The use of pulses in confectionery isn’t as common along the Mediterranean as it is in Portugal and… the Far East. The Gold Rush has received approving comments from visitors from China, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan (and I am sure there are others) who reminisce about traditional sweets from their childhood when they try ours.
Whether that tradition started in Portugal or in Asia, Portuguese traders must have been involved, as they were responsible for so much more cultural and gastronomic exchange, from the 16th century onwards, precisely with locations where beans are used in confectionery too. We can’t imagine that to be a coincidence, but we don’t know in what direction that exchange went, in this case. Debate welcome!
There is hardly a town or village in Portugal that doesn’t have some form of cake or pastry made with beans, normally as a filling, reduced to a paste, mixed with egg and sugar (obviously) and often also with almond. In fact, their use might have become widespread as a filler to bulk up the more expensive almond without compromising on taste. Well, whatever the reason, the tradition caught on. The taste of bean cakes will always be on the earthy side of sweet, and invariably such pastries are scrumptious.
When The Gold Rush started ruminating about what pastries to include in its roster, the very first were the Golden Boats (Pastéis de Feijão de Viseu), which are not well known at all, but have had a devoted following in the town of Viseu, in Central Portugal, since at least the 1950s. They are unusal because of their shape, the fact that the filling is not enclosed, and the entire absence of almond. Oh, and they are also superb!
A more well-known type, probably the best-known in the entire country, is the Bean Cup (Pastel de Feijão de Torres Vedras), which follows the more classical bean-egg-almond route. We felt that we couldn’t possibly miss these in our business, so we teamed up with a supplier that has family ties back to the original creator of these beauties in the 19th century. With such a pedigree, it goes without saying that these are also quite something. And recently a gluten-free version was developed, which we like even more.
So, as my grandmother used to say, there is no better way to eat your pulses!