The Alentejo was formerly a major grain producer. Whereas out among the Hispanic oaks and olive trees, large herds of pigs pastured on the open plain. Thus, bread, pork and olive oil form the bases of one of the best-developed regional cuisines of Portugal. Of particular note is the way herbs and spices are deployed to infuse countryside aromas.
Soup represents a main dish and may be served cold, as in Alentejo gaspacho, or hot with bread an essential feature in game, cod or tomato and sausage soups. The wheat influence continues with the ‘migas’ breadcrumbs that are served with pork, or the stewed lamb bread dish ‘ensopado de borrego’ or in the stewed bread embodying the ‘açorda Alentejana’. Any of these specialities can be found in any self-respecting restaurant in Estremoz, Évora or Beja. Alternatively, opt for a plate of game, highly typical of the Alentejo’s gastronomy, and gain a great insight into quality rural cooking!
Over by the coastline, the fish and shellfish come back into play to make their own particular culinary contribution. And the quality of the fish in south-west Alentejo is another high point to this region’s culinary heritage.
And make sure some time is given over to the convent-originated cheeses and sweets. And to accompany one of the highly reputable cheeses of Nisa, Serpa or Évora, try one of the red wines from Borba, Redondo, Reguengos or Vidigueira. As for the sweets... Truly, there were many convents in the Alentejo and the labour the monks put into finding new ways to combine eggs with sugar and almond still bears results in the sweets and cakes on offer today!
Take our advice, just don’t come back to tell us we didn’t warn you how good it all is...