Let the sun brush your skin as you enjoy the calming splash of the waves gently breaking. Welcome to the Algarve; where you can relax with a vinho verde and sample an array of tempting dishes. Cuisine in the Algarve has a huge international influence and you can find restaurants from French, Italian, and Chinese to German, and a lot of British style cafes. However, traditional Portuguese food has been affected by the many explorers who found their shores and the flavours of figs, curry spices, garlic, and piri piri have been taken into this simple, rustic cuisine. For a true taste of the Algarve why not try some of the following?
There are many dishes made with bacalau in the Algarve. This salted and dried cod is used for such culinary delights as bacalhau à gomes de sá which is a delicious rustic casserole made with salted cod, potatoes, eggs and onions and is originally from the northern city Porto. It is also popularly found in bacalhau à brás which is scrambled egg with flakes of salted cod, potatoes and onions and garnished with olives.
No trip to the Algarve is complete without the flavour of piri piri chicken. You have probably been to your local piri piri chicken restaurant but you haven’t really tried this dish until you taste it in its native Portugal. If you head slightly inland to the mountains you can visit some of the smaller, family-run restaurants, here you can find exquisitely fiery piri piri at its best. Made with succulent chicken basted and marinated in the famous piri piri chilli and cooked on a charcoal grill. Eat this spicy and served slightly rustic and you won’t be disappointed, but you might need a lot of water.
A simple and rustic starter of couvert will not disappoint. This dish is an antipasti style platter of fresh crusty bread accompanied by sardine pate, olives and cheese. Satisfying and simple it can sometimes include marinated carrots and is fun to share. Another favourite starter is the caldo verde. A green broth made with cabbage, potato and the spicy chouriço sausage that has a true taste of Portugal.
Originating in the mid-northern Beira province of Portugal, this traditional treat has become very popular in the Algarve and really is worth a taste. It is a hearty stew of meats and vegetables that can also be found in Spain, where it is called cocido. It is a rich dish but you will find different incarnations depending on where you eat it. The main ingredients are usually beef, pork and Portuguese sausages; however you may also discover chicken added to this meaty mix. The cozido is served with vegetables, potatoes and rice; including carrots and turnips. It is quite similar to the French dish cassoulet.
The humble sardine is the summertime hero of the Algarve. The aroma of locally caught fish as they slowly grill on braziers is delicious, especially when found at the beach. When you get your sardines try eating them like a local. No knife and fork. Get them placed in pieces of crusty bread and eat them with your hands. Scrumptious.
Many Portuguese dishes are traditionally cooked in a cataplana which is a large copper pan that has a lid which can be sealed with clamps on either side to. Amêijoas na Cataplana is just one of the various dishes made in the cataplana, made with clams, tomatoes, cured ham, chouriço sausage and white wine. The unusual combination of the garlic flavoured pork and particularly sweet Algarve clams gives a salty and flavour-filled delight. A must try.