How to Cook Chanfana or Portuguese Goat Roast/Stew

Updated on February 6, 2020
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Chanfana, a traditional goat roast or stew.
Chanfana, a traditional goat roast or stew. | Source

Never has a dish had so many legends of how it came to be. This Portuguese roast goat stew, called chanfana in Portugal, is a traditional dish from Beira Litoral Province in Portugal. The Beira Litoral Province is mainly made up of the Central Region of Portugal, and the capital is Coimbra.

Although chanfana is also well-known in Coimbra, the actual birthplace of this dish is in Vila Nova de Poiares, more specifically, Semide—if the legends are correct.

Legendary Origins

You see, the story of this dish got tangled with the French Invasions during the Napoleonic campaigns in Europe in the 19th century, so versions of the story shift, although the base of the story remains basically the same. Let’s jump back to the 19th century and try to figure out what happened and how this recipe came to be.

A
Vila Nova de Poiares:
Vila Nova De Poiares, Portugal

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Nuns, Frenchmen, Shepherds, Farmers, and the Poor Old Goats

In August 1810, the French Troops invaded Portugal, pushing the English and Portuguese troops all the way to Buçaco, in the Beira Litoral Province. Eventually, they pushed the troops south, remaining in the Central Region for about 3 years. During that time, as was normal back then, they pillaged the surrounding areas, taking everything they could find.

That included the animals, but they left behind the old goats and billy-goats because they found they weren’t good to eat, since the goat meat was tough. So, the Portuguese people had to make do with what they left—the old animals. They found a way to cook the meat so that it would taste better and become more tender. What did they use, and what did they do? Red wine, lots of it, to cook the meat and also—another one of my favorites—they took a long time to cook it in order to let the meat become tender and capture all the flavors.

Another Version of the Story

But another version tells us that was not what happened. What happened was that there a Monastery in Semide, which is part of Vila Nova de Poiares in Miranda do Corvo, where the nuns were displeased with the state of things—invasions and invaders and pillages and the like.

So, they decided to kill all the animals they had and cook them so that the French couldn’t have them. And apparently, according to this version, all the animals they had were old goats, by the looks of it.

But here is where the stories differ: By one account, the Frenchmen, to get back at the population or the nuns, had poisoned the waters, so the nuns had no water to cook with. Another account mentions that it was actually the nuns who poisoned the waters so the Frenchmen had no water. No matter which version is accurate, the matter is that they didn’t have water to cook with, so instead they used red wine.

The Third Version

Finally, a more peaceful version of the events leaves out the Frenchmen and just mentions that actually the farmers and shepherds around the monastery had to pay rent each year. Many of them paid the rent in kind, depending on what they had; a lot of them had wine, so they paid in wine, while others had goats and so on and so forth. Now, the nuns didn’t have the time or the expertise to keep a large herd, so they found a way to cook the meat in a manner that actually preserved the meat for a long time.

Once the goat was cooked, the nuns stored the meat in its original cooking receptacles in the fresh cellars of the monastery. The roasted/stewed goat meat cooked in the red wine was preserved in the solidified gravy from the cooking for several months.

Which Is It?

Is It a Roast or a Stew?

Well, it’s hard to explain in which category chanfana is included; after all, it seems like a stew, but it’s roasted in an oven, so let’s agree to call it a roastew.

Do You Use Goat or Billy-Goat?

About what kind of meat you use for this dish, it depends on where you are at, but the original recipe from Semide says you need to use goat. So, for all purposes intended, chanfana is made up of goat meat. Nonetheless, there are certain places in the Beira Litoral Province that use billy-goat instead, such as Coimbra, the capital of this province.

Either way, goat or billy-goat, it’s simply delicious.

And then—you know how these things go—it didn’t take long for people to replace the goat for mutton, lamb, goatling, or whatever suited their fancy, so nowadays you can actually find chanfana with about any kind of meat you can think of.

