Eat Like a Local in Portugal with ESFW

We’re all about exploring foreign countries and indulging in worldly cuisines. There’s no better way to get to know a destination than through its food, learning how to really Eat Like a Local and maybe even picking up a few cooking tips while you’re at it.

To help uncover Portugal’s foodie scene, we’ve enlisted the help of some of the best cookery schools, who have all been kind enough to give us one Portuguese recipe each. The Edinburgh School of Food and Wine, Scotland’s oldest cookery school, shared this delicious recipe for clams bulhao pato (named after poet Raimundo Antonio de Bulhao Pato) with us.  Read more

Eat Like a Local in Portugal with Billingsgate Seafood Training School

Portugal and fine cuisine go hand in hand. When you’re visiting sun-kissed regions like the Algarve, you’re immediately struck by the range of dishes on offer – think Atlantic seafood and marinated meats, with a whole dose of Mediterranean influences thrown in for good measure.

As part of our ongoing Eat Like a Local project, we’re on a mission to uncover the ins and outs of Portuguese food. We called on some of the UK’s best cookery schools to help us out and they were all kind enough to provide us with a Portuguese recipe of their choice. First up, we’ve got Billingsgate Seafood Training School.

Billingsgate Seafood Training School

Billingsgate Seafood Training School is located on the first floor of the Billingsgate Fish Market, the UK’s largest inland fish market. With such a huge variety of fish sold at the market, the school are able to take advantage of seafood from all over the world. As well as teaching budding chefs essential techniques, the school educates children on the enjoyment and benefits of eating fish as part of a balanced diet.

Naturally, the school sent us this delicious recipe for caldereta de pescado (fish stew) with saffron and picada (almond paste) to show you how to really Eat Like a Local in Portugal.

Ingredients

1kg white fish fillets (e.g. monkfish, hake or red mullet), pin-boned and skinned
4 small squid, gutted and cleaned
500g prepared mussels, thoroughly washed
500g prepared clams, thoroughly washed
250g large raw prawns, peeled and deveined
150ml dry white wine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
2 large red peppers, deseeded and quartered
1 large pinch cayenne pepper
1 large pinch saffron
1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
300ml fish stock
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Method

For the stew

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Cut the fish fillets into large pieces and the squid into large squares. Chill until needed.
  2. Check the mussels and clams are either shut, or that they close when tapped sharply. Put the wine in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then add the mussels and clams and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes (or until they open). Discard any mussels and clams that remain shut.
  3. Strain the liquid and reserve. Remove the shellfish from their shells.
  4. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish, add the onion and cook until softened. Stir in the garlic, cayenne pepper, saffron and flour for around 1-2 minutes, then add the mussels liquid, fish stock and parsley.
  5. Add the raw seafood and peppers and season to taste. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, then serve sprinkled with lemon.

For the picada

15g pine nuts
15g blanches almonds
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
25g white bread (without crusts)
4 garlic cloves
1 handful of flat leaf parsley

  1. Heat a frying pan and dry roast the pine nuts for one minute and the almonds for two. Leave to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the bread in two tablespoons of olive oil for one minute on each side until it turns crisp and golden brown. Leave to cool.
  3. Break the fried bread into the bowl of a food processor, add the nuts and grind together finely. At this stage, the mixture should be coarse, similar to sand.
  4. Add the garlic and parsley with the remaining two tablespoons of oil. Grind together until it forms a thick paste.

Stay up to date with Billingsgate Seafood Training School on their website, or get more holiday inspiration and look at Villa Plus properties in Portugal.

Eat Like a Local in Portugal with The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School

Portugal isn’t just golden sands and stunning Algarve coastlines – it’s also home to heavenly cuisine renowned across the globe. We’re all about immersing ourselves in foreign cultures and trying new recipes, so we’ve decided to focus on Portugal for the next instalment of our Eat Like a Local series.

To help us get to know Portuguese food, we called on several of the UK’s top cookery schools. This time round we’ve got The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery school, who gave us this delightful recipe for natas, a Portuguese sweet tart.

The Bertinet Kitchen opened its doors in 2005, in Bath. Under the ownership of French baker Richard Bertinet, this award-winning school offers a range of relaxed and fun courses for food lovers of all abilities, along with specialist baking and bread making courses.

