A Piece of Heaven

 

My dear friend Su has come up with the fabulous idea to host a virtual tea party each month, indulging us with her wonderful photos of delicious food, beautiful china and great tea.

 

Today I’m going to serve you a piece of heaven.

Yes, that’s right – heaven. Because if you ever get the chance to eat one of the famous  pastels de nata or pastéis de nata – you won’t be able to keep from groaning with pleasure – they are that good.

  

It’s sweet, it’s light, it’s utterly delicious!

 

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Pastéis de nata fresh from the oven (August 2020)

 

For the history geeks among you, here a few facts:

The pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Hieronymites Monastery(Portuguese: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) in the civil parish of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, in Lisbon. At the time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes, such as friars and nuns’ religious habits. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover egg yolks to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.

Following the extinction of the religious orders and in the face of the impending closure of many of the convents and monasteries in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in some 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.

 

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Pastéis de nata and coffee – the perfect combo (Aug. 2020)

 

I was introduced to this taste explosion by a German television program called The Perfect Dinner (I’m sure many countries have the same kind of program running), where amateur cooks and bakers invite four other people, strangers until this day, to their home to cook and serve them – hopefully – the perfect dinner.

It’s a fun program to watch but I’ve never even thought of trying to reproduce or copy one of the many tasty dishes they shared.

Until one of them made the pastéis de nata a couple of months ago.

I thought, well, that doesn’t look too complicated, I might give this a try sometime.

(That was during the Corona lockdown mind you, where I was more than usual willing to try out new recipes – it seemed like the only thing that provided a bit of change.)

And before I knew what was happening I was knee-deep in puff pastry! (Well, not literally of course, but you get my meaning.)

The funny thing is I actually never liked custard or custard cream (it’s called Pudding in German which is entirely different from what the Brits call pudding).

But these Portuguese custard tarts have changed that forever!

If you want to try this out too, I’ll include a few links to recipes here, here and here. (The last one is the one I use because there’s no need to go all overboard and make your own puff pastry – the ready ones are absolutely fine.)

 

Have you ever tasted pastéis de nata? Do you like cooking shows? Have ever cooked or baked anything after you’ve watched them? Let me know all about it in your comments!

 

 

99 thoughts on “A Piece of Heaven

  1. Hey Sarah, long time no see !! … I hope all is well with you and yours in these uncertain times … I am a fan of “The perfect Dinner”, in France it’s called “Un diner presque parfait” I watch whenever I can but never tried any of their recipes until now …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey!! So true!! All is well here, thank you! How are you and yours? I’ve heard a lot about rising numbers of infections in France, please take good care!
      It’s a great cooking show, isn’t it? How fun the French version is called “… presque parfait” – and it’s true, most of the dinners aren’t perfect. Were you ever tempted to participate? I admit that I often think what I might serve for dinner for 4 strangers! But my cooking isn’t as elaborate as what is mostly served, so I will remain on the couch and watch them do it instead. 😉 Take care! Et Bon weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. yum! these look deliciousss! i love the background story about them, it’s very interesting learning the origin of such deserts! thank you for sharing💞
    Follow @everythingtips for tips and recommendations if interested! It would mean a lot to me!🥺🤍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Kerry! I have to admit that I got rid of the egg whites in this case as I didn’t know what to do with them. Will have to look if I can find a recipe that uses them – and that doesn’t include starching aprons, lol! 😀 x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are a brave woman to work with puff pastry!
    One of the positive things about being at home these past months is, as you say, trying new recipes. We, too, have ventured farther because of the time & space (no rushing around all day, scouring recipe blogs) to try things a little more exciting than we would otherwise.
    I actually first tried these pastéis de nata in Hong Kong – they called them Portuguese or Macau Egg Tarts then http://kitchentigress.blogspot.com/2013/05/portuguese-egg-tarts-video.html
    as opposed to the Hong Kong style Egg Tart https://tasty.co/recipe/hong-kong-style-egg-tarts
    They are both became wildly popular in Singapore at different points in time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ju-Lyn! Sorry for the late reply but your comment landed in my spam folder.
      And thank you! I love puff pastry, even tried making it myself once but I think the bought stuff isn’t all too bad. 😄 Glad you know these pasteis too. 😀 I’ve read somewhere that they’re quite known in your part of the world which I think is funny because they’re relatively unknown here and we’re much closer to Portugal, at least geographically. 😁
      Are you still under a lot of restrictions or have they been lifted too?

