Following my seasonal fig craving all the way down to Algarve, the heartland for figos!

Following my seasonal fig craving all the way down to Algarve, the heartland for figos!

It seems like everyone in Portugal is in Algarve in August, and it’s not hard to see why.  The southernmost region of Portugal is surrounded by a wide array of beautiful beaches with the warmest water and sunniest weather you can find in the country during the summer.   Most Portuguese families have their own vacation home there or rent one for several weeks or the entire month of August, where they’re within walking distance or a short drive to the beach and one of the major cities for shopping and restaurants.  This also the case with my boyfriend’s family, who own an apartment in Loulé, where we spent five days with them last month just eating, sleeping and going to the beach.  And when it’s so blazing hot and you have no air conditioning, you basically don’t want to do much more!

Now it’s true, there are many parts of Algarve that are quite touristy (namely the cities of Albufeira and Portimão) but there are still plenty of unspoiled towns and villages where you can enjoy the regions treasures – not just the beaches but the delicious food and local ingredients. And the best place to find them is at a local mercado, which we were lucky enough to be in Loulé where they have an excellent open market.   My boyfriend’s grandparents got up early on several days to bring back some excellent fresh fish for lunch, while arrived there later in the morning to pick up some other tasty tidbits to share.  Below are the photos I snapped in between my beach tanning sessions and food comas of some of my favorite local products and some homemade Portuguese dishes made with them, courtesy of the boyfriend’s very skilled avós who cooked for us :)

At the Mercado de Loulé on a Saturday when they have everything, including several vendors of tasty cured Portuguese meat and cheese

At the Mercado de Loulé on a Saturday when they have everything, including several vendors of tasty cured Portuguese meat and cheese

 

A closer shot of some delicious Salpicão, a type of Portuguese salami that tasted very similar to pepperoni, yum :)

A closer shot of some delicious salpicão, a type of Portuguese salami.  This particular one tasted very similar to pepperoni, yum :)

 

Grilling up the market catch for lunch back at the Algarve HQ, my boyfriend's 85yr old grandfather is a grill master!

Grilling up the market catch for lunch back at the Algarve HQ, my boyfriend’s 85yr old grandfather is a grill master!

 

Our perfectly grilled Sardinhas and Carapaus for lunch :)

Our perfectly grilled Sardinhas and Carapaus for lunch :)

 

On one of our late beach days, my boyfriend's mother taught me how to dig for cockles in the sand with my foot, we ended up bringing back 17 large ones to cook up!

On one of our late beach days, my boyfriend’s mother taught me how to dig for cockles in the sand with my foot, we ended up bringing back 17 large ones to cook up!

 

And here are these beauties all steamed open with some sautéed garlic and olive oil- absolutely delicious!

And here are these beauties all steamed open with some sautéed garlic and olive oil- absolutely delicious!

 

Ok not food, but had to get in one gratuitous shot of beautiful Loulé all lit up on a hot summer night :)

Ok not food, but had to get in one gratuitous shot of beautiful Loulé all lit up on a hot summer night :)

 

We went out for dinner one night with friends and I had a fabulous espetada de lulas - a grilled squid kebab with bacon wrapped shrimp, cherry tomatoes and chouriço - sooooo good.

We went out for dinner one night with friends and I had a fabulous espetada de lulas – a grilled squid kebab with bacon wrapped shrimp, cherry tomatoes and chouriço – sooooo good.

 

Oh and you cannot miss trying one of Algarve's famous Cataplanas - fish or meat stew cooked in a cataplana pot, this one was made with tamboril - monkfish and camarão - shrimp

Oh and you cannot miss trying one of Algarve’s famous Cataplanas – fish or meat stew cooked in a cataplana pot, this one was made with tamboril – monkfish and camarão – shrimp

On our last trip to the market, we picked up some local goodies to take home with us: whole Algarve amendoas (almonds) and some fig, almond and alfarroba (carob) rolls.  Sweet and healthy!

On our last trip to the market, we picked up some local goodies to take home with us: whole Algarve amendoas (almonds) and some fig, almond and alfarroba (carob) rolls. Sweet and healthy!

 

These were the biggest lingueirões - razor clams I had ever seen!  Straight from the  Loulé mercado :)

These were the biggest lingueirões – razor clams I had ever seen! Straight from the Loulé mercado :)

 

Some carapauzinhos - small mackerel and linguados - sole all seasoned and ready to fry to go with our razor clam rice for lunch

Some carapauzinhos – small mackerel and linguados – sole all seasoned and ready to fry to go with our razor clam rice for lunch

 

Our ready to eat traditional Portuguese dish: fried fish and arroz de lingueirão - razor clam rice with garlic, onions and cilantro :)

Our last traditional lunch in Algarve: fried fish and arroz de lingueirão – razor clam rice with garlic, onions and cilantro :)

 

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