riding the trams dedicated to the tourists.
During the two hour tour, we were served drinks and pastel de nata!
Excellent video on Lisbon → here.
Traditional pastries in Madeira usually contain local ingredients, one of the most common being
mel de cana, literally ‘sugarcane honey’ (molasses). The traditional cake of Madeira is called
bolo de mel / honey cake and according to custom, is never cut with a knife, but broken into pieces by hand. It is a rich and heavy cake. Above is a photo of a jumbo bolo de mel made with sugarcane molasses, all kinds of fruits and nuts.
Now to the featured recipe! Anyone who knows about Portugal, knows about pastel de nata, a delicious egg tart which originated in Portugal. They are proudly displayed in the window of every bakery.
Pastél de nata/Portuguese Egg Custard Tart was created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, in Lisbon. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching of clothes, such as nuns’ habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in a proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country. Following the extinction of religious orders and facing the impending closure of many convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, monks started selling pastéis de nata (plural form) at a nearby sugar refinery to secure revenue. In 1834, the monastery was closed and the recipe was sold to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837, opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. The descendants own the business to this day. Since 1837, locals and visitors to Lisbon have visited the bakery to purchase fresh from the oven pastéis, sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Their popularity normally results in long lines at the take-away counters, in addition to waiting lines for sit-down service. They can now be purchased in many places all over the world. Pastél de nata was introduced in China after gaining their popularity in Macau (they call it pútà), when Macau, then called Special Administrative Region was under the Portuguese government.
[Excerpts from Wikipedia]
Pastel de Nata • Portuguese Egg Custard Tart
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
◊ Pastéis de nata are not difficult to make if all the right ingredients are used. Its specific dark spots on surface differentiate them from Hong Kong style egg custards. To create the dark spots, there are several key components to be followed:
a) it must be made with whole milk and cornstarch,
b) it is important to be made in a silver/aluminum mold placed on silver baking tray, and
c) baked on a high heat.
◊ Note: Store bought puff pastry tends to become difficult to work with as it warms up. It is important to keep it chilled and work quickly to keep it from getting soft. Remove defrost puff-pastry from refrigerator one at a time if using more than one sheet.
◊ The amount of ingredients must be adjusted based on the size of the molds. This recipe is for the dimension of the molds I used (see below ).
• 1 sheet frozen puff-pastry Trader Joe’s brand or any, preferably made with real butter (Trader Joe’s box comes in 454 g / 1 lb box with 2 approx. 25cm x 25cm frozen rolled sheets, 227 g each)
• 1¾ tsp cornstarch
• 150 ml/ 2/3 cup whole milk
• 2 large egg yolks
• 2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
• 42 g/ 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp granulated sugar
• ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract 
 Some recipes call for a piece of lemon rind and/or cinnamon stick dropped in milk and boiled together to add taste/aroma, then tempered and added to the rest of the ingredients.
It is all in the preference.
◊ Very lightly spray the individual molds with non-stick spray.
◊ Defrost puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight. If it comes rolled, make sure it is ready to be unrolled. Unroll the sheet and take the lining paper and roll back the sheet again tightly. Cut the cylindrical roll into 8 equal pieces (25cm roll will be 3.2 cm each – 2 of which are not used, freeze and use next time, if not making more than 6). Take one piece and place it on the lining sheet or sheet of plastic wrap. Put swirl side up and flatten it with the ball of your palm. Again, using the ball of your palm, stretch the dough in all directions to make an 11cm diameter dough. Neatly form it in one of the molds. Repeat 5 more times (see photos/illustrations below). Put the molds back in the freezer until ready to use.
◊ Place rack on middle oven shelf and preheat to 220°C/425°F.
◊ Have a large bowl filled with cold water, ready.
◊ In a small bowl, add cornstarch and add some milk to dissolve cornstarch well.
◊ In a medium size deep bowl, first, beat egg yolks and cream together. Then add sugar and beat. Add milk and dissolved cornstarch and beat/combine well.
◊ Empty the mixture into a small sauce pan, and place on high heat. With a silicone spatula, non-stop, stir vigorously. As first indication of the mixture thickening, lower heat to low and continue to stir until film starts forming on the sides of the saucepan and mixture is thick but flowing. Remove from heat and place it on the cold water in the large bowl. Add vanilla and continue to stir the mixture until cools down to lukewarm.
◊ Remove molds from the freezer. Spoon the custard mixture, equally mounting in the center of the 6 molds. Place them over silver baking tray (I used my pizza baking sheet) and place it in the heated oven.
◊ Bake for ±30 minutes or until dark spots have formed (as seen in the photos). After 20 minute mark check every 5 minutes and rotate baking sheet as necessary so that all tarts brown evenly. Don’t be tempted to have the spots big or many. They are bitter, fewer and smaller are better. Remove from oven and using the tip of a knife to the side of the pastry, carefully lift each pastel de nata and place on a cooling rack. Let it cool completely (about 45 minutes). Best eaten immediately, when crunchy outside!
~ Bom Proveito! ~
 Timely, I was not able to find individual tart molds deep enough to use. Closest was the 6-cup-cupcake-tray which is 7cm dia x 3.3cm deep I found in the supermarket. Here are better molds I found on Amazon. ‘A’ is not as deep as desired, but it is used for egg tarts and will work fine. The disposable ‘B’ has perfect dimensions (see → ) and may be washed and reused.