Strange Aloe type plant near the Villa

In the small lane that leads down to our villa this Aloe type plant is just growing wild at the side of the road. We had never noticed a plant growing there but now it is flowering it is very noticeable, the flowers are opening up from the bottom a few more inches every day. To give a perspective the flowering part is about 6-8 foot long.

We suspect that a seed has been dropped by a bird and taken root. We have not seen one like this on our travels  in Portugal or Spain so wonder if it has come from Morocco and the Sahara. If any one knows more about this mysterious plant please let me know.

The trees in the back ground, bye the way, are Cork Oaks. The cork has been stripped off part way up the trunk. When the cork has been stripped the trunk underneath is dark orange but turns black after 6 months or so. The cork will grow back and be ready for stripping again after a minimum of  9 years.


Where is the cheapest place in Portugal to live on a pension?

Anywhere away from cities and industry. Small villages and towns that are a few hours drive from major cities will be the cheapest places to live. Property prices and property taxes will be low and the cost of food if bought at the local markets low too. You may have to make a longer journey now and then to a larger town to stock up on certain items and fill your car up with cheaper gas. Property for sale

Alentejo towns and villages would be a good starting point. If you prefer a warmer climate in winter then the Algarve would be suitable but stay away from the coast and look inland, have a look at places like Alcoutim, Salir, Alte, Sao Marcos da Serra, Alferce, Monchique, Rogil, check out this site

Shops in MonchiqueIf you are prepared to live sensibly, grow some of your own fruit and veg, have a few chickens, do without too many trappings you can make a pension go a long way. Much depends on where your pension comes from of course. Portugal has to be one of the most affordable countries in Europe in which to live.

Read Nigel‘s answer to Where is the cheapest place in Portugal to live on a pension? on Quora

Portugal Leads Europe in Healthy Food

An article recently published in the UK’s Daily Mail makes for uneasy reading. Unless you are Portuguese that is, who lead the healthiest of (eating) lifestyles in Europe.

The map below compares Ultra-processed foods as a percentage of household purchases. “Ultra-processed products account for 50.7 per cent of food bought by Britons, Germany came second with 46.2 per cent, followed by Ireland on 45.9 per cent. Lowest was Portugal with 10.2 per cent.”

You will see from my other blog posts and from what I say on our villa website that I strongly support the opinion that Portugal has some of the best food in the world. This article helps supports this opinion because the Portuguese do use natural products and so do most restaurants. We are blessed with many restaurants in our area that serve the most amazing dishes all made from fresh local produce. If you need a whet your appetite fix just follow this link.



If you came on holiday to Monchique for say two weeks, even if you ate out in a restaurant every day you would be hard pressed to try all the best dishes, here is a list of my favourite main courses, in no particular order.

Grilled Chicken Piri Piri, Wild Boar with plums, (or chestnuts) casserole, Black pork steak, Black pork cheeks casserole, Chicken with cherries casserole, Pork and Prawn Cataplana (casserole), Grilled Dorada (fish), Grilled lamb chops, Roast kid, Pork with clams Alentejana, Seafood Rice, Mixed kebab, lamb stew, goat stew.







Dourada on the BBQ

When we are staying at our villa in Portugal over the winter time the weather in the Algarve is warm and sunny in the day time and in the evenings, although the temperature drops to between 6 and 12 deg C its still warm enough to be outside in a fleece. A perfect climate to enjoy a BBQ at any time of day.


I love to BBQ, I don’t need an excuse so at about 7.00pm I get started, it is so quiet only the hooting of owls disturbs the silence. The view to the coast has taken on a new dimension, a myriad of twinkling lights laid out like a carpet along the coast line, quite awesome! I fire up the BBQ with Charcoal, for me there is no other way,  charcoal adds greatly to the flavour of any meat or fish, propane just does not do it. A good friend of mine in Canada says that propane is better and that charcoal is carcinogenic, I cannot agree, how can a man made refined oil product be better than a natural product? I asked him how would Jesus have cooked his fish, Charcoal or Propane, argument over! Seriously though the Mediterranean folks have been cooking over Charcoal since time immemorial  and still do, the majority of restaurants in Monchique, Algarve and Portugal are in fact Churrasqueiras (Barbecues, cooking over charcoal) and the Portuguese live to a ripe old age, they are not dropping like flies!

