When you think of a certain smell of a delicious meal that was being made when you were a child, you can recall the taste, the moment you first tried it, the multiple conversations and laughs with your loved ones and for me as well, the various cooking methods and meals at the table that this particular dish was served at.
My family background is Portuguese. My Grandparents (on both parents’ sides) were born in Portugal as well as my Dad and my Mom was born here in Canada. My Grandparents and parents grew up learning and taking part in preparing and cooking traditional meals and growing up, I learned how to make them and enjoyed eating them many times as well. This particular meal brings back so many memories, as we spent much of our childhood with our Grandparents – as they would cook meals afterschool and would have us come and stand by them (let’s face it, so we were not running around, jumping off the walls “like a bunch of yo-yo’s” as my Grandfather would say and stay out of trouble but they would teach us and we would learn something new each time) as they showed us their amazing chopping skills, enthusiasm for the dishes that they were making, that there was no need to measure “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” and share stories of when their childhood and upbringing and memories of having that particular meal.
As my Grandma showed me how to make this recipe, she talked about when she was younger and her Mom would sit her and her siblings down to show them how she made the cornmeal. My Grandma talked about how all the kids were playing outside and of course they wanted to go and play as well, but she is thankful that her Mom taught them how to make this dish and that she too has made and continues to make for her family. Growing up, they did not have much. They cherished what they did have. The corn is grown in the corn fields in Portugal and they would grind the corn into corn flour and still do today.
My Grandparents on my Dads side, would often make this dish as well. I remember watching them make this meal, particularly when they would fry it. I remember they had a portable stovetop oven in the basement that you could move and plug in anywhere. My Grandma would give me some garlic and spices, some pots and pans and mixing spoon and I would pretend to make meals (the oven was unplugged but as far as I was concerned, I was a cooking pro with my very own cooking show!). So, as you can see, my influence and love for cooking started from a very young age. It is great for kids to take part in cooking – that stays with you forever and it is great to know how to cook! I remember the amazing aroma’s as they cooked. This particular dish, I remember my Grandma would cut it up and fry it with some olive oil for a few minutes and it is amazing fried.
These are moments that you cherish. Spending time cooking with family and getting to savour the aroma’s, take part in making and learning about these cherished recipes to make on your own and for your family and to be able to pass them down and onto others – that is near and dear to my heart. So, if you know me by now, you know that Family Traditions are very important to me as well as to my husband and my love and passion for writing, cooking and sharing traditions comes from my Grandparents and parents and the stories, recipes and moments that we have shared together and continue to. These moments are priceless.
My Grandma recently showed me how to make this delicious traditional Cornmeal Portuguese dish a.k.a “Milho” in portuguese and today, I am sharing the recipe!
My Grandma makes it with bacon and potatoes and veggies. My Grandpa loved it with bacon and so she has continued to make it this way.
I will do my best (as you have seen in my previous recipes, I along with family we just don’t really measure hah) to include the approximate amount of each ingredient!
Grandparents Portuguese Cornmeal Recipe:
A few strips of raw bacon, chopped
Water (enough to fill the pot about ¾ of way.)
A bag of cornmeal – about 2-3 cups of cornmeal (my grandma uses a small bowl to fill with cornmeal) depending on how much you want to make – this recipe makes one big sized pot.
Broccoli finely chopped – about 2 cups
1 potato, sliced small and finely
About 1-1/2 cups of parsley, finely chopped
Spice mix (you can use just coarse salt and pepper and add in paprika, curry powder) – a bit of each to mix together to make about 4-6 tablespoons worth. We make a spice mix and keep it in sealed container.
1. Chop up your bacon, onion, potato, parsley and broccoli. Put them all in separate bowls. My Grandma did this the day before and so that way your food prep is ready to throw in when you want to cook it (great meal prep tip that I follow and use for other meals as well).
2. Fill the pot with warm water, about ¾ of the way and turn on heat with lid half on and set aside.
3. Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add in chopped bacon on low-medium heat. Stir for a few minutes.
4. Turn on heat for pot of water to high. Don’t allow it to boil completely only to point where you see tiny water bubbles “fizzing” starting to flow up. On Low- Medium heat for the bacon, add in onions and potatoes and keep stirring. Add in parsley an broccoli to fry or a few minutes.
5. Once your pot of water starts to give off tiny “fizzy” bubbles, put in your cornmeal mix. About 2 cups (from eyeballing it). STIR AND KEEP STIRRING – this is very important to do all throughout the cooking process.
6. Add in the bacon, potato and onion mixture to the pot as well. Medium heat for the pot, while stirring. Turn off the heat for frying pan and remove to cool off.
KEEP STIRRING and hold onto the handle of the pot as you do. This dish is homemade with love and elbow grease. Be careful as this will make some very unique artwork on your walls, stove and you as it boils it splashes out, so turn the heat slightly down, be careful and keep stirring. This is not a dish you walk away from, you commit to it from the beginning to when it is ready.
7. Put 2 tbsp’s of the spice mix in. Stir it and add another 1-2 tbsp’s. Stir. KEEP Stirring.
Take a tablespoon of the cornmeal in pot and set aside to cool off for a few seconds. My Grandma did this each time and would set one aside for me to taste along with her in order to see if it needed more spice/salt.
If it needs more salt, add another tbsp. KEEP Stirring. Continue doing so until it is at the taste you prefer.
8. Put in some drops of olive oil. This makes it smoother. You will notice as you are stirring almost immediately, that it will start to get thicker and thicker. Use that elbow grease! KEEP STIRRING.
9. Turn the heat to low-medium and put on lid halfway. Keep it on simmer and KEEP STIRRING every few minutes being sure to get the bottom of the pot as well each time as it thickens, for about 30 minutes. Keep stirring every few minutes – as my Grandma says and she is right: “This meal depends all on you!”
10. Using a ladle, scoop and pour the corn meal into bowls or containers. Serve warm.
You can serve this on its own or with some fish on the side. You can also take a can of tuna, mix in some olive oil, some sliced onion and a touch of soya sauce and olive oil and add it on top of the cornmeal. To refrigerate, let it cool, cover and refrigerate and have it the next day warmed up and you can even cut it into pieces and fry it for a few minute in a pan with some olive oil, until each side gets a bit of browning – either way is delish!
My Grandma said that my Grandpa would make and loved it this way with the tuna mixture. I had planned to have it for dinner but of course could not resist with encouragement from my Grandma to scoop up a few spoons from the bottom of the pot after she had poured the cornmeal into bowls – because of course that is always the best part!
She also made me a bowl of the tuna mix and of course I savoured every bite and ate it at the kitchen table where my Grandfather would sit with us at as we laughed, shared stories and shared meals at and thinking of my other Grandparents and those moments with them as well, bringing back those wonderful childhood memories. Not to mention, having a cooking lesson with my Grandma and us smiling ear to ear. It was a great moment.
My Grandma set aside a tupperware container of the cornmeal for me to take home for my husband and I. My husband tried it for the first time and we ate half of the container with dinner that night, had some warmed up with our lunch the next day and had some for dinner that same day as well. So, as you can see it does make a lot and it can be gobbled up very quickly without any hesitation. When I make this dish next, I would like to put the tuna mix on it for my husband to try as well as fry it.
Hope that you enjoyed this post on one of our family traditions that we will be carrying on.
Spend time learning a new recipe especially if you have the opportunity to do so with a family member. Take the time to ask about where and when the recipe or tradition originated in their lives, write it down, take pictures and make those recipes. Pass them down to others and cherish those moments just as my Grandma and I have together.
Hope that you try and enjoy the recipe as well!