Taken from Pastry by Richard Bertinet, photograph by Jean Cazals (Ebury)

Without further ado, here’s how to do dessert – Portuguese style.

Ingredients – natas

Butter for greasing the tin
100g icing sugar plus some more for dusting
1 packet of readymade all-butter puff pastry
250ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour
Cinnamon or nutmeg if desired

Method

  1. Put the milk into a heavy based saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla pod along its length then scrape the seeds into the milk. Put the pods in too.
  2. Add the egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk until pale and creamy, then add the flour and mix until smooth.
  3. Put the pan of milk over a medium heat. Bring to just under the boil and then slowly pour in half the egg mixture, whisking well as you do.
  4. Add in the remainder of the milk and whisk again, before proceeding to pour the mixture back into the pan.
  5. Bring to the boil, whisking all the time, then keep boiling and whisking continuously for one minute. Remove from the heat.
  6. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl or jug and scoop out the vanilla pods.
  7. Cover the surface with greaseproof paper straight away to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool.
  8. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin and dust your work surface with icing sugar. Take your pastry from the fridge and roll out until it’s around 4-5mm thick, sprinkling with icing sugar as you go. Use a pastry cutter to cut 12 rounds of pastry about 10cm in diameter (big enough to line the tin holes and leave a little overhang).
  9. Put the tin in the fridge and rest for an hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
  10. Remove the tin from the fridge and fill the pastry cakes with custard, then sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the sugar is caramelised, while the custard is dark in spots. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin, then cool completely before serving.

Baker Richard Bertinet runs The Bertinet Kitchen Cookery School and The Bertinet Bakery, both based in Bath. Find out more about the school via its website, or look at Villa Plus rentals in Portugaland take the first steps to your Portuguese getaway.

Portugal: mountain biking routes for adventurous holiday makers

Sun, sea, sand, and a whole new world of culture and cuisine – Portugal certainly has a lot going for it. Many people dream of jetting off to the Portuguese coast to sunbathe and sip cocktails, and really, who can blame them? But it’s also a fantastic destination for activity holidays, especially if you’re a keen cyclist.

In Portugal, mountain biking routes can be found everywhere, although the best are in the Algarve region. If you’re planning a biking holiday here, there are plenty of tracks to suit all abilities and a self-catered villa is perfect for using as a base camp for them. Without further ado, let’s start with mount Foia…

Downhill cycling in Monchique

The highest mountain in the Algarve is called Foia and it’s a popular spot for cyclists. For a fun family day that will suit older children with some cycling experience, hitch a ride to the top of Foia and cycle back down through the Serra de Monchique hills. From the mountain peak to the town of Mexilhoeira Grande (just outside Lagos), this quiet, rural and visually stunning route runs for a little over 20 miles.

Albufeira via the Algibre River

This route takes you from the coastal town of Albufeira, then north through the Quarteira river valley and on to Paderne, home to a Moorish castle. The arm of the Quarteira river that spills into Paderne from the northeast is known as the Algibre, an area of great natural beauty with an extensive network singletrack path network. From Paderne you can cycle west, looping back down to Albufeira through the rocky trails and orange groves of Tunes.

Albufeira countryside and coastal ride

For a sightseeing tour of Albufeira for all the family, start in the centre of town and head northwest to Guia, famous for its vineyards. Afterwards, move south towards the coast, where you can explore the Salgados Lagoon – a popular wildlife hotspot – via specially constructed boardwalks.

From Salgados you can begin to go east back to Albufeira, moving inland from the coast at particularly rocky areas. Coming into the town from the west you can admire the marina, the central stretch of beach and Albufeira’s charming cobbled old town.

Algarve coastal tour

If you really want to make the most of your time in the Algarve, why not take a full-day bike tour along the coast? Setting off from Vila Real de Santo Antonio, start with a flat, scenic stretch west through the resorts of Altura and onto the seaside hamlets of Cacela Velha and Fabrica. Taking a break in historic Tavira, continue on to Luz and the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a huge area of lagoons and marshes which its famed for its bird population. From here, you can trundle back to Luz before unwinding to a classic Algarve sunset.

Regardless of where you’re cycling to, remember to pack plenty of sun lotion and water. That way, you’ll be free to really enjoy Portugal’s renowned cycling routes.

