Thursday, 6 August 2020

Zhooshing it up: From olives to olives dust to dust

 Olive dust brings a great salty and umami flavour to almost any dish
I have always enjoyed a good tweaking, and zhooshing I find quite irresistible. Nothing fully achieves for me without a bit of added finesse, so I find myself doing a lot of zhooshing these days to make my food become more appealing. "Throw it all in a blender and zhoosh it until it's creamy smooth", should be my mission statement.
  It was the first time we´d let ourselves out since lockdown.It was the thespians birthday and we were sitting with friends on the open terrace of Cha com agua salgada catching up on much missed conversation.I had selected for my starter the smoked duck breast, an all time favourite, so a dish I often select.When the the plate was put in front of me I noticed some tweaks to the way the dish was presented.It was accompanied by a pepper coulis and a twist on the classic marinated Algarvian carrots. A post pandemic pinch of olive dust nestled next to the salad and was a flourish that I would be keeping in my backhead until I got home.
Olive Dust 
This is a simple recipe to make.It can easily be multiplied and makes good leftovers. Store in a tightly sealed container in the pantry.
Don´t be tempted to store it in the refrigerator which is too humid.Olive dust is so versatile and brings a great salty and umami flavour to almost any dish. You can sprinkle this on something as simple as a hard-boiled eggs or a salad (above), but the dust also works well on top of more complex recipes like pasta dishes or soups.

Servings: 16. Serving size: 1 tablespoon
Cooking time: approximately 3 hours
2 cups medium Black olives 
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
Spread the olives on a sheet pan.
Place the pan in the oven.
Cook for three hours.
Remove from the oven and let stand on the counter until cool.
Place the dried olives in a blender or mini-chopper.Pulse until the olives are the consistency of fine gravel.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Are you relishing a veggie burger?

Fancy a burger? but feel like something a little more plant oriented? I´ve got just the thing,and you don´t need to be a vegetarian to love this burger.This is something that will keep even the most dedicated carnivore happy.Look away now vegans,there is nothing for you here.
Aubergine and feta cheese patties in a traditional Azorean bun with a home made hamburger relish.How can can you resist?
A bit first about the bun we are going to use, its typically Azorean and from Madeira. Bolo Lêvedo is a speciality typical of Vale das Furnas on São Miguel Island, Azores. Not unlike an English muffin in a round shape and not too high,but they are sturdier than an English muffin and do not crumble as easily.They are made with eggs, flour, sugar, butter, yeast, milk and salt,and baked in a dry, cast iron frying pan.
Its almost magical watching the frying pan as these squashed dough balls slowly transform themselves into the something very recognisable.
Its origin is related to the first settlers on the island of São Miguel, constituting  at the time one of their main sources of food. Nowadays it has become a feature that attracts the curiosity of thousands of tourists and is also appreciated by the locals. It is said that visiting Furnas and not tasting the famous Portuguese Bolo Lêvedo would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Pope.Also given its popularity, this bread, which was initially consumed in a simple way, started to be applied in the broader market of catering and served in the form of a hamburger bun.When pressed apparently it provides a unique touch and flavour.

Bolos lêvedos de São Miguel                                                              Makes 8 or 9 muffins
500-550 g all purpose flour
125 g butter (preferably Azorean!) softened
125 g Sugar 

20 g of baker's yeast
200ml milk
Zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs

In a bowl, pour in the warm milk, then the sugar and the crumbled yeast. Add the beaten eggs and then the softened butter. Add the lemon zest. Finally, sift in 500 g of flour.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Watch the kneading, it is likely you will have to add a little more flour, but do so using a tablespoon at a time testing the mass little by little (I added about 50g more, ie about 4 tablespoons).
Cover dough with a cloth and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 11/2 hours.
Divide dough into about 8 or 9 pieces, and shape them into flat round cakes about 1/2 inch thick. 
In a dry ungreased nonstick frying pan, cook the flattened dough balls on a low heat, one side and then the other. Caution: keep the flame low.Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

