Portugal's pastel de nata is a melt-in-the-mouth buttery delight, and those in the know visit the village of Nazaré to taste it
Having whisked egg whites to starch their habits, Portuguese nuns and monks employed the attendant surfeit of yolks to concoct rich, sugary conventual pastries. The highly fashionable flake-fest that is Portugal's iconic pastel de nata was first baked some time before the 18th century at Jerónimos Monastery in Santa Maria de Belém (Bethlehem), just outside Lisbon. But swerve the wide-eyed, full-trousered tourists at the famous Pastéis de Belém and feed your nata addiction at A Chique de Belém, where the puffy massa folhada pastry in your pastel is melt-in-the-mouth buttery with a crisp, fragile, deeply-tanned skin, and a scorch-mottled top under which lies two bites of heavenly, sinfully suave custard. Those in the know, though, make the pilgrimage north towards the surfy seaside village of Nazaré. Nearby is pretty, sleepy Alcobaça, whose Pasteleria Alcôa's pastries won first prize at this year's all-Portugal pastel contest.
The art of the tart ... pastel de nata. Photograph: Luiz Felipe Castro/Getty Images