What has Gourmet Mum done? 15th October 2012
Greetings from the sunny Algarve! The weather is beautiful and we're enjoying the beach, sights and some extremely good food.
I can't seem to get enough of the Portuguese pastries and cakes, they are just incredible. My favourites are Pastel de Nata (egg custard tart), Bolo Feijao (bean cake - far more tasty than the name) and Bolo de Amendoas (almond cake). I love them all too much and I am in need of elasticated trousers as a result. The best I've tried so far is carob cake, which is known as Algarvian chocolate cake. It's made of dried carob pods (not chocolate) and tastes a little like nutty chocolate fudge cake but so much better. I'd walk over hot coals for a slice of this.
Carob Cake AKA Algarvian Chocolate Cake. Words cannot describe it's greatness.
We had dinner at the award winning Eira do Mel in Villa do Bispo where cataplana (Portuguese stew cooked in a special copper clam shaped dish) is their speciality. I can thoroughly recommend the king prawn, pork and chorizo cataplana washed down with a bottle of the house red.
Cataplana at Eira do Mel. A copper dish full of pure deliciousness.
Bitoque is the Portuguese take on steak and chips (it can be with pork or beef). They serve it with a fried egg, sometimes rice, and a salad with beef tomatoes. We has a cracking Bitoque for lunch at Mira Rio in Budens (walking distance from where we're staying).
Bifana (pork fried in garlic served in a bread roll) or Prego (the beef alternative to a Bifana) are considered 'fast food' in the Algarve. They are basically the nicest sandwiches in the world, especially if the contain Portuguese mustard and fried onions served on a papo seco (Portuguese bread roll). I've enjoyed a few for lunch this holiday.
Bifana made with papo seco. Quite possibly the greatest sandwich in the world.
Every restaurant we have eaten at has been lovely and fairly inexpensive. However, I must give a special mention to Casa Chico Zé, which is about 4 kilometers north east (travelling towards Odiaxere) of Lagos on the 125 just before the first roundabout. I have included directions because if you ever go on holiday to the Algarve you need to eat there.
Rustic entrance to Casa Chico Zé. Blackboard menu on the left, Joshua washing his hands on the right.
The place has a rustic and feel to it and I especially like that the menu is written on a blackboard - in Portuguese only! Basically, you choose from a range of grilled meat and fish which come served with chips or potatoes and a large salad. The food is delicious, the portions generous and prices very reasonable. Expect to pay €15-20 for everything, and when I say everything I mean bread, olives, main course, wine, pudding and coffee. I've tried the bacalhau (salted cod), corvina (halibut) and espetard mista (mixed kebabs). They are all extremely good, cooked to perfection, succulent and full of flavour. Everything is cooked on a large open air grill to order.
Grilled fish and mixed kebabs at Casa Chico Zé. It's so hard to pick a favourite when food is this good.
The food is not the only reason to visit Casa Chico Zé, the grounds are a lovely place for visitors to walk around in. There's a little farm with horses, chickens, sheep and goats as well as an old fashioned school, an old style mill, olive oil press, traditional Portuguese style bread oven and more. It's brilliant for kids, the boys enjoyed pretending to drive the tractor, but it's also really interesting for grown ups to.
The boys having a tractor ride at Casa Chico Zé
We had loads of fun exploring the grounds of Casa Chico Zé and foraging figs from a large fig tree there. We collected so many I made some Fig Jam which we're enjoying for breakfast on toasted papo secos (Portuguese bread rolls). This is the life eh...
Adeus! Filipa x
P.S. If you fancy some Portuguese food, try this quick and easy Piri-Piri Chicken