Look at Villa Plus accommodation in the Algarve and make that biking getaway you’ve always dreamt of a reality.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Good snorkelling holidays for villa-loving travellers

Holiday rentals provide the perfect basecamp for snorkelling getaways. Hiring a villa gives you the freedom to prepare your own packed lunches and dinners, and you’ll have plenty of room to store your snorkels, flippers and wetsuits.


Image by Lance, used under CC License (CC by 2.0

Good snorkelling holidays unlock a country’s most enthralling secrets. Pack your underwater camera and get ready to delve deep in some of these top destinations…

Costa del Sol, Spain

Costa del Sol is blessed with tepid waters bustling with marine life. On top of that, there’s plenty of sun-kissed beaches where you can set up camp before a few hours of snorkelling. Visit Maro beach, near the town of Nerja, and try to find its fascinating underwater cave if you’re feeling daring.

The shores surrounding Las Yucas and La Viborilla beaches, near Benalmadena, house a wide range of fish such as tuna, bonitos, and dolphinfish.

Costa Blanca, Spain

Like Costa del Sol, the Costa Blanca is a snorkelers’ paradise. Explore the region’s shorelines and you’ll quickly find that it’s simply brimming with underwater life. Granadella Cove, near Javea, has notoriously clear waters. Not only that, it’s quite sheltered so younger snorkellers can see the bay’s treasures, too.

The Algarve, Portugal

Portugal’s Algarve coast comprises playful Atlantic waters and warming sands. It’s also home to the famed Ria Formosa lagoon, one of the country’s many natural wonders. Here you’ll find one of the largest populations of seahorses in the world – wipe down your face mask and prepare to dive amongst them.

Cyprus

If you visit Cyprus during summertime, you might encounter beautiful green and loggerhead turtles on the island’s western coast. The island’s Cape Greco National Park is well worth a visit, too, complete with some of the clearest waters in the region and picturesque in every sense of the word.

Corfu, Greece

The Greek island of Corfu has plenty of spots for a good snorkelling holiday. Its pebbly beaches tend to have clearer waters, but you might want to wear a wetsuit or flippers to protect your feet from the jaggier rocks! Keep your eyes peeled for a diverse range of silverside fish, alongside flathead mullet and painted combers.

Pula, Croatia


Image by Christoph Sammer, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Croatia’s idyllic Adriatic coastlines are the envy of the world. Pula houses some of its finest and along with these renowned views, it has a number of great snorkelling spots.

Take Brijuni National Park, a short boat journey from Pula. The waters of these 14 small, protected islands are alive with flora, fauna and old Roman artefacts. In Verige Bay, on the western coast of the park, you can get a guided tour to explore submerged archaeological sites. Take full advantage and get excited for a day of underwater education.

Whether you’re travelling as a family, with friends or with your partner or spouse, a snorkelling holiday provides an unrivalled way to get to know a country’s ins and outs. Uncover exotic species of fish or simply paddle around and let the waves wash over you – underwater getaways are always ones to remember.

Have a look at some of the Villa Plus offerings in these hotspots and let your snorkelling dreams come to life.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Two easy Portuguese pork chop recipes to make in your villa

Few places do pork chops like Portugal. If you’re thinking of taking a self catering getaway, or are just wanting to whip up a few holiday meals of your own, consider opting for a self-catering villa. Having your own space gives you the freedom to relax, dictate your schedule and – most importantly – cook! With these easy, delicious Portuguese pork chop recipes, you’ll be off to a flying start.

Fried pork chops

fried-pork-chopsImage by Matthias Zomer on StockSnap

Pork is really popular in Portugal, and a prominent feature of many dishes. One of the simplest ways to cook it involves just a handful of ingredients and a decent pan.

For each person dining, take one pork chop, before seasoning them all with salt, pepper and – if you can handle the heat – some locally bought hot sauce. Finely chop the garlic along with a bunch of bay leaves, before scraping it all over the meat. Drizzle with lemon juice, cover the chops and let them marinate for an hour or so.

Many Portuguese fry the meat in pork lard, but you can use olive oil if you can’t source the real deal. Melt your oil or lard in a pan and then add the pork chops, browning them on both sides.

