DECEMBER 2022 - JUNE 2023
António Carlos Silva


A son of the late António da Silva, known to the Portuguese simply as Chef Silva, António Carlos Silva found motivation for cooking with the snacks that his father prepared at weekends for the children in the house. He did not yet know that this motivation would allow him to discover a vocation: in addition to the taste of the palate, he took, he says, “the taste in his heart”. With a background in Arts, namely in Sculpture, it is in traditional gastronomy that he finds daily fulfilment.

Lamenting the progressive loss of influence of the Portuguese culinary tradition, he gives as an example the use of “a sprinkle” of vinegar in stews or feijoadas, nowadays replaced by white wine: “it comes out different, it has nothing to do with wine”. This loss of influence is also felt in confectionery, but here, he adds, the many existing conventual recipes, taken into their seclusion by the youngest daughters of wealthy families, counterbalance the loss.

Means of refrigeration were then non-existent and food had to be preserved in salt, undergo a drying process, or be immersed in fat or sugar. In convents, waste was shunned and almost everything was saved for use. In the period of the French Invasions of Portugal, scarcity and hunger, as well as the need to feed the troops of the Portuguese-British alliance, encouraged creativity, with nutritious foods emerging, easy to transport and conserve by soldiers.

António Carlos Silva reproduced the “soldier's biscuit” with the utmost fidelity to the original recipe and cooking method, adapting them to a contemporary taste, since the original dough was... “inedible”. After cutting the dough into slices, allowing it to create a “pillow” during cooking, it is covered with sugar and “you get a very pleasant crunchy biscuit – ideal to accompany red wines, in particular Oeste reds”. Another version of the “soldier's biscuit” made by António Carlos Silva originates from the type of dough that was used to create ex-votos.

Original recipe for Biscoito do Soldado, from the “Primeiro Livro de Confeitaria Português”, Colares Editora

“Water and Salt Cakes for Regiments

Half a bushel of powdered flour is mixed with warm water and a spoonful of salt. The flour is kneaded with only this water and the said salt, after it has become hard, thick tongues are made, cut like fish in half. They are sent to the oven, where after half-baking they are taken out of the oven and finished cutting. And so they will put them back in the oven to finish cooking, toasting more or less as you like.”

António Carlos Silva – Docinhos de Santo António