The original
A new way to relish your burger. What do you dress your burger with? If I was to turn back time I would say Bicks Hamburger relish,which has sadly disappeared from supermarket shelves and now is only available in 2.45 kilo catering sizes from cash and carries that put a hole in your pocket.
Back in the day I was a glutton for Bicks hamburger Relish.So as ever,never one to be defeated and with the back up of a glut of cherry tomatoes, I made my own home made version.It’s not easy trying to replicate a product made in a factory where food scientists roam.
I started by investigating what it contains.The list of ingredients is on the company website and is made  is  with cucumbers, glucose-fructose and/or sugar, water, tomato paste, white vinegar, cauliflower, salt, dehydrated peppers, spices, modified corn starch, sodium benzoate, xanthan gum, polysorbate 80, sulphite, and may contain calcium chloride and potassium sorbate.


My home made version

Quite a concoction, so when making mine, with no food additives,  I just used cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh peppers, substituted celery for cauliflower, vinegar, sugar and spices.It came out much as I remember but perhaps a tad too sweet,but then again a relish should be sweet.
So burger, bun, relish done we are ready to plate up.Bon appetite!!!

Aubergine and feta cheese burger
makes 6 burgers
2 medium sized aubergines, about 675g cut into medium sized chunks

2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
100g (4.5 oz) feta cheese crumbled
100g (4.5oz ) freshly grated parmesan
chopped parsley
chopped mint
1 egg, lightly beaten

250g (10 oz) breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 190c/375 F/gas 5 
Toss the aubergine chunks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil,then put them on abaking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes until golden and tender.Put the aubergine with the egg,garlic ,parsley,mint,breadcrumbs,feta and parmesan in a processor,add salt and pepper and blitz until you achieve a thick workable paste.You may have to add more breadcrumbs.Form the mixture into burger sized patties and set aside till ready to cook. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Há 51 anos: O histórico show no Hyde Park com borboletas

51 years ago a historic event with butterflies in Hyde park London

Doesn´t time fly when you are enjoying yourself. I just realised that it was  51 years ago this month.I should really have posted this hommage a year ago when it would have marked its 50th anniversary.
 The year is 1969. I was a youthful 17.It was summer in England.Saturday the 5th July, It was very hot.I absconded from boarding school in Yorkshire and made the 175 mile pilgrimage to the capital under cover of darkness to join other young teenagers, like myself ,who were  mourning the death of Rolling Stone Brian Jones (guitarist and founder of the Stones) who had died two days previously.
 I was just one of 500,000 mourning fans crammed into Hyde Park to attend an iconic piece of pop history.A free concert by the Rolling Stones.With a collection of other bands, this iconic event  helped to define UK youth culture in the late 1960s.
The former Stones bandleader, Brian Jones, had tragically died just two days previously and Jagger, alongside his band, dedicated the reading of Percy Shelley’s Adonais before beginning their mammoth set. It culminated in the release of thousands of white butterflies and marked a fitting tribute to their former bandmate.
Before they began to play, Mick Jagger fought back the tears and performed Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Adonais in tribute to his friend. When he had finished reading the heart-wrenching poem, 3,500 Pieris brassicae white butterflies were released onto the audience in homage to Jones as the group performed ‘I’m Yours and I’m Hers’.
“Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep —
He hath awakened from the dream of life —
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled!”

51 years on I wanted to celebrate this incredible day. To mark this I have created an original recipe with farfalle pasta, taking as my base a garlicky Alfredo sauce and tossing the farfalle and chicken in it.I’ve eschewed the authentic “no cream” Alfredo for a reliable take on this classic that’s just as creamy, garlic-rich, and fun to slurp up as it was originally intended to be.
Alfredo is a creamy, dreamy pan sauce made from butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. There are a few additions and adaptations that exist.However unlike béchamel — another classic sauce — Alfredo is best made and eaten straight away.Grab some pasta, cream, Parmesan, and a few chicken breasts when you are out shopping and you’ll probably have everything else you need on hand. On lazy summer weeknight,this conjured up memories of such an impressive day.
"Butterflies in the park" with Alfredo
120g farfalle
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 250g)
1 teaspoon Flor de sal
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup whipping cream

