The Algarve: The Old School House and the Old Mill

I was lucky enough to head to the Algarve two weeks ago as the UK nights began to close in. The weather in the Algarve was still hot enough for Summer wear with a light sweater in the evenings. I was staying as a guest of the Vila Vita Parc and they organised a few days out for us. On the first day we drove up into the hills of the Algarve to a beautiful building which used to be an old primary school that closed down due to insufficient numbers of children in the area.

Lots of the school classroom was still intact with the old blackboard still up and tiny wooden chairs scattered around the place with that  beautiful smell of fresh cut wood.

The group of us from the hotel, stood around the table in the centre of the room to watch three very clever women at work. 

Ana, Silvina and Arliete are artisan Woodcrafters, who make toys, jewellery and games from things like wood, plants and seeds. They are part of Projecto Tasa which  is committed to keeping authentic trades alive in rural areas, to promote things such as community and commerce. Many of the people who previously lived in this area have moved towards the coast and so projects like this keep people together and bring business to otherwise very quiet areas of Portugal.


Basket Weaving and eating at the Old Mill

The next day we headed to another project which was some distance from the hotel but we did see some lovely scenery en route.  The last 10 minutes was down a dirt track which was great fun as the driver tried to avoid the low hanging branches from scratching the top of the van. The Projecto Taso team had set up an area in an old mill to show us how to make the basket which I am holding in the picture above.

The team were extremely patient with my impatience to get it right straight away. It took a while but I was basket weaving like a (semi) Pro in no time. Sitting in this place with these people who are so passionate about their work was such a treat. They have that energy of people who are at peace. Like they have found their purpose. Sometimes we go to the ends of the earth to find what we think we should be doing to find our purpose. Often times it is something much closer to home than we think and something much simpler than we think.

I enjoyed the serenity of the basket weaving class, but my eye kept going towards the amazing spread they put on for us to feed our hungry bellies. I mean look at the beauty of this table? Would you ever?… it was GORGEOUS. I get a bit funny with buffets sometimes, you see my eyes for sure are infinitely bigger than my stomach.

I tend to pile the plate high with food (exhibit A above) and then head back to the table for seconds and perhaps even thirds. Especially when the food is a good as this was. We had things like salads, cheeses, deep fried salted cod, chicken pie, fresh baked bread and breaded chicken. Such wonderful colourful food.

This lady made us a Corn/polenta based soup which she cooked stirring continuously, whilst waving away any smoke that was headed our way with her handmade basket weaved fan. If you know what this local polenta speciality is called let me know  in the comments below. The guide started to tell us all what it was, but then the other food arrived and I dove in to the buffet table instead of listening to the end of the story.

And then there was cake. This chocolate and carrot cake was my favourite.. I will be writing to the baker in question for the recipe.

Do have a look at Projecto Tasa website and also the lovely hotel where we stayed Vila Vita Parc. I will be on the move again soon. Which places should I explore next?

Big Love

Lorraine xxx


Please let me know of any typos… my weighing of baking ingredients is extremely accurate but my spotting of typos is less so. Thank you.



  1. Dave Tyler
    1st November 2017 / 10:01 pm

    Xarem is the local soup I think. All looks gorgeous. Sadly I have conditioned my stomach to keep up with my eyes! Enjoy your travels.

  2. steven moran
    1st November 2017 / 10:41 pm

    Lots of concentration on your face as you where weaving lots of food good to know glade you where not on your own with all that food imagne eating all that if you where spains good to visit

    • 2nd November 2017 / 11:59 am

      Hi Steven,
      Loads of Concentration! I am telling you this was not easy 🙂 Ha yes I did have help with that food for sure x

  3. simon
    1st November 2017 / 10:59 pm

    That is one colourful buffet! If it tasted half as good as it looks I’m sure it was amazing. Did you get to keep the basket you made?

    • 2nd November 2017 / 11:58 am

      Hi there,
      Thank you Simon! They did give us a basket and some other bits and pieces too. It was such a great trip!

  4. Steve Gibbs
    2nd November 2017 / 5:03 pm


  5. Bea
    3rd November 2017 / 9:45 pm

    Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the Portuguese corn based soup, but I know an other food that is named after the dish it is cooked and served in. It comes from the Iberian peninsula as well, but not oceanside. It is a Mediterranean classic. This food used to be of the poor, but nowadays it is famous worldwide. Locals would eat it every day, and they literally do it, tourists are also excited about it. It is originally from the Orange-blossom coast. I am sure you know this dish. I would not like to tell u more about it, because It would make me happy if you could guess it. You’ve asked where you should travel next. I think you should visit ………….. (guess the city pls) In Spain. You would be impressed by the beauty and the charm of the city, if you have not been here yet. I’d recommend u to come any time of the year: January almond blossoming, and from February mimosa and all plants start blossoming the city is perfumed by orange and jazmine, a pleasure to walk around…. cultural festivals throughout the year, March: Fallas (this fiesta is something very unique…) I am sure that in instagram with hashtag fallas u see what I mean…. summer is summer, autumn is warm and happy. We are praying for rain, as it is not raining too often… lovely smooth climate. For describing gastronomy here I am not finding words, enjoying the amazing restaurants and bars that are countless. I’d also recommend Budapest, which is a beautiful city, with very sad history, but I am not a travel agent, and I have to go back to read and comment your blog entry… as I would like to win your cookbook. Take care @narancsviragpart

    • Bea
      3rd November 2017 / 9:50 pm

      Sorry, forgot the hint, that the city in Spain is the original home of the dish, I forgot the most important. 😂I can’t believe it😂😂😂😂

  6. 4th November 2017 / 10:34 pm

    THANKS THANKS THANKS for sharing this! I already loved Portugal but some places here I did not know! Cataplana is the best ever!!!!!! Thanks for your vibes!!!!! You are awesome!!! 😍

  7. Estela
    5th November 2017 / 10:37 am

    The name is “papas de milho”..I hope you enjoy the paradise of Algarve..😍

  8. Maevi
    20th November 2017 / 5:56 pm

    Hi Lorraine,

    I’m from north of Portugal so I’m not sure wich soup is that but by looking to the picture looks like “Sopa do Cação” (Cação Soup). Talking about tipical dishes, you should try eat “Francesinha” (it’s a typical dish from north of portugal, more in Porto, that looks like chips and a sandwich filled with ham, several sausages, beef and melted cheese that might be served with a fried egg on top of it. The best part of the dish is the tomato based spicy sauce that is all over the dish).

    I love your recipes, you have a cooking style that is wonderful because you use normal ingredients to make stuning and very tasty dishes.
    I’ve been looking for a chocolate cake recipe to make at home similar to a cake that i ate once that was the best chocolate cake i ate so far, the cake was not really a sponge cake but was still airy and fluffy and yet, very wet and moist (looked like a sponge cake but not dry, looked like it was crumbling appart and very wet). Even without frosting or filling, was moist and delicious. From your chocolate cake recipes (I only have one of your books yet, shame I know) is there any one similar to this cake description?

    Thank you for your time and please keep your great work 🙂

    • 26th November 2017 / 5:00 am

      Thank you for your message and giving me the name of the soup! Wonderful. I have so many different recipes but I still need to write one like the chocolate cake in the story. Have a fabulous day!
      Lorraine xx

  9. 26th November 2017 / 4:59 am

    Thank you for your message and giving me the name of the soup! Wonderful. I have so many different recipes but I still need to write one like the chocolate cake in the story. Have a fabulous day!
    Lorraine xx

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