At this point you can add either water or white wine to the pan, alongside a knob of butter, to boost the flavour of the sauce. If you aren’t sure how long to cook everything for, check the chops with a meat thermometer or sneak one out of the pan and cut it open.

Compliment the spicy allures with seasoned rice and a fresh green salad.

Red pepper pork chops

red-pepper-pork-chopsImage by David Marcu on StockSnap.

If you’re seeking something which’ll make your mouth melt, these red pepper pork chops will do just the trick…

Start with a visit to your local market or greengrocers. Buy large red bell peppers, medium-sized green chillies (jalapeños), garlic, parsley and, of course, some fresh pork chops. You’ll also need a splash of dry white wine, such as Vinho Verde, and a few basic kitchen utensils.

To create your pork marinade, roast your thinly chopped peppers and chillies (with their seeds removed) until they are soft. If you have a blender, use it fuse together the peppers and chillies with garlic, olive oil and salt. Otherwise, using a mortar and pestle will have a similar effect. You can adapt the amounts you use depending upon your love of the ingredients.

When the marinade is ready, arrange your chops in a dish and rub it into the meat. Pour over the wine and put the pork in the fridge, leaving it to marinate for an hour and flipping the meat over halfway through.

After marinating, the chops will be ready to cook. Heat up your barbecue or grill, and then fry the marinated pork until browned. Green vegetables and fresh bread go brilliantly with this recipe, particularly when washed down with that leftover wine.

Who knew pork chops could be this tasty? Experience these flavours for yourself and browse a selection of properties in Portugal.

By Imogen Bishop, a part time travel writer, part time restaurant critic, and full-time mum. She has an affinity for Mediterranean cuisine and can usually be found in the kitchen with a bottle of olive oil in hand.

Best drinks for your self-catering holiday to the Algarve

A huge advantage of self-catering holidays is that you can get a real taste of local culinary offerings. And this is just as true with local drinks as local cuisine. Take a trip to a nearby shop or market and see what delicious tipples you can find to bring back to your villa. After dinner, sip wine on the balcony, or lounge in the evening sun with a chilled beer.

Portugal is a world-famous wine destination, but oenophiles aren’t the only visitors who will love the drinks on offer here. From spirits to beers, you’ll come across a wide range of beverages in the Algarve, and without an expensive hotel menu to limit you, you can try them all. Here are some you have to sample:

Enjoy some spicy Portuguese “fire water” in your Algarve villa
Image by zone41, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Wine in the Algarve

The climate on Portugal’s southern coast is ideal for grape growing and winemaking. The regions of Lagoa, Portimão, Lagos and Tavira are particularly renowned for their wine. Wine production here also dates back to the days of ancient civilisations like the Greeks and Phoenicians, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the process!

Quinta do Morgado da Torre in Portimão is among the region’s oldest vineyards, and the fruity whites and reds here are made from hand harvested grapes. For a fun day out, treat yourself to a tour, tasting, then purchase a few bottles in the shop to bring home to your holiday villa.

Take advantage of delicious Portuguese wine on your self-catering holiday
Image by zone41, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Macieira

First produced in the 19th century, Macieira is a fruity brandy with a long history in Portugal. Today, it remains one of the nation’s most popular drinks. It is also sold worldwide, but for the best experience, you should drink it in its home place.

This brandy is golden brown in colour with light, fragrant flavours. You can enjoy it on its own, with ice, or mixed with soda water or soft drinks, so it’s a versatile drink that can be tailored to suit every palate.

Aguardente de Medronhos

This strong spirit is also known as ‘fire water,’ as a result of the hot sensation you feel when you swallow it. Distilled from the strawberry-like fruits of the Medronho tree, Aguardente de Medronhos offers a true taste of Portuguese tradition. It is hand produced by farmers in rural areas, so for the most authentic flavours, purchase a bottle directly from the producer – you might find some at a market stall.

Some locals drink Aguardente de Medronhos with breakfast to wake them up, so if you fancy starting your day the Portuguese way, you could give it a go. Otherwise, enjoy sipping this fiery beverage after a meal. If you think you’d prefer something a bit gentler, try mixing it with honey to make a drink called Melosa.

