Plentiful seafood and fish – as fresh as it can get – are the foundations of the Algarve’s mouthwatering cuisine. All sorts of fish and shellfish end up on the grill, anything from clams and cockles to razor clams – not to mention that Portuguese favourite, sardines. Carnivores aren’t ignored, though, as you head into the hills for tasty meat dishes and stews. And with the amount of sunshine the Algarve gets every year, its orchards and fields produce a rich bounty of fruit and vegetables.
Packed with paprika and garlic, this delicious sausage is a staple of Portuguese cooking. Similar to the Spanish chorizo, it’s often grilled in a terracotta dish called an assa chouriço – with added flavour coming from a splash of alcohol. Enjoy it with some bread and olives to go with an aperitif.
Clams a cataplana
Much of the Algarve’s gorgeous seafood ends up in a cataplana, a clam-shaped cooking vessel made of copper. Clams are among the most popular, and their juicy flavour is kept intact thanks to the clever shape of the cataplana. You’ll usually find chouriço and pork added to the mix to give the dish extra depth.
Cozido de grão
Chickpeas form the basis of this rib-sticking stew that’s an important part of the Algarve’s cuisine away from the coast. But vegetarians can look away now: added to the broth are generous portions of veal, pork, chouriço and lamb, as well as lashings of paprika.
Algarve’s climate and geography make it an ideal region for winemaking, thanks to its high temperatures, variety of soil and the protection from the wind given by the Monchique mountains. Try intense reds made from the castelão grape, or floral whites made from arinto and perrum.
Vinho verde, which comes from northern Portugal, is found on most wine lists in the Algarve. This young wine has a slight fizz to it and is a refreshing accompaniment to regional fish and seafood. For a digestif, have a glass of medronho, a fruit brandy made medronho berries, which bear a little resemblance to strawberries.
Fishermen go to great lengths to collect percebes – goose barnacles – mainly because these odd-looking crustaceans have a habit of clinging to rather inaccessible rocks. Once they’re boiled, their taste is like diving into the sea. They’re even more wonderful when served with a cooling glass of vinho verde.
This classic Portuguese soup is packed with flavour and healthy ingredients, namely curly kale. It’s made with potatoes and garlic, and although there are vegetarian versions, often you’ll see chouriço added to it.
Galinha de cabidela
Baked chicken is given a Portuguese twist in this traditional dish – namely that it’s cooked in its own blood. As the chicken is killed, the blood is kept to create a rich sauce. There’s an equally yummy version made with rabbit, and both are served with rice.
Taste the Algarve’s Moorish past through its cakes and pastries, many of which are made with almonds and honey. Look out for little cakes known as morgados made with egg yolk and sugar, as well as quiejo de figo, a delectable combination of figs, almonds and chocolate.
Article written by Mary Novakovich. In partnership with the Algarve Tourism Bureau.