Finely grated Parmesan cheese (60g), plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Season the chicken breast with olive oil salt and pepper and roast in the oven (220C) for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Slice the chicken and cover to keep warm. Transfer the chicken to a plate or clean cutting board and let rest for 3 minutes. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Cook the pasta, drain, and reserve cooking water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
Melt the rest of the butter and sauté the garlic. Add the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter to the same pan used for the chicken and place over medium heat until melted. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Make the Alfredo sauce. Whisk in the mascarpone,cream, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and  pepper. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin it out.
Add the drained pasta and toss to coat in the sauce. Add the drained fettuccine to the sauce and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among serving bowls and top with a few slices of chicken. Garnish with parsley, more Parmesan, and black pepper if desired.garnish with some minted garden peas or parsley dust to finish off the green of the park.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Sea urchins,man buns, Q tips and popcorn

Sea urchin Bloody Mary Gazpacho,how do you follow that?.....
Well met by sunlight proud Lusitania!!! The sunlight sparkled on the Guadiana as we taxied across the bridge towards gastronomic utopia.Oh to be a sexagenarian,such fun,and another year on the clock.Spontaneity may be not,but eating out is back with a vengeance. I am not sure I would have chosen to go out for lunch in Spain on a busy Saturday in the holiday season had it not been for the fact that it was my birthday. A table for lunch at LPA had been booked online through a foolproof system that would make Tom Kerridge marvel at the technology.Our booking was responded to with a confirmation online and followed up on the morning of the reservation with a reminder, and a chance to click on a button if we wanted to cancel.Its not rocket salad is it? No chance for disgraceful no shows by disgraceful Billy No Marks.Why don´t more restaurants take credit card numbers at point of receiving a booking.Its been debated for years,but it still hasn´t been put in place.It might deter Joe public from eating out, but would save restaurant owners and chefs thousands.At least they would know where they stood.If you book a theatre ticket,you pay for it in advance,if you buy travel tickets you pay in advance  so why not pay a deposit to secure your dinner in advance and make sure you turn up to eat it and not mess around with others livelihoods.At a time when the hospitality industry is struggling on the brink of oblivion this is a wake up call surely.Well´nuff said. Lusitania was going to be full of wonders and surprises that day.Urchins,man buns, Q tips*(well I thought that was what they were called until my friend pointed me in the direction of a QR code) and popcorn.
There was no evidence of there ever being  a lockdown apart from the tell tale new fashion statement the mask.More on that story later...The precision of how a successful restaurant is run,pandemic or no pandemic was clear.We sat down at our table and were talked through the menu-less system of ordering by scanning our phones on the *QR codes attached to the four corners of the table.What came up on our phones was a menu with some innovations and some interesting tweaks to old favourites.(We had not been able to eat here for some time due to lockdown measures and border closures).Like mischievous children we ordered one of every single starter.At this point I felt so naughty even eating a pea.
a steak tartare like you´ve never seen one before....

......Sticky chicken on a stick with popcorn.Fabio´s own interpretation 
of that delicious Massimo Bottura dish from "Bread is gold"
This food doesn´t need visible labels to identify its pedigree.I could be blindfolded and still taste Fabios distinctive and witty signature.
Then..."I had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was… The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was."
And then I awoke to this......
Puck's prank making apparent that bottom was not an ass but a caniche.The ultimate ham in wanting to play all the parts in the play the mechanicals had put on for such a great feast feast.

 Handed to me on a plate,the best birthday cake ever, a Cheesecake encased in a beetroot and red wine glaze with chocolate soil.We left the restaurant in a state of euphoria and while sitting on a bench awaiting our taxi I looked up and thought I was still dreaming...The thespian had acquired a man bun,Whatever next I only asked for a quiet day out.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

“What the heck am I gonna do with all these cherry tomatoes?”