Beer in the Algarve

You won’t find any better location than the sunny Algarve to sample Portuguese beers. There are three main national brands to look out for. The first, Sagres, is a pale lager which is dry and refreshing to drink. Super Bock is another lager. It’s a Portuguese classic, and among the country’s favourite beer brands.

The third national brand is Cristal Pilsner, a light, fruity, easy to drink beer that is perfect for any occasion. If you want a taste of home while you’re abroad, you’ll also find lots of familiar international beer brands on sale in supermarkets.

By Shaun Fraser, a former drinks rep, who now focuses on writing about his favourite tipples from Europe and beyond. He credits his good nose to a previous life as a sommelier.

Your guide to the Algarve

The southern Portuguese region of the Algarve is one of Europe’s most glittering jewels. Despite remaining unspoiled by mass tourism, the region is awash with first-rate facilities and tourist amenities. It’s clear why millions of holidaymakers travel there each year – they flock for the sheer number of beaches, dramatic seaside rock formations, charming villages, nearly endless sunshine, and friendly Portuguese culture. The Algarve also remains one of the best value destinationswhile still offering more than its fair share of luxury.

Discover the Algarve
Image by Garaigoikoa, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

1. The Beaches

Making up the southern portion of mainland Portugal, the Algarve boasts over a hundred and fifty miles of beautiful coastline and too many beaches to count. From small rocky scalloped coves to long sandy stretches that seem to go on forever, the coast here almost makes visitors feel like they get a beach each! Coupled with the dramatic limestone rock formations that pepper much of the coast and the deep blue waters, it’s obvious why the Algarve’s many beaches attract so many visitors.

Take a self-catering trip to the Algarve

Praia da Marinha, Lagoa

Perhaps the Algarve’s most iconic stretch of beach, Praia da Marinha adorns many of the tourist brochures of the regions and it is easy to see why. With multiple sea stacks, arches and steep cliffs blending with the pristine sand and balmy waters below, it is no wonder visitors flock to this picturesque beach each year. If you only visit one beach in the Algarve, it should really be this one. Regular boat trips also let you see the stunning geology up close, and the clear waters are ideal for diving and snorkelling.

Treat yourself to a self-catering holiday in the Algarve

Praia da Falésia, Albufeira

Boasting nearly four miles of golden sand, Praia da Falésia is among the longest beaches in the Algarve. Backed by towering, pine-tree-covered red cliffs, this large beach has more than enough room for everyone. Known for its laid-back atmosphere and well-stocked amenities, Praia da Falésia remains an excellent spot to lie back and enjoy the Portuguese sunshine.

Praia da Galé

An archetypal stretch of Algarve beach, Praia da Galé offers lovely soft sand and warm waters. The area is also full of caves, rockpools and striking rock formations perfect for children to explore. Found between the towns of Albuferia and Armação de Pêra, the coastline has small secluded beaches as well long uninterrupted ones ideal for a morning stroll. The area is popular with holidaymakers and has lots bars and restaurants nearby, including the famous two-Michelin-starred Villa Joya.

Ilha de Tavira

Tavira Island is found to the east of Faro and is made up of a long and unspoilt Blue Flag beach. Only a stone’s throw from the mainland, the sandbar island has no permanent settlement. This makes Ilha de Tavira a serene place to enjoy the seaside all year long. It’s also a small part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park – a conservation area well known for its vibrant bird life.

Embrace the Algarve
Image by p_v a l d i v i e s o, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

2. The Destinations

The Algarve may be a small region, but there is a rich diversity in the destinations it offers. From touristy resorts, to authentic Portuguese villages, there is plenty of scope for a unique holiday each time you go.

Faro

The largest city and capital of the Algarve region, Faro is a major tourist hub all year round. Often overlooked by visitors en route to their villa or resort, the city has a wealth of cultural activities to enjoy. It is also one of the best places to experience an authentic slice of Portuguese life. In its well-preserved medieval old town, you’ll find a host of museums, cobbled lanes, and historic churches that offer a flavour of the area’s rich and storied history. With a very different vibe to the major resort towns of the area, Faro is a must-see place if you’re looking to capture the real Algarve.

Albufeira

The quintessential resort town, Albufeira might not provide the best example of the “real Portugal”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an ideal spot for a holiday. This area is rich in tourist-focused amenities, being awash with bars, cafes, and restaurants. It also acts as an excellent hub for the beautiful nearby waterfront with beaches like Praia da Galé and Praia dos Alemães close by. The town’s modern marina offers boat trips to explore the area’s rocky coves, see its dolphins and wildlife, and even go diving.

