A Portuguese Garden + Traditional Bread Baking

A Portuguese GardenIf you’re a frequent reader of The Dreamery, then you know how much I love flowers and gardening. And how I dream of the day when I have my own with plenty of room, just waiting for me to grow vegetables and transform into a beautiful space, like those of English or French gardens. It wasn’t until this year’s trip to Portugal that I actually noticed the sheer beauty that grows within my neighbor’s garden.

I’ve known this sweet, sweet lady all my life, but of course as a child I always saw her pretty flowers growing behind her stoned fence, but never truly appreciated nor knew exactly what she had in there. She has one of the best green thumbs I know, especially when it comes to flowers, so much so, that when the annual town festival comes around in May, her garden supplies all the blooms for the festivities. Just by seeing these photos of her flowers taken in July, I’m sure it’s a sight to see during Springtime, when her five peony bushes bloom endlessly!  A Portuguese GardenA Portuguese GardenI knew I couldn’t leave Portugal this year without taking a stroll through her garden, and taking some photographs. The afternoon couldn’t have been more perfect for taking photos either! It was nearly 6 at night, and although the sun was still shining bright, it softly beamed down onto the flowers, highlighting them beautifully for photographs. And as my aunt baked bread in my neighbor’s outdoor stone oven, I calmly walked around taking in the scents of bread baking and the lovely and colorful flowers, including pale peach roses that were one of my favorite. A Portuguese GardenRows of yellow Dahlias grew so tall they looked like Sunflowers!A Portuguese Garden A Portuguese GardenA Portuguese Garden A Portuguese GardenThere were Dahlias, Zinnias, Gladiolas, Roses, Hydrangea, Baby’s Breath, Sunflowers, Queen Anne’s Lace, Allium, Geraniums, Carnations, Lillies and so many more wild flowers and trees growing in every corner imaginable – each one just as beautiful as the other. She even had a large bush of the tropical and one of the most colorful flowers, the Birds of Paradise, just beginning to bloom. It’s my father’s favorite flower, one he’s tried unsuccessfully growing several times in our New Jersey garden. It’s too bad it hadn’t bloomed yet, so that I could’ve brought back images of this stunning flower for him to see. A Portuguese GardenI’m often drawn to gardens that have designated areas for each similar flower or a color scheme, but my neighbor’s informal, and shall I say overgrown, garden is just absolutely perfect! I love gardens that are left to grow naturally, however tall or slanted a plant may grow. There isn’t a need for perfect or straight-lined trimming in a garden. I happen to think it actually takes away from its uniqueness. You’re meant to walk around a garden and find something new and wonderful everywhere you turn. I honestly looked and felt like a kid in a candy store, but so much better! Images of having breakfast in a small table nestled between the dahlias, or entertaining well into the starry night beneath the orange trees filled my mind – I didn’t want to leave! A Portuguese GardenA Portuguese Garden A Portuguese GardenA Portuguese Garden A Portuguese Garden A Portuguese GardenI had never seen sunflowers like this before Portugal this year, it’s as if everyone was growing them, even my uncle in Lisbon. Aren’t they just stunning?! Imagine being in a field with endless rows of these giant yellow flowers that truly look like the sun. A Portuguese Garden A Portuguese GardenMost who live in small villages in Portugal, like mine, may have one or two large farms where they grow all their fruits and vegetables. And most will also have an additional smaller garden at their house for daily pickings, like herbs or lemons. Since my neighbor lives alone, her farm extends beyond her house and flower garden, and offers plenty of amazing ingredients right outside her doorstep. She had numerous rows of onions, and not onions like we see in the supermarkets, onions so big, some were as large as my dog’s head! A Portuguese GardenA Portuguese GardenShe was sweet enough to take a break from helping my aunt bake the bread, to walk with me and talk about all the vegetables she was growing. She even gave us some even larger carrots, so that my grandmother could use in her soup, and they were deliciously earthy and sweet.  A Portuguese Garden A Portuguese GardenJust look at all the different colors, shapes and textures going on in this image. These photos can’t do this Portuguese garden the justice it deserves, but at least they keep smiling and inspired, as I dream of my own future garden.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what brought me to roam my neighbor’s garden, was freshly baked bread. Ever since I was a young girl, my cousins and I, couldn’t wait until Grandma would make bread. Mostly because she’d make a mini stuffed roll for each grandchild and larger ones for everyone else, that are stuffed with savory fillings like chorico, bacalhau {codfish} sautéed with onions, or tuna cooked with fresh tomatoes. I love this simple meal so much, I recreated it here, and even received approval from my grandmother. . Traditional Bread BakingTraditional Bread Baking When my dear aunts, my grandmother’s sisters, were still alive the entire family would get together just to enjoy the freshly baked stuffed breads. This bread baking isn’t anything like a bakery, it’s rustic and traditional. In my small village, every house still has beautiful wood burning stoves, but for baking bread only few have large stone ovens that are outside, similar to those in pizzerias. The process that starts the fire isn’t easy, it takes years of practice just to get the oven just right for perfectly baked loaves of bread. And the same goes for the actual recipe and kneading of the bread, especially when each bread baking day produces about 25 large loaves. My aunt has taken over these duties for my grandmother, as it requires hands that are quick, and strong yet delicate at the same time.Traditional Bread Baking Traditional Bread Baking Traditional Bread Baking She allows the yeast to ferment and then adds it to the flour, salt, and water in the wooden bread box. The dough fills the entire container, and sits to rest a bit. She then begins to take pieces of dough to form into loaves in her hands, and places them into long wooden bins before going into the oven. Baking bread has become such a natural act for my aunt, that she doesn’t need to weigh each piece of dough. All lined up and side by side, each loaf looks just like the other.

For the delicious bolas {stuffed breads}, she leaves extra dough that she fills. It’s a matter of minutes until a golden crust begins to form, and the bread loaves are all baked up.

Traditional Bread Baking Traditional Bread Baking Traditional Bread Baking Traditional Bread Baking On days we bake bread, the stuffed ones become our dinner, often paired with cheeses, fresh tomato salad and of course crisp white wine. For this afternoon we enjoyed a classic tuna and codfish stuffed bread, and of course watched the sunset. It’s something so simple, but so delicious!

Traditional Bread Baking

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