Portugal’s Albufeira in the Algarve is a special place, famous not only for its perfect climate, wonderful beaches, beautiful golf courses and welcoming atmosphere, but also for its incredible gastronomy. In fact, you could argue that the locals here consider their love of food and cooking an obsession. Traditionally this region’s food is a rustic spin of classic Mediterranean and is based on the excellent ingredients that are produced as a result of the fertile soils, the rich ocean and the perfect weather. Influenced by its nautical history and its colonial inhabitants, the region’s food is nutritional, simple and fresh. Exotic flavours mix with preserved meats and fresh vegetables to create the distinct dishes so synonymous with the Algarve.
Bacalhau: The Favourite Food of the Algarve
Bacalhau is the Portuguese version of dry salt cod, which became famous in Spain, Portugal and Italy during Lent when meat was a forbidden food. Recipes have consequently been developed and have organically evolved into some of the most famous staple dishes in the three countries with the Algarve dinner tables no exception.
It was the Basque people of northern Spain who claimed to be the first to cure cod but many believe that it was actually the Vikings who, with no means of refrigeration hung cod and preserved it as far back as the 12th century. But why, when there is an abundance of the most fresh and delicious seafood in Portugal, do the locals still love their bacalhau? Perhaps it is just the simple strength of tradition that keeps the salt cod so prominent on the Portuguese menus? Festivals and family gatherings are marked with bacalhau dishes, nicknamed ‘fiel amigo’, or faithful friend.
There are in fact over 300 different ways of preparing bacalhau so there must still be a large number of Portuguese that love this traditional dish. Stew it, fry it, grill it or roast it, this versatile food has to be tried when vising the Algarve.
Three Bacalhau Favourites
Bacalhau a Bras – Cooked up in the style of fried rice the cod is mixed with potato strips, onion, olives and scrambled egg. Although you would expect it be strong in flavour, it is definitely not overpowering.
Bacalhau A Gomes de Sa – In this recipe the fish is first soaked in milk before being roasted with egg and potato, just as in a casserole. This is a lighter dish but still really tasty!
Bacalhau com Natas – This is a delicious potato gratin affair made with cream and a béchamel sauce. Sometimes whole shrimps are added to the rich and tasty gratin, which makes it even more special.
So, if you’re heading to the Algarve and want to really touch the heart of its local gastronomy, bacalhau is the dish of choice. Prepared in so many ways there is a plate to suit everyone.
How to Get There: Algarve
Faro is the airport that serves the resort of Albufeira and with most European cities, including Paris, Rome, Palma, London and Barcelona offering convenient flights, the airport is a popular choice. Only 40km from Albufeira, transfers provided by the reliable and efficient company Shuttle Direct are a convenient way to reach your holiday destination. You can book in advance too, which helps you get even more organised.
Where to Stay
Alfagar Resort – Perched high on a cliff top the Alfagar Resort offers wonderful views and a regular shuttle service to the resort of Albufeira, which is 5km away. This budget accommodation option provides self-contained apartments each offering kitchenettes and a balcony. There is also a restaurant on site serving international dishes throughout the day, a pool bar and a mini-market, perfect for stocking up on self-catering essentials.
The resort has a separate pool for children and an adventure playground too.
Eden Resort – The Eden Resort is a mid priced resort with self-catering rooms that all have balconies that overlook the garden area and swimming pool. Close to the beaches of Albufeira, the resort is in an ideal location. Modern, spacious apartments boast plenty of space and all of the mod cons you would expect, including cable TV.
The resort has a lovely restaurant with a terrace and fabulous views. There are five indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a spa and a kid’s entertainment program too.
Salgados Dunes Suites – Close to Salgados Beach, Salgados Dunes Suites is a high end hotel with 9 outdoor swimming pools and rooms designed in a modern style with air conditioning, private en suite facilities, free toiletries, TV and minibar. With its own private pathway to the beach over the sand dunes, the hotel is a hidden gem. The excellent restaurant serves local dishes as well as other cuisine from around the world. There is a lounge bar, terrace, and a small snack bar set in the extensive garden area that serves cocktails and other lighter meals
Babysitting is available at the hotel and there is a Kid’s Club during the summer months.