BBQ recipes are endless but on our Villa Vida Nova Blog I will from time to time write up which I think are best suited to Portuguese produce, the Algarvian Climate, the holiday mood and of course which ones I like!

The photos show Dourada, (one per person size), a local fish with white soft delicately flavoured flesh, found on all fish counters in Portugal. It will come cleaned for you, all you need to do is rinse the fish, cut 3 diagonal cuts through to the bone, (see top picture) rub some coarse sea salt into the cuts, a little ground white pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. You will seen in the bottom two photos the fish are sandwiched in a cleaned hinged BBQ griddle, this simply makes turning the fish far easier without them falling apart. To clean the griddle let it burn in the hot coals for 5 minutes then brush it with a wire brush. Let it cool then brush the cleaned griddle with a little olive oil so that the fishes skin does not stick to it or you can brush the fish with olive oil, either way is good. Cook over medium coals for 5-10  minutes depending on heat and size of fish. Look into the cuts and you will see when the flesh is cooked through to the bone, don’t over cook, slightly underdone is better than overdone.

Read what Andrea Smith of Catavino has to say about Fish In Portugal


Spicy Seafood Rice

Spain has Paella, Portugal has Arroz Marisco and Canada has Spicy Seafood Rice….well it does now! We love Seafood of all types and in the winter when in Monchique Portugal at our villa we enjoy eating out and often at seafood restaurants, but also cook at home and I make my own versions of Arroz Marisco and even Paella sometimes but in Canada I resort to this dish and I think it’s my favourite.
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The photo is the same dish but this one has more Salmon and less shellfish, this is just before the rice is added.

Ingredients for two people:

  • 1 Cup of Basmati Rice
  • 2 Medium white onions finely chopped
  • Half a dozen cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 cup of finely chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup of finely chopped red pepper
  • Half cup of frozen garden peas
  • Cup of finely chopped mushrooms
  • 750 grams of Seafood
  • Half cup of olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons of Sambal Oelek
  • Sea salt

I have tried several types of chilli paste, Sambal Oelek has a distinct flavour that goes extremely well with Seafood.

The 750 Grams of seafood can be a mixture of any or all of the following, Salmon cut into 1″ cubes, frozen shelled prawns, squid, calamari, octopus, crab meat, clams, mussels, I usually buy a 3-400 gram frozen packet of mixed seafood and add our own prawns and salmon to make it up to 750gm. We use fresh caught wild salmon, we catch loads of the stuff in Canada and this is one way of using it up.

Let the frozen items defrost a couple of hours.

Start to cook the basmati rice in salted water until el dente

At the same time heat the olive oil in a large non stick wok or large frying pan, and fry off the, onion, garlic, peppers, peas and mushrooms for about 5-10 minutes turning constantly. Add more olive oil if it looks a bit dry and is not actually frying. Add the seafood and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, add the Sambal Oelek and cook five more minute continually turning the food. Again if it looks dry splash a bit more olive oil in. When the rice is done, strain and rinse with boiling water, drain very well and add it to the wok, turn the rice into the seafood mixture until all the white rice has been coated with the sauce. Season to taste if you like hot add more Sambal Oelek, or add more to taste when served.

Serve and enjoy. Goes well with dry or medium dry white wines and light beers.

The reason why we use so much salmon.

The Most Affordable Sunshine in Europe!