You hate to waste these beauties, but you can’t help wondering..... 

Too many tomatoes,too little time. Not a bad problem to have, actually. But it can be daunting to find ideas on how to use them all? Every time I think I´ve conquered the problem the thespian comes in from the garden with another handful of ripening beauties,and we are virtuously bound to include them in that nights supper.The problem has been a mutant plant that seeded itself at the outset of spring and we hadn´t the heart to remove it and now it has virtually taken over the first terrace,creeping across the calçadas, encroaching on the breakfast table and clinging to the bougainvillea with the intention of showing off its versatility as a climber.
Here are just a few of the ideas that I have come up, ten of which I have executed.Follow the links,or go to the recipes below

Home made tomato paste
Eat them whole as a fruit
give them to your neighbour
Fresh salsa
cooked salsa
Hamburger relish
Pasta sauce
Home made tomato paste
Oven roasted cherry tomatoes
Tomato sandwiches
Tomato soup
Olivada salad (recipe below)
Vodka infused cherry tomatoes
New potato salad with garden cherry tomatoes peas and mint pesto (recipe below)
Green tomato relish (recipe below)
Bacon and egg pie with cherry tomatoes (recipe below)
Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes,ricotta and rocket
Tomato juice
Grilled bruschetta
Tomato ketchup
Sundried tomato paste
Pizza sauce
Freeze them
Cherry tomato tart
Chilli tomato butter
Shakshukah for breakfast

New potato salad with garden cherry tomatoes peas and mint pesto
Serves four as a side dish
400g small new potatoes,kept whole and boiled
24 cherry tomatoes,kept whole
125g peas shelled
generous handful of mint leaves approx 30g
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
3-4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 dessert spoon of honey
Put all the ingredients in a processor and liqidise.Taste and adjust the seasoning
To assemble the salad
Toss the cooked potatoes in a tablespoon of the mint pesto.
Stir in the tomatoes.Assemble in individual salad bowls and sprinkle with a carpet of peas.Tear or shred some chourlço or crispy bacon on top for garnish (optional

Stephanie Alexander´s Green Tomato Relish(adaptation) 
1.5kg green or semi-ripe cherry tomatoes 
2 large onions 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground turmeric
100ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
100g sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour

Thinly slice the tomatoes and onions, then put all the ingredients except the cornflour
into a preserving pan.Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook, uncovered,
for 1 1/4 hours. Mix the cornflour to a cream with a little water. Remove a ladleful
of hot liquid from the pot and add to the cornflour cream.Stir, then quickly return
the mixture to the pot, giving it a good stir so that the liquid thickens evenly.
Cook for 15 minutes, then spoon into hot sterilised jars* and seal at once.
Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Bacon and egg pie with cherry tomatoes
This was a surprising twist I put on my classic bacon and egg pie.
i didn´t know if it would work because of the liquid content of the tomatoes,but with a little extra time in the oven it was delicious.
250g (8oz) shortcrust or puff pastry
6 eggs
1 cup (8fl oz/250ml)milk
4 rashers bacon chopped
1/3 cup grated mature cheddar cheese
2 bsp chopped chives
1 tbsp dill
2 tsp dijon mustard
cracked black pepper
6 thin rashers bacon,rind removed
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until its 3mm(1/4 inch) the pastry  in a 25cm(10 inch)pie dish and trim the edges.Refrigerate for 30 minutes.Prick the base of the pastry shell and line with non-stick baking paper.fill the shell with baking weights or rice and  bake at 180C (350F) for 5 minutes.( This process keeps the pastry crisp when adding wet ingredients to the pastry shell).Remove weights and paper,and cook for a further 5 minutes.Place the eggs and milk in a bowl and whisk to combine.add the bacon,cheddar,chives,dill,mustard,pepper and mix to combine.Pour the mixture into the pastry shell,top with the thin rashers of bacon and bake at 160c(315 for 35-45 minutes or until pie is set.serve in hot or cold wedges with a peppery rocket salad.Serves 6.
Olivada salad
Getting the biggest flavour from the simplest ingredients.With this room temperature pasta salad, which combines al dente pasta,creamy burrata, spicy-tangy peperoncini and salty green  olive tapenade and salami. 


