Sarah Holt discovers why British lunches are 2 sandwiches short of a picnic once you’ve visited Madeira…
Lunchtime has gone off the boil for me this week. No matter how long I put my soup in the microwave for, it’s just not hot. Sandwiches seem soggier than last winter. And there’s nothing super about any of the food in my salads. It’s all Madeira’s fault. I was on holiday there last week and, in the restaurants of Funchal, I learnt that Madeira’s chefs think outside the lunchbox when the clock strikes noon. Here are the midday dishes I’m missing the most this week…
Bolo do caco is the best thing since sliced bread. This traditional flatbread is cooked on a traditional basalt stone and smothered in garlic butter. It’s usually Frisbee-shaped, and squidgy is the best way to describe the texture. If I’d stayed in Madeira longer than a week, I’m sure I would have had to find a BDC-anonymous, because this dish gets addictive.
There’s nothing wafer-thin about the meat in Madeira. Espetada is one of the island’s signature dishes. It’s made by skewering boulder-like chunks of beef with a laurel stick, rubbing the meat with garlic and salt, and cooking over coals.
Black scabbard fish are native in the waters around Madeira, and local fishermen head out to catch them at around 2am in the morning. When chefs get their hands on the catch of the day they cook the scabbard fillets in a spongy batter and serve the dish with cooked bananas. The taste of the fish itself is sweet and it’s cloud-soft.
This dish looks a bit like an island surrounded by sea. The land is a tender meat stew made with veal, garlic, local wine and salt. And the sea is usually made of French fries. It’s a moment-on-the-lips, lifetime-on-the-hips kind of dish, but it’s worth weighting for.
Trying honey cake is a rite of passage in Madeira. Made with flour, sugar, butter, honey and almonds, it’s a dense cake that sticks to your teeth when you eat it. And that’s where the Madeiran wine comes in – this sweet treat is best washed down with a glass of sugary island vino.
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Published: August 14, 2013
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