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The Tale of the "Queijadas of Sintra"

Updated: 21 hours ago

Queijadas de Sintra

The History One of the attractions for visitors to Sintra is to go into the town's oldest pastry shop to try this traditional delicacy. A centuries-old regional sweet, its origins date back to the 13th century, during the reign of King Sancho II. Until the middle of the 18th century, queijadas were homemade and were also used to pay land taxes. They were then manufactured until the present day. Their industrialisation began in 1756 in the prominent queijada factories: Sapa, Gregório, Piriquita, Casa do Preto and Dona Estefânia located in the town of Sintra.

Sintra's queijadas are probably the oldest sweet in Sintra's gastronomy, even eternalised in Portuguese literature.

"Ega was about to drop the parcel, shaking Maria Eduarda's hand, blushing and smiling. But the brown paper, poorly tied, fell apart, and a fresh supply of queijadas from Sintra rolled out, smashing into the flowers on the carpet" in "Os Maias", Eça de Queiroz

The origin and history of the delicious Queijadas de Sintra, immortalised in Eça de Queiroz's novel "Os Maias", are lost in time, but it is thought that these small tarts made from fresh cheese, sugar, eggs, flour and a little cinnamon and then wrapped in a crunchy, crispy pastry were already produced in the region during the Middle Ages.

Sintra's excellent pastures allowed for the production of fresh cheese and it was common for excess cheese to be used to make these pastries, which could then be used by peasants as payment.

The Tale

The story goes that King Manuel I and his chief steward got lost in the Sintra mountains one day when they were hunting wild boar and doe.

A peddler from Colares helped them out of their embarrassing situation and guided them to a place where they could stay as dignified as possible for the night, where they could be served a much-desired meal, but it was late in the day, as the prospects of the coveted hunt had been dashed.

Monastery of Pena in Sintra

The place chosen was the Monastery of Pena, whose prior, taken by surprise, would have exhausted the resources of the prayers he knew, so that the Lord would come to his aid in such an unexpected situation.

The accommodation for his royal highness was soon ready, as it was within the resources of a good prior to provide a solution to this need. It was more difficult to improvise a meal, given the monastery's meagre resources and the unforeseen situation.

The prior hurried to present what he had: some queijadinhas, and apologised for not being a delicacy worthy of nobles, let alone a king, since they were intended for humble people.

It was certain that at that time of night, the king would be willing to eat anything, even those sweet queijadas he had never heard of. He hastened to say yes, and the queijadas came.

The king and the chief steward caused the good prior the greatest astonishment, because not only did they eat, but they repeated the dose of queijadas, gobbling them down in noble fashion, not hesitating to lick their fingers and discard as many crumbs as there were on the plate.

They praised the queijadas and when they left the monastery the next morning, they thanked the prior, not forgetting to ask for the recipe, and from that day on it was enjoyed as a delicacy on the menu at the Royal Palace.

Tale's source: "Sintra Lendária" of Miguel Boim

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