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Portugal, a culinary journey

As we continue our culinary series around the world, we are taking a look at Portugal.

Food is culture, and Portugal is a destination that is wonderfully explored through immersive experiences in its gastronomic hubs. Its hearty, peasant cuisine is born from the earth, and its culinary flair is defined by decades as one of the primary players in the European Age of Discovery and Exploration.

Like many of its European neighbours, this home of azulejos creates incredible dishes brought together from moments in history and foreign rule. From the renowned classic, the sweet pasteis de nata that dates back over 300 years, to the iconic bacalhau (salted cod) which traces back to the 14th-century, embark on a gastronomic journey and learn the history and culture along the way.

Today, we are sharing four regions in Portugal that are perfectly suited to a culinary holiday.

Lisbon

We couldn’t write about delectable Portuguese cuisine without including the foodie hub of Lisbon, home of pasteis de nata. These tarts originated from the Jerónimos Monastery, where a use for excess egg yolks needed to be found (as the whites were then used to starch clothes). The monks of the monastery created this unique recipe to perfect their egg custard tarts. When the monastery closed in 1834, this recipe was sold to Pastéis de Belém, who continue to produce the most famous custard tarts in the world. After sampling these iconic tarts, head to Mercado da Ribeira to sample bacalhau à brás, Portugal’s national dish or perhaps a mouth-watering bifana, a sandwich made of thinly-sliced and marinated pork cutlets. Local variations of Bifanas can be enjoyed all over Portugal but the people of Lisbon take pride in their Lisbon-style recipe, considered among the best in the country.

Porto

Tripas à moda do Porto (tripe with white beans) is a dish that holds a strong history and continues to be a celebrated dish of Porto. Legend has it that Prince Henry the Navigator loaded his ships with all kinds of meat ahead of the fleet’s departure to Ceuta. All that was left in Porto was tripe, and so, this iconic dish was born. Also famed for its sweet pastries, a trip to Porto must include a visit to one of the many bakeries found on each street corner. Sample a syrup coated papos de anjo, a wobbly egg-based desert that will satisfy even the sweetest of cravings. For something savoury but just as decadent, the Francesinha is Porto’s take on the French classic, croque-monsieur; the recipe said to have arrived in Porto with a French emigrant. Made of layers of meat, including ham, salami, sausage and steak, topped with cheese, and covered with a rich beer sauce, this is pure indulgence and worth every bite. Complete your meal with a glass of Porto’s namesake fortified wine – port, perfectly paired with fine cheeses.

Algarve

With miles of sandy beaches and plenty of luxury resorts, it is easy to forget the wealth of fine cuisine on offer in the Algarve. Much like Spain’s Andalucía, its history is dominated and influenced by 400 years of Moorish rule. This long reign influenced the Algarve in particular and left a culinary legacy. One of the most famous examples of Moorish cuisine is clams a cataplana, a stew of clams cooked in a conch-shaped pan that very closely resembles a Moroccan tagine. From ultra-luxury Michelin-starred dining in Quinta do Lago to family-run establishments serving fresh seafood along the coast, guests of the region are spoiled for choice. Never far from the ocean, the nation’s famous bacalhau hails from the Algarve. Sample the flaky cod followed by a digestif of native medronho, a fruit brandy distilled from fermented medronho berries that grow wild throughout the region.

Douro Valley

The stunning Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and has long defined itself by a standard of excellence met by few others. As well as miles and miles of vineyards, other produce also abound in the region such as wild mushrooms and olives. Find world-class eateries and watering holes scattered throughout the valley, serving local port, wine and amazing traditional delicacies. Discover how local ingredients can be used to create delectable dishes with a private cooking class. Or simply, experience the cuisine in style by allowing us to book tables at some of the top restaurants in Portugal. Of course, no trip to the region is complete without a private wine tasting.

Portugal’s incredible coastal and heartland beauty often outshines its countless other endowments, leaving a nation of marvellous cuisine to explore. Our luxury travel experts have visited Portugal many times and know the best places to dine, delve into history and work alongside culinary artisans. Whether you wish to enjoy buttery pasteis de nata in Lisbon or sip world-famous wine in the Douro Valley, we are ready to tailor your culinary journey through Portugal.

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