Around town in Sintra
We were lucky enough to have Antonio with us, he was the perfect guide, very knowledgeable about EVERYTHING...
These first 4 photos just show some of the views around the historic center of Sintra.
The last is the "podium" from which Antonio shared some of his knowledge.
(yes that is Tal and Stacey sitting at his feet)
National Palace of Pena
Built in the 19th century for the husband of the young Queen MAria II, Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Palace of Pena stands over the ruins of a Hieronymite monastery founded here in the 15th century on the site of the chapel of Our Lady of Pena.
Ferdinand appointed a German architect, Baron Von Eschwege, to build his summer palace filled with oddities from all over the world and surrounded by a park.
With the declaration of the Republic in 1910, the palace become a museum, preserved as it was when the royal family lived here.
Since we couldn't take any pictures inside the palace you shouldn't miss these rooms:
Chapel: The 6th-century alabaster and marble retable was sculpted by Nicolau Chanterene. Each niche portrays a scene of the life of Christ, from the manger to the Ascension.
Arab Room: The waals and ceiling are all covered with trompe-l'oeil frescoes that give the impression that all the room are all sculpted.
Ballroom: This is the last room of the visit, and it's really an amazing end, since the room is huge and sumptuously furnished.
Most of the rooms that we can see surround a cloister that is part of the original monastery buildings.
NATIONAL PALACE - PALATINE CHAPEL
The PALATINE CHAPEL or Capela Palatina dates from the 14th century but was altered in the 15th and restored in the 1930's. Islamic influences remain in the decorated ceiling and ceramic tile floor. The Christian chapel may even have been a mosque in an earlier incarnation.
A sign for the Palatine Chapel reads:
"The Chapel was built during tthe reign of King Dinis, at the beginning of the 14th century but underwent a number of alterations during the course of the 15th. The decorated ceiling, showing Islamic influences, the ceramic tile carpet and the wall frescoes."
Queijadas De Sintra
These little cheese tarts are the local delicacy here, so I had to try one. Although made with cheese they are slightly sweet, and served sprinkled with cinnamon, which I love. I enjoyed the first one I sampled (in one of the cafés overlooking the National Palace) although not as much as the several Pasteis de Nata I enjoyed in Lisbon. The second one I tried, bought from the little patisserie on the main road just across from the Palace, was nicer, perhaps because it was, I think, fresh out of the oven.
The recipe is a close-guarded secret, as so often with these traditional treats, but I found this approximation on the internet:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1/2-2/3 cup ice water
1/4 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (at room temperature)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup un-sifted all-purpose flour
- Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Rub or cut in the shortening until the texture of fine meal.
- Add just enough ice water over the mixture to make it hold together.
- Shape into a ball, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate several hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling: In a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade (or in a blender or electric mixer set at highest speed), process the mozzarella, butter, sugar, and cinnamon about 60 seconds non-stop until smooth and creamy.
- Scrape down the work bowl sides with a rubber spatula and beat 60 seconds longer.
- Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the flour and pulse the motor on once or twice to blend.
- Transfer the mixture to a small bowl; cover and chill several hours.
- When ready to bake the queijadas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll the pastry as thin as paper, on a lightly floured pastry cloth..
- Cut into rounds with a 3 1/2 inch cutter.
- Fit the pastry into plain or fluted tart tins measuring 2 1/2 inches across the top.
- Set the tins on baking sheets, then half-fill each tart shell with the cheese mixture.
- Bake uncovered for 18 to 20 minutes, just until the filling is puffy and a rich amber brown.
- Remove the tarts from the oven, cool until easy to handle; then using a small pointed knife, gently pry the tarts from the tins.
- Serve at room temperature.