4 cups coarsely chopped pitted green olives
4 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
12 anchovies
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red chilli pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon E.V olive oil
Mix all in a processor, as above adjusting quantity of olive oil until your desired consistency is achieved.   


500g dried tagliata pasta cooked in boiling water, then dressed copiously with olive oil  2 pints cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved 
1heaped tablespoon olivada
1 large ball of burrata cheese
8-10 leaves fresh basil, torn

lashings of cracked black pepper
Once the pasta has been cooked, toss it with olive oil and allow to cool down.
Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes depending on their size. Take the cold pasta and add the tomatoes,then stir through the olivada.

Carefully tear pieces of the cheese into smaller strips and mix into the salad. Tear the basil leaves and sprinkle over the top of the salad. 
Season well with plenty of ground black pepper
Toss quickly to mix. Add more dressing if you prefer.
Toss well and transfer to a large serving platter.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

The "best ever" smoked sardines,pretentious or what?

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food," said George Bernard Shaw . Judging by the number of amazing dishes out there, he was right.I would make a further addition to this: "there is no love sincerer than the love you feel coming from the hands that created it."
When scrolling the internet in a food capacity I find myself bombarded with recipes that classify themselves as "the best ever" or "the perfect"  To be honest, I always think it’s very pretentious to name a recipe “the best” of anything.
Best means “of the most excellent or desirable type or quality”; so who can actually claim that something they’ve made is the best?
Unless you’re Jose Avillez or Ferran Adrià, then you probably can. Running a bunch of Michelin starred restaurants decrees some of sort of authority in that department.But for the rest of us - commoner cooks - it’s better to take a more understated approach.
Something can be good, amazing, awesome, mouthwatering, but the best? That’s too much.However, sometimes you make something and you just really nail it. Just like that.
And there’s no better way to describe what you’ve just made than “the best!”
The situation here is sort of one of the the best starters I’ve ever created. Like, ever. So here I am with this quandary of whether to use a super pretentious recipe title.

Smoked sardines,beetroot canneloni, garlic cream and apple carpaccio
serves 4

100g smoked sardine fillets
Rocket leaves
Thinly sliced Granny Smith apple

60 g garlic cloves,peeled halved and heart removed
200ml whole milk
200ml cream

2 leaves gelatine
pinch of flor de sal
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

200 g (1 medium) beetroot roasted,cooled and peeled
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice

Marinate the prepared garlic cloves in the milk overnight, covered with clingfilm (plastic wrap).Discard the milk and reserve the garlic.In a small pan, bring the cream to a gentle boil and blanch the garlic for 1 minute then remove and allow the garlic to poach in the cream, covered until cool.When cool blend the cream and garlic to a creamy paste with a hand held blender.Soften the gelatine sheets in cold water and when soft squeeze out as much water as possible.Warm the blended garlic cream through and add the gelatine making sure it is completely dissolved in the mixture,season with salt and pepper.
Roast the beetroot wrapped in foil in a hot oven till tender (1 hour approx)check doneness with the point of a sharp paring knife. Allow to cool, then peel. Remove the stem and root ends of the beets and thinly slice them. Form the cannelloni by rolling up the beet slices and filling them with the garlic cream mousse.
Core the apple and quarter it,Slice the quarters very thinly(carpaccio)
In a bowl dress the rocket leaves and apple slices with some lemon juice and olive oil.
Make a carpet of rocket leaves and lay the slices of apple on top.Add the sardine fillets and top with the beetroot canneloni.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Virtually ready? Get here if you can

