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Flavours of the Algarve


Fruit of the sea or harvested from the land, here are ten Algarve mouthwatering ingredients that will make you come back for more...

Portugal, and especially the Algarve, produce some of the best oysters in Europe. The Ria Formosa and Ria de Alvor are two of the places where these bivalves thrive. Thanks to the ideal conditions here in Portugal, oysters take between a year and a year and a half to grow, while in France they take up to four years, which means that they are mainly produced for export.

Clams are the most popular bivalves in the region. Cooked on their own with olive oil, garlic and coriander, or to accompany seafood rice, these little shellfish add a unique and refined flavour to any dish. Clams inhabit the sandy and muddy bottoms of the Algarve coast, and when served Bulhão Pato style they are a highlight of Portuguese cuisine that delight locals and tourists alike.

Scarlet Shrimp
Considered the Rolls-Royce of seafood, scarlet shrimp are large and very tasty. Roasted, fried or grilled, to accompany rice or a cataplana, this huge red prawn is an unforgettable sensory experience. With its elongated head, which has a spike similar to a proboscis, its flesh is sweet and has a delicate texture. An excellent option for serving prawns is to cut them in half lengthways and grill them very quickly.

Goose barnacles
Mistakenly called the ‘poor man's seafood’ (each kilo can cost more than 50 euros when the sea is rough), goose barnacles are one of the most sought-after delicacies in the Algarve. Harvested by barnacle gatherers who risk their lives on the cliffs to catch them, goose barnacles are not very attractive crustaceans. They are eaten by squeezing the tip and pulling back the outside (similar to a dinosaur claw) to get to the tender meat.

Sweet potato
Gluten-free and rich in fibre, sweet potatoes are grown all over the country. With a reddish brown skin and yellow interior, the Aljezur variety of this tuber is used in soups, stews and pies, or served roasted or fried. Local residents are so proud of their sweet potatoes that they organize an annual festival around them when they come into season in November.

A natural antibiotic, Monchique honey is produced by Apis mellifera iberiensis bees. The composition of this honey varies due to the rich flora of the region, which includes lavender and rockrose, as well as heather and eucalyptus, producing a finely flavoured organic honey. It is also mixed with arbutus, lemon and cinnamon to produce the popular molasses, known for helping to cure colds.

In northern Europe, many think that the best oranges come from Spain. In fact, this precious Algarve fruit is sweeter and juicier than its Spanish cousin. A reliable source of vitamin C, oranges can be squeezed to make juice or made into pastries and cakes. Their natural sweetness is a result of the region's unique soil and the sun, which shines here all year round.

Used by locals to make sweets, desserts and Amarguinha liqueur, these delicious dried fruits are typical of the region. Blooming almond trees herald the arrival of spring, covering the ground with a carpet of pink and white petals that resemble snow. According to legend, it was a Moorish king who ordered almond trees to be planted in the Algarve so that his Nordic wife wouldn't miss the snow.

Their unique aroma fills the air on hot summer days. This is a sweet delicacy, which can be either green with a more acidic flavour, or purple and very sweet, and come in different sizes according to the variety. They do not last long after being harvested and, therefore, are generally dried or mixed with almonds and carob in the traditional morgado cake.

Grilled over coals from June to September, sardines are a symbol of the Portuguese summer. This fatty fish, full of healthy nutrients and Omega-3 fatty acids, is eaten grilled with potatoes and salad, or on a slice of bread. They can also be canned and have become a national speciality, being sold in olive oil, tomato sauce or other seasonings.

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