Alentejo for food lovers

Tomba Lobos, Portalegre – José Júlio Vintém’s leading restaurant

It may have been the driest vintage ever, but it has rained steadily since I arrived in Alentejo on Tuesday. Fortunately great comfort – quite possibly too much comfort (!) is to be had from this southern Portugal region’s famous cuisine. I’m a huge fan of the country’s soups and Alentejo’s are the heartiest!

Describing its biggest city, Évora, as Portugal’s Lyons, Lisbon-based chef Vitor Claro says because Alentejo was one of the country’s poorest regions, dishes are very creative – informed by what’s available locally and making the most of left overs.

The region is blessed with great raw ingredients – notably black pig, olives, cheese. I’m much looking forward to giving it a go myself at an Alentejo gastronomy and “convent pastry” cookery course tomorrow. Meantime, here’s some pics of some glorious examples famous regional dishes.

“Fish of the farm” (peppers, onions, beans) – Alentejo lays claim to inventing the tempura method

Pétalas de toucinho – fine slices of black pig fat, an alternative to butter

Oven baked goats cheese

Pork knuckle

Skate with capers & skate liver

Pork shank

Duck breast with cherry jam

Marmelo (quince) ice-cream – used also to make marmalade, which originated in Portugal, made from quince

Not so petit fours!

Sopa de beldroegas com queijinhos e ovos at JP Ramos

And this is beldroegas, which grows wild

Preparing for sopa – day old bread

Fabulous sopa de tomate à alentejana at Restaurante Serra d’Ossa

Convent pastries

Sopa de açorda de bacalhau at Restaurante Sao Rosas, Estremoz

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