Cooking Portuguese Cuisine with Alan Hlad

Dear Readers,

Are you a foodie? I am! In addition to having a passion for writing historical fiction, I have a love for cooking that was inspired by my parents who owned a mom-and-pop grocery store. While growing up, my parents taught me to cook. And my ardor for food often appears in my books.      

The Book Spy is inspired by real-life librarians who served as spies in World War II. The story is set in neutral Lisbon, Portugal, and I enjoyed including a bit of Portuguese cuisine within the story. Below is a recipe for one of several foods in the novel, and it makes a great snack for book clubs.

Bom apetite!

– Alan Hlad

Maria’s Biscoitos (Portuguese Cookies)


  • ½ lb butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of lemon juice


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Cream together butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy in texture.
  • Add eggs, lemon zest and juice, and mix until blended.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.
  • Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, stirring until combined.
  • If dough seems dry or flakey, knead slightly.
  • Scoop ping-pong ball sized dollops of dough.
  • Roll between your hands to form a 5-inch long “snake”, even throughout the length.
  • Bring ends of the “snake” together, slightly folding one end over the other, to form a donut-shape with a small hole in the center.
  • Place cookies 1-2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Let rest on baking sheet 2 minutes before transferring to rack to cool.
  • Enjoy!

Tiago’s Sardine Toasts with Tomato & Sweet Onion


  • 4 thick slices of crusty sourdough bread
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Softened butter, as needed
  • 1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 can sardines (6 to 7 ounces) *Based on preference, tuna can be used as a substitute
  • ¼ small sweet or red onion, thinly sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • Sea salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)


  • Toast the bread under a broiler (on both sides) or in the toaster.
  • While the toast is still warm, rub it with the cut side of the garlic clove, then spread toast generously with butter. Top butter with tomato slices and lightly salt.
  • Top tomatoes with sardines (or tuna) and then onion slices. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice, then season with more salt and pepper. Garnish with basil and serve.
  • Enjoy!