The Alentejo cuisine is a synonym of flavour, intensity and passion. Taken out from the secular work of generations, its basis is simple like everything found in the land, and its class is close to the greatest regional cuisine of the world. With the competent and illuminated transformations that we find along the whole Alentejo, we can perceive the best of its real potential.
Following the general orientation of the whole country, Alentejo cuisine is strongly based on the product. It becomes necessary to visit one restaurant after another and then to go back to visit another one. Suddenly, we find ourselves missing certain dishes of certain places and we do not need to play hard to get to make hundreds of kilometres for the rediscovery.
Alentejo cuisine finds in Lisbon chefs strong and unfailing followers, who do not abdicate the gastronomic effort in Alentejo land, regardless of their own inspiration. The influence of North Africa and Spain is evident in many preparations and dishes. This is much more noticeable when we get to know that it was from Mexico of the time of Spanish explorers, that the tomato arrived to the Iberian Peninsula, in the 16th Century.
Nowadays, the tomato is an essential ingredient of the Alentejo cuisine. Pepper, sweetcorn, beans and pumpkin, as examples, join the tomato, occupying second place.
They are all crucial components of what is known as "Portuguese flavour" - all of them of Mexican origin. The potato, a Peruvian product par excellence, and with only nearly two centuries in European gastronomy, is another pillar of the Alentejo´s table.
And there is also the olive oil, the aromatic herbs and everything that come from the sea, as canned fruits - codfish, octopus and ray, for example - or in its most sublime expression, translated into the magnificent fishing that we all know.
All of this is the Alentejo, natural heiress and convergence point of Mediterranean and Atlantic cuisines. It socially extends from food shortage and famine, much famine, and because of this it is as truthful and rustic as attractive and faced to the pleasure of the senses. The word waste does not exist and many of its glories come from the use of the entire product that stokes the alquimic fire of the Alentejo kitchens.
Profoundly linked to the land and to what is "at hand", Alentejo cuisine has solutions for everything. It made from the Purslane, an overrun creeping herb, one of the best soups in the world. It transformed pork feet into a dish, which when well executed, gives a sublime experience of textures and flavours, emphasized by the indispensable coriander.
Through its soups, migas and açordas, encouraged by the pennyroyal and the repeating coriander, the Alentejo cuisine achieved the peak the nourishing sensation, an everyday revived memory of the time when there was little or nothing more than dry bread, fat or the rest of the meat in essence no wastage.
The cycle of Alentejo´s "innovations" is vast; and better than talking is experimenting and feeling the great variety that can be tasted throughout the entire region at mealtime. Here begins a short and necessarily incomplete indictment of restaurants where to have the alentejana "great experience". The exploration of every region will lead to a greater completeness, according to everyone's taste.
When cuisine is well executed, its dishes are balanced, and each protein correctly cooked. Following this premise, matching alentejana cuisine with wines is not a hard task. It is enough the wine that accomplishes the regeneration function and this function is more crucial when the dish has greater flavour and depth.
A good white wine from Alentejo is almost always a good pair; a good red wine, an adviser; and a good rosé wine, the one that gives pleasure.
In white wines we find freshness and tropicality, supplemented by the complexity given by the time spent in oak and the grape varieties used. We particularly suggest white wines to accompany soft cheeses, fish and also some casserole dishes based on white meat, not very stewed tomato and beans. We call red wine "adviser" because it is convenient to choose it first and only then to choose the dish.
The aromatic richness and the excellency achieved by the Alentejo´s red wines fully justify to "hear" the wine's piece of advice regarding what we should or could eat. A chapter dedicated to rosé wines is called the pleasure one.
In terms of structure, rosé wines are close to red wines, and the feast of lively and fresh fruit found in them allows us to explore the enormous panoply of "petiscos" that the Alentejo suggests, almost tempting us to skip the rest of the meal. Also in rosé wines, Alentejo´s producers have shown triumph and talent, with an avid discovery of new things.