Lagos

Perhaps the finest tourist town the Algarve offers, Lagos will please culture lovers and action seekers alike. With historic city walls protecting its old town, the city’s long heritage is very much on display. But away from the cobbled lanes and chilled piazzas, you will discover a modern city ideal for a short break. Beautiful Praia da Batata beach is just minutes from the town centre and the seafront offers a range of water sports and boat tours to enjoy.

Sagres

By heading to the region’s western edges, you’ll be greeted by some dramatic windswept scenery and a selection of the most scenic fishing villages in Portugal. One of the finest places to go it the town of Sagres. Located right on the most south-westerly point of the Iberian Peninsula, Sagres was greatly linked with the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Today, the town offers rugged scenery, first-class surfing, and dramatic views out across the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Things for the kids

While perfect for a for a getaway no matter your age, the Algarve is the ideal destinations for a family holiday. With more than enough attractions to keep the kids entertained, a holiday to this part of Portugal is sure to be a hit. Here are some of the top child-friendly attractions in the region:

Zoomarine

Despite being open seasonally, Zoomarine remains the Algarve’s most visited attraction. As popular with adults as it is with kids, the water park combines its ecological attempts to protect and preserve Portugal’s marine life with a wildly entertaining water park full of slides, pools, and other entertainment. The park gives your little ones a chance to learn, have fun, and interact with dolphins at the at the famous Dolphin Emotions centre.

Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival

A delightfully unique event, the Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival is a must-try experience for any trip to the Algarve between May and October. As the name suggests, it is a festival of sand sculptures – the largest in the world – and provides a memorable day out for the children to see amazing sandy creations both big and small.

Mini Golf

The Algarve one of the world’s premier golfing destinations. In fact, it can lay claim to more than 25 championship courses. But there are plenty places for the wee ones to practice their swing, too. Family Golf Park, found in Quarteira, tempts budding golfers with two fantastic and well-maintained courses. Meanwhile, Mini Golf Quinta do Lago in central Algarve boasts a miniature version of some of golf’s most famous holes!

Zoo de Lagos

Another continual family favourite, Zoo de Lagos is sure to delight the kids. While not the largest zoo out there, it does contain three hectares of beautifully maintained grounds with all manner of animals to see, from cobras and crocodiles to primates and pelicans.

4. Food in the Algarve

The Algarve’s residents, like the Portuguese in general, love their seafood. And as they are surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic, there is no shortage of it either. Cafés and restaurants often have a catch of the day on offer, letting you enjoy some of the freshest fish you’ll likely ever try. Other seafood like sardines, shellfish, and calamari make up a number of the area’s signature local dishes. From mouth-watering recipes like Clams in Cataplana, Camarão Portuguesa (garlic prawns) to Algarve-style oysters, the seafood dishes here could be among the best you try.

Arianne Fabrice is a travel journalist who specialises in the popular resort destinations in and around Europe. Having worked for some of Paris’ premium travel mags, she’s recently moved into English-language publications.

Algarve self-catering: recipe for Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha

Self-catering doesn’t mean skimping on luxury, and it means you get to try out the best local cuisine. To make sure you enjoy the full flavour of the Algarve while in a holiday let, here’s a delicious recipe that you need to try if you take a break to southern Portugal.

Steamed Clams
Image by suchiorg, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Portuguese Self-Catering Recipe

What better way to embrace the taste of Portugal from the luxury of your villa in the Algarve than by sampling a popular dish from the region. Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha is a simple, tasty dish that you can whip up with a minimum of fuss, and enjoy at your leisure on a balmy Mediterranean evening. They love their seafood in this part of the world, and they also love their pork – so why not combine the two!

Local Algarve Ingredients

A thick flavoursome stew of pork sausage, clams, garlic and tomato, Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha is quintessentially Portuguese and benefits from the quality of the local Algarve produce available. You can make it with ingredients back home, but the small, sweet and delicate Portuguese clams are without doubt the best for making this dish sing. As is the subtle and nutty Portuguese take on chorizo – called chouriço – but chorizo or pepperoni should make a fine substitute if there’s none available.  The best way to prepare it is with a traditional Portuguese clamshell cataplana, but if you don’t have one you can use a normal pot. Though you’ll be hard pushed to find a Portuguese kitchen without a cataplana!

