Food and drink, Jesuíta: Portugal's answer to a custard slice

Jesuíta: Portugal’s answer to a custard slice

One of the many popular Portuguese sweet pastries is made of puff pastry in the shape of an isosceles trapezium (I never thought I would be typing that in a blog!) filled with a sweet creamy mixture of egg yolk and sugar and topped with a crunchy layer of icing. It has the intriguing name of jesuíta (Jesuit) and, like many Portuguese sweet pastries, there is a story behind it. Its origins in Portugal date back to 1892, when the Confeitaria Moura in Santo Tirso (a city between Porto and Braga) was started by Joaquim Ferreira de Moura. He employed a Spanish pastry chef who had previously worked for a community of Jesuit priests in Bilbao and it is thought that he brought the recipe for jesuítas with him to Santo Tirso, hence the name. However, this is conjecture and it is possible that the name comes from the simple fact that the icing on the pastry, which is made of a mixture of icing sugar, egg white and cinnamon, is a similar colour to the light brown habits that the Jesuit monks wore. As with many Portuguese egg and sugar-filled sweet pastries, it is very likely that the recipe originated in a convent or monastery where the nuns and monks used egg whites to starch their habits and therefore had a lot of eggs yolks left over. The Confeitaria Moura is still considered the place that makes the most genuine jesuítas, as the original recipe from 1892 has been handed down through the generations of the Moura family and is a closely guarded secret. The recipe has been adapted by other pastry chefs to include other ingredients, such as adding a sprinkling of flaked or chopped almonds on top of the icing or even adding them to the filling, which is my preference. Continuing along the religious theme, there is also a bite-size version of the jesuíta, which is called a seminarista (seminarian) and a larger version called a cardeal (cardinal)!
By the way, the jesuíta isn’t really anything like a custard slice, but there are a couple of similarities; in both the egg-based filling is sandwiched between two layers of pastry and both are topped by icing, which is why I have called it Portugal’s answer to a custard slice.

Art, Art on the Metro 8: Oriente

Art on the Metro 8: Oriente

The Oriente Metro station at Parque das Nações was opened in 1998 to coincide with the Expo ’98 (Lisbon International Exposition). As part of the international aspect of the Exposition, 11 renowned artists from various countries around the world were invited to create artworks for the walls of the underground station based on the subject ‘The Oceans, a legacy for the Future’, which was the theme of Expo ’98. Here are just three of the 11 works, which like all the contributions, are very different in terms of style and content, but all manage to address the subject of the sea.

The brightly-coloured tiled cityscape entitled ‘Submersão da Atlântida’ (‘Submersion of Atlantis’, 1998) by the Austrian Expressionist painter and architect Hundertwasser (Friedrich Stowasser, 1928-2000) is a huge mural depicting the mythical island of Atlantis that was said to have been submerged into the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantis is depicted as a large modern city of bright, bold-coloured skyscrapers against a black background, all leaning off-centre, which gives it another-worldly feeling. The angular shapes of the skyscrapers are broken up at regular intervals by large oval-shaped flying objects, suggesting a futuristic city rather than one of the past.

Detail from ‘Submersão da Atlântida’ by Hundertwasser, Oriente Metro station

‘No Mar da Palha’ (‘On Mar da Palha’, 1998), by the Australian artist Arthur Boyd (1920-1999), is a large tile-panel seascape painting of the Mar da Palha water basin in the Tejo Estuary near Parque das Nações. In contrast to Hundertwasser’s bold colours, Boyd’s Impressionist painting is in soft shades of blue, white, brown, yellow and green, with just a tiny splash of bright red in the centre of the painting to suggest something on the water.

Detail from ‘No Mar da Palha’ by Arthur Boyd, Oriente Metro station

António Ségui (b.1934) is an Argentinean artist, whose work for Oriente station, ‘Os Oceanos’ (‘The Oceans’, 1998) straddles the two tiled end walls either side of the track. His very unique Satirical style consists of many overlapping repeated characters and objects, which although may appear to be the same, are all unique. One recurring character is a gentleman (or different gentlemen) wearing a suit and tie and a formal hat (a fedora, trilby or homburg), and there has been much speculation as to who this character is; is he an Everyman figure or even the artist himself? In the work for the Oriente Metro station the images in the painting are all connected to the sea, including manly-featured mermaids, divers, boats, lighthouses, fish and other sea creatures, all of which make the besuited men appear completely out of place and, as a result, give a sensation of them being comical or even sinister.

Detail from ‘Os Oceanos’ by António Ségui, Oriente Metro station