From the moment the magical title enticed me into the book's pages, the understated but powerful photographs and inspiring recipes of Piri Piri*Starfish, Portugal Found transported me to the wooden tables, marble bars and tiled cafés of Portugal.
The book opens with "Gem on the edge of Europe", in which Tessa shares her appreciation for Portuguese food, and is followed by her ingredients notes, "In the Portuguese Kitchen". Richly layered collages introduce each of the book's sections, from "Essential Recipes" to "Petisco Plates", through "Starters and Soups" and "Mains and Side Plates", and concluding with "Desserts and Cakes". Some of my favorites so far are the Gaspacho a Portuguesa, the Carrot Soup, the Coffee Steak, the Piri Piri and Lemon Butter Grilled Prawns, and the many potato recipes. The much-talked-about Pastéis de Nata are as amazing as Tessa says, and the Port Ice Cream is stunning: subtle in both color and flavor.
The subdued tones of the book's photographs, as well as the intricate design details - from the font choices to the swirly motifs - give Piri Piri*Starfish a strong sense of place. The uniqueness of Tessa's books is one of the many reasons I have so enjoyed collecting her cookbooks over the years; while they all share the same high level of attention to design and production, each possesses its own distinct personality.
If you have an hour or two, put on some fado music, pour yourself a glass of something nice, and let Tessa's recipes and observations about the Portuguese and their food take you on a journey that will likely lead you to the nearest market and into the kitchen.