Francesinha

We had a lovely short break in Portugal in August. I definitely recommend it as a vegan destination – we went to Porto, Guimaraes and Braga, and in 3 nights we managed to go to 5 different vegetarian resataurants! They were all really pretty places too.

One of the specialities you will find in Porto is the Francesinha. It was very difficult finding a standard recipe but basically think of the most unvegan, unhealthy dish you could possibly imagine and you’ve got a Franceshina. It typically includes beef, smoked ham, spicy sausage, cheese, and is served with a sauce made from beer, port and assorted seafood bits, and chips. Your typical vegan healthy meal, then!

In one of the restaurants we visited, there was a vegetarian version of the Franceshina on the menu. It was served with salad instead of chips, and Matthew had it and really enjoyed. It had a lot of cheese in it so I couldn’t try it, but Matthew enjoyed it so much that I gave it a good prod and determined to try a vegan version of it as soon as I could.

It was difficult to find what looked like a reliable recipe. It seems to be a closely guarded secret. I used this very vague recipe as a starting point. Here’s what I did.

For the meats, I used:

2 beefy seitan steaks (American Vegan Kitchen tests which I had in the freezer – you could use any beefy seitan)
4 slices of bacon seitan strips  (AVK tests again but you could use any ham, tempeh bacon etc)
1 sliced sausage (I used these which I always have in the freezer)

For the cheese, I really debated about whether to use something like cheezly which I tried for the first time for years a few weeks ago and liked much better than I remembered. But I decided to go with making a thick sauce and using that instead. I used the Hot or Cold Chedda Sauce from Ultimate Uncheese, a book I haven’t used much. It worked fine, but next time I would go for something a bit paler and meltier. Like Cheezly, maybe!

For the sauce, I pretty much followed the instructions except I used some Better than Chicken Bouillion which the lovely Tami sent me. This stuff is so real it really freaks me out! I also added a bay leaf, which is referred to in the directions, but not in the ingredients list.

So here’s how I put it together.

I took 4 pieces of cheap nasty white bread. (I don’t think its traditional but another time I’d lightly toast it as it went a bit claggy). I “buttered” 2 of the slices with the cheese sauce, then heated through the 3 meats. I put the beef and bacon on the bread, then spread with a bit more cheese. Then I added the sausage, and put on the top layer of bread. I spread another layer of cheese on that, then poured the hot sauce over the top. I served it traditionally with chips rather than salad – no point introducing vitamins into this feast unnecessarily! Make your chips as you normally would, but I have become a convert to the twice cooked method (where you blanch the potatoes in oil at a lower temperature first before turning the heat up and giving them a final fry).

This was DEFINITELY not the sort of meal you’d eat very often. It was rich, filling, fattening – and thoroughly delicious! The sauce in particular was astonishing. Very unusual, rich, yet slightly spicy and full of flavour from the beer and port! It worked really well with the sandwich and I highly recommend giving it a try.

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3 thoughts on “Francesinha

  1. Aww brings back sweet memories of home. And you’re right about the veggie choices in Portugal. Not in mainstream restaurants, but they have so many vegan/vegetarian/macrobiotic choices. I think I counted 30 restaurants in Lisbon at one time. Will def try this.

  2. Pingback: Ooh, aah, it’s the vegan MoFo « The Great Vegan Conspiracy

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