Madeira – Donna Maria Restaurant

“No honestly I can’t eat anything else, I will explode if I do!” was the response when desert was offered.

Rustic Interior of the Donna Maria

And it wasn’t too far from the truth, I was having a real Mr Creosote moment, because the first time we set foot in the Donna Maria Restaurant (Rua Santa Maria 51), we had seriously underestimated the generosity of the portions.

The Donna Maria used to be some kind of grocery store and it still retains elements of that in the interior decor, like the set of scales on the counter and the mocked up shelves of provisions. The food is basic Madeiran dishes and very good they are too.

Bread Soup

This bread soup that Mab had is, we were told, a good hangover cure. Made from stale bread and other leftovers, it’s also delicious and a bowl of it is a meal in itself. What you can’t see in the photo is the massive tureen of it, that our pork-pie hatted waiter left on the table just in case anyone fancied a top up.

Nick and I had gone for the lentils with spicy sausage as a starter.

Lentils with Spicy Sausage

It was enormous! Personally I would have liked it a bit spicier, compared to a Spanish chorizo, the Portuguese sausage was a little bland, but it was our first taste of local food after a very long day traveling and it certainly filled a hole.

Then this arrived.

Espetada on Laurelbay Skewers.

It’s the local specialty,Espetada, massive cuts of beef marinated in red wine, bay and garlic and roasted on a skewer of the local laurelbay wood. Yes that is blood on my plate, but the rare meat just melts in the mouth. I have to admit that I am just not used to eating such vast quantities of meat, but I valiantly struggled through it, along with the cubes of deep fried maize and salty smashed potatoes that kept it company. It was carnivour heaven.

That night’s meal only set us back about €60 complete with a bottle of wine, which I though was pretty good value. Needless to say we ate there again a couple of times. On our second visit we tried the special of the day, a mixed grill of beef, chicken, two different kinds of sausage, bacon and a lamb chop. I can’t remember seeing so many species all together on a plate since we ate in a Brazilian restaurant.

More meat

The specials were great value for around €9 per person, and left room to sample the deserts. I had the passion fruit pudding which was heavenly.

In fact I liked it so much that on our third visit I played safe with the starters and had the tomato and onion soup in the hope that I would not be to stuffed to enjoy the desert again.

Tomato and onion soup, octopus in vinegar beyond,

This had an egg poached in it and a really rich tomato flavour, It’s quite probably the best tomato soup I have ever had.

If you ever visit Funchal Old Town do try this place out. You won’t be disappointed, not only is the food good, the portions are vast and the bill will be surprisingly modest. On average with drinks expect to pay €20 each.

Squash Soup


Squash Soup

This is a great winter warmer with some crusty bread so it went down a treat the other night. Serves two.

Start by heating some oil in a pan. Add two chopped onions, one chopped leek, two chopped chilis, four smashed garlic cloves and a piece of ginger about the size of the tip of your thumb also chopped up (the ginger not your thumb that’s more useful attached). As that frys off add the aromatics, two teaspoons of paprika, one of turmeric and two of Chinese curry powder.

It will probably start to dry out a bit , so sling in a glass of white wine and two teaspoons of Dijon mustard. then add the roughly cut up root veg : one butternut squash, three carrots and a parsnip. Once coated with the spicy sauce top up with boiling water, add a chicken stock cube and leave to simmer for an hour or so, checking every now and again that it hasn’t boiled dry.

Come back in an hour and give it a good seeing to with a hand blender, then it is ready to eat.



Shipscook’s Chicken Soup

We had a roast chicken for lunch, which was very nice but I think I prefer what I did with the leftovers.

As soon as we had finished I stripped the chicken carcass down. Any meat went in the fridge (or the cat) while the bones, skin and anything else went in a pan of boiling water with a couple of bay leaves, which I left simmering away all afternoon. I guess that was about three o clock.

OK now it’s about 7.30 pm so into a pan goes some olive oil followed by some bacon bits, a chopped onion, three chopped chilis, two chopped leeks, six smashed garlic cloves and the left over chicken. Once the onions and leeks have softened add a teaspoon of paprika, two teaspoons of Dijon mustard and a teaspoon of tumeric. Stir about, then chuck in a glass of white wine, add some chopped carrots and the strained chicken stock. Ramp up the chicken flavour with a stock cube and chuck in some pearl barley and some tiny pasta shells. Leave on a low heat for about an hour and then eat with some crusty bread.

Onion Soup with Pasta

This is a good standby if you need to have some food on the go for when someone has been working late.

First put some oil in the pan on a high heat chuck in some black onion seeds if you have them, then add two chopped onions, two chopped leeks, a couple of chopped chili peppers, some dried mixed herbs and some crushed garlic cloves. And don’t put the unpeeled bulb in a crusher like Jamie does, it may initially save a bit of time, but you waste a large part of the garlicky goodness and you still have to clean the bugger.

Let that sweat away for a bit until you start getting the sugar from the onions caramalising onto the pan. Chuck in a glass of port (or sherry, vermouth or wine) and a couple of teaspoons of Dijon mustard, give it a good stir to deglaze the pan because you want all the sugars to colour the soup. Top up with boiling water, chuck in a beef stock cube, turn down to a simmer and cover.

Now you can leave this for as long as you like to simmer, in fact the longer you leave it the better. Just check it every now and again to make sure it isn’t boiling too dry.

When it’s time just chuck in a pack of shop bought filled pasta, boil for a few minutes and serve with some good bread and some grated cheese and black pepper over the top