One of the key characteristics of Alentejo cuisine is the sophisticated use of herbs. Because of the area’s poor resources, the best way to enrich the food was by using the region's herbs. When there was nothing more than stale bread, the people of the Alentejo softened it in hot water and flavoured it with what they had at hand: garlic, coriander and a trickle of olive oil. The result is that Alentejo açorda is nowadays a centrepiece of the menu in every Alentejo restaurant and a proud part of Portuguese gastronomy.
Herbs became part of the cuisine of the Alentejo thanks to the influence of the Moors. Thyme and rosemary were used to season the mutton (itself a favourite Arab dish), basil to counterbalance the sweetness of tomatoes, tarragon to go with chicken and oregano to turn the cheese into ambrosia.
Just let your imagination and palate run wild, and you’ll be won over by the scent and flavour of more than two dozen different herbs, all of which can be bought in the markets and shops of the Alentejo.