Last month, I traveled to Portugal for the first time. I knew even before the plane had landed that the trip ahead held magic and significance for me. Flying over Lisbon, I could feel that mix of curious excitement and assuredness that where I was heading was exactly where I needed to be. And it was. There are few places in the world where I’ve arrived and let out a huge sigh of relief, a deep soul exhale. Kauai was the first time I’d experienced that exhale of coming home, and Portugal the second.
My maternal lineage, the Santos family, is Portuguese. From the Azores, they sailed from these little islands in the middle of the Atlantic to another set of little islands in the middle of the Pacific – the Hawaiian islands. I knew very little of this part of my heritage growing up. But last year, on my birthday, I flew into Oahu to embark on a new chapter of island life. And this year, I spent a week road-tripping around mainland Portugal, falling in love with every inch of the country and getting to know parts of myself through this deeper memory of lineage and land. Like my undying love affair with cinnamon and it being my secret ingredient in all my favorite dishes, but more on that later…
I’m finding that, each year, I grow wiser in understanding who we are is rarely independently shaped. And these deeper questions about who I am and where I came from have led me to lands where I have roots and history that my conscious mind knew nothing about. I find the more I travel, the more I’m drawn to places my ancestors had been, and I find myself wondering how much are we shaped by those walked before us? Maya Tiwari, in her book The Path to Practice talks about cellular memory and healing our bodies and minds through honoring our ancestral lineage. There’s something to be said about invoking cultural traditions and celebrating them in your own life.
With this, I’m very excited to announce that in October 2018, I’m hosting a retreat on the beautiful coastal Algarve region of southern Portugal to dig into a week gathering, merging local culture and rich food traditions with my love of the Vedic sciences. Through daily yoga classes, Ayurvedic workshops, excursions to olive farms, hands-on cooking classes, and adventures to the sea, we’ll explore that space where wellbeing emerges from slowing down, connecting with community and the land, and being nourished both inside and out. Email email@example.com for more details.
To celebrate both the announcement of this upcoming adventure and my 29th birthday, I baked a cake. But not just any cake, a cake inspired by my slow afternoons in the Algarve snacking on tarte de alfarroba and sipping tea. This rich fig, carob and almond cake is a native recipe to the South, where carob trees are as abundant as the olives and cork oaks. Fall is fig season, so the harvest of fresh figs means there’s jam and cakes for days. This cake is dense and textured, with the earthy flavors of the carob balanced by spiced with a hearty dose of cinnamon. All of my favorite things! I can’t wait to share more with you in Portugal next fall…
PORTUGUESE CAROB & ALMOND CAKE
1 cup oat flour
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup carob powder
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¾ cup roughly ground almonds
4 eggs, whisked
½ cup olive oil
1 cup fig puree, (about 10-12 soaked figs & blended into a paste)
1 orange, juiced & zested
1 tbsp raw honey
In a bowl, combine the dried figs and soak overnight in filtered water until the figs are tender and rehydrated. Drain and rinse. Transfer to a blender and puree into a thick paste. If it is too thick to blend, add a splash of water, just enough to soften it until it blends. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, carob, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together into a fine flour. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk the eggs until light. Continue whisking the olive oil and orange juice into the liquid mixture. Next, fold the liquid into the bowl of flour. Add the orange zest, honey, fig puree. Fold together until fully combined. Pour into a greased spring-form cake pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until slightly firm but still moist. Remove from oven, allow to cool before removing from the pan. Serve with a dusting of carob and cinnamon on top.
Makes one 9-inch cake