You can reach me by railway, you can reach me by trailway
You can reach me on an airplane, you can reach me with your mind
You can reach me by sailboat
You can make it in a big balloon, but you better make it soon         
You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man       I don't care how you get here, just get here if you can....
While the current unsubstantiated impasse or "stalemate" between our two countries remains, no one can move across the board."Checkmate Boris" is the only way Portugal can start to piece itself together again.
For those who are unable to visit Portugal in person this year there have been a number of initiatives launched across the country to bring Portugal into the homes of potential tourists from across the globe.
Turismo do Algarve have organised a virtual tour of the Algarve region (5 day trip) simulating a five-day stay with participants having access to a programme of activities that will guide them through a set of diverse experiences on offer, from Aljezur to Alcoutim.
 This new tool presents visitors with an intense programme of activities that will allow them, each day, to  choose and discover a specific area of the Algarve.
 In the real world,not the virtual one,here at Casa rosada we have several tried and tested day trips in the region as suggestions for our guests and when we are receiving guests once again this programme will be firmly in place.We can even plan for you a fully interchangeable 3,4 or 5 day programme in advance of your arrival.These day trips are based on our own favourite excursions,and provide contact with nature in the magnificent scenery of Baixo Guadiana and at the same time encompassing authentic experiences with opportunities to meet and interact with local life, culture and sustainable gastronomy.

"SOTAVENTO" - (The leeward side)
Experience the side sheltered or away from the wind,for a change
From the Foz de rio Guadiana (mouth of the Guadiana), the river that forms the border between the Algarve and Spain, a wide sandy beach stretches for many kilometers, up to the edge of the Ria Formosa Natural Park east of Tavira. Sand dunes separate the beach from areas of pine forest.Hence, the unique landscape of the Ria Formosa with its lagoons extends to the west. Like pearls on a string, small islands and peninsulas are lined up that protect the lagoon from the Atlantic Sea's seasonal turmoil and constitute a favourable environment for a natural habitat of flora and fauna with a wide variety of wildlife species.Start your day with a choice of walks in the environs of Castro
Marim.You can choose a route running between the flood plain of the river and tree covered slopes.You will find working salt pans on one side with agricultural land on the other.Birds surround you. Flamingoes coots,waders and storks are found in these wetland areas as is my favourite bird that I have now nicknamed the Beyoncé of the bird world,( it makes you want "to put a ring on it" ) the Black-winged Stilt with its tell tale red legs.
original painting by Sandra Madeira
Black-winged Stilt
DAY 1- Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo Antonio
A visit to Castro Marim castle. A strategic landmark which can be seen from afar recalling centuries of warfare with Spanish neighbours.From the battlements you can enjoy a 360ºpanorama of the surrounding area and bordering Spain.
At the mouth of the Guadiana, you can visit Vila Real de Santo António.The town was destroyed by a tsunami following the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and was reconstructed on the same model of a grid structure as Lisbon by the Marquis de Pombal.
 To appreciate the shining example of town planning that was followed, you have to walk around the city's streets, beginnning in Praça Marquês de Pombal,the heart of the town, with its traditional black and white calçadas (cobblestones) radiating from the central obelisk built in 1776.The town is renowned for its historic affiliation with the tuna industry which is encapsulated in a museum dedicated to all aspects of the subject.The gastronomy of Vila real de Santo António is rich and varied, with many dishes made from fish and shellfish caught in the sea,on the sandy beaches and in the Guadiana river.Today fishing for tuna has virtually disappeared from Algarve shores.Portugal´s tuna supplies now come from the Azores.Tuna fishing in the region goes back to the time of occupation by the Phoenicians or Carthaginians.
Among the various dishes that have survived is one of my local favourites. Estupeta is prepared with meat from the belly of the tuna.This is Vila Real´s very own version of salade Nicoise and very refreshing it is too.

