As with the rest of Portugal, the Algarve is home to some exceptionally tasty dishes. Blending traditional Iberian influences with its own take on cuisine, the Algarve is renowned for its food and the restaurants that serve it all up to you.
As a coastal destination, the Algarve is a definite favourite with fish lovers, with fresh catch-of-the-day dishes readily available in the towns. It's not just a destination for fish lovers though, with tender meat and delectable vegetarian delights on the menu too.
Whether you stop into a Casa de Chá (a teahouse that serves up herbal and black teas along with a usually impressive selection of cakes) or a Fumerio (a smokehouse that serve up cured pork and cheese with oil and cornbread), the Algarve will have a tradition that undoubtedly suits your mood.
Sit-down restaurants and cafés aren't the only way of life in the Algarve though, as the Portuguese destination is home to lots of markets, selling all manner of foodstuffs. The markets and their locations are listed in more detail in the Villa Plus guide to the Algarve, but rest assured that markets occur in the Albufeira, Faro, Lagos, Loule, Monchique, Portimao and Silves. These markets sell everything from freshly-caught fish to fruit, vegetables, and meat, and often feature vendors selling prepared goods too that make an excellent lunch.
Portugal is home to many speciality dishes. From spicy chicken to offal stews, the Algarve serves up all its culinary delights with panache. Though the pace of life (and usually the table service) can be a little slower than you may be used to, the Portuguese relax when it comes to their food and enjoy eating – to fully enjoy the cuisine on offer in the Algarve it's worth bearing this in mind.
Take your meal slow, and enjoy every taste as it arrives – no one else is rushing either. Here are a few of the dishes that are on offer in the Algarve:
- Chicken Piri Piri – worlds away from what we eat under the same title in the UK, the Portuguese piri piri is cooked on open flames, and comes with a bit of a kick. It's usually served with salad and rice or potatoes.
- Cataplana – a one-pot dish that consists of an array of seafood, namely mussels, clams, prawns and fresh fish, rice and potatoes. Very filling and very tasty!
- Feijoada – don't let the ingredients put you off of this dish. Yes, the feijoada contains offal, but it's cooked with pork, beans and tomatoes, stewed into a lovely thick sauce. It's usually served with bread or rice, and is definitely an experience to try once you're here.
Why not liven up your home-cooking and try some Portuguese cuisine before you explore the country for yourself?
It's not all spicy food, and even if it is, the native dishes are easy to recreate for yourself at home. For a main meal, you could try piri piri prawns and couscous, with a delicious broa castelar (sweet potato cookie) for a tasty treat after.
Piri Piri Prawns
For the piri piri prawns, you'll need:
- Twelve large cleaned African prawns with the shells removed and tails on
- Two chopped and seedless red chillies
- One roughly chopped dried chilli
- Juice of half a lemon
- Three peeled garlic cloves
- One tablespoon of smoked paprika
- Four tablespoons of olive oil
- One tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- Pinch of salt and pepper
It may be an intimidating list of ingredients if you've not worked with spices much before, but the method of preparing the dish couldn't be easier. By blending all of the ingredients except the prawns together, you create a nice piri piri sauce.
Next, rub this over the cleaned and de-shelled prawns before leaving them in the fridge for an hour or so to marinate. After the hour, cook the prawns on a really hot griddle or frying pan. Allow around five minutes for each side of the prawns, though cooking time will greatly depend on the size of the prawns. Serve up with couscous and a dash of leftover lemon juice – incredibly tasty and quick to make, too.
For the sweet potato cookies you'll need:
- 700g of sweet potatoes
- Two tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- 250g of corn flour
- 250g of plain flour
- 150g of grated coconut
- Three eggs
- One orange rind
- 300g sugar
- Two egg yolks for brushing
Firstly, be sure to cook your peeled sweet potatoes – you can do this by boiling them on a medium heat with a pinch of salt until they're soft. Once the potatoes are cooked, add the sugar to the pan (including the water) that they are sitting in. Stir whilst this mixture simmers until it reaches a puree like consistency, then take the pan off of the heat and allow to cool for an hour.
Then, add all the other ingredients, minus the flour and two additional egg yolks. Place it on the heat again and mix well until the mixture boils. At this point, you can add the flour – on mixing it should be a smooth, even and thicker in consistency. Pour the mix onto a floured sheet, and allow to cool once more. Now you can mould the dough into the traditional cone shape, before brushing with the beaten yolks you've saved.
These cookies cook at 180 degrees Celsius for around 15 to 20 minutes, and should look golden brown when cooked.