The Black Clay Pot

Now, if you are talking about chanfana, you cannot forget the pot in which it is cooked. It’s no ordinary pan or pot; it’s a traditional black clay pot from Olho Marinho in Vila Nova de Poiares. The shape is a bit funny, it’s black, and it comes in several sizes, but it’s the traditional cooking and serving pot for the chanfana.

Do you really need it if you are cooking chanfana? Well, not really, but everybody says it tastes much better if you use it.

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 4 hours
Ready in: 4 hours 30 min
Yields: Serves about 8 people

How to Cook This Dish

Now, this recipe is a bit tricky and it takes quite some time—not the time you take to prepare it, which is reasonable, but the time it takes to actually cook the meat. Also, it may seem funny or peculiar, but it’s terribly tasty, so set your fears aside and give it a try. And here is what you need:

Ingredients

  • Parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon of lard
  • 3.4 ounces (1 deciliter) of olive oil
  • 1/4 pound (125 grams) of bacon
  • 6 pounds (3 kilograms) of goat
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • about 1 3/4 pints (1 liter) of red wine

Instructions

  1. Ask the butcher to chop the goat meat into medium-sized pieces.
  2. If it’s possible, season the meat the day before actually cooking it because it will taste better; the meat will have more time to absorb all the flavours. You just use the pot, add the meat and all the other ingredients, including the wine, and leave it in the freezer until the next day.
  3. If you don't have time to season the meat the day before, then take your black clay pot and add the pieces of meat, then add the other ingredients and leave the wine for last. The red wine should be a good quality wine, and you should pour it enough so that the meat is totally covered by the wine.
  4. Pre-heat oven to its maximum allowed for half an hour.
  5. Place the pot in the oven and lower the temperature of the oven to 338ºF/150ºC, then leave the chanfana in the oven for about 4 hours.
  6. While it's cooking, be sure to check whether you need to add some extra wine. If you have a firewood oven, use it for this dish, because the flavour will be much better than if you cook the meat in a regular oven. It’s done when you notice that the meat is coming off from the bones.

Photo Tutorial

Goat meat in the black clay pots.
Goat meat in the black clay pots. | Source
Adding the other ingredients.
Adding the other ingredients. | Source
Adding the red wine.
Adding the red wine. | Source
Cooking.
Cooking. | Source

How to Serve It

When it’s time to serve, heat up the chanfana and serve it with boiled potatoes and some homemade bread.

Enjoy!

And If You Enjoyed This Recipe, Why not Give It a Star...

4.6 stars from 15 ratings of Chanfana - The portuguese goat roastew

I would like to thank the Club "Bike On Elas"- , namely Mr. Pedro Cunha and Mr. Filomeno Dias, for allowing me to use their wonderful photos of the " Chanfana".

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Joana e Bruno

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Sue Burke 

        2 years ago

        When you say to store it in the freezer, did you mean the refrigerator????

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        6 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hi, Geoffrey, very interesting, I had no idea... I hope I'll visit Belgium some day and I'll be sure to remember to try your "Vlaamse stoverij"... Thanks for reading and commenting and take care!

      • profile image

        Geoffrey 

        6 years ago

        To my surprise I found this dish when visiting Coimbra, 'cause in Belgium we have more or less the same dish but we call it "Vlaamse stoverij". So if you don't find the goat, search for "Vlaamse stoverij" where they use beef.

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hello, Chef-de-jour, I just love Coimbra, I studied there at the University and it was just an amazing and unbelievable time, I think you may be thinking about Serra da Lousã, but anyway if they were cooking in firewood ovens, it's possible it was "Chanfana"... And I know just what you mean, the simple things, right?... If you want to remember Coimbra, check the two hubs I wrote about it... Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

      • chef-de-jour profile image

        Andrew Spacey 

        7 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

        Some years ago I was up in the mountains above Coimbra - Serra d'Estrela if I recall correctly - and the locals were cooking these stews outside on fires. I never got to try this food because I was in such a hurry belting down the slopes to catch a train - but it smelled delicious. I wonder if it was this fabulous goat stew?

