The story of the Portuguese presence in Canada dates back to the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although it is not clear who may have landed in Canada prior to John Cabot’s historic voyage in 1497, it is believed that Diogo de Teive who set out from Lisbon in 1452, had previously explored the east coast of Canada. His exploration would eventually influence the likes of Christopher Columbus. It is well documented that Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real landed in Newfoundland in 1501. His statue stands proudly in St. John’s today.
Evidence of the Portuguese presence is manifest in the many places names of Portuguese origin in Atlantic Canada. Most notable perhaps is the name Labrador which is believed to be named after João Fernandes, a “lavrador,” (a farmer).
Some historians contend that after the Vikings the first attempt at a establishing a permanent colony in Canada was lead by navigator Alvares Fagundes circa 1520. The location of this settlement has never been found but believed to have been somewhere in Cape Breton. Although no permanent communities are known to have lasted, the Portuguese presence in Atlantic Canada continues to this day while men fish for cod on the Grand Banks.
If you have the time you can take the Baccalieu Trail. Baccalieu is derived from the Portuguese word for codfish. This 230km trek will take through such charming places as Heart’s Content, Cupids, and Heart’s Desire. You eventually find yourself reaching Baccalieu island off the coast. Offshore, Baccalieu Island bears witness to the potential menace of the North Atlantic. The wrecks of more than a dozen ships lie under the waters that surround the island. Baccalieu Island Ecological Reserve has 11 species of seabirds nesting there, making it the most diverse seabird colony in the province. The island hosts 3.3 million pairs of Leach’s Storm Petrels, and thousands of puffins and black-legged kittiwakes and other birds each summer. The foxes that share the island with the birds rarely go hungry.
There’s even the Bacalao restaurant in the capital, St. John’s. The owner, Andrea Maunder, celebrates the food and culture of the province while keeping the menu hyper-local. Many of the menu’s ingredients are grown locally or hunted locally. Drop by and give them a try.
I found this wonderfully simple recipe for these light orange cakes that take no time at all. They are fluffy, light, and have the fresh orange citrus flavour. Perfect as a dessert for a party or get-together.
Portuguese Orange Cakes - Bolinhos de Laranja
- 1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup orange zest rind of two oranges
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 muffin pans.
In a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and orange zest.
In a separate bowl combine eggs and sugar and beat with an electric mixer for 3 minutes or until the eggs are pale yellow and fall in ribbons. Stir in orange juice, butter and vanilla until well combined.
Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. The mixture will froth a little. Pour the batter into the muffin cups filling them 3/4 of the way up.
Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. The mixture will froth a little. Pour the batter into the muffin cups filling them 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 13-14 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Sprinkle the top of each cake with some sanding sugar and return pans to the oven. Turn the oven off and leave them in there for 2 minutes. Sanding sugar is a coarser sugar. Its crystals are larger and will give your cakes a nice crunch.
Allow the pans to cool 5 minutes then run a knife around the edge of each cake and gently unmold. Let the cakes cool completely.