From now until Christmas, groups of foodies after something special can book themselves a table at Nuno Mendes’ laidback Portuguese restaurant Taberna do Mercado and tuck into leitão assado – Portuguese-style suckling pig – and a whole host of side dishes inspired by the country. Deboned, pressed and cooked until the skin turns so crisp it’s like a shard of glass, the entire pig is presented as one perfectly cooked block, ready for everyone to dig into, with the legs cooked separately on the side.
The task of cooking these pigs falls on the shoulders of head chef Antonio Galapito, who has been working on and off with Nuno for the past seven years. It’s no mean feat; the whole process takes three days from start to finish, but the results are stunning. It’s no wonder the dish is the centrepiece to many Portuguese Christmas feasts.
‘Portuguese food is very heavy and homely and tends to centre around a few ingredients – pork, bacalhau (salted cod), potatoes, carrots and tomatoes,’ explains Antonio. ‘But with these few elements there are so many different ways of cooking everything. Every region has its own dishes and specialities, and the north and south of the country certainly differ.’