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The Hirshon Portuguese Spicy "Woodpecker" Beef And Pickled Vegetables - Pica Pau

The Hirshon Portuguese Spicy “Woodpecker” Beef And Pickled Vegetables – Pica Pau

  • Total Time: 0 hours


Units Scale
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 1 3/4 lb. good-quality beef tenderloin, cubed
  • Sea salt and ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/2 ounces lardo (pork fat), diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. Portuguese sweet mustard, or use your favorite sweet mustard or TFD’s heretical choice of Savora mustard condiment
  • Splash of white wine
  • Splash of brandy
  • 2 Tbsp. pickled vegetables, diced – TFD prefers a 50/50 mix of mild and hot giardiniera
  • 2 Tbsp. gherkins, diced
  • malt vinegar cocktail onions, whole to taste
  • 1/4 cup top-quality black olives, pitted
  • 4 Tbsp. thick-sliced cured ham, diced – ideally Ibérico, Serrano or Parma ham
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • ***
  • Piri-Piri chili oil:
  • 5 fresh Thai ‘Bird’ chiles with seeds (TFD change, original called for red fresno chiles, which are also good)
  • 7 small dried piri piri chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled (TFD change, original was 2)
  • 2 Tbsp. whiskey
  • 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns (TFD addition to original recipe)
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 cup olive oil, divided
  • ***
  • Country bread and lemon wedges, to serve


  1. At least 4 days before making the woodpecker beef, make the piri-piri oil so it has time to mellow.
  2. Stem and roughly chop the fresh and dried chiles. Pulse the chiles and garlic in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle to mash them to a paste. You need about 2 tablespoons of chile paste.
  3. Scrape the paste out into a small saucepan, add the whiskey and heat over low heat until warm. Add the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, bay leaf, salt and 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (you can add extra garlic if you want it more garlicky). Simmer until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and lightly whisk in the rest of the oil.
  4. Pour into a sterilized jar and refrigerate for at least a few days for the flavors to mingle. The oil will be hot at first, but you’ll find it will settle and mellow later.
  5. Place a large pan over high heat and sear the beef in the grapeseed oil, seasoning generously with salt and pepper. Once seared – but NOT cooked through – move the beef on to a tray, reserving the juices.
  6. Add butter and olive oil to the pan, then the pork fat. Add the onions and cook quickly, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and bay leaves, then the mustard, and stir through. Add the meat and reserved juices, the wine, brandy, pickles, pickled onions, gherkins, ham and parsley. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper.
  7. Mix everything for 15 seconds, still on high heat, then remove from the stove. Transfer to a warm serving tray and serve immediately with the suggested garnishes and a small dish of the piri piri oil for dipping or sprinkling on individual portions.
  • Prep Time: 0 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 hours