“Good food, health and well-being are important. I want to share this with others through my own experiences.” The enthusiasm of Rosário Magalhães is palpable as she talks about her culinary journey, which resulted in a book of recipes collected over many years.

WORDS Lena Strang

Cooking for all Seasons, Healthy Eating throughout the Year is no ordinary cookbook –as I soon discover. And the good news is a book launch is happening soon at the restaurant Fortaleza da Luz, Praia da Luz on the 9th of April! 

We sit in the courtyard of Rosário’s house in the old town of Lagos. I have walked past the unassuming façade of this house many times, never realising that stepping through the door you enter a beautiful, tranquil oasis. “It’s perfect for entertaining family and friends and enjoying good food,” she smiles. “This patio is very similar to the one featured on the cover of my cookbook. The photo was taken at my house in Lisbon, where I also used to entertain.” 

My appetite is whetted. I want to know more about the author behind the book and what led her to dedicate her life to healthy eating. Rosário tells me she was born in the Azores in 1942 as her father was stationed there during the war, although the family subsequently moved to Porto. “I always dreamt of being a chemical engineer, working in a laboratory and doing experiments,” she laughs. “I ended up studying Economics, which was an alternative route.” 

Her chosen career also paved the way for her to work as an economic attaché at the Portuguese Embassy in Paris for 14 years. “My mother was always conscientious about cooking well with fresh ingredients, but her food was often based on animal protein. It was my stay in Paris that introduced me to new culinary experiences. I frequented lots of good restaurants, but the ones that impressed me the most were vegetarian. There was also a growing awareness of the benefits of organic food,” she enthuses. 

She returned to Lisbon with a mission. “I’m a determined person and I threw myself into learning more about healthy eating,” she explains. Weekend cooking workshops followed, along with a course on macrobiotic cooking and soon, she started giving lessons herself. “I love experimenting with ingredients and transforming things into something new. That’s the pleasure in cooking,” she says. When I suggest that she has perhaps turned the kitchen into her laboratory, she readily agrees. 

She moved to Lagos in 2013. Apart from relishing the wonderfully fresh air and slower pace of life, she continues to give cooking lessons at the local Senior University. 

Over the years, she has amassed many recipes but never entertained the idea of publishing them – before her students in Lisbon suggested the idea. “It took me over eight years to put it all together.” Looking at the books (published both in English and Portuguese) on the table before us, she adds, “I’m now so glad I did it.” 

The cookbook is divided into sections. The use of seasonally available ingredients is promoted with recipes for spring, summer, autumn, winter, and all-year-round. Special occasions are also included. All 140 recipes are her own, except for the few meat and fish-based ones.

In the introduction and at the end, she outlines her philosophy on nutrition. Organic food is at the heart of it. She is no fanatic but believes that we should opt for locally produced organic produce both for our health and respect for nature. I wonder what her argument is for people who are too busy to cook from scratch and often resort to convenience foods such as pizzas. “They’re tasty and handy but also addictive,” she emphasises. “You can prepare your fresh ingredients in stages, so it’s less onerous. When cooking, you can make enough to freeze for later meals. And remember that frozen vegetables are also a good option.”

At the Wednesday afternoon organic market in Lagos, she is pleased to see so many people, especially younger ones, looking for healthy produce. She points out that supermarkets have organic sections with competitive prices. “There is every reason for us to eat healthily, enjoy our food and live well.”

With the increasing number of people searching for a healthier lifestyle, Rosário’s book can help them on their journey. Bom appetite! 

Books (25€ with post included) can be ordered directly from Rosário: +351 918 409 470 rosariomagalhaes@gmail.com

Also available at Ria da Formosa book shop, Avenida dos Descobrimentos, Lagos