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Europe Travel: A Day on a Portuguese Farm in the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park (Portuguese Riviera)

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In this post we share photos from a day at TerrAzoia, an organic farm that is nestled in the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, Portugal.

We participated in two cooking classes: traditional Portuguese and Tunisian cuisine. During our midday break we hiked through the nature park to a lookout that offered sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.

An introduction to TerrAzoia

TerrAzoia is an organic farm and broader permaculture effort in the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, Portugal. Property owner and manager, Sofía Reino, says the farm was originally a monoculture of limes though “now its focus is on permaculture, utilizing as much as possible local resources” (TerrAzoia, 2020).

What is permaculture?

Bill Mollison first coined the term in 1978 and defined permaculture as:

“The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”

Our experience at TerrAzoia

After arriving to the property, Sofía and her team welcomed us to the property. We entered the home where we would be cooking, that also serves as a guest house. Sofía offered us fresh squeezed orange juice and described the history of TerrAzoia.

TerrAzoia farm history

Reino goes on to describe the farm’s history:

“The farm was started by my parents about 30 years ago. After a long diplomatic life living in all sides of the world, they decided to retire back in their homeland. Somehow they ended up driving around the area, and stumbled upon the valley of  Quinta do Rio Touro which is engulfed in the protected land of the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park.  They right away realized its potential though at the time all was in ruins, mostly all covered in brambles and and the land was bare from any type of agriculture.

They dreamed and built upon it. They were visionaries. At the time, creating an organic farm was not even a thing, but with amazingly healthy dirt and a vision not to destroy such amazing matter, it was the only choice. They always up-kept a beautifully diverse garden, along with fruit trees and a large section for lime trees.

Today, we are working in creating a larger produce section, adding a few more local fruit trees, still keeping our lime production and of course keep on caring for all the other vegetation species that were already here. and following the permaculture principles. This farm will always be an ongoing project of trial and error with local help as well as volunteers.”

Following our introduction, we moved outside to walk the perimeter of the farm. Sofía outlined how the farm has gone from a monoculture of limes to a broader permaculture effort in recent years.

Cook traditional Portuguese cuisine

We returned back to the home to begin cooking. Sofía outlined which traditional Portuguse dishes we would cook in the morning:

  • Salad: Algarve Salad (Salada algarvia)
  • Salad: Fava Bean Salad (Salada de favas)
  • Main dish: Portuguese Leek a Bras (Leeks à Brás)
  • Dessert: Queijadas de Sintra

Due to our request, Sofía adapted to dishes so everything we made as plant-based and gluten-free. She is flexible to accommodation for dietary restrictions, or keep the recipes true to tradition.

Algarve Salad (Salada algarvia) is a simple salad made using three tomatoes, one onion, and oregano drizzled with olive oil.

Fava Bean Salad (Salada de favas) is another simple, but flavorful salad that focuses on the flavor of the bean. Combine the fava beans, lime juice, garlic, onion and drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Portuguese Leek a Bras (Leeks à Brás) is a frittata-style main course in which sauteed leeks are topped with a layer of potato straws (that serves as a hash brown topping). Perfectly delicious, and filling at that. The traditional Portuguese dish (Cod à la Brás) calls for a salt cod, potatoes and eggs.

Queijadas de Sintra is a dessert that combines cheese or requeijão, eggs, milk, and sugar. For our version, we used gluten-free flour for the massa, and a corn meal/tofu blend to mirror the cheese/egg flavors from the traditional recipe. This recipe is dangerous – we couldn’t stop eating them!

As we prepped the ingredients, Sofía described Portuguese fare and the common ingredients, herbs and spices used in this cuisine. She also provided a tutorial around proper dicing and cutting techniques and showed us handy tricks around how to speed up cooking time.

As lunch cooked on the stovetop, we set the table and then lounged outside. We chatted with Sofía about her experiences living in Portugal, the United States, and Tunisia.

Enjoy lunch on the patio

Hike into the Sintra-Cascais Nature Park

Following lunch we wandered into the mountains for a hike, taking in the atmospheric surrounds where the Pacific Ocean meets the foothills.

Cook Tunisian (North African) cuisine

We returned to the farm to begin the last part of our experience, this time trying our hand at Tunisian flavors.

We were unfamiliar with Tunisian flavors prior to this experience, and were surprised to see how many commonalities there are with Portuguese cuisine.

Because we were still full from lunch, we scoped down the menu to a few items.

We followed Sofía’s recipes for:

  • Dip: Ajlouk
  • Salad: Tunisian Grilled Salad (Slata Mechouia)
  • Dessert: Orange mint yogurt

Ajlouk is a dip/relish/condiment that is made with a vegetable base, mashed with Tunisian spices, harissa, red peppers, garlic and olive oil. This dish is served as part of kemia, or hors d’oeuvres that includes roasted nuts, pickles, breads and salads.

Tunisian Grilled Salad (Slata Mechouia) is a first course salad. Vegetables are grilled over an open flame than placed into a food processor to be pulsed into small chunks. The dish is served with egg, olive oil and eaten with bread. Our version of this recipe used onions, garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers.

Orange mint yogurt is a healthy dessert alternative to end your meal. Combine orange and vanilla extract with plain yogurt and top with orange peel zest and other nuts.

Following dinner and dessert we left the property, making our way back to our hotel in Cascais.

Getting to TerrAzoia

  • Make a booking at the property via the website:
  • Visitors will find their way to the farm by way of Cascais, Lisbon or Sintra
  • The farm offers stays overnight
  • The only way to reach the farm is by private car
  • After you make a booking, the property will email directions about where to park and how to get to the property’s entrance.
  • TerrAzoia offers transport to and from the farm if needed (additional fees may apply)

Map of TerrAzoia

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