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      • Isn’t it amazing what travels around the world? I think the pasteis became popular because of the strong Portuguese influence in Macau/Hong Kong – and they are so delicious, who wouldn’t love them, right?

        Agree with you wholeheartedly on the ready-made puff. WE like it well enough that we have no motivation to try making it from scratch.

        I am toying with the idea of filo though. Su’s filo pastries at the last Virtual Tea Party look so delicious I am tempted to try. Maybe I will pick some up from the store this weekend 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah! Meant to comment on the restrictions – we are supposed to have a bunch lifted once Sept rolls around. Right now most places are already open but public social gatherings are limited to no more than 5.

        To be honest, I am a little anxious with more restrictions lifting. I know it has to happen, but given the seeming lack of care amongst the public, I don’t know how that will all work out.

        How are things for you, Sarah?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I totally get your anxiousness about the lifting of restrictions. There aren’t many in place here anymore, only the one about wearing masks in closed spaces like shops, supermarkets and public transport. Astonishingly the same rule isn’t applied to schools which drives me crazy!! No distance keeping, full classes, no masks – my pottery course starts next week and for the first time I don’t look forward to it. 🙁

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      • Goodness! It is very peculiar not to have the mask requirement in schools!

        My teacher sister in Arizona is having such a tough time because they are going back to face-to-face classrooms and she is severely immune-compromised. She may have to find alternative work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m quite reluctant to go back to work as well, but hope I can convince the students to wear their masks in my class. We’ll see how that will work out!

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      • Hi Ju-Lyn, thanks for asking! First week at school was both better and worse than I expected – better because my students so far were agreeable to wear masks, worse because I had a huge row with one of my colleagues! 😂 Ah, well, I think everybody’s nerves are at breaking point these days.
        How’s school for your daughters? Has it already started again?

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      • Sigh – frayed nerves & spiked anxieties do not make for easy getting along. I hope your week ahead will unfold better.

        Both my husband (teacher) and older daughter (uni) went back to school about a month ago. I think the anxiety is manageable for them, although there are always little things that bug (carelessness, inconsideration, etc etc).

        I think we are luckier in Singapore because mask-wearing is still mandatory, and there is a recommendation for safe-distancing (although not necessarily enforced). But still.

        My sister (teacher) in Arizona starts back live in school in a week or so. She fears she might have to quit her job because she is so
        immuno-compromised.

        My aunt & uncle in London have not left their home for several months already. They fear getting any sort of illness as healthcare now is scarce.

        So, the challenges mount in various forms all over ….

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think the main difference between Asian countries and the West is that people there are more willing to do what’s necessary for the greater good so to speak, and are therefore more willing to wear their masks. Whereas here so many people think of it as the government imposing on their free will…
        The only other countries that has even more of a problem with wearing masks seems to be the US.

        Could your sister maybe teach from home via the internet? I’ve heard that even hereabouts that’s a possibility and Germany is surprisingly far behind with all that tech stuff.

        That’s tough for your aunt and uncle not to leave their home since this pandemic started. Surely they can go for the occasional walk in the park?

        Let’s hope they’ll soon provide us all with a vaccine so that we can start living for real again!

        Take care!

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      • It is rather interesting & curious how our cultural quirks all come to play now. The propensity towards individualism vs community has so much impact, even beyond the masks. I think we will see it even as the vaccine rolls out (I am very optimistically hoping this will happen sooner rather than later).

        My sister has managed to sort out things with her school, who were extremely supportive. She does still need to go into school, but she has been delegated to online work with students who have opted to stay home. It looks like she will kept extremely busy as quite a few students have chosen not to return.

        I think my Aunt & Uncle tried going out for walks but were so stressed out by “irresponsible behaviour” that they have decided they better off staying home. And now with the renewed restrictions, I am not sure if they actually feel safer about venturing out a little.

