On a cold Monday morning on January 23, members of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in the Algarve and their guests met outside the olive oil press Lagar dos Pardieiros, near Monchique, for an event focusing on local produce, organised by the new Bailli for Algarve Marie-Anne Ferran.
The energy and passion of the new generation embracing the traditions of past generations would be shown both in the olive oil tasting and in the chosen menu and its preparation.
The group were welcomed with a semi sparkling wine from Vida Nova vineyard, which was enjoyed in the warm sunlit area besides the old oil press buildings.
Firstly, there was a tour of the olive oil pressing facilities and an explanation of the pressing methods given by the grandson of the original owner who started pressing Monchique olive oil in 1953.
The olive mill, which still uses the original equipment including syenite pressing stones, follows the cold pressing and decanting method of extracting the oil from the fruits and is operated by three generations of the same family.
The unique Monchique water combined with the carefully-selected fruits produces a unique oil which is favoured by several of the talented and inspired chefs who work in the Algarve’s famous restaurants.
Once the group had acquainted itself with the production methods, they were introduced to the characteristics of the different European olive oils and learned to recognise different aromatic signatures, both good and bad.
Although the ambient temperature inhibited the oil aroma somewhat, all present were able to follow the expert advice and gain from the experience.
Lunch was prepared on the traditional wood burning stove by chef João Marreiros from restaurant LOKI in Portimão. João runs his restaurant, which seats just six guests, with a near obsessive passion for sustainability and regional products. He singlehandedly cooks and serves both food and wine.
Although the group was substantially more than his usual six guests, João cooked all the food singlehandedly. The food was served on locally handmade and decorated plates, each one unique.
The wines served were from the Algarve area, a white from Quinta dos Vales, Duo, and a red 2019 from Quinta do Francês, a family wine estate in Silves.
The menu was inspired by food João’s grandmother had cooked for him as well as by local products. As João cooks by daily availability and does not work with a printed menu, it was an adventure to have him announce what the courses were as they were presented to the table, with João giving background information relating to the dish being served.
First course served was cauliflower cooked in three different ways with infused fish; the second course was an old strain of rice with ‘bruxas’ (seafood, like mini lobsters), an interesting dish with a crunchy texture. A dish from João’s grandmother followed consisting of baked sweet potato purée served with cuttlefish seasoned ‘chorizo style’ and with orange.
Wild boar was the fourth dish to be enjoyed, deliciously cooked in the wood-fired oven with Monchique chestnuts and rare black chickpeas and garnished with roots of the yellow clover now flowering. An interesting fact about the black chickpea was that the plants had been considered extinct until recently when some examples have been found flourishing in a priest’s garden.
A new sweet wine, again from the Algarve, from Quinta da Tôr in the Loulé area, was served with the dessert, which was sugar-free and consisted of a barley crumble, banana parfait, foam made by a fermentation process and carob mousse. Coffee roasted locally in Aljezur and the Bailli’s ‘medronho’ and ‘melosa’ brandies brought the meal to an end.
Bailli Marie-Anne thanked Chef João for his hard work in producing this unique traditional meal full of local flavours and textures.
Should you wish to know more about the global fraternity of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, visit their website www.chainedesrotisseurs.com or contact Marie-Anne Ferran, Bailli of the Algarve, at [email protected]
By VALERIE LANTAU