Finding happiness in Sintra

Market products

There’s a farmer’s market in São Pedro de Sintra since the 12th century. Nowadays it runs every second and fourth Sundays of each month. It is a great place to buy local fruits and vegetables, artisanal sausages, olives and cheese. Wood-fired ovens bake chouriço bread, filing the air with appetizing aromas.

We saw a farmer selling a small capsicum frutescens tree loaded with little red peppers.  Five centuries ago, Portuguese navigators brought this plant from South America to Africa, where the Bantu people called its fiery pepper “piri piri.” From Africa, the Portuguese took the plant to India where it changed the course of Indian cuisine.

How could we resist bringing home this symbol of the first age of globalization? “Trim the tree in March and you’ll have piri piri peppers between August to January,” advised the genial farmer. We got into the car feeling ecstatic at this unexpected find. Who knew that happiness is a piri piri tree?

The São Pedro market is located on Largo D. Fernando II, São Pedro de Sintra.

Piri piri

piri-piri

The Portuguese brought from Africa a small red pepper called bird’s-eye chilli that they use to make a popular hot sauce. In Portuguese both the pepper and the sauce are called piri piri (pronounced peeree peeree).

Restaurants that serve grilled chicken often make their own piri-piri sauce. What happens if you ask for their recipe? Here are some sample answers: “My Engleesh is not bery good, sory,” “We get it from Spain, you have to ask there.”

After years of undercover work, we gathered some piri-piri intelligence to share with you. The base of the sauce is usually vegetable oil, although a few restaurants use olive oil. Often, the piri-piri peppers are simply combined with the oil and left alone for a few days. In some cases, the oil is warmed to absorb more quickly the taste of the piri-piri pepper. Some recipes use vinegar, whisky, cognac, salt, parsley, coriander, cilantro, or garlic. No matter which version you try, piri piri will spice up your life.