        Sigh. Meanwhile, we all just do the best we can.

        Stay safe, Sarah. Be well & have a good rest of your week!

        Like

    • Hehe! I don’t think it’s obligatory to starch your coifs in order to bake these pastéis anymore – but I won’t keep you from it if you set your mind to it. 😉 Happy baking!! 😀

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  4. There is a saying on the wall in my kitchen. “The only reason I have a kitchen is because it came with the house.” I would hire a cook before a cleaner any day. My daughter does SOME cooking so we eat and I do the dishes every time. I do remember hearing about them, I think, from a show on Netflix call ‘Somebody feed Phil” or “I’ll have what Phil’s having”. Phil Rosenthal traveled all over the world trying out different food and introducing people to wonderful things. He’s big on travel/food to break down barriers between people. He wrote the comedy series “Everyone Loves Raymond” The show was fun and delightful and made us so happy we wrote down many of the places he went and ate so we could try them. That was BC. Before Corona virus. If you made one, I’d be happy to taste it and probably enjoy it very much but there is no way I’ll try to make them. 😉 They do look very very good though, says the lady eating a bag of chips for dinner because it’s too hot to cook or eat real food. Stay cool and well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe! That’s a funny saying, Marlene. 😉 I for one really love cooking and baking, at one point in my life I even considered trying to become a baker – then I learned that you had to get out early of bed! That’s a no-go for me. 😉
      I’ve heard of Phil Rosenthal but haven’t watched any of his shows yet – but I really want to after I just had a quick look online!! Love these kind of shows where people travel around the world, eager to learn new cultures and food.
      Ha! I haven’t heard of that BC before – very clever! 😉
      I’ll make sure to have some pastéis de nata ready for you when you come visit Berlin! (And don’t worry, I often consider eating a bag of chips as dinner too. 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I confess I have never tried these, custard not being my thing (sorry) though Susan would love them. And your post is interesting enough to convince me to try them at least – yours look fab and so well photographed too😍

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dear Sarah, I will be your friend for life. Yes, I’ve eaten many pastéis de nata. My husband-to-be (aka my True Love) took me to Portugal in 1991. We had no money to eat regular meals so we ate copious rissois and pastéis de bacalhau, followed by pastéis de nata. You often see pastéis de nata in Australian bakeries these days. They are nothing like those made in Portugal. I’m sure yours are though, Sarah. 🙂 Yours look divine. As does your tea cup.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay!! So glad to have found another pastéis de nata fan! 😄 And I actually prefer how you’ve eaten your way through Portugal, sitting in restaurants is totally overrated. I had the best meals for example from street vendors in Greece or Spain – absolutely delicious and unbelievably economic. 😀
      I’ve heard the pastéis in Portugal are the best but since I’ve never been there I’m quite happy with my version. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mmmmmm. Egg tarts (no vegan, no!). Yes, I love cooking shows and chef challenges, bake offs, etc. I often get inspired after looking at sites for ideas. It helps my cooking rotation from getting too stale! Well done, Sarah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a lot, Lani! Oh yes, lots of inspiration thanks to all those shows!
      No vegan here either – these days that’s kind of a confession, right? 😂 Though I can go weeks without meat without even noticing it. 😄 Have a great weekend! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  8. When I clicked on the link to your post and saw the first photo, I could feel that lovely, smooth custard flowing into my mouth. They look so good!!! I do watch quite a few cooking shows. My favorite is the Great British Bake-Off (when Mary Berry was on it).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. These look utterly delicious my friend, and all the sweeter knowing that you made them.
    I love that you shared their history too. For me, knowing the story behind the food I am eating makes it even more special.
    I love cooking shows, but prefer the kind where chefs make food to those with more of a game show or competition format. Having said that, I do watch Australian MasterChef, which is a competition. I’ve seen bit of a British programme that sounds like The Perfect Dinner — I can’t remember what it was called, but everyone seemed to be really nasty to each other and I got the impression that the producers were more interested in creating friction than in the food.

    Liked by 2 people

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