Portuguese Kitchen
Image by chilangoco, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Ingredients for Clams in a Cataplana Casa Velha

3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
4 dozen small clams
3 medium onions
3 large garlic cloves
2 large sweet green peppers
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 can tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
2 ounces lean prosciutto
1/4 pound lean smoked ham
1/4 pound chouriço

Preparation and Cooking Instructions

First things first, you need to scrub the clams. Once they’ve been given a good clean, place them in a large pot and fill with cold water. Add the cornmeal to the water as this helps draw out any sand or grit from inside. Leave to soak for at least an hour.

Now it’s time for the sauce. Crush the garlic and chop the onions, and cut the peppers into smallish strips and then cook the lot in a large pan with olive oil for around ten minutes. Once they start to smell tasty throw in the bay leaf, and the tin of tomatoes. Bring the mixture to the boil and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. While this simmers dice the prosciutto, ham, and chouriço, then throw the lot in and cook for another half an hour.

Now it’s time to get out the cataplana. Spoon half the sauce into the bottom of the cataplana and place over heat so the sauce gently cooks, then start adding the clams. Place them over the bed of sauce and then cover with the rest of the sauce and shut the cataplana.

Make sure the lid is secure and leave for ten minutes. After that, open the cataplana add the wine and the parsley and gently toss the clams. Reclose and cook for another 15 minutes or until the clams open. Throw out any clams that don’t. Now get out your ladle and serve the beautiful concoction with some Portuguese farm bread, pao. Why not add a crisp glass of local dry white wine, Arinto to perfectly complement your culinary creation? Bom apetite!

By Imogen Bishop, a part time travel writer, part time restaurant critic, and full time mum. She has an affinity for Mediterranean cuisine and can usually be found in the kitchen with a bottle of olive oil in hand.

The Algarve- more than just great beaches!

Of course, no trip to the Algarve would be complete without exploring the stunning sandy beaches that this destination has to offer. The shorelines are certainly sun drenched and hard to resist! Ranging from the expansive sands of Fisherman’s Beach in Albufeira to smaller coves such as Castelo. However, the Algarve has much more going for it than just its’ beaches making it a well-established family favourite.

5 reasons it should be top of your list for a family getaway in 2017

There are no shortage activities to keep children of all ages occupied so here is a snap shot of the best things to do whilst you are here.

1. Zoomarine, Guia

Zoomarine is arguably the Algarve’s biggest attraction and ideal for a fun packed day out. It has shows, rides, slides and pools a plenty- a great marine experiences for all the family. It’s much more than just a waterpark with an educational element too giving children and adults alike the chance to learn about wildlife, conversation and the environment. As you are in Guia- home of chicken piri piri it would be rude not to stop off for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants after a day of fun!

2. Waterparks

The Algarve has some great waterparks to guarantee hours of fun. Aqualand, in Alcantarilha, with the famous Kamikaze and Benzai slides has to be top of the list. However, Slide and Splash and Aquashow are well worth a visit too!

3. Fiesa Sand Sculpture Festival

The International Sand Sculpture Festival, held in Pera, takes place every year from May to October. It celebrates a different theme each year and takes the 50 international artists 8 weeks to prepare for! The exhibitions are an impressive sight both during the day and at night when the sculptures are illuminated with coloured lights. There is a bar and snack bar, occasional live music and a very relaxed vibe. The exhibits are fantastic and are created by artists from all over the world – great fun for all the family!

4. Mini Golf

The Algarve is home to some of the best golf courses in the world and if you wish to get the children in on the act there are 2 mini golf courses for them to try at the Family Golf Park, in Vilamoura. The theme throughout is ancient Rome and it is beautifully landscaped with water features, obstacles and even a bird house. This is mini golf at its best.

5. Karting

Karting is a family favourite with 4 venues in the Algarve to choose from. There is a fabulous indoor Hot Wheels Raceway in Albufeira, an outdoor track at Almancil, a great karting track near Portimao and the International Race Track next door. This is where the world championships and Superbike competitions take place