        What a time that was, living on bread and sardines and tomato salad for weeks on end, with vinha verde for sustenance!

        A fine hub and recipe. Thank you.

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hi, Vespawoolf, thanks for reading, commenting, voting and sharing, I really appreciate it. I hope you enjoy the recipe (even without the black clay pot...) And you can do it with other meats, lamb for instance, if you can't find goat... Hope you have a great day!

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hello, Angela, thanks for stopping by, I hope you like it... Let me know afterwards and stay well!

      • Angela Kane profile image

        Angela Kane 

        7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

        I love making stews and I have never made Chanfana before so I think I will give this a try.

      • vespawoolf profile image

        Vespa Woolf 

        7 years ago from Peru, South America

        Wow, this sounds fabulous and I love the history behind it! Although goat isn't easy to find in southern Peru, I will see what I can do to try this recipe (but without the black pot). Thanks for the great photos and a well-written hub. Voted up and shared!

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hello, Alocsin, yes, goat it's not something you find everywhere, but you can also use lamb, I've never tried it with lamb before, but I know of people who have... Thanks for reading, commenting and voting and have a great day!

      • alocsin profile image

        Aurelio Locsin 

        7 years ago from Orange County, CA

        Sounds yummy but I'm afraid we don't have goat at the supermarket here in Southern California. Will this work with lamb? Voting this Up and Useful.

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hello, Mahua Sengupta, thanks for stopping by and I do hope you try it and tell me how it went... It's delicious. Thanks for reading, commenting and voting and have a wonderful day!

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hello, Thumbi7, you are totally right the traditional way is always the best, it's harder and takes longer, but it is sure worth it... Thanks a lot for reading, commenting and sharing and stay well!

      • thumbi7 profile image

        JR Krishna 

        7 years ago from India

        It is very interesting.

        The cooked meat looks beautiful

        In South India, we cook fish curry in earthern pots and as you said if it is cooked in firewood oven the taste is different!!!

        Thanks for sharing

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hello, Kelley, it is delicious, even though it may seem a bit strange, I reckon... and the meat so tender, after it's cooked... Thanks for reading, commenting and voting and I hope you have a wonderful day!

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hi, Brett, that would be a great idea and I know just the people to do all the cooking... :) I think you are right, it's something quite different and like so many dishes and recipes here in Portugal it was all about need and war and making the best with what was around... Now that I think of it we have a lot of that going around here, a lot of our traditional recipes had something to do with war. You see, now we are a very peaceful people, but for centuries we were always fighting someone, somewhere, so... and in times of need... Anyway, perhaps that's why we just want peace and quiet now, we got tired of all the fighting... But I'm going on and on... Thanks so much for stopping by and voting. Have a great day!

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hi, Shalycriston, thanks so much for reading and commenting and I'm happy you liked it, I think it is quite a different recipe... Stay well!

      • shalycriston profile image

        Shaly Criston 

        7 years ago from USA

        Interesting Dish, I like it. Thanks to share this informative hub. :)

      • profile image

        kelleyward 

        7 years ago

        Wow, I've never heard of this but it looks amazing. This is a fantastic hub! Voted up! Kelley

      • Brett.Tesol profile image

        Brett C 

        7 years ago from Asia

        Oh wow, that would definitely taste awesome!! Me thinks you should host a little Chanfana party for hubbers ;-) lol.

        Sharing this very unique recipe for others to try, this would be great for a summer garden party ... something different with a story (or three) to get everyone talking!

        Up and awesome too...

      • algarveview profile imageAUTHOR

        Joana e Bruno 

        7 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

        Hi, Mhatter99, I hope you like it and thanks for reading and commenting. Stay well!

      • Mhatter99 profile image

        Martin Kloess 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Thank you for sharing this great recipe.

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