Savouring the Soul of the Alentejo | Posted: 12 February 2016
Self guided walking holidays in Portugal
Self guided walking holidays in Portugal
Self guided walking holidays in Portugal

Having lived in Portugal for 35 years, Ken Parr and Carole Young know more than a thing or two about the region, and here, share their thoughts on the local cuisine...

Pomar Velho, 'The Old Orchard', is a delightful guesthouse in the heart of the Serra de São Mamede Natural Park in north-east Portugal. After a day meandering among cork-oak woods, olive groves and golden rolling hills, it’s the ideal place to return to for one of Ken and Carole's home-cooked dinners of authentic Alentejana dishes.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CUISINE OF YOUR CORNER OF ALENTEJO? Where we live is very rural and very poor and I think the cuisine reflects that. I suppose dishes could be described as seasonally-based, hearty, authentic, rustic food. And we love it.

WHAT FOODS ARE PRODUCED IN THE SURROUNDING AREA? Pork is the meat of choice, its distinctive flavour coming from the acorns on which the famous Iberian ‘black pigs’ forage. It’s made into chourico (chorizo), blood sausage, and smoked cured sausages like linguica and paio, both of which are highly prized throughout Portugal. Olive oil production is very important to the local economy, too, as is the region’s full-bodied red wine; while rock-strewn fields are perfect for goats from whom we get the excellent queijo de Nisa, a semi-hard sheep's cheese infused with thistle!

WHAT WILL I FIND IN THE LOCAL MARKET? The markets are great – look out for enchidos (preserved meats), goat and sheep cheeses, walnuts and chestnuts, plus apples straight from the trees.

IS THERE A DISH THAT SUMS UP A TRUE TASTE OF ALTO ALENTEJO? There are several dishes that represent the area well, including migas (made by frying leftover bread with garlic and olive oil); sopa Alentejana (a herb and garlic based broth with a poached egg), though our favourite would have to be carne de porco a Alentejana – a clam and pork stew.

Related Holidays

The Soul of the Alentejo

Spend a week at the delightful Pomar Velho to enjoy some fantastic walking in very varied scenery and gain unique insights into Alentejana culture.

More about our walking holidays in the Alentejo >

Carne de Porco a Alentejana

Ken told us that he and Carole just love this hearty ‘clam and pork stew’ which perfectly sums up their quiet corner of Portugal:


1 kg pork belly, rind removed
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 onions, thinly sliced
200 ml vermouth
1.5 kg clams
375 ml (1½ cups) chicken stock
1 bunch thyme
chopped parsley

For the Massa de Pimentão (roast capsicum paste)

4 red capsicums/peppers
100 ml dry white wine
15 (about 1 bulb) garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil

How to make Massa de Pimentão

1) Slowly roast the peppers for up to 2 hours until nice and soft
2) When cool, remove the skins and blend with garlic cloves, oil and wine


1) Cut the pork into 2cm cubes
2) Marinade overnight in the Massa de Pimentão – the ‘essential secret ingredient’, says Ken
3) Fry the onions in olive oil until succulent, remove from heat
4) Remove the pork from the marinade and brown it
5) Return the onions and pork to the pan with the remainder of the marinade and the vermouth – simmer until tender
6) Just before serving add the clams, thyme and stock, cover and cook until the clams open
7) Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with cubed deep-fried potatoes and a green salad...

how do you make the "Massa de Pimentao"?
16/02/2016 11:08:01

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