In this monthly series, we follow João Marreiros, the man behind Loki restaurant in Portimão as he takes us out ‘into the wild’ and lets us in on some of his secrets about what’s going on ‘on the ground’ in the Algarve.
João is a wizard in the kitchen and along with only using ingredients sourced within a 100 km radius of his restaurant, he also supplements his menu by going scuba diving, but also, since he grew up in Monchique and learned from family, friends and neighbours about all the different wild and wonderful plants that grow here in the south of Portugal, he also regularly goes out foraging and combines everything to create some of the most local and unique dishes in town.
This month he’s chosen mustard (Sinapis arvensis L). João says it flowers here from February till August and paints the fields an enchanting yellow. However, the plant can also be found growing all over Europe, the Caucasus, West and Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent and North Africa.
As a chef that regularly creates all his sauces from scratch, João reflected on how amazing it is that by just using a little vinegar, honey (or any type of sugar) salt and, of course, mustard seeds, we can make such an incredible sauce that has indeed been the ‘source’ of much inspiration for people from many different cultures all over the world.
João says that the acidity and spicy taste it leaves in your mouth after enjoying a bifana or a hot dog has always fascinated us in an almost romantic way.
But it’s not all about the sauce, João says the plant’s leaves also offer a wonderful flavour in things like soups and stews. Mustard is also very good for you. It is an important source of essential minerals (such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium) and vitamins (A, B9 CE and K) which are important for the retention of bone mass as well as being good for your eyes and skin. They also act as antioxidants, which protects the body from free radicals and some diseases. Mustard is believed to help prevent stomach and colon cancer.
Because João feels like it’s sometimes easier to see a plant’s features with a sketch, he has managed to convince his artist friend Tiago Rodrigues to paint us a picture to go along with all the plants in the series. What do you think of this one? I reckon it cuts the mustard.