 Linen and cotton shops in which to browse abound, and a leisurely walk through some of backstreets reveals privately commissioned buildings,which  continue to adhere to an obvious architectural formula. On the opposite bank is the Spanish town of Ayamonte which is connected by a ferry link. Our ideal location near the Spanish border facilitates excursions to the neighbouring country. By car you cross the Guadiana International Bridge to reach Huelva in less than an hour. The distance to Seville with its grandiose monuments is 150km.

DAY 2 A road trip Alcoutim, Mertola
From Castro Marim a relaxing river drive takes you along the banks of the river to Alcoutim.(On the way you can take a coffee break at the historic trading post of Casa de odeleite).There is the feeling that little has changed in Alcoutim for hundreds of years. The steep cobbled streets  lead to the riverside through a jumble of low, whitewashed houses and little squares. The esplanade is a great spot to relax in one of several cafes whilst watching the fishing boats and yachts moored at the quayside.Continuing the drive onwards from Alcoutim, after 37km the awe-inspiring ancient town of Mertola emerges,where cultures meet and two rivers converge.A few kilometres further on you can find the ruins of Mina de São Domingos (Sao Domingos Mines) and a  reservoir beach.  

DAY 3- Local gastronomy "the story behind the food"
It’s so rare we get to connect with exactly where our food comes from.This excursion allows a chance to come close to sustainable food production and meet farmers and growers and understand their ethics.This is the perfect chance to source local produce.We can help you  get to know local,buy local,and take local home.In the evening we can put together a tasting evening of what has been sourced in the day.

Visits include seeing artesan goats cheese being produced.A chance to meet a shepherd who graduated in engineering and now having left the rat race of Lisbon dedicates the days of his life to shepherding the goats through the lands of Corte de Seda, in the municipality of Alcoutim.
 A chance to meet another man who exchanged the world of finances to raise free range Iberian pigs with his brother Manuel and to make extraordinary in roads into promoting a business trademarked Feito no Zambujal. A limited production that has a fast turnover and includes tasty hams cured with the salt of Castro Marim and delicious smoked sausages,locally reared pork products and other charcuterie.In the late afternoon we accompany you to the salt pans of Castro Marim,to gather salt, meet Portugals number one artesan producer and learn about the history of salt production since Roman times.while in the sapal we will forage natural herbs and plants such as salicornia (samphire grass)and wild thyme.

DAY 4 Tavira and its environs
A day out in Tavira, one of the most charming and picturesque towns in the Algarve combines breathtaking beaches with Portuguese culture.This historic town with picturesque plazas and winding cobbled narrow back streets has everything you need including killer shopping and dining out in the evening. The long spectacular sandy  beach of Ilha Tavira,accessed by boat is great for sunbathing in summer but also great for long beach walks in the cooler seasons. 

DAY 5 Across the river.....Spain 
Here in Castro Marim we are Andalucia´s close neighbours.All it takes is a short boat ride across the Guadiana river from Vila Real de Santo Antonio and there we are, En Espanha.Park your car,board the boat and alongside passengers of various nationalities experience a ferry boat journey that gives one a real feeling of travelling to another country.It cant be compared to a real cruise but the twenty minute crossing to the other bank of the river is equally relaxing.As one gazes back to the castle of Castro Marim and its fortress we are reminded of other times when the two countries were not so united as they are today.
There's not much in the way of sightseeing in Ayamonte. In an hour or so, you can see the Old Town with its warren of narrow streets centered around Paseo de la Ribera, the principal square. Just breathing the air of Spain and soaking up a totally different architectural style is a novelty in itself and the attraction of tapas beckoning from every calle you walk along is irresistible.Ayamonte is a food lovers dream.The star of the show being LPA .Here you can enjoy intelligent takes on tapas or if you prefer something a little more traditional try award-winning Casa Barberi overlooking the marina.

In this list, which could be much longer, we present unmissable places to visit, in a region so small but with so much to explore.Casa Rosada is in the middle of everywhere.... Castles, monuments, natural phenomena, beaches, rivers ... They are all landscapes that are not forgotten. Our invitation stands: come and meet us in Portugal.