Greatly inspired by the Mediterranean lifestyle; taking the best of what the earth and the sea can offer. When you live in the Algarve, or spend your holidays in Quinta do Lago many are the times when you will visit a family home, or enjoy a restaurant dinner with fresh fish and vegetables.
Portuguese gastronomy is still very much untouched by foreign influences, seeing as there was always easy access to locally fresh food. It has also always benefited from a generational passing down of recipes which has largely allowed for the traditions to stay and evolve within families and eventually bless our plates with cookery masteries. Algarve's cuisine takes on these same practices and highlights the local and marvellous seafood, daily picked vegetables and fruits, as well as traditional recipes of pork, chicken and game.
The Best in Algarve Seafood
Conquilhas Algarve Style
If you have ever gone or walked along any beach in the Algarve, perhaps you have spotted a group of people along the shore doing a kind of dance with their feet and catching clams, placing them inside a plastic bottle with salt water. These are the luscious clams of the Ria Formosa which are very simply cooked to enjoy the wonderful taste of the sea. If you wish to make these yourself simply fry onions and garlic over some olive oil until the clams are open, and finally serve with some parsley or coriander.
Any first time visitor in the Algarve is always invited to try the Cataplana. This is definitely one of those recipes that has been passed down generation after generation. Cataplana is almost like a Carnaval of seafood with lobster, clams, squid, mussels and any other fresh seafood of the day. Add some onions, garlic, herbs, white wine and tomato, we are blessed with this amazing dish with typically comes served in the very well known Cataplana cooking pans.
The Simple Sardines
In the Algarve, many are the times when the recipes choose to simply enhance the wonderful taste the food already has. In this sense, the gastronomy of the south of Portugal doens’t over garnish any dish. Salt, pepper and olive oil tend to be the main ingredients. This is what we do with our luscious sardines. One of the most celebrated foods in the summer are sardines grilled simple with a dash of thick salt. Typically, this is then set on some locally cooked sourdough bread which takes in the divine sauce that comes from the fish. Annually in Portimão there is a festival to celebrate Sardines, which are always paired with a refreshing Portuguese beer.
The Best Grilled Chicken in the Algarve
This is the perfect comfort food and still slightly “healthy” for any day whether it be summer or winter. This is a staple of Algarve food and many will be the roads throughout the whole of this region where you will see family restaurants, known as “churrasqueiras”, that will have as their only dish guia style chicken, with rice, fries and salad.
Treats For The Sweet Tooth
Dom Rodrigos & Doce Fino in the Algarve
Whichever pastry shop you visit in the sorter region of Portugal, there are two local and traditional sweets you will find; The aluminium foil rapped Dom Rodrigos, and the forever creatively designed Almond Doce Fino ou Doce de Massapão. Dom Rodrigos are made using “fios de ovos”, which are strings of egg yolks finished in syrup, mixed with egg yolks, cinnamon and almonds, making little nests of “angel hair” wrapped in colourful foil wraps.
Doce Fino are small marzipan treats which are delicately designed and sculpted into different animals, vegetables or fruit. Heavily based of sugar and almond these treats date back to the Moorish times.
“Alfarroba”, in Portuguese, is the fruit know as Carob, which although weird looking is part of many recipes for deserts in the region. Tasting a bit like cocoa, throughout the years many nutritionists and chefs have revealed that this fruit is extremely healthy although sweet in nature. Carob trees can be found all throughout the Algarve, all the way up to the Alentejo region. Typically, farmers will start the harvest in August, which can also be eaten simply raw or otherwise cooked to make traditional pies, cakes or tarts, normally mixed with dried figs and crushed almonds.
Aguardente de Medronho
For those who enjoy ending their meal with something sweet, Medronho is a wonderful liquid desert. When still to be harvested, it is a unique looking small orange coloured fruit, which embellishes the wonderful hills of Monchique in the inner Algarve. This liquor, which is high in alcohol, is found in most local supermarkets, but most of what is drunk in the Algarve is made locally.