Woodpecker pork or beef

Woodpecker pork or beef

Pica pau

6 as part of a spread of petiscos
Steven Joyce

Pica pau actually translates as ‘woodpecker’, but the name comes from the motion used to eat this dish, not what’s in it – it’s eaten with toothpicks, and it’s this action which gave it the name. It is often made with beef tenderloin, in which case you can sear the meat until just rare.


Quantity Ingredient
500g pork tenderloin, cut into 1.5 cm thick rounds
1/2 red pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into thin strips
8 garlic cloves, whole but bruised
2 bay leaves, roughly torn
120ml white wine
1 tablespoon sweet yellow american or portuguese mustard
pinch salt, plus extra if needed
pinch freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
knob butter
150g shop-bought pickles – a mixture of pickled cauliflower, carrot, onions and gherkins, drained and chopped
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Piri piri oil, to serve
crusty bread, to serve


  1. Place the pork, pepper, garlic, torn bay leaves, wine, mustard, salt and pepper into a large bowl, and mix together until everything is coated with the marinade. Allow to sit for 15 minutes for the flavours to develop.
  2. Place a wide frying pan over a high heat, and add a splash of olive oil. Lift the pork, peppers and garlic out of the marinade, reserving the liquid, and add to the hot pan. Cook for 3–4 minutes, until the pork has browned and is cooked through, then remove from the pan and slice each round into 2–3 pieces. Continue to cook the vegetables until the garlic begins to brown and the pepper has softened. Next, add the reserved marinade and let it bubble for 7–10 minutes until reduced by half.
  3. Stir in the butter and return the pork and vegetables to the pan, along with the pickles. Warm through for no more than 1 minute.
  4. Taste and add more salt if necessary, then serve with the parsley scattered over the top and a good glug of piri piri oil. Use toothpicks to skewer the pork pieces and pickles, and mop up the juices with some crusty bread.
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