The vote for Brexit hit British travelers in the wallet, but trips to Portugal soften the blow. Yes, it takes the euro, but the country remains one of the most affordable destinations on the Continent, offering visitors the elegance of Western Europe at Eastern European prices. In fact, in its 2017 Holiday Money Report, the Post Office Travel Money declared The Algarve the cheapest of 44 European destinations. Families can find particular savings in the shoulder seasons, at October half term, for example, when family hotels still have great sports and kids’ clubs, but at lower prices than in the summer months. Why not check out our rates: Villas in Algarve for rent (rates)

Portugal is officially one of the sunniest countries in the world, and at the height of the summer visitors to the Algarve can expect temperatures of 28C and 11 hours of sunshine daily (and about one day per month of rain).

Even if you go for October half term, you are likely to find appealing weather: 22C, with seven hours of sun daily (which beats the 14C and three hours of sunshine you’ll find in Blighty at the same time of year).

May half term is an even better bet: the crowds are fewer, you can expect temperatures of around 25C, and 10 hours of sunshine each day, with little chance of rain. Check out  Algarve weather temperatures and rainfall statistics.

Holiday makers with children are pretty much restricted to school holidays, however the rest of us can pick and choose when we want to go on vacation, often beating the hottest weather in the summer months and the crowds as well. Have a look at our availability and see if there are dates that night suit you. Also look at our special offers you might be in for a bargain.

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Perfect BBQ Chicken Piri Piri

Whether you are at home or staying at our villa rental in Algarve you might want to try your hand at authentic Portuguese chicken Piri Piri.

First of all, if you don’t have a charcoal BBQ and charcoal then it simply will not turn out right nor taste the same.

Here is how we do it at Villa Vida Nova!

Buy the smallest and most tender chickens you can find and the more yellow the skin is the better. Dissect the chicken through the joints and cut the breast into manageable pieces, keep the skin and bone on but cut off any excess fat and discard. You can just buy drums and thighs if you like the dark meat, IMO they taste better than breast anyway.

There are many Piri Piri sauces in the local supermarket in Monchique, buy one and pour it over the chicken. You can add some fresh Piri Piri seeds from the garden if they are ready, be careful, don’t touch your eyes or anything sensitive after handling them! Add a handful of coarse salt, a shot or two of whiskey, half the juice of a lemon from the garden and leave for 24 hours in the fridge, turning the pieces over several times so that they get a good coating all over.

Chicken needs 40-45 minutes on the BBQ to make sure it is cooked through and not pink on the bone. So for this a supermarket bag of charcoal is not going to do it, 2 maybe but you don’t want to run out, so buy a big sackful from the vegetable shop with the plastic donkey on the Alferce road about 1/3 of a mile from the Intermarche on the left. A big sack is about 10-12 Euros whereas the Intermarche bags are about 5 Euros for about 1/6th of the quantity. You will then have plenty for several BBQs and what is left over the next guests will appreciate. Don’t skimp on the charcoal.

Use plenty of charcoal in the BBQ with a couple of fire lighters get it going and put the griddle in as low as possible so any fat on it burns off. Use the wire brush to give it a good clean, turn it over and do the other side. After about 20 minutes it should be ready but still too hot, level out the hot coals and damp it down by splashing cold water from a plastic drinking bottle. Keep that full and handy.

Put the chicken on the griddle the thickest pieces in the middle at the back and the thinnest and smallest pieces at the front and place at the highest level, make a note of the time and observe the underneath of the chicken. Don’t walk away from the BBQ you will need a helper to top up your beer or wine and your handy water bottle! Keep damping the coals if the chicken is cooking too quickly, the damping is to make the cooking period last the full 45 minutes. Keep turning the chicken every 3-5 minutes, it must not burn.

As the charcoal burns away keep pushing it to the back and add more charcoal at the front which in turn will be pushed back and more added at the front to replace it. After about 25-30 minutes you should be able to move the griddle down a notch or two, keep adding charcoal as required and or water to dampen, keep turning, it should not be burnt but the skin should be turning crispy and brown and the skin on the drumsticks should be pulling upwards from the end.

That’s about it, after 40-45 minutes it should be perfectly done. Enjoy!