I am extremely grateful and lucky to given the opportunity to travel and eat my way around the world. I meet inspiring people and am constantly discovering new ingredients and cooking techniques. Filming is always on a tight schedule and often you have already moved on to a new location before you’ve even got a chance to take in and enjoy what’s around you. Peniche, however, was one of those places where we filmed lots but also got to enjoy every moment too.
Peniche is a peninsula in central Portugal, popular for it's long beaches and surf strands. It has one of the largest working traditional ports in Portugal also welcoming maritime-tourist activities throughout the year. The historic walled town centre and seaside fort are must-see destinations but it's the beach life and endless possibilities of outdoor activities that are the main pull to the town. With seafood restaurants a plenty and a strong link to fishing, which has always been one of the main sources of income of it's people.
We arrived late evening and welcomed on arrival by Antonio and Marco, our tourist officers, who joined us for a late dinner and proudly described the region and its history. We discussed the following day's schedule and left us before informing us that breakfast was sharply at 7:30 am and to be ready to leave for 8 am on the dot. The next morning the crew and I had just about stuck to the plan and were out the hotel and on the road by 8:09 am (that's pretty good for us btw). The first stop was to the market which as with most European markets boasted a full array of fresh, seasonal and attractive produce. We were here for the fish and what a choice there was; Snappers, monkfish, hake, stone bass, sardines, horse mackerel to name a few but we were here for some Portuguese cod. And after some haggling and some fish monger theatre from the all-women team we were on our way.
Next stop we were off to the harbour and out fishing with locals for sardines that was to be our lunch. The guys fishing were all friends and family (out for the morning purely for the fun of it I might add, all in or about to be a part fishing industry. Fishing is in their blood and with the waters offering such rich delights and especially plentiful supplies of sardines you can see why.
After a successful haul, we said our goodbyes and caught a ride back into the harbour for our next appointment… surfing! I didn’t manage to stand up and could barely walk the next day. But when my Producer, Sarah, offered me the chance to do it (badly) on camera I knew I had to give it a go. We rocked up to Bar do Bruno, their motto being 'Surf, Food, Music & Good People’ I knew this was going to be a great! The hospitable bar owner Bruno introduced me to Nuno from Baleal Surf Camp, who was going to be my surf teacher. He led me to the beach and promised that in just one hour, he would have me standing up and surfing. Within 20 minutes, I was surfing. For no more than 12-15 seconds, but I was standing up, steering and surfing :) Thank you, Nuno, legend! If you're in the area, please go and say hello, have some food, drink and take advantage of the awesome surf Peniche has to offer.
Next was lunch and back to those sardines…
We had heard lunch was arranged for us by the Town Mayor, who had heard we were in town and wanted to put a feast on in our honour. But being the way TV crews work we thought of it being a nice offer but we were already behind and just wanted a quick snack and to push on. However when we arrived, we quickly changed our minds. Also, I don’t think we had much of a choice either. The Mayor Antonio José Correia, who’s business cards, by the way, are tins of local sardines that he likes to give out, and yes we all received a ‘business card’ each. He's such a great guy, in fact, voted coolest Mayor in the region apparently ;) With his local friends and us (equaling 20) we sat at a long table, on the street, under canopies outside someone's home overlooking the bay. Not bad at all. With old friends treating us like their children visiting for the weekend, we feasted and talked and were made welcome beyond almost anything I’ve encountered on my travels. Our feasts included salted BBQ sardines with cucumber and raw onion, WOW! Placed on top of bread to mop up all the juices, alty, fresh and beautiful (Big Applause!) Also, meatballs, whole crab and a spicy fish broth with coriander, selection of local cheeses all washed down with local wines. The crew and I afterwards commented on what an experience we had just had and how we had nearly declined. A lesson to us all that sometimes chance encounters of brilliance happen with a willingness to commit.
After a push to get started again, we filmed our recipe on that same street where we had lunch to the delight and rather noisy new friends. Thank you, people of Peniche, Cheers!